Introduction to Blogging

Recently a friend of mine asked me a few questions about blogging and I told them I would write an entry about blogging. I’m thinking I may start a new category and turn this into a series of articles because there are so many things I could talk about! Let’s get started!

Blog Ideas

  • Recipe Blog – Instead of having scraps of paper with recipes on them floating around your home, why not take those recipes and put them on a blog? With most blogs you can put each post into a category. Your chicken casserole could be in a chicken category, a casserole category or both. You could post photos of the food with each entry. This is a great and inexpensive way to share family recipes. Printing costs can add up quickly.
  • Computer Maintenance – You’ve finally fixed that nagging dialog box that keeps popping up every time you reboot your system. Why not make a blog entry about it so others can read how to stop it too!

Those are just a couple of the possibilities you could use your blog for. There are a ton of ideas out there. The sky is truly the limit.

Reasons for Blogging

  • Save Time – How many times have you sent an email to someone explaining how to do something to only have someone else ask you the same question. Instead of emailing the person wouldn’t it be better or much easier to direct them to the entry on your blog where you already have the answer waiting for them? If you make an update to the blog entry every one can see the change and you don’t have to resend the information to everyone who wanted it.
  • Discussion – Blogging software and services give you the option to allow comments on your entries. Your blog entry isn’t just a blog entry anymore, it becomes a discussion. Going back to the recipe blog. Your family and friends could comment on your recipes telling you how they prepared the dish and how it turned out for them. Maybe they had to use a substitute ingredient or they omitted an ingredient and got something totally different or a disaster!
  • Syndication – Blogging software and services allow you to syndicate your entries across the Internet using using “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS). RSS allows your entries to be listed on thousands of websites across the Internet. If you’re wanting to get noticed this will definitely help.
  • Subscription – Using RSS, readers of your blog can subscribe to your content using your blog’s built in RSS feed. Every time you post a new entry onto your blog the reader will be notified. Reader’s can subscribe in a variety of ways: using RSS reader software, an online feed reader or by subscribing to the feed in an email program that supports RSS feeds. With WordPress your users can even subscribe to the comments of each article. This lets your readers stay on top of the discussion and notifies them if you respond to their comment.

Blogging Options

Free Solutions

  • Blogger.com – This service (offered by Google) allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It’s free and it’s hosted by Google. It is limited, however. Google doesn’t use categories, instead they use labels. Their themes are out of date. Their service is plagued with outages. However, for a basic blogging it’s okay.

If you have a hosting account you can use Blogger as your blogging software and have it publish your entries to your hosting account. This is a great option if you are using a free or premium hosting service and have a domain name connected to your hosting account already.

WordPress.com Administration Area

  • WordPress.com – This service (offered by Automattic) like Google allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It too is free and hosted by them. You can upgrade your account on WordPress.com so that you can customize your blog’s CSS file. WordPress.com blogs offer users a lot of great features.

If you must go with a free hosted option then I would highly recommend WordPress.com over Blogger. I use the free, open source version of WordPress which you can install on your own server (more on that in a moment) and I absolutely love it. The interface on WordPress.com is exactly like the software you can download and install.

The major reason I would recommend WordPress.com over Blogger.com is the fact that if you decide to install WordPress on your own hosting account in the future, you can easily export your entries into a backup file and import them in your self-hosted installation very easily.

Note: You can import entries from a Blogger blog into a WordPress.com or self hosted WordPress blog. The only problem is that after you have imported your posts from Blogger you have to go through all of the posts and make sure that the formatting is how you want it. The way Blogger and WordPress display entries is different.

There are other free hosted blog solutions out there. The two that I have mentioned above are the ones I have used the most and are most comfortable in talking about their feature sets.

Other services that you might want to look into include: LiveJournal, TypePad, MovableType, MySpace or Twitter.

Self hosting benefits

If you want your own custom branded, custom designed blog then you’ll definitely want to look into self hosting your own blog. Most businesses would want to do this for branding reasons. This type of scenario would require you to install the blogging software or content management system onto your web server.

There are a lot of CMS packages out there. The one I’ll be discussing in great detail is WordPress CMS. I have been using it for quite a while now and am very happy with it. I started off using Nucleus CMS and was quite disappointed with it’s features. It left me begging for more. WordPress offered all the features I wanted right out of the box. It’s continued to get even better over the past couple of years.

The version of WordPress that you download and install onto your own server gives you all the functionality that WordPress.com blogs have while giving you the freedom to customize everything about your blog. You can install any plugin or theme you want. You can customize the themes to your heart’s content. You get free support from the WordPress.org Support Forums and it’s really good support, too. Once you start learning more about WordPress you can start helping out in the forums which will help the community grow and the software to get better.

Custom themesWordPress.com offers a lot of themes that you can choose from. However, if you install WordPress onto your own server you can design your very own theme so that it looks exactly the way you want it to. Learn more about designing your own WordPress theme.

Movability – If you decide that you want to move your blog you can easily do so by backing up everything and moving it.

Branding – You can customize your website theme anyway you want. You can make it look like your current website by using the same styling and simply adding a few lines of PHP code.

Plugins – There are a ton of freely available plugins that you can install in your WordPress installation. The plugins allow you to easily extend your blog’s functionality.

Community Blogging – Want to set up your own blogging community, for free (hosting not included)? You can use the WordPress MU version and set up your own blogging community. Each member of the community can have their own blog. This is basically a free, open source version of WordPress.com

Other self hosted solutions: Joomla, Drupal, Movable Type, Nucleus.

Setting Up WordPress

The steps for installing WordPress are very similar to installing Nucleus CMS or any other content management system (CMS). Most CMS software comes in a ZIP file. You unzip the file, upload it and click the install button.

Requirements

  • Web hosting – WordPress does not require a lot of space. The initial size is is roughly 3 megabytes. Remember, as you go you’ll probably be uploading pictures, possibly audio & video files. So keep that in mind.
  • Database – Your web hosting account will need to provide you with a MySQL database. Keep in mind as your blog grows your database will grow too. Most hosting providers allow you to set up several. Set up one and write down the username and password.
  • PHP – PHP is the scripting language that WordPress is built on. This must be available to you on your hosting account otherwise WordPress will not work.
  • FTP Client – I prefer FileZilla FTP.
  • Latest release of WordPress – Get WordPress here.

If for some reason you can’t get web hosting with the requirements above, don’t fret, you can still play with WordPress. It won’t be online but it will give you some experience. You can download XAMPP and install WordPress to a local installation. This is great if you’re new to this and don’t want to mess something up on your web hosting account.

Installation Instructions

  1. Extract the WordPress compressed file that you downloaded.
  2. Rename “wp-config-sample.php” to “wp-config.php”
  3. Open “wp-config.php” and enter the database name, username, password and the host location.

