Context Menu. Context Problem.

For months I’ve been fighting with search options in the little bar that appears over text on the various Android devices I’ve been working with. When Microsoft came out with the Microsoft launcher and their next big blue E browser, Edge, for Android phones, I thought “why not check it out?” and let it install on my Nexus 5. I fiddled with it a few times and then forgot I let the Microsoft stuff install, and then the Nexus 5 power button broke and it went into a bootloop and I had to have it repaired, and then I had to have it replaced, and then I had to replace the replacement that wasn’t what I was sold…

So anyway. The Microsoft launcher is still on my current phone. I don’t mind it being there, but it is still there and something that it did is driving me nuts now. At some point after I changed phones the first time, the bar over selected text changed. It looks like this now.

Three searches. Three, and two of them are Bing searches, and they don’t say which ones are Bing. Now, I don’t mind the Big Blue E being on my phone. I don’t even mind the amusement of occasionally switching to the Microsoft launcher just to see what Microsoft thinks will sell me on coming back to their operating system on my phone (never mind that it is still at heart Unix/Linux/Android) but what I do object to is the Microsoft launcher and/or Edge changing my search options and not giving me a way to take out the searches that I’m never going to use.

Today I decided that I would humor the Son and I installed the Ecosia search app (it plants trees!) thinking that adding a search engine to the phone would at least allow me to alter the system parameters and I could finally get Bing out of my phone or at least off my search options, but still no dice. I can’t get at the search options in the pop up over a text selection.

So now it’s time to start searching for a solution to this problem. None of the search engines can figure out what I’m asking for. It isn’t a menu; at least, that word doesn’t produce useful search results. Using pop up or popup as a search term gets me results that offer to help me remove malware and unwanted popup advertising. It isn’t a bar. It isn’t a task.

I’m finally reduced to asking the various search engines

what is the thing called that appears over selected text in android

Google Bing DuckDuckGo Ecosia

None of them give me exactly what I want except Google. Google, who has been spying on my searches for the better part of twenty years and so knows me best. DuckDuckGo did offer me this article on Popular Science – 24 hidden Android settings you should know about which was interesting at least, if not what I wanted. Also? I have something hidden that needs adjusting. I don’t know what the name of that thing is, but that thing should have been on the list of things in an article that purports to tell me how to adjust things that are hidden. Quod erat demonstrandum. Clearly there should have been 25 hidden things to talk about.

However. This article,

Online Tech Tips

…offered up by Google, didn’t actually answer the question but it at least gave me the phrasecontext menu. Now I have a name for the thing I want to change. That makes the job easier. Well, I should say, it makes the search manageable. I don’t want to program a new menu so the article on Tutlane.com that is part of the explanation for what a context menu is, isn’t going to help me. But that article gave warning that maybe what I wanted to do wasn’t explained anywhere because it was going to require learning to program in order for me to do it. Using the search string,

“android context menu” change search

I came up with this hit on Reddit in which the solution they found for removing Bing from their context menu was to,

Found a Microsoft launcher that I was testing out a long time ago still installed.

Uninstalled

Resolved

Redditisfun

Pulling the Microsoft launcher from my device did alter the context menu in question. To completely get rid of Bing I have to remove Microsoft Edge too. That’s too bad. I was entertaining using the Microsoft launcher and possibly Edge as well. There isn’t much hazard in doing this now because they are no longer dominant and so no longer the prime targets. At least, not in the mobile computing realm they aren’t. Google and Chrome are the prime targets there. But I’m not willing to put up with Bing search in order to do any fiddling around with alternative launchers for an Android device. Microsoft shoots themselves in the foot once again by forcing me to use Bing as a search engine in the context menu. Context is key.

I don’t know that Reddit is fun, but I finally have to admit that Reddit is useful. So much for the article where I blame Reddit for destroying the Blogosphere. And it had such a good title too.

Save the OA?

A snapshot of my comment spam from today.

Spam Screencap

Among the still-present faux-spy messages there were four of these #SaveTheOA comments sequestered in the spam folder. I had to go look up what The OA was.

Netflix canceled The OA, a science-fiction melodrama with a small fan base so devout it’s bordering on a religious order. Cancellations are relatively rare at the streaming behemoth, so at first fans suspected that the kibosh was a PR stunt.

…After reality set in, fans began a campaign to reverse the decision, petitioning Netflix and plastering pleas on social media.

While the show’s future is uncertain, the intensity of its fan campaign has showcased how much the relationship between fandoms and the stuff they love has changed. This isn’t about simple appreciation anymore; it’s about full-throated advocacy, about the conflation of self-care and entertainment, about the fact that even if Netflix doesn’t renew The OA it now almost definitely has to have internal meetings addressing how to respond to someone staging a hunger strike. It’s a plot twist so bizarre it’d fit right into the canceled show in question’s narrative.

