Robert de Bock

Anonymous browsing using a hosted PAC file

A sketch of how a proxy worksAs a public service, Me in IT Consultancy is offering a hosted Proxy Automatic Configuration (PAC) file. That means you can configure your web browser once to use this PAC file, and from then on surf the web anonymously.

How to set it up in 1 minutes

This is really simple, the greater picture is that you have to tell your web browser where the PAC file can be found. The browser will get that file, and use the proxies that are listed in there.

Mac OS X - Safari and possibly other browsers

Mac OS X sets a proxy at the level of a network configuration, so it's not a specifically Safari configuration item.

  1. Go to System Preferences found under the apple icon in the left top.
  2. Select the network you use and click Advanced.
  3. Select the Proxies tab and change Configure Proxies: Manually to Using a PAC file.
  4. Enter the PAC File URL: http://meinit.nl/proxy.pac

Windows/Linux - Firefox

  1. Click Tools, Options.
  2. At the Network tab, Settings button.
  3. Set the bottom Automatic Proxy Configuration URL to http://meinit.nl/proxy.pac

How it works

Every now and then the PAC file is regenerated, only using the working proxies, and removing the slow or not working proxies. Your browser gets that PAC file when it starts up, to always uses a fresh copy.

Troubles

Most troubles are not specifically related to using a PAC file, but relate to using an anonymous proxy in general. Even though, here are the troubles I ran into.

1. Some proxies have restrictions like not being able to post things. Even a simple Google search may be broken then. This is a limitation of this setup, posting can be considered dangerously.

Choosing a good domain name

It can be difficult to find yourself a good domain name. Besides that, what is the influence of a domain name on your visitors and search engines? How do you deal with multiple domains and should you have multiple domains? Let's go over these items.

  1. Keep it short. Long domain names are not easy to remember. Keep in mind that most visitors will not just type in your domain name, they will find it through Google, Yahoo or other websites. In my case for example, only 6% of the visitors come to my website by typing in the domain name. 12% comes to this website through search engines, 82% comes here by clicking on a link on another website.
  2. Use a name that suits your goal. What do you want to do with your website? Try to translate that "mission" into domain. This can be difficult, as you want to keep your domain short. Search engines heavily judge your website on a few items:
    1. What other have to say about your website.
    2. What words can be found in the URL.
    3. What words can be found in the title and meta tags.
    4. What words can be found on the page itself.
  3. Promote only one domain. Search engines tend to discover how important a website is, but counting the links to your website. If you have several domains in use, not redirecting to a single domain, search engines like Google will spread the importance of your website over all these domains. Focus on one domain, redirect everything other domain to that single domain.
  4. Have links to all your domains. If you have more than one domain, link to them from your main domain. In my case, I refer to these domains in articles like these. My main domain (now) is Me in IT Consultancy, but I have Me in IT Consultancy dot com, Me in IT Consultancy dot eu, Robert de Bock, Drupal dot nl, Linux Consultancy and Linux Consultant all redirecting to

Having multiple domains is not specifically good for your websites internet presence. I am sure you could just as well use a single domain, instead of buying a few. There are a few reasons why you could want to have multiple domains:

  • Catching typos. Think of domain names that contain then or than
  • Preventing others from using what seems to be your domain. Image www.cocacola.com and www.coca-cola.com
  • Buying domains to hopefully sell them later.I do not think this is a good strategy, but maybe you do.

Simple checks to detect phishing websites

Some time ago I was asked to use a service called Moneybookers. At first I was a bit skeptic to use this service.

How do you check if an online service if safe to use?

  1. Check StumbleUpOn about Moneybookers. Social networks can be used to see how trustworthy services are!
  2. Check the SSL certificate. Check if the URL is really what you wanted to visit.
  3. Check Wikipedia on Moneybookers. Wikipedia does not tell you the truth, but chances are high that the public wrote something sensible.

Added another few domains to this (Drupal) website

I have added these few domains to point to this website, meinit.nl:
Looking for our wedding site?

Here are the steps to take when adding a (few) domain(s). These steps make your domain jump through to your 1 and only domain you are using. For your Google Page Rank, it's better to concentrate all (sub-)domains instead of spread your Page Rank over many websites.

  1. Register the domain. Do it anywhere you like.
  2. Setup the domain name (DNS) Make www and @ (That is a reference to just the domain, without www.)
  3. Setup apache On the bottom you will find the virtual host configuration I use.
  4. Restart apache With a command like /usr/sbin/apachectl graceful or anything else.
  5. Setup .htaccess Make all domains go to one domain.

That's it. For reference purpose, here are the codes used.

Example part of httpd.conf. The bottom 4 lines were added.

