Archive for March, 2007

Setting up Google hosted email under your own domain

March 24, 2007

I’ve decided to consolidate my email accounts and am attracted by the idea of outsourcing it all to a big, available company with lots ‘o bandwidth. Thinking Google Apps or Microsoft Office Live. With more than a handful of domains spread across a few web hosts — plus a bunch of personal email accounts, it’s tough to keep on top of them. Plus, I tend to abandon email addresses to keep a step ahead of spam.

For a while, I was impressed by the spam filters of Yahoo, but recently spam bots have been successfully bypassing their filters, since they send messages from individual users’ infected PCs. But that’s another topic…

Anyhow, I took a domain that wasn’t being used much immicom.com, and thought it would make a good test, because I didn’t have a mail server set up for it anywhere, and my friends have been raving about Gmail spam filtering, so:

Step 1: sign up for a Google account, sign in.

Step 2: go to Google Apps and indicate a domain you want to manage in Google Apps.

Step 3: select the free “basic” setup.

Step 4: indicate you want to use hosted email.

Step 5: Now it gets a bit more technical, because you have to change DNS server settings. It’s not so hard. DNS just tells all the other servers on the internet what “IP address” (just a unique number) matches your domain name. It’s kind of like calling 411 infomation to look up somebody’s phone number when you know their name but not their phone number. Computers need to do this each time you type in a website address.

First you need to know where your DNS server is and determine if you can access the DNS settings. Just go to your domain registrar (where you paid to get your domain), e.g. GoDaddy, networksolutions, whatever. If you don’t know, just got to whois.sc and type in your domain. They’ll tell you where your registrar, your website’s IP address, and also where your DNS servers are.

Step 6a: In case you can control your DNS settings. For example, if it is managed by your web host (the company hosts your website), usually they provide a web control panel to make DNS changes. Or if you manage the DNS in your own server. Just make the MX record changes in step 7.

Step 6b: In case you cannot control your DNS settings. You have the option of taking control of your DNS. This is what I had to do. How? By telling your domain registrar to point the world to a different DNS server that you can access. Most likely your domain registrar even offers DNS management that you can access as a value-added service at no extra charge. If so, sign up for it (all I had to do was click a YES box and they automatically pointed to their own DNS servers), and then add an A record to it like this, so it directs web traffic back to your web host, otherwise your website would cease to be available:

immicom.com. A 209.11.248.102 (and some other bits here)

Have you got any subdomains in use? If so, add a CNAME record to the DNS, for example the “subdomain” (www):

www CNAME immicom.com

Step 7: tell the world what server hosts your mail by adding or changing the MX records in your DNS, so it points at Google. Instructions here. These are the MX entries to add in your DNS settings:

MX Server address Priority
ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 1
ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 5
ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 5
ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 10
ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 10
ASPMX4.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 10
ASPMX5.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 10

There. Now all inbound email will check with your DNS server which tells it to go to Google, and they’ll direct it into the inbox associated with your domain. By the way, Google gives you up to 100 inboxes.

You can even send email from Gmail with your domain on it (@immicom.com instead of @Gmail.com) now. Looks pretty professional.

Biggest benefit: you know your sent mail will not get blocked by other ISPs.

 

 

 

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Could you and your neighbors get T1 speed on DSL or Cable Modem?

March 15, 2007

Looking at the top security stories on Digg, I happened across ShandyKings blog post telling how he inadvertently used his neighbor’s Linksys router, simply because people don’t think about changing them from the default settings. In my own neighborhood, there are half a dozen wireless access points within range.

I also have had crappy Cable Modem service and have been looking into using DSL as a backup, combining both pipes with a multi-WAN router. Redundancy, load balancing,

Hmmm. Peanut butter. Jelly… whoa, I could make a sandwich!

Imagine a 6 WAN wireless router. You could effectively collude with your neighbors to get incredible bandwidth.

Actually, last time I was in Spain, a friend of mine recommended becoming a fonero so that I could leach off the wireless access points of other foneros in my neighborhood. Since I’m so dissatisfied with my cable modem, I’m always open to alternative bandwidth, such as Anne Zelenka mentioned on webworkerdaily: particularly FiOS. Too bad we’re on ATT. For now, I’ll stick with cable modem and DSL.

Dreamweaver replacement for Ubuntu Linux?

March 14, 2007

I’ve been trying Ubuntu (Xubuntu) Linux on a dual-boot system, and as I mentioned here, have been looking for a great replacement for Dreamweaver. Quanta Plus is one of the alternatives to consider, and I’ve got some first impressions, having used it for a few hours.

1) It’s not Dreamweaver. But it does support “projects” which remind me of the Sites used in Dreamweaver. It was a bit disorienting at first… was looking all over the GUI for an FTP or site setup dialog. Clicking on Projects brought up a window that seemed promising.