    NOTE: WordPress says that you usually don’t have to change the server location, “localhost”. In my experience you usually do. Just check with your hosting provider or when you set up the database look to see what the location address of that database is. On GoDaddy it usually looks something like “servername123456.secureserver.net”

  4. Upload the WordPress files to your web server in the directory you would like to host your blog.

    NOTE: If you upload into your root directory and have another website in the root directory, more than likely the WordPress blog will be the first thing that appears. If you do have something else on your hosting account then I’d suggest creating a new folder and uploading the WordPress files into that folder.

  5. Navigate to your domain, IP adress or folder on your server where you installed WordPress and you should get a page that gives you a link to install WordPress. Use that link to install WordPress. Once you do you can login and begin blogging. You should also receive an email with your username and password. If you don’t receive an email it means you’re hosting provider has disabled PHP emailing.

If the instructions above are not enough, look at the installation instructions on the WordPress website. There you will find much more detailed information.

Post Installation Instructions

Spam Prevention

SPAM! If you don’t have a way of preventing it, your blog will become full of spambots leaving comments or trackbacks on your blog posts. If you don’t prevent them it may become un-bearable to delete each spam entry. Luckily, with WordPress there is Akismet. Unfortunately, you’ll have to sign up for a WordPress.com account to get an API key to activate your copy of Akismet.

  1. Akismet Configuration – Login to your administration area, click on Plugins and activate Akismet.
  2. Get your API key – Even though you are hosting your own WordPress installation. Sign up for a WordPress.com account and retrieve your Akismet API key. Take the key and copy and paste it into your WordPress installation.

Two other plug-ins that I would highly recommend are Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin and Spam-Bam.

Spam-Bam keeps spammers from posting to your blog by limiting the speed at which they are capable of posting comments. Sometimes I’ll even get the “Slow down Cowboy” message if I’m posting comments too quickly on my own blog.

Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin requires commenters to enter the word or phrase in the captcha image. It’s not as cryptic as a lot of the captcha images out on the web. They’re quite clear. It’s one of the best captcha plugins I’ve seen.

With those two plugins and Akismet I have eliminated 99.9% of my SPAM comments and trackbacks. Depending on the popularity of your blog your success at eliminating SPAM with those plugins may vary.

Other plugins I recommend

  • Dean’s Code Highlighter – I use this plugin here on TechButter when I want to display code on the blog without having to take a screen shot. So far, I’ve only used it once but think it’s a great plugin.
  • Lightbox2 – If you’ve been looking through some of my older or newer articles you may have clicked on a screen shot or photo and been presented with a larger version. This plugin makes that happen. You have to write some HTML for each entry to make it work but it’s not that hard.
  • Subscribe to Comments – I wish this plugin was built into the base install of WordPress. I love being able to click “Subscribe to comments via email” when I leave a post on other blogs. I read a lot of blogs and can never remember all of the ones I have commented on. I enjoy staying up-to-date on the discussion.
  • Contact Form ][ – This plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year (as of the latest update to this article). However, it’s still my favorite plugin for contact forms. If you’re looking for a contact form with more options you might try cforms.

Permalinks

The purpose of a permalink is so that when someone wants to link to an article you wrote, they can link to the individual post instead of your entire blog. It makes it a lot simpler to get to the information.

The default installation of WordPress gives your entries a unique number in the address field of the browser.

Example: http://domain.tld/?p=147

For search engine optimization it is best to have something that is a little nicer looking, such as:

Example: http://domain.tld/2006/11/19/synergy/

How to set up permalinks:

  1. Create a blank text document (.txt extension)
  2. Upload this file to your fresh WordPress installation and make sure there is no file listed that says “.htaccess” You may have to instruct your FTP client to show ALL files to make sure it is or isn’t there.
  3. If the file isn’t there, upload your text file and rename it to “.htaccess” (without the quotes). Nothing before the “.”.
  4. Login to your WordPress administration area, go to Options and then choose Permalinks. Choose the permalink structure that looks best to you. I usually go with Date and Name based URLs.
  5. Go to your blog and select one of your posts. The title of your post will direct you to the permalink. If you can click on that link and load an individual post without errors then you have correctly configured permalinks. If not, check with the WordPress support forums.

Database Backup Plugins

To ensure that you’re website is backed up regularly you’ll want to get a WordPress plugin that you can install and do one click backups and then have WordPress email that backup to you. The backup plugins that I use are Il Filosofo’s WordPress Database Backup and WP-DBManager for more advanced backup options.

  1. Download the plugins
  2. Extract the plugins
  3. Upload to domain.tld/wordpressdirectory/wp-content/plugins
  4. Login to you administration area, go to Plugins and activate the two plugins you just uploaded.
  5. For the Il Filosofo database plugin go to Manage >> Backup. For the WP-DB-Manager plugin there should be a new tab at the top called Database.
  6. Get familiar with making a backup using each of the plugins. Also, set up a scheduled database backup. If you update often or get comments often you’ll want to backup daily.

Promote your blog

Tagging

With the latest version of WordPress you can insert tags into each of your posts. Whenever you make a new post onto your blog WordPress pings Pingomatic which tells syndication services that you have updated your blog. When anyone goes to a site like Technoratiand does a search for a tag that you gave one of your entries, your entry should show up in the results.

Blogrolling

If you read a blog that is along the lines of your blog, you might email the author and do a link exchange. They put your link on their blogroll and you put their link on yours. This will help somewhat in increasing traffic as well as help you to get acquainted with your fellow bloggers.

Link to stories on other blogs

Whenever you link to an entry on another person’s blog your blog will usually send out a trackback which will be placed in the comments section of the blog entry you linked to. That will tell the blog owner that you mentioned them in your latest entry.

Note: With statistics software it’s possible to see where traffic is coming from and you can tell if people are linking to your site and you can stay on top of the discussion.

Interface Suggestion

If you’re familiar with HTML then I would highly recommend that you turn off the default WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides you with. For some reason I have a lot of trouble with it. I always change the editor from WYSIWYG to the HTML editor. I’m just much more comfortable with that style of editing and in my opinion it works a lot better. You can change this setting in your user profile.

Conclusion

Thanks so much for looking through my blog post about getting WordPress up and running. I truly hope this entry was helpful to you! If it wasn’t please let me know so I can update it and help you out even more. If there is a specific question you have about WordPress please ask me! Thanks again!

Article update: Thursday, September 12, 2008: I updated this article with new screen shots. I also updated this article with updated information regarding my suggested plugins.

Article update: Tuesday, October 21, 2008: Added links to contact form plugins.

Introduction to Video Blogging

A lot of people have been getting into video blogging lately. Rightly so because it is becoming much more popular. Once upon a time downloading a video on the Internet was atrocious because it took forever to download a 2 or 3 minute clip.

