Gravatars Working Once Again

After a period of downtime due to issues with my current host, I’ve been able to start coding on the site once again.

Gravatars have now been fixed, and appear whenever you comment on a post.

If you don’t have a gravatar yet, feel free to signup at http://gravatar.com – many sites now use them, so you’re time won’t be wasted.

blandname forum open!

I haven’t been getting much feedback on the latest poll, and it’s probably my fault because it’s positioned under the adverts… oh well.

As a lazy developer and software-lover, my only choice is to implement ALL of the SEO Services Sydney solutions, one at a time.

So that’s how we got here with our second real announcement, after the Digg plugin for Pandion (thanks to 43things for reminding me once weekly that I needed to start an open-source project).

I’ve opened a forum for all to use – you can feel free to post tech support questions, links you have found, or just general chit-chat if need be. I’ve set up a pretty good spam filtering system, but we’ll see how it works. I honestly have a hard time believing anything could work as well as Dr. Dave’s Spam Karma 2 plugin for WordPress.

So head on over to the blandname forum and check it out!

I’ve set up BBPress there, and to be honest it was a cinch. I’ll post a how to do SEO in Montreal later, but it’s not so involved. I was able to get modrewrite going right away – which in my opinion is an absolute necessity for proper SEO, including the small business SEO. I will be attempting to integrate the themes and users via MySQL shortly, so if you’ve registered with blandname, you’ll have access to the forums as well.

Swik stole my content!

Update 2: After contacting one of the Swik developpers, I was able to have them clear the site of my content. Though they still appear to be syndicating my content, at least the older entries are gone, and I have since edited the RSS feed properties so that only 100 characters are fed. Lesson learned, the hard way.
Update:This article has now been republished on the Swik website. I’m speechless.

Swik Update

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One could suppose that blatant content stealing would make you quite flattered indeed. Once would be OK, but having half of your websites content mirrored elsewhere is something else altogether.

It seems there’s a new splog (spam blog) on the block, and it’s being funded by none other than SourceLabs.

I found out about Swik while doing a vanity search for blandname.com, and was flabbergasted.

It seems the kind folks at SourceLabs now think it’s OK to republish full websites on their Swik websites, without so much as asking. Have a look at the evidence – blandname has half of it’s content republished at Swik, sometimes 3 times over.

I’m assuming that they simply are grabbing del.icio.us links and RSS feeds that contain the keywords “open source” – but they could at least limit what they republish to 50 words or so. But no, they take it one step further and hotlink to your images, videos, and audio files as well. Way to go you bumbling fools.
I’ve sent them a kind but stern email letting them know this isn’t so cool, and I’d recommend that anyone else affected look into this as well.

Here’s a recent example that was republished at Swik 3 whole times:

blandname swik

I truly appreciate what they are trying to do, but lack of testing, and not asking people if it was OK to republish their content is not very nice. But I digress.

The real issue at hand is that Swik claim that all content on their website is Copyleft, which this site clearly is not. In case they missed it, I have modified my RSS feed leaving them a note expressly stating the fact…

Installing WordPress MU on a Dreamhost Server

Blandname is currently hosted with DreamHost, and we’ve been here for years. It’s cheap, offers lots of goodies, and one-click installs allow us to easily install and test web-based software. Not to mention that they also support Ruby on Rails, and give you SSH access and the ability to run a Jabber server as well as unlimited MySQL databases. If you are wanting to host your own website then choose a UKservers.

You’ve also probably gathered that blandname is currently running WordPress. Dreamhost Circulo Marketing has had a one-click install for WordPress just like ipage has for a while now, and since it was handy at the time, we went for it.

But things change, and one-click installs often are not enough to satisfy most webmasters, which is how we got where we are today. Since my goal with blandname is to create another multiuser blog similar to what has already been running for years at yottabite, but instead of having one big weblog, we’d like to have multiple subdomains like string.blandname.com, which WordPress MU allows you to accomplish, automatically.

Unfortunately DreamHost doesn’t support WordPress MU‘s subdomains by default yet (you can always send them an email), but we can still get away with subfolders, which is more than good enough for a test.

This guide will require familiarity with DreamHost’s control panel, as well as common Bash shell commands as we will be using SSH.

The first step is to make a test domain for you WordPress MU install. In my case, I navigated to the “Domains” section of the left-hand menu, then to the “Manage Domains” section of the DreamHost panel, and created the new subdomain test.blandname.com. You’ll want to make sure to select PHP5, and enable extra security. This typically takes about 10 minutes to complete, but we still have the database to add, so let’s get to that at the same time.

