Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/22/2014

WordPress – Blogging, CMS and more

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

So, my “Tools for Tuesday” posts are getting a bit more challenging for me time-wise and quality-wise.

That’s why I missed last week, actually.  I was just too busy to get a good review post done and shared in time.  And, I think maybe it’s time I start scaling that feature back, just a bit, to one post every other week.  I hope it will let me maintain both the quality and quantity of “Tools for Tuesday” posts.

And, now that bit of house-keeping is out of the way, on with the big show!WordPressThreePointNine-2
Or, at least the main post.  This week, I’m sharing something that is probably familiar to many, if not most, of my readers; WordPress.  WordPress is the blogging software that I use to run this blog, not to mention my other old blog at Fantasist.net, as well as the entire site at JKHoffman.com and my wife’s site at OrganizingDecorator.com.  It will also be what I use to run two other projects that I’m working on developing, Find My Photographer and Find My Decorator.
As you fellow devotees know, this past week saw the release of WordPress 3.9, but I’ve been using this free, open source software since version 1.2!  Before that, I used MovableType like many early bloggers, but with their “great license debacle”, many of us jumped ship and found our way to WordPress.  I know one reason I, personally, chose to go that route was because the lead developer of the project is Matt Mullenweg, who happens to hail from Houston, where I live currently.  I liked the idea that I might run into him at one of the local computer groups that were around at the time.  I never did, but I did go to DEF*CON with someone he used to play in a band with back in 2012.

In any case, I’ve used WordPress for a long time, especially in “internet years”.
Back in the day, it was really only a blogging platform, but it was super easy to setup and maintain.  And, perhaps more importantly to me, especially back then, it was easy to extend.  I haven’t written any plugins lately, but WordPress is so easy to use and code for that even I could write add-ons for it.  I’ve even done some pretty significant modification of themes, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as far from a designer as you can get.
WordPressThreePointNineSince those early days, though, WordPress has really grown up!  Now, not only can it handle simple blogging, but it can run your whole site.  There are detractors, of course, who say that it’s not really a full-featured content management system, but they’re wrong.  WordPress has built-in features that make running an entire site easy, like the ability to set a static home page and super-simple page management.  Add to that a completely customizable appearance through themeing, limited only by the designer’s vision and ability and you can see why WordPress runs about 19% of the internet and has been downloaded at least 46 million times.  But, what’s even better is that there are so many people doing add-on development in one for or another that there is a theme, widget or plug-in that will pretty much do anything else you could want that’s not already rolled in.  And that’s really saying something because WordPress “ships” with a pretty robust gallery and media management system already rolled into it.  Other important features include good, reasonably secure user management, a commenting system and an easy to use interface.  Granted, the interface is always being worked on and improved, so it’s always changing, but it’s never been a distraction for me.

WordPressFourPointZeroOther features include autosave, spell check, automatic upgrading, built-in plugin installation, sticky posts, comment threading/paging/replies, bulk management of posts and comments, image editing, a Trash/Undo feature, bulk plugin and theme updating, a multi-site option allowing multiple custom blogs to be run from the same installation, it comes in at least 70 languages and it’s even pretty optimized for search engines!  But, it think what matters most to me is that WordPress has a huge community around it, supporting it going forward, developing for it and making it better, even though it’s free.  I can download the latest version of this beauty any time I want, install it on the webserver of my choosing, and make my voice heard on the internet.  I can build with it or I can build on it to make it do whatever I need or want and anything I create with it is all mine.  No one owns a piece of it and, as long as I write my own posts and pages, I keep and maintain all rights to all the data that I shove into it.  That’s pretty incredible when you think about it.

And, yes, it really is easy to install and use, so if you’re thinking about starting a website, I highly recommend using WordPress to do it.  Don’t listen to the nay-sayers that claim WordPress isn’t up to the task either, because a lot of really incredible websites use WordPress.  You can check some out at the WordPress Showcase.  You might be surprised at some of the high-profile sites that you have already been to that use WordPress!  All that power can be yours, too, if you just take the time to download, install and use WordPress!

12/17/2010

Linux Tools to Write With

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Wow, my High School English teachers would kill me for letting that participle dangle like that.

Good thing I went into IT, I guess, isn’t it?
But, I still love to write, as I think is evidenced by this blog.  And, I love Linux and open source software, too.  So, what could be better than combining those two things?
As it turns out, nothing.  So, here are some Linux and open source tools to help you write the next Great American Novel, brought to you by Linux Journal.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A man is known by the company his mind keeps."
   --Thomas Bailey Aldrich

3/21/2010

The Ultimate Home Network

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

A pretty bold statement, isn’t it?

Well, I’m not going to tell you how to build the “ultimate home network”, but, rather, suggest some things that you may want to consider to build your own, personal, “ultimate” home network.  Everyone needs something different from a home or small office network.  Some of us have side jobs that require a fair amount of data transfer or storage, like, for instance photographers.  For some of us in the IT business, having a home “test” network is almost assumed, though, perhaps not as much as it used to be in the boom days of the Internet.
I’ve been thinking about it this past week because my old BorderManager firewall finally has died.  I’m using a backup firewall at the moment, which is “good enough”, but I’ll be taking this crash as an opportunity to start rebuilding my home network from the ground up, using mainly free, open source software, starting with a Linux firewall.  In fact, I have three that I’ll be looking at and, yes, writing reviews of, in the coming weeks.  This will be an on going series of posts, too, as I evaluate software and, piece by piece, integrate it into my working, live network.  My needs will probably be different than yours, but all home networks will have some similar items and considerations.
So, what should go into your own personal, “ultimate” home network?  It depends on what you do, but here are some ideas.

