Real talk around Web issues... The education between the lines...
Talib B Ashamee


Domain Name Administration

For those directly involved with the day to day operations of your web presence... who also have a clear understanding how important flexible access to your domain name is. Select a service platform that you can understand, that is reliable and well supported. Best price is important in your selection because you do not want to pay for services and activities that you are capable of providing for yourself. This can become very involved and sometimes time consuming. Name administration requires that you understand the relationship between your domain and your hosting facilities. You must be able to properly interpret and administer your resources.

For those administrative types that do not have time or need to view the details. Select someone to oversee ALL of your web activities. This does not mean that this one person actually does everything… what it means is that this one person will pay attention to detail and is capable of taking direct control of resources. This person should have knowledge or skill in advanced Internet service provisioning. Allow this person to select and administer the facilities where your services and intellectual properties live. This person may or may not be your Site-developer. What they should definitely be is someone that you trust to see your big picture and is able to make sure that your best interest is kept in view.


Web Site Development

The long and the short of it is that Site Development is a continuous and sometimes quite intense activity. There are many ways to get there… By templates you can purchase that fit your design needs, By templates that come free with different software packages or services, By designing it your self and providing all the programming and technical skills needed in your project. If the business of your business takes place elsewhere, you will find that doing your own site development will seriously intervene in your process. Fast, Cheep, Good…. Choose any 2, but never all three. Your web site should reflect the purport of its being… It should serve its designed purpose. If you have the skill, the time and direct intervention serves your business need… then by all means… Put YOUR Hands On

Simple, Complex, Fancy, Interactive, Animated, Rich Content, Payment Ready… The "hands off" approach requires that you have a good grip on the reason you have the Site in the first place. It also requires that you are able to translate that vision to a designer or have a designer that understands your business need. One of the most costly attitudes one can have is "I want It ALL"... While it is entirely possible to have it all… ALL does come with a price tag. If you are on a budget, you or your administrator must match the design and functionality of your site to that budget. What this means is, paying for expensive bells and whistles BEFORE basic functionality will leave you unfulfilled. Get the basics straight. Watch out for the HYPE. People will sell you the latest and the greatest… you may not need it… in fact it could be a distraction from your business intent. Your web site should support the business you conduct or it should build the business you desire. Your visitors should be able to come to your site and get what they came for or receive exactly what you intend to impart.

  Web Site Design These days, web site design is practiced not only by professional graphic designers but also the hobbyist at home. In both cases, there are always mistakes made on web site design that could be avoided. Create an attractive, pleasing place that online visitors will want to come back to.

1. Clean up your web site design and take out the cutesy music stuff as well as any video clips or animated clip art. Sometimes, the “less is more” adage works well.

2. Readability issues – Squinting and struggling to read the words on the screen NOT GOOD!. Loud or wildly patterned backgrounds do not work well for your text. In addition, do not choose a light colored font for your text if the background is also light colored. The same principle applies for dark fonts and backgrounds. In your web site design, choose a normal sized font in a pleasing color that will contrast well with the web page’s background.

3. Layout woes – Avoid too much “fussiness” when tweaking your web site design. If a visitor’s eyes cannot focus on the text or pictures they are trying to peruse, then your web site has failed. This means that flashing text, a rainbow of colors and a disorganized layout of information should be avoided. Clean, simple lines are what retain your web site visitors and keep them coming back again.

4. Brush up your navigation skills – Web site design involves making sure that all the web pages you created for your web site have active links and are easy to find. When web visitors encounter too many broken links and cannot access all the pages, they will give up and go elsewhere on the internet.

Surf the internet for other web sites that are similar in content to yours. Check and see what features work well and what turns you off. This is a good rule to follow when coming up with your own web site design. You are not copying anyone else, just incorporating the same principles that make another site successful.



Your Hosting Company

Selecting a hosting company can be confusing… or maybe not. If you understand how web resources are allocated and have a clue how your web site uses services and storage, you can make a fairly intelligent choice for a hosting company. Depending on what you want, your services can be from free to just plain unaffordable and there might not really be a noticeable difference in product. Of course this is an oversimplification… in fact… you almost always get what you pay for and usually pay for much more than you need. In general, if you are truly a hands-on person, low cost hosting can be your friend. In some cases it may mean that you sacrifice availability, features or support… but if you are there with programming and design, that wont matter. It is reasonable to pay for robust hosting packages that include responsive network support and boast of high availability. Again… the allusion to more does not always mean better. Who ever you choose, there are the same things to keep in mind.

