Category Archives: Internet

Speed Up Twitter On Android 

I’ve been using Twitter on my Android phone and noticed that over a period of days or weeks it slows to a crawl. A simple way to kick Twitter back into high gear is to exit Twitter and just delete all of its data, and then restart Twitter.

On my Android 5 phone, I go to Settings, Applications, Application Manager, and scroll down to Twitter, then press the Clear Data button. You’ll be asked to confirm. Click CLEAR – you do wish to clear all data.

Exit Settings and Restart Twitter. It should find your profile and download your tweets. Now it should be faster.

Try this at your own risk. It works for me, but your mileage may vary. 

Who and what visits government websites?

Have a look at analytics.usa.gov. You’ll see statistics for the aggregate of most federal government websites: Number of Visits, Top Pages and Domains, Visitor Locations, Top Downloads, Devices, Browsers, and Operating Systems.

Thanks to Steve Gibson of grc.com.

WordPress adds encryption

letsencrypt-logo-horizontalI notice that this blog now by default provides its content to visitors in encrypted form, using the HTTPS [Hyper Text Transfer Protocol over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)] protocol. This is great news. I congratulate WordPress.com. They’ve used the new Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority, which removes the relatively high cost barrier of encrypting websites.

A big “thank you” to both WordPress.com and Let’s Encrypt.

Hillary’s I.T. guy

image

Bryan Pagliano, the I.T. specialist who apparently was paid by Hillary Clinton to set up her email server, has been granted immunity from prosecution by the Department of Justice. A lawyer friend tells me that this means that a grand jury is reviewing evidence and that Mr. Pagliano will be testifying as the Department of Justice prosecutes someone. Is that Hillary Clinton? Probably. Maybe others.

imageit seems that the DOJ had a strong case against Mr. Pagliano for multiple counts of conspiracy to violate federal records preservation regulations and the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), as well as restrictions on “moonlighting” while employed by the State Department. To avoid prosecution, he struck a deal. Now he’s the DOJ’s witness against whomever.

I don’t yet know the details of either Hillary’s private mail server or that of the State Department, but it seems likely that Hillary may have given Mr. Pagliano her login credentials. My guess is that this is a serious violation of State Department regulations.

Reportedly the FBI has two teams of investigators looking into Mrs. Clinton’s private mail server and the Clinton Foundation’s quid pro quo arrangements with Mrs. Clinton while she was Secretary of State. It’s rumored that the FBI will recommend that criminal charges of violating the Espionage Act be brought against her.

In view of the number of disappearances of witnesses in the Clintons’ past, I hope that Mr. Pagliano has a full-time bodyguard. I want to hear his story.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

When I first investigated WordPress, I was confused by the differences and similarities between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  If you’re in the same boat, Sanj Sahayam’s article, 4 Reasons You Should Never Use WordPress.com (And 4 Reasons You Should) clearly explains the tradeoffs between the two platforms.

By the way, this blog is currently hosted by WordPress.com.  I also host some clients’ websites using WordPress on Linux servers.  WordPress is remarkably versatile.

Make VoIP work on your LAN

I have a client with a local area network with about forty client PCs. A few months ago, a third-party phone vendor added an Elastix “PBX” phone server, as well as a new workgroup router. Elastix provides a graphic administrator interface to its underlying Asterix telephone private branch exchange (PBX). Elastix and Asterix run on a Linux server.

The client has complained that phone callers’ voices have been randomly distorting, incoming calls randomly terminating, and after ringing, desktop phones’ handsets randomly die. The phone vendor assured my client that the new router (an Asus RT-N66U) was not at fault, and suspected that the problems were caused by cabling problems or configuration problems with the Elastix server.

After months of frustration, the client asked me to have a look. I began with the workgroup router. I noticed that it was configured to use cut-through switching. (Asus calls this “NAT Acceleration”, which sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  NAT is Network Address Translation. The router apparently defaults to cut-through switching mode.) VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) uses UDP (User Datagram Protocol), rather than TCP/IP. UDP is used for streaming real time audio and video because of its low overhead and potentially reduced latency. It does, though, require that its underlying transport mechanism be rock solid.

Cut-through switching does NOT provide a rock solid transport mechanism! Cut-through switching is fast, but it can damage frames and forward previously damaged frames. The more conservative store and forward method ensures that all frames that traverse a switch remain undamaged. It also will not forward damaged frames. Result?  A cleaner network.

