2012 Blog Performance

My WordPress blog stats don’t look very impressive since I have been blogging in several different places, but you can find a comprehensive list of sites I blog on without looking too hard.  For those of you that read this blog, I am glad you showed up.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Grilling Tip: Warm Up Smoking Chips in Charcoal Chimney

Grilling season is here for those of you who don’t grill year round. I love using smoking chips and I have hickory, mesquite, and apple chips in my arsenal for maximum grilling flavor. I find vegetables taste better when smoked so I rarely grill without chips handy.

Timing is essential when cooking with charcoal as the temperature will not stay as hot during the entire grill. Typically, you place the smoking chips alongside or on top of the charcoal inside the grill.  However, to get a fast start with smoking chips, you can place the chips in your charcoal chimney five minutes before you are ready to pour the coals into the grill. This will allow your chips to warm up so they begin smoking immediately once they are in the grill. If you place the cold chips into the grill after pouring in the charcoals without warming them up, they can take a few minutes before the smoke comes pouring out of them.

Smoking Chips Warming in Chimney

Be careful to watch the chips and remove them once they begin smoking because smoking chips can catch fire if left in the charcoal chimney for too long.

Veggies Grilling

I grill with the lid down as the instructions recommended.

Chips Adding Smoke

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Not My Kitty

My cats are spoiled and get too much love and affection. Occasionally, another cat will come to the glass door and try to get the same, but they have all moved on understanding the two I have are a handful.  Well, all except for this one.

Meet Tar Tar, described via his tag as an “outdoor” cat, who seems to always want in.  He tries everything to get in and I can’t leave the screen door open anymore because he meows as if I forgot about him.  Trouble is, Tar Tar is not my cat.

I wish I could tell his bipedal companion that Tar Tar really is an indoor cat. Perhaps Tar Tar will stay home and get the affection he needs. I can barely use the backyard when he is around.  He tries everything to be cute and get attention. He rolls, purrs, arches, gets closer and cuter and I finally see why Garfield is perturbed by Nermal‘s excessive cuteness. It is really painful to love cats and turn him away but Tar Tar is not my cat.

Don’t you hate it when a cat that actually wants attention from a human isn’t getting any affection from his own companions?

Does it break your heart knowing this sweet kitty wants affection and can’t have it?

What should I do?

What would you do?

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The Benefits of Working Your Way Through College

This article is superfluous as this subject is touched on frequently and most of you college students are working your way through college anyway, but I would like to share my personal reasons why it was a positive experience for me. I returned to college armed with the G.I. Bill and credits earned while performing my service duties. Since I took courses during my enlisted time, I was already accustomed to the process when I went to school part time.  So here are some great reasons to consider working while in school.

  • It is liberating to have the freedoms income provides while you are in school.  You’re experience is less limiting when you have money to spend.
  • A job can help keep your education debt lower since you wouldn’t have to finance so much.
  • You are likely to at least still have a job when you graduate and that is a huge plus in a tough economy.
  • Having a job while in school will provide you with the coveted “work experience” that employers are looking for.
  • You will also have a network of co-workers and customers partners who know of your skills and can help with your employment networking.
  • Not being a poor starving college student and never missing meals or bills can help relieve you of worry.
  • Many, if not most traditional universities make it easier than ever by tailoring subjects for the non traditional working student.  Such courses are usually provided online.
  • The added discipline of handling both a job and school will enrich you with a strong work ethic.
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Anythink Libraries Get Big Thumbs Up

Bookstores are a popular hangout for mobile computing types of all shapes and sizes and bookstores offer an easy location to grab a snack, surf the web, and perform your computer related tasks using the Internet, but I always prefer my county library.  The Anythink library system has won numerous awards for innovation.  Anythink changes much of what I remember about public libraries of the past.  My hometown public library offered a lot of material for checkout along with a lot of services, but the spaces were cramped, the books were piled up high on drab colorless shelves, and the library atmosphere didn’t leave me wanting to hang out there.

