PhraseExpress – Save Keystrokes

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PhraseExpress

If you find yourself keying in the same phrase or word combination everyday, there is a neat little tool called PhraseExpress. It’s a time saver and can be used to capture anything from single words to complex phrases or sentences, or other commonly typed pieces of text such as names, addresses, telephones numbers etc. PhraseExpress is triggered via a certain set of keystrokes or manually via hotkey combinations and is incredibly easy to use.

Having researched other methods of text auto-completing, this appeared to be one of the best free tools out there on the web. It can be configured to start automatically with Windows, or it can be started manually, however the footprint is very small so is of little consequence to the drain on resources.

Since I consider it good practice to log out of websites when I am finished and I prefer not to have my browser store any information, on any given day when I then go to log into several websites, it’s really useful to email address usernames that can be called upon with a hotkey combination. Rather cynically (or sensibly) I considered that it may be some sort of spy or malware, but the page Phrase Express website has this to say about their product;

“Of course, PhraseExpress needs to have keyboard access in order to provide the desired functionality (hotkey support, autotext feature). A helper utility must be authorized to help.

Unfortunately, a few “AntiVirus” and “Security” programs may generally claim any program as potentially dangerous which access the keyboard, regardless if it is a malicious keylogger or a harmless keyboard utility.

Please be assured that never send any personal data over the internet. We are a registered company and surely have no interest to ruin the reputation of our 14 years history or to mess with one of the strictest privacy laws world wide. We also do not hide our place of business.”

This is still no guarantee, but it does appear to be legitimate and provided that the text stored is not of a sensitive nature, passwords and the like, I believe this is a nifty product that can save thousands of unnecessary keystrokes when used effectively.

A free download can be found here .

Medicine Apps – The Future?

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Medicine Apps

I used to be a big fan of BBC’s Horizon programme. Back in the day it was at times controversial, ground breaking and one of the few programmes on air that appealed to science-heads, engineers, futurists and like-minded people. Recently though, I think it has gone down hill a bit, becoming less high tech and ultimately attempting to gain more traction with a less tech-savy audience. However, one episode I was impressed by, really hit the nail on the head, striking a great balance between the interest of the masses (smart phones), science (medicine) and the future (healing yourself). The idea of a GP-less future is appealing, I for one am not a big fan of visiting the local GP and generally rely on a self-diagnosed blend of common sense and Paracetamol to overcome any and all ailments or sicknesses that blight my otherwise healthy’ish lifestyle.

I am aware of smart phone apps that can measure heart rate using the camera flash and camera, or the step counters that have been around for a while that tell you just how lazy you have been in only achieving 3500 steps of your daily, recommended 10000. Additionally doctors actually use apps like Epocrates or Medscape to help them prescribe drugs and of course there are loads of reference materials type apps. But this isn’t what I’m talking about, well not completely, this is only the start and when we introduce near field communication technology then the potential for apps and medical applications, sky rockets.

Horizon presented the case of one particular doctor who had a whole host of apps and associated gadgets that allows for a direct, quick and accurate monitoring of various body variables (for lack of a better term). A smart phone with metal connectors on the back was a point-in-case where the user upon pressing their thumbs on the contacts was presented with a real-time electrocardiogram readout of their heart rate and associated functions. In the case where the user is a sufferer of diabetes a near-field device containing a tiny needle could be used to monitor blood sugar levels and present this on the screen of the smart phone in an app that looked familiar and was intuitive to use. The important thing here to recognise is that users are already very familiar with their apps and so introducing an app for medical/self-diagnosis purposes, even if it also requires the use of a near-field technology device shouldn’t to be an overwhelming technology experience. The point is, people are already well accustomed to using their smart phone for a wide variety of things and as near-field communication becomes increasing popular people may turn to using their smart phones for self-diagnosis and potentially alerting medical services in the event of an emergency.

Froma  fitness point-of -view, some of my friends have tried the ‘couch to 5k’ app or as it is now known ‘C25K’ and it has actually worked, providing a scheduled plan of running workouts that ensure new runners do not push too much and injure themselves, but also guiding them to their goal of running 5k without stopping. There are calorie counters and diet plans, kettlebell workouts and yoga instructors all available to give advice on how to get healthy, stay fit, or just inform you that you can avoid an array of common illnesses brought about by unhealthy lifestyles; in other words preventative medicine. With knowledge comes power and with power comes the chance to change one’s life, so maybe it’s time we all tried to ‘get physical’ with an app.

