Posts filed under 'Guides'

Classic PC fun: Reviving a Pentium 4 3.06

Pentium 4 3.06 GHZ
The photo has notes - please click to view them.

Just how much performance can be extracted from a used PC? Especially one with relatively humble specs like this (Pentium 4 3.06GHZ HT). You may be surprised:

Original specifications
Pentium 4 3.06 HT
512MB DDR333
Nvidia geforce 440MX
80GB+40GB hdd

Existing problems:
CPU ran somewhat warm (anything from 45 degrees upwards idle)

Physical cleanup

  1. Disassembled the PC to component level, and cleaned every single piece. This involved some amount of sneezing but it was an interesting process. Thankfully the PC had an easy slide out tray for the motherboard.
  2. Removed the CPU and cleaned it, also took apart the heatsink/fan assembly and cleaned/polished it.
  3. Reseated the CPU using arctic silver. (CPU now idles at around 38 degrees celcius!)

Upgrades/mods:

  1. Tweaked the BIOS, and optimized memory timings, so as to get the best performance out of the system.
  2. Switched to a SATA 250GB drive.
  3. Fully redid the cooling system - so as to circulate air more efficiently within the case.
  4. Added a fan for one of the board heatsinks (possibly the onboard GPU), and a passive heatsink to another chip (possibly the SATA controller?)
  5. Switched to the onboard graphics, (to reduce power usage, also the onboard graphics support directx 9).
  6. Added an external PCI sound card as the internal one is a bit resource heavy.
  7. Added a separate fan for the hard disk. Hard disk now reads an operating temperature of around 36 degrees celcius!)

Possible concerns

  1. Due to long term use under extreme heat conditions, and manufacturer flaws, a number of capacitors have started to leak from the top. This leads to capacitor failure and system instability/failure.
  2. System uses DDR333 ram. To enable dual channel operation I should at least match the speed of the chip. Unfortunately nobody seems to carry DDR 333 any more. Hopefully I will be able to find a 512MB DDR333 or DDR400 chip which will work.

Final performance benchmarks
(as compared to a dual core pentium D)

Multimedia

Arithmetic

Windows XP professional: boot in 14.7 seconds.

Conclusion
Hyperthreading is a viable technology - as the benchmarks show, it gives the dual core PC a serious run for its money!

Todo: Get more ram and enable dual channel.

Add comment March 14th, 2007

Optimizing your web site.

Why?
Aside from helping you survive the digg effect, optimizing your web site will:

  1. Make it waste.. sorry.. use less bandwidth and space (so you save money on hosting costs)
  2. Help users with slow connections (e.g. dial up users) view your web site.
  3. Make the world a better place: an optimized site means: less wasted time, bandwidth, electricity, etc Just imagine, if every web site optimized its content, worldwidge bandwidth usage would drop significantly

But my web host gives me one TB of space and ten TB of bandwidth daily - why should I care about optimizing my website?

  1. No, it probably doesnt. If you read the fine print you will see various conditions which make it impossible for you to actually use the promised bandwidth/space. Sure your site will chug along fine but if ever it becomes suddenly popular, it will collapse
  2. Web hosting companies limit accounts by CPU usage:. Again, the TOS probably includes something like “Your site will be terminated if you use too much CPU resources” Too much CPU resources means whatever the hosting company wants it to mean. Unfortunately, most modern sites tend to be very resource heavy (compared to traditional plain HTML sites).

So, how can I optimize my web site?