The Ringer

Their spam will keep me from watching the show. Thanks for saving me some time, spammers!

More Than a Step Counter

Fitbit Versa 2

I was gifted a Fitbit Versa 2 for Christmas. I’ve been needing something to track my exercises more accurately with for awhile now, and this was the Wife’s answer to my issues with my Android phone and Google fit not logging my steps correctly. I’ve been kind of obsessed with accurately tracking activity as well as heart rate and blood pressure since the angioplasty that I underwent back in May of 2019.

RAnt(hony)-ings

…I can’t imagine why that is. What I wanted was an implanted monitoring device, but I’m not going to find that tech cheap or beyond the experimental stage in the United States. In the meantime, wearables are the only way to go, and Fitbit is one of the more common activity trackers on the market. The problem starts with my not liking things tied around my wrists. I’ve never worn a watch. I thought it was because I couldn’t afford a watch, but after an in-law gifted me with a very nice wristwatch a few years back, and I still didn’t wear a watch, I knew that it was having something on my wrist that I was objecting to.

We don’t need computers to wear on our head, or wrists, or arms. We need computers that fade into the background. Forget wearable computing. It’s time for disappearable computing.

ReadWrite – Hands Off My Wrists! Why I Don’t Want To Wear My Computers– Owen Thomas
YoutubeNext-Generation Biointegrated Sensors by Profusa

Wisniewski and her colleagues solved this problem by fooling the body so it can’t recognize their sensors as foreign objects. The sensors are smaller than a grain of rice and are made of a hydrogel scaffold that’s as flexible as a contact lens. The researchers also made sure their sensor lacks any flat surfaces, which are a dead giveaway to cells that an object isn’t natural, says Wisniewski, who is at Profusa Inc. As a result, cells and capillaries grow into the sensor’s porous structure without triggering the undesirable immune response. In fact, Wisniewski is announcing today that the first sensors implanted in human volunteers are still functioning after more than four years.

American Chemical Society

There are six other companies listed in this article from Dr. Hempel Digital Health Network that are working on implantable technology, and there is a lot of projected profit in that new marketplace. But that is tomorrow. I need something to work with today.

I found several articles lining out different wearables/hideables and their functionality when I went looking online for health trackers back in June. One of them was this article from Larry Magid at the Mercury-News. He has two Fitbit’s on his list. Then there was The Best Fitness Trackers from Family Living Today. The author lines out twenty-five of the best trackers that she tested in the course of writing the article. Most of those are stand-alone trackers that don’t necessarily sync up with your phone. She has a couple of Fitbits on her list as well.

The article that caught my eye was Hideables: Best wearables and clip-ons for discreet fitness tracking from Wareable. The article there was the oldest of all of the ones I had run across, but it focused on what I was interested in if I can’t just reference my own internal head-up display to see my current health status. There was a Fitbit Zip on that article. However, the Fitbit Zip isn’t on the Fitbit website. That’s troubling. It’s also three times as much as the quoted price in the article on Amazon.com, as of this writing. More troubling. The Nokia device that is mentioned is also not at the link on Amazon or on the Nokia website.

The wife and I talked about the subject of fitness trackers a few times after I went looking for one during the summer. That was months ago. I think I was open to a fitness tracking watch in principle, the last time we spoke, but I didn’t think I had left the impression that I was seriously interested in any one device right then. She just happened to be in the warehouse shopping club a few weeks back and noticed a display for the Fitbit Versa 2 with a price point that was reasonable (less than $100) and remembering that I was looking for a fitness tracker, she bought one.

I have to say, I still don’t like things tied around my wrist. I’m doing my best to ignore that minor irritation. The Versa 2 tracks exercise pretty well. It tracks sleep patterns, and since I’m on a CPAP machine, that seems like valuable information. It records my pulse. Those are the good things. The minimum functions one should expect from a fitness tracker. It doesn’t do blood pressure but that isn’t a deal breaker. The next part might be a deal breaker.

Entering data on the Versa 2 is truly frustrating. If you are trying to do it through the watch itself, it frequently doesn’t apply the data correctly. For example, I decided I would track fluid intake as part of running the thing through its paces. If you enter 32 on the display marked oz, as in “32 ounces” the watch doesn’t add 32 ounces. It adds 1.08 oz to the total amount for the day. Entering weight from the watch adds the number you entered to the total weight that you started with. Not at all what one would intuitively expect. There are posts up for both the water issue and the weight issue in the community forum. Fingers crossed that they get a patch out soon. The work-around for these kinds of issues is to simply enter the data through the Fitbit app on your phone. Makes you wonder why you need the hardware.

