Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back to the drawing board... sort of

So, in my web dev/design years, I know I've had to always "learn" and grow with the technology as it changes literally everyday. I was hoping Facebook would keep something I grew very fond of - FBML. Alas, much like BASIC, we must move forward and develop according to the great mythical spaghetti code monster in the sky as FB has dropped FBML. Granted, as a big proponent of using open source standards, proprietary vs open source for me, open source always wins... except when I'm trying to be lazy because I have 20 million other things in my life and business I need to do and keep up with rather than learn something new... again.

I was happy with my static FBML apps. They were nice. Friendly. Easy going. Now, not only do I have to retrain myself, I have to shove the traffic over to my own (shared hosting) servers for them to bear the load... double meh. So, now, while pushing out of my cocoon of sadness I was perfectly happy to be miserable in, I take on a task that I hope will not only help myself, but to help others... because of my slight masochistic tendencies. This task, I originally thought would be easy, quick and relatively painless. Not so young Jedi! THANKFULLY Hyperarts Blog was kind enough to give us all a tutorial that is pure awesomesauce. Try it -you'll like it.

And btw - here is the FB page that I added the simple embedded iFramed YouTube video "app" to...

And yeah, I am the "City Producer" for the 48 Hour Film Project here in Cincinnati.

If perhaps you've been following my tribulations of dealing with FB development, you would have followed my heartbreak about a year and a half ago as I tried to do something that was not previously possible with the FBML API. I was, like many other people upset with a layout change that lumped all types of updates (including annoying Farmville etc apps) along with status updates, etc. So I wanted to develop a "feed filter" that would categorize your updates... I gave up when I couldn't access the data via the FBML API I needed to be able to - and low and behold what do I see?

Sure looks like my "feed filter" idea.... now I'm not screaming, "hey they stole my idea!" I'm actually glad someone in this interwebs universe actually heard my plea - whether literally or subconsciously - but geez. I'm really kinda gettin sick of this stuff. Really. It's hard to be an idea person that is 1+ years ahead. Hard enough being in a town that's 10 years behind the times, and most people scoffing at me and only one or two people actually having the foresight and appreciation of my ideals/ideas. But geez. Hasn't my heart been broken enough universe?

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Wanna New Host & Tech Update on My FB Feed Filter

For a long time now, I've been a GoDaddy/Wild West reseller. It was easy to set up clients, create accounts for them and manage it. They also had a phone number you could call for support, and they were friendly, knowlegeable and had American accents. This is important because I've encountered big problems with outsourced tech support due to a miscommunication issue. However, the GoDaddy/Wild West servers are crap. 256MB on a 512mhz processor??? WTF? Gimme a break! And working with db driven web apps like Joomla and Wordpress are impossible - the data connections are incredibly slow and at times would time out. Frustrating for myself, and my clients when their site would go down, particularly while editing.

As I have been doing web design and development since 1996 (yikes I'm old!) I have been through the whole hosting provider/domain name registrar switcheroo. Hear about these mortgages being resold to other banks? It's kinda like that - the host is too small, goes under or gets bought by a bigger fish that sometimes does not know how to migrate its customers and keep them happy. I figured, reselling GoDaddy (who was supposed to be the domain name registrar for Google) surely this one won't go down... umm yeah.

So with a new web client, I've started investigating new hosts. One thing that I try to be is ecologically smart (ie "green"). Another is cost-effective. And another is feature-rich. I found that in a host: fatcow.com. Granted, I haven't looked into their reseller program yet, but this new site is FAST! And their tech support has been great - Live Chat 24/7 and phone support! Unlimited bandwidth, disk space and MySQL dbs, what more could a gal ask for!

I would have liked to go local, but unfortunately I haven't found anything that compares with price and features.

And re: the FB app I was working on - sorry folks, the dream of the "My Feed Filter" is not going to work. Argh. Much to my chagrin, FB does not give access to the properties of the updates in the stream. Only thing you can do is pull the entire feed/stream, can't sort it based on if it is an application, photos, etc. I suppose I could create a "copied" page, and use a ton of JavaScript innerHTML fun to redesign the feed, but because I don't have the time it would take to creating it, I'll stick to more "simple" FB apps for now...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Adventures in Web Development version 132.9: Or the Joy of Open-Source

Working on a membership driven, Joomla 1.5, Community Builder site.