Project dialog

2) With the project set up, I noticed what should be a file tree in left side of the window, but it was empty, except for the root of the GMAT website. Where’s the files? There should be a GET button here somewhere. Hmmm. Here we go: right-click the root and select “Rescan Project” and you see this…

Add files to project dialog

This took quite a while, but then the site has a lot of files… and my cable ISP (Charter, ahem) has been very intermittent for the past 5 years. 10Meg down my arse. Oh well. After it scans, the dialog fills with a directory structure, and you can choose which files to add to your project.

3) Success! Files “added” appear in the left column.

Quanta Plus screenshot

First impressions? It’s usable and promising, but the code view renders a bit unpolished IMO. What’s interesting, and a bit scary, is that as I work on a file, it updates on the server via FTP. Normally, I would set up a local mirror of a site in Dreamweaver… and then send tested and approved files to the sky. Will dig around for a way to do this tomorrow.

Linux web development confessions of a Dreamweaver junkie

March 11, 2007

I’m hooked on Adobe. Dreamweaver does templates, code, WYSIWYG, active server pages, and more. Photoshop does everything else if there’s a pixel involved. But I’d like to be able to work on sites without booting into Windows.

After poking around on Google, it appears that Adobe really leads the pack when it comes to graphics and web development apps. Gimp is a decent replacement for some of the basic stuff you would do in Photoshop, but it’s limited by 8-bit per channel, where Photoshop allows 16. And the Linux apps in general seems to have forgotten about color correction. It’s not critical for web development, because ultimately, one doesn’t have control of the monitor quality of all the web visitors. So why bother, right?

As for a Dreamweaver replacement (or even a complement), it seems there are a few to consider. I ran across this post where NAyk discusses the positive and negative aspects of:

NVU – a bit like FrontPage. Actually, a lot like FrontPage in that both are being discontinued!

Komposer – an offshoot of NVU. I wasn’t even sure I found the official website. And it still says, “to be released in January 2007.” Doesn’t inspire confidence.

BlueFish – seems to be more for “coder” without a “designer” interface or templates. Uh, well then what does it have? Actually, I hardly use the designer view of Dreamweaver, but BlueFish lacks template support, so it gives me the impression it may be a glorified text editor. But I shall take a look and hope I’m surprised.

Quanta – from what I’ve seen, it’s supposed to be most like Dreamweaver. It may require installation of KDE-core on my lean and mean Xubuntu machine. Nuts. I’ll keep this in mind and give it a whirl and post about it.

Windows user converts to Ubuntu Linux

March 11, 2007

A few months back, I had an old (circa 2000) Dell Inspiron 8000 sitting around from an engineering project I did with them in a past life. It was running win2k but was still pretty sluggish by today’s standards. Was about to sell it on eBay for $20, but thought there might be a leaner OS… started looking into Linux.

Came across a review of the various Linux distros available and narrowed it down to Ubuntu — Xubuntu to be precise. Why? Xubuntu is built to run on older systems in 3rd world countries. Good. Downloaded and burned the “Live CD” so I could boot the laptop from the CD: try before you commit.

I was floored! In a couple of minutes it was up and running. And it joined my network via the wireless Orinoco card. Wow, that impressed me enough to wipe win2k out and install Xubuntu. It did require a bit of tweaking to get the proper display resolution.

Definitely worth it. In fact, I installed Xubuntu on my wife’s and mom’s new Lenovo laptops.

What about Pligg

March 8, 2007

OK, so the latest website idea would really fill a hole in the local auto marketplace: a bit of a mix between digg.com, edmunds.com, craigslist.com. The juicy details are left out for now, at least until I get it further along. Oh sure, you’ve seen it before. Problem is, I cannot find a similar site yet… seriously.

I was planning to develop it in Coldfusion, but this would entail a few weeks worth of web app development, so in the spirit of leveraging other platforms, I’ve decided to look into pligg.

Uh, I guess this is a great “opportunity” to learn PHP and MySQL. Thankfully, there are great tips and a simple template for pligg on upstartblogger.

Maybe you’re like me

March 7, 2007

I’ve got a lot of varied interests: business ideas, computing, programming, network security, digital photography, woodworking, prototyping…

And the list keeps growing. So, why add “putting up a blog” to the list, when I should be making progress on one of these other areas of interest?

I’ve always felt that blogging is more for those who can’t be bothered to code their own websites, and I enjoy the code. In fact, I enjoy the code too much: HTML, CSS, .NET, Coldfusion, AJAX. Playing with API’s… e-commerce systems. It’s all very easy to get tied up with the details.

Doing it all yourself can really slow you down.

So I’ve decided to stop reinventing the wheel. I’m utilizing someone else’s platform to blog, without even customizing it. It’s painful but good.

Hello world!

March 7, 2007

Yay! I love “hello world” anything.