'Internet Operations' Category

The 3 Levels of Domain Name Control

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

As the domain name administrator for our company, I am often asked if we can “point” a certain domain name to some site or landing page. Webmasters know that “pointing” a domain name could have many meanings and implications, but to most people it means “if you type in this URL, it will take users here.” It occurred to me that there are three levels of control that you could have to point a domain name or URL somewhere. In most organizations they are performed by three different departments because they are very different functions, but they are interdependent and you need all three of them coordinated in order to “point” a domain name. (more…)


See Your Web Site in Different Browsers

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Screenshot of rd.comHave you tested your Web site in different browsers and on different platforms? Web designers tend to focus on the one or two that they deem most important and often forget to test their Web sites in other browsers and on other platforms. That normally means testing sites in IE and Firefox, but the different versions of IE and Firefox and different versions of operating systems are ignored. Besides, very few have access to all the different browsers and operating systems, not to mention the hundreds of combinations that you get when you include screen sizes, Javascript versions and Flash enabled.

Browsershots is a free, open source solution for your problem. Browsershots takes screenshots of sites and displays the screen captures in .png files. You can use Browsershots as a free online service, but what makes this product cool is that it’s available as an open source (written in Python) download so that you can run it on an internal server. This is very useful when you need to test a site that isn’t live or accessible from the Internet yet. (more…)

USB Apps Update

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Portable apps have proven to be very popular and quite resilient in spite of the popularity of on-line apps. On-line apps like Google Apps, Zoho and Basecamp offer solutions for collaboration and portability, but there aren’t many good on-line solutions for applications like text editors, image editors, operating systems and browsers. Because of the need for these types of applications and the benefits of using USB apps I have been adding to my USB app collection. To be fair I have replaced some portable apps with on-line apps, e.g. I prefer Google Reader to GreatNews because desktop RSS readers become bloated and slow down as you add feeds, but at the same time I have discovered a few new portable applications. (more…)

Is OpenID the answer to single sign-on?

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

OpenID is often compared to Microsoft’s Passport and normally it’s said to be better because “it’s not controlled by any one big corporation”. You may have heard or read about OpenID, but chances are that you 1) aren’t using it or 2) have not really looked into it and 3) even if you have, you still don’t understand it. As with many open source projects documentation is scattered, complicated and mostly technical. Over the last few weeks I have tried to make some sense of OpenID and here is my take on it. (more…)

Domain kiting

Monday, August 20th, 2007

MarkMonitor released its Summer 2007 Brandjacking Index, a quarterly report that measures the effect of online threats to brands. The report describes trends of how domain names are used in scamming efforts to hijack well-known brands.

Cybersquatting is a well known form of domain hijacking, but according the report it only grew by 8% in the last quarter, compared to newer and lesser known scams like domain kiting which grew at 242%. Cybersquatting is when someone registers a domain name which contains a brand, slogan or trademark to which the registrant has no right. Owners of registered brands, slogans and trademarks can quite easily approach cybersquatters and gain ownership of the domains. Domain kiting, however, is an advanced hack of cybersquatting and is much more difficult to fight.

Domain Kiting: The process whereby domains are registered and dropped within the 5 day ICANN grace period, and then registered again for another 5 days. Kiting a domain lets the registrant gain the benefit of ownership without ever paying for the domain.

The highest growth rates of kiting is experienced in the media industry. Kiters rotate their domain names through registrars and some registrars simply ignore the practice – it seems they actually thrive on this business!

The report says a lot about spamming and phishing in the pharmaceutical drug industry, but I’m surprised that there’s no mention of stock spam because I have been getting a lot of that lately!

Caching Tutorial for Web Authors and Webmasters

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Here’s a useful guide for everything related to Web caching. Webmasters inevitably have cache related issues at some point in time. The author describes different types of caches and how to control them.

Caching Tutorial for Web Authors and Webmasters

Google Becoming Sloppy

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

I’m one of those people that think Google is going to become evil this year. The hints that they may start charging for services like Google Apps for your Domain are unfortunate. Anyway, they may not be evil yet, but they make mistakes that you wouldn’t expect from a company so good, e.g. the German Google domain name expiration and this afternoon Adwords and Adsense sites were down. Look at the date error that in the message :) (more…)

Switch your personal domain to gmail for domains

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Google Apps for Your Domain is a service that Google offers to individuals, informal groups and small companies that have their own domain name. The main attraction for using this service is for the email hosting. Most registrars and hosting providers offer good email services, but it’s hard to beat Gmail’s functionality, speed and flexibility. So having Gmail as the email service provider for your domain is pretty attractive! I use the service for davinciplanet.com and the more I use it the happier I am with the service.

Users concerned about the flexibility of the service like using email clients (e.g. Outlook & Thunderbird) need not be concerned because Google isn’t evil and they support it. Another concern has been the support of SPF records to prevent spam using your domain, but again, Google isn’t evil and so they support it: (more…)

BartPE bootable windows liveCD

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Looking at my Google Analytics reports I noticed that a lot of people are finding my site by searching for terms like “WinXP virtual appliance” and “windows live CD”. My guess is that they’re hoping to find a free download. Well, they are available – but, they’re not legal. Besides not being legal you shouldn’t trust them because it can’t be from a trusted source and who knows what’s installed on there. If it was a trusted source – like a friend – then it’s an illegal copy but hey at least you trust it ;)

However, you can create your own VMware Windows virtual appliance or live CD if you had a windows installation CD. You really need a fresh Windows installation CD (with an unused license) to create a legal Windows VMware virtual appliance. However, you can legally create a Windows live CD from your original Windows installation CD using BartPE. But wait, you can run a live CD virtual appliance so then you do have a way to get a free WinXP virtual appliance! (more…)

OpenVPN – a proper, free VPN

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

In a previous post I discussed the very useful Hamachi personal VPN. OpenVPN is an open source VPN solution that has enterprise scale capabilities and is a “real” virtual private network solution. It’s a Tech World has a very good article on configuring OpenVPN. Like most open source applications, however, it can take some time to understand, but once you do it grows on you.

