Author Archives: Naweed

WordCamp Pune 2015 – My Experiences

The single-day-long WordCamp Pune 2015 was held on the 6th of September, and here is my ‘Dear Diary’ account of the power-packed event.

The Chaos Theory

Just a couple of weeks earlier, WordCamp Deputy Aditya Kane, the guy in charge of approving WordCamps in this region, had this to say about Twitter chats on WordPress:

I had an inkling some chaos would show up in this event too, and it sure did!

First, finding the exact location of the venue within the large college campus was disorienting in the absence of signboards at the gates. And when I did discover the slow registration queue, I joined scores of other attendees basking in the sun.

wordcamp

Attendees queuing up for registration. Source: http://pune.wordcamp.org/2015

You could be forgiven for thinking our nerves were frayed and the attendees’ enthusiasm dampened, but you’d be completely mistaken.

We waited outside the venue on a sunny morning, but that would melt none of our enthusiasm.

We had to wait outside the venue at Modern College, Pune on a sunny morning, but that melted none of our enthusiasm.

The first-time organizers lead by Saurabh Shukla had painstakingly detailed what you must expect from this event, and how they were preparing for it — we all gave our full backing to them! From making this a fully eco-friendly event, to carrying out speaker workshops to donating tickets to the underprivileged, the highly positive buzz was on for months.

Once we managed to get into the main auditorium of the venue, Saurabh maintained everyone’s high spirits with his razor sharp wit during the intro talk, which concluded with a felicitation of the key speakers: Topher DeRosia, Mahangu Weerasinghe, Raghavendra Peri and Harish Iyer.

Designing Useful Websites

It was tough to decide which session to attend, with ongoing parallel tracks. I chose my first session with Jitesh Patil, who took us on a back-to-basics exercise reminding us to create useful and helpful sites, and not just glitzy user interfaces.

An example he mentioned was Craiglist, which is wildly popular in the US due to its helpfulness, in spite of having the worst of user interfaces.

Some more key points of this talk were:

  1. Get your customers to know, like and trust you.
  2. Provide price comparisons, details on processes, maintenance, legal matters and best practices.
  3. On your About page, do not talk about how awesome  YOU are, instead talk about your customers and how you’ve helped them succeed.
  4. On your Contact Info page, do not write just your address or place a contact form. Instead, give precise directions on how you can be reached.  Provide lots of pictures of your location too.

Contributing to WordPress

The next talk I attended was by Andy Christian.

He explained how WordPress enthusiasts can contribute code for the core software, help with design enhancements, provide translations and documentation for WordPress, among many other things, using the relevant links at make.wordpress.org.

Andy further talked about the need for photography and videography skills that would be useful for events on WordPress. Also, contributors can prepare transcripts of talks published on WordPress.tv.

Before contributing, we must ensure our work is 100% GPL compliant and honors WordPress and related trademarks.

Inspiring People through the HeroPress platform

After a wonderful lunch of sandwiches and modaks (here’s how to make them) the next session I attended was a touching speech by Topher DeRosia about his quest to build HeroPress as a means to spread inspiring stories about how WordPress has changed lives of people around the world.

Topher says you need to think smaller when it comes to dealing with problem. Often, the person with a problem can be helped by someone with the solution not far away from him.

At the core of HeroPress is the belief: “Everyone can be a hero to someone and everyone should be a hero to themselves.”

Backed by this thought, people have contributed essays about how WordPress came to be a turning point in their lives. The latest inspiring story on HeroPress was that of Sheeba, one of the organizers of WordCamp Pune 2015. There’s much more to read, including Samer Bechara’s rocky journey to becoming a reputable WordPress developer.

On Disrupting an Old, Colonial-style Education System

Mahangu Weerasinghe’s talk was the next one for me. He belongs to the club of advocates calling for a sea change in the education system in South Asia, which is a remnant of the colonial era which sought to create subservient clerks instead of out-of-the-box thinkers.

Mahangu believes in democratizing education just like WordPress has democratized publishing. Very soon into his speech, he reminded us we are living in era where information is abundant, and the several-centuries-old style of pushing instructions down school students’ throats is no longer relevant anymore.

Grade 1 to 12, he says, are marked by upwards of 30 students per classroom, overworked teachers and excessive exam focus. Finally, after a student’s university education, he is labelled “unemployable” and considering lacking in confidence.

As a measure to bring about change, Mahangu calls for:

  1. Targeting teachers with your product ideas, rather than schools’ administrative bosses
  2. Scaling both ways — this includes ensuring your tools work in a webless environment.
  3. Focusing on localization — speakers of English in India  make up just 12% of the population.