  1. Reduce the size of commonly accessed files: If you use a graphical header, that may count for 50% of the bandwidth used by page! To reduce the size, open this image in an image editor and save at a lower compression. You can find a list of most accessed files by examining your servers logs and sorting them on file accesses. Typically your sites theme (if you use a CMS) are the most heavily accessed files
  2. Choose a good webhost: beware of companies that offer you unlimited space (or seemingly impossible amounts of bandwidth/space). Summary: If the host charges 19.95 a year for one TB of bandwith a month and 11TB of space, it’s probably a scam. also, research your web host before you sign up, and see what other people say about them (this is obvious, but some people still don’t so..) .
  3. CACHE the site: if you use a CMS like Wordpress, every time the site loads, it is re-rendered - i.e. the CMS engine reloads every plugin, pulls content from the database, etc. This process is VERY server intensive, and the number one cause why blogs go down (note: this applies to blogs you host on your server - if you use a blog on a server like Blogger/Wordpress.com this probably doesnt make a difference/insn’t possible). To cache the output of wordpress, you can use WP-CACHE. This will store a prebuilt version of your site and serve it intelligently. As a bonus, it will speed up your sites dramatically (as the server just has to serve the page, instead of building it from scratch).
  4. Use FLICKR for image storage: Set up a flickr account and use it to store any images. (note, do not store images you are using DIRECTLY, e.g. header/footer on flickr. It’s against the TOS). By image storage here I mean general images. Flickr is good as it allows different resolutions/etc and is an excellent and reliable image host.

General tips on improving your web site

  1. Remove unnecessary crap: this includes 99% of widgets and just about anything which uses Java(e.g. shout boxes, music, and so on). This ALSO includes wordpress plugins you don’t really need
  2. Ensure that your site functions in all browsers (Firefox users are typically famous for overlooking this - many of them believe that anyone who doesnt use Firefox doesnt matter. Well if you want to ensure that 50% of your visitors can’t see your site, fine)
  3. Make sure that the text is legible. Many people use extremely tiny text/poor contrast layouts which are a strain on visitors with poor eyesight
  4. Use paragraphs - and try to summarize your information.
  5. Link directly If you want to quote a lot of content from another web site

2 comments February 9th, 2007

Screamer!

2screamer-large.gif
What?

Screamer is a free application which allows you to tune to free online FM radio stations, and, best of all, it can automatically record songs (with title and track name) as Mp3. (But shh, don’t tell the RIAA).

Why?

Because local radio sux ( Idiot DJ’s / boring commercials).

Many of the channels on Screamer are commercial/DJ free. Like.. wow, at last I can listen to, um, music.

How?

  1. Download Screamer from softpedia.
  2. Extract it to a folder on your hard disk.
  3. Run screamer.
  4. Select a radio station (try pop music channels which have the latest hits)

On those free MP3s..

I wonder what would happen if someone accidentally tuned to a channel like… say… Sky FM’s top music, and clicked RECORD, and forgot all about it for a day or two.. why.. their hard disk would fill up with 100’s of the latest MP3’s, neatly named and categorized.

Now that is a scary thought! If ever this happens to you, make sure you delete all the files - whatever you do, don’t burn them on a CD and toss it in your car’s MP3 player, that would be wrong!

Tip: try Sky FM’s Top Hits Music channel for all the latest hit’s in MP3 format.. also, browse thru the list of regional channels, for a great selection of foreign content..

Add comment October 4th, 2006

Securing your PC

A Laptop 
Photo by Roney, via Flickr

Introduction 

This is a simple article, aimed at anyone who uses a PC. Whether you are a power user, or occational surfer, these simple tips can help protect your PC and the valueable data on it.

Tip: if you are in a hurry, read the summary at the end of this article.

Why look after your PC? why secure your data?

A PC is a valueable device. Aside from physical value, it contains files, data, and valueable information whose value cannot be quantified. While modern PC’s are vulnerable to a number of threats - there are many things you can do to reduce the threats.

What threats does your PC face?

I’ve devided them two categories: Physical and other (content / data related):

 


Physical threats:

   

These include:

  1. Power line problems.
  2. Shocks/vibrations.
  3. Static electricity.
  4. Heat, dust, moisture, and humidity.

Power line problems:
Line AC power tends to have many problems, ranging from electrical noise, surges, spikes, brownouts, etc.

Solution: A good quality UPS, from a reputable brand such as APC should protect your PC from most power problems. Alternatively, use a high quality power strip with surge protection built in, combined with a UPS.

TIP: If you use a laptop, lugging around a UPS is not necessary , but you are still vulnerable to power line/phone line problems: APC has a small plug in device called the surge arrest, which fits in line with your laptop power supply - as a bonus this device includes phone line protection. (It’s also available at Unity Plaza, check in at Asian Computer systems, 1st floor).

