Aging Denial

Posted by TechyDad on August 28, 2014 under Life

Over the weekend, we brought the boys to a local museum.  While there, we had a lot of fun.  One "exhibit", wasn’t very fun, though.  It wasn’t fun at all.  While, I was sitting down watching the boys play with a water table (seeing how blocking the water changed the flow, B mentioned to me that she hadn’t noticed how grey I had gone.  Now, I had seen the occasional grey (maybe white) hair in my chest hair, but I thought the hairs on my head hadn’t gone grey yet.  She insisted she saw them, though.  I had to know so I took a quick photo of myself.

grey_hair_selfie

Worst. Selfie. Ever.

I can handle a lot of things, but as far as getting old is concerned, I’ll admit that my strategy has been Denial.  I’m not approaching 40 fast even though I celebrated my 39th birthday recently.  My hairline isn’t receding despite what B keeps saying.  Those back aches when I wake up in the morning aren’t because I’m getting old.  The fact that the music I listened to growing up is on the oldies station means nothing!  The fact that I’ve caught myself referring to college students as "those kids" multiple times was just a slip of the tongue.

I try to believe that I’m still the same person that I was when I was 21.  In some ways, I am, but in many more ways I’m not.  I’ve got to face facts that I’m aging.  Before I know it, I’ll be having a mid-life crisis.

As a side note: I’ve thought long and hard about my mid-life crisis.  I’m not one for sports cars and I’m DEFINITELY not one to chase after some young woman.  As far as the former goes, I’ve always been practical automobile-wise.  As far as the latter goes, I’m happily married.  I’ll stick with chasing after my wife, thank you very much.  So what to do for a mid-life crisis?  In true Techy fashion, I think I might go tech for my crisis.  I’ve found that, over the years, I’ve gone from buying things because they are latest and greatest to trying to financially justify each tech purchase painstakingly.  I might, for my mid-life crisis, forget about financial justifications and just get some really cool tech.

Back to denial, though, because I’m not going to go through that mid-life crisis for a long, long time.  After all, I’m still very young and not getting old at all.  Or, at least, that’s what I’m going to continue to tell myself.

Oh, and about that hairline thing?  Here’s a morph of me from 2005 and me from yesterday.  Do you think my hairline is receding?

Hairline

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to yell at some kids to get off my lawn!

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Television Eras Ending And Beginning

Posted by TechyDad on August 26, 2014 under Doctor Who, Geeky Pursuits, Mythbusters, Television

TelevisionLast week saw the ending of one geeky era and the beginning of another.

First the ending.  For the past ten(?) years, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci have been entertaining and enlightening us by busting myths alongside Jamie and Adam on Mythbusters.  They brought life to the Hwacha, showed that the Ewoks really could crush an AT walker with logs, and proved that you really can catch a greased pig.  Now, however, the announcement has gone out that the Mythbusters will go in a new direction – or, rather, and old one.  In the beginning of the show, the focus was on Jamie and Adam.  Now, Kari, Grant, and Tory are leaving so the focus can move back to just Jamie and Adam.

This might wind up being a good thing.  Perhaps, fewer myths will be tested but with more depth shown per myth.  Or, maybe they will just cram more fluff into each episode to fill the time left vacant by the loss of "the Build team."  Given how good they work together, I’m hoping that Discovery Channel gives them their own show.  I’m not sure what they could do, but I’m sure there’s plenty of topics that they could cover involving science and requiring interesting builds.  Whatever they do, though, I wish them luck and can’t wait to see them in action again.