Unwanted Ads – Protect Your Browser

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Unwanted Ads

Probably everyone has suffered form this at some point, i.e. unwanted ads appearing in the browser when you navigate to another site. It’s extremely annoying and also potentially dangerous. Ads can be a symptom of malware, or ‘malicious software’ which is designed to infiltrate your PC and perform all kinds of nasty things including gathering sensitive data. Obviously having your AV up-to-date can help to diagnose and remove them, but this isn’t always the case and you many need to take further action. I’m using Firefox, so this tip is really only aimed at that browser, but there are similar fixes for IE and Chrome.

The first thing I did to remove the malware and associated files, registry keys etc. was to run an adware cleaner tool, found here. This tool quickly found the guilty files and promptly removed them. It was easy to use and presented a log with all problems found. After deleteing all of the adware associated files and restarting the problem had disappeared immediately. I ran a full AV scan for a few hours just to see if anything else was picked-up, however since the AV didn’t originally pick it up I didn’t expect to see anything, this was more out of peace of mind. Feeling pretty confident that I had successfully removed the culprit, I then decided tto implement some positive, preventative, anti-adware action and discovered a couple of neat little add-ons in the process.

1. Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus allows you to regain control of the internet and view the web the way you want to. The add-on is supported by over forty filter subscriptions in dozens of languages which automatically configure it for purposes ranging from removing online advertising to blocking all known malware domains. Adblock Plus also allows you to customize your filters with the assistance of a variety of useful features, including a context option for images, a block tab for Flash and Java objects, and a list of blockable items to remove scripts and stylesheets.

2. Ghostery
Ghostery sees the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google Analytics, and over 1,000 other ad networks, behavioural data providers, web publishers – all companies interested in your activity.

By installing each of the add-ons, I have now appear to be ad-free and I see small messages appearing every time ads are blocked, or trackers are found on the web page.

“Good Morning Vietnam!” – A Viable Outsourcing Model?

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Outsourcing

The line made famous by the movie of the same title and staring Robin Williams is one that may be familiar to many and was made in an era when post-Vietnam war flicks were popular. The country itself was still suffering badly from the effects of a twenty year war and whilst the western world basked in the glory of an economic boom, Vietnam lacked the consumables and creature comforts that a lot of us took for granted. Basic facilities like decent housing, proper medicines and consumer goods were scarce and available only to those with money probably gained from illicit wartime dealings. Since the countryside was ravaged by explosives and poisonous chemicals, agriculture was slow to recover and this only compounded the problems the country was experiencing. General management was corrupt and inept, or both; and the cost of the military occupation of Cambodia was consuming the national purse at an alarming rate. In 1987 the year that ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ was shot, the standard of living was unstable with manual workers, civil servants, armed forces personnel and labourers all experiencing serious economic difficulties in their everyday lives. Food and fuel rationing was reinstated in many parts of the country as the economy really struggled to get to its feet. Things were looking very gloomy indeed.

Vietnam did have an incredibly strong work ethic with countless generations having spent 10 to 15 hours a day in the rice fields and whilst that drive to succeed still exists the younger generation not wanting to follow literally in their parents footsteps flocked to the cities in search of a new life. It’s a story seen the world over, the new generation were eager to posses mobile phones, TVs, computers and game stations which were starting to flood the country. Of course when these goods appeared on the scene so too did industries to service them. This is where our story becomes a little more interesting, at least from a tech point-of-view. With the inevitable modernisation came an increase in demand for the higher end goods and tech gadgets, and many ‘modern’ businesses started to instantiate themselves within the new and fast expanding economy. The country had a burning desire to join the rest of the developed world, to educate the children and promote business start-ups and economic trade.

On a recent visit to Vietnam and reading various websites on my return, I think that things have moved on considerably and rapidly. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are enjoying a mini-explosion in the tech industry and students are leaving university with degrees in computing science and subsequently taking up jobs in air conditioned offices in the city. The IT industry in general is posting year-on-year growth rates of 25-35%, some 3 to 5 times higher than the GDP and has done so since the early part of the last decade. But what’s really interesting is the fact that Vietnam is vying to become a substantial player in the offshore outsourcing market. It’s well know that India has been incredibly successful in this arena for some time now, but as costs increase, it is a less lucrative prospect for technical outsourcing.

