Web site creation and standards guide

I’ve been reading the Free Software Magazine on-and-off for a few weeks now, whenever something looks particularly interesting. Some stuff is not incredibly impressive, but this article “Creating web pages, the right way” by Mitch Meyran offered a lot of incredibly insightful information as to some of the true considerations for designing a page. He touches on a little bit of theory and a little bit of practicality that made me wish there was more than 5 pages to read. It is a bit technical, so if you’re not at all familiar with web design or web standards, you can probably skip the article. This one is meant for the true designers and coders out there. It made me rethink quite a few poor decisions I’ve made that I can correct in the future.

Moving Day

I’m moving my domain over from GoDaddy to my brand new ANhosting account. What difference does this make for you? Probably not much. I’ve been using ANhosting for a week or two with the RMstudents website and I liked them so much (and they were having such a good Halloween hosting special) that I decided to move my site over here. Plus now I can ping other websites without a problem! Namely the wonderful ping-o-matic.

Whowas?

According to the New York Times BITS section, whois may become whowas due to it’s incredible abuse by spammers. If you’re not familiar, WHOIS is a large database similar to a phone book for websites. You can look up who owns a particular website and what their contact information is. In order to protect your information, most domain registrars offer private registration (like an unlisted phone number) to owners in order to prevent them from receiving spam. The growing necessity for nearly everyone to have private registration has forced ICANN to question whether the database(s) should just be scrapped.

More From Debian

From a related page:

Most software costs over 100 US dollars. How can you give it away?
A better question is how do software companies get away with charging so much? Software is not like making a car. Once you’ve made one copy of your software, the production costs to make a million more are tiny (there’s a good reason Microsoft has so many billions in the bank).

Debian — About Debian

Inspiring Words from Debian

I found myself on Debian‘s website today for the first time ever, I think. This is weird considering I’m a big supporter of their philosophy. Nonetheless, they had some inspiring words on free software. The quote below is an example, but the whole page deserves a read to be honest.

Software that is free only in the sense that you don’t need to pay to use it is hardly free at all. You may be forbidden to pass it on, and you are almost certainly prevented from improving it. Software licensed at no cost is usually a weapon in a marketing campaign to promote a related product or to drive a smaller competitor out of business. There is no guarantee that it will stay free.

Debian — What Does Free Mean?

I’ve been slacking

So I realize I’ve been slacking with this website. Turns out med school was a lot more work that I imagined, and a lot of my free time has been spent working on the RMstudents website. Fortunately today we completed our move to ANhosting and there should be more time for development. Anyways, here’s my vow to do better on this website. Plus I’ve added Asides (short “side notes” that aren’t really full-fledged posts), which should be fully functional once I get the customized theme up. More to come in the next week I think…

Rush’s Poor Excuse for Email

Note: If you’d like to skip my rant and go right to the instructions for bypassing Lotus notes, click here.

Call me spoiled. Maybe I am. I don’t know, but Gmail gives me exactly what I want in a web-based email application. I mainly use Outlook only to force myself to consistently archive my Gmail messages and keep my Inbox clean. As I stated yesterday, the Lotus Notes software that Rush uses to run its web-based email is one of the worst email interfaces I’ve ever used (and I’ve used quite a few). So first I’ll list a few of my major complaints, but the real point of this article is to present a remedy so you potentially never have to use this thing again. The solution is actually fairly simple, and no doubt many web and computer savvy folks have already done this. But since the guy who introduced the email accounts to us explicitly said that they do not utilize email forwarding, maybe some of you didn’t look too hard for a work-around.

First, a list of my chief complaints:

  • ActiveX-based interfaced: It’s bad enough that opening any email attachment puts me at risk for a virus, but now we’re going to hook my email program directly into WINDOWS?! Yes, I’d love to give my email program full access to run malicious scripts. Now I’m pretty careful about what attachment’s I open, and someone who isn’t careful is going to be at risk regardless of the program, but I’m also curious as to what other worm-holes an ActiveX-based email creates. I’ve only ever installed ActiveX for 2 things: Windows Update and an online virus scan. Why does my email need this script access?
  • Browser, incompatible. It appears that these scripts have rendered the software nearly (if not completely) unusable in Firefox. In this day in age, I feel this is unacceptable. Not to mention that this surely isn’t an isolated issue. Apparently Safari has issues as well, according to my roommate. Come on folks, I thought we were passed this stage where we only designed for one browser.
  • Domino, incompatible. The Domino server running the program renders emails useless in terms of offline management. It doesn’t support POP3 or IMAP. Yay for proprietary formats :roll:

Update 2 (6-25-08): I posted new instructions on RMstudents. If you’re not a Rush Lotus Notes user, the instructions listed here should still work for you. If you’re at Rush, follow the instructions on RMstudents.