  • Where and what kind of facilities will be hosting you?
  • How is that facility supported in the network?
  • Can you get help when you need it?
  • Are you paying a reasonable price for the kind of service and interface that you receive?
  • Research; find the best package for the best price with the best support and the best product… right. If you are not a "hands on" person, please do not shop for discount hosting. You need a fully supported package. You need a platform that is ready to accept what ever you might throw at it… mostly because you do not know. Getting the best price for the best cyber services is likened to shopping for shoes on a dollar table… you might find exactly what you like, but not your size. You might find exactly the right fit, but not quite the right style. All I am saying is that services vary and so do project requirements. If you go for discount and you are not hands on… who is going to take the blame or the responsibility for filling in the gaps. With a well supported back end, the help you may need is readily available (within reason). Most hosting companies do offer some support to end users. How much support, does not always line up with what you pay. If you are not really hands on, I can not stress the true importance of creating an alliance with someone that can translate in both directions. You need support that can relate to your view and help you to better interpret the cyber landscape as it really is.


    Who is your ISP?

    First off… If you are still on a dial-up… GET OFF NOW! A basic high speed service can be acquired fairly inexpensively. You will win back the cost for your high speed in time given back to you for other activities. Even the most basic high speed interface will be many times faster that a dial-up AND reliability will cease to be a question. So the question then becomes what do I buy? I like services that have low program overhead and minimum system interference. This lets out AOL, MSN and most other USER FRIENDLY service providers. The problem with most of these service types is that they presume the user to be an idiot… and by doing so they become intrusive and overbearing. AOL and MSN for example will invade your system with "helpful" services that take control of your Modem, Ethernet, Wireless and any other active or suspected way to get connected… You might think… well this is good. No it is not If you are a "hands on"/Power user… this type of ISP intervention is always in the way of a pure internet experience. The best choices for an ISP if you are a "hands on" user are companies that Offer downloadable support offerings but DO NOT require that you run their shell or Browser… Cable and Basic DSL services (NOT BUNDLED with AOL or MSN or Net ZERO type interfaces) are your best avenue for a clean high speed interface

    When you purchase a new computer, it is ALREADY INTERNET READY. In most cases you have Virus protection, a Firewall and even sometimes Spy and Pest detection software (some may be introductory). Unfortunately there is also a full set of links that will get you "hooked up" with those ISPs that have paid to be put in your face. If you follow the yellow brick road…you will indeed find yourself in the land of OZ or maybe even tumbling down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. Yes it is easy to just Click and let it happen… Often in a new set-up this seems to be easy and painless. The problem is that you do not know what is happening. At that moment you usurp your own authority and turn control over to the vendor. If you ever want to sacrifice your good working otherwise healthy PC to the uncaring Computer Gods… just let AOL get hosed and call for support… I have seen many times where AOL, MSN and Net ZERO Support technicians FIX their problem… and leave the client with a whole new set of issues. Again, having someone that knows your intent and keep you in mind while getting you connected is a very good idea.


    E-Mail (Yet another e-mail address)

    Every ISP provides a service platform that usually includes, e-mail, personal web site, technical support, and other interesting goodies… and every time you change your ISP you get a whole new basket full. Nice??? Your e-mail address is much like a telephone number… it has many of the same benefits and suffers many of the same pitfalls. So how many e-mail addresses do you manage and why? You have the e-mail from your ISP, you have the free Hotmail account, you have the free Yahoo account, you have the free GMail account, you have the e-mail from work, you have the e-mail from school… you have ALL this e-mail and none of it is actually dedicated to you. Personally, I have given out the same 2 primary e-mail addresses for several years. I have changed my ISP several times with generally no interruption of my e-mail flow. How is that so?