Onion layer 1

Troubleshooting system problems is like peeling an onion. You remove one layer at a time and look for changes.

For our first layer, I reconfigured the workgroup router so that it employed store and forward, rather than cut-through switching. Then I waited for user reports. Users reported that we’d fixed the distortion problem, but calls occasionally dropped and/or weren’t initiated.

Onion layer 2

Next, I activated the workgroup router’s QOS (Quality Of Service) feature. I assigned highest priority to all traffic in and out of all active ports on the Elastix server. Then I waited. Users reported that all phones now work as they should.

Problem solved.

Think before adding boxes

Adding boxes to networks often works with little tweaking. Eventually, though, services begin to fail and users complain of slow response, as traffic jams the network’s pipes. Eventually, someone must reduce unnecessary traffic, and assign priorities to different classes of network traffic. I recommend doing this before problems occur — not after.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Which countries host Internet bad guys?

I’m impressed by the effort to take down Internet bad guys at Project Honey Pot.  Website owners can use Project Honey Pot’s tools to redirect spammers and other misbehaving visitors who appear on a blacklist to a “honey pot” page.  There, continued bad behavior is logged and the naughty visitor receives more demerits that bury him or her deeper in the Project Honey Pot blacklist.

Website owners may choose how many days of good behavior a blacklisted IP address must exhibit before he or she is allowed to use the owner’s website. This allows dynamically assigned IP addresses who behave, to eventually be removed from the blacklist.

Here’s a summary of bad guys who have been trapped by Project Honey Pot, by country (as of 7 November, 2015):

Bad guys, by country
Bad guys, by country, as of 7 Nov, 2015
from Project Honey Pot

If you have a self-hosted WordPress website or blog, you can implement Project Honey Pot by using the http:BL WordPress Plugin plugin for WordPress. It’s easy to install, and works fine with WordPress v 4.3.1, even though it’s guaranteed to work through only v 3.3.2.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A tale of two e-commerce platforms

I’ve been developing a few websites with storefronts.  I used Nopcommerce three years ago, and it was impressive in many ways, but its poorly-defined technical support steered me elsewhere.

Two attractive e-commerce offerings with better-defined tech support are Volusion and SquareSpace.  Both offer mobile-responsive templates, and both products include hosting with tech support.

Volusion logoVolusion is more mature, potentially more flexible, and able to handle large volume needs. If you use it out of the box for online sales only, you may not need to write any code. If you need a physical store, you will need at least some HTML, CSS, and Javascript programming skills.  If your pages contain more than just simple paragraphs of text, you’ll need to write mobile-responsive code.  Volusion provides many options for every aspect of a business’s storefront, and its 24/7 telephone tech support is excellent.

Squarespace logoThe “drag and drop” SquareSpace templates allow a developer to quickly place a rudimentary SquareSpace site into production, but I don’t recommend it for sites of more than about twenty pages or a business with complex product inventory or special payment processing needs.  One could quickly roll-out a good-looking modest SquareSpace e-commerce site without writing one line of code.  Just don’t expect to easily expand this simple site into a large complex site, and your payment processing options are limited.  Unlike Volusion, SquareSpace does not seem to offer 24/7 tech support via telephone — only via email.

One beauty of both Volusion and SquareSpace is that you don’t need to host them.  Just pay a modest monthly hosting fee and let them keep your site on-line.  An attractive alternative to both is BigCommerce, but I have no personal experience with it.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Defend your WordPress site

WordPress can be a terrific website platform. However, its popularity and its open source nature make it a favorite target for attackers. Two real-time defenses:
WordPress logo

  • WordPress Simple Firewall plugin: detects bad behaviors by comment spammers, blacklisted clients. and brute force password crack attempts
  • http:BL WordPress plugin: redirects visitors who are on a public dynamic blacklist to a honeypot page, which is seeded with unique email addresses that can give away spammers.

One plugin that logs malicious activity:

  • SEO Redirection plugin: logs 404 (page not found) errors. Reviewing the log file allows an administrator to block future access of IP addresses that attempted to discover cracks in his or her firewall or execute administrative PHP scripts.Caveat: Use care to ensure that you don’t mistakenly block search engines’ spiders and other legitimate robots. (I’d erroneously blocked three IP addresses that are used by the GoogleBot spiders. That explains why the website suddenly disappeared from Google’s search results.  D’oh!)