IBM for example have already jumped into Vietnam with both feet and currently have their biggest offshore delivery centre located there. Vietsoftware, Hanoi’s second largest outsourcing company is enjoying an extremely successful run;  its founders having studied and worked in Australia and Europe being well aware of the kind of outsourcing model that works well for the western world. There are few companies with greater than 1000 employees, but one that has 1200 is called TMA and being one of the most successful in the country, have said that they earned more than $22 million dollars in 2012. The founder’s husband, yes that’s right, this company was started by a lady, said that their ambition for TMA was “to be one of the top offshore developers and help put Vietnam on the world map of offshore development by exemplary quality and customer focus”. Yes we have heard this kind of talk before, but with plenty of failed Indian outsource examples to learn from, one can’t help but think that this is a success story that will last and lead by example.

Outsourcing startups In Vietnam are not without facing challenges though and India still remains a strong competitor on two fronts. Obviously the experience of having succeeded in the outsourcing market is prevalent in areas such as Bangalore, the tech-hub of India. Additionally, India has strong English skills and in fact far exceeds Vietnam in this area, even though English is on the curriculum of most decent schools. It is still difficult to find IT talent in Vietnam and this has been one of the limiting factors on progress, especially when there are one or two big companies that tend to hoover up all the available talent. This is starting to be offset though by the sheer numbers of students taking computing science degrees, since 2006 the number of students in this faculty has increased by something like 70%.

Many people have said that the current economic bubble that Vietnam is experiencing will burst, however the response in the outsourcing industry is that most of the revenue is from foreign countries and it is those countries upon which they are reliant and not the continual generation of new, internal business. Whatever the case, Vietnam is an exciting prospect for outsourcing and a number of the main players have opened as many as six offices worldwide with plans to expand still further. I can only welcome the newly emerging businesses into to the world of consulting where getting the next customer is always a challenge and relying on repeat business is becoming ever more risky.

Gartner Webinars – Ten Trends and Technologies to Impact IT Over the Next Five Years

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Gartner Webinars

The web is full of great ways to learn. All the information you could ever need is out there and it is continually accumulating. In its current state with around 1.5 billion web pages it would take many lifetimes to read all of what has been posted online to date. It’s an incredible wealth of data and sifting out what is useful is becoming increasingly taxing on one’s filtering skills. So how best to gather relevant, useful and interesting information. Well, one way I have found that is particularly useful to grab snippets of information, distilled and presented by people who should know what they are talking about, is to register for and watch webinars. Webinars are essentially ‘seminars on the web’, presentations if you like, given by ‘experts’ in the field to an audience of listeners who can ask questions and interact in the usual way. In theory this should be time better spent than trawling the web attempting to collate the same information, some of which may be incorrect or outdated.

Recently, I logged into Gartner [1] and watched a webinar about anticipated trends that would change technology over the next five years. Gartner described the webinar in the following summary paragraph; “Strategic planners have long realized that efficient planning must be accomplished by looking from the outside in. Internal trends, market trends and societal trends are rapidly converging, and many of these will have dramatic effects on infrastructure and operations planning. This presentation will highlight the most crucial trends to watch over the next five years.”

The pace of change of technology never ceases to amaze me. In the mobile device era for example, it is customer demand that is driving a lot of that change and this demand has inevitably made its presence felt in the workplace. However, the method by which IT (in general) moves forward in time isn’t just about technology, it’s also about market forces, social trends and even climate change. There are many factors to consider and from the bottom up people should continually look for ways to broaden their understanding of the multitude of influencing factors. It has been shown that the more desirable/useful IT staff have a broad ranging skill set and whilst they may have cut their teeth in development, database management, or networking; having the ability to look across verticals, organise people, and ultimately know where to look for problems are potentially more important to a business. In doing so one must also consider the future; the technologies, the demands and the trends. Where are they likely to come from and how can you, as a business best position yourself to reap maximum reward? Here, I put forward my spin on David Capuccio’s excellent webinar and present my thoughts in response to the topics discussed on the day.

1. Organisational Entrenchment and Disruptions
This is clearly a two-point problem. On the one hand this is about an organisation’s ability to respond positively to disruptive technology and use it to good effect. Of course this also means a certain amount of risk-taking, perhaps going out on a limb to embrace new tech, train staff and develop new business with interested customers. It’s a big ask, but one I feel is worth it since the alternative is not pretty, i.e. to remain rooted in old technology, potentially lose custom and nourish a culture of nonchalance in the workplace. Cultural changes are definitely required for success in a world where technology is the product, however things can go wrong and move backwards. For example Carpuccio quoted that “By 2014, 30% of organizations using SaaS Operations Management tools will switch to OnPremise due to poor service levels.” And this is predicted when we really should have seen continual growth in this area.