Have I lost you yet?

Alright, well Joomla is a CMS system (see first post re: Content Management Systems*) and is a free, open source web application. This particular site though has given me much heartache in the development, and as it has for my client.

Most sites I do are cut and dry. I run about 23 sites. Wordpress, Joomla, vBulletin, static html, maybe some php/mysql db, two in Drupal, one Volusion site (another venting post for another day), but once the functionality and features have been implemented, it's there. Only thing I need to worry about is training, maintenance which usually is maybe a security patch or two, and maybe a random content/graphic.

Anyways, so this site is constantly evolving. Which is great in that it keeps me on my toes and constantly tests my abilities. On the other hand, it keeps me on my toes and constantly tests my abilities. Which is why I need staff. Bad. Another problem is that as we implement new features that will support a real revenue stream, the server configurations change as well. It isn't just set it up on a server, click and install a couple things and go. It is tweaking Apache and OpenSSL, managing memory, and all the fun stuff when it comes to developing an enterprise level app.

If you don't know much about Joomla, it has an extensive community and many free and paid for commercial apps. You know that saying, "You get what you pay for?" At times with these mods, you don't.

I have found getting a free app and hacking the crap out of it to bend it to my will seems to work a lot better than paid for apps so far. Problem is, I dont have the time I need to sit around and make it work. So, I buy yet another mod/component that is "supposed to do" x and ends up *maybe* doing y, but because it won't play well with other apps and I can't get into the source code because they've protected it using a compiler like Ioncube, it screws up the rest of the site and spits out nada. Like CBSubs. I want to like it - I want to use it. I really really do. I love Community Builder - it's robust, highly configurable/hackable, has a great community for support, a truly solid and stable community platform, and it's the magic word: free! - BUT CBSubs with CB doesn't work on my server configuration, and frankly, I do not have time nor patience to move the whole site over to another server, yet again.

Another $ app: JomSocial. It looked so pretty, and I wanted to like it, but ended up going back to Community Builder. Maybe in a few more years JomSocial will have caught up, but now, I just feel a bit cheated that it doesn't have the capabilities I need it to do.

Another $ app: CorePHP's WordpressMU component. Really did not like how limiting the blogs were when implemented. There was no theme customization per user, no ability to do fqdn blog URLs (which is a true feature of WPMU), no real compliance with other Joomla core apps, and I found it to be buggy with all of the other components I added on.

Here I am, doing it again: buying another mod called AEC that is supposed to cure all my ails. So I am crossing my fingers, holding my breath and backing up the db yet again...

Will report back on how it goes...

Current site main apps configuration:
* WPMU (at root for user blogs with subdomains)
* Joomla 1.5
* Community Builder 1.2.2
* Kunena Forums
* MediaWiki
* EventList
* JDownloads
* VirtueMart
* Post Affiliate Pro

* Will add in links to items later when I get more time... yeah right!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010: Being Resolute in my Resolutions

Alright 2010, I *think* I'm ready for ya...

2009 had me for a loop, with two businesses* and two non-profits*, multiple projects some of which got done, some didn't, living on savings because I was focused on the afore mentioned corps, oh, and my social life, centered around networking - both online social and in-person, and not to mention being a single mom on top of it all...

In the twenty-ten, I will accomplish a few more things this year, and unfortunately, they have mainly to do with the stuff I started last year, except of course the kid thing which was est. in 2002 :)

So, for the masses of the intertubes (and really a to-do list more for myself), I will explain all of these items in nauseating detail, in somewhat of a chronological order. Hopefully, this will prove I'm really not a slacker -> read "insecure a bit?" - but also so if you happen to be a part of my inner sanctum, even peripherally, you'll realize that I'm pretty frickin' busy and do NOT take it personally if I don't come to an event or respond quickly. Several of these goals are quite ambitious, some I need to complete them in the first month, so thanks for understanding!

