Sep
06
2009
0

I Just Make It Look Easy

Easy-to-make iPhone

Easy-to-make iPhone

A company once told me someone had offered to build permanent disability calculators for their website in three months for $7,500.  One said six months and $20,000.  Recently, another suggested it would take them a year and $40,000.  My response is usually some variation on “You’ve got to take that deal.  You’re wasting your time talking to me.”

It’s no big secret that building a great product takes a lot of work.  The important thing to remember is that just because something is easy-to-use, that doesn’t mean its easy-to-make. [1]

Real iPhone

Difficult-to-make iPhone

Let’s take the iPhone for example.  Everyone will concede its an easy phone to use.  However, it was released more than two years ago on 6/29/2007. [2]  In that time the other players – BlackBerry, LG, Nokia, and Palm have all been trying to catch up.  If this easy-to-use phone were easy-to-build everyone would have their own version.

Look, there’s no special magic to building a website like this.  Really, anyone can do it.  All you have to do is learn the calculations inside-and-out, deconstruct the math involved in the various calculations, learn some client and server side programming languages, learn a content management system, make it all work together, keep current on changes in the law, start all over again each time the law changes, and earn the respect of the workers’ compensation community.  Once done, you’ll have your very own workers’ compensation calculator website!

To return to the lesson of the iPhone, building a touch screen phone that can play music and surf the web is totally doable.  Doing it right is another matter entirely.

  1. Visit the link for a PDF of a cut-and-fold iPhone.  Thanks Gizmodo! []
  2. Wikipedia link. []
Mar
27
2009
0

WordPress – Not Just For Kids Any More!

Wordpress

Wordpress

A friend of mine owns and operates a number of websites – all of which run on ASP/.NET/MS-SQL servers.  He knows what he’s talking about, but he’s fairly dismissive of WordPress, PHP, and MySQL.

All this time I’ve been raving about WordPress, telling him that you can basically do anything with it.  I’ve mentioned how easy it is to use, how easy it is to maintain, its open source, how many global corporations use WordPress to build their websites, how its the tool of choice for so many designers, and how huge the WordPress community is.

In the meantime, he’s referring to his millions of rows in his “real-SQL, MicroSoft SQL” database.  I believe he’s been stuck thinking of PHP and MySQL as “kiddie” stuff, just not ready for big time.

That is, he’s been dismissive of WordPress until about two months ago.  In the last two months other people (SEO consultants, professional designers) have been raving about WordPress to him too.

I think he’s finally coming around.

Nov
11
2008
0

Safer Software Practices

Wordpress

Wordpress

I’ve been upgrading to the latest releases of WordPress as soon as each one comes out.  And, its a good thing too.

Over the last week or two a website named “Wordpresz.org” ((I’ve edited the link so that it goes to WordPress.org instead.  I don’t want contribute to these hackers fooling anyone else.)) was discovered.  The people who created this website were using a vulenerability in WordPress version 2.6.2 to redirect users to their website.  Their website purported to release WordPress version 2.6.4[1].  The problem was that they had hacked one file in the installation package to create a bigger security vulerability.

This just goes to show that:

  1. Monitor for Updates. Many programs these days automatically check to see if new versions are available.  If the program does not have this feature[2] , its a good idea to check about once a month or so.
  2. Update Frequently. Not all software updates are equal.  If the program is being updated to fix security vulnerabilities or improve the program’s stability, you definitely want to install the update.  This website’s installation of WordPress was already “inocculated” against this kind of attack because I had alled version 2.6.3 almost as soon as it came out.
  3. Use Official Sources. WordPress is open source software built using PHP and MySQL.  Since the program is open source, its easier to modify the code. ((As Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”))  The themes and plugins available through WordPress.org are reviewed by other users for malicious code and for possible improvements.  If you’re not certain how to examine source code for malicious code, its best to only use official sources.
  1. The latest version is 2.6.3 which is just version 2.6.2 with a small but important security fix. []
  2. Or if you turn it off, as I sometimes do. []
Oct
24
2008
0

WordPress Update to v2.6.3

Wordpress Upgrade

Wordpress Upgrade

Quick Update

or those of you keeping score at home, I’ve updated to WordPress v2.6.3 last night. [1]  This version was released as a security fix.  Unlike other WordPress upgrades, this one took only a few seconds.