It was extremely annoying, however, today with much faster and lower cost Internet access, videos are becoming more popular, especially with video services like Google Video, YouTube, Vimeo and others. I have been asked how I produce my videos so I thought I would make a blog entry about it. Now, I have to make a disclaimer. The way I do it is probably different than the way everyone else does it. There are many ways to go about video blogging.

NOTE: Please see article update below to see the changes I have made to my video blogging process over the two years that this article has been online.

Recording Video

So what can you record with? Well, obviously you can record with a camcorder. What if you don’t have a camcorder? Do you have a digital camera? Do you have a webcam? Most new digital cameras record video and do a decent job of it. Most of them don’t offer zooming while you record a video and a lot of them are very poor in low light situations, however, if that’s all you have then make the most of it. When I record my videos I use my Sony Cybershot (DSC-P93A) digital camera. With it I can record as much video as I want as long as I have the storage for it on the memory card, so, the larger the memory card, the more video I can record. I’ve also recorded video using my old web cam (circa 2002). Regardless of which method you choose, there are many ways to record video so don’t let not having a fancy camcorder get in your way.

Importing Video

Luckily, for me, when I record videos on my Cybershot it is a really painless task to pull the videos from the camera. I simply hook up the camera, turn it on, navigate to the folder and drag and drop the files where I want them to be on my hard drive. If you’re recording with a web cam you’ll be saving directly to the hard drive which will make the next part of this process one less step away.

I have imported videos using a camcorder before, not using anything fancy like firewire though. A couple of years ago I purchased an ADS Tech Video Capture device that allows you to plug in an analog camcorder or any analog video source such as a VCR and pull video from that source and put it onto your computer. It is slow because you have to do it in real time (meaning you have to sit and watch as you record it to your hard drive). The capture device that I purchased came with easy-to-use software to record your videos. The only major problem with this technique is that the file size will be huge after you have recorded all of your footage onto the computer. Usually, for me, it is at least a couple of gigs.

Editing the masterpiece

Once you have all the footage onto your computer the next step is to piece everything together, add your effects, transitions, star wipes, etc. You can choose not to, it is obviously up to you, you are the artist. A lot of times I will simply put the videos together and then export it for lack of time and better software.

Speaking of software I should tell you what I use. I use a program called InterVideo WinDVD Creator. It came with my DVD burner and is more geared towards burning videos to DVD, however, it works for my purposes. I should say though that there is much better software out there, I simply use this because it came with my DVD burner.

Encoding

You’ll probably scream when I tell you this, but, I encode my videos twice. The first time I encode my video I am exporting the file out as an MPEG2 file using the highest quality setting so that there is not a lot of compression happening and the video exports a lot quicker. To encode the video the first time I am still using InterVideo WinDVD Creator.

Before you move on to the next step you might consider burning this file to a DVD for archiving purposes.

Once I get the video encoded the first time I am ready to compress it down into a much, much more reasonable file size. For this I use a program called Videora iPod Converter. It converts the video file down really nicely without taking away too much quality. It also has a one-click transcode feature which is really nice and easy. You simply tell it where the file is and hit the button and it spits out a nice MP4 file. Now, some people may throw up their arms and say “BUT WAIT A MINUTE, I don’t have an iPod to play iPod videos!” Don’t worry, I don’t have an iPod either and I use a program called VLC Media Player to play the video files and iTunes will also play them which is what most people use to subscribe to podcasts (unless they’re like me and use Podnova, but, I digress). So, don’t worry! A lot of people use to fuss about file formats however Linux, Mac OS and Windows are all capable of playing the same file formats (with the proper software).

Publishing – Where to host the file

OK! You’ve got your video recorded, imported, edited and encoded! Now, you need to get it published which means you’re first going to have to have a place to put the file online.

There are several resources available to you. If you want to pay for web hosting you can purchase some web hosting at GoDaddy or another hosting company.

The second option is a free option. You can upload your videos to PodShow and use their network to host your videos. Currently, they are doing the same thing with audio and only adding an ad to the beginning of the show. In my opinion this is acceptable because you are getting free hosting. Currently, to my knowledge they are not placing ads on videos that you upload to the network. If you’re strapped for cash then the free option from PodShow is a great service. Also, take this into consideration, you’ve got a REALLY good service like PodShow worrying about all the bandwidth. You don’t have any limits like you would with your web site hosting company. In my opinion I think it is a win-win situation. Now, if you’re still not comfortable with them placing ads onto your content there is a second option and it is free as well.

You can set up an account on archive.org and upload your videos there. Now, I have used archive.org and it is a great service and I really like what they’re doing (archiving everything, hence the name), but, IT IS SLOW!

The last option that I know of for hosting your video is to use a service such as YouTube, Vimeo or one of the other online video publishing services. Most of them are free and allow you to upload whatever you like as long as it is not copyrighted. With these services you also have to be careful about nudity and language because there are a lot of people who get offended very easily who traverse these websites.

So keep those in mind as you are looking for a place to host your file.

Publishing – Uploading the file

Now that you’ve decided on a location for the file, how are you going to get it there? Well, if you’re using either the PodShow, Archive.org or “YouTube like service” option then you will upload your content using their transfer utility on their website. If you purchased web hosting somewhere then you’ll need to FTP your video up using an FTP client such as FileZilla.

Publishing – Blogging

Now that you’ve got all that work done, there is even more! Don’t worry, there is only one more step after this one! If you’ve got a blog you’ll definitely want to make a post about it, otherwise, how would people know about it? So, what you’ll do or I should say, what I do is I go and make a post as normal and then I simply link to the video file. Sometimes I will take a screen capture of the video at an interesting part of the video and upload the image to my blogging software and link the image to the video file. To take a screen capture of a video I again use VLC Media Player, which, on Windows, saves the picture to the “My Pictures” folder by default.

Publishing – RSS Feed

Now you need a way for your subscribers to subscribe to your content so that they can plug it into iTunes, Podnova or whichever podcatcher that they use. You’ll need some software to do this. If you’re on Windows you can download free software called FeedSpring which is what I use for my audio & video journal. If you’re on Linux you can use FeedSpring as well you’ll just have to use it through Wine emulation. If you’re on the Mac you can check out my friend Steve’s software called Feeder which allows you to create RSS feeds on the Mac.

If you are uploading your videos to a service like Podshow, archive.org or your own hosting account, use the software I mentioned above to create a link to the file once it is uploaded. If you are hosting the video on a service like Vimeo, you can still create an RSS feed that will take users to the page that you are showing the video on.

Once you’ve got your feed created the next step that I would highly recommend to everyone is adding it to FeedBurner. The reason I say to put your feed on FeedBurner is so you can much more easily submit your feed to services such as iTunes. Also, the most important reason for using FeedBurner is because you can easily change the location of your feed. Lets say you have your feed in a directory on your server called “blog” and you decide later on you want to move it to another folder called “feed” you can do so and then you can simply update the address in your FeedBurner account, that way, your users won’t have to re-subscribe to anything.