1. Spend more time with my son. Last year I had the mixed fortune to travel a lot: the inauguration* (see film project A), campouts, friends' weddings (which is both joyful and depressing on a whole 'nother level but let's not go there right now -> read "spinster"), but these were unfortunately, without my 7 yr-old son. I am very blessed that my parents help me with him, but now that he is getting older, we need to be doing more things together. However, it is hard to date and bring the lil guy around much as obviously, not every time/place/person is suitable for an introduction to the youngin'.

2. Finish my projects that I really need to from 2009
I.) Films/Creative Productions
A.) Inauguration Tales: An American Hajj - Need to hurry on this and at least get out a short to YouTube by Jan 20. Truth is, I was very unhappy with the footage I got from the event, which would have been better if I had had a PA to help and a press pass, but got discouraged going through some initial footage, so I put it away for a bit... I think I did get some good stories though - just have to get the gumption up to import and go through it...
B.) Upsourced 2.0 - my 48hr project I did with comedians Kristin Russo and Dave Waite and a great crew from Columbus. A task originally Bill Rinehart and I were going to write, along with Adam Thede, but somehow during the weekend festivities, things got a little discombobulated... Usually 48hr projects just live on as they were completed, but the story did not feel complete to me, and what we had was quite good - for a 48 - but I know once we do more story and character development, it will be a great short I can submit to other fests... but I HAVE to do this soon. Like by Feb.
C.) Xanadu RiffTrack - pretty much all written down and hashed out just need to record.
D.) Music vid with Pike. This is Eric's baby, so hopefully we can do this by end of Q1.
E.) Secret local political web series project. Can't discuss right now :)
F.) Work more on the biofuel project. Need to turn this into a short rather than a feature.
1.) Get interviews/footage at Cardinal
2.) Get interviews w/family farmer footage from farm
G.) Shoot more for Filmmaking in Ohio project
II.) Web dev
A.) Complete re-dev of Batafilms.com
B.) Keep clients happy
C.) Finish FB app side projects
D.) Get f/t stable job w/yet unnamed web portal company :) woohoo!!!!
III.) High-level stuff
A.) Make 2010 a successful year for the Cinci-Oxford Film Fest
B.) Get action items acted upon/completed from film dev working group list

3. Say "No" more often. Need to stop taking on too many new projects, stop spinning my wheels on projects/causes that are stressing me out/bringing me down and drop projects that suck up my time and don't pay me. Yeah this looks like 3 resolutions, but they center around the same root cause of overcommitting myself. One of the ways I will work towards this is by moving away from one of the non-profits and one of the businesses (stated above) in lieu for a f/t job that will be more satisfying and stable - financially and with stream of work. Another part of this problem is, I'm an idea person - so when I get one, I can't always find someone to hand it off to, so I end up doing something myself. Maybe blogging/twittering these will give someone else the inspiration and they will take it and run.

4. Which brings me to #4: Blog/Tweet more. I usually focus on my Facebook page and IM, but I need to use these more. Heck I've had my twitter acct since about 6 months after they started Twitter, but I have just tweeted my 1000th tweet.

5. Move. Doesn't matter if it's Wyoming, OH or SJC or Kentucky anymore- just do it before next school year.

6. Re-enroll in a master's program

Lofty? Yes. Doable? ...remains to be seen. I keep thinking if I shoot for the stars, at least I'll hit the moon... or maybe just Mt. Adams, but I gotta at least do a few of these things. I'll try to chronicle my progress in this blog.

Wish me luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Facebook does it again... ugh

Facebook has changed the homepage feed layout again. It's a bit frustrating because I am not seeing all of my friends updates (I have about 500 friends) and the updates are missing comments, etc. It was bad enough when they switched it the last time - I couldn't find my events, would get 30,000 Easter Egg application updates (alright, maybe it was more like 29,382) and I would miss updated comments to my posts.

So, in my zeal to fix something they don't believe is broken and after begging/stalking the Engineering team last time for a change to the way feeds are displayed, I am going to *attempt* to write my first facebook application - a "Custom Feed Filter".

Here's a wireframe of how it will work:

So I am starting with a Facebook developer account through Joyent Cloud that gives free FB application hosting for developers for free for a year. (Can't beat that!) Granted, if the app is popular enough, I am *hoping* FB will just add it to their functionality - which, even though I am doing this for free (for my friends and myself who hate the new layout), I figure it's my social media civic duty to help.