Shock/Vibration:

Computers and laptops are succeptible to vibration and shock. In particular, hard disks are easily damaged/rendered unreadble by vibrations during usage.

Solutions:

Some modern laptops include various forms of hard disk protection (ThinkPad’s ‘roll cage’ ads come to mind) however the simplest solution is careful use: Always ensure that your computer/laptop is on a level surface, in a way where it wont suffer shock or vibration (or be accidentally dropped). In the case of desktops, place the system unit (the main beige box) in a safe place where it wont be accidentally kicked, for example.

TIP: Powerful subwoofers, as well as ground vibrations can be a threat: One simple solution is to rest the system unit on the styrofoam packing it came with (take care not to block any air vents though) 

Static electricity:

Due to the extreme humidity here, static electricity is relatively rare, however if you are in a low humidity environment, its best to earth yourself before touching your PC.

Heat, Dust, and Moisture/Humidity

Humidity can be a serious problem. I once took apart a laptop (it was experiencing intermittent rebooting) and was shocked to find most of the inner connections were green with rust!

Some solutions:

  1. Use your PC in an airconditioned environment where possible - air conditioners reduce both heat, dust, and humidity - severe threats to a PC’s life.
  2. Ensure all fans work: modern PC’s (Pentium III and above) usually have fan/temperature monitors via software which will allow you to monitor their status.

 


Content / data threats:

   

The number one problem facing most PC’s is user error. Other than this, spyware, malware, virus and other factors can put your data at risk..

These include:

  1. User error/accidental deletions.
  2. Spyware/Malware/Keyloggers/Hacking/Phishing
  3. Virus

User Error - It’s easy to loose content due to accidental deletion. Sadly, the only way to prevent this is via regular backups.

I would suggest dividing content (for backup) into three types:

  1. Valueable files: things like password lists, current work files, these are usually small documents and should be backed up daily.
  2. General content: downloaded stuff, and so on - this type of content should be backed up, as often as you consider necessary.
  3. Large files, e.g. media files, open source software you download.

Backup TIPS:

  1. Use a pen drive for valueable files - this is a small USB drive which can be purchased in capacity up to a few GB’s, usually for a few dollars. Also, you can have a separate folder on the same PC to back up your files to - this wont be useful in the event of a hard disk crash, but it can help in the event of accidental deletion. Due to the low cost of pen drives, you can buy more than one easily.
  2. For general content / large files, you can back up to another PC on your network, to provide redundance (in case your hard drive fails).
  3. Mirror a running installaiton of your OS: there are a number of softwares which enable you to mirror a drive/partition - set up your preferred OS and all software you need, and mirror the partition, that way if your OS is corrupted you can restore it. (I’ll be writing a detailed article on this topic soon).
  4. Back up any configuration files: files such as your favorite links, etc, also IE login/passwords for example. Configuration files tend to be small and change regularly so you can use your pen drive for this task also.

Spyware/Malware/Keyloggers/Hacking/Phishing:

When you connect your PC to a network, you are immediately vulnerable to a range of problems.

Spyware refers to applications which ’spy’ on you - for example, applications which monitor sites you visit, and send information about you, via the internet, to other people (without your permission). Legitimate sites do this, Google for example, logs all your searches, but somehow nobody seems to really mind this, but I digress…

Malware refers to software which contains harmful bugs, and / or perform unauthorised operations on your pc, Spyware refers to programs which access your data, and / or transmit it without your permission.

Keyloggers are secret applications which monitor which keys you press - they can be used to steal username/passwords, as well as spy on you.

Hacking - when you connect to the internet (or any network), hackers can try to gain access to your files. One simple effective way to prevent or at least reduce this is to use a software firewall.

On an ironic note, most external attacks (spyware, hacking, etc) tend to target popular operating systems (e.g. Microsoft Windows),  and applications (e.g. Internet Explorer).

