So you want a website – part 2

Yesterday I talked about the different avenues to putting up a website, and mentioned some of the pros and cons. Today, I will talk about some of the mechanics. It will be boring, because you aren’t doing anything, but planning at this point.

What sort of site do I want?

Ask yourself what you intend to do with it. Are you a photographer and want to share your portfolio? Do you want to write about current events, or your views on a variety of topics? Do you want to sell something (products, yourself, your services)? Do you want to have advertisements (banners or other related ads) to help fund your site/lifestyle?

List out what you want to accomplish, in as much detail as you know at this time. There are no wrong answers.

What should I be called?

The first step is to obtain something called a domain name. This is something catchy that is related to your what you want to do. For example, the Greyhound rescue group I work with is A web name that is unique and descriptive. Before buying a name, it is good to look for names you want.  I usually use to explore names, but pretty much any hosting provider will be able to search for the availability of your chosen name.

Don’t worry if most of your clever ideas are taken. Be diligent, and creative, and you will find something.

Do I want to host it or use one of the services. 

This is a trickier decision. If you are a rank novice, I would strongly recommend using Blogger or They will both get you up and running pretty easily, and free.  Both can have a custom domain name, and there is a pretty wide variety of themes you can select and customize.

If you are a bit more tech savvy, don’t be afraid to go the self hosted route.  You can’t use blogger, but it is about a 20 minute process to get WordPress up and running. Trivial to say the least. This way you will have a very granular level of control over the look and feel of your website. I will post a blog about the learning path of self hosted wordpress.

I want to go hosted, what should I do?

First, select a hosting company.  There are many that will offer robust, reliable, and safe hosting for about $5 – $10 a month.  They will include almost endless storage, a reliable database, and all the infrastructure to handle your hosting. They will also be able to register your domain (and I recommend doing it from where you host) and keep all the records up to date.

You are going to what a basic Linux hosted service. Pretty much all the hosting companies are good. Hostgator, Network Solutions (they are and GoDaddy are all fine choices, and will get you up and running quickly. There are another tier of hosting companies that are a bit more professional to deal with, but it comes at a price. I personally use MediaTemple and love their service and support. They never try to sell you crap you don’t need, and when you have a support issue, they are super responsive and fix things right away.

All these hosting providers will have an option called VPS (or DV). That is a “Virtual Private Server”, essentially you will have provisioned a full VM with its dedicated disk, cpu, memory, and database. You will not have to share resources, which sounds like a big benefit. But it comes with a mighty cost. You have to update and maintain the linux installation, applying patches, and configuring the services that are used (like PHP and Apache). Unless you are comfortable mucking around in the Unix environment, I would avoid this at all costs. Also, these services will come at a premium price. Expect it to start at $20 a month and go up depending on your resource use.

How to install the software.

When I first started, this was a major deal. I had to download the package, upload it to y hosting site, and then follow the setup process. Pretty easy, but still a manual process.

Now, for the common packages, you can just use something the hosting company will call a “1-button install”. All the most common packages can be installed and a basic configuration setup in a few minutes. No need to mess with MySql databases, or user accounts. Literally, push the button and in a couple minutes you have a WordPress install. Or a Joomla install. Or a Zencart (e-commerce software) installed.

Now you have a basic site. Next in the series is how to set it up, how to customize it, and how to begin populating it with content.

Observations – cycling edition

Lately I have gotten back into bicycling in a big way. I had fallen out of the habit a few years ago, and had several aborted attempts to rekindle the cycling mojo. But the recent diet and exercise plan, and the fact that I can ride without it causing my plantar fasciitis to flare up is all good.

About 16 miles of my usual route are on well paved paths that happen to follow the irrigation canals. Mostly in excellent shape, and mostly clean (some dirt and debris, as well as some potholes) make for good riding.  There are major road crossings about every mile or so.  I go from Williams Field Road all the way up to Broadway (past the 60) and back.

On these paths I have many encounters with people.  Mostly they are smooth, I call out that I am passing, and what side, and they don’t freak out. But not always.

  • The Headphones: Joggers, walkers and the like are almost always using their headphones to listen to music or whatever.  No problem. But a pretty large fraction of cyclists also wear headphones.  I know you aren’t on city street, dicing it up with traffic, but FFS, you need to be somewhat aware of your surroundings, and that means being able to hear. The number of times I call out that i am passing and it invokes no response is alarming.
  • Riding two up: Again, a bicyclist phenomenon.  Two (or more) people are our for a ride at a leisurely pace. Awesome. Glad you are out. But, when someone calls out that they are passing, and telling you what side they are coming on, it is time to fall back into a line. Sometimes they do, but often they are in the midst of a conversation and they are oblivious to the goings on around them.
  • Responding to the call out wrong: this one is perplexing. I call out “Passing on the left” and suddenly they practically jump to the left. Really, all I wanted was for you to not move, and nto freak out (or if you are riding/walking two across, to scootch over to the right to allow me to safely come by. But for some reason, people react wrong.
  • Dog walkers: I am a dog person, and i have no problem with people using the multiuse path for getting their four legged friends some exercise. But keep them on a leash, and don’t let them lunge at bicycles.  I know that some dogs are less socialized and freak out, but most are fine. As a cyclist, I have a few seconds to ger around safely, and I don;’t want to worry about the hounds. Also, if you are walking your dog(s) please don;t wear headphones. Dog owners have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings. Sorry if this is harsh.

These are just some of the behaviors I see riding the canals. I also get to see some amazing wildlife (who would have thought that irrigation canals would foster a teeming ecosystem of fish, insects, and birds.  Last week I saw a turtle in the canal.

I also see a lot of people fishing. There are lots and lots of fish in the canals, some quite large (5# or more by the look of them).  Most are probably carp, or related to the carp family, but I see a lot of people fishing and pulling out fish.  I couldn’t imagine eating fish from an irrigation canal, but to each his own.