<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin [email protected]
DocumentRoot /var/www/virtualhosts/meinit/html
ServerName meinit.nl
ErrorLog /var/www/virtualhosts/meinit/logs/error_log
CustomLog /var/www/virtualhosts/meinit/logs/access_log common
ServerAlias *.meinit.nl
ServerAlias meinit.eu
ServerAlias *.meinit.eu
ServerAlias meinit.com
ServerAlias *.meinit.com
ServerAlias robertdebock.nl
ServerAlias *.robertdebock.nl
ServerAlias drupal.nl
ServerAlias *.drupal.nl
ServerAlias debock-beck.nl
ServerAlias *.debock-beck.nl
ServerAlias linux-consultant.nl
ServerAlias *.linux-consultant.nl
ServerAlias linux-consultancy.nl
ServerAlias *.linux-consultancy.nl
</VirtualHost>

A part of my .htaccess. Everything is redirected to http://meinit.nl/

  RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^linux-consultant\.nl$ [NC]
  RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://meinit.nl/$1 [L,R=301]
  RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^linux-consultancy\.nl$ [NC]
  RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://meinit.nl/$1 [L,R=301]

5 reasons why commands are better than graphical user interfaces

A screenshot of a Windows terminalYesterday, I spoke to a (mostly Windows) colleague. He told me that system administration with a mouse is ease, "because you just try to change something, if it acts unexpected, you reboot."

I do not agree with that but could not make it clear to him why the command line is a better media to administer a system. Therefore, here is a list of comments you could give when you are asked the same question.

  1. Know what you are doing. A command line interface (CLI from now on) is scary. Just like an artist you have to start with a white sheet. (Read "black terminal".) My personal tendency when want to setup things is to use the man command often to read what commands can do.
  2. Undoing can be more natural. When setting up/changing things, one of the first things I want to know is how to undo things. Sometimes this can be a reboot but in 99% of the cases there is a command to flush/delete/undo/roll-back/etc.
  3. Automation is possible. When you can do/see something on the command-line, you can script it! Whenever I need to do something 2 (possibly more) times, I make a small script so I don't have to thing about it next time.
  4. Documentation is easier. Well, this is personal, but I think it's easier to copy-paste commands then to paste screen shots.
  5. A good keyboard does not cause RSI. A mouse (unless a good one) tends to cause RSI more.

I must be honest, there are some things that just should be used graphically, like an email client. No way mutt or pine are better. A chat client should also be graphical, all those windows...

Upgrading Drupal 6.0 to 6.1

Drupal 6.1 is fixing a security issue that 6.0 introduced, so time to upgrade.

I am quite used to upgrading the 5.* versions, but upgrading Drupal 6.* versions is new to me. Let's go over the details. You can also find information in the UPGRADE.txt.

  1. Download Drupal 6.1. You can find it at the Drupal website.
  2. Unpack drupal-6.1.tar.gz. Using tar -xvzf drupal-6.1.tar.gz will create a new directory, drupal-6.1
  3. Copy old modules, themes, files and configurations into drupal-6.1. Especially the files directory is new to me, I did not take care to check that. The configuration has also been altered a bit, there is now a sites/default/default.settings.php, where Drupal 5.* used to have a sites/default/settings.php. It seems that this default.settings.php is not being used, so do place a settings.php with the right configuration, otherwise you might be shown the installer web GUI again.
  4. Visit /update.php. This web GUI has also changed a bit, it looks easier. For Drupal 6.1 running update.php does not seem to be required, but it won't hurt to run this after every upgrade.

Optimizing the process of making instant soup (cup-a-soup)

Here is a trick from a Russian colleague on how to get your Cup-a-soup (a Dutch instant soup) prepared optimal. Here in The Netherlands, cup-a-soup is quite popular, it should be served at around 16:00.

Take a look at this hilarious (Dutch) video:

  1. Put the soup-powder into a cup.
  2. Pour some boiling water over it.
  3. Stir for a few moments.
  4. Cover the cup for a few minutes.
  5. Remove the cover.
  6. Enjoy the best instant soup ever!

Intergrating a beautifull "Digg This" button in your drupal stories

If you use the Digg This module from the Drupal website, you will find that the Digg-button is on the top of the story, not within the story. I don't like that behaviour, just as any other website the Digg-button should be incorporated into the text. This seems more natural and less intrusive.

Here is a small guide get an nice Digg This icon built into your stories. (Or pages.)

  1. Download and install the Digg This module. I normally install it in sites/modules/all, but that is up to you.
  2. Modify the diggthis/diggthis.css file. On the bottom you will find my whole diggthis.css. The float:left makes the object float between the text, on the left side

div.diggthis_button {
margin-right:20px;
float:left;
}

My girlfriend didn't notice upgrade to Mac OS X Leopard

Mac book pro running Mac OS X LeopardI do not know if this is a good or a bad thing, but last week I upgraded her PowerBook (G4) from Mac OS X Tiger to Mac OS X Leopard. After an hour or so the install was finished. I ejected the CD, played a bit, everything seemed to work.

A week later she has not mentioned the upgrade at all. I would have expected a: "Hey, is my computer upgraded or so?".

Good because

  • Everything that is expected to survive an upgrade, did!
  • The natural look and feel is ~about~ the same.
  • The upgrade process works flawless.

Bad because

  • Why upgrade when a user can't even spot the differences?
  • Is my girlfriend not the geek girl I thought she was?

Secret SEO trick

An image of a SEO bookBesides a few (known) technologies like: explicit URLS, using "alt" text, adding a sitemap, using Drupal and others, here is the trick to making a successful website or blog:

Focus on quality content

That is actually the only thing you should focus on. Forget about search engines, Google Pagerank, linking strategies and other SEO tricks, just write what your business or visitors would like to see/read. I'd like to introduce a new term for this:

VO - Visitor Optimisation

Optimise your website in a way that visitors will find the (high quality) content naturally. Outbound links will slowly start to come. Google and other search engines will always adapt their algorithms to how humans would use your website.

Syndicate content