Supposedly I can play music with the Fitbit Versa 2. It syncs with several subscription services, none of which are ones I pay for. What about just using a player app on the phone itself? I’ve tried swiping down to access the notifications and settings tab, which is where the music controls for the phone should be if I’m trying to play music from my phone. However, if I tap the music icon it tells me to pair with my phone if the phone is selected as the music source, or it tells me to use the mobile app to download music to the watch if the watch is the source. Never mind getting the source to switch back to the phone if you change it to the watch. Since the watch doesn’t know it is paired with a phone, it doesn’t want to change back to the phone. This is another issue that is represented on the community forum. I’m beginning to think the problem here is Fitbit itself.

On the other side of the ledger, Google doesn’t offer any Fitbit interoperability with their fitness tracking software, Google Fit. Fitbit might be the problem with Fitbit’s internal software issues, but not having the data synchronized through the Android operating system and logged in other fitness tracking software (especially Google’s own fitness software) is major impediment to using anyone’s hardware to do this job. I certainly won’t be buying Google’s watch. Pressure tactics don’t work with me if I suspect I’m being pressured. If I was vulnerable to those kinds of tactics I would have already sold my soul to Apple for the next hardware upgrade and been happy in my Apple rose gold colored hell. Google should make Fit talk to Fitbits and other fitness tracking hardware. Fitbit should make their hardware talk to Google fit. I mean, the two biggest players that aren’t Apple should be willing to work together. It profits no one if you aren’t. I shouldn’t have to utilize a third party programmer (fit to fit) in order to do this. A work-around like that is a security breach waiting to happen.

If I end up returning the Fitbit Versa 2, I’m going to have to conduct some more research looking for another device. The limited amount of looking that I went through in order to write this piece has shown me that the marketplace has completely changed in less than six months. Which is startlingly fast in hardware terms. You can’t even design devices, construct the facilities to manufacture them, and get the product to market in that time. I can’t imagine the hoops that have to be jumped through to get things to market that quickly, only to be onto something else by the time you’ve completed that project.

Tricorder?

Magnetic lines of force … or actually Christmas lights on a canopy making a tunnel over the road? All three pictures…

Posted by Jim Wright on Friday, December 20, 2019
Facebook – Stonekettle Station

Stonekettle Station has a tricorder. Well, almost a tricorder. If the device captured all measurable energy in the recording field and not just the visible light, they’d have a tricorder. The future is now.

In the science-fictional Star Trek universe, a tricorder is a multifunction hand-held device used for sensor (environment) scanning, data analysis, and recording data.

On May 10, 2011, the X Prize Foundation partnered with Qualcomm Incorporated to announce the Tricorder X Prize, a $10 million incentive to develop a mobile device that can diagnose patients as well as or better than a panel of board-certified physicians.[12] On Jan 12, 2012, the contest was officially opened at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.[13][14] Early entrants to the competition include two Silicon Valley startups,[15] Scanadu and Senstore, which began work on the medical tricorder in early 2011.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tiny Christmas Planet. Sowell Farms, Milton, Florida. Private farm that puts up thousands of lights every year for a…

Posted by Jim Wright on Thursday, December 19, 2019
Facebook – Stonekettle Station

The Dreaded Web Host Manager

The next to last paragraph in the first article on this subject went like this,

Going hand in hand with Cpanel is WHM, the WebHost Manager (this will be important in the next section) Their user documentation is here and here. If your web host uses Apache they are most likely going to be using Cpanel and WHM as the control panel and manager for the hosting service. Once you have signed up with a web host you are now dabbling in web hosting, at least vicariously. WHM is your best friend when managing a web host. You should probably get to know your new best friend better.

If your site is part of another site, you might have more to do than just trying to break your new web host’s software. You have real work to do breaking other stuff first. Before doing anything else, even if you have a completely new site, you should probably make sure that you have a clean backup of your current website. This is the kind of common advice that gets a well duh response, but every time there is an unrecoverable oops event, it is because someone ignored the well duh advice. Backing up isn’t the easiest thing to do with a hosted web account. It isn’t easy because a simple duplication of your online files will not give you something that you can restore your site from. Backup in cpanel requires you to backup your files and databases separately if you want them to be available to be used to restore an oops event. So do a backup, and then keep reading.

No, Seriously. Backup!