FeedBurner will also give you statistics for your feed, however, don’t count on them too much, at least, that is how I feel about them. The counter always seems a little inflated. To get a true look at the people who have downloaded your video you need to look at the statistics for your website, not the RSS feed. Robots brushing up against your feed will cause your numbers to rise.

Publishing – Statistics

Now that you’ve got the video online you’ll probably want to know how many people are downloading and watching your content.

If you purchased web hosting you should be able to log in to a statistics area for your website and track the total number of downloads for your file. Most services offer this as a free package. Some don’t so you’ll have to check with your hosting provider.

If you uploaded to a service like PodShow, Archive.org, or a YouTube like service then most of those services will display a “viewed” number.

In Conclusion

Finally, I want to leave you with a web link to a blog that talks about how to get the most out of your recording experience.

8 Ways To Shoot Video Like a Pro (from Lifehacker)

I hope this entry has helped you! If it has, let me know. If it hasn’t, let me know and tell me how I could make it better. If you have any questions you’d like answered on this blog feel free to contact me! Thanks for reading!

Article update: Wednesday, December 17, 2008: It has been a couple of years since I have published this article so I have changed the way I record and publish my videos. Not a whole lot but I think it’s worthy of updating this entry to reflect the changes.

The first change that I have made is that I am now recording with a DV (Digital Video) camcorder (a Canon ZR800) in addition to my Sony Cybershot DSC-P93A. The camcorder records video at a much higher resolution and I have more options for recording. Importing video is more time consuming than dragging and dropping a file from a memory card. To pull video from the DV camera you have to pull it off in real time, meaning you have to watch it as it comes into the computer. DV video also takes up a lot more hard drive space. One DV video cassette takes up 20 GB of hard drive space.

The second change that I have made is that I am now using different software for editing and encoding. I am now using Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum edition for editing. It’s really great software but it’s not free. For encoding my videos to iPod format I am now using MPEG Streamclip, which is free.

The only other change that I have made is the way I publish videos to my RSS feed. I am no longer using FeedSpring and am now using Reinvented Software’s Feeder, which is a great way to publish enclosures to an RSS feed. I highly recommend it.

Fedora Core 6 Test 3 Preview

Its that time of year again. Time for the next version of Fedora Core to be released. I thought I would install the latest version of the test releases (Test 3, currently) and see what is new and exciting in the upcoming version of Fedora Core 6 scheduled for release October 24 which is just next week (at the time of this writing).

Unfortunately I don't have a computer I can use to install this on so I'm doing it virtually. I will have to make some sacrifices in what I can install but if there is something interesting that is being installed by default I will be sure to let you know. I just created the virtual machine and popped the DVD into the drive so lets get started!

Installation

The first thing you will notice when you begin the installation is the new artwork. I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the new artwork, but I like it. It says to me “Connected” or maybe even a DNA look. In any case, I think it looks great.

During the installation you get a warning stating that this is a pre-release version of Fedora Core. So, remember what I say in this preview may change in the final version. I usually wait to review things until they come out, however, I'm anxious to see what is new! Just keep in mind that this is a pre-release! Ok, clicking “Install Anyway.”

Partitioning/Disk Selection

The partition/disk selection looks a little different in this version. It looks as though they are trying to make it a lot simpler for people to install Fedora onto their computers. They give you the standard “Remove all partitions and install”, “Remove linux partitions and install”, etc. They also give you an advanced storage configuration option.

Application Selection

There is a really neat feature available in the installer that I hope is carried over to the final version of FC6. If you have additional repositories that you would like to add you can add them during the installation. From my understanding this would allow you to get all of your applications installed during the installation so you didn't have to spend several hours trying to get all of your apps installed after you had installed the base operating system. I was not able to test this feature out. In fact, it crashed my virtual machine and I had to start the installation over.

An interesting thing to note is that when you are telling the installation what type of system you want to install, if you choose web server or development it will tell you that an ethernet card is required. However, if you don't choose those options and move forward you can still choose those options but it will not tell you that an ethernet card is required.

New Applications

The only new application that I see to the lineup is that you can choose to install the Xen virtual machine monitoring software. Xen is the open source alternative to VMware or Microsoft's VirtualPC software. I look forward to reading more about it and playing with Xen, I've heard a lot about it but have not done anything with it, yet!

As far as the other applications go, I don't see anything new. I do see newer versions, thankfully.

I know there is always something that everyone wants to include during the installation, however, I really wish they would keep XFCE in the desktop environments. It is simple enough to install after the installation but it would be nice if I didn't have to install it afterwards.

I added a couple of additional applications to the installation, it has checked for dependencies (which took forever. Granted, I am running in a virtual machine) and it is now installing. It will probably take a while since it is installing in a virtual machine so I will let that run for a while and get back with you!

About 45 minutes later I have successfully installed Fedora Core 6 Test 3. Let’s reboot and do the usual first boot configuration and see if any of that has changed.

First Boot Configuration

During the last part of the installation which is called “first boot” you set up a user for the system. I was not able to set up a user because when I would click into the field it would enter several q's. Not sure why but again, I'm not running on native hardware and this is a pre-release version. Luckily, I can login as root which is dangerous but I think for testing we can safely log in as root and have a look around.

First Login

I'm at the new login screen. It looks rather nice. It actually reminds me of some themes that I saw a while back for the Gnome login manager.

I just logged into the system and am now at the desktop. I have to say, the new wallpaper is REALLY nice. I was just starting to appreciate the one in 5 but this one is REALLY nice. WOW! It makes the desktop stand out a whole lot more. Use to, the wallpaper was the first thing I would change. I like this one a lot though.

The desktop icons are still the plain Bluecurve icons that have been used since RedHat version 8. They look decent but I think its time for an update. I've been looking through the menus and it appears as though there are a few new icons for some of the options so maybe they'll be some desktop icon changes in the final release. The new icons in the menus may also be a part of the latest GNOME which is in use in FC6.

Performance

I've opened up a couple of application since I have logged in and I am VERY impressed with the performance. I have Fedora Core 5 installed in another virtual machine. It isn't currently running, but FC6 T3 definitely out performs FC5 in my opinion. The GIMP opened nice and fast! I only gave the virtual machine 284 megs of RAM. I bet if I installed the VMware tools package that it would be even faster! I am VERY impressed! Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org Writer and Firefox took a little longer to open. It is still a lot faster than the time it takes to open them in my FC5 installation that is running XFCE as the desktop manager with un-needed services stopped! I'm anxious to see how fast this thing runs when I disable some services and install XFCE.

I know I said this in the last paragraph but I am very impressed. I thought I was going to have to make a lot of sacrifices since I was installing in a virtual machine environment. I am running Gnome, Firefox and OpenOffice.org without any problems. I've also not stopped any services that I don't need, like I usually do. I just can't get over the performance increase in version 6.