    1. I have my own domain names

    2. I know and understand how e-mail works (in general)

    Because of these 2 things only, There is no e-mail confusion in my life… Yes there is SPAM and yes there are viruses…

    Yes I have a Hotmail account, yes I have a Yahoo account yes I have a Gmail account and on and on, but I DO NOT USE THEM for Correspondence (with very little exception). My Yahoo, Hotmail and other e-mail accounts are for access to the associated on-line communities (we’ll get to that later)

    If you are the stick to it type… an ISP monogamist so to speak… you may have the fortune of having the same e-mail address for years… and then along comes a reason to change your ISP, you want high speed, you move to a new place… something upsets the apple cart and voila… you now have a new ISP and a new bag of goodies. What do you do?? You can just change your e-mail address to the new one… But what about all the business collaterals that you had printed up last year, what about the list of friends and business associates that you communicate with… How do you handle this without loosing your mind?

    There are plenty of services out there that can help with this type of migration… many are even free (but at what cost to your data/privacy). AOL even offers to let you take your e-mail address with you to another ISP… but again… at what cost?

    Again, my solution is to have in place a trusted coordinator for you on-line services, have your own domain name for at least e-mail forwarding or for the most bang… do them both.


      Domain Name Administration
    Web Site Development
    Web Site Design
    Who is your ISP?

    Your Hosting Company
    On-Line Payments
    E-Mail (Yet another e-mail address)
    On-Line Communities

    Network Neutrality

    My Home Network
    General Security and You
    Remote Support / Remote Access
    To Search or Not to Search


    On-Line Payments

    There are many merchant gateways that can provide you service. Whatever you choose, remember… this is your money and YOU should KNOW what it is doing. If you already have a merchant platform for your business, it makes sense to expand that service to cover your web activities. You are already paying for it AND the integration is likely to be fairly simple. If your business can support a standard merchant interface, this will be the most reliable and seamless to integrate into your web activities. This usually involves a little software, a little program configuration and sometimes a little hardware installation.  There are also third party processing houses that will process payments for you.  If you go this route... make sure you are with a reputable company AND be prepared to do a little program interfacing if you expect your web site interface to be smooth working.

    HANDS OFF IS A NO NO… Be involved in your on-line payment process. If you have to rely on someone else to set this up for you it is BEST to go with a standard merchant service. Using merchant gateways in scenarios where you are delegating the integration and configuration to a 3rd party IS problematic. To configure a standard merchant account only requires the support of the service provider’s technical staff and reasonable abilities on the web. In contrast, most gateway solutions are clumsy and require program interfaces that may or may not work well. Another problem with 3rd party gateways comes as you may have to allow a 3rd party access to your personal account information. This may not be so bad if YOU actually understand and are in control of your gateway service. If on the other hand you do not know how it works you may give away the farm if the person helping you is not on your team. The bottom line with on-line payment is that your customer experience needs to be relatively seamless and your costs should be well under your average sustained sales.


    On-Line Communities

    You are NEVER Alone little Grasshopper… AOL, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, Google Talk, IRC and a myriad of communal offerings exist (and have existed since Gore invented the Internet [that’s a joke… ok]). There are free venues, Paid Public venues, Private, Corporate. Is one better than another… who know who even cares. The platforms are becoming so robust and the areas between them becoming so gray. Fact is that most of the big players are working on cross platform access. I mentioned earlier that I had several e-mail addresses that were used to connect to various communities. This is becoming less the case as providers realize that communal loyalty is 2nd to user convenience. This means that sooner than one might think it will be possible to truly present a single point for contact over the internet. Regardless of the media type (text, audio, video, 2-way voice, etc). In all efforts you have to keep in mind what it is that you are trying to accomplish. The hype is always there… there are always the newest and the greatest even though you just picked up the next generation. As the lines between ISP and IAP or Network Provider become thinner, you realize that the boon towards on-line communalism is not new… the toys are just now becoming really socially superior for work and for play.

    If your ISP had their way… everything communications would carry their brand and everyone you communicated would do the same… But that is not the way it is. The internet demands cooperation and collaboration… the juice of innovation and imagination is an environment that enables new ideas. The best (or shall I just say… more) is yet to come. The crossing of ISP boundaries is a given in post 911 public access venues… Homeland Security Demands it… not to mention that not having to have the same ISP account to chat with my sister from my Wi-Fi connected PC and then to be able to invite my cousins into the conference, who are on Cable and DSL in different parts of the nation just because they subscribe to the great Global Directory Service…. Hmmm... I actually Like it…

    The only issue in any of this is Security and Privacy… How much is too little? Is too much ever going to be enough?


