Updating the platform

Recent visitors should note the removal of advertising – I have upgraded to a paid account here. This site is now accessible via several methods:

  • custom domain: avoiceinthewoods.com
  • redirect: blog.woodall.com
  • direct: woodallrvcc.wordpress.com

This will be my first ever domain with “domain privacy” enabled – I’ll see if that actually does anything to slow the spammers.

More posts coming soon.

Reading instructions…

There’s just two more sessions left this term for my “Internet & Web Architecture” class (tonight, and next Friday night).

The class has a weird name. I preferred calling it “Introduction to Systems Administration” or perhaps “Basics of Internet Infrastructure” but when you’re the adjunct (part-timer) and the PhD wants another title… you go with what the PhD wants.

Either way, the basis of the class is to teach the bits and pieces most classes ignore – setting up servers, virtualization chores, DNS, registering domains… and introduces students to a real-world issue: keeping track of credentials.

It’s this last bit which causes the problems… that, and that no one seems to want to read instructions.

Well, guess what. I’d rather not read them, either. Except I know what happens when you don’t read the instructions – it blows up in your face, and then you have to go and start all over again, and this time, read the instructions.

So reading instructions first turns out to save time.

But just try getting students to understand that…

Revising the photo website

Since March of 2005 I’ve had the photo collection on a service called SmugMug; accessible either as http://www.woodallphotography.com or wpw.smugmug.com.

When I signed up all those years ago, the choice was hobbyist or professional; I took the professional choice, registered a domain, pointed it to the site, and started uploading photos. The fee was reasonable I thought for unlimited storage with video and commerce options. Prices have gone up a couple of times, but as an early-adopter I got something of a discount. And there it stood for quite some time.

A few weeks ago SmugMug decided that simply being a photo-hosting site wasn’t enough; they had to start bringing politics into the realm. As I can’t figure out how photos of old buildings, railroads, birds and landscapes create a political view I stay away from that, but it caused me to reevaluate the situation.

Running some comparisons, it is clear that for an advanced hobbyist with little need for ‘event-oriented commerce’ (aka wedding photography), while SmugMug continues as the best-available photo hosting service, I no longer need the extensive commerce features (most of my sales are either digital licensing or largish fine-art prints). So going forward, the photos will stay hosted on SmugMug, but the commerce fulfillment will move elsewhere. On an ongoing basis, it saves $140/year in hosting fees.

 

A word on doing work for “exposure:”

NO.

That’s it, just say NO.

If the work is sufficiently complex to require special skills (yours) then it’s of sufficient value to the client to get paid.

I recently went through this dance. A prospect got in touch via email (referral from various sources), then we did some phone tag, several conference calls, a ream or more of additional email, and then a meeting was arranged.

For me, it was a two-hour drive early in the morning (I’m a night owl) to a breakfast meeting in a diner. Got there, and things started downhill almost immediately. The client principal wasn’t in attendance even though she would have to approve any ‘deal.’ The talk quickly turned to my doing this for ‘exposure’ (sorry, No); then well “you do the design and if we like the design then you can bid on the job and if you’re the winner you get paid after the job is all done.”

NO.

Not playing that game… time to leave. They wanted a ‘ball-park’ figure; I gave them one, and then added that it would of necessity be much higher should they return in a few months – disgruntled people are much more difficult clients. When they told me it wasn’t likely, I wished them success – with all those other consultants they’d tracked down for this sort of work.

My exit was made in silence, at least from that group. I expect they’ll be back, and my answer will, for them, always be NO.

End result – I think I’m going to have to start charging for prospect meetings, especially if the prospect isn’t used to dealing with custom software.

Having something to say..

Listening in the classrooms, it’s easy to hear the same old lament: the hard plight of the student, never appreciated for his/her own creativity, forced into the same ruts as followed by untold others.

Funny it is, then, when a class requires the student to create, to expound, to communicate, and the student turns to the professor and asks “But what shall I write?”

It’s difficult to create; far more so than it appears on the outside, especially when faced with a deadline. Performing on schedule requires discipline… and interests forged beyond the confines of social media or the platitudes of the textbook.

Phish story

Boy howdy this one was good… but not quite good enough.

The back story – I am teaching a class on Content Management Systems. To help support the class, I registered several domains using the course name and number… cisy222.net, .us, .org, .com.

Getting ready for the class I went ahead and configured a multisite WordPress installation on cisy222.net (hosted here on the spareparts box). After deciding to use siteground.com as the freeware hosting supplier for the course (they offer 3 months’ free service for students) I then moved cisy222.us over to siteground.

In order to move the domain over to siteground, I had to change the authoritative nameservers to siteground (common limitation on low-end hosting), and that generated a routine alert message from the registrar.

So far, so good.

Then came the phish, a day later. Disguised as a status alert message from the registrar, this suggested that the nameservers were being changed for a different (but related) domain: cisy222.net. Yikes! So I went and signed in to the registrar (not using the convenient link in the email) and everything looked fine.

So I went back and studied the email a bit.

It was a phish.

But well-executed, Russian in origin, reasonably convincing, and I could see it being successful in many cases.

Don’t ever ever EVER click the link in an email without careful study first.