I use and recommend all three of these WordPress plugins on self-hosted WordPress installations. They work. I’m amazed by the persistence of attackers on my WordPress sites. (Most attacks originate from Russia, Ukraine, China, Netherlands, Germany.)

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

One gbps: $105 per month

Smaller American municipalities are attracting businesses by offering economical broadband service. In 2010, Salisbury, North Carolina began offering broadband service to its residents and business customers. The city created a wholly owned utility named Fibrant. Fibrant’s FAQ page explains:

Q: How did Fibrant get started?
A: The City Council of Salisbury, NC was unhappy with the lack of broadband service provided by incumbent networks. They invested in building Fibrant as a municipal utility to encourage economic development, increase competitive opportunities for our existing businesses and to provide citizens globally competitive access to the world.

Salisbury, North Carolina served by Fibrant broadband

Fibrant’s latest pricing is enticing:

  • Ten gbps (gigabits per second) symmetrical service: $410 per month for business and residential customers
  • One gbps symmetrical service: $105 per month for business and residential customers
  • 50 Mbps (Megabits per second) symmetrical service for $45 per month

These are fantastic prices for smokin’ fast broadband service. The incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have lobbied some state legislatures to prevent municipalities from undertaking broadband service provision. Salisbury residents are lucky. This article describes North Carolina’s ill-advised municipal broadband restrictions:

Those clamoring for fiber broadband speeds under the state’s anti-community broadband law will have to move to one of a handful of grandfathered communities in North Carolina where forward-thinking leaders actually built the fiber networks private companies are still only talking about.

I congratulate Salisbury’s city council. Fast broadband attracts business. Watch Salisbury grow. This Salisbury Post article mentions business opportunities.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Lady MacClinton’s emails

Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
The new improved Clinton lie:

I did not have textual relations with that server.

Yesterday, the FBI took possession of Hillary Clinton’s private mail server. It provided mail services for the clintonemail.com domain. She, using the hdr22@clintonemail.com mailbox, apparently used it for official email while she was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. This is a violation of US federal regulations on preservation of government records.

Hillary ClintonIt’s clear that Hillary set up this server specifically to circumvent these regulations. While Secretary of State she set up a tollbooth which collected payments from business and government leaders in exchange for favors from her department and friends. The payments were deposited in the Clinton Foundation slush fund. Of course she didn’t want records kept in the federal archive.

I don’t know the details of this server. Microsoft Exchange is popular, but a pain to configure and maintain. A Linux-based mailserver is also a pain to configure but requires less maintenance. In either case outside I.T. support is required. That party will have worthwhile information.

Server contents

In March, Hillary claimed,

The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private.

Her dopey husband accidentally contradicted her twice when he denied ever sending any emails to anyone, ever.

Unencrypted classified emails?

You've got mailApparently her clintonemail.com server had no authentication certificate for its first three months of operation. This means that all traffic in and out of that server would have been unencrypted. Chances are good that the Chinese, Russian, or Ukraine government read some of those emails.

I’m curious to see what’s on the server’s backup system’s archived media.

Lady MacClinton’s been skating on thin legal ice for years. Maybe this time she’ll not skate away.

Details: The Spy Satellite Secrets in Hillary’s Emails

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

One-man scan

Tom Tryniski has an unusual hobby. Since 1999, he’s been scanning in old newspapers, converting the scanned images to ASCII text, and indexing that text. According to Wikipedia, “As of September 2014, the site has over 28 million newspaper pages.” Tom has done this all by himself.

Tom’s website home page opens with a brief animated movie (a website design no-no), but his site’s wealth of data is worth the delay. Its search function is excellent. I was able to quickly find decades-old information about old friends from New York state.

The website: fultonhistory.com

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

I have returned.

I’ve finished moving clients from various older website platforms to modern mobile-responsive website platforms. Now I need to finish moving my own website from its ancient foundation.

I’m moving my website (http://russbellew.com from Microsoft Office 365 hosting to a self-hosted WordPress platform. It will have all the mod cons, including mobile-friendliness. Once that’s settled, I plan to move this blog (rbellew.wordpress.com) to the new website. It’ll be more functional and free of advertising. I will move blog subscribers to the new platform. I hope to have my new website online within a month, and will move this blog about a month later.

The news has been full of stories that involve misuse and mismanagement of personal data by government and private sector entities. Let’s discuss this soon.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google’s mobile-friendliness

website-mobile-friendly 480w

April 21 was the date that Google set for roll-out of their algorithm that was to deprecate websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. So far, I haven’t noticed any change in search results.