2. Software Networks
The first technology point in the series talks about SDNs or software-defined networks that abstracts away elements of the networks. This means entire networks can be built on-the-fly without having to provision them manually, or node-by-node. Parameters for monitoring and controlling information and flow can be effected via a centrally located software program and there are a number of advantages of having the control logic removed from the actual network. Another example of being driven by customer demand, the SDN offers less time to provision, better up-time performance, infrastructure savings etc. so definitely one to look out for in the near future.

3. Bigger Data and Storage
Big data has been around for a while, but what does this really mean for us? Well from the perspective of a business, data continues to grow, regardless of budget and effectively never ending. From a user perspective, as more people move to the internet and mobile device usage, the increase in demand will in turn generate an increase in data. What does all this mean? The answer is big data, i.e. “so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data]. It’s pretty obvious that this brings it’s own problems, auditing, back-up and of course analyses. Big data is not industry specific and spans many verticals including defence, academia, banking and other private sector industries. Big data will change how data is managed and stored but it should also offer-up many advantages.  Bigger is better, right?

4. Hybrid Cloud Services
It is anticipated that private clouds will dominate in the next five years, but there will still be a requirement for public clouds and this combination of private-public (and/or community), cloud-based service availability from vendors, each tailored to individual organisations is known as the ‘hybrid cloud’. The general advantages are pretty much the same as any cloud offering, but there are some specific ones including; the private cloud will be more versatile, responsive and secure. For example, organisations who couldn’t previously leverage cloud services at all due to regulatory or compliance issues, should be able to utilise the private cloud and still comply with regulation whilst at the same time making use of the public cloud for use with non-compliance data.

5. Client & Server Architectures
The development of both client and server architectures will continue and the variation celebrated. It is accepted that one size does not fit all and there is a need for specialised clients (and servers), and the OS that runs on them. One approach for servers is to make them more modular so that individual components can be swapped out for new versions without having to upgrade the whole machine. A driving force will also be environmental considerations, exceptionally low power machines will be in demand as will the development of specialist tools to monitor and report on energy usage. With BYOD also coming more and more into play, the client/server partnership has never been more varied and this can should be extremely beneficial to both business and consumer.

6. The Internet of Things
What does this mean?  Well simply, it means that in the future many ‘things’ will be connected to the internet via smart objects, monitoring devices, radio transmission, near field devices etc. At the moment within the sporting community many athletes regularly collect, monitor and upload data and compare with other athletes in the same sport, for example. Imagine the same principle applied to numerous other household devices, the fridge that ordered food automatically, the heating system that is controlled from the mobile phone, the car that emails you when it is due for a service etc. Note the feedback loop to big data and potentially the hybrid cloud, it goes without saying that many of the points in this list are interdependant and intradependant. This particular point is the one that the consumer will be most aware of, the one that truly disrupts their lives and deliveries a society that is ‘always on’.

7. IT/OT and Appliance Madness
This point refers to the sheer multitude of appliances that are currently used in the industry and the trend that has seen that number explode in fairly recent times. From consumer-based PCs, Macs, laptops, tablets and mobile devices, to business-focused backend machines like standard servers and blade servers, the growth has been phenomenal. It also includes devices that can be virtualised by using software from the ever growing number of vendors, essentially if it can be built, it can be simulated. This growth is set to continue and it is again driven by consumer demand. It is not without its concerns however, since it is estimated that “Through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices.” Clearly there are new challenges to be met, but knowing that this explosive trend in appliance diversification is set to continue will no doubt encourage new and innovative ways to offset these problems.

8. Virtual Data Centres
This is really the next logical step in virtualisation and the advantages it offers. With virtualised data centres, workloads could be moved from one site to another, literally anywhere in the globe in response to a demand. Virtual storage is combined with virtual servers and networking to generate an entire data centre that can be accessed through a single portal and parameters such as capacity and pooling of resources can all be changed in real-time. This is a powerful resource and will surely be at the forefront of virtualisation trends in the next few years.

