Well, this issue was certainly a bear to get finished...and it wasn't even my fault! It was those @$#%^@#~! spammers!
One of the things these jerks do is locate comment or input pages on web sites, such as guest book entry pages or contact pages...any page that has an input box for users to enter information. They then load those up with their stupid spam URLs for everything from porn and drugs to ring tones and travel discounts. They generally do this with automated computers that have been programmed to hit various URLs over and over and load them up with their garbage links.
I'd been trying to keep up with that stuff in our own MouseTrax guest book, through various coding techniques. But some was still getting through and I just got tired of it, so I sadly (for now) removed my guest book entry page. That only made them hunt for other pages to hit. As it turned out, one page on one of the sites I run had a typo in the code. It's a minor web site, but the spammers were hitting it. However, due to the code typo, it was causing our database server to stall until the code timed out. None of the spam was able to get through due to the error, but what it was doing was stalling our database server.
This meant that any TechTrax member attempting to login or subscriber attempting to validate their email address in our database so they could view a video...were often getting browser timeouts because the server was jammed with spammers hitting a broken page.<sigh>
It was really frustrating because I was having a lot of trouble trying to load pages, update memberships and handle other administrative work that needs to be done regularly. Thankfully, Greg spent a couple days with our ISP support and was able to isolate the problem and fix it. So if you have experienced any delays on our site this last month...it was most likely due to spammers hitting us. It's so annoying that innocent people have to deal with these problems because of these @#$%@#%$! jerks!
Greg has some ideas of how to make things better and outsmart them, so we'll see how things go over the next few weeks. However, you'll notice that the TechTrax rating pages no longer show the current number of ratings on articles. That's because we had to pull down that database and clean it out. It was getting large and at first I thought corruption in that DB was the problem. Anyway, the article rating capability is back, you just won't see any current rating numbers. But your ratings and info will go to the authors to help them evaluate their work. So thanks for clicking the button at the bottom of our articles to rate them.
And if that wasn't enough fun, Dreamweaver went belly-up on me. I was working away and my computer started to crash from overwork. I rebooted and when I returned and attempted to open Dreamweaver (the web tool I use to write TechTrax), it tossed up an error and refused to open. I spend a day and a half fussing with dozens of possible fixes, but none of them worked. So I had to install a previous version of Dreamweaver just to get things finished.<grrrr> I'm currently not on speaking terms with Dreamweaver 8. But coincidentally, I also picked up a copy of Microsoft Expression Web this last month to check out. It's essentially Microsoft's new web application that should give Dreamweaver a run for it's money. Expression Web is more professional than Front Page and, although I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, it appears to be something I might enjoy using. We'll see.
And yet another reason why March was crazy was due to the annual Microsoft MVP summit being held in the middle of the month. It was nice, but I sure missed having Greg there. He had to stay home and keep the home fires burning this year. I haven't even had time to post my photos yet, but I will after this issue goes out. You'll be able to view them HERE, once I post them.
Seeing Bill Gates again was cool, but not nearly as cool as it was back when there were only a few hundred of us and the gathering was more intimate and held in one of the larger meeting rooms at Microsoft. Now there were thousands of us in a large room at the Seattle Convention Center.
But it was great to see old friends and get to put faces to the names of newer MVPs I hadn't yet met. The weather was pretty nice for the most part. A little rain, but that's to be expected in Seattle. However, on the day many MVPs were heading home...the east coast got nailed with that huge snow storm. I was lucky since I was only heading as far as O'Hare. Those trying to get to NYC or further east ended up spending their nights at hotels or in airports. Some of them didn't make it home for days!