 

Anythink Huron 

 

The modern reinvented library system encourages patrons to return by providing sizable open airy spaces allowing you to spread out and work.  Bookstores, with their smallish coffee area and sparse comfortable chairs, leave me running around searching for a spot.  To be fair, bookstores are businesses and businesses provide space for the sale of their products.  Many coffee and book shops offer Wi-Fi for customers so you can always go to the next location if your commercial location is full. Even super markets have coffee shops with Wi-Fi areas to work in so you might a find a commercial location you have not thought of.

The Anythink library has wired network jacks in addition to Wi-Fi and the facility provides power jacks in the ground close enough that you can always get plugged in, even in the densest of times.  Anythink welcomes you to be there and get your work done.  I’ve also noticed something about Anythink that I dont recall seeing in the public library when I was in grade school.  The library carries up to date computer books, both physical and in eBook form, which is a huge plus for computer enthusiasts.  I checked out a book on Perl published as recently as 2010.  I used to be disappointed that libraries didn’t carry more up to date computer books, but Anythink really delivers on what I wanted in my public library.  Keeping a current selection of books doesn’t begin and end only with computer subjects.  I noticed cooking, photography, sporting, and just about every aisle seems to have newly minted books to read.

Anythink Huron 

 

 

 

Anythink has other amenities such as its cafe for drinks and snacks. Surely enough, you can have some coffee with your reading material.  Fireplaces are complimented with comfortable lounge chairs where you can sit and read while you absorb the warmth of the fireplace.  The computer lab is really cool, offering a large area for computer training. The computer lab doubles as a training facility where the library offers the community classes on keeping up with technology.  The computer lab uses Mac Minis that dual boot Mac OS and Windows.  I booted to Mac OS and I arranged some music with Garageband.  Many patrons write papers on the computers taking advantage of the installed Microsoft Office suite while others use Facebook or play online games.  The library also allows patrons to check out media on DVD and music on CD ROM.  Magazines are also available for checkout.

Many counties and cities have been revamping their libraries to better support their communites.  I hope you visit yours, see what is new, and enjoy your stay.  And if you are wondering, yes, this article was written at the library.

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Eight Important Lessons Learned From One Year of Blogging

The arrival of October brings my first year of blogging with WordPress and eight valuable lessons learned which I will share with you today in no special order.

1. Blogging Is Hard Work – Articles require fit and polish and I have spent as much as three weeks preparing some of the technical articles I have written.  Maybe if I just rattled off my opinion of the daily news then blogging would be easier, but the technical and photo articles require proofing and professionalism.  I was not pleased with the Tofurkey recipie pictures sharpness or clarity but I did learn that in food photography, turning off the heat would have given me plenty of time compose better pictures.  No one would have known the food wasn’t being cooked.

2. Attracting Readers Is Just as Hard – I actually thought choosing the #1 blog platform would bring the page views, even knowing deep down inside that purchasing Air Jordans wouldn’t make me a superstar in the NBA, I reasoned maybe WordPress itself would be enough of an advantage.  Most of my site traffic comes from search engines and I have learned a good mix of topics will bring a variety of readers per day.

3. Numerous Top Notch Blogging Platforms Are Available  – I tried a lot of them and I feel you can choose the one you like the most.  My site content has been tested unpublished in Blogger, Google Sites, Movable Type, static publishing, and Turnkey appliances that support blogging in an effort to test out other platforms features and offerings.  I haven’t bloged about alternate options, yet, and will probably only discuss my adventures with a static blog site should I ever decide to blog about the alternate options.

4. Static Sites Work Well For Dynamic Blogging – Say What? Am I a babbling idot? One of the alternative choices I’ve tried used the Really-Static plugin for WordPress which publishes your blog staticly to a flat file hosting service such as Fortune City or your ISP’s ad-free web storage site. A static blog served without an application processing it for each user’s view can appear dynamic thanks to applications like Disqus, RSS readers, widgets, and gallery sites.  These technologies turn flatly stored web pages into dynamic looking content systems.

5. People are Warm and Friendly – I actually thought I would get flamed for just about every post, especially the technical ones.  I prepared myself to deal with that, but I didn’t want to deal with the lost time that comes from dealing with negativity.  My blogs are not written to be a definitive source of knowledge, but more of a walk through to spark ideas in others. A few people told me my posts sparked  an idea in them and that was the goal of the posts, anyway.