9. Operational Complexity
Points 1 through 9 have all contributed to operational complexity in one way or another and according to Glass’ Law (applied to IT), “for every 25% increase in functionality in a system there is a 100% increase in the complexity of that system. [http://www.examiner.com/article/breaking-glass-s-law-of-complexity]. I don’t find this statement too surprising but it does raise a conundrum; just how complex can systems get and still be usable? It’s an interesting point and one I think that could be defended by NASA during their operation of the space shuttles, cited as many as the single most complicated system ever built. Nevertheless, complexity is par for the course during periods of rapid development and it should be recognised that the IT industry is no exception.

10.IT Demand
A really simple one to finish with and I will summarise with Carpuccio’s bulleted list of web stats:
Over 1.5 billion Web pages (and growing)
450,000 iPhone apps
Over 200,000 Android apps
10,500 radio stations
5,500 magazines
Over 300 TV networks

This is a trend that even the most dispassionate of internet futurists couldn’t fail to see, the question is; how do we respond?

33 Apps I Can’t Live Without

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33 Apps

Recently a friend asked for advice on Facebook as to what apps to install on his brand new iPhone. Being a ‘droid’ fan, I wasn’t able to help specifically with iPhone apps, but it did get me thinking about what apps I use most frequently and whether they were for work, social media, general reference, gaming, news or something else.  I decided to make a list of my most used apps and post them. It’s interesting to note that a year ago, this list would have been half what it is now, and it grows on a weekly basis. Sometimes I keep apps for ages and hardly use them, even though they are useful (like holiday booking apps); other times I keep apps just for a few days and uninstall after rejecting them, more often than not for usability reasons. I have found that randomly digging through the Google Play Store, or just checking out the ‘Staff Recommended’ and ‘Editor’s Choice’ can be a good way of finding the top trending apps, paid or free and I have downloaded more than a few of the recommendations.

Once I settled on my final list I decided to lump them into logical categories and I was pleased to see that the biggest category was actually ‘Work’, so in theory my smart phone should be making my work-life balance a little easier. This does have the potential downside that it can sometimes be difficult to put the phone down, to get away from, but I guess that’s the price one pays for constantly being connected.

The next biggest category was ‘Social Media’ and all the usual suspects are there, from Facebook to Twitter, however one that I haven’t seen too much on other users’ phones, is Yammer.  Whilst this is effectively a work app I put it into Social Media to highlight the fact that this app is really about communication. It is used to good effect in our workplace and with some consultants working on-site by themselves, it’s a great way to stay in touch with work colleagues, as well as post project updates. We have also used it as a virtual library for eBooks for example, as well as organising social and charity events. I wasn’t 100% sure about it at first but having used it now for nearly 18 months, I can highly recommend it, at least for small to medium-sized companies.

The last group that I want to mention is the reference group, and that contains all reference apps, like Wikipedia, Dictionary, Internet Movie Database (IMDB), World Factbook etc.  This list could be endless since the app store now contains reference books or just about everything imaginable and has lots of specific travel apps, like Lonely Planet guides to cities for example. I used to have a lot more reference apps, but I found that I was constantly browsing one source or another since it’s an endless source of trivia.  I have since limited these kinds of apps to the bare necessities.

So, here’s the list, I will not go through them ,since a lot are self-explanitory, or well-known anway, but certainly a few noteworthy others include; SwiftKey – this has massively speeded-up my ability to compose and respond to emails, Instagram – I use this in combination with Pixlr o Matic to achive filtered photographic results before posting direct to my blog, Sky Scanner  – great for picking up a bargain holiday, Dominoes – no list can be complete without the ability to order a pizza and have it delivered. Make mine a large!

Work
1.  Trello
2.  Swiftkey
3.  Dropbox
4.  CamScanner
5.  Yammer
6.  Swiftkey
7.  Skype
8.  LinkedIn
9.  Gmail
10. Colour Note

Social Media
1.  Yammer
2.  Twitter
3.  Facebook
4.  D bitly
5.  Instagram
6.  TED

Reference
1.  Dictionary
2.  IMDB
3.  Wikipedia
4.  World Factbook

City
1.  Maps
2.  London Transport
3.  Tube Map

Entertainment
1. Cineworld
2. Dominoes Pizza

Shopping
1. Amazon

News
1. BBC

Other
1.  Banking
2.  Audible
3.  Pixlr-o-matic
4.  Moonpig
5.  Skyscanner
6.  My Movies

The Madness of Multitasking

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Multitasking Madness

These days the phrase multi-tasking is bandied about quite often within the workplace and of course the battle of the sexes and their respective abilities to multi-task is well known. More recently however, I have seen references to scientific studies that are beginning to show that contrary to common belief where multi-tasking is good for the brain, in that it keeps it active; it appears that this may not be the case at all. Initial studies have shown that the more people multi-task, the less able they are to do it. It seems that if you lead a life which is of the seemingly perpetual, multi-tasking kind, then it’s a downward spiral for the old grey matter, which ultimately seems to suffer from forgetfulness, concentration lapses and in extreme cases, difficulties with communication.