Done? Good. So now you want to create your new website, right? A personal place all your own to host your blog on. You want to create a separate web site because you are borrowing space from a lifelong companion not known for her neat, organized workspace (Ouch! Don’t throw things at me! It’s true and you know it!) and you’d like to know what part of this mess is yours to deal with. This will require you to access WHM, the WebHost Manager. Since you are creating an account for yourself (or myself, in this case) be generous. But don’t worry, you can change the package and account settings later. As is typical with linux GUI’s, some of the settings will say they have been changed or can have particular values, but the implementation of the setting may fail because of limitations that your web host places on your account. This is the one bright point about hosting for yourself, the thing I told you that you didn’t want to do in the first installment of this series. The only bright spot in self hosting, being able to set any hosting variable to any allowed value. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Make sure that autoSSL is included as part of the feature set of whatever package you end up creating. SSL? Secure Sockets Layer. It allows you and your visitors to establish an encrypted connection between the two of you. AutoSSL generates a certificate for you at your new hosting location, so you will want it enabled. If it isn’t, you will not be able to be certified as an HTTPS location on the web, and that is bad on today’s internet using todays browsers. WHM will generate an error if you set your bandwidth to unlimited and disk usage to unlimited when you set up your package, and this error will keep you from successfully creating an SSL certificate. You can set the bandwidth to 100GB if you want (one hell of a lot of data) It just can’t be unlimited. Like I said, not a good thing to be able to muck about with all the settings.

Once you have your package set up the way you want it, the way you are allowed to set it up, create your account from the create new account tab on the sidebar menu. Select the package you just created. If you followed your web hosts rules correctly it should show as green and selectable. If you aren’t planning to resell or offer to piggyback your needy relatives on your web host, you can skip package creation and just go straight to account creation. When you get to the menu for “select package” simply toggle the Select Options Manually checkbox, and you can piss off your web host all over again by selecting values that aren’t allowed while simultaneously creating your account. This will save you the trouble of trying to figure out what your web host will allow while creating the package that you will only need once anyway, but you won’t get to give it that special name if you don’t create the package in advance. For me, naming is important. You may be content to let someone else pick the names you use. To each his own.

Get the important stuff right! Check the domain name. Check the user name. Write down the password. Make sure the email address is a working email address. The only default setting that I needed to change on our web host was toggling the recommended setting for mail routing to Automatically Detect Configuration because, again, if if the host can find it, it will find it. If not, you can always figure out what it is later. Hit Create and you are done.

Now comes the fun part, and when I say fun I mean tooth extraction levels of pain. But fun, you know? Since you are migrating your (my) wordpress installation, you’ll have to duplicate the SQL database that makes the installation do what it does in its current location. SQL? Sequel. Structured Query Language. You don’t really need to know what it does (but the link will tell you all about it) you just need to know that you need it. If you only copy the files from the software installation that you are migrating, you may or may not notice parts of your installation working the same way later. You’ll need to access PHP admin. PHP? It’s yet another scripting language (see? Fun!) PHP stood for Personal Home Pages back at the dawn of time, but now stands for Hypertext Pre-processor. I think we’re up to version 7 as I type this. I seriously couldn’t care less. I wish I could work up to caring at least a little. Trying to make Linux work for a decade burned me out on caring about coding, one failed install at a time. AutoCAD Lisp was a walk in the park next to getting Linux to run on mystery hardware. Now I just want the software to WORK, DAMMNIT! I want it to work pretty much 24/7 without my having to do anything about it. It’s enough to make you wish you had the money to pay Squarespace to do this all for you. But I digress.

Accessing the PHP manager will allow you to copy out your SQL commands so that they can be applied to your new account. You’ll want to follow the directions of your web host for doing this. Just make sure you verify which SQL command list is associated with your current install beforehand, then go to the PHP manager, highlight the right one (not expand it) and make sure that, add DROP TABLE/ VIEW/ PROCEDURE/ FUNCTION is selected. This should be in the options section. Export as SQL. Next you will go into your new account, use the SQL wizard to create a new database, associate the database with the user for the account, and then import the SQL file you downloaded earlier. Wipe the sweat off your brow, because that was the hard part of this process.

Time to export all those collected years of hard work. Don’t slip up! Grab your current install of WordPress from the directory that it is in. It should be about twenty-two files, four of which are folders, including one named wp-content. Once you have located those files, zip them up through the cPanel file manager interface, and download them to your local drive. Then you open your new account, go to the file manager, and upload the same zip file to a directory there. I suggest using the tmp directory. That is what temporary directories are for, things you will delete later. move the files and folders from where they land in tmp and paste them to the public_html folder. Verify that the file and folder structure matches your previous files and folders before doing anything else.

