Tag Archives: server

Mobile tools for Webmasters

There are many different types of Webmasters (and Owners / Developers / Administrators / etc). One thing most of us love is to save money by opting for free services whenever it is possible. You do not always have to pay for high quality services. For example, Google Inc. is one of my favorite high quality free service providers. However, keep in mind that often these services are provided “as it is” without a warranty and for personal website Webmasters and small business owners.

Mobile Computing

This is not so much of a new tread but rather a continuation of the teach bubble. Many personal website owners and increase number of small business owners maintain their sites on the go. This is where smartphones and tablets can be very useful. But, I found keeping things up to date on a website can be a difficult thing to do. Looking out for those unwanted DOS attacks and server downtime can be time consuming. But it doesn’t have to be like that because there are tools to keep an eye on your site 24h/7d/year on your mobile device.

Introducing Pingdom

Pingdom is one of the most popular site among Webmasters. They offer wide range of technical tools for monitoring and managing your website. This includes the world famous, the Pingdom Speed Test. While there are two tears for their services (free as well as Pro paid version), for a novice Webmaster with a personal website, their free services are more than adequate. For example, if you want to keep an eye on your HTTP side of your server, you can create a free account and automate that process. This free account also comes with the access to a very well written Android and Apple apps.

The Pingdom mobile app provide critical server information such as outages, uptime and response time. Again, yes for FREE! I use it to keep track on this website. I would specially recommend anyone who is paying for their web hosting to use this wonderful free service. Because if you found that your site is not up 99.9% like some hosting companies claim, you can ask for your money back.

Android Mobile Pingdom App
Android Mobile Pingdom App

I should also thanks the Pingdom for coming up improved mobile support. Even while I am typing this article they released a new version of their app improving overall quality of presentation.

Google Google Analytics

I use a lot of Google free services. They include great services such as search engine, Google.com/cTLD, Custom Site Search, Google Adsense and other free Webmaster services offered by the company. While I do not have a favorite Google service, I can say Google Analytics is the best tool for monitoring web traffic.

Android Google Analytics App
Android Google Analytics App

Once you set up a site with with the Analytics tracking code, this mobile application will provide live traffic at your finger tips. Additionally, when used with Google Adsense, you can combine the visitor behaviors with your ad revenues or vice versa. This is a great tool for Webmasters with multiple sites too. You can combine data from several sites into a single app.

Android Terminal Emulator

As the title suggests, this is specifically for people with Android devices. But, this will also work on a Windows phone, tablet or a PC. The term “Terminal” is known as “Command Prompt” in Windows or simply “Terminal” in Linux/Unix.

So how can this be useful? Instead of using an application like Pingdom, you can use the Terminal Emulator to ping your site. Unless you write a script, you can have to manually ping your site(s) each time, one at a time. Therefore, this is a time consuming process for Webmasters with slow older devices. If you find that your phone “hangs” or crashes upon loading the Pingdom app, this is a good solution (although no means it is a prefect solution).

There are many other tools available in the market. I only introduced few of the most basic and generally bugs free items. I would not recommend using paid mobile tools unless you are running a large company. For most average Webmasters, these free applications can be as useful as Calculus to a an Engineer.

VMware Workstation setup

vm_mainNot everyone knows what is a virtual machine, let along using them. They are used by students and industry professionals to learn, program and test software operations in different platforms. I use them to learn the behaviors of multiple different flavors of operating systems (OS) without using expensive hardware.

Skip Tech Jargon

VMware

In computing there are many methods and processes used for creating these “dummy” environments. I called them “dummy” because when I installed an OS or a program in a virtual environment, I am not actually using separate hardware for my needs. You can install Windows Server 2012, Lubuntu or any version of desktop OS in you desktop computer without deleting any of your files or formatting the main hard drive.

VMware is a company specialized in virtualization software. They have a wide range of products. The VMware Workstation is one of the most basic programs used by non-advanced users. You do not have to be a programmer and/or a geek to use it as long as you can read and understand basic computer instruction!

