Help - I Want To Redesign My Company Website, But Where Do I Start

Update: I added what I think might be my favorite site -- Slicehost (and, yes, they are my current hosting provider).

I am in the market to redesign my company website.

A few months ago, I put version 1.0 of the Twin Roots website out to the public. It is based on a free template that I thought was interesting and relatively unique (for something that is free). But I knew all along that it was only a temporary stopgap until I decided I wanted to get serious and get a more permanent design for Twin Roots established.

Well that time has come, and you know what, I am as confused and perplexed as ever on where to begin. Here are some things I know:

  • I am not a good front end or graphic designer. I have no shame in admitting that. Thus, that's why I am looking around for a "3rd party" alternative.
  • I am open to free templates, free templates that can be modified, paid templates, or a real life person doing the web design
  • I am willing to pay money for the website design (whether template or web designer), but I am not willing to break the bank. For what I currently want, I have a top threshold price that I know I shouldn't go over.
  • I want a clean, crisp look (see below for examples of sites that I really like)
  • I have no e-commerce need yet; this is currently a purely informational site
  • I like my logo; simple, clean, yet unique. So I want that incorporated into the site.

But, where to start is actually quite mind boggling. There are an infinite number of template websites, tons of "Bid For Design" sites, many individual website designers offering their services (but whom I don't know personally), etc. Do I use a Wordpress CMS theme or something else? Many questions are running through my mind.

Here is what I found in my research:

And I have just hit the tip of the iceberg.

Any advice on a sane, coherent process to get a new website for my company would be MUCH appreciated.

Thanks.


Choosing a Windows Web Host Is Difficult - It's A Jungle Out There

UPDATE: I added 2 more hosts to my short list

A friend of mine is looking for a host for his website. His website is old school, with a bit of original ASP and, now, SQL Server 2005 (it was....gasp....SQL 7 until I converted it).

Anyway, his requirements are light. Not a lot of traffic. Not a lot of size needs (e.g., the database is < 100 MB). But given there is a data need for inventory management and entry, I need to be diligent on helping him choosing the proper host.

I think for my friend, a shared host will work just fine. Other than the possible security benefits and control, I cannot justify the cost of going VPS (and certainly not dedicated).

But it is a jungle out there trying to choose the best web host. Trust me, I had a lot of heartache choosing my current host.

How do you know which one to choose? Reputation is actually my number one factor, even over cost (well, to be fair, I know when the cost is outrageous). The problem comes when there are multiple companies with good reputations. Then how do you pick?

Here is my short list of possible hosts:

I actually have put one of those ahead of the other 5, and am planning to try them out. I won't say yet who that is because I want to give them a whirl first.

But, I would appreciate any recommendations from you on who to choose or avoid, especially from my list above. Anecdotal evidence would be most welcomed. First hand accounts are the best aides to decision making.

Thoughts? Thanks in advance


My First International (Spanish) Comment Spam

Well, comment spam is coming at me in other languages now. Here is the latest gem that my blog spam filter caught:

Hola a todos, en mi primer post me gustaría compartir algo con vosotros, Ya sabéis que para buscar y descargar música en internet, tenemos muy pocas opciones, generalmente utilizamos el emule o el ares, pero yo personalmente encuentro bastante frustrante bajarme una canción y que no sea la que busco, porque pierdo bastante tiempo encontrando material de calidad.
Una amiga me recomendó utilizar Altavz como mi buscador de música, y la verdad es una gozada.
Además de poder escuchar la canción, descargarla o agregarla a tus listas preferidas puedes encontrar a otros usuarios y compartir tu música con ellos.
Hace mucho que no utilizo emule, sino este [url=http://www.altavz.com][b]buscador de música[/b][/url].

Which, using Google Translator, loosely means: :-)

Hello everybody, my first post I'd like to share something with you, You know that
search and download music online, we have very few options, we generally use
emule or ares, but I personally find it quite frustrating to get a song and
I'm looking for is not because I lose time finding enough quality material.

A friend recommended I use as my browser Altavz music, and really enjoyed one.

Besides being able to hear the song, download it or add it to your favorite lists can
finding other users and share your music with them.

Long time do not use emule, but it [url = http://www.altavz.com] [b] finder
music [/ b] [/ url].

Well, spammer, thank you for the "useful" information.


Bill Gates: The Mosquito Prankster

Who knew that Bill Gates could be this "funny"?

LONG BEACH, California (AFP) – Microsoft founder turned disease-battling philanthropist Bill Gates loosed mosquitoes at an elite Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference to make a point about the deadly sting of malaria.

"Malaria is spread by mosquitoes," Gates said while opening a jar onstage at a gathering known to attract technology kings, politicians, and Hollywood stars.

"I brought some. Here I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected."

Gates waited a minute or so before assuring the audience the liberated insects were malaria-free.

Well, I guess if he made a mistake, and a mosquito or two did have malaria, Bill Gates has the money to fight off some of the lawsuits (although not as much money as he used to have -- so he had better be more careful).


MacRumors Live MacWorld 2009 Keynote Feed Hacked!