Now it is back to coding, again (I’m sorry) You will need to edit your wp-config file in order to modify a few commands so that they point to the new SQL database. This is where writing down your username, password and SQL command list name comes in handy. Open the wp-config.php file in a text editor, like Windows notepad or the native editor in CPanel. Scroll to the lines in the file that say DB_NAME, DB_USER and DB_PASSWORD and then modify the SQL database name username and password with the information that you wrote down previously. Because you wrote it down like I said, right?

Put on your dunce cap, because it’s time for a test! Don’t Panic! This is a website test, you won’t have to cram for the exam. To conduct this test you will need to modify your WordPress config file in the new location, similar to what we did in the last paragraph. There are other ways to test the configuration including logging into the wordpress installation directly and altering the file storage location in settings, and modifying the SQL database to point to the new location, but the test method I chose was modifying the wp-config.php file because I was in that file already. Insert two lines into the code that read as follows, replacing yoururl with the URL that your new installation is currently residing at.

define('WP_HOME','http://yoururl');

define('WP_SITEURL','http://yoururl');

After you do that go back to your original installation location and backup the existing WordPress installations wp-config.php file. After you do that replace the wp-config.php file with an empty text file by creating a new file with that name. This is just a test, and if you backed up like I told you to, you can always revert to the correct wp-config.php if the test fails. Then open your browser and type in your test URL and click on a few links to make sure that everything displays properly.

Nothing sideways? Everything where it is supposed to be and working correctly? Great!

Once you are satisfied that the new installation is working correctly, you can reedit the new locations wp-config.php with your real URL name, and then redirect your URL to point to the new location on your web host. You do this from within CPanel in your old location, deleting the URL from the Domains menu, and then adding the URL to your new location. Once you have successfully moved the URL to your new web host location, you are done. Log back on your site and bask in marvel of your unique genius and programming wizardry. Unless of course, the site doesn’t come up like it is supposed to. If not, go back through the steps and make sure you hit all the points correctly.

If all else fails, even the cheapest of web hosting sites will have some form of chat available to paying customers. Log on the chat and see if they can help you. Just don’t panic. It’s just electrons whizzing around in space. It isn’t the end of the world if the website is down a few days. You’ll get it back up because you made a backup, and you didn’t delete the old installation yet.

Wait. You did make a backup, right? Oops?

Web Hosting? What’s That?

When I transferred the blog to WordPress I promised to write a guide to creating your blog on WordPress, or at least describe how I transferred the blog from Google’s Blogger service to a self-hosted installation of WordPress. Well, the guide to how this might be done really has to start with getting your own site up and running, not with the process of getting 10+ years of Blogger blog entries to appear in WordPress. WordPress is hands down one of the best ways to get your writing in front of people who want to read it, but WordPress is just the front end of a process that starts with deciding on a web host.

So, starting from the beginning, the question is should you self-host or should you pay someone to host your site? You can self-host your own website, we did that for years on a Dell PC that we had bought for me to do CAD on. We slapped a second NIC card in it and it was the router/web host for the family until it died a few years back. When we set that system up we had programmers who worked for Dell wandering in and out of the house on a pretty regular basis. It was a simple thing to get one of them to set up a Linux shell on the old CAD system, load Apache on it, do their programming magic, and presto we had a webhost. A black box that I never did manage to figure out how not to break, so I left it alone aside from editing my homepage. I had a static page on ranthonysteele.com that I paid for for years and years for no good reason other than that I figured I needed a website. I was a technologist, a CAD evangelist, and I was quite full of confidence in my unique abilities back when the internet was young and I was certain that the best times in life were still ahead of me.

But this article isn’t about how poor health can ambush and destroy the best laid plans of men. Anyone who doubts this is true should read up on the life of Alexander the Great. The greatest conqueror on the face of the Earth then or now, who was rudely interrupted in the middle of his conquest of Asia with a sudden illness and subsequent painful death. My life plans were much less grandiose than that, and don’t involve the enslavement of entire regions of the planet, and I’m not dead (at least not yet) so I’ve been diverted and not canceled, at least. But being here writing about how to get blogging software to work on a site you run yourself was not where I wanted to be eighteen years down the road. And I’m still not up to that, or up to recommending that you self-host even the most basic site on today’s internet.

I never got the hang of programming. I never found any joy in it. I just wanted to be able to program a website without having to do all the work involved in writing all the code for myself on top of all of the CAD work that I was already engaged in at the time. I knew I hated writing code from the few times that I tested/edited/wrote lisp scripts for AutoCAD. Luckily we had some real programmers on staff at one of the architecture offices I worked for, so most of my work with scripts was testing and not writing. But I did enough of it that I knew that the fiddly, nitpicking work of making sure that every character in the code was absolutely perfect was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So the static page remained static for years on end, while I relied on Blogger to keep doing their Blogger thing as a few years turned into ten and then into fifteen.