So what’s the reasoning?
Well, quite simply multi-tasking does not allow for the brain to be fully engaged to a degree where learning, reasoning and logic are actively committed. An obvious statement maybe, but one that’s necessary, since this is at the crux of the problem. By it’s very nature the brain is forced to monitor several tasks at the same time and is almost in a state of constant distraction, simply because there is not enough time available, or perhaps not enough effort involved to focus on one item at a time. It takes time for the brain to adjust to each new task and it has been shown that the rate of retention of information is substantially less when a person is multi-tasking compared to being focused (assuming the same overall time is spent at the task in hand). A person has a certain amount of ‘working memory’ which is used to complete any given task and may involved remembering certain items of information vital to the correct and appropriate execution of the task. Now if other distractions are thrown into the mix, the working memory can become confused and forget or swap information. The results can be catastrophic as we well know in cases where drivers have been talking or txting on the phone and were subsequently unable to avoid a collision.

What are the symptoms?
Well so far the following have been identified as likely to be caused by, but are not exclusive to, extensive multi-tasking:
Lapses in attentiveness
Loss of concentration
Gaps in short-term memory

I’ve certainly had times where my concentration has just not been up to par because of the fact that I have been trying to do too many things at the same time and haven’t really sat down to focus and complete tasks in an ordered fashion. At times it’s just not possible and multi-tasking can be the only way to get things done quickly, but we should remember that we are likely to make more mistakes when in this mode and it certainly isn’t good to juggle too many balls or spin plates all the time.

How can we make it better?
The simple answer is to not multi-task. Ensure that you remain focused on one task for at least 20 minutes before moving on to something else. Apparently meditation can help too, a kind of brain conditioning if you like, but the best answer is to just stop and take a break, re-focus the mind with a renewed clarity and vision of what it is you have to do in that particular moment. It has been shown that kids can multi-task more effectively, but it’s unclear why this is the case, perhaps they are more accustomed to it, being generally surrounded by gadgets, phones, laptops, games consoles, TVs etc., or perhaps our brain degrades in this respect with age. Only time and proper scientific study will tell, but for now, try spinning just the one plate at a time. Tomorrow is another day.

Using FTP With Your WordPress Blog

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FTP

Sometimes you will need to transfer files to/from your WordPress blog. The standard way of doing this is via a protocol called ‘File Transfer Protocol (FTP). FTP is a standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host or to another host over a TCP-based network, such as the Internet [1].

Using an FTP client can also be useful for things like rescuing a crashed site if you have been tinkering with some of your files and not saved with the correct changes. Whatever the reason, knowing how to setup an FTP account and use it with a client such as FileZilla is a really useful way of interacting with your blog. In this Tip, I will show you how to do that in a few easy steps. The process will not be exactly the same for every ISP, but the concept should be very similar indeed.

First you need to create an FTP account in your ISP Control Panel. This is usually simply a matter of finding the ‘FTP Accounts’ or similarly named link or icon in the Control Panel. When you see that you can create an FTP account by:

1. Entering a login name for your domain
2. Entering a password (ensure that it is secure, i.e. a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols)
3. Clicking the ‘Create FTP Account’ or similarly named button or link

That’s it on the ISP side, the FTP account should now be created and you can access it using a suitable client. There are a number of free clients, but one of the most popular is FileZilla.

Next you need to download and install the client. If you are registered with a good ISP they may provide an XML configuration file for FileZilla and by importing it you can then connect to your domain very easily indeed. The FileZilla import process is also simple. Once you have the XML that corresponds to the FTP account that you wish to configure, file from your ISP, then:

1. Open your FileZilla FTP client.
2. Select the Import option from the File menu (File ? Import).
3. Select the XML file you have just downloaded and click OK.
4. Click the OK button on the resulting Import Settings window.
5. Click OK on the resulting Import Successful window.
6. To open a connection to your FTP server, select the Site Manager feature from the File menu (File ? Site Manager).
7. Select your domain from the Select Entry menu.
8. Click the Connect button to connect to your FTP server.