Final first look thoughts

From what I can tell so far I think this will be a great update to FC5. Of course, we'll have to see how many applications don't run on it yet! However, that is what you get when you want to run bleeding edge technology.

I look forward to downloading the non-beta version of Fedora next week.

Internet Explorer 7

Installation

I just downloaded and installed IE7. A MUCH, MUCH needed update to Microsoft's web browser. The installation went very well, there weren't any glitches, it done everything on its own without asking many questions. It is interesting because in older versions of IE, 4 & 5, it would ask you all kinds of questions. Whether you wanted this option or this plugin, etc. I think one of the reasons they done that with the older versions was because they were trying to add more functionality to the operating system. I remember getting web view folders with IE4 and being tickled to death because I was using Windows 95 at the time and it looked like a lot of the features that 98 had. However, they don't need those options now since the only operating systems that can install this version of IE (2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista) have those features built into the OS already.

Upon installing and rebooting the computer I opened up the new version and waited for the run-once website to appear, it never did, it gave a message stating that this website could not be found. This wouldn't be good for a new computer user, they might think that their browser is broken, however, I do realize that Microsoft's servers are probably under a lot of stress from everyone downloading, installing and running the new version, just as I did.

Web Standards

I decided to navigate to my website to see how it rendered. As a web designer I have been anxiously awaiting this version of Internet Explorer because supposedly, I won't have to hack my code anymore to make it work! The rate of adoption will probably be slow and I honestly cannot wait until Microsoft sends it out as a Windows Update. I realize there will be companies that cannot update to this version due to internal applications, but, for everyday users, it will be nice not to have to hear them complaining that my website does not render correctly in their browser because Microsoft refuses to comply with web standards! I am anxiously awaiting to see if this new version is more standards friendly.

I navigated around to a few pages on my website. The navigation menu still does not appear as it does in Mozilla Firefox and Opera. I also clicked over to my Flickr photo sets page and the sets have a gap in them about four rows down.

Anti-Phishing Technology

When I did navigate to my website I got a pop up message about setting up my phishing filter. I'm sure that this is just a standard dialog meant to appear when you access your first website. Hopefully someone hasn't hijacked my website and is installing spyware onto my visitor’s computers! I do think this will be a great addition to the IE browser for those people who have just purchased a new computer and are learning to use the Internet because they don't know about all these security risks, spyware, etc.

Minimalist Layout

I do appreciate the minimalist layout that they have went with in IE7. I suppose this will give room for those spyware toolbars that everyone seems to get.

Tabbed Browsing

I don't think that they made it apparent enough that the browser now supports tabs. However, I do have to give them credit because by default Firefox does not even add the “New Tab” button to the toolbar.

I really do like the quick tabs feature. If you have multiple tabs open you can quickly view all the open tabs and select the one you want to view. I think they will really entice a lot of users with that feature because users will see the true benefits of tabbed browsing by using them.

RSS Reader

They have added an RSS reader into the browser. This will also be another great feature for those casual computer users who don't know anything about RSS. They will know that when they see the orange button light up, they can subscribe to that website and then not actually have to go back to that website to see if there are any updates. One problem with this is that after I had subscribed to a few of my own personal feeds, I did not see how I could pull up the RSS Reader with all of my subscribed feeds. I'm still looking for it. The only way I've been able to get back to subscribed feeds is by going to one of my blogs, looking at the feed and then viewing the subscribed feeds.

Built In Search

The search feature is another nice edition to the browser. Users will no longer have to launch their browser and navigate to their favorite search engine to simply do a search. They can use the built in search tool and they can change which search engine it uses. Of course it uses MSN's Live search by default. I prefer Google, however I don't have any issues with them using their own search engine as the default! (Google did!)

Final first look thoughts

I think they have really done a lot to bring IE up to speed. I think it is a serious competitor to the other browsers. The problem is that a lot of the new features that are in the new version have been in other browsers for several years now. One feature that I see being a killer feature is the anti-phishing technology. It is one thing for Firefox to block pop ups and to block software from being installed on your computer, but, its another thing to be fooled by a website that looks real and is actually a fake.

I think that if Microsoft were to create versions of IE7 that would run on the Mac & on Linux then they would have a lot more users. The problem is, Microsoft is no longer creating a version to run on the Mac and I would SINCERELY doubt that they would create versions to run on Linux, although, I wish they would!

For the new users out there, I think they should have included a “Whats New” guide when the new version launched that gives a guided tour of tabs, phishing, etc. I don't think they've made these features stand out enough. I also don't think that the users will navigate to Microsoft's website to read about them. I really wish more users could understand the true benefits of RSS.

Lastly, I think this is definitely a much needed update to IE and I believe if there is anyone out there running an old version of Internet Explorer and can upgrade to this new version I would highly recommend it. Mainly because of the advanced security but also because of the new features the browser has. I think that many, many people would benefit from using RSS feeds, but most people either don't know they exist or have no clue how to use them.

The only reasons I'll be using IE7 is to check and make sure my websites load properly in it and to access those websites that only work with IE. I don't think I'll be ditching Firefox anytime soon, I'm too happy with it. However, with that said, I strongly urge anyone who uses IE as their default browser to update to this new version.

Update 10/20/06: I found the feeds I subscribed to in the “Favorites Center”

Convert Nucleus CMS Blogs to WordPress

I am wanting to convert my blogs that are running on Nucleus CMS to WordPress, there are several reasons why and first of all, I want to explain why and then I will tell you how to do this:

The first and major reason I am wanting to switch is because I do not feel as though my blogs are getting enough visitors. One reason I feel this is happening is because when a search engine spiders my blogs they are not able to index my posts. From my understanding this has to do with the URL scheme for permalinks that Nucleus uses, it’s too complicated. In the Nucleus CMS forums there are tutorials for how to change the way articles are linked, however, I have been completely un-sucessful with them.

There are more features in WordPress than in Nucleus and I am wanting them now, I don't want to have to wait on future versions. The development of Nucleus seems to have slowed down, tremendously. Features I am wanting that WordPress has out-of-the box right now:

  • Static pages
  • Password protection
  • Multiple categories
  • Better SPAM prevention
  • Easier blog-rolling or linking.
  • Dashboard that shows you news in the WordPress community as well as notifications when someone links to your site.

When you upload images using Nucleus CMS it creates a proprietary link instead of linking to the image. This is especially annoying for me because when I do convert to WordPress, I am going to have to update each post so that the images will actually work!

There are other reasons that I don't like Nucleus CMS. There are reasons why I like it. However, I seriously believe it is time for me to make the switch to WordPress CMS. If nothing else, just so I can get more visitors coming to this website! At least, I hope that will happen! So, here is how we do this!