The complete slideshow is here.

Running a Multi-Author Blog

Irrepressible technology blogger and owner of Trak.in, Arun Prabhudesai, spoke about managing multi-author blogs, referring back to his experience of getting millions of hits every month on his flagship blog.

Here’s a list of helpful plugins Arun mentioned to help run multi-author blogs:

  1. EditFLow
  2. Capability Manager Enhanced
  3. Revisionary
  4. Co-author Plus
  5. Post forking
  6. Adminimize
  7. Multi-author AdSense
  8. WP User Frontend
  9. Scheduling Calendar

Arun advised looking for the best motivating factors to retain authors.

Panel Discussions

A panel comprising of Pune’s leading WordPress businessmen and programmers arrived on stage to discuss the ups and downs associated with WordPress careers and businesses.

Another panel which included the lead organizer and Andy Christian discussed about how to organize a WordCamp in your city.

Conclusion

WordCamps are supposed to be a great benefit for anyone using WordPress in their lives, from coders to social workers, and WordCamp Pune 2015 has successfully preserved that reputation.

I haven’t been able to (and can’t) capture everything that was said at the event, but fortunately, all videos are going to be up on YouTube after processing. Some of them will make it to WordPress.TV as well. I’ll share those links as soon as they’re published.

The organizers did a great job setting the right trend by steering India’s WordCamps from the more gimmicky to events of real substance. Many thanks to the team for pulling this off!

Further Reading:

  1. Topher’s account of his experiences at WordCamp Pune 2015.
  2. Aditya Kane writes about his feelings at the event.
  3. A perspective on the WordPress community in India, by Saurabh Shukla.

Web design questions: Here’s what to ask before starting out

A lot of web designing is routine for millions of companies and freelancers. But not all tasks are easy; many warrant long spells spent in battling complex problems.

As a web designer, a checklist of questions to ask your clients can pre-empt many hassles along the way.

With the right answers, you can create a documented set of requirements to guide yourself through a web design project.

Detailed here are five key questions web designers need to ask their clients:

Q 1. What exactly is your profession or business interest?

Knowing the answer to this question will help designers finalize the right combination of shapes, colors and typography on the site.

A dentist may want to infuse a refreshing mint feel in the minds of visitors. A gift shop will want to instantly ignite the joy of giving. A lawyer will want a distraction-free interface to bring his clients straight to the services they need.

You as a designer will need to study a little about your client’s work and stretch your imagination.

Q 2. Who are your competitors?

Your client is very likely to have competitors. Insist on knowing who they are, and create something better and simpler than them.

Competition is a healthy thing – it forces us to raise the bar and evolve.

Q 3. Have you identified example web designs?

Emulating other successful players in your arena is a great idea. A photographer might find appeal in a Pinterest-like design. Someone else may love the soft, tiled design brought about by the metro-style UI.

You might want to give your own recommendations based on this response. For instance, your client’s example site has a slider, but you could convince him that a short video to welcome visitors will be far more pleasant.

Q 4. Are you going to provide text, images and the logo?

If your client’s answer is yes, make sure you are addressing copyright concerns where appropriate. Also, insist on high quality images.

If you are asked to create a logo, ponder over your client’s response to Q1 and work towards creating a memorable icon.

Q 5. What is your budget?

Ask for a ballpark range for the budget to help yourself or your team figure out the right approach.

What if the desired web design requires you to mobilise rare and expensive JavaScript ninjas? Your client’s budget will help you decide.

Bonus!

Are you looking for more checklists and questionnaires to streamline your efforts? Take a look at this diligently compiled article by Cameron Chapman on Smashing Magazine, which is among the web’s most widely-respected authorities on web design.

In Conclusion…

Websites can be designed using innumerable approaches. Some people might consider using pre-cast building blocks delivered through software, while others may use a more powerful and flexible strategy that involves delving deep into code and making changes at will.

Whatever the case, this is a truly exciting exercise. But just like professional sport, you cannot win alone – ample answers and clear communication from clients will pave the way for success.

WordCamp Pune 2013: ‘The best WordCamp so far in India’

If I’m asked to choose one word to describe the recently concluded WordCamp Pune 2013, I’d pick ‘enriching’.

It was the second time I’d been to a WordCamp, the first one being Cuttack last year, where I spoke about my blogging journey.

A couple of key speakers at the event aptly dubbed this the ‘best ever so far’ in India. Majority of the speeches had more substance than platitudes.

