Cabo San Lucas Marina

Cabo San Lucas marina by johndimo

A shot of the marina in Cabo San Lucas (Los Cabos) that I took while on vacation there.

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Don’t be a victim of catastrophic data loss. Protect yourself.

Do you have a backup plan for your website or blog in the event of a hard drive crash, server crash or some other form of harm like getting hacked? If you don’t, you should.

Many people take computers for granted, thinking nothing will go wrong or they leave it up to some 3rd party source to handle backups and security. While you think that may be enough, let me tell you it’s not.

A few years ago I fell victim to a hacked website and lost everything. Now I’m here to tell you what happened and what I do now, to protect myself.

Hard drive crash

Let’s face it, nothing last forever and hard drives are no exception. And when (not if) it fails, all your data is gone. You may be one of the fortunate to have thousands to send it to some special lab to attempt to retrieve the data that was on it. I know I’m not. There’s two main hard drives that can cause you a headache when they crash.

First is the hard drive on the server that runs your website. Many hosts will automatically keep backups of your site for you. While this is fine and dandy, it is not enough. There’s no guarantee that they won’t be able to help you because of a possible corrupt backup or worse, they close up shop and leave you hanging with no website and no files.

Second there is the hard drive on your computer. Many keep notes, pictures and other files related to their websites on their home computers, myself included. Oh and let’s not forget about personal pictures, videos, music and everything else we keep on there as well. That’s a lot of important data that needs to be safe. While it may have never happened to you, we all know someone that has lost everything due to a hard drive crash.

Getting hacked

Aside from hard drive crashes, you could be the victim of a malicious hack. Years ago I ran a website that got hacked. It wasn’t a big site, but I did have a forum with several thousand posts on it. I had mostly stopped that project and left everything online for archival purposes. Because of that, I never really checked up on daily. Mostly only from time to time.

Well, low and behold, I went to the site one day and noticed that it was hacked. Someone had gone in and deleted everything from the forums and left a nice little message for me to let me know that it was hacked. It had been hacked long enough that my web host could provide no help. Their backup files didn’t go back far enough to save the site. All their backups contained the hacked version.

I was too naive at the time and didn’t have any local permanent copy that I could fall back on. The website was officially a lost cause and I pulled it off the web. Lesson learned.

Backup your files

If you use cpanel, which most hosts provide (what I use), there is a feature to zip up every file for your site into a single package for download. This zip file contains everything, files, databases, email accounts, etc. Make use of this feature. I download monthly backups for my sites in their entirety and weekly backups of the databases. You can never be too safe.

Only when I know everything is all good with the newest backup, I will go ahead and delete the oldest version. I will always have a known working version of my sites, even if the backup is several months old, since I won’t overwrite my backup unless I know the new backup is all good.

On the home computer, I replicate the entire computer on an external hard drive on a regular basis, and keep the external hard drive physically disconnected when not in use. I’d hate for some hacker to break into it, delete everything for fun, and then go into the attached external drive and delete that too.

In conclusion

If you are not backing up your files, get going on it. Don’t wait until it is too late. If you do have a solid backup plan and it differs from mine, leave some feedback in the comments area. I’d love to hear what you are doing. I’m always looking to improve on my methods for doing things.

photo credit: SarahFranco

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Hit a devastating roadblock? Get those creative juices flowing!

Discover your Chronobiology

Ever hit a road block when you sit in front of the computer to write material for your blog or website? Happens to all of us, even myself. Humans are different, we are all individuals. And being individuals affects when we are at our most creative. Everyone is different and therefore everyone is their most creative at different parts of the day. I know for myself, my creativeness never kicks into high gear at the same moment as when I sit down in front of the computer to write.

Biologically my most creativeness is always earlier in the day, not during the evening when I typically get on the computer to write. Interestingly there are scientists who study this sort of thing, it’s called Chronobiology. They study what most people refer to as our ‘Biological Clock’.

Below are three tips for when you figure out when you are at your most creative mindset.

The ideal situation

If you discover that you are at your most creative at a time of the day where it is easy to schedule free time, take advantage immediately. Your best work will be done at this time and you are at a great advantage when compared to the rest of us. You not only get your ideas, but can form them into your best quality work during this time. Unfortunetaly, this is not the case for many, myself included. So what are we to do?

Old School: Get a pen and paper

Always keep it handy so when you are at your most creative, you can jot down your ideas while they are fresh in your head. This way when you sit in front of the computer you won’t draw a blank. You will have had your ideas already written down. One quick read of your ideas should be able to jog your memory enough to get your started. Don’t want to write it down but have an old tape recorder lying around? You know those small hand held ones you see reporters using in TV and movies? Grab it and leave yourself voice messages as the ideas pop into your head.

Considering that it is never a smart thing to turn in your first (rough) draft, print out your completed article and put it in your pocket and carry it with you. The next day, a few minutes of your time should suffice to read over your work and proof read it when you are at your most creative. At this time it will be easier to catch any mistakes, mark them to be fixed, and make a note or two if you plan on changing anything. It is definitely easier to proof read real quick than spend 30-40 minutes or longer writing at the time when you are at your most creative mindset.