The Wife on the other hand needed to maintain her professional presence in the digital world. She had to create and maintain websites through all of the really early years of the world wide web, websites for many different versions of her own professional abilities (effects, actor, producer, unlicensed broadcast engineer, etc)  and eventually she wound up maintaining websites for many different people. When she first started using her current web host she set up a demonstration account to show me what we could do with blogging software. I thought it was interesting but maintaining my own website looked too much like programming to me. Besides, I had a history on Blogger and I didn’t want to lose it.

…And then Blogger started to show the effects of Google not seeing blogging as one of its money-making features. The exploitation of programming holes the long unpatched bugs in the web interface not to mention the released and never updated mobile app. So when I turned to her with my Blogger is losing my drafts problem, she threw together another website for me on her hosting service using my old ranthonysteele.com URL, and I was in business for myself. At least to all external observers, I was flying on my own.

Except, I still didn’t understand one damn thing about what it was I was doing. I’m still not a programmer. Learning the in’s and out’s of maintaining a website is much harder than my experience with learning architecture was. Learning how to build something is as simple as wandering through a construction site and asking questions over and over. This is something I’ve done since the town doctor bought property across the street from my family in Leoti, Kansas, and proceeded to have a house built there. I was six or seven years old then, and construction was this weird miracle process that I experienced first hand through each stage as I wandered that construction site on a daily basis.

A small U.S. town in the 70’s was such a wonderful place and time to grow up, from that perspective. No one cared that a child, or a group of children, wandered onto construction sites. They’d even answer questions if you asked nice, before shoeing you away so they could get back to work. I cut my architectural teeth that way, on dozens of construction sites. Wandering into construction wherever I stumbled across it, fascinated by the simple act of creation that was involved in them. Wandering around in finished buildings and then going places that aren’t finished for public occupancy so that I could see how all the pieces went together to form the seamless facade that is what the public sees.

Programming is invisible, like the structure hidden behind the finish in your home. Programming is best when you never notice it. If you notice the programming, it is like noticing that whoever taped and floated the wallboard for your office wall wasn’t very good at their job. You have to know where to look in order to find the programs that run everything on the web. Right click on any window in your browser, for example, and pick view page source. You’ll get a nearly incomprehensible page of text characters as a result. Incomprehensible, if you are a layman.

If you work with HTML for awhile, something you will have had to do if you’ve written anything for the web and cared about how it looked, the text that is displayed becomes more comprehensible. You can seperate commands <text> from the rest of the content on the page simply by recognizing the characters that denote a command. If you’ve been working around websites for years like I have, you become convinced you know more about the subject of putting stuff on the internet than you actually do. Until you have to do the work to get it there, and there is no one willing to talk to you about it.

So if you find yourself in the predicament I’m describing, trying to figure out how to get stuff to show up on the internet, this guide is for you. Welcome. Let’s learn stuff together, eh? The first thing you want to decide is where to host your website. That’s your first job. 

Most cheapskates will be tempted to host their own website. My advice is don’t. Don’t do it unless you are a programmer and you have enough cash to pay for all of the hardware you will need (and if you are that person, you won’t be reading this in the first place) That is my best advice right there. If you aren’t a programmer then hosting your own website is ultimately only going to create another digital zombie that can be used to attack other websites, or it will serve as a ransom target. A liability that will cost you more than the hosting fees will cost you. So don’t be John Podesta. Be smart, like Hillary Clinton. What, Hillary Clinton isn’t smart? She didn’t get caught, did she? I rest my case. Hire people to do the stuff you don’t know how to do, and pay them well to do it. You’ll thank me for that advice, if you follow it.

You also don’t want to necessarily go with the cheapest web host. Do you want the cheapest doctor you can find, or the one that knows enough to help you and not hurt you? There are several websites that can help with this task, selecting a web host. Who is hosting this? is one of those sites. Look around to see what the people in your line of work are doing. See what other comparable web hosts are offering and for what price. Go with someone who can help you in a crisis, not just someone who has the cheapest price. You can even buy space from a web host so you can act as a web host. This is what the Wife is doing, she’s just not making any money off of me when she does it.

So you have your web host selected? Good.

A web host provides the software you will be using to create your website. Everything to do with computers requires software, but the internet is everywhere and in everything these days, so it is easy to forget that there is code behind all this interconnectivity that we enjoy today. Your web host will have software it utilizes, and that software is most likely going to be Apache. As an open source evangelist, I wouldn’t suggest you run anything else on your web servers.

