Website Building, Part 2: A Tale of Redemption

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A bit ago I wrote a blog about my first experience building a website, using DotNetNuke.  It didn’t go so well. However, after speaking with some of the engineers here at Everon, I decided to give it another shot. This time, instead of dealing with DNN, I decided to try WordPress.

My initial thoughts on WordPress were that it was simply a blog writing site and nothing more. I was not interested in creating a site like that (I write enough blogs here), and I needed a place that could host my increasingly famous brand, Kyle’s Kitties, along with some other material that I always wanted to show friends and family.

Despite this being called Kyle's Kitties, these ARE my cats, and they do NOT like Kyle.

Despite this being called Kyle’s Kitties, these ARE my cats, and they do NOT like Kyle.

However, after being shown a few professional websites that were built in WordPress, I was sold on giving website building another try.

Just like DotNetNuke, WordPress is offered as a free application to hosted website accounts within GoDaddy, so installing the site was a breeze (see my previous blog on how to install an application in GoDaddy). After that your site gets a WordPress Admin portal, in which you can login and view the Dashboard.

My first order of business was to pick a theme. Like skins in DotNetNuke, themes in WordPress are basically the overall look of the website. I wanted a dark theme that allowed me to edit pretty much every single function within the site, down to the individual colors and the font.

After trial and error on a few themes I found one that stuck, called Parabola.  Once I’d settled on this theme, installing it was easy (just like DNN): you are given a .zip file, and everything you need is included in that .zip file. You can then navigate to your dashboard, go to appearance –>themes –>add new, and install the theme. You can then activate the theme and begin to customize it.

The reason I was sold on Parabola is not only because its interface is beautiful, but it gives you a function within WordPress’s “Appearance” tab called “Parabola Settings.” This is basically a GUI, so you can edit anything you want about the site.

I spent 3-4 hours just editing the colors of the site, and then another few hours just picking out fonts. After I built the meat of the site, I was ready to add Kyle’s Kitties.

WordPress also utilizes widgets and plug-ins. Widgets are built-in Containers (for you DNN lovers out there) that allow you to customize certain aspects of the site. At the moment I have not used any Widgets, however, I have explored the world of plug-ins.

Plug-ins for WordPress allow you to modify the site in a variety of different ways. Currently my three go-to plug ins are:

  • Disable Comments (since this is an informational website, I don’t need comments, and I wanted that huge, annoying box removed from everywhere)
  • Insert Headers and Footers (so I can utilize Google Analytics for my site)
  • Easy Media Gallery Pro (this allows me to add beautiful slideshows for photos/audio/video, which is a huge portion of my site)

With a little bit of Photoshop (I had to edit some photos to fit properly, and modify certain aspects of the site), and a beautiful, easy-to-use interface from WordPress, I was able to build my site.

If you are interested in checking it out, you can see it here: www.jeffwoodsmedia.net. This is, of course, a work in progress, and really nothing except for Kyle’s Kitties is completed. However, from where I was a bit ago, down in the trenches with DotNetNuke, to now soaring above the clouds with WordPress, I say it’s been quite a turn-around. I highly recommend WordPress to anyone who has VERY little website building skills.

Server 2003 Countdown: 7/15/2015 – What is your plan?

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Did you hear about how Microsoft ended support for Windows XP back in April? Know anyone who made a last minute scramble to upgrade (or hasn’t yet)? Or perhaps you heard about all those banks and ATMs still using Windows XP after support ended?

Microsoft has another looming End-of-life (EOL) approaching, this one for Server 2003—specifically July 15, 2015. This may not affect most users’ day-to-day operations, and you may be thinking, “That is months away, so why do I have to worry about that now?”

Unlike workstations, a server is central to your operating your business. It holds important (and probably sensitive) data not only for your company, but for clients as well. Server replacement is also more complex and requires budgeting and planning to help ensure a smooth upgrade. Or maybe now is the time to move your business into the cloud!

Either way, it’s best to be proactive and start the discussion with your IT department now. Similar to what we saw with Windows XP, there are a few key points to be aware of with the sunset of Server 2003:

  • Unauthorized intrusions. Users of Server 2003 will be at increased risk of unauthorized intrusions or virus infection, since Microsoft will be ceasing security patches and updates on July 15, 2015.
  • Lack of compatibility. Third party programs will eventually stop supporting Server 2003 in their updates and in their newer versions.
  • Limitations on performance. The older operating system is not as efficient using multiple CPU cores for multitasking and has RAM limitations that may be holding your company back.
  • Aging Hardware. There is a good chance your server is 5+ years old if it has Server 2003 installed. This is beyond the recommended 3-5 year life-cycle (and there is only a slim chance it is even still under warranty).

The clock is ticking. Make sure your company is not scrambling last minute to upgrade! If you need help with this, give us a call at Everon: 888-244-1748. Or email us at info@everonit.com.

 

Tech Tips for Techs: A tech’s story of IT work and eyestrain

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Since becoming an IT engineer around 6 years ago or so, I have been dealing with eye strain and ensuring that my sedimentary lifestyle does not effect me negatively. Recently, I have been losing that battle.

I have been getting dizzy at work a lot lately, and I end up going home with headaches on a daily basis. It can be nerve-wracking for anyone to think that his or her career could be in jeopardy due to something like that, but it happens. Understanding what you should do to keep your health in check is something that should not be ignored.

Some tips for working at a computer for many hours a day are physical: you should ensure you are sitting upright in a comfy chair (no slouching!), you should position your monitors so you are looking slightly down. The ideal height for monitors would be if you were to stare across the top of them. Doctors also state that when you extend your arms you should not be able to touch your monitors. If you can do that, you are sitting too close.