In this article, I’m going to try and capture the most significant happenings of the 2-day event.

Day 1

The first day’s sessions were aimed at developers. It began with King Sidharth talking about the need for responsive designs.

This is his slideshow:
Savita Soni talked about the power of WP_Query. Below is the complete slideshow: I found Saurabh Shukla’s talk the most inspiring. He described his journey towards building plugins for WordPress. Saurabh later pointed out that there are few WordPress plugin developers in India, and that he hoped to motivate his listeners to take up the practice. Here’s the complete slideshow titled Developing open source WordPress plugins: The art, science and Zen (fonts are bit messed up):   Gaurav Singh spoke about WordPress security, a subject which was dealt with again the next day by Rohit Srivastwa. This is his slideshow:   Aniket Pant talked about Metaboxes:

Thinking of getting your theme into the WordPress theme respository? Take a look at Nisha Singh’s presentation:

Vireendra Tikhe presented his views with a presentation titled “Responsive and Responsible Themes” :

Day 2:

The second day was aimed at bloggers and marketers.

It began with Arun Prabhudesai, owner of Trak.in showering praise on WordPress, while presenting key use cases for the platform. One of the top highlights was the advice that one can “start selling within 24 hours of installing an e-commerce plugin”. Arun, by the way, is a person I respect as one of my top blogging mentors.

The next session by Ronak Thakkar had a similar theme, with the title ‘Leveraging Your Business with WordPress’. Ronak did a fine job by getting the audience to participate early on.

His own accounts of the session and day are a must-read.

Further in the day, cyber security expert Rohit Srivastwa of ClubHack presented vital tips on securing a WordPress site.

These were the highlights of his talk:

  1. It is better to use shared hosting with features to handle security.
  2. Most security tips and plugins related to WordPress deal with automated attackers.
  3. Make a list of bad user agents from hacking tools or bots and block them using your site’s .htaccess file.
  4. Consider using service providers that stop bad traffic, that includes botnets.
  5. Keep an eye on the log files on your server to alert yourself when there’s an attack.
  6. Use free scanning tools like the one provided by sucuri.net. There’s a WordPress plugin based on the scan provided by sitecheck.sucuri.net
  7. The free service of CloudFare is excellent in blocking malicious traffic, even though some users claim that it blocks legitimate traffic as well.
  8. A tool called websitedefender helps monitor changes in the front page.
  9. In the event of an attack, rename the old infected WordPress installation and freshly re-install everything.
  10. Use is.gd/cleanup to fix your site after it has been attacked.
  11. Never look for free versions of premium themes. They may have a catch; they could be infected, which means you’ve hacked yourself!
  12. A string of characters known as a password won’t be enough to keep you secure. Even the simplest of passwords is enough, if you use a plugin for 2 factor authentication.
  13. It is important to use SSL to prevent an attacker from breaking in with the use of sniffers.

On the subject of content marketing, I found Adarsh Thampy’s talk very interesting. Here’s the complete slideshow:

In Conclusion….

The biggest benefit derived from conferences such as WordCamp Pune 2013 is the real life networking.

I was fortunate to interact with Saurabh Shukla, Gaurav Singh, Ronak Thakkar, Arun Prabhudesai, Rohit Srivastwa, Nikhil Narkhede and Saket Jajodia.

Some of the proceedings have been captured on Twitter with the hashtag #WCPune2013. Keep an eye on tweets by @saurabhyapapaya for more substance.

And if you want to know the recipe for a successful WordCamp, don’t forget to contact Amit Kumar Singh of AmiWorks!

SiliconIndia Stealing Content from Lighthouse Insights: Livebloggers Battle the Scourge of Plagiarism

Just under a day ago, I found an appalling phenomenon in my Facebook timeline – A leading online technology magazine focussing on the Indian domain, SiliconIndia, was caught stealing portions of a recent interview published by rising social media blog Lighthouse Insights.

Lighthouse Insights was started in late 2010 by Prasant and Vinaya Naidu with the aim of bonding the community of social media users. I first met Prasant at a meet-up in Pune, and instantly liked the knowledge he had built on the social media scene in India.

You can read the complete account of the theft in one of their posts.

Do News Sites Have the Liberty to Steal?

When the founders of Lighthouse Insights confronted SiliconIndia on Twitter, an incredibly shocking explanation appeared: Plagiarism            

Only the most juvenile of writers could possibly put up such an explanation; I had to remind myself that this was emerging from a well-established media organization that has been around since 1997. The tweet was subsequently deleted, but it was too late as it was retweeted several times and its screenshot began to float around on Facebook.