In the “goodies” section of the DreamHost control panel, select “Manage MySQL”. The default view is to set up a new MySQL database, which is what we’re going to do. Create a unique database name, the subdomain you would like it to use, as well as the data base username and password. Make sure to keep note of all of these settings as we will need them when installing WPMU.

DreamHost will have by now created a folder in your SSH root that will allow you to place files there and start some of the work while we wait for the subdomain to be created and propagate. Login to your server using SSH (you’ll need to use either your DreamHost hostname here or another web address for now – you can use the WordPress Mu domain later). Now we’ll navigate to the new subdirectory that was created when we setup the new subdomain by typing: cd test.blandname.com Change the folder name to whatever is pertinent in this case.

Now that we’re in the correct folder, we’ll grab the latest using the always-handy WGET. Here’s the code:

wget http://mu.wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz

gunzip latest.tar.gz

tar -xvf latest.tar

cd wordpressmu-1.0 (this will probably change, ls -al will tell you the dirname)

cp -rf * /home/YOURUSERNAME/test.yourdomain.com/

cd ..

rm -rf wordpressmu-1.0/

Now we’ve got a clean directory structure in the root of our test domain, and we’re set to go ahead with the WordPress MU installation.

By now the subdomain has probably propagated because DreamHost is getting faster and faster, so using your web browser, navigate to test.yourdomain.com

Next you’ll want to retrieve the soiled napkin, SubEthaEdit file or whatever else it was that you used to jot down the database settings, and plop them in here. They are very straightforward, and this is typically the most problematic so check them twice but have no fear: if you mess up WP MU will tell you, and you can retrieve the settings from the “Manage MySQL” section in the DreamHost web control panel.

The rest is quite simple: you’ll be met with a typical WordPress installation page, but instead it’s for WorPress MU. The first question that needs to be asked is whether or not WordPress MU users will be using subdomains or subfolders of the root WPMU installation. As previously stated, DreamHost currently does not support subdomains by default (I’ve put in a request, here’s hoping), so we’ll select subfolders here. WP MU will have already placed the domain name you will be using in the yellow textfield, but if you had decided to use subfolders instead of the webroot, you’ll want to specify that here as this will affect all links as well as your RSS feeds.

Lastly, we’ll want to name our multi-user WordPress MU blog, and specify the email address that you will use for things like spam reports, and replies to your comments on the parent blog.

Click on that small “submit” button, and let’s see what happens!

Hopefully on the next screen you’ll see this message:

Creating Database Config File: DONE
Congrats! Your WPMU site has been set up and you have been sent details of your login and password in an email.

Click on the link provided, and get with customization, as we’re all done.

9 Great, Free Applications that Work with Vista

This is a list of my favorite Windows applications that I honestly couldn’t live without that also work on Microsoft Windows Vista RC as well, much to my surprise. All of the software is free to download and use, and in fact most of them are open source.

ConTEXT – ConTEXT is a free and lightweight editor for programming or can be used as a notepad replacement. ConTEXT supports find and replace in multiple files at once so changing one method in loads of files is no longer an issue. Works in Vista with no problems whatsoever.

Synergy – Synergy is like a software KVM, but only shares keyboard and mouse capabilities. Synergy is multiplatform, and I currently use it to have my keyboard and mouse work in Ubuntu, Vista, and my Mac Mini running Leopard with no problem at all! This way I get to use my favorite keyboard and mouse and get to free up some space on my desk at the same time.

VLC – VLC has been my favorite media player for years now. VLC comes with most of the codecs you will need to watch videos on your PC already. VLC is very lightweight, and JUST WORKS, something that can’t be said about many media players. The only issue with VLC in Vista is that it turns Aero Glass off while it is playing.

FileZilla – I use FileZilla to interface with clients that still haven’t moved to SCP. FileZilla is an open source FTP client that gets the job done, supporting drag and drop, SSL, and NAT to NAT connections. The only thing it is missing is FXP support, but that’s not really a big deal in my case. Works fine in Vista with no problems at all.

IMGBurn – I love IMGBurn. This is hands-down the easiest way to burn .IMG, .ISO and BIN/CUE disk images to backup CDs or DVDs. Free, open source, and awesome. Works a treat in Microsoft Vista Beta 2 as well.

WinSnap – I use WinSnap to make many of the screen shots you see on blandname. WinSnap supports full screen and windowed screen shots, and also allows for rotation and drop shadows if you feel the need.

Electric Sheep – I often refer to Electric Sheep as “the best screensaver ever”, but truth be told, it’s really a collection of computer-generated screensavers that allow users to vote on them using a Digg-like system. On Windows, Electric Sheep uses bit torrent to transfer the sheep data. Again, working just fine in Vista!

