Operator Error!

The byline at the Washington Post reads “Human Chess Blunder Hands Win to Computer Program.” It goes on to say:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World champion chess computer software program Deep Junior pounced on a glaring error by Garry Kasparov Thursday to draw level with the Russian grandmaster half-way through their six-game match in New York.

Well file this one under noduh.com! Most of the mistakes I point out here on HealYourChurchWebSite can usually be traced back to the beloved nut holding the keyboard — that would be you and me. I think the phrase in the article that pays is a quote that reads “This was a time pressure move that is ridiculous by his high standards…

A phrase that could be used to describe many situations how the majority of programming and or system administration mistakes occur. A phrase that describes insanely tight development and deployment cycles that reknowned software design expert, Ed Yourdon describe in a book entitled Death March: The Complete Software Developer’s Guide to Surviving ‘Mission Impossible’ Projects

While I realize that very few churches develop big honking enterprise applications, they are always short staffed, under budget and in a hurry. Usually resulting in a checkmate by the bug machine — or a hacker.

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Microsoft Xenix XP

O'Really's Exploiting Linux

Did you know Microsoft is believed to have been the largest *nix vendor on Earth in the 1980’s?

Yup, thanks to its Xenix operating system — of which is parodied on this fun little page simply entitled Xenix XP.

Scary thing is, I’m old enough to remember working on a Xenix platform for a short time.

It was actually a rather nasty implementation of the old SCO *nix, which also gave me some heartburn back in the day.

Both, IMHO, stood on all fours and howled at the moon.

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Lynx : When Text is All You Need

The Lynx Users Guide v2.8.3 describes the Lynx browser as

… a fully-featured World Wide Web (WWW) client for users running cursor-addressable, character-cell display devices (e.g., vt100 terminals, vt100 emulators running on PCs or Macs, or any other character-cell display). It will display Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) documents containing links to files on the local system, as well as files on remote systems running http, gopher, ftp, wais, nntp, finger, or cso/ph/qi servers, and services accessible via logins to telnet, tn3270 or rlogin accounts (see URL Schemes Supported by Lynx). Current versions of Lynx run on Unix, VMS, Windows3.x/9x/NT, 386DOS and OS/2 EMX.

In English, it means you can surf pages really, really fast with this free browser because it excludes images, Flash, Javascript and other things that aren’t represented as text.

Why is this important to you and your church web site? Because many individuals who are visually impaired use Lynx, often coupling it with a system that will render the text as audio or in Braille. Lynx is also a good way to see what search engines and aggregators see.

As a programmer, I personally like Lynx when I need to wade through a long list of blogs. That and it can be combined with various programming languages such as Python, PHP and Perl to achieve an effect similar to Perl’s LWP::Simple — though using Lynx does mean running a system command (a potential security risk). Also, when used with the -source argument, Lynx becomes yet another way around those insidious anti-right click Nazis.

While Lynx is insanely small and easy to install, you may be in a situation where you cannot or don’t want to install Lynx — not at least without first seeing it in action. No problem. For that, I suggest a visit to Delorie’s Lynx View page.

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Church and Charity Domain Names Targeted by Pornographers

As I pointed out in my previous article, “where the heck is my domain name?“, nothing ruins one’s morning worse than waking up and finding your (former) domain name for your church now redirects unsuspecting visitors to a grotesque gaggle of naked Russian women.

And just to drive the point home, I’ve collected a series of articles that I hope will scare the boogers out of you enough to go check the ownership and status of your church’s domain name(s) — and then tatoo the expiration date to your forehead and arm.

  • Defend your domain from Web porn – If you don’t know when your church’s or organization’s Web domain expires, you might want to check — before pornographers do.
  • Adult Site Operators Increase Hijacking Of Expired Domain Names – Over the last several months, domain name speculators have begun to register lapsed domain names that were previously owned by commercial entities, non-profit organizations, religious groups and local governments. In many cases, the speculators link their new names to adult content.
  • Google and dmoz lose expired domains fight – I often see domains which are in different dmoz and google categories (children, news, disabled people, church, government ..) with porn content … Seems to me like people register expired domains which are still
    in dmoz and get high PR for their sites from both, Google and dmoz categories.
  • Christian Web sites being ‘hijacked’ by pornographers – Christian ministries are inadvertently becoming purveyors of smut as pornographers “hijack” expired Web sites, either to lure unsuspecting visitors to pornographic sites or to earn a profit by selling the URL back to its original owner at an inflated price … The Indiana Baptist newspaper is among the latest victims of a scheme that has affected various ministries, non-profit organizations, government agencies and political leaders.
  • Sites Forlorn When Reborn as Porn – Small town governments, church groups and the Ohio State Senate have Web addresses that have been hijacked and held ransom by pornographers lately in a growing trend. By Jeffrey Benner.
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Where the ‘Heck’ is my Web Site?

