BenAnderson.net

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Troubleshooting DNS issues

by Benjamin Anderson 28. November 2008 06:36

A helpful online tool I found for troubleshooting DNS issues is http://www.intodns.com/

It has really helped a lot in figuring out some of the problems I’ve had over the last month since one of the nameservers for this site went down.

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Categories: webhosting | troubleshooting

Finding a .NET CMS

by Benjamin Anderson 8. March 2008 21:15

What’s available and what do I really need?


There are hundreds of Content Management Solutions out there, and a lot of them just blend in with each other.  I’ve been looking for a nice one that I could host for our wedding website, but in the process I’ve also been evaluating what is available from the perspective of providing services and solutions to clients and other customers.

I currently have Community Server up on our wedding website… It’s not anything like I’m looking for.  The theme controls are nice, and the blog and file management is descent, but as far as CMSs go, it is not a CMS.  It’s a blogging and forum solution, and is severely lacking is content management.  This shouldn’t be a big surprise since its name is Community Server, but it completely lacks the concept of a primary shared site area.  The pages are either part of a blog or part of a forum.  That just doesn’t suit the needs I have.  So, what are my needs?

Needs:

  • Simple enough that my fiancee can edit and update the pages any time she wants without my supervision or support.
  • Open Source
  • .NET based (it is hosted on a Windows server, which does not have PHP support)

Wants:

  • Easily themable
  • Large Community support
  • C# based (I just prefer to work in C#)
  • Easy theming system and customizations after applying a theme or skin

Solutions that I’ve found so far:

My review and input on these systems after the break.


 

Umbraco


Umbraco is one of the open source projects hosted on Codeplex, and has been my favorite to work with.  It doesn’t have a large community support quite yet, due to it’s age and to some technical limitations, but it does have a great theming system and modular plug-in and enhancement support. 

 

The backend, while taking a little time to get used to initially, is easy to use and simple enough that my fiancee wouldn’t have had any problems working with it to add content.  All components of the templates, pages and plug-in are easily modified and formated since they are heavily XHTML and CSS2.0 compliant.

So, what is the drawback?  It can’t be hosted on shared hosting unless your host configures the medium hosting security or used low or no security restrictions for their shared hosting accounts.  So, on Godaddy, where I have our site hosted, the CMS will not run correctly.  In fact, after getting it working after removing parts and disabling things, you can’t work in the CMS backend because one of the crucial components for the UI is one of the assemblies that cannot run within the medium hosting environment.  It’s really quite a bummer, especially considering there are several UI components that could be used and hosted on a medium setting shared host without any complication and still provide the same functionality.

 

DotNetNuke


One of the oldest and most widely used CMS and Portal systems.  DNN has been around for what seems like ages, and as a result it has a lot of user and community support.  Unfortunately there aren’t any great resources that are free that are all that dependable any more, at least that I could find.  I will admit I didn’t search as hard for support for DNN as I did for other CMS solutions simply because of my experience with DNN in the past.  I’ve used it, I’ve developed sights that use it, and I’ve heavily modified and enhanced DNN based sites before, and every experience left a very bad taste in my mouth.

 

It may have changed since the .NET 1.1 days of DNN, but with as large of a code base as DNN has, I seriously doubt it.  Despite my displeasure in doing so, I gave it a try since it is one of three .NET applications available through Godaddy’s software library.  It did not stay on very long.  I ended up replacing it with the final solution, which will be discussed at the very end.

Graffiti CMS


Graffiti CMS is another one I really enjoyed.  Unfortunately I came across it after I had already done all the work on the site for a specific solution. 

 

The system as a whole is very user friendly, and very easy to modify the themes.  It isn’t as easy as I’d like to create a new one from scratch though.  You have to import everything into the CMS so that it can convert the images into XML to save the theme.  But this is only a slight drawback during initial site design and redesign.

I probably would have gone with Graffiti had I found it earlier.  I will definitely keep it on my list for future projects.

Basic CMS


Too basic… Good for a start, but overall pretty much non-existent.  Does not provide a WYSIWYG interface and appears very crude in overall design.

 

 

Vine Type


This one looks interesting but ultimately I didn’t research it much due to the lack of information.

 

N2


N2 is another one I found to late in the game.  It looks very nice and provides plenty of features.  I’d probably use it.  The back end interface is very nicely done and would have worked perfectly for my needs.

 

Digimaker


Digimaker just didn’t groove with me.  Something about it turned me off to it from the very beginning.  I think it had a lot to do with the cluttered information pages.  Rather than being informative and inviting, it all appeared very deceiving and too commercial, if that can be a bad thing.  The page just felt like it was trying to sneak something in with the deal.