I’ve been busy. I’ve rebuilt three clients’ sites, and am finishing a fourth client’s site. Then I’ll rebuild my own website.

As usual, I’ve found that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I built two of the smaller sites using Squarespace. For these last two, larger sites, I’m using self-served WordPress platforms.

I’ve gotta get back to work.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

It’s time to update websites

Until recently, I’ve regarded websites that are mobile responsive as desirable, but not essential. Around last November, Google began adding the phrase “mobile-friendly” to search results for websites that are mobile responsive.

is your website mobile friendly 200wLast month Google announced that on April 21, they’ll update their search algorithm. It’s expected to reward mobile responsive websites with  higher search result rankings.

I’ve been busy updating clients’ websites to make them mobile responsive. This has meant moving them to new platforms. I’ve moved small websites to Squarespace without too much pain, but I’ve learned that Squarespace doesn’t allow navigation menu nesting deeper than two levels, which disqualifies it for websites of more than a couple dozen pages. I’m working with a few mobile responsive themes on WordPress; it’s probably the route I’ll follow for my own website.

As usual, I’ve learned (again) that there is no single perfect answer. We just have to work around flaws and hide the blemishes.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

FCC’s Tom Wheeler proposes Title 2

Tom_Wheeler_FCCLast week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler — who has deep roots in the cable TV and wireless phone industries — proposed a surprise: broadband carriers, both wired and wireless, should be regulated as common carriers under title 2 of the Telecommunications Act so that they provide uniform broadband service to all consumers. In addition, the FCC proposed that the definition of broadband should be upgraded to 25 Mbps. (It has been 4 Mbps.) Consumers will benefit from these actions.

As a compensatory gift to the cable TV companies, Mr. Wheeler proposes that there should be no last mile (the distribution cable from the carrier’s central office to the customer premise) unbundling. (The phone companies were ordered years ago to unbundle their last mile — that’s what allows companies such as DSL Extreme to offer low cost DSL service over the local carrier’s twisted pair.) AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast spend tons of money on lobbyists. They’ll expect to receive favors from Congress in return for their largesse, so Mr. Wheeler’s proposal will be in for rough sledding when it hits Congress.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A few words about eBay

loudspeaker imageI listened to an informative 22-minute audio clip titled Going Going Gone by James Surowiecki and published by Wired magazine in 2011. Mr. Surowiecki discusses the rise and fall of auctions on eBay and claims that consumer behavior and expectations have radically changed as a result of the web, eBay, Google, and Amazon. eBay auctions grew like mad through about 2007, then began to lose steam. Auctions comprised only 30 percent of eBay sales in 2010.

eBay logo in crosshairsI think that one flaw in the eBay auction model is that the time that an auction ends is preset. A real world auction ends only when bidding stops. The eBay auction model encourages “sniping” — waiting until the last second before placing a bid. (I use eSnipe. It works well. Why put your cards on the table early?) Sniping discourages new eBay bidders.

The growth of Amazon Marketplace has hurt eBay. So has Google: shoppers use Google to easily find even rare items across the web.

Like Craigslist, eBay’s failure to police its neighborhood has resulted in a chaotic marketplace. On the other hand, Amazon’s tight control of its sellers has created a relatively safe, stable marketplace.

If you’ve ever bought or sold on eBay, this is a worthwhile listen.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Volusion e-commerce platform

I’ve recently begun building a client’s e-commerce site using Volusion. It’s my first experience with Volusion. So far, I’m impressed. I’m using a free Volusion template, which I feared would be inflexible. In fact, Volusion provides the templates in editable HTML form, together with the site’s CSS (cascading style sheet), again in editable form. The code looks well-written, and even includes a few helpful comments. The tech support via an 800 phone number was excellent.

Volusion logoBy editing the template’s HTML and CSS code, within just a few hours, I was able to customize the site (originally designed strictly for online commerce) to also allow over-the-counter sales in a brick and mortar store.

Since Volusion uses ASP (active server page) files, I surmise that Volusion’s servers run on Microsoft Windows servers.

The next big step will be routinely populating the catalog with XML or CSV (comma separated variables) files from manufacturers and distributors. The import requirements of Volusion look pretty flexible. If the backend is as easy to work with as its front-end, we should be done much sooner than I expected.