    My Home Network

    Once you have broadband in the home… nothing internet is ever the same. Home applications are as prevalent as your imagination. Not just your computer benefits from the internet. Video on Demand, Music on Demand, Downloads shared storage, Cable and DSL providers are all part of the landscape. You can buy some broadband, buy some cable or satellite video, buy a couple of boxes to plug all this stuff into and the next thing you know, everyone is at your house for anything entertaining… and this is a good thing. It is simple and for the most fairly reasonably priced. If you are the hands on person, you love it. Here are some of the out of the box capabilities of most home networks (well they should be).

    1. Shared broadband access. Every internet capable device on the premise should be able to gain access

    2. Shared Resources. In a simply defined home network it is expected that , files, printers, scanners, music and other media can be made available for anyone’s use

    3. Services that interface home entertainment systems to cable and satellite providers are accessible

    4. When introduced, wireless, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices should interface without a hitch.

    They even have internet home appliances for the kitchen… Internet/TV on your Refrigerator… my my what will they think of next?

    This can be one of the most frustrating supposed to be simple things you can get your "hands off" self into. On a good day you can bring 20 boxes into the house, open every last one of them and manage to get them properly connected together and the very first time you turn them on… EVERYTHING WORK JUST FINE. That is on a good day. If you have a simple network put together with decent tools and a clear intent, it is likely that you can be happy with keeping your hands off your home network. The other scenario is constant frustration brought on by unfulfilled and probably irrational expectations of what you get in a home network. Either way you need some guidance. The most ominous thing about the home network is the inerrant exposure created on startup. .


    General Security and You

    In General:

    1. No hacked Software

    2. Purchase your firewall solution

    3. Purchase your anti virus solution

    4. Keep both of them current and updated

    5. Secure your Router and Wireless Access Points

    6. Monitor your usage

    7. Identify persistent activities in your network

    8. Employ Spy and Ad-Ware management tools

    9. Use Passwords

    10. If your network is open, close your gateway

    11. Be ever diligent!!

    There is no escape… no matter how simple your ISP tries to make it seem. You MUST get an understanding of how the things done on the net and inside your computer can affect your security. The more advanced your equipment, the more possibilities of violation. When you purchase new toys you have to remember that the makers want you to have an EASY time USING all your toys together… Easy and Secure are somewhat adversarial. In most cases what you purchase will work out of the box. Most security software will have default settings that are only minimally sufficient. Ultimately it will be your understanding and course of action that keeps you secure… SO 1-11 are yours too.

      Remote Support / Remote Access The wonders of Broadband Access to the Internet.  Anyone can have a rich and full filling experience... Right up until you need help and there is no one around that can help you.  You are stuck!  You grab the phone and make that emergency phone call to your favorite Guru but all you can say is ... "It won't work" or "I got this error when..." or some other statement that expresses your distress.  Enter the Remote Desktop; The ability to connect to a Desktop over a broadband connection and actually see and control the distant PC.  There are many tools available for the hands on user... tools that enable one to give or receive just a little help from ones friends or even paid support for those really tight spots.  As always, security is an issue.  The best way to manage these processes is to activate them ONLY when you need them.  To do so requires that you have a pretty good idea of what and how to create the kind of access you need before you take on the endeavor. More over, most ISPS and more and more Service Organizations are offering On-line Support through Instant Messaging.  Via subscription and more than likely some additional applet or plug-in, they offer remote access, product specific support and the ability to solicit help via your internet connection.  Some even offer downloadable PC tune up tools to provide general diagnostics of their product or your PC.  There are also companies like GoToMyPC that offer you remote access to your home of office PC by subscription.  To varying degrees these services are reliable and safe.  My 2 major concerns with these Services are cost and general exposure.  Cost is obvious... You can pay upwards of $20.00 per month to access only 1 PC.  If you regularly need remote access to your home PC this may not be a bad deal... but if you only need access to your machine every now and again it is another story.  Second is General Exposure.  Each of these services must provide a way for you to identify your PC and also a way for you to secure your PC from unsolicited access.  In most cases this is done through a secured server scenario where your PC is ALWAYS (when ever the app is running) connected and broadcasting its presence.  The problem for me with this is that bad guys scan these services and the Internet at large, looking for anyone to bully.  If you are subscribed to one of these services, although there is implied security, you are also holding up a sign that says; "here I am... Please Try Me!".  
      To Search or Not to Search KISS - "Keep It Simple Stupid"... wins every time!

