Last Good Quote: Son's are the seasoning on our lives. - Someone on Facebook

Tuesday, December 29

Setting up Development Environments

I'm all about instant gratification. I get this kewl idea for a game. I wanna get started on coding. I wanna see something up and running in an hour. I want to have a functioning prototype in the following day or two. I wanna do it and I wanna see results NOW!

*sigh* The details always seem to get in the way. If you are a game developer and have done more than two games, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Before I can get one lick of code written I have to setup a "playground" for myself. Generally this involves the following:

  • Create a web directory (root, images, js, include folders)
  • Create a database
  • Ensure connection to the database
  • Create a login page
  • Create a registration page
  • Create a shell template
Maybe it's just me, but I find all this stuff ... boring. I'm interested in alternatives that folks might have, but this is what I do right now.

I have a copy of XAMP (Apache, PHP, mySQL for windows). It all exists in one directory.

In the root directory I have a template folder which has a login, register and basic template. I copy this folder when ever I start a new idea.

In the mySQL folder, there is a template database (user tables mostly), I copy this folder to create the database folders. This creates my databases.

I then edit the config file to connect to the correct database, this usually gets me off and running.

This usually takes me about 30 min to do, which I'm really kewl with as it gets me off to the races quicker. But I sure wish it took me 30 seconds. *grin*

So, to all my developers out there, how do you setup your development environment and how long does it take you?

Monday, December 21

5 Steps to Good Virus Protection

"You're protected from viruses, right?" I ask my friend.

I watch the always dependable reaction. Eye shift, foot shuffle, then a wincing "I think...I mean I have Norton on my desktop". Usually followed by a sheepish grin.

My friends, like most average users, know that they should have virus protection, but it's ... difficult to make sure you have the right thing installed. In hopes of making it easy here are some quick tips.

My rule about Anti-virus software: It should be invisible, until I have a problem. If this ain't true then I've got the wrong software package.

Step 1: - Go to the site, click on home version, click on trial and download it. It expires in 30 days, but we will discuss this later. DO NOT INSTALL YET.

Step 2:
Remove any anti-virus software that you might already have installed. Click the Start button, Goto to Control Panel, Add Remove Programs, Uninstall your old anti-virus.

This is an important step as multiple anti-viruses will slow your machine as well as cause one another to fail.

Step 3:
Now install AVG. Just follow the prompts, its relatively painless. You DO NOT have to INSTALL any toolbars. (Unless you want them)

Step 4:
When your done installing, click on the AVG icon in your start tray. (The area down by the time and date).
  • Click on Scans
  • Create a scheduled scan
  • It should scan once a week
  • It should scan all drives
  • Let it start at 12:00 Noon
  • If it misses a scan, start a new scan the next time the machine boots.
Step 5:
Whenever you login, check for the AVG icon in your start tray. If you don't see it you have a problem.

That's it! It's not difficult! The only time I see AVG is when I have a virus. It automatically checks all files I save, anything I download and it even checks web links before I click them. It's cool, in a geeky sorta way.

Trial Period
Oddly enough, my 30 day trial expired, but this means that when a virus is detected, I get an offer to buy the product but it still cleans and scans my machine. I encourage you to upgrade and buy the full package. Matter of fact, I'm going to buy the software today.

At times you might get a popup/message that it's time to update your virus protection. Do it, it will take 15 min and run in the background. You should be aware that AVG will daily download minor updates for itself. However this will happen without you being aware of it. The bigger updates typically mean something special happened. These are the ones you will receive an alert on.

Other Antivirus Packages
There are a number of anti-virus packages out there. All are pretty good, so feel free to try them. Just try them one at a time. I recommend AVG as it's NOT well known. Which means hackers are not specifically targeting their system. It's a small advantage, but "life's a game of inches."

Malware - Antivirus Impersonators
This sounds counter intuitive, but be very careful of any popup message saying you have a virus There are a number of hacks that impersonate your anti-virus software. They look very close to the real thing! If your suspicious of something, just cancel out and click on your AVG icon (in the start tray). It will let you know if there is a problem.

If you get one of these malware viruses that LOOK like a anti-virus software, seek a professional. These viruses tend to get out of hand very quickly!!!

Finally, I would challenge my friend Mr. Clark over at Clark Thought Leadership to write his own blog entry on this topic. He specializes in IT and PC Security.

So tell me what Anti-Virus do you use, and does it work for you?

Wednesday, December 16

What is a Server?

As a Business Analyst, part of my job is translating technical terms to non-technical folks. The trick is to do it as simply as possible.

So, What is a Server?

A server is a computer that sends and receives data to and from other machines.