Xming – Xming is my prefered interface to remote Linux boxes. Xming is for Linux what RDP is for Windows – you get a local X server and acceleration that displays data from remote applications running on Linux machines. Tested more than a few times to a remote Ubuntu computer, and one Gentoo box with no caveats.

WinSCP3 – SCP is now my preferred file transfer method. Luckily my favorite client also works on Vista, or I may not have used it at all. Much like FileZilla, WinSCP3 has a very simple, streamlined interface that is feature-rich and gets the job done, even on Vista.

So there you have it: 9 free applications I couldn’t live without that work just fine on Vista, and make it easy for me to do my day-to-day tasks. Hopefully someday this list will include F-Spot and Amarok, but I’m happy with this as a start considering neither of them work on Windows XP SP2 either!

blandname whitepaper published on Silicon.com

Sometimes, I send articles from blogs or sites that I post to in order to have them published as white papers with business sites to see how well my content will fare. I typically don’t check up on them, and normally forget the logins shortly after submitting. However, I was just crawling through my Mint stats referer information, and noticed that one of the blandname articles got accepted to be published as a whitepaper at Silicon.com.

While this isn’t extremely exciting news, I was impressed nontheless that they didn’t edit the artcile at all – the whitepaper is wholly taken from my article on installing Ubuntu Edgy Eft Knot 3 on VMWare Server (if you haven’t read it yet check it out).

Alright back to work!

Ubuntu Edgy Eft Knot 3 on VMWare Server

More and more people are turning to virtualization these days. One of the main reasons is in order to test pre-release, beta, or alpha software. When it comes to Linux, the operating systems are in a state of constant flux so there’s always something new to test. People routinely want to test beta versions of KDE and Gnome and other desktops before comitting, or simply want to see what features are in development.

We’d previously written an article about installing Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 2 (it IS a long name) on a Mac Mini, so to do the same would be batty. Instead, this guide covers testing the newest Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 3 on Windows XP using free (as in beer) virtualization. This guide would also apply to anyone testing on various flavours as well, as long as they can run our free virtualization software: VMWare Server 1.01.

Setting up the Ubuntu virtual machine in VMWare server is very easy (click the pictures for larger versions):

Connect to your local VMWare Server installation if you run it locally, or connect to your remote VMWare Server.

We’ll select “typical” for this virtual machine as VMWare Server includes a configuration for Ubuntu already.

And, speaking of which, here it is! Make sure to select the plain “Ubuntu” option, unless you are running a 64bit host, and downloaded the 64bit version of Edgy Eft knot 3.

Name your virtual machine and select the location. The defaults should be fine here but feel free to tinker.

I typically use bridged networking, but for added obfuscation you can use NAT (which creates a virtual network based on your host’s network connection). You could also select host-only if you only want to be able to contact the host operating system. In fact, if you really wanted to make sure the machine is isolated from the wiki wikid web, don it with a nice tinfoil hat and disable networking completely. Ubuntu won’t be happy, but it looks pretty nice in a tinfoil hat.

8 GB of diskspace is fine for testing.You’re not going to be leeching full seasons of Lost… at least we hope so.

Since we opted to allocate diskspace now, VMWare Server will start creating the 8GB file. This can take some time depending on your computer’s hardware. In my case this took a few minutes – I use SATA2 NCQ hard drives and have 2GB of RAM. Your mileage may vary.

You now have a default virtual machine set up, but it will need some slight tweaking in order to install Edgy Eft Knot 3 as fast as possible. Click on “edit virtual machine settings” and remove the floppy drive – we don’t need it. Set the memory to at least 512MB, but it really depends on your total amount. Since I have 2GB total RAM on my host I select 1GB normally. Edit the CDROM settings and point it at your Ubuntu Edgy Eft Knot 3 CD image. Click “OK” – we’re set for lift off.

Press start and drool over the new llivecd boot screen. Note the reflection on the logo. How original.

Now we’re at another original boot screen – the progress loader. Note the gradient progressbar, and the Crystal-esque Ubuntu logo. Reminds us of 3 years ago, doesn’t it precious? Yes, yes it does.

We’ve landed at the desktop. You may stop here if all you wanted was a secure browsing solution with no cookies and passwords to worry about. Should we wish to continue, our mission involves double-clicking that obvious “install” icon. Let’s go for it.

This is an easy 6 step process. Step 1 – select your language.

Step 2 – Select your location or timezone.

Step 3 – Select your keyboard layout. I normally recommend you test the layout just in case. We’ve typed in “blandname” here for demonstration purposes. You may wish to try typing “Ubuntu”, but nothing else lest ye be stricken down.

Step 4 – Identify yourself. This information will be used later in life to incriminate you. Be choosy with naming and passwords. Harry MacDonald that means you! Try typing in something other than your real name here – it works, I promise.