Securing your PC against Malware/Spyware/Hackers

  1. Use a software firewall: A software firewall (such as ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm) can be used to control which applications on your PC can access the network/internet. So, for example, if you have spyware/keyloggers on your PC, a firewall will alert you when they attempt to transmit data. This can alert you, and also prevent the malware from transmitting your data. As a bonus, a software firewall will protect your PC from hackers on the internet, as well as those on your network (for example, a windows PC’s internal passwords/shares can be hacked by people on your network, usually within seconds, if you don’t have a good firewall.
  2. Be careful when downloading/installating software: If you are downloading software or applications, always download from reputable sources (such as sourceforge/download.com) also use an up to date antivirus, and try not to enable internet access via firewall for a software, unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Beware of browser plugins, activex applications, java applications or other gizmo’s you find on the Internet, at best most of them are spyware, at worst, many are malicious.

Phishing - fake web sites/emails combined with social engineering - used to obtain your login details (username/password) for various services such as email/online banking

Phishing is accomplished in many ways - for example an email with a forged email address, which opens up a page telling you to log into your bank account/email.

How to protect yourself from phishing attacks:

  1. Use a secure email service: google’s gmail is usually safe from most javascript based phishing emails. of course, email can contain links, and if you open links, you are at the mercy of that site.
  2. Always doublecheck official emails: If you receive an email from an official source such as HSBC or eBay, you should log onto their site directly, and read the message in your inbox there. When logging into sites, always enter the address in your browser yourself (don’t click email links!)
  3. When logging into a website: check for the following
    - Secure login - the address should begin with https:// (NOT http:/)
    - a padlock in bottom right of your browser window (indicating a secure connection).
    - Check the url carefully, to make sure it is https://www.thedomain.com/… and so on, be wary of any login links which consist of numerical addresses (http:/123.456… or appear to be email addresses (http://something@somedomain/…)
    When in doubt, visit the web site directly, by typing the address in the browser.
  4. If you are using online banking, choose a bank who offers a physical security token (these generate random numbers and are used together with your password to login).
  5. Don’t download/install junk software/visit dodgy sites, This is somewhat obvious, also, cancel any popups that try to install something on your PC.

VIRUS - Viruses (or virii?) are malicious programs which spread/replicate to your PC - They are capable of deleting files, corrupting data, and, in extreme cases, wiping your hard disk clean.

Computer viruses usually spread via email/downloads from the internet.

Solutions:

  1. Use a free antivirus: AVG Antivirus provides a free version for personal use (see http://www.grisoft.com/).
  2. Surf/download responsibly: don’t download junk/unknown software, always download from reputed sites (as a bonus, this can protect you from malware). In my case, I’ve never experienced a virus in the last few years, by following this regime.
  3. Update your antivirus regularly: usually, your antivirus has an option to auto update via the Internet.

Summary

   

Hardware protection

  1. Use a UPS: Use a good UPS from a reputed manufacturer, which includes surge supression, as well as phone line and network protection, where possible. If you use a laptop, consider an APC Notebook SurgeArrest (or similar device), which includes surge and line protection
  2. Protect your PC from heat, humidity and dust: Air conditioning provides a simple all in one solution.
  3. Vibrations/shocks are harmful to your PC, they can kill your hard disk, for example.

Content / data protection:

  1. Back up content regularly: back up valueable daily work files to a pen drive, and other content to a networked storage/writeable media (CD/DVD). Also remember to back up configuration files.
  2. Use separate partitions (drives) for OS  and Data: one for your OS (operating system), and any software, and another for data other files, this way, if your OS partiton is corrupted, you can reformat or restore this partition without loosing your data.
  3. Use good passwords: Good passwords are alpha numeric, and don’t use common terms/easily guessable content (e.g. anything to do with your name/age).
  4. Use a software firewall: to help secure your data, and prevent malware/spyware from stealing and transmitting your data.
  5. Use an antivirus: there are a number of free antivirus products out there: e.g. Panda Antivirus.

Please post any questions/corrections below

2 comments October 3rd, 2006

DIY Web Site: Installing WordPress

wpblog.jpg
Installing wordpress is reasonably simple, but requires some basic web related knowledge. This detailed article covers the whole installation process (downloading WP / uploading / installing / setting up a mysql database), on a FREE web host.

Tip: If you are not interested in all of this and just want a wordpress blog preinstalled or free, see the end of this article.