A server can send and receive a lot of different types of data. But in some cases the server only handles a certain type of data. Some examples:
  • Web Server - Sends web pages
  • Media Server - Sends images, videos and mpgs
  • Print Server - Sends print jobs
  • File Server - Sends any type of file
And the list goes on. Now sometimes one physical computer will have multiple types of servers on it. This is cost effective and a lot of businesses do it. Microsoft even markets a product around it. The"Small Business Server" product does pretty much all of the above.

The most familiar server you will run into is a web server, you will need one of these to have a website. While it's the most familiar, I believe the most popular server is a file server.

What technical topics would you like to see covered next?

Sunday, December 13

Possible BDPA-Charlotte Header

Julius is putting in some hard work over at I thought I'd take a quick break and throw something his way.

Click to get full view.

Any ideas on how to make this logo/header better? Too dark?

Friday, December 11

What Your Signature is Telling Me

Take a blank piece of unlined paper.

Now quickly sign your full name as you would if you had to sign a check.

Now write a sentence in cursive. Any sentence will do but for you anal retentive folks try this one: "Today is going to be a great day.".

OK...go do it...really, this is going to be interesting.

Did you do it?


OK, look at your two writings:

What direction are your letters sloping?

  • Backward - You are a reserved person, the more slanted the more reserved you are. Typically you will hide your feelings rather than express yourself. This is because you wish to be true to yourself.
  • Forward - You have no problems communicating and often times will go out of the way to do so.
  • Straight Up and Down - You tend to be removed from the world, aloft.
How large do you write?
  • Large - Either you are very outgoing, or you tend to hide yourself behind big bold actions.
  • Small - Small letters reflect a thinking mind
  • Normal - Well, you are normal
Note: If the writing looks "delicate" your likely not to communicate well, but are a deep thinker.

How much space is between the letters of your words?
  • Very close together - You are a social butterfly, you love interactions and may even be the life of the party.
  • Normal Spacing - You are shy, don't create a lot of connections maybe due to high moral values.
  • Further apart - You act swiftly and decisively, sometimes without thinking
How much space is between the words?

  • A lot - You tend to resist the influence of outside voices and your own emotions. You like to come to a logic conclusion when searching for an answer.
  • Small Spaces - You like to be in the midst of a conversation, one may consider you a busy body.
  • No spaces - Your quick like fire, easily moved,swift response, almost impatient with the self confident and ego to go with it. You might find yourself taking over conversations quite easily.
Does what you wrote tilt?

  • Tilting Up - Your an optimistic person
  • Tilting Down - Your a pessimistic person
  • No Tilt - Your pretty balanced

In General

Looking at the middle section of your writing, this would be the space where most of the word exists. The size of this area indicates your self image. The larger this area is in relation to the entire word the greater your self image. This is especially true if the area is very small.

In general the further your letters go from the middle area the more ambitious and out spoken you are. You can especially see this when looking at the letters Y, P, G, F, S.

A person who continually "flourishes" their F, G, or S can be said to be an especially outgoing and emotional person.

Look for how high the tops of your letters go, those that require you to go into the capitalization part of a letter. The higher the letters go the more this person focuses on the realities of life. This could be monetary, power or friendship. The higher the flourish the more drawn this person is to those things.

Look for how low the person goes under. Every sentence has a base line which can be drawn under it. The depth of the letters under this line, such as the bottom of the letter g, show how deeply the person dwells on their inner thoughts. This would indicate an avid reader or knowledge gather. Someone who has no problems thinking and being by themselves with nothing in particular to do. Pen strokes under the line also signify a person in touch with thier natual instincts. The more strokes the more instinctual this person may be.

Most interesting, someone who goes deep under the line and has large fat loops has an active and eager sexual drive. For those single fella's out there, ask the lady to sign her name as well as her number next time.

For those whose writing shows few flourishes, big swoops, broad strokes, dashes, etc. This person is usually one who comes to a task with much concentration. They will tackle a problem very directly and, in almost a bull dog fashion, not move on until the problem is solved.

Seeing a lot of carefully dotted i's and crossed t's? This indicates that you are a solid person. Once a path, decision or selection is made. More often than not, you will not have your mind changed. This is especially true if the dot above you i's are exactly in the right place.

Now, I hope that none of you exhibit this, but if you do...ummm, I wish you well. Pull back from your writing...try to draw a line under your sentence, if the line ends up very crooked and the crook or joint in the line is in the middle of a word. Odds are you have some mental problems. (or your drunk, try again later) Crooked lines and flourishes the counteract one another are typically found in the more deranged folks in our society.

What's the difference in your Signature and your Sentence?

This is one of the more gray areas of handwriting analysis. One theory is that your signature represents your self image and your sentenace represents your true image.

My personal theory is that your full signature (last name included) reflects your true personality. Your Sentence reflects how you feel at that particular moment.