6. Redundancy is Boring – I really don’t want to write about things that are discussed repeatedly.  I will never write a review about the latest version of Ubuntu, Windows, etc. To produce the technical articles, I googled the topic to see if the subject was throughly discussed and how well the discussions were done, but I was always looking to see if another angle could have been opened up on the topic.  A different angle is what prompted my Opera Unite series of articles. Most articles on Opera Unite discussed its pros and cons and simply didn’t show people how to run an application behind Opera Unite. So I decided to focus on a popular and familiar web application doing its thing behind this unique offering from Opera.

7. Google Analytics Rocks – “Uh oh, he’s gone loony again!”  Something like that might have popped into your head since Google Analytics is not supported on WordPress.com but support comes from my Weebly site where the links between the two platforms provide details about my WordPress readers.  Stats are very useful to blogging and can help you refine your reach or decide to branch out to offer new topics.

8. Blogging is better than “thumbing up” – I looked at my future role in the Internet universe as someone who just pushes a like/up-thumb button as a rather depressing endeavor.  Could I offer something more to the Internet world? Blogging allows me to provide a little piece of me, organizing my mind’s thoughts into bytes, and bringing heartfelt content truly inspired by me. This much more rewarding than having my vote tallied, analyzed, and sold to someone whose sole purpose is hawking their unwanted wares at me or someone else the seller believes is in my target interest group.

I have a very high bounce rate but I am thankful for those of you who found your way to my blog.  After much deliberation on continuing to blog for another year, I realized it is my pleasure to continue to write for you.

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DD-WRT Powers the Home Network

I wrote about how I use pfSense as my home gateway system but that is no longer true. I have replaced pfSense with DD-WRT which uses iptables rules customized for DD-WRT and my own personal choices of configuration options which suit my home networking needs. I am not looking to start a flame war so I will start out by saying there is nothing wrong with pfSense, but the hardware I was running it on. I like having a more advanced home network, but only on the cheap and, most importantly, the hardware didn’t provide the features I was looking for.

My pfSense server was an old Dell Inspiron 4000 laptop with only two network ports. The BIOS didn’t have the option to restart after a power failure and the display doesn’t work. I didn’t consider the setup easy to troubleshoot for novices knowing how ISP supports expect that little blue box in every home. Should someone call an ISP for tech support, the ISP would tell the troubleshooter to power cycle the home router and the ISP would be more likely to describe the Linksys router than a Dell laptop on the network. I simply don’t consider this a user friendly piece of hardware. For home networking, I have always preferred to use hardware built for the task. You can find a really nice micro-ATX board, case, and accessories to build a pfSense hardware solution, but that comes to well over $300 US and I didn’t see any benefit to spending that kind of money for home use.

So, my goal was to replace the server with something that has 5 ports, powers on after fail, is easy to power cycle, and is gentle on the wallet. I’ve known about the replacement firmwares for home based routers, but I really loved how feature packed pfSense was in comparison. DD-WRT provides all of the features I wrote about in my Home Network Features article so I still have PPTP and OpenVPN support. Additionally, I also get VLAN support which enables me to make a DMZ on a switch port for my home server. I haven’t done so at the time of this publication, but my plan is to use the VLAN feature in a port on its own subnet eliminating the need for two gateways so the design will have one gateway serving the whole network.

You will often see many advocates of PC based routers tell you those “little blue boxes” are toys and you should use pfSense or Untangle to get any real performance. Keep in mind that I worked at an ISP in the old days using a 200 mHz Pentium Pro as the gateway router and it handled tons of traffic.  Those little blue boxes have enough power for most home users and room to spare. Take a look at the resource diagram and note that there is ample memory, CPU, and storage space.

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Broadcom Resource Usage for CPU, Memory, and Storage

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DD-WRT Traffic Graph

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DD-WRT Assignable VLAN Ports

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Forward Ports to pfSense DMZ Server

Signal strength is also available in this GUI.

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DD-WRT Signal Strength

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