 

When I first investigated Digimaker, I did think it would work for my needs, if not for this project, but for future ones.  Aside from the project’s site, I don’t have anything negative to use to judge against this project.

Luigi Corrias’ CMS Project

 

This one looks like a good starter project if you want to build it from scratch and customize the project.  It already has several good feature, but still a very young project.

Cuyahoga-project.org

 

Cuyahoga is really a website framework.  It has a lot of components for a CMS, but you still have to craft, develop and design the sight.  This is another great project to follow if you are wanting to build custom applications and CMS solutions for customer or yourself.

JMDCMS


Another Codeplex project.  It has several great features, and looks like something worth watching.  At the time it wasn’t mature enough to meet the needs for this project, but it had enough merit to warrant being put of the watch list.

 

Beer House Starter Kit


One of the original starter kits for ASP.NET 2.0, Beer House, is a cross between a CMS and an e-commerce site, which is reality, most sites should be or will be.  It provides a great basis for learning and understand CMS and e-commerce work flows and design.

 

 

Final Solution?


My final solution due to time and all the complication I ran into was a re-skinned Screwturn Wiki.  Not a CMS.  This doesn’t meet my needs in two of the three primary areas, but it worked and I was able to get the site up in a skeleton state in a couple of days.  The wiki isn’t intuitive to edit for non-technical people.  A WYSIWYG interface would be much better, but it’s not difficult to pickup or use.  It wasn’t easily themable or skinable due to the complete lack of skins and support available in the community at the time.  This doesn’t mean it was difficult to modify.  As I stated, I went with this solution due to time constraints and ease of implementation.  Screwturn Wiki is also a great code base, and can easily be extended, enhanced and modified with very little time and effort. 

 

After the wedding though, I will use one of the other systems on the list, especially since I won’t be rushed to get the sight up.  The wedding site will remain up for a while and then I can take the needed time to properly implement a CMS system that my wife will be able to edit and change the more persistent data related to our lives that doesn’t really fit a blog format, since we already have a blog.

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Categories: Programming | webhosting | .NET | CMS

Fair Eagle taking over the world? ISPs being compromised or just cheap?

by Benjamin Anderson 12. June 2007 20:59

Updated July 25th, 2007

I've noticed something recently; there has been an overwhelming number of Fair Eagle ads showing up all over the place.  This occurs on my Mac and my PC and after investigating the issue further I've found that the ads are being appended to all .com domain HTML requests.  It appears that this is the result of a proof of concept from an advertising agency which will append the JavaScript for the advertising to every .com site's HTML.

The code is on every website from penny-arcade to apple.com, but it doesn't always show the ads.

image

This really frustrates me, and to an extent is a violation of our contracts with the ISPs.

It’s a possibility that the proof of concept uses an exploit for firewalls or other networking equipment, but I just feel violated.


I’ll post more when we find it.

Here is the JavaScript being appended to the HTML files:
<script language="JavaScript">
nebuad_c="P10025";
nebuad_d="00000046";
nebuad_u="3464188158";
nebuad_v="1.2";
nebuad_ts="1182529944";
nebuad_g="6286";
nebuad_p="aHR0cDovL3d3dy5tc24uY29tLw==";
</script>
<script language="JavaScript" src="http://a.faireagle.com/a?t=s&c=P10025&d=00000046&u=3464188158&v=1.2&ts=1182529944&g=6286&p=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5tc24uY29tLw=="></script>

 

Update: It turns out this a is a hardware solution for ISPs to make backend revenue.  Apparently the money you pay for their service isn’t enough.  This is the case for both personal and business customers of Redmoon in DFW.

More info can be found here:
http://jaiku.com/channel/twit/presence/4880265

Update 2: They have turned the ad injection off.  As to whether or not the hardware is still sitting on their network and sniffing out data, I don’t know, but the ads are gone.  Either way this has left a bad taste in my mouth and I plan to switch providers.

Update 3 (July 25th): The University of Washington security and privacy research group and ICSI have created a measurement infrastructure to help answer these questions. By visiting their web page, you are helping out with our experiment. http://vancouver.cs.washington.edu/

Update 4 (July 16, 2008): http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080715-congress-goes-after-nebuad-again.html

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Categories: mental dump | webhosting

Splitter Problems

by Benjamin Anderson 14. May 2007 17:02

Another problem I’ve found, which is already known by MS, but hasn’t been addressed, is that when a minimal panel size is set in a splitPanel, if the SplitterDistance is less that the minimal size, and exception is through.  This is fine, except the splitterDistance is set after the minimalPanelSize and the ClientSize, so the exception is thrown, even though the code generated by both the Designer and manually should work.