One of my more frequent reads, the Register, is running a very informative series of article entitled “Where the hell is my website?.” The third installment in this series, “A punter’s guide to keeping hold of your domain” offers several points you should print out and keep by your computer. Or at least keep in the notebook or folder you use to manage your site. You do keep such records and notes don’t you?! More on that later.

The bottom line is that some of you lose your church web sites because you lose control or ownership of your domain name. So, here for your convenience, are just the bullet points without the excellent explanations offered in the aforementioned article with some emphasis on one particular point I find VERY important.

Meaning, when you get a chance, read the article. In fact, read the entire series or you too might find yourself dying a thousand painful deaths when you wake up one morning, type in your church’s domain name, only to find yourself redirected to a pr0n site:

  • Do NOT let your domain expire
  • Make sure you are listed as the Administrative and Technical contact
  • Make sure those contacts are correct
  • Do NOT let your domain expire
  • Go to a reputable registrar
  • Try to choose a registrar with an online control panel
  • Check the registrar charges
  • Do NOT let your domain expire
  • Get a registrar that locks a domain
  • Check the registrar’s security
  • Do NOT let your domain expire
  • And if it has already expired?
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RSS Validator

Just got a question from one of you about a web service they’re working on. They wanted to know how their RSS looked. Well, I thought it looked great — so did Mark Pilgrim and Sam Ruby’s RSS Validator.

Feel the need to build a feed for church/Christian related web sites? Great! Code it, validate it, then email me about it and I’ll talk about it here. Now get busy !-)

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Generated content, automatic numbering and lists

Here is yet another reason why DiveIntoMark.org should be part of your daily technoBlog reading – Auto-numbered nested lists. As Mark puts it:

.. [it] uses a little-known CSS technique called automatic counters. It is supposed to display the outer list as “1.”, “2.”, “3.”, “4.”, “5.”, and the inner list as “2.1.”, “2.2.”, “2.3.”, “2.4.”. In other words, auto-numbering the inner list with both a major and minor item number.

I can see a couple of uses for this technique for your church web site, especially those that enumerate long passages of quoted Scripture. The trick being to use “:” instead of “.” as a separator. It might also be very useful for displaying church documents such as bylaws and Sunday school lessons that are presented in outline form. Of the later, the best example I can think of would be the W3C’s on documentation on the topic.

Tell you what, I have to run off to work. If some of you get some working examples of the above technique, leave a comment showing-off your handiwork!

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php Code Genie 1.0

One way I learn a new computer language is to play around with code generation tools. If the generation tool is any good, you get the added benefit of having something that allows you to create a solution lickety-split! Here’s one such little gem called phpCodeGenie.

phpCodeGenie generates all sorts of fun for PHP based upon any MySQL database might happen to have.

I tooled about with the demo and I build a data entry for or two, including forms based upon Insert, Update and Delete operations. Sure, the code needed some massaging afterwards, but it certainly takes the grunt work out of having to build a database-driven form from scratch.

If nothing else, its worth a look. The Open Source price can’t be beat!

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*FREE* Daily Bible Study by Email

Two weeks ago, I raised the subject of Web Services for Christian web sites, which was followed by the following post:

Well, here’s one more for the list, Gary Petersen‘s Read the Bible in One Year.

As Gary states in an annoucement he posted on blogs4God.com

Thanks to the Lockman Foundation, who publishes the New American Standard Bible, I’m sending out a daily email message with four to five chapters of Scripture on a plan that will walk you through reading the entire Bible in a year.  The Book-at-a-Time Reading Plan from Discipleship Journal is our guide for 2003.

What I particularly like about this service is that he offers the daily Scripture reading in one of three delicious formats.

About my only two complaints are that the <description> tags include some HTML that is formatted in upper case, and in particular that it uses <BR> instead of <br /> for a line break. Perhaps a sweep with Tidy might help?

Still, these are little things, and overall I think this is a very useful tool for those of you with church and charity web sites. Or as Strong Bad would say — “Now THAT’s what I’m talking about !

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