The founders of Lighthouse Insights decided to battle it out on Twitter to expose the high-profile content thieves after appeals to their CEO and content managers fell on deaf ears. The complete blow-by-blow description of the fight has now appeared in a new blog post on their site.

The battle-cry hashtag #OccupySiliconIndia began to pick up momentum during the early part of the 14th of August, and hit the list of top ten trending hashtags in India by evening. That forced SiliconIndia to sit up and take notice, offering Lighthouse Insights either of two options, of providing due credit, or removing the copied post completely.

The result? The offending post vanished while supporters of the campaign continued discussing possible outcomes. The fight isn’t over; after receiving a bloody nose, SiliconIndia have simply disappeared from the scene instead of announcing an unconditional public apology for the theft and the subsequent distress caused to ardent followers of an insightful new social media blog.

The Scourge of Plagiarism and the Hope from Social Media

Plagiarism has been a perpetual enemy for writers and publishers ever since the introduction of the printing press in the Middle Ages. The matter has become much worse with the arrival of the Information Age, now that just a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks are all that one needs to lift thoroughly-researched material and claim its ownership.

Many web publishers conscious of the lurking thieves invest a significant amount of their time in filing Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) reports to get Google to de-index plagiarised content, but the cat-and-mouse game continues. Even when such reports are not filed or delayed, search engines are sophisticated enough to ascertain the real thieves. Unfortunately, webmasters may end up on the losing side when their sites are restructured or migrated to new domains, since such changes can confuse search engines.

The Wrath of the Connected World

Will social media come to our rescue? The signs are positive, with the victory of #OccupySiliconIndia – even after SiliconIndia decides to undertake major damage-control exercises, Lighthouse Insights is likely to present this story as one of the most potent case studies showcasing the vast power of social media. Publishers, no matter how big or small, must now realize the importance of original content and think twice before facing the wrath of the masses in a connected world.

What are your thoughts about the battle against plagiarism? Please feel free to use the comment form below and speak your mind!

6 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Viruses and Malware

Which virus protection is the best?

Well, to protect yourself against malicious software, the six defensive ways detailed below can work better than the best anti-virus software left to act alone.

1) Be aware of virus symptoms, and attack vectors

This piece of advice might sound something beyond the realm of non-techies. However, non-techies had to learn how to use computers anyway, and learning a little about the basics of viruses won’t hurt. The information contained in this article is a good start.

(i) Be wary of suspicious, new process names in the list of running processes

Sometimes these processes have the same names as legitimate ones to disguise themselves (svchost.exe is an example). Sometimes they have similar names, like svvchost.exe and _services.exe (the legitimate ones have the names svchost.exe and services.exe). The username that’s running the process sometimes gives an indication of whether it’s a legitimate system process or not – a virus usually runs under the currently logged-in user’s name. If you’re a power user, you’d want to use Process Explorer, which will allow you to dive in more deeply when inspecting processes, such as figuring out which exact executable on the file system is responsible for the running process.

(ii) Emails from your friend may not have been actually sent by them

Be wary of opening email attachments, unless you were expecting them – even seemingly innocuous video files could cause your data to disappear. Take your precautions even when the attachment is expected – the anti-virus scanners embedded with the popular email providers provide a good defense.

On a similar note, be careful when downloading files randomly from the Internet. Executable (.exe or .com on Windows) files are the ones that can cause most harm.

(iii) Do not leave the Windows’ auto-run option enabled for portable drives

Auto-run has long been one of the most popular ways in which viruses spread – ensure that you keep it disabled. Never, ever, trust a portable drive that had been previously inserted into a machine that you don’t own, even if it has an anti-virus. Use your anti-virus to scan data that has arrived from external sources. Viruses won’t usually spread through text editors, so you can use these if you’re just inspecting simple files and don’t have an anti-virus at hand.

(iv) Watch out for typical virus symptoms, and gear up to protect yourself

These include:

  1. Access disabled to Task Manager, the Registry Editor1, or msconfig2.
  2. Spikes in CPU or GPU usage – these can be observed either through monitoring tools, such as the Task Manager for the CPU, or GPU-Z for the GPU, or by noticing the hardware fans spinning faster when there is no processor intensive program running.