ASF 20th Anniversary – Mar 26, 2019

Cpanel is the most common graphical user interface for Apache once you get beyond the command line; and frankly, why use the command line if you don’t have to? Cpanel is short for Control Panel. If I have to tell you what a Control Panel is then you haven’t been doing this long enough. Take some basic computer classes, or just pay SquareSpace for their services. They’ll happily hold your hand, given how much you will be paying them. If you don’t have the money for Squarespace (it isn’t cheap) and can manage without their very useful 24/7 helpline, but still want to be using a super simple interface, there is Wix.com and Weebly.com. Squarespace isn’t paying me a dime to recommend them, therefore I’ll go the distance and give you a few more options.

Going hand in hand with Cpanel is WHM, the WebHost Manager (this will be important in the next section) Their user documentation is here and here. If your web host uses Apache they are most likely going to be using Cpanel and WHM as the control panel and manager for the hosting service. Once you have signed up with a web host you are now dabbling in web hosting, at least vicariously. WHM is your best friend when managing a web host. You should probably get to know your new best friend better.

CPanel – Softaculous

If your site is new on the web hosting service, it is a pretty simple thing to just pick the software you want to use from the software list that your web host should offer (softaculous on our web host) WordPress is very likely to be one of them. Install that software and start playing around. You’ll break things a few times, but that’s great. You want to break things when you are learning new stuff. Use the installer to uninstall, and start over. Have fun! If your site is a new site with a new web host then congratulations, you’re done. If you are like me, borrowing space on someone else’s hosting site, then you are only getting started. Read on for the dreaded WHM and the effective separation of your shit from their shit.

Still Being Sent to Blogspot?

I just figured out that the domain forwarding I set up in blogger is failing for some reason now in mobile interfaces. this post link //ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2018/12/bye-blogger.html should take you to the article on this website that corresponds to that article on Blogger (you’ll get a generic landing page since there isn’t an article of that name) In any mobile browser you use to open it, you will probably be taken to the article as it still exists on blogspot.com. I could have sworn I checked the forwarder on my phone after I first made the switch. WTF?

Weirdly, you can be redirected to the correct address by trying to navigate from inside the blogspot address. I have no idea why it even goes there at all in the first place. I’m guessing it’s a mobile tag that the code in the blogspot theme that redirects here doesn’t know how to handle. I’ll have to troubleshoot it eventually, I guess. Doesn’t really matter. It kicked me into copying new articles to the old address, a task I had been neglecting. I so often re-edit an article after it is first published that it becomes tedious making manual backups that no-one is supposed to see in the first place. Knowing people will possibly see the blog not being updated any longer? OK, that’s enough motivation.

Facebook.

Less OHM, more Real People

I just noticed a few days ago that Facebook had stopped prompting me that a real life friend had posted something I might want to look at. I figured the friend had stopped posting to Facebook, like so many other people with accounts have done. Turns out that they’re just as active as they ever have been, but Facebook doesn’t deem our relationship worth preserving. I’ve added them to the “see first” list. I’ll probably have to do that for other real life friends and their stuff. Real life friends take a back seat to the scandal of the moment here in the web 2.0. I really couldn’t care less about political scandals these days. Someone let me know when they finally get around to #ImpeachTrump would you? Until that point it’s just so much more BS that I don’t need to pay attention to.

This is an old argument between Facebook and me.

I am seriously beginning to despise Facebook. Once again, notifications I have asked for have been removed from my…

Posted by R. Anthony Steele on Thursday, October 2, 2014

Facebook.

Apple Card

Twelve and a half years after Steve Jobs borrows technology already in use by Palm and Handspring to create the iPhone, Apple has today invented the credit card. Now, some will say, “wait a minute, credit cards have been around for decades.” But that would be incorrect. There has never been a credit card made of titanium before! An actual metal card, not plastic.

TechLeadWhy the Apple Card is pure garbage – Aug 21, 2019

I’m kidding. It really is garbage, as the video above goes into. In fact, cashback cards in general are garbage, something he doesn’t go into. Cashback is a gimmick. The card issuers count on you charging things and then forgetting to pay the cards off each month. They don’t make money unless you pay them interest for carrying a balance from month to month.

The solution to the credit problem is not to have any credit cards. Use cards tied to your bank accounts, issued by your bank or credit union (I try to only use credit unions myself) and only use credit when absolutely necessary. Then pay back the entire amount as fast as possible in order to reduce your own costs. If you have to have a card to do certain kinds of transactions, have one card to do those transactions with and then pay that card off before the issuer can charge you for the carry-over balance.

60% of reward cards holders don’t pay off their balances each month. That statistic troubles personal finance experts, because credit card interest rates are at a 25-year high.