Installing WP: Technical knowledge required
You should know how to…

  1. Sign up for a web host. 
  2. Use FTP to upload files and directories.
  3. Edit a file using notepad.

Step 1: Download Wordpress:

  1. Go to the WordPress download page, and download the latest version (zip file).
  2. UnZip that zip file to your desktop. (In Windows XP, just doubleclick the file you downloaded, and click Extract All Files). You will now have a folder called WordPress.

Step 2: Pre install checklist: Before installing WP, Make sure you have the following:

  1. Host who supports PHP and MySql: Your host will need to support PHP and offer MySql databases. For this example, I will signup for a free account at Tripod UK. 
  2. FTP Login info to your hosting account: this consists of a host, username, and password. See uploading content via FTP for more information. Test the FTP Login and make sure it works, and you are able to upload files.
  3. MySql database information: This information includes:
    a. MySql username.
    b. MySql database name.
    c. MySql password.
    d. MySql host (depending on where you host, this may be something.db or localhost)
  4. An FTP Client: I recommend FileZilla which is easy to use and free/open source. See my guide on uploading content via FTP for instructions on downloading/using FileZilla.

After signing up at tripod UK, I got the following Information:

FTP Info:
FTP Username: nsharp28
FTP Password: ######
FTP Host: ftp://ftp.members.lycos.co.uk/

MySql Info:
DB Name: nsharp28_uk_db
Username: nsharp28
Password: (none reqd*)
Host: localhost

*Tripod does not require a MySql password, but your host usually will. Please have that password ready. Note - the MySql password is not the FTP password.

STEP 3: Configure WordPress 
Before you upload WordPress, you should edit the WP Config file in your WP folder on your desktop. You can edit the file as follows:

  1. Open the WordPress folder on your desktop.
  2. Find a file called wp-config-sample.php.
  3. Rename that file to wp-config.php.
  4. Open that file using Windows Notepad (Or any text editor)
  5. At the top of the file, you will see something like this:
    define(’DB_NAME’, ‘wordpress’);    // The name of the database
    define(’DB_USER’, ‘username’);     // Your MySQL username
    define(’DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password’); // …and password
    define(’DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’);    // 99% chance you…
  6. Carefully edit the second item in quotes, for each sentence. For example, the DB name is listed as ‘wordpress’ - change that to your db name - be careful not to delete the quotation marks. In my case, the configuration looks like this:
    define(’DB_NAME’, ‘nsharp28_uk_db’);   
    define(’DB_USER’, ‘nsharp28′);    
    define(’DB_PASSWORD’, ”);
    define(’DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’);
    Note: my password is blank, but you need to put the MySql password there. 
  7. Save the file, and exit notepad.

OK, You are now ready to upload WordPress

Step 4: Upload Wordpress 

  1. Connect to your site via FTP: Using FileZilla, log into the web site.
  2. Navigate to the WordPress folder in the LOCAL window in FileZilla.
  3. Select all the files in the WP folder (Click a file, and press Ctrl+a)
  4. Right click, and click add to Queue
  5. In the menu click Queue->Process Queue.
  6. FileZilla will start uploading files.

Cool! You are now almost there! Uploading files may take a while. Depending on your connection speed, you can now step out and have a cup of Coffee.

Step 5: Installing Wordpress

Using your browser, navigate to the front page of your web site, In my case, that is:
http://members.lycos.co.uk/nsharp28/index.php
(Warning, lycos has popups)

If everything was OK so far, you will get a message saying the following:

It doesn’t look like you’ve installed WP yet. Try running install.php.

Tip: If you DON’T get above message, see the error checklist below, otherwise click install, and follow the simple process to install WordPress. Note down your username and password somewhere safe. 

Next, click install.php, follow the procedure. WP will generate an Admin Username and password. Save these both for future use.

That’s It! Check out the sample site
http://members.lycos.co.uk/nsharp28/

Error Checklist

  1. I still see the default page of the website: Try deleting any page called index.htm or index.html in your ftp window. Don’t delete index.php as that is WP’s index page.
  2. I get an error message “Can’t connect to DB: open the config file again and make sure the settings are correct. If you find any problems, fix and upload again.
  3. I get an error message “Missing file”: Make sure you have uploaded all files.