I found a wonderful step-by-step developer guide, and off I go! Will let you know the progress...

Monday, April 13, 2009

People as "Honeypots": Tricking the Scammers at their own Game

Everyone has a few old timers in their families - or even young paranoid ones - who are not tech savvy. Save a few random forwarded joke emails, they won't read the news, don't buy anything online or know how to use tech tools that are free and easier to use than their spyware-laden, sluggish MS applications.   They maybe too embarrassed to ask someone how to use it or too scared to share their personal information, or worse yet, naively share their personal information.

My uncle, former co-owner of an old-school east coast marketing/polling firm, has been bored since retirement.  He hasn't picked up a hobby, and to the best of everyone's intentions to help direct him to a hobby or heck even a p/t job, he just stays bored.  So, he apparently has been teaching himself about the internet - the hard way.  He fell for one of those 419 scams.  This was recently too, only within the past year, so to believe everyone knows about these scams and not to follow them, obviously is not the case.

According to the FBI, internet fraud rose 33% last year - keeping in mind, these are only crimes that were actually reported to the IC3 division. Many crimes remain unreported, due to embarrassment or even a lack of knowing where and how to report such crimes. Although it may be plain to see for an avid (or average) Googler, people who do not know how to use the net's tools or where to look on a page itself to find relevant information, get lost in the vast forest of text and colors on most websites.  Surprisingly, countries who are our allies where these scams originate, such as Nigeria, make no effort to punish and seemingly condone such activities.

Enter 419 Eater.

419 Eater is not unlike the internet security tactic of creating decoys or "honeypots" to collect virus/trojan/hacker information.  Joining their grassroots coalition, the average Joe/Jane can trick these scammers at their own game.  Using free email addresses, "would-be-victims" can create aliases they can use to trap the scammer.  The point?  Wasting their time, as they tend to focus on one victim at a time, for weeks or months on end.  Arrest is, of course, optimal, but once the schemer's months of time, energy and money is wasted tracking a false lead, hopefully, they will leave the business of scamming willingly.  Karmic debt is paid and all is right with the world.  

Now, you have to be very careful when dealing with these people of course, but if you're retired from your 90's dot com boom success, bored and know the internet well, here's a fun hobby for you.  Beats knitting, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SOFA on Viewfinder

Finally found the episode with the organization I help with: SOFA (Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association)...  and yes, believe it or not, I'm a poor interview in front of a camera.  I probably could have used a couple shots of tequila before I went on.

CETconnect Video | Video on Demand |Viewfinder - Southern Ohio Film Association

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Character Assassination and online harassment: How to protect yourself

So about a year and a half ago, I made the mistake of dating someone I shouldn't have.  After we broke up about 3 months later, he has since harassed me on the phone, via text, created fake accounts on YouTube, and email.  I am hoping this will help someone else deal with at least *some* of online harassment/defamation.

1.) If the person has created a harassing/slanderous site, more than likely it should fall under the hosting provider/domain name providers anti-harassment/anti-defamation policy. If you have the web address, do a "Whois" search on the domain name in question (domain name is in the format: domainname.com or domainname.net or domainname.org etc, without trailing characters. This will get the host/domain providers contact information.


Enter the domain name in question in that form at the top of the page and click "submit". This will bring you back the companies hosting the site and where the domain name was registered. You can contact them directly and they should suspend their account immediately for free.

2.) If the person is using a Yahoo, Hotmail, or other free email service, you can report them via an abuse page the site should have.
For Yahoo!: http://abuse.yahoo.com
For Hotmail: http://hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/ua_info.asp email: abuse@hotmail.com

3.) If they are using a forum/board, you can contact the site owner directly and have the moderator take the offending message down.

4.) For social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, there should be a "Report" or "Flag as Inappropriate".  Someone from the site's security should email you back regarding the user and their account may be suspended.

5.) File a police report.  Electronic communication harassment and cyber-stalking is real.  Protect yourself legally...