In happier news, a new era of geekiness began on Saturday night.  That’s when Peter Capaldi officially began his reign as the madman in the box on Doctor Who.  Yes, Capaldi has now begun his turn as the twelfth Doctor.  Though, depending on how you count, he might be the thirteenth Doctor.  It’s all very wibbly-wobbly.  Without giving too many spoilers, I found Capaldi’s first episode good, but uneven.  It’s hard to get a handle on a Doctor’s first episode post-regeneration.  As each Doctor regenerates, he takes some time to get to know what kind of person (Time Lord) he is.  So we can’t quite tell from the first episode how the new actor will be.  With Matt Smith, it took me until his fourth episode before I accepted him as the Doctor.  I did, however, think that the first Capaldi episode was a good "bridge" between Matt Smith’s Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

NOTE: The "Hi-Def Television" image above is by bnsonger47 and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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A Green Screen Birthday Adventure

Posted by TechyDad on August 20, 2014 under Birthday, Disney, NHL, Photos

When one is having a birthday celebration for your kids, there is one big rule: Always take photographs so your kids will remember what happened.  For example, I made sure to take plenty of photos since NHL, JSL, and Cousins S and B had a huge adventure to celebrate NHL turning 11.

First, we boarded an airplane.  Note: Keep an eye on your kids at all times when on airplanes.  I looked away for a second and found them on the wing of the plane.

Kids On An Airplane Wing

Don’t ask me how they got there or how they withstood the force of the air against them.  Getting them back in was tricky, but we somehow managed it.

When we landed, we immediately went to our destination: Disney World!

Kids At Disney World

Um, kids, I don’t think you’re supposed to stand there.

Kids In A Parade

Hey, get out of that parade!

Kids On The Monorail

Again, don’t ask me how they got atop the Monorail… Or why they looked so big atop it.  I was too busy at the time worrying that they’d fall off.  (And taking a quick photo or two.  Priorities, people!)

Next, we went on a safari drive in Animal Kingdom.  You’d think that by now I’d have learned my lesson about looking away.  The kids pointed to an ostrich in one direction, though, and when I looked back…

Kids On A Giraffe

Long story short, we’re not welcome back there again.  Thanks a lot, kids!

At least we were able to go to Epcot, though.  You know, the park with the iconic Spaceship Earth…

Kids On Spaceship Earth

WHAT?!!!  How’d they get there?  No wonder people were screaming as I took this photo.  That also explains the security guard who dragged them back to me.  Silly kids.

At least that’s the wackiest thing they could possibly do, right?

Kids On A Flower

Nope.  They just *had* to sneak backstage and find Wayne Szalinski’s shrinking machine from the old Honey, I Shrunk The Audience attraction.  It took us a few hours before we spotted them on this flower.

At that point, we decided to cut our losses and get home before the kids decided to leave the planet or something.

Kids On The Moon

Wait, was *that* where they disappeared to when they took my camera?  How did they even get to the moon anyway?  (I *thought* I saw a blue phone box in Epcot’s England area next to the red ones!)

Thankfully, we got everyone back home and back to the proper size…

NHL on His Cake

Uh oh…..  Well, happy birthday anyway, NHL!

NOTE: All photos above were taken by me with the exception of the Moon photo which comes from NASA.  (All NASA photos are public domain.)  The "green screen" originals are thanks to a green screen in the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST) in Troy, NY.

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Happy Birthday NHL!

Posted by TechyDad on August 18, 2014 under Birthday, NHL, Videos

Today, NHL turns 11.  Don’t ask me how this happened.  It’s still a mystery to me.  One minute, we were bringing him home and then I blinked and he grew up.  Now he’s headed to middle school in a couple of weeks.  NHL has a habit of asking me if I’m proud of him, usually for getting some random video game accomplishment.  Here’s what I’m really proud of NHL for:

 

  • He’s a very kind individual.  At a recent family function, he kept hugging family members over and over.  To the point that he hugged a complete stranger – I think he was a waiter – because he mistook him for a family member.  NHL cares about people with all of his heart and hates to think of them being sad.

 

  • He’s passionate about what he loves and isn’t afraid to flaunt that passion.  Whether it be video games, super heroes, math, or Doctor Who, NHL is always ready to tell anyone everything they could ever want to know about the subjects that he loves the most.

 

  • He’s honest.  Ok, at times he can be honest to a fault.  He shouldn’t blurt out to one of his cousins which cousin he likes the best.  Still, this is all part of his learning how to navigate the social rules.  In general, though, he hates lying and prefers to tell the truth.