Update (6-9-08): Apparently Rush has blocked a large number of people (M1’s last names A-D confirmed) from forwarding their email to gmail. If you’re trying to forward your mail (at Rush) and it isn’t working, this could very well be why. I will continue to update as I know more. For those of you not at Rush or not experiencing this issue, this should work fine:

Anyways, enough superfluous banter. The point of this article was to tell you how to fix it. It’s actually fairly easy to circumvent the Lotus Notes software completely if you want to. First, you need a free email account. Try Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, whatever. I use Gmail, but you can use any email address you want. Also, I will do my best to explain so that anyone can follow what I’m saying, but if something needs clarification, let me know.

There are 2 main steps with step-by-step instructions included:

  • Set up your personal account to write like it’s coming from your Lotus Notes account. (I don’t know if this step works for other web-based email besides Gmail. Does anyone know? If not, skip ahead to 2nd bullet.)
    1. Log in to Gmail. Go to your Settings (top right corner of Gmail).
    2. Go to the Accounts tab (2nd). Next to “Send mail as:”, click “Add another email address”.
    3. Enter your Rush email address (e.g. Firstname_Lastname@rush.edu) when prompted. The click “Next Step”. Then click “Send Verification” on the next screen. The next screen should contain a box to enter a confirmation code.
    4. Log in to your Lotus Notes email in a new browser. You should have an email from “Gmail Team”, open it. Copy the confirmation code into the awaiting box in Gmail (or follow the instructions in the email).
    5. You should now see your Rush email listed on the Gmail settings page. Below this there is an option “When I receive a message sent to one of my addresses:”, you may want to make this “Reply to same address the message was sent to”. If you’ve never used this feature in Gmail before, please understand what it is. From now on, any email you send, you’ll be able to choose who you want the email to be “From” (e.g. mynick@gmail.com vs Firstname_Lastname@rush.edu). It’s a pretty cool feature.
  • Create a “rule” that will forward any emails you receive to your Lotus Notes account to your personal email account (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail).
    1. Log in to your Lotus Notes email and go to the “Mail” tab if you’re not there already.
    2. Hover your mouse over the “Tools” menu (just above your list of emails on the far right) and click on “New Mail Rule”. A new window should pop up (make sure you’ve allowed pop-ups for this page).
    3. Make a name for your rule (e.g. Fwd_to_gmail)
    4. Under “Create Conditions”, click the first drop-down menu and select “All Documents” (you need to scroll down). The click “Add>>”
    5. Under “Specify Actions”, select “Send copy to” from the first drop-down menu. In the next empty box, enter your personal email address (Gmail). Make sure “Full” is selected on the bottom drop-down menu. Then click “Add>>”.
    6. The following step is optional, but beneficial. Under “Specify Actions”, you can tell Lotus Notes to delete the original message. To delete messages from your Lotus account once you’ve forwarded an email to your personal account, select “Delete” from the first “Create Actions” drop-down menu. Then click add. If you’re worried that deleting is too final, you can always skip this step. (Another option would be to create an “Archive” folder which you simply move messages to after they’ve been forwarded, so your Lotus Notes inbox stays clean.)
    7. Click “Save & Close” at the top of your screen. Then to back to your inbox.
    8. Test it. Have someone send you an email to your Lotus Notes account and watch the magic 🙂

Some things you won’t be able to do outside of Lotus Notes:

  • Look up people’s email addresses. I highly doubt there’s a way to search the Rush directory from outside Lotus Notes.
  • Emailing the list-servs (maybe this is possible?). If you want to email all the M1’s it may work (I have held off on spamming all the M1’s without good reason) by simply adding @rsh.net to the end of the list-serv name. I’m not going to print the name here to prevent major spamming of the list-servs but look at who all your mass emails are from. My guess is that the list-serv program authenticates its messages as being from Lotus Notes before sending it out to everyone. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance of it being able to will work if you masked who you’re sending “From” in Gmail as described above.
  • Probably more things that I’ve forgotten