Not interested in learning WP, just want a blog?
If you are not interested in learning how to install WordPress, and just want a WordPress blog, you have two options:

  1. Get a free WP blog at http://www.wordpress.com/ (it will have an address like: http://something.wordpress.com/)
  2. Paid (preinstalled) Blog: see WordPress web hosting for a list of companies who offer hosted wordpress blogs with domain names, set up for you - most offer wordpress as a free addon if you buy a hosting account and domain.

Tip: GoDaddy offers WordPress installed domains with hosting for about $10/$4 per month.

Got any questions? Ask me! (post them as comments below)

PS: I bet a friend 10 bucks that nobody would bother to read this article or try setting up a wordpress site. Prove me wrong :)

3 comments September 26th, 2006

DIY web site: Uploading content via FTP

filezilla.jpg

Earlier, I showed you how to sign up for a web host. Now I want to show you how to upload content, via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to your web site.

You need the following information first: (Usually this information will be in the email your web host sends you when you sign up)

  1. ftp host name (usually ftp.something.com/), sometimes it might be just something.com)
    In my earlier example, ProHosting gave me the following FTP address: ftp://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/. (you can drop the ftp:// bit)
  2. Your username - (in my case, nsharp)
  3. Your password.

STEP 1: Testing your FTP login.

Before uploading files, you might want to test if FTP is working. If you got a new domain, it might take a while for FTP to work on that domain. If it does not work, wait about 24 hours and try again. Anyway, lets try out that login.

  1. In windows XP, click START, then RUN, and type the following:
    ftp domain.com
    (replace domain with your domain name, and change the extension as necessary) and click OK.
    (In my case, I will type “ftp nsharp.odin.prohosting.com”)
  2. A new black colored DOS window will open up, showing a message
    similar to the following:
    Connected to rproxy.free.prohosting.com.
    220 server ready - login please
    User (rproxy.free.prohosting.com:(none)): _
  3. The cursor will be blinking right after none. Type your username there and press enter.
  4. Next, you will be asked for your password. Type that also and press enter - as you type your password, you might not see anything on the screen (as the password is hidden). After you type your password, just press enter.
  5. If you are logged in successfully, you will see a message similar to the following:
      Connected to rproxy.free.prohosting.com.
    220 server ready - login please
    User (rproxy.free.prohosting.com:(none)): nsharp
    331 password required
    Password:
    230 login accepted
    ftp>_

Well done! your ftp login works fine. If you like, you can type dir and press enter, this will list any files present. Usually, depending on the host, you may see some files such as index.htm. To EXIT ftp and close the window, type bye and press enter.

If your ftp login does not work, check with your web hosting company. Note that if it is a new domain, it may take up to 48 hours for ftp logins to work.

Assuming your FTP login worked, you can now continue to step 2…

STEP 2: DOWNLOAD AN FTP CLIENT.

Windows includes basic FTP support, however it is useful to have your own ftp client (software), to help you upload and manage content on your new site. I will now show you how to use a free software called filezilla (Why filezilla? Because it’s free and open source)

  1. Go to http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/
  2. Click download.
  3. Select windows 32bit version.
  4. Select a mirror, and click download.

TIP: Download Filezilla installer to your desktop…

STEP 3: Installing the FTP Client (FileZilla)

  1. Double click the file you downloaded to open it.
  2. Select language (English)
  3. Click I Agree for the licence.
  4. Select the type of install (Standard is OK).
  5. Select the destination folder (You can use the suggested default)
  6. Choose start menu folder (or accept default)
  7. Set mode and settings option (default is OK)
  8. An installation window will show, wait for it to finish and press close.

STEP 4: Using FTP Client (FileZilla)

  1. Find the link to FileZilla in your start menu, and click it to load FileZilla. You will get a screen which shows a view of your computer on the left, and remote site on the right. Remote site will be blank, as you have not connected to any site yet.
  2. In the address bar, enter your ftp address (nsharp.odin.prohosting.com, in my example)
  3. Enter your username/login in the User box.
  4. Enter your password in the password box.
  5. Click connect.

Now, the remote site window on your right will show a list of files on your web server.

Congrats! You are now ready to upload to your web server!