 

  • He’s not afraid to speak his mind to stand up for himself or ask for what he wants.  This can be tough for some with Asperger’s.  They will assume that they will mess something up socially and will just shut up and take whatever comes their way.  I know that I’ve been guilty of that far too many times in my past.  NHL has been learning to speak up when he needs to, though.  Again, he will sometimes take this too far and speak up when silence would be best, but this is just him learning the social rules and regulations.  I’d rather him have to dial it back a bit than to think he shouldn’t speak up at all.

 

Part of me can’t wait to see how much NHL grows in another year.  However, another part of me doesn’t want him to grow up anymore.  That part of me just grew when I had to pour over old photos of NHL to compile a special video highlighting NHL’s growth.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you with the video while I cry over my baby growing up.  Happy birthday, NHL!

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A Guide To Website Hosting Options

Posted by TechyDad on August 13, 2014 under Computers, Internet, Web Development

web_serverCongratulations.  You’ve decided to make a website.  Maybe it’s a little "postcard site" with a single page advertising your business.  Maybe it’s a blog or forum.  Perhaps you are looking to build a huge corporate site or a web application that you hope will take off in popularity.  Before you write one line of code, though, you are going to need some place to put that site.

With a physical house, there are different styles to choose from.  That studio apartment might be cheaper to rent but it isn’t nearly as spacious as the five bedroom house.  The same is true of servers to host your website.  There are options ranging from the limited but inexpensive to the pricier but more robust.  I recently moved my hosting between these options and, during my research, realized that people might not know just what possibilities there are.  What follows is a quick and dirty guide between the most common types of hosting.  As with anything, there can be some that straddle the line or carve out their own niche.  However, I’m confident that 99% of the hosting options out there would fall into the following four categories.

Free Hosting

If you are just starting a small, personal site and don’t have a budget at all, you might want to consider this option.  Free hosts will give you space to create your website for, well, free.  The caveat here is that your site might be required to carry advertising for the hosting provider.  This earns the hosting provider income and you may not be permitted to share in that income.  Furthermore, your options for creating a site might be limited.  You often will be allowed to choose from a small set of templates to create your site.  While this can be a benefit to those who don’t know how to create a website, it can also wind up making your site look like a dozen other sites.  Finally, depending on the host, you may not be allowed to use your own domain name.  In other words, people might access your site via mysite.somefreehost.com instead of www.mysite.com.  Needless to say, the latter is much more professional looking.  Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend this option for any but the smallest of hobby sites and even then I’d recommend thinking twice.

Shared Hosting

Servers are powerful computers that can host web sites.  (They "serve" up webpages.)  Modern servers are so powerful that they can host hundreds or even thousands of websites on a single box.  This is where shared hosting comes in.  With shared hosting, a provider sets up a server and allocates you a set amount of space and bandwidth in exchange for a relatively small monthly fee (around $5 to $30 a month but this varies by host and what is offered).  You are free to make your site however you like, free from almost any restrictions.  Most hosts have provisions against illegal activities and/or porn, but so long as you steer clear of these you should be fine.

The downside of shared hosting is that the server is shared.  Imagine a big pool.  That’s our server.  A swimmer (a website) dives into the pool.  He has plenty of room to swim and splash.  Another jumps in and they can both splash all they want without bothering each other.  As more and more enter the pool, though, it becomes harder to keep swimmers from splashing other swimmers.  When you have a thousand in the pool, each swimmer can still enjoy the water, but they must take care not to splash too much.  If a website uses too much memory/server resources, the hosting provider can kick the website off the server.  You might think that the host wouldn’t want to lose the revenue, but you’d be wrong.  For every site kicked out, there are a dozen ready to sign up.

This happened to me once.  I was running our blogs on a shared hosting environment.  It was nice and inexpensive.  Then, with no warning, we found our sites suspended.  When we asked why, we were told that our two blogs were using too much resources and we needed to pay them to move to a dedicated server which costs much more money.  (More on dedicated servers later.)  Luckily, we were able to get our sites reinstated during the transition, but it was a rude awakening.  A shared server might be a nice place to start out, but it has very little room to grow.