Follow the link for the work around:
http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=332395&SiteID=1

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Categories: .NET | Programming

Why should I...

by Benjamin Anderson 13. June 2006 02:07

This summer has already been quite an experience for me.  I’ve been out of Master’s for over a year, and I watched several of my friends graduate from their second year and move on to other areas of life.  I’m now one of the senior guys at work, though my title doesn’t reflect it, and I’m working on getting my own place.  It’s a lot of change, and yet it’s really all still the same.

Over the years while working with the young adults group at church, I’ve seen alot of things, people, and events come and go.  I’ve watched people storm out of the church, fall out of the church, hide from the church, been asked to leave to church, and others leave on good terms.  I’ve been through five name changes, four format changes and a boat load of leaders and regulars.  Our emphasis has always been on relationships, because as young adults that’s what matters more than the teachings, the events and the outreaches.  All of those things help build relationships, but the relationships and connections are what keep the people coming back.  Too many young adults are caught up in themselves so much that a growing relationship with God isn’t exactly possible without first coming into contact with others that are solely focused on their and other’s relationship with Christ.

There are times when I’m selfish and I sleep in on Sundays, and times with I have some much to do that I’m still gather things when everything is about to start, but there is never a time that I put anything else higher than building relationoships with other young adults.

This summer though has brought on a whole different perspective on connecting with young adults.  I’m not a partier, and I never have been, so this summer was my first time to ever attend a keg party, and this weekend was my first time to ever go to a club aside from business and convention events.  Both of these “opportunities” opened my eyes alot.  The party was hosted by an old friend from high school, and nearly everyone there was a complete stranger.  I knew four people there, and by the time I finally left there were at least 40 to 50 people there.  I hadn’t really talked any to those that I knew already since high school, but everyone at the party was very accepting.  It didn’t matter how laid back you were, how loud and roudy, or how dorky you were, everyone accepted you.  Whether it was real or not, I didn’t stay to find out, nor do I really care, because the reality of it is, it felt real.  The feeling wasn’t a result of alcohol, because I didn’t drink enough to even feel the slightest bit.

My first time in a club was a very similar experience, though my interaction with others never exceeded more than three words, I felt like everyone there accepted me.  I’m not a dancer, I’m not the most attractive, nor am I very bold and out going, but people treated me with respect when we came into contact, and I felt cool despite my short comings.

I wouldn’t ever advicate that someone should seek out clubs or parties for their acceptance, but I know that I haven’t felt or seen that kind of openess and acceptance from anyone in a church, ever.  That is something seriously wrong.  Now, I’m not saying that the churches I’ve attended are bad, or there is something horribly wrong with them, I’m saying that there is a void in the church’s atmosphere that is a very noticeble emptiness to anyone that doesn’t have Christ or has strayed too far away.  Without that emptiness that I know and feel being filled by Christ himself, I couldn’t stand to go to church myself.  And what I’m saying doesn’t apply to every christian group or organization, because some are so overwhelmingly accepting that it’s hard to tell that they are even Christian, not because they are immoral or deviant, but because their overwhelming acceptance is louder than their message about Christ.

It’s sad to say there there will never be a way to have it both ways, because it’s the message and the principles that make us who we are, but what are we really doing to give people a reason not to go the the clubs, bars and parties?  What do we offer someone that hasn’t heard the message already to even give them the slightest interest in who we are and what we do?

Your prayer meetings and bible studies aren’t going to get people to leave the clubs.  Your outreaches aren’t going to give people the confidence and medicate the problems they are facing, but the alcohol does.  You’re activites will never recieve the visitor like a party does while the members feel superior and can’t associate with someone that has problems.

God can reach these people. God can help them with their problems.  God can give them a perminent fix to their empty problem.  But he needs us so he can do the work.  What are we doing, how are we offering it, and why aren’t they accepting it?

Yes, I did get a high from my experience this weekend, and despite being sick, I felt great.  But I know that the affects that my experience had on me are very much temporary, and without a perminent and everylasting fix, the process would have to be repeated ever so often, with the ‘ever’ becoming shorting and the ‘often’ becoming the more frequent.

How is it so easy to get caught up in the temporary.  It’s so expensive and harmful, yet it is so effective… Why is it so hard for people to truly connect with God without going through Hell first?

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Categories: mental dump | ministry | rants

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About the author

Benjamin is a software developer in the DFW area.  He spends his free time playing video games, programming, doing graphics design and photography, and reading.

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