Basally virtualization software allow any supported OS versions to installed into a folder (directory), which acts and behave as a separate computer, but it uses the exact same hardware as your current unit. VMware have developed programs to act as this middle man for processing I/O (inputs and outputs) to the virtual directory.

You have to buy a copy of VMware Workstation from here or find an evaluation copy and install it in your computer. Follow the instructions on screen, like any other software install. Please keep the default settings if you are unfamiliar with this program.

Choose the OS

VMware provide the platform for virtualization and you can choose from many different OSes to install. I recommend, Lubuntu, which is based on the Open Source OS, Ubuntu. You may download Ubuntu instead, but it requires more resources to run and good for the advanced users. In addition, you may installed any other proprietary software such as Windows 8, as long as you have a valid license.

Mounting the OS

I should have used the word, “mounting” instead of “installing”, because we don’t really install the OS in our machine with VMware. What we do is mounting it (Google it for the difference). Mounting allow to create independent Virtual Machines for each OS. Follow the instructions below for mounting. This is specific to VMware Workstation, but generally most of these instructions can be used for other virtualization programs with little modifications.

First download the preferred OS iso file and either save it in the same same computer in which VMware is installed (recommended) or burn it into a disc (not recommended, read below for why).

  • Open VMware and go to File (dropdown) –> chose New Virtual Machine…
    Adding a new virtual machine.
    Adding a new virtual machine.
  • Choose Typical –> press Next >
    Two paths to install.
    Two paths to install.
  • There are two options for the install. I strongly recommend using the iso disc image method. This will not only save you from burning CDs every time you want to install a new OS, but also give you the flexibility of OS updates. The mount media can be updated by replacing the ISO file in the future. It also provide added protection of having the media always in computer.
    Choosing the downloaded iso file.
    Choosing the downloaded iso file.
    Click on Browse… and select the downloaded iso file.
  • If you choose to mount Lubuntu, you will get this warning message;
    Warning: Could not detect the OS type.
    Warning: Could not detect the OS type.
    That is perfectly fine. Just click Next > and you will be directed to a new window (see below). Choose Linux for Guest operating system and Other Linux 2.6.x kernel or it’s 64-bit cousin.
    Guest OS and it's version.
    Guest OS and it’s version.
    If you have 32-bit ISO file, choose Linux 2.6.x kernel without 64-bit. If you have an older or a newer kernel based ISO file, choose appropriately.
  • Click Next > and choose whatever the name you want to give your Virtual Machine and the location of the install. I recommend using an SSD location if you have dual hard drives. Click Next > again for Disk Capacity Options.
    Disk capacity configuration.
    Disk capacity configuration.
    While the VMware recomonds 8.0 GB for maximum size, if you have lots of space, I recommend using a bit more like 10.0 GB. Yes, splitting is better for most computers under 500 GB hard drives. If you are on an SSD, I would not expect a typical SSD user to have more than 500 GB on their single SSD drive (at the time of this post, 2013).
  • This is the final step in which, a summery of all your configurations will be displayed. Do not open Customize Hardware… unless you are an advanced user.
    Summery of configurations before install.
    Summery of configurations before install.
    Click Finish and you are done.

Virtual Machine

After installation is done, you will see your new VM under My Computer tab. You may install several VMs on a single computer. All your VMs will be listed under My Computer tab. The status of the newly installed VM should read “Powered off” and double click to open it.

VM open tab.
VM open tab.
You will be directed to a new tab with operational information (see above).

There are few important things in this tab. Please refer to the figure above;

1. VM Details: Useful when troubleshooting errors.

2. Window: Indicates the current state of the VM.

3. Devices: Provide a lot of valuable information on the entire VM. You can double click on any of the items to modify the machine settings.

You can now use the Power on (green “Play”) button to turn on the VM.