<Warning: semi-R-Rated Content Here> Ugh!

I tuned in this morning to macrumorslive.com (which is now down) over there at MacRumors see what interesting goodies were going to come from Apple at this, their last MacWorld, and during their first announcement of iLife '09, I started noticing some strange phrases coming from their twitter-like feed.

Here is a screenshot of the good, normal, G-Rated feed I was watching:

 

Good Feed

 

 

And here is where it got crazy and R-Rated.  I crossed out some things for the innocent :)  :

 

Hacked Feed

 

 

I wasn’t very happy about this because MacRumors had the best live feed going, and obviously they had to shut it down. But, it does go to show that hackers are abound, and the next time I am sure that MacRumors will double check their security before going through this circus again.

MacRumors even issued a mea culpa on their site. Good for them! I think MacRumors is still one of the best Apple sites around.

 

MacRumors Mea Culpa

MacBook Pro SuperDrive Burn Problems Update: Fixed with Laser Lens Cleaner!?!

Here is an update to my fun (and more fun) with my MacBook Pro optical drive. I called Apple support. We talked for about an hour. We tried different things:

  • Tried burning a DVD again (just in case magic would happen this time)
  • Made sure that I didn't have any drive permission corruption or something stupid like that -- so we repaired my hard drive disk permissions
  • Ran a quick hardware test, which showed no problems

None of our initial troubleshooting resulted in success.

So the thinking before the end of the call was that I was going to have to get the drive replaced. I would prefer not to send my computer in a box to who knows where (even though it would be free with AppleCare and I hear good things about it). So we made an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar (again) so that I could bring my computer in, they could have a look at it, and then they can also tell me that the drive needs to be replaced :-) ; then I would have to come back to the Genius Bar for the actual replacement after they ordered the part. (Apparently, Apple phone support and Apple Genius Bar support are totally separate entities, so my call to Apple support could not be used as the definitive answer to replace the drive. The Genius Bar would have to make that decision for themselves. That is why I would have to go twice).

Anyway, right before we hung up, the support representative on the phone just off the cuff said to try a CD/DVD drive laser lens cleaner. I was a little surprised because I always thought these things were frowned upon. I made sure that doing so wouldn't void my warranty and AppleCare support. She said no. So I decided to give it a shot. Anything to save me two trips to the Apple Store and the possibility of being without my computer for a day or two.

So I went to Target and bought the Memorex Optidisc CD/DVD Lens Cleaner. Came home. Popped in the cleaner CD. It did whatever it does with the little brushes that are pasted on the CD. And the CD ejected.

Pessimistically, I tried to burn some photos to DVD.

WHOA! It worked. I was shocked. A $10 fix, that I should have tried all along. 

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the right solutions, I guess.

(P.S. I highly recommend getting AppleCare for your Mac products, especially big purchase items like a computer or monitor. I usually frown on extended warranties, but I have used it for a couple of issues after my year warranty ended on my MacBook Pro. And if indeed there was a problem with my SuperDrive, having AppleCare means it gets replaced for *free*. AppleCare is good for 3 years after the purchase of your Apple product. And many times you can find the AppleCare for your product cheaper (e.g., Ebay) than buying it directly from Apple).

Mac Personal Finance Software: iBank Wins, Moneywell Has Promise, Who Knows About Quicken Financial Life

iBank will be my Mac financial application, as imperfect as it may be. But it is by far the best and most complete financial software package out there for my needs (and if you include iBiz, it would match Microsoft Money in most, if not all, facets). I will wait and see what happens with Moneywell, and I am intrigued by the upcoming release Quicken Financial Life (although I am disappointed I cannot be a part of the beta).

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Publicly Announcing the Website To My Software and Consulting Company, Twin Roots

twin-roots-logo-notext  

My company website is now publicly online.

Twin Roots, a software and technical consulting, contracting and development company has been active for about a year now. And while I have had an initial website up for the last month or so (basically so that I didn’t have to have the GoDaddy start page as the website), I have never really publicized it.

However, I have found what I consider a pretty good theme for my website and am happy enough with it publicly announce it here. I am using a *free* theme from Six Shooter Media (credits maintained on the web site, of course). I just liked the theme. It is simple yet different enough to where I think it can stand out quite nicely. I see an easy maintenance path for the site, being able to highlight current developments, work or products very easily.

I know a free theme is sometimes frowned upon for a business website. And it could be down the line that I have an original site created. But for my first go around, I feel this will do quite nicely.

I invite you to visit the site and comment on it, either through my email address provided there or right here on my personal blog.

Some items I am looking at adding in the near future are:

  • A company blog
  • Maybe a quick comment section to talk about items such as the site or its content

I am happy that I can get a presence for Twin Roots finally out there.

The 100 Oldest Internet Domain Names -- Microsoft Not Included

I found this piece on the 100 oldest internet domain names very interesting. Symbolics.com is the oldest (Who?? ;-) )

You will see companies like Intel, AMD, AT&T, HP, Adobe on this list, but one company that was surprisingly missing was Microsoft. I would have figured that they would have been one of the first domain names. Back in the late 80s Microsoft was still finding its roots and wasn't the success it is today; but still, it was interesting to see this omission. They didn't buy their domain until 1991.