New School: Put technology to work

Got a fancy smartphone? Take advantage. Get yourself a good note taking app to help your organize your ideas. I like Evernote, which I use, with my iPhone. I do believe they make that app for other phones as well, so whether you use an Android powered phone, a Blackberry, or a Windows phone, you’re in luck. It’s dead simple to take notes on. It also allows you to attach pictures from your phone’s camera or attach a voice recording. I find Evernote a great resource to help me remember my ideas that pop up earlier in the day.

After I’m done writing, I will either open it from the WordPress app the next day right from my phone and do a quick edit or I’ll go with the old school method and print it out.

In Conclusion

So there you have it. A couple of tips to get you writing and editing when you are at your most creative. These small tips should help you to produce your best work and give you a boost in readership for you blog or site.

If you find this article helpful, let me know. Leave some feedback in the comment area

photo credit: lism

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RSS? What is that? RSS explained

Are you curious as to what to do with an RSS feed or don’t know what it is?. I can see where it could be confusing when first looked at by those who are not technology gurus. So here I am, to talk a little bit about RSS feeds. What they are and what they are there for.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. What it does is provide a content feed of all the new articles posted on a website. Imagine you enjoy reading 20-30 websites or more regularly. Enough so that you have them all bookmarked. Doesn’t it just take forever to go through all of them to see what is new? Isn’t it even worse when you go there and there isn’t anything new at all? I know for myself, I simply don’t have the time to spend checking a ton of sites on a daily basis. This is where RSS feeds come in handy.

There are many ways to subscribe to RSS feeds. Many email programs offer the capability (this is what I use). It’s really convenient since I simply check up on new content on websites I subscribe to at the same time as when I check my email. I’m lucky enough that all the websites I subscribe to offer full content RSS feeds. That means I can read the entire article right from my mail client. I only need to visit the website if I wish to make a comment on what I just read, and even the link to the full article is located in the feed, saving even more time. Sometimes RSS feeds only send partial content, requiring you to have to click a link to send you to the website to read the full article. Not my preferred method, but I’ve subscribed to feeds in the past that are like this. Usually the partial text carries enough information to help me decide if I want to finish reading or not.

There are also sites that you can go to and put all your RSS feeds and they will put them all in one easy location for viewing/reading. One example is Google Reader. There you have a portal that you can add addresses to RSS feeds to all the websites you want to subscribe to. Google even offers you a bookmark that can do it automatically for you when you are already on a website that you would like to subscribe to. Simply click on the bookmark and the RSS feed is automatically added to your Google Reader page. Then you only have to check one place. Google will automatically check all your subscriptions and show you anything that is new that you haven’t read.

As you can see, you can’t really go wrong with RSS feeds. They offer a convenient and quick way to help stay updated with new content on your favorite websites.

Shameless plug: Did this article inspire you to subscribe to this site? On the right side of the navigation bar at the top of the page, the orange icon has the link to the RSS feed for this site.

photo credit: pandemi

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How to program your Arduino Uno with an AVRISP mkII

Have an AVRISP mkII that you want to use to program your Arduino Uno and still use the Arduino IDE? Well this post will show you how.This post assumes you have an Arduino Uno, running Windows XP, and have the latest IDE software (version 0022 as of this post).

The main reason I wanted to go this route was because of the start up lag. The lag is used by the Arduino IDE when you program via USB. The Arduino IDE will reset your Uno which fires up the bootloader to check for a new incoming program. This half a second or so lag will always be there on start-up and I wanted to get rid of it. Another draw back is that if you have stuff connected to the pins that is used for the serial communications, you could get erroneous data as those pins are checking for incoming serial data.

This procedure is rather simple. All you need to do is modify the boards.txt file. Boards.txt should be located in the Arduino folder. Hardware > Arduino > Boards.txt

Add this code in there and then save it after:

############################################################## Uno w/ AVR ISP MKii

Now fire up the Arduino IDE and you’ll notice a new option available under Tools > Board. It’s called Arduino Uno w/ AVR ISP MKii. That’s pretty much it! Make sure you that option selected before you hit the upload button.

Note 1: If you have any issues with the speed and time of the programs, use the AVRISP to burn a fresh bootloader for your Arduino Uno and then try again. Burning the bootloader will set the internal fuses on the ATMEGA328 so that it works correctly on the board.

Note 2: If you have issues with it not responding to the AVRISP then you may have issues with the driver. A driver comes with the IDE download called libusb. When trying to update the driver, it is located in the Arduino folder. Hardware > Tools > avr > utils > libusb > bin.

Any other questions or problems? Leave me a comment and I’ll responds as soon as possible to help you out.

UPDATE 1/18/2012:

The Arduino has been updated to 1.0 and this work around is no longer needed. If your are using the new 1.0 IDE, then check out the new way to program your Arduino with an AVRISP mkII.

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