I hope this helps someone else, I had to learn this stuff the hard way - hopefully, you won't have to.  Victims of cyber bullying shouldn't have to hide to feel safe from cyber bullies.  If they can do it from behind a keyboard, what's to say they won't act on it in person...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration version 2.0

So I went to inauguration with 1.8 million of my closest friends. The idea was to do a documentary, blog about it, and do streaming video via ustream.tv. I built the site and added a channel on ustream, and found this great site where you can stream from your phone! www.qik.com which would have been perfect... if I had a Blackberry Curve and didn't have a Palm Centro. Oh well. It was still an amazing experience, technical difficulties aside. Really, what I should have done in retrospect was the day after the election, reserved a room in downtown DC walking distance to the Capitol.

There were a good 40-50 other 1-3 person documentary teams floating around as well, many doing interviews with folks in different languages. For as large of a crowd and how crazy packed it was, everyone was really nice and polite (except the hotel we got last minute, but that's another debacle...), which was awesome and I didn't worry about my equipment then getting stolen. Damaged, yes, but not ripped off. My equipment: Panasonic HVX200, shooting in HD 720 24pn. I rented additional equipment from the Camera Dept here in Cincinnati including 2 16gb p2 cards and a wide angle lens adapter. I forgot my lens cap, but no damage was done to it. Had plenty of batteries, but navigating the crowd was a pain. I wish I would have caught up with my friend/colleague Stephanie who was in from NYC to help me shoot it.

Dumping the footage, I didn't get as good of stuff as I was hoping. I didn't have time in between shots to white balance, and it shows. I was hoping to have a full feature, but at this point, I am thinking I will have to go back and get pickup shots and change the theme of it to get any kind of usable content.

But it was history. We met some awesome people and had amazing conversations with complete strangers. It was like a big family reunion because everyone was so friendly and kind (well when they weren't rushing around) but even then folks would stop you if you dropped something and hand it to you. There will never be another event like it. And I was grateful to be there to see it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My love hate relationship with my cell carrier: also titled "how to tether a Palm Centro via Bluetooth"

Ok. So after 2 hrs on the phone with tech support and sales at sprint, I've finally accomplished it: using my phone as a modem aka tethering. And you can do it too! So, to take the pain out, I'll help you walk through it...

Specs: MacBook Pro OS 10.4.1, Palm Centro, Sprint with phone as modem service option

Getting through the set up via Sprint's sales and support is the biggest hurdle. When I bought this phone back in December, I knew I could use it as a modem - I looked specifically for that feature. I knew I could add on broadband and use it through my computer, but they told me I could only connect at super slow 28.8k... not true! I hear t-mobile has free broadband with their plans, but since I am locked into a contract with Sprint until 2009, I am stuck.

Thinking I might be jaunting off soon to an undisclosed location for a mini-vacation, I thought I should go ahead and set this up. So I called sales and ended up getting triaged to "advanced tech support" because - "You can't use your phone as a modem and a phone. The plan won't allow it." ummm what???

I finally got someone who understood what I was saying and they hooked me up with the "Phone as modem" add on. I had the Power Vision pack - which is the broadband plan, now I just needed to get that option.

So then I had to set it up - via bluetooth. Centro doesn't work tethered via usb as a modem to a mac, so I turned on bluetooth, went to "set up device" selected mobile phone, and wow it found it. Had to then enter in the credentials and set the modem script as "au CDMA bluetooth". btw - this is using PPP not PPPoE... Everything was checking out fine, then I got errors. Couldn't connect. There is this little setting that if you aren't looking for it you won't find it... it's in the Bluetooth Preferences, under "sharing" there is a dropdown that when you have the bluetooth device selected: type: rs-232 This should say modem instead. Select that, save, hit connect and you're good to go anywhere you get a signal.

I was paying 60 extra a month for the aircard plan at first (they had lured me in with 1 month free - big mistake because now I have to have pay for 3 lines instead of just 2) but now I am paying only 25 more and I get this:

Sure, it's only 256k and not as fast as real broadband, but its better than 28.8k or nada.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Primer in Content Management Systems: What, Who, How

yeah yeah yeah... I know I should've been putting something worthwhile here, something I know a little bit about, like a tech/media blog!  So, here we go...

It's hard to define what exactly I do: I find myself in the roles of web developer, designer, online media producer, teacher, social and professional networker, indie filmmaker & misc etc, so I have to keep up on tech to earn my keep.  Hopefully you'll find my rants interesting and useful, if nothing else, for buzzology.  This one is about my main focus at this time: CMS (Content Management Systems).