    Start with the most general and work your way towards your goal.  Don't be afraid to search for that specialized search engine... Consider what you are looking for... and where you are looking.  The machine is logical... the data may not be. Try to use root words and phrases.

    Google, Ask, Yahoo, MSN, NEXUS, Excite, Look Smart... and on and on... and on... The search for the better search.  The engine with the most... Most What... It has gotten so now its quicker to look it up in the yellow pages... book that is... Or maybe not.  The best search engine to use is the one that gives YOU the most answers that YOU look for.  Which means that you are going to have to settle or search around.  Before you go off looking... remember... no matter how hard it tries... you are asking a computer... and it can only give you a computer generated answer.  A successful search is based on how well you can isolate search terms that will produce.  So...  Choose a couple of the big boys and ask them the same question... see who's answer you like best... See who's format best suits your style.  BUT WHATEVER YOU DO.... Stay out of Tool Bar Hell... you know... the place where you have more search and help tool bars in your browser than browsing space.  

    Search Engine Placement

    Key Word based searching is a Tail looking for a Dog to wag.  An entire industry based on integrating words used last month. SEO... Search Engine Optimization. The Zen of it is that in the end... it may not have mattered at all... or maybe it did. The point is that any energy that you put into this arena should really be based on your target audience and your product.

    You go someplace like and take what they give you for free.  Do a good job filling in the blanks.  Now sprinkle in a little of that SEO* HYPE you've been getting.  Now you have a good list of key words (that do relate to your project).  You also have a real idea as to what volume of product or business you can really sustain.  The free placement in and where ever else you want... will seed the search placement mechanism for all time.  How you will rise is based on either the performance of your product/service or what you PAY (time, energy, money) for a better placement.

    * Search Engine Optimization

      Network Neutrality

    Have they all lost their minds? I pay good money to be connected and I think for my dough... my ISP should do all that they can to make sure that my service is the BEST POSSIBLE regardless to where I am trying to go. Where ever you connect to the Internet whether you be Provider or User... You are paying someone for service/access. You should get what you pay for. Are Network Providers attempting to get Paid on both ends?

    First... let's get a couple of things twisted. ISP (Internet Service Provider)... Just who are you talking about... I'd say that it depends on who you are talking to. To the average user the ISP is whoever they are paying to connect to the internet... Right? To the Person with a web site the definition expands to include the Company that they buy Hosting Service from. Lets call them the Reseller. To the Service Reseller the definition expands to include the company that provides them access or a service platform. Lets call them the Network Providers.... You know them... AT&T or SBC, Comcast, COX, Verizon and everyone else large or small. Now lets add the CSPs (Content Service Provider)... the Yahoo!, Google, AOL, MSN and all the others. Now lets throw in the Interconnects, companies like Level 3... if this is getting confusing... you are reading me loud and clear... Some of those Network Providers are also Content Providers and vice versa... So what is this charade? I buy PREMIUM service be it Cable, DSL or Satellite... and anyone else that does the same has an expectation of bandwidth and performance. I am also a Re-Seller. I Sell PREMIUM Service and support.

    Network Neutrality: You are a Comcast customer that likes to use Yahoo! search engine, You have a business web site and e-mail server that lives in the heart of a Baby Bell and you have family, friends and customers on AOL, Verizon, Qwest, SBC Yahoo! that use Google!, Alta Vista, Lexus Nexus or whatever. Everyone that wants to Get or Give Good Service should be able to purchase the best service they can and expect the BEST Performance from the Network that can be delivered. It is plain insane to allow a Network provider the luxury of Getting paid First to deliver PREMIUM Service and then accept pay again to provide what... Better than premium service?? How then could the same Network Provider who happens to also be an Access Service Provider and also a Content Service Provider, do any customer justice by serving up ANY CONTENT faster than ANY CUSTOMERS FIRST CHOICE... regardless to what it is. No Content Provider should be able to influence how You or I perceive the internet other than by the quality of their product. No Network Provider should be able to restrict the flow because Joe paid them to do so.

    What about the Infrastructure?... Well... That is why I PAY FOR PREMIUM SERVICE.



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