You should now be connected to your FTP account and you can simply drag and drop files from your local machine to your remote account and vice-versa.  Easy!

Remember that most ISPs recommend that you use a secure FTP connection, i.e. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).  The process described above is for a standard FTP connection, i.e. not secured with SSL.  If you are regularly connecting via FTP, then connecting securely is the way to go and you should do that.  I will try to follow up this tip with a similar one on how to connect via SSL.  It’s also pretty simple, but there are a few more steps involved.

Changing ISP and Relocating Your Blog

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Changing ISP

Out with the old and in with the new.  Recently I decided to change my ISP to host both my domain www.soniclime.com and my WordPress blog that ‘lives’ there.  Even though the process is relatively simple I almost left it too late and just managed to transfer away from my old ISP just days before the domain was due to be renewed.  After searching ISP comparison sites I opted for ‘JustHost.com’, they have good reviews, are reasonably priced and are reputed to have a competent and fast support team, something my old ISP (who will remain nameless) did not. After signing-up I started looking into what steps I needed to take in order to transfer my old site in its entirety to the new location, I probably should have investigated that first given my time limitations, but lesson learned.

From a WordPress point-of-view there’s not too much required, but it could be tricky if you haven’t done it before or aren’t that tech savvy. Obviously the process of moving ISPs will be slightly different for each ISP, depending on who you are moving from and to; but there are some general things that need to happen before your existing website will be properly registered and hosted correctly with your new ISP. I figured that if I summarised my experience and added it to the ‘Tips’ section of my blog, it would serve as a useful reference if I ever needed to do it again and perhaps help a few people along the way.

The steps that I took to register with a new ISP and move my entire website to their servers, all in the space of about 72 hours are listed below. If you follow the steps and you are moving to a half-decent ISP, then you ‘should’ have no problems, your new support desk will ideally resolve any remaining issues you may have, if they don’t then you might want to think twice before you complete the move.

So, here we go…

1. Back-up your entire website – although I didn’t actually use it won’t do any harm to have a copy backed-up, right? This reminds me to say that you should really be backing up your entire site at regular intervals anyway. Thankfully I have never needed to restore an entire site, but having that backup could be a lifesaver. This option should be within the ‘Control Panel’ of your old ISP login page.

2. Ensure ‘Auto Renew’ is set to off – in my case this was important since I was very close to my renewal date and my old ISP would have taken payment had I not switched this default option to ‘off’. This option may be in your ‘Control Panel’, ‘Account Settings’, or as in my case ‘Client Area’, but it should be easy to find. If not, it could be a sign that your ISP is already making things difficult for your transfer.

3. Download the WordPress ‘wp-content’ folder – some ISP ‘Control Panels’ will allow you to do this via the ‘File Manager’ utility, but I had to create an FTP account (via the ‘FTP’ utility), connect to my domain and download the folder using ‘Filezilla’ [http://filezilla-project.org/]. The ‘wp-content’ folder is located in the folder of your website where WordPress was installed and is the default location where media and resources such as images, themes, and plugins etc. are stored.

4. Download SQL database script – this was the easy part since my ISP provided a ‘Backup’ utility within the ‘Database’ area of my ‘Control Panel’. Simply create and select a local folder for the backup and you should get a ZIP file containing a SQL script file to create your new WordPress database schema as an exact copy of your old one.

5. Unlock domain – before you transfer to a new domain you need to ensure that your current domain is unlocked, this does leave it slightly vulnerable, but for a short period of time this should be OK. With my old ISP I found the ‘Unlock Domain’ utility in ‘Manage Domains’ of the ‘Client Area’. With some ISPs this may be in your ‘Control Panel’ with others it may be located elsewhere. The main reason you need to unlock the domain is to get the domain’s ‘transfer authorization’ (or EPP) key, which is a security key generated by the current registrar (ISP) and verified through the global registries for validity, and is required to transfer from one registrar to another.

6. Point your domain to new ISP ‘nameservers’ – once registration is complete, you can point your domain to the new ISP’s ‘nameservers’ from within your old ISP (under ‘Manage Domains’). Once the nameservers have been changed, it normally takes around 24-72 hours for that DNS change to propagate throughout the internet and this whole process helps to expedite the transfer to the new ISP.