But what happens if you have done all of this, and you are still experiencing issues?

One thing I decided to try was to switch to glasses. I wear contacts and I have extreme astigmatism, so my contacts were grabbing my eye tightly. Needing to concentrate for quite a while was causing a lot of strain. So I purchased Gunnar glasses.

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You can read more about these glasses here: http://www.gunnars.com/how-they-work.

These glasses are made to reduce eye strain through their patented lens technology, and you don’t have to be a glasses or contact lens wearer to use them.

However, though they seemed to work at first, these eventually didn’t do enough for me. I needed something more.

Another activity you are supposed to do is get up and walk away frequently, at least 5 minutes on every hour. I am VERY bad with this. Once I get working on an issue, I never get up. I end up sitting for 3-4 hours at a time before I even realize time has passed. (I tried asking my supervisor to force me to get up, but relying on another person to remind you so frequently is tough to get to work properly.) I also tried setting calendar invites within Outlook, however, I could too easily ignore those. Sometimes I am not even looking at the screen where my Outlook is located, and I won’t even notice those for a while. Plus, it cluttered my calendar. So I did not want to continue going down that route. I had to come up with a new solution.

My new solution is the Garmin VivoSmart: http://sites.garmin.com/en-US/vivo/vivosmart/

garmin-vivosmart-3

I did a bit of research, and this is obviously not the only type of smartwatch on the market, so you might find a different one you prefer, but the biggest feature I was looking for was that it would vibrate when it was time for me to move. I initially was interested in the Garmin Vivofit, however it does not vibrate, so I found this device, which does. I also really like how it can display notifications from your smartphone. I am not a health enthusiast by any means, but one thing that I must do is get up and frequently walk away from the desk. I believe this device will help me achieve that goal. (I’ll let you know. It’s a Christmas present I’m getting this year.)

Now, out of all of this — the posture, the Gunnar glasses, the VivoSmart device — I still made one more change to help me deal with my dizziness and headaches.

During all of my research, I came across a forum where an IT Specialist stated that Microsoft decided to use more blue in their gamma spectrum in their Windows 7 and Windows 8 OSes. This, he said, can cause more eyestrain. However, you can reduce this effect ever-so-slightly to help calm your eyes.

In order to do this, I will explain how to get to the setting changes in Windows 7 (Windows 8 might be different):

jeff's eyestrain blog

On the desktop, right-click and go to Personalize ->Display ->Calibrate Color and walk through the wizard that appears. It will request you to change your gamma settings, and you can also adjust your RGB settings. The IT Specialist in the forum recommended that you set the BLUE slider down 25%, and RED and GREEN down 20%. At the end of the wizard, turn off Clear Type (this will remove a blurring look to the letters — at least that is my personal opinion). It will then allow you to apply the settings to the rest of your monitors, as well as allow you to review the differences.

In addition to this, I also reduced the brightness of my monitors down pretty low, to match the low light in our office. We also have most of the blinds closed in the office, and the florescent lights are kept turned off.

I haven’t yet received my VivoSmart. However, based on the various things I have done here, I am already feeling better. These changes will allow me to work more efficiently and hopefully live a longer life. There are many more solutions to eye strain and dizziness related to computer work (in addition to what I have specified here), and while your doctor is absolutely the best resource for solutions, I hope this blog helps!

 

My Techie Christmas Gift To Myself This Year!

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wrapped monitors

Good day! It’s that time of year again! A time of family, good food, gift giving, among other things! I was recently asked, “As a tech, what is one gadget that you wish to get, or will get for yourself?” Well, here it is. The one thing that I am getting myself this year is the TripleHead2Go from Matrox.

The TripleHead2Go is considered a “Graphics Expansion Module.” This module allows you to use up to 3 monitors from one graphic port. You can use it with, DVI, VGA, Display Port, Mini Display Port, or Thunderbolt Port (depending on the model you get). It uses one of your graphic outputs and tells your computer there is only one monitor plugged in, when there are really three. It creates a “stretched” desktop with a max resolution of 5760×1080 across three screens and 3840×1200 across two screens.

downloadIdeally, I am going to get two of them and use six monitors at once, three monitors wide and two tall, giving myself that “Swordfish” look. This device is both Mac- and PC-compatible and is a great investment for any hardcore gamer out there who is interested in “Surround Gaming.”

Feel free to read more about it at the website below, or check out the YouTube link! I am rather excited about this one. :)

http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/th2go/digital_se/#close

Awesome Tool For Active Directory

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CJWDev logo

Active Directory is the main tool for housing all users’ information and keeping them tied to the network, enabling employees to perform and save work. This role is crucial and can keep the lifeblood of the company running in the background, as all the data is saved and stored on the server. However, there are times when data or a spreadsheet is a useful visual aid for organizing or research. Active Directory, although outfitted with many features, does not contain a tool for exportable data so that it can viewed in a simple text format. But there is a vital tool on the Internet that can help tremendously with this bottleneck. It is called AD Info. It is completely free and is the creation of cjwdev.com.

adinfopage

AD Info is a simple download and a quick install. It opens up to the same choices as AD, with categories ranging from “computers” through “users,” which are all searchable. Once a category is selected, options then range from “users modified in x amount of days” to “users that are hidden from GAL” to even searching for specific groups or by logon script are all available choices. Searches in AD are quick, easy, and are easy to export since, after the search is done, there is a simple feature to “export results.”

This can become a vital tool for any business that needs to have legible data from AD that is not ever normally accessed unless individuals manually pull everything up and export it themselves. It saves an extraordinary amount of time and will allow more awareness and accurate data for the company. 

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