  1. Backup your Nucleus CMS database! If something goes wrong, you might have problems accessing your site.
  2. Install fresh copy of WordPress 1.5. This is an older version of WordPress, however, the converter that we are going to use does not like the newer version of WordPress. Once we get the Nucleus CMS database imported into WordPress 1.5 we can upgrade to the latest version (currently 2.04).

    WordPress Archive Directory
    WordPress Version 1.5 (ZIP)

  3. Download the converter that we are going to use and then upload into a directory on your web server. Nucleus ConverterYou can see the original documentation for the converter here.
  4. Make sure you have available the username and password of both your Nucleus & WordPress databases. Also, make sure that your Nucleus database doesn't have a prefix. If it does, you'll need to write down what the prefix of the database is.
  5. Navigate to the converter script that you uploaded to your site.
  6. Plug in the fields and click on convert.

Your posts should now be converted into WordPress, at least, this worked for me. Now, make sure you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress and then you can start cleaning up your WordPress blog. Unfortunately, you'll have to edit individual posts and re-link your images.

If you have uploaded images to your nucleus installation you can download them from the media directory, my images were under “nucleus/media/1”. I plan to upload the images to another directory and then re-link each one. If there is a simpler solution that I come up with, I will update this post.

I had multiple blogs on my Nucleus installation and what I am planning to do is to turn each of those blogs into its own category in the new WordPress installation. I need to move a couple of blogs into their own installation. I'm hoping I can either come up with a way to export individual blogs or once they are converted, export into a new install and delete the posts I don't want. If anyone has a simple way to do this, please, let me know!

Also, I should note that when I did this I also installed a fresh copy of Nuclues onto my local server, just in case something went horribly wrong.

2X ApplicationServer

In July of 2006 Microsoft released a stripped down copy of Windows XP that can be run on old hardware. It’s called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WindowsFLP). The main difference is that some of the applications would not be run locally. The processor intense applications would be run off of a server. The server would be another, more powerful computer running Windows XP. I think that was a great thing for Microsoft to release. The problem is that they didn’t release it to the general public. It is only available to Microsoft Software Assurance customers.

The good news is that 2X Software has a server and client application that you can use to achieve this called 2X Application Server. With the free version you can tunnel up to 5 applications per server onto remote desktops. You can serve applications out to Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows or Linux clients. This is something that WindowsFLP cannot do. To be fair, this does require a machine running Windows Server with the Terminal Services component installed. WindowsFLP only requires another machine with Windows XP.

After installation it was very easy to push out an application to my old Windows XP laptop that has 32 MB RAM and a 200 Mhz processor. I chose Aptana (a web development IDE) as my test application. I installed the client software on the laptop after I had set up the server. In the client application I saw Aptana and double clicked on it to launch it. You can also choose to put a shortcut on your desktop. Aptana started up and looked as though it was starting up on the local machine. I was able to then use the application as if it were installed on the local machine. Though, when you’re accessing files it will bring up a dialog for the drives on the server. On Windows, if you have mapped network drives it will show those in the “My Computer” area.

The Linux side of things was a little more difficult. The 2X Server Client software for Linux is command line only. It took me a few minutes to correctly enter the syntax but I was finally able to pull up the Aptana application on my installation of Fedora. It seemed a lot slower on Linux than it did on Windows.

For you Mac fans out there you should be happy to know that they also have client software for the Mac as well. It works really well. I was able to launch Aptana without any issues. It does look a bit odd on the Mac, though. If you want it to look seamless you might install a program that changes the look of Windows to that of Mac OS X.

2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services

Article update: Tuesday, September 30, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots of the latest version.

A lot of updates to the application have been made. It looks different and there are many more options. Instead of just a single application at a time, you can now also publish a group of applications. This allows you to group items in a folder. This is sort of like grouping items on the start menu. You can publish a desktop which gives the user access to their remote desktop without having to use another remote desktop client. You can also publish predefined applications (Windows Explorer and other built in components of Windows) and documents.

The latest Mac and Windows clients work really well. Unfortunately, the Linux client is still command line only. I think if there was a GUI version for Linux it would make it easier on the IT staff and the employees who aren’t technical.

Is a CMS right for you?

Definition of a web designer

Once upon a time the web designer of your website was responsible for everything. They designed the layout, they coded the site, they updated content for you whenever you needed them to, they also made sure everything was in proper working order. Today however, the role of the web designer is changing, in my opinion. The main change that I see is that the web designer is no longer and should no longer be responsible for the content on the client’s website. I do however think that the web designer is responsible for making sure that the site looks good, is maintained, is in working condition and is backed up regularly and can provide assistance to the customer. How is this possible? How can a client with no knowledge of web design principles or coding languages know how to update the website? Its called a content management system (CMS).

So what exactly is a CMS?

I always tell people that a CMS is an online application that you can install onto your website that allows YOU to manage YOUR content and the designer can manage the look of the site and maintain the site. You login to the administration area and create your content and publish it. There is no knowledge of coding languages required. The only thing you need to know, is how to navigate the CMS.

Reasons to implement a CMS

  • Once the website is set up, you can assign a single user, multiple users or groups of users to manage the content on the website. A lot of business will have a secretary update the content on the website using the CMS. The best part about this is is that you don't have to email your designer, wait on them to update the content, wait on them to reply saying its updated. You can go ahead and make the changes yourself.
  • You can apply different permissions to each user. If you wanted to assign an author permission to a user but not allow them to publish the content, you could assign someone else the ability to publish articles.
  • Since it is simple to create and publish content, you can publish content more quickly and more often. You could update your site whenever any new news about your company is available: press releases, news items, new employees, new products, product updates, etc. This will help keep your website from feeling stagnated. You can also create a blog which will allow your customers to leave you comments. This allows you to have interaction with your customers.
  • Backing up the website is also much easier. You can quickly make a backup of the database and your website theme. In the event that something was to happen to your website or you needed to move it, it could quickly be fixed or moved.
  • Since the underlying framework of a CMS is already there for you, it is much easier and quicker to create the look and feel of the website. You could create your own CMS, but, why re-invent the wheel?
  • There are MANY CMS' out there and MANY of them are free. You can pick and choose which one you'd like to use based on the features it has, the database and scripting software that it runs on, user interface, etc. Most CMS websites will have a demonstration area for their CMS.
  • I think most CMS' do a really good job of search engine optimization (SEO). I think they do a better job at SEO than just having HTML/XHTML & CSS pages.
  • Problems with a CMS (there aren't many, fortunately)

  • Although a CMS is reasonably secure (usually), your IT department or your web design department will need to make sure that your website is secure. They will need to make sure certain files remain hidden from the public (for database security). They will need to make sure the database is backed up, regularly.
  • If you're going to create a blog on your website and allow comments, you will need to make sure comments are moderated so that you don't have SPAM or rude comments on your blogs. This can sometimes get out of hand and almost become a full-time job. You'll either need to make sure there is a way to take care of SPAM or simply not allow comments.
  • You are taking money away from your designer! Since I am a web designer myself, I thought I'd throw that one in there. 😉

Which CMS to use?