Virtual Private Server Hosting

Instead of thousands of people jumping into the pool, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is akin to setting up walls between a dozen or so swimmers in the pool.  Each swimmer has his own section of the pool and each section is prevented from interfering with the other sections.  There are less people per server so the hosting cost can be higher, but you wind up getting more power and resources.  Better still, since your sites are divided, you don’t need to worry about your site being kicked off for using too many resources.  The worst case scenario is that your server uses up its available resources and slows down.  The other sites on the server, though, would continue to operate unimpeded.

VPS hosting has many sub options.  Perhaps you are proficient at managing a server and want to save more money by getting an unmanaged hosting provider.  These plans can even rival shared hosting as far as cost goes.  (Say, about $8 a month.)  Or perhaps you aren’t as comfortable and are willing to pay slightly more for your server to be managed by the hosting providers’ staff.  This can be pricier, but still relatively inexpensive.  (Around $40 a month.)

Another benefit to VPS servers is that they can easily grow.  Suppose you had a VPS server set up with 10GB of hard drive space and you realize your site is now using 8.5GB.  You can upgrade your plan to, say, 20GB (paying more per month, of course) and your virtual server’s specs will be altered on the fly.  There will be no need to move your files/databases to another server at all.  (To use the pool metaphor, imagine the walls separating you from the other swimmers suddenly moved to make your pool segment larger.)  This means you can get a smaller VPS plan at first to save money and grow it as your site grows.

VPS hosting is a very attractive, and often overlooked, option.  In our case, after a stint on a dedicated server, we switched to a VPS server to save money.  We wound up paying only around 20% of our dedicated server cost and only around four times our old shared hosting costs.  I’d definitely recommend VPS hosting to anyone, but with the caveat of hiring someone to help you manage the server – or at least set it up.

Dedicated Server

Dedicated servers are definitely the most powerful option but can also be the most expensive.  Going back to the pool metaphor, we’ve kicked everyone out of the pool except for you.  You can splash, swim, kick, and play in the pool to your hearts’ content without fear of impacting anyone else.  You won’t be kicked off for using too many resources (though you still may be kicked off if you host content against your provider’s terms of service).  This is very much like Virtual Private Server hosting except you are the only one on the actual, physical server.  These plans vary quite a bit depending on the server’s processor, memory, hard drive space, etc., but plans regularly run into the hundreds of dollars per month.

I’d recommend a dedicated server only to the largest of sites and to the sites with plenty of financing.  Even then, dedicated servers have downsides besides price.  Unlike a VPS plan, dedicated servers can’t simply be updated on the fly.  If you need a bigger hard drive on your dedicated server, your host will need to back up your server, shut it down, replace the hard drive, start it back up, and restore the backup.  Then, you will need to test to make sure nothing broke in the transfer.  Upgrading more features might necessitate getting a completely different server – and moving your site between boxes.

 

No matter what option you choose, I’d definitely recommend hiring someone to set up your site.  It might seem tempting to toss together a site even without any web knowledge – and many programs claim to offer novices the ability to create any website with no experience required.  The fact of the matter, though, is that web developers do this sort of thing every day.  They know what works and what doesn’t.  They know how to avoid security pitfalls and how to increase usability.  The money you spend on a good web developer is well worth it.  Of course, full disclosure, on this last point I might be biased as I am a web developer myself.  (Side note: I am available for freelance projects so if you need a website built, drop me a line.)

There you have it, your four main options.  As I said before, there are other options out there that straddle the line or don’t fit into these neat boxes.  For the most part, though, these represent most of your choices.  while they are all fine options, they aren’t all good options for every website. Don’t set up your corporate page on a free host and don’t set up your tiny hobby page on a dedicated server.  (Well, in the case of the latter, not unless you’ve got money to burn in which case contact me about making your site.)  Choosing which hosting option your site is on is almost as important as choosing what your site will look like.  It is the foundation that your entire site will be built upon.  So take it slow and research your options before you just dive into the pool.

NOTE: The "web server" image above is by lyte and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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