Less Quick Updates

Admittedly, prior updates probably only take about 10 minutes, max.  This 10 minutes includes roughly 9 minutes of backing the website and database up and 1 minute of actually uploading the new version.  Since the 9 minutes of backing up is essentially all processing/downloading time, there’s nothing for me to monitor which makes the whole process very painless.

Upcoming Updates

The kind folks over at WordPress have been hard at work on the version 2.7. [2]  If you scan through the above link, you’ll get to see what the new WordPress 2.7 control panel/dashboard is supposed to look like.

Best Thing About WordPress

(If you just can’t wait, skip down two paragraphs.)  Regular readers have heard me go on and on about the virtues of WordPress. [3]  The interesting thing about new versions of WordPress is that any upgrades would be seamless to a website visitor. [4]

A website that is easy to read is a function of the author

Website content is really all that matters to a website visitor.  Visitors don’t care about what software a website owner is using – just as long as the content is useful. [5]

A website that is easy to write is a function of the program

The single best thing about WordPress is that this program makes maintaining a website a breeze.  I would recommend WordPress to absolutely anyone interested in creating a website.  For the novice, the program makes it easy to write, edit, and delete single pages or the entire website without any knowledge of programming.  For the tech-minded, the program makes it easy to install, upgrade, and personalize a website.

If you know a little PHP, MySQL, and javascript you could do some c-r-a-z-y things with WordPress. [6][7][8]

  1. Talk about unnecessary decimal places. []
  2. I call them “kind” since a lot of these people are working for free. []
  3. You know, you three should really form some kind of support group for people who read unnecessarily nerdy and self-referential blogs. []
  4. I think its interesting, anyhow. []
  5. If they don’t care about what kind of software, they sure as heck don’t care its version 2.6.3. []
  6. You could even put together your own workers compensation calculators and EAMS search engines! []
  7. Am I going overboard with these footnotes? []
  8. The answer is “No, I’m not going overboard.”  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “You can never go too far.” []
Sep
19
2008
1

Virtual Real Estate – Part II – Less Obvious Benefits

Got Spam?

Got Spam?

The last post in this series was about the obvious benefits of owning your own web space and domain name.  However, there are a lot of other benefits which might be less obvious.  Frankly, I didn’t realize these benefits until well after I had set up my own website.

Virtual Real Estate – Part II – Less Obvious Benefits

  1. Outsmart spam. When I need to sign up for a new online service or website, I just create a new e-mail address – and point it to my real e-mail address.  For example, If I want to sign up for PDRater.com, I register with the address, “pdrater@my-very-own-domain.com.”  If I start getting spam sent to that address – I delete the e-mail account!
  2. Organization. Just as with spam avoidance, I can create e-mail accounts for differnet purposes and have them all routed to the same place.  Later on, I can search for information I sent myself (or had others send me) by searching for “todo@my_very_own_domain.com.”
  3. Portability. If you may need files while you’re out and about, just upload them to your website and have the file available anywhere.
  4. Redundancy. There are a lot of companies that charge for online backups.  Why not just do it yourself?
  5. Resiliency. I made a point of purchasing the domain names through a different company than the one hosting my web space.  If one of those companies were to suddenly go off-line, I would be able to put up a new site in roughly an hour.  If the web host is down, just upload a new copy of your website to a new host and connect it to your original domain name.  If the domain name host is down, just buy a new domain name and point the web host to the new name.

Next in this series: I haven’t thought of a next segment yet!

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