The two that I am going to recommend to you are free AND open source. They are my two favorite CMS', they have plugins/modules that you can extend your CMS with. They're very user friendly. They're not too difficult to install either. Best of all, if you can't hire a web designer, you can download ready made themes for your site. The bad part about that is that it won't be custom to your company. Both CMS' have plugins/modules for e-commerce. The two I recommend are:

Drupal
WordPress

WordPress is more centered around blogging, however, you can tweak the code to allow it to be much more like a standard website.

If you'd like to try out the CMS' above or other ones, you can check out OpenSourceCMS.com

DesktopTwo Online Operating System

There have been several websites lately that focus on creating an operating system that is browser based. A place where you can get to all of your stuff from any location that has Internet access. A couple of the others are EyeOS and YouOS. There is even works for an ajaxOS version of Linspire. What that will do is allow your computer to launch the most up-to-date version of software from the Internet, everytime you open the application, the best part is, you don't need to install the software. However, we're not talking about Linspire. In this blog entry I want to talk about DesktopTwo, an online operating system that I have been playing with for the past couple of days.

What exactly is DesktopTwo?

An online OS is exactly what it says it is. You will go to the website, login to your account and you will be presented with a graphical user interface.

What can I do with DesktopTwo?

At the moment, most of the online operating systems are limited to a few basic functions. However, that is rapidly changing. With DesktopTwo you can blog, edit your websites, instant message, play your MP3s, email AND the best part about DesktopTwo is that you have online storage, 1 gig to be exact so you can write documents and save them to your online desktop.

You won't be able to replace your current operating system. There just aren't that many applications yet. Key word beying yet!

Things I like, don't like and thoughts I had while using DesktopTwo.

One thing that I really like about DesktopTwo is that it works just like a normal desktop operating system would. You double click on icons and they open just as they would on any other operating system and they open rather quick as well. The applications look like real applications. They feel like real applications.

You can change the wallpaper, change how many icons appear on the desktop. It runs very smoothly. Some of the other online operating systems that I have played with are sometimes a bit choppy. This one is rather smooth and feels nice.

It appears as though you can share applications with other users. Might be useful for getting someone started with DesktopTwo.

You can upload and download files into your hard drive. I wasn't able to download a file because I couldn't create one. However, I was able to upload files from my local drive and download them again.

It appears as though they are developing widgets. They have one widget that tells you the time, date and how much hard drive space you are using.

I like the MP3 player and I like the functionality that it provides. I think this would be perfect for me because if I was traveling I could upload my collection of MP3s to this service and simply stream them back to me. I know having the actual MP3 on my computer or a portable device would be better but what if I didn't have room on my hard drive. Better yet, what if I was on the road and was running out of storage space on the hard drive, I could upload to a service like this, download them when I got home and still have the ability to listen to the music. The only problem then becomes the amount of storage that is available on the service and your connection speed to be able to stream them back. You also have to be connected to the service to listen to your music. However, I still think this would be a great way to dump some files off of your hard drive for making room for pictures you have taken on your trip or at least it would for me.

Once they integrate more applications into this service you could very well use it for terminal computing. Got some old computers? Simply connect them to this service, put them in full screen mode and you'd have a fully functioning computer. Yes, you could use a service like CosmoPod.com but this is much faster.

When you click on the browser, if you are using Firefox, it will simply open another tab in Firefox. I'm sure they are working on their own web browser that will be integrated into the operating system soon.

The text editor also functions in the same way, whenever you open it up it opens a text editor in a new Firefox window. I do have to appreciate this though. A lot of times whenever you enter a lot of text into a flash window it bogs down the application. At least that has been my experience with flash based text editors.

Whenever I have tried creating a file and saving it, there has been an error message pop up.

They have a built in search tool for searching your account, Google or Yahoo. However, I was un-able to use it. Whenever I would enter a search term, press enter or click on Go, nothing would happen.

On the front page of DesktopTwo it says that you get 1 gig of free online storage. However, when you look at the hard drive usage information in the information widget, it says that there is a total of 5000 Mb of storage. It says that I am using 1234.6 Mb and that there is 3765.4 Mb free. I am guessing that this is the amount for the installed applications and how much room I have to install more applications.

Conclusions

Online operating systems have most certainly came a LONG way. I remember several years ago playing with one and thinking about how great it would be to be able to have an online operating system that I could take everywhere with me. I cannot remember the name of the service either. All I remember was that it had a red background as the default background.

I think that this will definitely be a great online operating system as long as they keep developing it and as long as more applications are made available for it. I think that they should release this as a download so that organizations and schools can customize it for their needs.

DesktopTwo.com

Article update: Tuesday, September 9, 2008: I have updated the screenshots for this article so that they look good with the wider theme. I had to re-create the screenshots but DesktopTwo looks the same now as it did back in 2006. There are a few minor differences but not many. The only original screenshot in this article is that of the MP3 player. The new MP3 player looks different, more like iTunes.

As I said, DesktopTwo has not changed a whole lot. The only difference that I see now is that they are now powered by Sun Microsystems. They also have a Java based version of OpenOffice.org available through the DesktopTwo application. That makes the service more convenient.

There are also advertisements on the main desktop. They’re not obtrusive. They even dim out if you are not hovered over them.

I also updated this article for grammar and coding errors. Please forgive me if I still missed a ton of grammatical errors. English was never my best subject.

Aptana Studio

Yesterday morning I downloaded Aptana, it is a web development application much like Macromedia Dreamweaver. I've been using it most of the day to work on a new project and I really like it a lot. I think it is very close to being able to steal away Dreamweaver's customers. Best of all its a free application. Even better than it being free is that it’s a cross platform application. You can run it on Linux, Mac and Windows. I thought I would share with you some of the things I like and some of the things I don't like about it.

What I like:

When you first startup the application you are presented with a getting started guide, I guess you could call it. It shows you where everything is, such as where the files are located, where the code assist view is, where the code checking is. Things like that. It’s really is useful if you're switching from another program.

Whenever you are typing code it will pop up (unobtrusively) and tell you whether the code will work with Firefox or Internet Explorer while it also suggests code to you. I find that very useful and I personally think it would make a person become a better web developer.

Also, whenever you are typing code, if that code is incorrect it will display an error message down in the error checking area of the program. It doesn't come up and beep at you and the best part of it is that it is live, you don't have to wait until you've wrote a whole page of code to find out there is a problem.

