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Category Archives: Misc

Web Hosting (or Move your s**t, I wanna put my stuff here!)

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Filed under Blogging, Misc

Ok, you’ve got a nifty idea for a site, maybe it’s personal stuff, maybe it’s something more involved. You could put it up on that free space your ISP gives you. And then you get to hassle with it every time you have to change ISP’s because Comcast gets bought by TimeWarner, that decides to bail out of your area leaving it to verizon, which…. you get the picture.

Or, you can plunk down a few bucks a year, buy a domain name and then plunk down a few more bucks a month and buy some space on a professional hosting company. That way, the domain is yours and it won’t change just because some bean counters at your ISP decide your city no longer forecasts to good market saturation, or whatever the jargon is. It also means an email address that won’t change just because you ditch cable and switch to Dish Network (say that five times fast!).

There’s a lot of hosting companies out there, and everyone has different requirements and demands as to what a good hosting company consists of. In my case, I wanted a host that would provide a decent amount of space, tons of email support, MS SQL and MySQL options, as well as Access dbs, and full support for .NET and some of the more esoteric web languages out there, like PHP, Ruby, Python, etc. so I could experiment with them, time permitting.

www.1and1.com looked pretty good, the price is definitely right, but they make you choose between Windows hosting, with .NET support and Linux hosting, with all the other languages. Not so good. But their domain registration is excellent and they provide free private DNS records, which is quite nice.

I ended up stumbling upon www.servergrid.com. They support all my requirements for 7.95$ a month, and they use HSphere for dynamic site management, which seems to work pretty good for me. I can host all my domains through one account, and just split my space up between them, which makes managing everything nice and tidy. Granted, I’m only running small sites, testing web apps, etc so I don’t have huge demands, and your mileage may vary.

This site uses dasBlog for its content management. I had it installed, setup and running within an hour on my ServerGrid space (not including the hours and hours I spent coming up with the nifty graphics, layout, CSS and color scheme, but that’s another story!)

I will say this though. I’ve started up support chats at one in the morning with these guys and there’s always someone there that seems to know what they’re doing. Good support goes a long way in my book.

Backup Utilities (O the joy!)

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Filed under Misc, Office

I’m a bit of a toolhound, both of the physical variety (like screwdrivers, bitstops, routers and mitre saws) and of the more ethereal (clipboard loggers and macro recorders). Tools make the fun things even more fun, and the wretched things not quite so onerous.

And one really onerous thing for me is backups. They’re a pain, and it seems it’s always impossible to find what you need when you need it. I’ve got a pile of QIC-60 and QIC-80 tapes that there’s no way I could restore even if I wanted to (note to self, burn them in the next trash fire…)

Anyway, I went on a search some time ago for a decent backup utility. Something free, or close, that was flexible enough for what I needed, simple enough that I’d actually use it, capable enough to make it worthwhile and fast enough to not get in the way.

I believe my search ended with FileBackPC.

It’s a nifty little app that does a nice job of the “copy to a floppy” type of backup. Well, ok, maybe not a floppy these days, but plug in a 500gb USB2.0 removeable harddrive and this app is fantastic.

The good points:

  • It backs up specified directories, with wildcards and all sorts of file filters
  • It can compress and retain a specified number of “previous versions”
  • You can specify sets of folders in “jobs” that can be run independently
  • You can set jobs to automatically run, either on a schedule or on “an event” (like plugging in that USB harddrive!)
  • It can reconnect to other machines on your network and back up files from the (great for small home offices with a server and several workstations or laptops).
  • It can even run batch files and scripts to automatically execute processes before backing up the results of those processes. For instance, I have an item that uses the windows “backup” utility to create a single backup file of the critical system components and my Exchange server data, then I backup that file automatically using FileBackPC.

Off hand, I can’t even think of any bad points, other than it’s not an open source project.

I think my favorite feature is the backup on an event. I set several jobs up to execute when the X: drive comes online (that’s my backup USB drive). So literally all I do now is plug in the USB drive, wait till it finishes the backup, and then unplug it and file it safely away. Slick. And it’s got a nice reporting facility too, that makes it easy to see if there were any problems (open files, read errors, whatever).

And, since it’s a copy style backup, it’s blindingly easy to find that backup file when you need it. Get a couple of USB drives and be doubly safe.

Backup utilities definitely aren’t my favorite things, but they’re something almost everyone with a PC needs. I know this has probably sounded more like an ad than anything else, but it’s not. I’m not getting paid by the FileBack people. This is one of those utilities that I’ve found so handy, useful and easy to work with, that I just felt like mentioning it.

Minims

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Filed under Misc

I was looking for a particular reference book today and stumbled across a little book I hadn’t looked at in ages. It was a favorite way back and it’s still pretty funny now.

The book is the “Book of Minims” by Tom Weller. It’s appearently out of print now, but Mr. Weller has made the whole thing available online here.

In case you’re wondering, Minims are the opposite of Maxims, basically, sayings that sound like they have a deep meaning but in reality are so obvious or specific as to be useless.

One of my favorites: “Money is it’s own reward”.

Good stuff.

The Obligatory First Post

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Filed under Misc

Everything has to start somewhere, so I guess it’s come time to make my entry into the blogosphere.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m quite partial to Visual Basic.

I have a long history with the language, and I’ve spent my entire career coding off-the-shelf, commercial packages in it.

Still, there’s always something new to learn and this blog will hopefully allow me to pick up a few more concepts as well and pass along some information that I’ve found useful.

We’ll just have to see where it goes from here.