How to Check What's Using Port 80 or 443 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 April 2010 01:52

Technical warning: this may make your eyes glaze over unless you're a techie type. :-)

Every once in a while I have to learn something I didn't expect to learn, but which, upon its accomplishment, makes me feel very pleased that I was able to find out about something so useful and share it with others who might be having the same problem.

I was installing WAMP today, which basically turns my computer into a server that is then able to process websites under development. This gives me the ability to try out coding on a test server without disturbing a live site. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, and now with all new sites being created in Content Management Systems it's become pretty much a necessity. Plus, I want to be able to write some code for various reasons and this way I can test it without having to be online. Much more convenient.

Despite following all instructions I  found, I could not get WAMP to work for me. I went to the forums and looked for solutions, finding a list of things to check. I went through that list and amde sure I did everything suggested, but was still not having any luck. The key to Wamp's functioning correctly had to be use of port 80, it was the only thing left. I needed to use port 80 for WAMP, and something had to be blocking it. I had closed down all the programs I had running that it was suggested I close down, but the problem was still the same. I needed a way to find out what was running on port 80.

My research on the web paid off, and I finally discovered how to find out what's using what port on my computer. It involved a Windows utility named "netstat".

More Fun with htaccess PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 18:43

More and more I have had to be delving into the powerful tool of htaccess. When dealing with a large, dynamic site, sometimes it can take a good bit of research to put together the right code to get things to work, and with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) figuring out how to write redirects for dynamic pages can take quite a while. Code for simple page redirects looks much like this:

RewriteEngine On
Options +FollowSymlinks
Redirect Permanent /pagename.html http://www.domainname.com/newpagename.html

The first two lines must be in place in the htaccess file, once only, for redirects to work. The 3rd and last line is the actual redirect code.This produces a 301 redirect, necessary for search engine optimization purposes to retain the page rank of the original page.

One could also write:

RewriteEngine On
Options +FollowSymlinks
Redirect 301 /pagename.html http://www.domainname.com/newpagename.html

The only difference is in typing out "permanent" vs. "301".

In this case though, the page I wanted to redirect looked like this


The normal simpler method of redirection doesn't work because of that question mark and id at the end. The working code I finally came up with looked like this:

RewriteEngine On
Options +FollowSymlinks

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} id=2
RewriteRule dynamicpage.php http://www.domainname.com/newpagename.php? [R=301,L]

Note that the RewriteCond line show the id=2. This was done because there was a particular page I wanted to have redirected to a new static page. It would need to be done differently if I was doing a general rewrite of all the dynamic pages served from the same dynamicpage.php.

In the second line, note the question mark at the end of the new URL. That ? removed the dynamic part of the url, " ?id=2", which otherwise shows up on the rewritten url when the page is redirected. And of course we add the R=301 to make sure it's a permanent redirect (without the =301 the server would automatically make it a temporary redirect) and the "L" says it's the last rule.

This solved the problem, and it tests as search engine friendly.

Hacker Disables Cars PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 March 2010 17:08

You don't even have to be using a computer to get hacked these days....

I guess it's better than taking a gun and going postal (shooting your former fellow employees, in case you've been living in a cave), but not by much. Imagine trying to get to work in the morning and finding your car is completely disabled, or else being woken in the middle of the night by your car's horn that you can't shut off unless you remove the vehicle's battery:
Hacker Disables More Than 100 Cars

Just goes to show--don't share your passwords with fellow employees, and for employers, when an employee leaves, then it's time to get your employees to change passwords.. which they should be doing periodically anyway.

*  *  *

An update to this article... an article on CNET News (Aug.31, 2010) questions whether cars are the next hacking frontier:

According to the author, "security experts tell CNET that car hacking is starting to move from the realm of the theoretical to reality, thanks to new wireless technologies and evermore dependence on computers to make cars safer, more energy efficient, and modern"

The article went on to say, "report researchers from the University of Washington and University of California, San Diego, tested how easy it would be to compromise a system by connecting a laptop to the onboard diagnostics port that they then wirelessly controlled via a second laptop in another car. Thus, they were able to remotely lock the brakes and the engine, change the speedometer display, as well as turn on the radio and the heat and honk the horn"

Looks like you may want to be careful if the spouse you want to divorce or the person you just angered is a computer geek. You just never know what may happen to your car if you upset the wrong person. Yikes!

Broken Websites - What You as the Website Owner Should Know PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 March 2010 11:15

One of the things I happen across frequently is a broken website. There are different degrees of "broken", ranging from a form that doesn't work properly or links that send one to the wrong page, to more technical issues that affect the workings of a website and not only discourage users but cause search engine problems as well. These things do happen, sometimes caused by changes one doesn't always know about at the host server, or perhaps changes in search engines and other things beyond one's control. They've happened to me, but the key is to fix them as soon as you know about them.

How do you find out if your site is broken?

Ideally, you should keep an eye on your website and spend some time looking through it once a week. That's not always possible if your business is busy, but it is important to spend some time on your site once in a while and make sure that things are working whenever you can. This also helps you to see things that your users see, and sometimes shows up problems you didn't know you had.  Send yourself a test email through any forms on your site. Run a link validation utility. Look at your site statistics to see if there are any 404 errors (these are "Page Not Found" errors). These are basics, and the website owner should be looking for problem areas like this that will send users scurrying off to other websites, taking their business with them. No matter how good a web designer might be, problems do occur from time to time and it is up to the website owner to find these, particularly if their business depends on their website, but even if the website is just additional advertising for them. No designer, no matter how good, has the time to keep up with every website they have ever designed or maintained and make sure it's working, nor should they be expected to do so. It's your website, it's up to you to track what's happening with it. Following are some items you should consider.

PC Decrapifier PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 08 January 2010 16:26

Just got a new PC? Then you know of all those programs they put on it in hopes you'll buy them at a later date... well, here's a nice little utility designed to remove a specific list unwanted software in an unattended fashion: http://pcdecrapifier.com/. Gotta love the name, since that's exactly what all that stuff is. It's free for personal use ($5 donation appreciated), $20 for commercial use.

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