One of the other features that I found extremely useful as I was using Aptana yesterday was the code outline view that is always present on the right side of the screen. For example, yesterday I was working on a CSS file for a WordPress website. I needed to quickly get to the part of the code where I defined the style for the sidebar. You can simply scroll down the code outline view and find where you've defined style for a particular element. I really found this to be very useful.

Another feature I found useful but probably not one that I will use very often. I could be wrong, but I didn't use it any yesterday other than to see what it did. There is a way to change the perspective of your coding environment. You can change it to a debugging mode, a team synchronization mode and a resource mode. I'm interested in seeing what the team synchronization mode does and I wonder how it would work.

As I worked with Aptana yesterday I realized that I was able to more quickly identify problems with my code and also, I was able to see errors in my code from the previous day that I never saw in Dreamweaver. One of the reasons for this is because of the layout of Aptana. Its got the code centered on the screen. The second reason is due to the live error checking feature. With Dreamweaver I always forget to open the validation panel and validate my code.

What I don't like:

Like Dreamweaver, with Aptana you can define your website into a project. This bundles all of your files together into a folder. I really like this feature a lot. The only problem that I had with it was that whenever I would close Aptana and re-open it I could not figure out how I could re-open that project. You can navigate to the folders using the file viewing window but I could not figure out how to re-open a project.

Something that some people will immediately be disappointed with if they use Aptana is that it does not contain a WYSIWYG environment. For me this is fine because I never (try not to) use the WYSIWYG environment in Dreamweaver. If you do use that feature of Dreamweaver you will miss it in Aptana because it is simply a coding program.

One thing that I do miss with Aptana is whenever I am typing code in Dreamweaver and I need a color, Dreamweaver will pop up a dialog with colors I can choose. I really like that a lot but I know I should probably be more prepared for what colors I am wanting to use 😉

Final Thoughts:

I really like it. I am planning on at least trying to use this as my main web development program. I know there are still a few problems with it but from what I saw yesterday, I really like it. I also think that there is finally a shift for more good free and open source web development applications that are cross platform. Also, they're not even a version 1.0 application yet and they've already got a lot of great features. I'll definitely be happy to see what they can come up with between now and version 1.0.

Aptana: The Web IDE

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I’ve updated this article with new screen shots. Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire a copy of Aptana build 0.2.0.10299 which is what the review above is based on. I’ve been re-doing the screen shots here on TechButter so that they all look good with the new theme. In my opinion, the layout and design of Aptana has only been slightly altered.

Since publishing this article in 2006 I have been using Aptana a lot. There was a while when I was developing with Taco HTML Editor but now that I have my PC back up and running I am using Aptana again. I would have used it on the Mac but it was way too slow on there.

I am pleased to report that the problem I mentioned above regarding the project management feature has been fixed and improved. You can now create a project and easily return to it after you close and re-open the program.

There are a couple of things that bug me with the latest version. First, as you open files there is a Java program that opens called “theAwtToolkitWindow.” I personally find it really annoying. Second, I wish there was a way to turn off the code auto complete.

Otherwise, I think it’s a great application and they are constantly improving it. There are now two versions. A free version and a professional version which costs $100. They have additional purchasing options. Also, they have a couple of new products: Aptana Jaxer and Aptana Cloud.

Windows Terminal Ware

About Wtware & Reasons For Use

If your business has an assortment of old computers that are planned for removal, you may want to re-consider that plan once you learn more about Wtware. What is it? Wtware allows you to take a really old computer and turn it into a Windows terminal workstation, with very little effort and nothing to install on the client workstation. The only requirement is that you have a Microsoft Windows Server (2000 or 2003) that has Terminal Services Server installed.

Once you get your server set up for accepting clients, you can then insert a CD, floppy, USB thumb drive or use your network card to boot onto the server and use it as a normal workstation. There is nothing to install (unless you want to) and the only thing the computer is doing is displaying to you the desktop on the server.

The beauty of it is that you've saved money by reviving old hardware and the added benefit of only having one machine to install software & updates on. Also, since the machines are now running off the server they will be much faster and to make them faster you will only have to upgrade one machine.

Problems I Had

Unfortunately I ran into problems while I was testing out the software. The first problem arose when I tried testing the software out on my laptop. My laptop is quite old. I do have a PCMCIA network card installed in it, however, Wtware cannot detect my network card during the bootup process but that is the case with almost any other operating system I have had on it, even Windows.

The second problem I came across was with the other computer I have that I tried it on. It did detect the network & video cards without any problems. However I could not get it to accept a default configuration, it seemed as though it wasn't happy with any of the configurations that I chose. It kept asking me to go through each test for the video card again and again even though I had already entered the information into the configuration file on the server for the specs of the machine I was trying to boot from.

Successful Test

Fortunately, I did have a successful test of the software. I opened up Vmware server and created an empty virtual machine. I booted the virtual machine using the Wtware ISO image I had made and previously burned to CD to try and boot the other two machines. This time it worked. I was able to configure everything correctly and in a short amount of time I was booted onto my server.

Easy to setup

Wtware is fairly easy to set up. All I had to do was to install the software and then create a boot disk. You'll follow a wizard to enter DNS & DHCP information. Once you do that you'll burn the ISO image to a CD, take it to the computer you plan to use as a terminal and run some tests to see which settings will work best on that terminal. After that, you'll return to the server and make a configuration file (the name of the file will be that terminals MAC address). You'll enter a few settings in there, return to the other computer and you should be able to boot that computer onto your terminal server, very quickly.

Gripes

Although I think this is a great application I do have a few gripes about it. The first gripe that I have is that the license you purchase can only be used on ONE network card, one MAC address. That means it is tied to that network card, forever. The license is $20. If I'm going to spend $20 on something I should be able to use it on any machine I like and move it to any machine I like. Now, if the license was down in the $1 or $2 range, I might not care. This is one case where I think they should charge a fee for their software ($20 maybe) and then charge a much, much lower rate for the licenses ($1-$2).

The free version also has banner ads that are obtrusive. I realize that they need to be able to get people to upgrade to the paid for version, but why does the ad have to be obtrusive? They are marketing their free version to libraries and schools who can't afford their software.

Free Alternative

After my gripes section above a thought comes to mind. Would I actually pay for and use this software? No, I probably wouldn't. Why? Whenever I need to connect to a Windows terminal server and the machine I am using does not have an operating system already; I would probably simply insert a live Linux CD (DSL, SLAX, Puppy, Ubuntu, etc) and simply use the Terminal Server Client software that is already pre-installed and connect to the remote server. Granted, this process is not as fast as Wtware, but it would work and you could use this alternative on as many machines as you like, without banner ads.

Learn More

Now, I realize even though this program isn't for me that there is truly a market out there for it. I can see businesses that are needing more computers but can't afford brand new computers using this. It is honestly a lot better than waiting on a live Linux CD to boot, then connecting to the server, every time you need to use it.

Windows Terminal Ware