My Lubuntu VM.
My Lubuntu VM on a Windows unit.

Termination Options

Do not get confused by the power down options when leaving a VM. These options are there to help you.

Power down options popup window.
Power down options popup window.

Suspend: VM will keep track of your last operation but will terminate all the processes. It is similar to hibernation or sleep function on Windows computers. You will not lose your data and yet the allocated memory for the VM will be free for other processes (no background runs).

Power Off: Completely shut down the VM. If you have any opened files, all the modifications will be lost. This is equivalent to normal shutdown of a physical computer.

Run in Background: VM will continue to it’s operations in the background. Use this options for installing updates in the VM OS but it will consume memory in your main computer.

Export and import SQL databases

Migrating SQL/MySQL databases from one location to another is not something most of you will do. There are circumstances where migrating a database from the administration side of a server is easier than trying to manually copy data. If you change your web host (or server) after creating databases in the current location or if you wanted to back up your database files manually, then it is essential to know the fundamentals of migration.

Skip Tech Jargon

Background

SQL/MySQL databases are like MS Excel spreadsheets or MS Access files. The only difference is these databases run on a web (or internal) server as oppose to running on a local computer. Fundamentally they are similar in operation, but differ in how they process and store data. The MS Excel is one of many low level database program. The MS Access is step up from Excel with much more advanced functions. The SQL/MySQL databases are much more advanced and extremely flexible than the previous products.

The flexibility of SQL/MySQL can be summarized…

  • They will run most (as far as I know, all) operating systems.
  • The deployment and distribution management is very flexible.
  • They have the ability to run several databases while communicating between them.
  • Easy universal database migration options (no proprietary files).

Migration

For this example, I used phpMyAdmin program installed on a Linux server. This particular example involves in transferring databases of mTouch WP plugin data from one location to another. You can use the exact same steps to migrate SQL/MySQL databases in phpMyAdmin. If you you a different program for database management, it should be similar to phpMyAdmin, but be careful of how you export it.

This is for advanced users ONLY. A mistake can take down your entire website. Use the guide at your own discretion.

1. Make sure your program/plugin/add-on is upto date.

2. Log into your server and then phpMyAdmin.

3. Choose the database location from the left pane of the phpMyAdmin window.

Choose the database location from left pane.
Choose the database location from left pane.

3. Select the database related to your program. It is better if you export and import all databases used by the program. Then go to Export.

Select specific files for export.
Select specific files for export.

4. Choose the export settings appropriately. As long as you will be using the same phpMyAdmin at the new location, it should not matter which format you save export the files.

Choose the configuration for import.
Choose the configuration for import.

5. Log into the new server/location and install the save exact software. It is highly recommended using the exact same software version as the one you are migrating from.

6. Long into the phpMyAdmin (new location) and find the location of the databases on the left pane of phpMyAdmin window.

7. Backup the new databases created by the program by exporting them (same as above). Then upload and install the old files using import pane.

8. Validate the install by going into the front end. If you have done everything right, you should be able to now have the database up and running.

It is as simple as that. Backups are very important so never ever skip backups before and during modifications.

Changing the approach

I am regretfully decided to place a hold on all site updates (specially the major ones) during the school seasons. I would like to spend more time concentrating my energy on the academic studies itself rather than trying to teach others while in the process of learning the subject myself. However, I will update the site whenever I feel like it. The only difference between the old days and now is that starting September 2013, there will be no regular updates.

There will be major updates during each school break. Hence, summer would most likely be the period I will push out site wide clean ups.

I would like to sincerely apologies to all my devoted users. Please keep reporting all those errors, I will still take the time to read your emails and fix any issues (specially related to language).

Defending your sites from criminals

No, they are not your real estate properties or your neighborhoods. They are your websites and your online communities. Programmers, web administrators and users, should take proactive measures to protect electronic assets, since cyber-criminal activities Continue reading Defending your sites from criminals