NPR

It would really be nice to have enough money (as the youtuber above clearly has) to be able to resist the urge to put essentials on credit. To go on a spending spree and not have to worry about doing without essentials later. If you cannot afford to buy essentials, you cannot afford to have that temptation lying around. Cut up the cards and never look back.

The concept of customers paying different merchants using the same card was expanded in 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, founders of Diners Club, to consolidate multiple cards. The Diners Club, which was created partially through a merger with Dine and Sign, produced the first “general purpose” charge card and required the entire bill to be paid with each statement. That was followed by Carte Blanche and in 1958 by American Express which created a worldwide credit card network (although these were initially charge cards that later acquired credit card features).

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The US government has taken to issuing charge cards to people who qualify for benefits these days. I’m not sure what I think of this development other than that it is a way to get funds into the hands of the unbanked, a serious problem in poverty stricken areas. And as long as the card only works up to the point where the benefits end, that shouldn’t be a problem. What would be a problem is the government issuing cards that could then be used to tie more poor people to debt that they will never be able to pay off. That would be a problem.

So, there you have it. Apple creates the charge card in 2019, about 150 years after the idea is first proposed in speculative fiction, and about 60 years after the first general charge card is introduced into the consuming population. Just in case you thought Steve Jobs was full of himself when he claimed to create the smartphone. Apple creates Paypal for Apple, joining the leagues of credit card issuers that are only a benefit to the wealthy who can pay their cards off regularly. Charge cards which are just another cross for the poor to be hung on, unless those poor are lucky enough to qualify for government benefits. In which case, track your balance! (the one solid word of financial advice offered in the video) But, you know, shiney new overpriced technology. We’re all excited to see it. Can’t you tell?

A h/t is due to the Economist Radio episode Money talks: From bad to wurst-Germany’s economy shrinks where I first heard of this latest offering from Apple.

Sneaker Netting the Vote

“There was a drive that was left out from the D’Iberville Civic Center,” Newman’s campaign manager Holly Gibbes said. “Those numbers were never counted. (Harrison County Circuit Clerk) Connie Ladner‘s office produced that thumb drive today and added it in.

“The thumb drive and all the affidavits, absentees and what could be counted is what put Dixie up by one vote.”

Gibbes said there are still three affidavit votes that have yet to be certified. Those three voters have 96 hours to bring their photo IDs to Ladner’s office in the Gulfport courthouse. Those individuals and their votes are only known by Ladner.

Sun Herald, Lost thumb drive changes Coast Senate race.

I’ve never understood why we do anything we do the way we do it. Everytime some moron gets caught doing stupid stuff like this people start chanting Paper ballots! Paper ballots! I get that paper ballots are more reliable and provide an alternative when an initial count goes awry. A paper trail comes in handy when you screw up counting the votes the first time, like the officials clearly have screwed the count up for this race in Mississippi, this time. They’re going to need paper ballots to recount now. Hope they have them. But how about we don’t screw up the vote the first time, when we go to vote in the future? Why don’t we start with that?

Yes, the current crop of electronic voting machines are questionable in accuracy and are pretty much just black boxes filled with proprietary software authored by the lowest bidder in a government contract executed more than twenty years ago. I’ll grant that they are shabby and their ability to count accurately is questionable. But even given all of that, why on Earth would you a) put electronic voting records on a thumb drive, EVER and b) why would the entity entrusted with counting those ballots ever accept votes that were passed on that way? We make all this crap way, way harder than it has to be.

There is encryption software out there now that could keep your identity as a voter private, but at the same time tell third parties who your vote was for. There is blockchain bookkeeping to keep all of those individual ballots together and properly tabulated. But instead of using the technology we have available to us now, we are sneaker-netting the ballots on thumb drives? Why bother to count at all if that’s the level of security we’re relying on? Heads he’s elected, tails she is sounds just about as effective. A lot cheaper, too.

Yes, paper ballots are preferable to that kind of crap, but why are we doing things that way in the first place? We start the election on this or that day, we hold the ballots open with every person able to verify their ballot is still present and correct until the day when the voting is supposed to end, and then we hold the election ‘open’ until the count is done AND everyone has verified their vote was in the count.

Thumbdrives? Thumbdrives. (shakes head in disgust) I need a drink.

Facebook

Mississippi passed a voter ID law 2014. That law require voters to show state approved photo identification at the polls. If you show up to vote without a “proper” ID, you can still vote, but you have to return to the district voting office within 96 hours and show your ID. If you don’t, your vote doesn’t count.

So, they’ve got a law to certify voters, but not one for … thumb drives.

Stonekettle Station