7. Install WordPress – hopefully this is the easy bit, your new ISP should have automatically created a holding page for your new website and you should install WordPress in the same way as you did with your old ISP. With JustHost, this process was substantially different than my old ISP, but was was very easy to follow.

8. Upload the ‘wp-content’ folder – having made a copy of your ‘wp-content’ folder, you then need to upload it to the same location as the ‘wp-folder’ in your holding website (i.e. where WordPress was installed in Step 7), replacing any files and folders of the same name, you’re just overwriting the default WordPress site with your new site.

9. Import SQL database – I actually created a new database and imported the SQL script downloaded from my old ISP . This created the schema for my new database.

10. Update permalinks – at this point, all of your data for your website should now be in place, but there is one more thing you need to do. Log into your new WordPress site and navigate to ‘Settings -> Permalinks’. Clicking ‘Save’ should update the links to your old website.

11. Additional fixes – You may need a few last final fixes which involve editing files in your WordPress installation. In my case I have to admit I relied on the support from JustHost and they performed the following tasks; edited the wp-config.php file to use the database that I uploaded, assigned a database user to the database I uploaded,  modified the database prefix in the wp-config.php so that it matched what I was using in the actual database.

The last step may be a bit more tricky, but as I said if you manage to do all the rest, you are 99% of the way there and a competent tech support dude should have your site live in no time at all.

So, that’s it, granted this is not quite a one-liner tip, it’s more like a blog in itself, but hopefully useful nonetheless. Now, go get yourself a better deal and transfer your blog. And one last point, don’t forget to cancel your hosting deal with your old ISP, sometimes they will take payment anyway regardless if you have moved away so you could end up paying for two, not good.

Happy New Year – The Blog Must Go On

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New Year

The New Year has finally arrived and it’s back to work, all hands to the pump. 2013 already promises to be the busiest ever, even though I now think 2012 was, in terms of work, travel and social. However, exciting work challenges have arrived and there are already plans afoot to travel to new and exotic destinations. Last year travel-wise was a reasonable success with three new countries visited, Sweden, Sri Lanka and Hungary, but I would like to see if I can better that this year, and a trip to parts of south east Asia could help with achieving that target.

So, what about the blogging, has it been a success so far, is it worth it?  Well, I have noticed that my blogs now go back until March last year, so whilst I haven’t quite put in a full year’s worth of blogging, I have been trying to get a blog an article a month on top of the usual ‘Video of the Month’, hammered out. It can be difficult to make the time to sit down to do it, but since I enjoy writing and I knew that starting a blog would be a great way to get stuff out there, it’s worth persevering. I also know that the point of a blog is to write about anything that comes to mind, but it still has to have quality, right? Hmm, well yes, definitely, there has to be some sort of measure to a decent blog, otherwise readers will turn their attention to any one of the myriad of other less boring blogs on the web.  Let’s face it, there is a hell of a lot to chose from and making any one stand out from the crowd is a decent enough challenge.

I’ve got some ideas on the go already, ideally I’d like to combine tech, London and a personal interest of starting a business so maybe a small blog about start-ups could be useful. I also think it’s useful to put in a book review, but I’ll try to keep it to books that are work’ish related and I have got one in mind. Travel would be another great subject to blog about, but I simply don’t do enough travelling and I think a good travel blog should involve the writer blogging whilst travelling, but nevertheless as mentioned above I will try to keep my travels updated. Also, for DJ fans, I think I should add something more in that category, perhaps a simple guide to DJing for the uninitiated. I’ve been doing it for so long now it’s  second nature, but I can guess that there are still ‘newbies’ out there struggling with the basic concepts. For sure I remember my first set of decks and the (then) steep learning curve of dropping a seriously good mix.

Anyway, let’s see what they year brings, there are doubtless many topics to cover, hopefully I can keep on track and put out a few interesting pieces together over the next twelve months or so. Also don’t forget to check in on my Instagram feed (http://followgram.me/soniclime), 2012 produced some funny/odd/cool images, and I really think it’s a worthwhile addition to any blog. I really like making ‘proper’ pics on a DSLR, but it’s difficult to beat the ability to upload pics from a phone straight to your blog and capture the moment, there and then.

Best of luck for 2013 and happy blogging/instagramming.