STEP 5: Uploading content to your webserver

First, you must make a file to upload. For this, we can use Notepad.

  1. Open Notepad (Under Programs/accessories)
  2. Visit this page: (and copy the html code for the file Hi.html)
  3. Save that code in a file to your desktop, as test.htm
  4. In FileZilla, browse to find the file you made (on the left Local Site window)
  5. Select the file with your mouse, and drag it to the right side (Remote site) window. At the bottom of FileZilla, you will see a message as the file is transferred.
  6. If all worked out, you can now access the file you uploaded, on your web site: In my case, I called the file test.htm, and I uploaded it to my sample website http://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/, so my file should be: http://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/test.htm.

That’s all for now! In my next article, I will tackle the tricky subject of installing  WordPress!

Add comment September 25th, 2006

DIY web site: Signing up for a web host

In my previous post, I discussed starting your own blog/site (registering a domain, and getting hosting).

In this article, I want to show you how to sign up for a web hosting account (From a FREE web host)

Preface:

A web host is a company who gives you space to host your content on their web servers (computers which are always connected to the internet).

Aside from hosting your content, some webhosts offer domain name registration. They also connect domains to hosting accounts (such that yourdomain.com points to the web hosting space you purchased).

OK, Let’s get started… 

Step 1: Signing up for a hosting account

Regardless of which web host you choose, you usually have to sign up. This involves visiting their web site, and following a sign up procedure and paying something. You will need an international credit card, and an email address (where they can send you login information.

For this example, I will demonstrate how to sign up for a FREE web host (ProHosting).

So let’s take a look at prohosting’s sign up procedure:

  1. Visit the web site (http://free.prohosting.com/): ProHosting has a convenient sign up button on the top left. Click that [a]fph.jpg
    Next, you will see a page that shows their various packages. Select the FREE package [b]. 
    freep.jpg
  2. ProHosting will ask you to enter domain name: Select “free vanity name” - this will give us a chance to get an address like http://something.prohosting.com/. For this example, I will enter “nsharp” as the name (so my site will be http://nsharp.prohosting.com/).
  3. Next, prohosting will ask you which ‘package’ you want: This is a question specific to prohosting (they offer web builder packages at an added cost. We DONT want this, since we intend to use FTP. At this point, please select NONE
    fph-probuilder.jpg
  4. Personal information: you will then be asked to fill a form with your personal detains. Please make sure you fill in all the required details (in red) correctly, in particular, pay attention to the account login, password, and your email address - when you have finished filling the form, click get an account
  5. Confirmation: If all went OK, you will see a page that lists all your details. In my case, I get the following info:
    Web Site Address: http://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/.
    Account User Name: nsharp
    Account Password: ********
    Account Control Panel: http://freeadmin.prohosting.com/       
  6. FTP INFO: Scroll down a bit further, to find the FTP Information. This is what we need to log in. In particular, you are looking for the FTP url, which, in my case, is ftp://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/.
  7. Summary: note down the basic information you need for FTP. This information includes: [a] The FTP server name. In this case, as shown above, it is ftp://nsharp.odin.prohosting.com/ [b] The login (nsharp) and [c] the password.

That concludes the first step of setting up the hosting account. In my next article, I will show you how to upload content using FTP

As always, if you have any questions, please post them here as comments..

Add comment September 25th, 2006

Starting your own blog/site..

This mini guide briefly shows you how to get started with your own blog/dot com site. The process is a lot easier than most people think! As always, you are welcome to post any questions you have, here, and I will try to answer them.

STEP 1: get a domain

WHAT?
A domain is your identity on the internet. It’s how other people find your website. For example, this site’s domain is www.nsharp.org.

WHY?
Having your own domain makes finding your site simpler, and makes it appear more professional. Your site can be personal, business related, or a mix of both. In fact, it can be whatever you want it to be!

HOW?
To get started, you need to decide the name you want for your site. It could contain your name, for example, if your name is John Doe, you might want to have www.johndoe.com

Next, you need to register that domain at a domain registrar. I recommend GoDaddy* (www.godaddy.com) as their rates are reasonable. To register your domain, go there, and type in the name you chose, and see if it is available. If not, they will offer you lots of suggestions/recommendations.