Octopus.com is on the list, but not microsoft.com :-)

MacBook Pro Slot Drive Is Finicky - It was the CD-R Brand After All

UPDATE: It ended not being the brand necessarily. I used a CD drive cleaner and all seems fixed: http://joelmarcey.com/2009/01/05/macbook-pro-superdrive-burn-problems-update-fixed-with-laser-lens-cleaner/ This weekend I went to the Apple Store Genius Bar to see if they could find a resolution to my slot drive problems.

Well, it was the CD-R brand after all! I showed the Genius Bar representative my problems with my Sony (Brand A - I don't need to protect the innocent anymore) and my Memorex (Brand B) CD-Rs. She popped in a Staples brand CD-R (Yes, a Staples Brand!!!), and it burnt an iTunes playlist flawlessly.

Thus it seems the MacBook Pro slot drive is finicky; but better than having it sent in for repairs. ;-)

I am heading to Staples soon. :-)

My Christmas and Holiday Song List for the 2008 Season

As I said last year, I like lists. Just to be in the holiday spirit, I thought I would share my Christmas and Holiday song list that I have compiled for this season. I think it is pretty good. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or just general happiness to all!

  • Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley
  • Happy Xmas (War Is Over) -- John & Yoko
  • Sleigh Ride -- Amy Grant
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! -- Frank Sinatra
  • My Grown-Up Christmas List -- Kelly Clarkson
  • I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas -- Bon Jovi
  • Here Comes Santa Claus -- Elvis Presley
  • The Little Drummer Boy -- Bob Seger
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) -- U2
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas -- The Pretenders
  • Do You Hear What I Hear -- Carrie Underwood
  • Winter Wonderland -- Eurythmics
  • White Christmas -- The Drifters
  • The Christmas Song -- Hootie & The Blowfish
  • Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town -- Bruce Springsteen
  • Jingle Bell Rock -- Daryl Hall And John Oates
  • Wonderful Christmastime -- Paul McCartney
  • Run Rudolph Run -- Chuck Berry
  • Last Christmas -- Wham!
  • Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) -- Elvis Presley
  • Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree -- Brenda Lee
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer -- Gene Autry
  • Seasons of Love -- From the Musical "Rent"
  • Auld Lang Syne -- Barenaked Ladies

Possibility of Bringing Down the Internet via a DNS Flaw and Security Hole

I read a wonderful article in Wired last night. I guess I was out of touch because I didn't even know this happened. Check out this quote from the article:

Kaminsky froze. This was far more serious than anything he could have imagined. It was the ultimate hack. He was looking at an error coded into the heart of the Internet's infrastructure. This was not a security hole in Windows or a software bug in a Cisco router. This would allow him to reassign any Web address, reroute anyone's email, take over banking sites, or simply scramble the entire global system. The question was: Should he try it?

The vulnerability gave him the power to transfer millions out of bank accounts worldwide. He lived in a barren one-bedroom apartment and owned almost nothing. He rented the bed he was lying on as well as the couch and table in the living room. The walls were bare. His refrigerator generally contained little more than a few forgotten slices of processed cheese and a couple of Rockstar energy drinks. Maybe it was time to upgrade his lifestyle.

Or, for the sheer geeky joy of it, he could reroute all of .com into his laptop, the digital equivalent of channeling the Mississippi into a bathtub. It was a moment hackers around the world dream of—a tool that could give them unimaginable power. But maybe it was best simply to close his laptop and forget it. He could pretend he hadn't just stumbled over a skeleton key to the Net. Life would certainly be less complicated. If he stole money, he'd risk prison. If he told the world, he'd be the messenger of doom, potentially triggering a collapse of Web-based commerce.

Can you imagine if he decided to actually go to the black market with this thing?!?! Unfathomable, really.

Luckily a patch was implemented, although not a foolproof one.

Though the Redmond group had agreed to act in concert, the patch—called the source port randomization solution—didn't satisfy everyone. It was only a short-term fix, turning what had been a 1-in-65,536 chance of success into a 1-in-4 billion shot.

Still, a hacker could use an automated system to flood a server with an endless stream of guesses. With a high-speed connection, a week of nonstop attacking would likely succeed. Observant network operators would see the spike in traffic and could easily block it. But, if overlooked, the attack could still work. The patch only papered over the fundamental flaw that Kaminsky had exposed.

I guess 1:4 billion is better than it was pre-patch ;-)

Google Chrome is "Officially" Released; and Gmail is still in Beta?

  imageimage

Well, talk about interesting. As seen in this article, Google has dropped the beta label from its web browser, called Chrome.

  Why do I find this interesting? Well, a product coming out of beta into release is actually kinda normal in software development. But, I have been using Gmail for over 4 years, and it is still in Beta!! I even wrote about this before.

  Something tells me that Gmail is a little more stable than Chrome at this point in time. Maybe I am wrong. Heck, though, there isn’t even a Mac version of Chrome yet! :-)