Step 5 – We’ve pre-allocated our diskpace, so no need to worry about this one. Just click the “forward” button.

Step 6 – There really isn’t a step 6. The Ubuntu team has decided to waste our time by confirming the already tedious and easy task. Onward, ho!

Installing – took me 30 minutes. It may take you an eternity, but with hardware prices where thet are, I seriously doubt it will take you long to be rolling with a virtual Edgy Eft install.

The eternity has passed, and we’re going to reboot. Don’t forget to disable or otherwise change the CDROM settings so you don’t end up installing again – that would be embarassing, right?

There you have it – the pretty login screen. Note those options. XDMCP looks very intriguing doesn’t it? We’ll get to that later…

And presto! What have we got here? Firefox 2.0b1 – Bon Echo Beta 1! Try it out and see what you think, I’m impressed so far to be honest.

So that’s it, you now have a working Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 3 test virtual machine (edit: let’s make the name longer). And it weren’t hard neither! When Knot 4 comes out you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. If not, well we’ll see you searching for it again.

Copy Files From a Mac to Windows Using SCP

Whenever you start adding funny-flavored operating systems to a network, you eventually run into filesharing problems. Even if you only have a few machines, coming to a consensus on how to get files from point A to B can be quite taxing – especially if there’s work to be done.

Over the years I’ve tried FTP, Samba, NFS and a host of others. When configured well they work like a charm. However, when a new node joins the network (that shiny new Mac Pro of yours), things need to be reconfigured and can generally be a royal pain that´s why i always chose the best web hosting.

That has changed, though. We now have an acceptable solution that is free, easy to use and above all, secure. Introducing… SCP.

SCP has been around for a while now, and is gaining quite a bit of traction in the hosting world where it is (albeit slowly) starting to replace FTP for upload and download tasks. SCP stand for Secure Copy (CP being Copy on *nix variants). SCP works a lot like FTP in that you require an address to connect to, a username (login) and a password (we won’t get into stored keys today).

Now that we’ve decided what to try in our ad hoc network, how do we set it up? If you’re blessed with any variant of Linux or Unix, the work has been done for you already – the tools come with the operating system, and are generally found under the network tools in your fancy menus.

Fugu on OS X Server

It’s a different story on Apple Macs and PCs, though. For example, Tiger comes with an SCP server, but no client. Right, about the Mac server. In order to activate it in Panther, Tiger and even Leopard, head on over to the System Preferences pane, and choose the Sharing applet (the folder with the caution sign on it). Once it has opened, check the Remote Login checkbox. This will enable SSH, and in turn, SCP. We’re halfway there. You can connect to an SCP server by using the Terminal on a Mac, but from what I can tell most Mac users are frightfully scared of it. But that gives me the oppurtunity to tell you about one of my favorite applications – Fugu (japanese for blowfish – and sporting a suitably cute icon to boot). Fugu allows you to connect to an SCP server to both download and upload files. Fugu is quite easy to use, so we won’t get into that, but will save it for another time if need be (just like stored keys). Oh, and as the screenshot shows you, it works with Mac OS X Server 10.4.7 too! (as well as Leopard)

WinSCP Screenshot

In the PC world, WinSCP is Fugu’s sibling. You get an extremly easy to use interface, complete with drag and drop. Installation is a breeze, and best of all it’s free as in both beer and speech. Just like those soapbox ramblers. Getting a Windows SCP server is a bit more difficult, but currently exists in the form of BitVise WinSSHD. WinSSHD is slightly complicated, but most of the configuration is done during the installation procedure. They supply you with the needed variables, and one you have finished you will have set up an account you can use to test from your other workstations. The screenshot above was taken with the wonderful WinSnap – it comes highly recommended.
Let the cross-platform filesharing begin!

If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic for a future article, head on over to the blandname contact page and we’ll see what we can do!

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve noticed I always talk about virtualization, this certainly applies to getting files to and fro from your virtual machines in VMWare Server, Virtual Server (Virtual PC if need be) and Parallels – I have even found it to be faster than any other technique!

Poll Results in: Ubuntu for the win!

Though we are just a small site at this point in time, we’re sure to grow and need to know and what direction. So we decided to run a poll for a few weeks to see what was garnering more interest from blandname readers.

The results are now in and it looks like Ubuntu is the current topic of choice, with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard coming in behind.

Ubuntu Wins

It seems some of you have a good sense of humour because you added Windows Me. Some good suggestions were found in the addition of CentOS which we are currently writing an article for, and Gentoo linux, one of favorite operating systems to play around with.

In the coming months, we’ll try to touch on all of these topics, focusing more attention on the winner of course.

Feel free to leave suggestions for future polls or other topics you’d like us to cover – we’re here to help.