You will need an international credit card to pay for the domain. Fees range from under $10 for a dot com domain upwards. This is less than Rs 1000, at current rates.

Step 2: Hosting

WHAT?
Now that you have your very own domain, you have to ‘host’ your website somewhere. i.e. your website has to be stored in a computer that is always connected to the internet, and ‘linked’ to your domain. Also known as a webserver.

There are thousands of companies around the world who can host your site. Two popular hosts are www.godaddy.com and www.dreamhost.com.

GoDaddy’s rates are reasonable - around $4 a month (approx 400 rupees).

GoDaddy also offers the option to host your domain for free, with a few text advertiesments above.

Step 3: Content

CMS vs HTML
OK, you have now registered your web site domain and found a host. What’s the next step? Generating content of course. There are currently two main ways to add your content to your new web site:

  1. Using a web design software: you can write individual pages, using a software such as Frontpage, which converts them into HTML/XHTML (languages your web browser can read) and upload them to your hosting account. The advantage of this method is it is relatively simple, however it can be messy/troublesome over the long run, as maintaining content you upload is not very easy.
  2. Using a content management system (CMS): A content management system is a software, like wordpress (which powers this web site). You install it in your hosting account, and it presents a system whereby you can publish content (text, images, etc) easily. Wordpress manages the whole site, and generates HTML or whatever, so that you don’t have to worry about this. Setting up wordpress is a fairly simple task. Many web hosts (godaddy for example) allow you to accomplish this via a control panel, so you don’t have to do it manually.

I will try to write a separate post on getting started with Wordpress, soon.

Note: If you just need a blog, and don’t mind not having your own domain, www.wordpress.com offers free blogs. The blogs would have an address like (yoursite.wordpress.com) as opposed to www.yoursite.com. To get started, just visit www.wordpress.com.

Further reading (at Wikipedia)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. I don’t want to pay for the domain: If you want a free domain, you have two options: (a) A subdomain: Wordpress, for example, will offer you a free subdomain, so your site will be yoursite.wordpress.com, or (b) a domain from www.tk (Dot TK), who offer free domains (your site will be yoursite.tk)
  2. How complex is Wordpress? Wordpress is an extremely simple content management system. Aside from installation which requires some technical knowledge, usage is about as easy as using Hotmail or Yahoo email.
  3. I don’t want a blog: If you don’t want a blog, and prefer a more business oriented site, you can look to a content management system such as Mambo (http://www.mamboserver.com/)
  4. I want free hosting: If you don’t want to pay for hosting, you can get free ad supported hosting. Many companies offer this service. Note that wordpress.com offers free hosting without ads, however you have to use their url (yoursite.wordpress.com), and you may not be able to directly use your domain with them.
  5. What are COM, NET, ORG, etc I see at the end of all URL’s (Web addresses)? The last few characters in a domain after the dot are what are refered to as TLD’s (Top Level Domains). These TLD’s can be country based (e.g. Sri Lanka’s TLD is .lk so if you registered a domain in Sri Lanka you can get www.yourname.lk perhaps. TLD’s can also be generic (for a particular industry - e.g. aero for aviation, com for commercial).
  6. So.. I can have either COM, NET, ORG, LK, or whatever? Say, what do those stand for anyway?
    Yes, as long as nobody else has registered the domain you want, you should usually be able to purchase it. COM stands for Commercial, Net stands for network, and ORG stands for organization (ORG Originally denoted non profits but now generally anyone can use this suffix, and lk is Sri Lanka)
  7. What’s with the WWW at the front of a domain? www is an acronym for world wide web. You can access some domains without the www, however that prefix is usually recommended for domains (the idea of a prefix is to denote the particular service: for example email.domain.com might lead to an email interface, ftp.domain.com might lead to file transfer protocol, and lastly, www leads to the basic browser viewable domain we know).
  8. Have another question? Post it below as a comment and I will try to answer..

*Godaddy is an excellent company, and I do recommend them. You can learn more about Godaddy at their main site, or at the CEO’s blog (www.bobparsons.com) which has many excellent articles such as this one on Starting a new business

9 comments September 25th, 2006


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