As the jumper shouted as he fell past the fifth floor, “So far, so good!”

Update: I’m almost finished with adding mobile responsive code — a little JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Have a look, from both your PC and your phone: http://lauderdalecyclery.com.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Is radio and TV broadcasting doomed?

The FCC plans to meet with broadcasters with a view to recovering some radio frequency (RF) spectrum from them. Recovered spectrum would be auctioned to cellular wireless broadband Internet service providers.

From a spectral efficiency viewpoint, this could make sense. Today’s modulation methods conserve spectrum (compared to traditional AM and FM broadcast signals) and the cellular model allows many geographically separated users to independently share one frequency. The packet model leaves each channel available for others whenever data isn’t flowing. From a consumer’s point of view, it allows program content on demand, rather than only when the broadcaster airs the content.

I wonder how much longer the RF broadcast model will make sense?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

How to become a better writer

I’ve recommended Doris and Bertie’s Good Copy Bad Copy blog before as a source of good ideas for writers. Their 50 super-quick business writing tips article begins with,

Doris and Bertie logo1. Each time you sit down to write, remind yourself of this sobering fact: “nobody has to read this”.

continues through

5. Don’t follow “we’re different because…” with clichés about “adding value” and “innovative solutions”.

and winds down with

48. Ruthlessly delete everything that’s not important to your reader (even if it’s important to you or the person who briefed you).

I agree with these tips. Although Doris and Bertie target a business audience, these suggestions could have been written by George Orwell or Winston Churchill, who spoke clearly to everyone. These masters expressed candor, rationality, and resolve, and sprinkled in just enough humor to keep us coming back for more.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Websites 101

When I’m asked about creating a website for a business, I recommend that the owner first “buy” (it’s actually a lease) a domain from a domain registrar such as Network Solutions or Godaddy.  If the domain name is longer than ten characters, buy an abbreviated domain name as well.  You can point it to the full length domain;  it will be easier for visitors to type.

Think of your website as the hub of a hub-and-spoke system for your business.  Links on the spokes should point inward to your website. The more spokes, the stronger your website’s web presence will be. These spokes are called backlinks.

Your website should describe what you do and provide a phone number and alternative ways of reaching you.  Each page should contain your phone number.

SEO: Search Engine MarketingUnlike the movies, if you build it they will not come.  You have to drive visitors to your website. Create a big footprint on the web by ensuring that each web document that you create contains an inbound link to your website.

Install Google Analytics or Statcounter on your website so that you can count visitors and analyze their on-site behavior.

Where can I create “footprint” documents with inbound links?

  • answers.yahoo.com
  • youtube.com
  • Discussion forums for your industry
  • Directories: local, generic, and industry-specific
  • Google Plus. It’s becoming more business oriented each week.
  • Social networking sites
  • Blogs. You can create a free blog on WordPress.com, blogger.com, blogspot.com, and other hosts. Your blog’s home page and its articles should contain links to your website.
  • Article publishers. I like ezinearticles.com.  Write articles about your industry and create a link to your website in each block of information about its author.
  • Press release publishers. Write press releases about your business.  Each should contain a link to your website.

This is just an outline.  If you become obsessed with any one task, step back and make sure that you’ve paid attention to all “spokes” of your hub-and-spoke system.  If so, then they will come.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

President Obama endorses net neutrality

Yesterday, Reuters reported a piece of good news: Obama pressures FCC for strong net neutrality rules. They quote from Mr. Obama’s speech:

Simply put: No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gate keeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth.

I’m puzzled. If Mr. Obama favors net neutrality, why did he appoint cable TV and cellular phone industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler as FCC chairman last year? In May, predictably, FCC Chairman Wheeler Proposes Net Partiality, which he couched in terms of “net neutrality”. Curiouser and curiouser.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Taking Back the English Language

ListenI listened to KERA’s Krys Boyd interview author Steven Pinker about one of my favorite topics: plain English. Mr. Pinker authored The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. He claims that education often interferes with a person’s clarity. He refers to this wordy English dialect as academese, which is similar to corporate hack boilerplate.

Do you speak English?I agree. Most academic papers are terribly written, as is the text in many corporate websites.

Both dialects employ the passive voice and zombie nouns: nouns created from verbs. For example, instead of appearing, there is an appearance. Instead of cancelling, there is a cancellation.

Mr. Pinker closes with the “prime directive” of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style:

Omit needless words.