You'll notice that there's a gauge at the bottom of this welcome page. Again this year, I signed up to make the Bark in the Park walk to help raise money for Anti Cruelty Society. They have this cool, new widget this year that allows you to post this gauge showing how you are doing with your fundraising. This year I'm hoping to raise $1500 for homeless and needy dogs/cats. I hope you will take a moment to donate a few dollars to help! I have three dogs, Cassy, Lexi and Shelby. Shelby, my sheltie and social butterfly, has made the Bark walk several times now and also walked for PAWS to help hurricane pets. Cassy made her first walk last year after socialization training that helped her handle all the chaos of the day at Bark with the tons of people and dogs. But this year, I'll be giving Lexi (our black Lab) a shot at Bark! I'll be on guard because Lexi is quite an enigma. She'll act like she wants to eat our cats, but in truth she's the one who became their first and best friend. She's what is known as a reactive dog.
This can be a good quality in that she notices everything and that means if there's ever anything wrong in the house, she's the one who does her Lassie impersonation, "Come quick...Timmy's trapped in the well!" Or in her case, "Come quick, the washer is banging." She also once alerted me to the fact that our basement TV was smoking after a nasty, electrical power surge went through the house one day. When Lexi is standing in front of you, barking her alarm bark and trying to get you to follow her, it's a smart move to listen to what she has to say! She'll lead you right to the problem. Even if sometimes the problem is just that her favorite squeeky toy is stuck under the couch and she can't reach it!<grin>
She's a wonderful dog, just hard to judge from one day to the next. When we first got baby Shelby, Lexi was the first to nip at him when he went too close to the food bowl. So I had to keep Shelby behind a gate, away from Lexi. But after a few days of watching Cassy having fun playing with the puppy, Lexi wanted to play, too. So I held my breath and let them get together. HA...as you can see in the picture to the right...upon their first meeting, Lexi acted as the totally patient mom...just standing there...as baby Shelby got down to business gnawing on Lexi's leg! They quickly became best friends.
With luck, Lexi will chill out and have no problems on the walk. But I will be bringing along a basket muzzle, just in case she's overwhelmed with all the other dogs and gets testy. She has no problem with new dogs coming into our house, but if she sees stranger dogs outside, some days she ignores them, some days she explodes and barks like a psycho. So this should be interesting! But I have faith in her.
Oh, and to help encourage you to donate to Bark, I'll be giving away a special copy of Microsoft Office 2003 with OneNote included. If you donate at least $5 to our walk, you'll be entered into this special drawing that will be held the day after the walk and one lucky person will get a free copy of Office. You have until May 4th to donate and get in on this drawing.
And speaking of free copies of Office, if you're a TechTrax Member, I'm giving away a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 this month. It's a full license, so you can run it simultaneously with other Office versions, should you want to experiment with the new software while still running an older version of Office. No need to upgrade. See our member's article this month to enter the drawing.
We've got a lot of great articles for you this month, including the results of our survey from last month. Check it out to see what others are doing and saying about technology. And you'll also notice a new link up on the menu bar of TechTrax. Mouse Droppings is my new blog. I'm not really a fan of blogs, because there are too many junky ones out there. But there are some good ones. I hope to make Mouse Droppings a fairly valuable one. But it won't be all tech stuff, it'll also have some fun items included. Previously I'd been posting tid-bits of information in our SideTrax department here in TechTrax. But I think I'll now forgo those articles and just post interesting items to Mouse Droppings. If you've enjoyed my SideTrax articles, be sure to check out Mouse Droppings now and then to see what new information has been posted. TechTrax comes out once a month, but new postings to Mouse Droppings will happen several times a week.
Finally, last month I mentioned that membership rates for TechTrax will be going up. This won't affect any of you who are already members, since once you become a member, you lock in the current rate as your lifetime, annual renewal rate. So those of you who joined up in the beginning at $12 will continue to only be charged $12 a year to renew. The current rate is $24, just $2 a month. But that rate will only hold until May 1, 2007. On that date, the rate will go to $36 a year...$3 a month. So if you've been contemplating becoming a member, this is the time to do it before you lose the chance to lock in the lower $24 rate. See the Subscription/Membership link above on the menu bar for more information and links to join.
Well, time to put this baby to bed and get it published. Hope you enjoy this issue. See you in a couple weeks with the April issue.