VMware Live CD Player

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Live CDs have become quite popular, but I’ve always argued that it’s easier and more convenient to run virtual machines inside a host OS because it gives you the Internet and file access that you typically need when experimenting with something new. Never mind the hassle to actually burn live CDs. However, there are many more live CDs available than there are VMware virtual appliances. Here’s a neat little script that will enable you to launch a live CD, as an ISO image, inside VMware Player. Here’s what you need to do: (more…)

Virtual Appliances update

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

In a previous post on VMware virtual appliances I wrote about how easy and convenient they are. So it is good news and for good reason that the VMware directory of free virtual appliances has grown. The directory is up to date with recent versions of most (free) operating systems and many applications. They even have a “Voice Mail RSS Feed Generator” :) . Personally, I have been mostly using a WinXP virtual appliance – one that I had to create myself using the VMware server (also free, but because of the XP licensing it’s not really “free”). (more…)

Which blog application is right for you?

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Over the last couple of months many people I know, mostly non-technical, have shown an interest in creating their own blogs. It is very easy to set up a free blog, but it gets a little more confusing when you are more serious like wanting your own domain name. So based on level of seriousness, here’s my recommendation to find a blog solution that works for you. (more…)

Create a WordPress blog on GoDaddy.com

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

In this post I will try to explain how to set up a WordPress blog using goddady.com hosting services. The assumption here is that you have decided on a domain name(s) and have a reasonable idea of what your theme will be. There are many hosting providers that offer similar services, but I will focus on godaddy.com because they offer low cost hosting and domain registration with everything a serious blogger needs. Godaddy.com has WordPress prepackaged so you don’t need to pre-configure MySQL or FTP upload WordPress (their support site doesn’t mention this!). Here’s what you need to do:

1. Create a hosting account
To start off you will need to sign up for a hosting account and choose a domain name for your blog. Go to the Hosting Plans page on the Go Daddy site. The Economy Plan is usually suitable and currently costs $3.59/month for 12 month. You need to choose between Linux and Windows hosting solutions and I’d recommend Linux because it works nicer with WordPress (particularly permalinks). You typically do not need any of the optional services that they offer, but you may consider the Private domain registration ($4.99 per year) to hide your personal info from public whois. You can add a domain name for $1.99 (+ $0.25 ICANN fee). The total charge, for 1 year, will be around $50.32. That will be your only cost for this setup. Once you have paid you may have to wait a few of hours for your hosting set up to complete.

2. Install WordPress
Next you need to install WordPress into your site. To do this, browse to godaddy.com, log in to your account and then go to Hosting & Servers and go to My Hosting Plans. Select Open next to the hosting account that you would like to add WorPress. In the Hosting Manager look for click on Value Applications, locate WordPress and click on install. You need to enter basic WordPress administration info, submit, wait a couple of minutes and it’s installed. Besides WordPress, you will also see many other applications that are readily available, including Coppermine image gallery, SiteBar, AdvancedPoll and PmWiki wiki.

After installing WordPress, Go Daddy will show a link to launch the application. By default WordPress will be installed into the /wordpress folder. To change that could be tricky, but you could do it by using an FTP client to connect to your site (create an FTP account by going to Manage FTP Users in the Host Manager) and renaming the wordpress folder to the name of your choice, then you need to browse to the admin page in the new folder (i.e. http://yourdomain.com/new_wordpress_folder/wp-admin/index.php) and update the path info in the Options | General section. If you want to run WordPress as your root application, you will need to move the files to your root folder – possibly by downloading and then re-uploading the files to root (make sure you know what you’re doing!).

3. Familiarize yourself with WordPress
This is where the fun starts! :) After you get WordPress working you need to familiarize yourself with the Web application by checking out the admin tool and reading the documentation. You will want to create a theme or choose one from the many available on-line (mostly free) and enhance it by installing plugins and adding Web analytics, RSS feeds, etc..

4. Useful resources

WordPress Codex
Emily Robnins, How to blog – a comprehensive list of themes.

WordPress Codex

Create virtual encrypted disks to secure data

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

TrueCrypt on-the-fly encryptionTrueCrypt is an open source application that allows you to create encrypted virtual drives on your computer. That way you can secure files on your computer by putting them in an encrypted space that will only be accessible by mounting the virtual drive which is password protected.

The TrueCrypt file can be emailed, backed up and FTP’ed and remain secure because of the strong encryption. It can also be run from a USB flash drive. The virtual disks can be mounted on any operating system.

Once a volume is mounted, files that are written to the virtual disk are encrypted on the fly.  Performance is excellent and you hardly notice anything – except if you choose some ridiculous encryption algorithm.

You can create almost any size virtual drive and chose from most popular file systems, e.g. FAT32 and NTFS.

Make sure to save your password:  There is no way to recover a lost password!

  • Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.
  • Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a device.
  • Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.

It’s very simple:

  1. Download and install TrueCrypt: http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads.php
  2. Start the application
  3. Click on Create Volume
  4. Select a location and file name for the virtual drive. The virtual drive is saved as one big encrypted file (or a whole disk)
  5. Choose an encryption algorithm
  6. Choose the virtual drive size
  7. Choose a password
  8. Select the file that you just created and choose a drive letter on which to mount it
  9. Click on Mount and enter password

The drive is available to you and anyone else connected to the computer for as long as it is mounted. See the Beginner’s Tutorial for more information.