There was a time before Web 2.0 that it was ok to have a static html and/or Flash site to present a business.  You didn't need no stinkin' backend database or 3 tiered architecture - you were a rebel with a cause and just needed a .com and marketing $avvy to get people to know your site's url.  But now, you need constant interaction with your users.   Sites need to build communities, so in walks CMS.

There are a lot of CMSes today.  My specialties are php/MySQL based CMS like Joomla!, Drupal, vBulletin and Wordpress... What's that you say?  vBulletin is a Forum and Wordpress is a Blog?  Ah, but think of it on a larger scale: CMS (holistically) is a web development framework that allows end users to easily update content on a website, without knowing complicated code.  The technology that drives Blogger is considered a CMS.   This content that I am typing now is delivered to a backend database through a form using WYSIWYG tools, not unlike a compact word processing program in functionality.  While Joomla! and Drupal have more flexibility to build functionality (aka scalable), vBulletin and Wordpress do have the ability to add some features and can hook into a larger CMS such as Joomla! or Drupal.

My advice on picking a CMS: use the right tool for the job.  Not everyone needs a site built with Joomla! or Drupal or etc, and not everyone needs a blog or a forum.  

If you are looking at just branding yourself and your know-how, you may only need a snazzy looking Wordpress blog or a forum if you're brave enough to tackle Q&A.  A blog may be a great additional component for a large company that has a some employees (or even better customers) that can blog about their expertise/experiences, but for a bigger organization looking to build a community with more interaction from its perspective clients, Wordpress would not be the best choice to start.  A forum, on the other hand, eventually will need a team to manage it properly.  One forum site I manage, has 150,000+ registered users, 3500-5000 users on at anytime, and almost 60 moderators.  The great thing about this forum site is that there is a sense of ownership and community pride by the moderators.  They do what they do to help out of a passion for the topic and the site's community and that is huge to the site's success: that core group of users that are entitled and empowered.  Once you start to build a site with topical, timely and meaty content, give users the power to control the content, the community (and content) builds on itself.

I like to think of a blog as 1 dimensional communication, a forum as 2 dimensional, and a larger cms platform as multidimensional, but if you build it - they won't just come - you have to bring them there and keep them there and keep them coming back with the quality and quantity of content, no matter how many dimensions you have to your site.

Another tip: do not reinvent the wheel.  Seems like common sense, but many companies start with an out-of-the-box, open-source CMS solution, then modify (see hack) the crap out of it to get it to fit to their desired specs at the time.  Look for the cms platform that has the most module functionality already available as much as possible and one that is easy to write modules for.  Hacks to the core code and database can only make your upgrading and security patching a nightmare.

And try before you "buy".  Even if you're running open-source, free tools, go to: http://www.opensourcecms.com and use the Demo tool to test drive the technologies.

A great thing about the CMS 3 (or multi) tiered architecture from a programming perspective, is that the g33ks that know presentation (HTML/CSS/design), can work on their part (the template) and not worry about the database parts that the db g33ks know... and also why it works so well in the open source community.  For example: someone in Germany writing a module to say, make it easier to embed YouTube videos in a Joomla! site, can develop it, upload it to the Joomla.org site, and someone half a world a way can tweak it if the css file doesn't work in IE 7, notify the original developer and send the fixes to them.

Here are a few CMSes to look into:
  • DotNetNuke (Windows/ASP/MSSQL)
  • PostNuke (php/MySQL)
  • WebGUI (perl/MySQL)
  • Mambo (php/MySQL)
  • OpenCMS (java/MySQL or Oracle)
  • MediaWiki (php/MySQL)
  • phpBB (php/MySQL)
  • Drupal (php/MySQL)
  • Joomla! (php/MySQL)
If you have a Wordpress or vBulletin or other php/MySQL site already, you should stick to other php/MySQL and run it on Linux/Apache - php just runs better on it... Same thing with Windows based sites: save yourself a HUGE headache and stick with the same OS/Web Server/language/database app you're starting in.

So, now go live Web 2.0 and prosper.  HTH