I've done this on myself a number of times and I get different results in my Sentenance all the time and usually it is because of different moods that I am in at that particular moment. My signature is pretty stable.

In Conclusion
The study of handwriting is called "Graphology". I am no expert on this, just something I've learned and enjoy using over the years.

All of the above is theory and conjecture and may not necessary represent you.

For those that might like more:

Monday, December 7

5 Ways to Estimate the Cost to Build a Website

I had a friend come to me the other day. He had a web proposal in his hand. As soon as he gave it to me, I knew the next two questions.
Is it a fair price?
How much would you charge for it?
Now to be clear, I know how to develop a pretty decent website. But I do not do it for a living. I do it if the idea strikes me as particularly interesting. Or I do it as a favor for a friend. Less and Less do I do it as the later, it tends to sour the friendship, which I value more than the money.

So I thought I'd give you a few points that I use to "smell test" a proposal or create an estimate.

1: What pages are going to be built?

Look at the site map, if there is none...ignore any quotes, hours or estimates...go make one and come back and try again. The developer has to understand the scope of what you need built. Real Estate agents need to know how many rooms and bathrooms you want in your house. Web developers need to know how many pages and what concepts are on those pages.

2: What's the hourly rate
There is no particular right answer for this one. However the rate will usually indicate the type of work that will be turned out. Less then $25 an hour, your going to get a pretty basic site. More than $50, your going to get a pretty good site. I've seen rates as low as $10/hr and ones as high as $200/hr. More often then not, they came out as the price would indicate. Note: There will be exceptions to this rule!

3: Do you need artwork?
Is the developer providing the artwork? Are you ok with this? A lot of folks don't understand that the art of a website and the workings of a website take two different mindsets. Art can consists of 40% or more of the cost of the project. Personally, I do "ok" artwork. If someone wants the best of the best I refer them to You decide on a price and you get the best artwork possible for that price. Either way art can be a big part of the cost.

4: Cost of the Template
The first thing I calculate is the template. This is how the site would look with no real content. Almost like a mockup. By default a template takes about 1 full work days to make. Add 2 days if I have to make the artwork. So it's either 8 or 24 hours depending on the art.

5: Cost of each Page
This one is a bit harder for the novice but think on it. Take each page, would you consider it "basic"? Meaning nothing is personalized for a visitor to the page and content is updated very rarely. This type of page would take 4 hours. Wanting any of the following adds about 4 to 8 hours a page.
  • Personalized
  • Change the content daily
  • Ads
  • Photo book
  • Selling a product*
When in doubt...I just do 8 hours for the full page.

In summary

So there you have it, this would be how I gauge a websites cost. An example:

Contact us
-- Online Book
-- Special Gadget
8 hours for template
16 hours for 4 basic pages
16 hours for 2 product pages
40 hours x $50/hr

I usually advise the client that the estimate will go up or down 20% as we work through the details. I then follow through and update them as changes happen.

Apps, Programs and Special Features
If you want a web application (calendars, wiki, blogs, to-do list, etc) or special things that the user can do on your site, I will tactfully direct the person to find something that exists on the web already and pay their fee. In all reality building those things from scratch will cost more than they are willing to pay. If they insist, then I usually will do a different quote as those things tend to take a lot of time (money).

A lot of folks want to sell something on their website. The easiest method that I have used is paypal. Normally it takes about 10 hours to integrate this into a site. There are a number of alternatives to paypal. There are also a number of sites that allow you to sell on the web without having to go through a web developer. If you just want to sell online, I'd advise you to research this. (

Build a site for $400
Sometimes you'll run across things were someone is building sites at $400 a pop. Or $50/page or some type of special that really makes things cheap. Two pieces of advice. First, this is usually someone who is just starting a business and wants to get as many new customers as possible. They may develop quality sites, they may not. Second, you get what you paid for. Go look at there past work, or ask them for a sample. If you are looking for a basic/cheap site, this route is the best way to go. If you want/need to look very professional, you may want to avoid these deals.

Accuracy of Estimates
Well, they ain't called estimates for nothing. As web development goes very rarely will a developer "lock" their cost to build a website. This is because you, the client, never knows what you like until I, the developer, have built it. I tell folks my estimates have an 80% accuracy. That can be a $400 swing on a $2,000 project. It seems to surprise a lot of folks.

The one thing you can do to increase the accuracy is present your vision as accurately as possible. I would hazard a guess that even a mockup drawn on paper can increase the estimation accuracy by about 50%. The better the mockup the smoother the project is going to go and the better the estimate. As a developer, I kiss your feet if you come to me with a site map AND a mockup. You're not doing my work for me, you are letting me know exactly how I can exceed your expectation!

Finally...Estimation is an art, which I am by no means an expert at!!!