The Actual Network.
Obviously, the first thing is setting up the actual, physical network.  And, in this case, by physical, I’m including wifi routers and the like.  Back in the old days, having a home network meant running cable.  That’s not as true as it used to be, but don’t just go wireless without considering at least some wired connections.  If you’re concerned about security, for instance, especially, regarding financial transactions, nothing is as secure as a wired connection.  Keep in mind, though, that at some point you still connect to an outside source to get to your bank.  Also, since most laptops have built-in wifi and have gotten so inexpensive, if you don’t already have one, consider getting a laptop.  For most people, laptops can inexpensively do everything we need to do and have the advantage of portability, so if you need to leave, say in case of a hurricane, you can take at least part of your home network with you.
There are a wide range of network switches and routers out there to choose from, but I suggest sticking with a name brand that is relatively well known and established. It’s no guarantee that you won’t have problems, but it’s a good start. I personally like Linksys and DLink brands, but there are many others that will work well, too.

Security.
Don’t forget that you need to have at least some security on that home network.  At a bare minimum, you need a firewall and some kind of antivirus.  If you’re connecting to broadband internet, either cable or DSL, most often the router they give you from the service you use has a firewall on it.  If you’re using wifi, the wifi router almost certainly has a firewall on it.  Use them!  Most importantly, actually set them up and change the default password to something else that you’ll remember but that strangers won’t guess.  If you’re not sure if you have a firewall on your network equipment, then at least use the built-in Windows firewall, but use something!
If you don’t want to spend big money on either McAfee or Norton for antivirus, good news!  You don’t have to spend anything!  Yes, that’s right, you can download AVGFree and run it for nothing at all.  So, now, what excuse do you have to not be running some kind of antivirus again?
And, please, for your own sake, use passwords.  Use hard to guess passwords, not your kids names or your birthday or even your license plate number.  In fact, try not to use dictionary words at all, or, if you do, substitute other characters for letters, like $ for S or @ for A, to make it more difficult to guess.  Also, use numbers with the letters, for the same reason.

Networked Storage.
Just having storage isn’t enough, really.  On a home network now, you may have a laptop, or two, a desktop, a DVR or any number of different networked devices that share data.  They all need to store it somewhere.  And, even if they store the data locally, they need to be backed up somewhere.  The answer is network based storage.  There are a lot of options out there, and Rick Vanover at TechRepublic has a good article on several.  I know one solution that’s popular with photographers is the Data Robotics Drobo series of devices.  I don’t have any direct experience with these, so I have no opinion on them specifically, but these days, decent network attached storage is so cheap, it would be foolish to ignore that as an option.

Virtual Server Environment.
Now, obviously, this isn’t for everyone.  Back in the day, I used to run a small, two server Novell network in my house just to keep everything fresh in my mind.  Novell isn’t always the most popular networking environment, even for hard-core network geeks like me, so I always wanted to make sure I knew how to do some of the more “interesting” and challenging things in that environment and ran a test network at home for that reason.
Now, you can do all that through virtualization.  In fact, that may be the newest buzzword that’s already worn thin on me!  But, buzzword or not, setting up a virtual test network is something that’s been talked to death in the industry, but I’ve only seen one article recently on setting up a home virtual test network.  You can read more about it in an article by Brad Bird over at TechRepublic, but, again, for those of us who work in a lot of different environments, it’s not a bad idea to make a series of virtual machines to experiment on.  There are still some hardware costs involved, of course, but there is the advantage of being able to roll back to an earlier state if something gets too screwed up.  Try that on your old-fashioned home network!

Even Fancier Stuff!
Of course, there’s almost no limit to what you can do on a home network these days.  Many inexpensive printers come with network interfaces built in, some even have wifi networking built in.  Of course, I’ve mentioned things like Windows Home Server and Linux servers here before, too.  It is, after all, what I do.  Though, with the low prices on network attached storage, I’m not sure I’d recommend that option for the average user.
And, this post hasn’t even touched on integrating any audio visual equipment into your network, or a home security system, or some of the fancier bells and whistles that are out there.  The sky, literally, is the limit.

So, the thing is, everyone will have a different idea of what the “ultimate” home network is, but these are some things to consider, and a few you don’t want to forget.

5/12/2004

Linux a welfare case?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

At least in Australia it is!

But, that’s a good thing!! According to this article on Australian IT, the Australian welfare agency, Centrelink, has set up an internal Linux laboratory to research the potential cost savings or performance improvements that open source software might deliver. Now, this might not seem like much, but I think it’s a great step toward Linux getting into more government agencies. The more Linux replaces Micro$oft, the better, in my mind. So, you go, Tux!


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