A good tactic is to run anti-virus scans, preferably from outside your OS, such a Live CD, whenever you detect suspicious activity. Live CDs allow you to boot into them without having to load your OS, which might end up running the virus before any anti-virus can take effect (assuming that the anti-virus failed to detect the malware when it loaded itself onto the machine). Bitdefender Rescue CD is one such option. In addition to regular viruses, Bitdefender scans for rootkits – malware that reside deep within the core of the OS, evading detection while carrying out malicious activity.

(v) Safe online banking

Most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, support booting from a Live CD and are great for providing added protection when banking online, since viruses cannot write to these disks permanently. Live CDs offer no compromise when it comes to your online browsing experience. These Linux distributions can also be installed on bootable USB sticks.

2) Choose to manually enable the running of plugins in your browser

Chrome and Firefox have the option of enabling “Click to Play” for plugins (i.e. either Flash or Java) within websites so that they run each time only with your permission which you provide by clicking on the area of the page in which . This will help prevent drive-by attacks from malicious code embedded in such plugins, which are almost always hidden from view, or use some sort of social engineering to trick users into downloading malware.

In Chrome, copy and paste chrome://chrome/settings/content into your address bar, and choose “Click to play” under “Plugins”.

Chrome Plugin Settings

In Firefox, go to about:plugins, and turn on the plugins.click_to_play option.

3) Update your OS, focusing on the security updates

They are called “security” for a reason. This is especially important for the Windows OS. Because of Windows’ popularity, hackers have been known to target security holes in Windows on unpatched machines by studying the fixes Microsoft sends out. This is becoming true even for Mac’s OS X; the recent Java malware is an example –though Apple actually released the update and fix after the Trojan was out in the wild. A Windows example: If you updated before Sasser arrived, you’d be 100% secure.

4) Use a firewall

This doesn’t offer much more protection from Internet worms than a NAT, but will be useful if you connect your laptop to a public network. It will also protect yourself from infected machines on your own network. A firewall would protect you from Sasser even if you didn’t install security updates at the time, and would offer partial protection against MSBlast.

While the built-in Windows Firewall provides decent protection, you could try out third-party solutions like ZoneAlarm for better control over what moves in and out of your computer.

5) Use an Anti-virus

This is important, but you must know where it stands – it cannot protect you against everything. In fact, most people skip it on the Mac and Linux, though it’s always recommended for Windows. Remember, you are worse off if you use an anti-virus but don’t know how viruses work.

I bet if you brush up your knowledge of viruses and run Windows without an anti-virus, you’d be infected fewer times than a noob running an anti-virus on a Windows and not knowing a thing about viruses. Anti-virus software are perfect if you realize that they work best for protecting against viruses that the software already knows about, and not so good at protecting new ones.

6) Backups

Whatever precautions you take, you might still lose the fight. Always ensure that you have important data backed-up, so that you can easily restore it in the case of an infection.

Even if there was no danger of infection, backups come in handy in the case of hardware failure, for which you should be prepared for anytime.

Footnotes

  1. ^The Registry is a database of configuration settings and options related to the Microsoft Windows operating systems. It can be accessed by pressing Ctrl+R, typing regedit.exe and pressing Enter
  2. ^MSConfig is a Microsoft Windows utility you can use to troubleshoot issues related to processes that are loaded on startup. Viruses often register themselves to start up automatically – you can remove the easier ones using msconfig or by editing the registry.

WordCamp Cuttack 2012: An Evergreen Memory for WordPress Lovers

The WordCamp Cuttack 2012 concluded on the 11th of March in the most positive of ways for everyone who got an opportunity to be part of it, whether as an organizer, attendee or speaker.

WordCamp CuttackI was fortunate to be there as a special guest, a result of a generous giveaway by the key initiator of this event, Soumya Pratihari. Soumya leads a locally-based web development company called iDev, which also runs a number of popular blogs that cater to several verticals.

My first pleasant experience came well before the event itself. While I was being driven to iDev, I expected the company to be housed in a more or less snazzy office block, when in fact it was a simple, two-storeyed building situated in possibly one of the quietest corners of Cuttack. Lesson: You don’t have to work in a gleaming glass-and-steel structure to attain heights!

The venue was Ajay-Binay Institute of Technology, and the vice president of the college Mr. A. Mohapatra was the chief guest.

On Super Charging Your Career with Blogging and WordPress

After the encouraging words sent out by the chief guest, seasoned entrepreneur Mohit Pawar took charge of the proceedings.

It began with several seconds of a soothing deep-breathing exercise that clearly rejuvenated all the listeners.

On the subject of blogging and WordPress, the first step, in Mohit’s words was to make a start. He strongly recommended the use of WordPress because of its ease and quickness of use, availability of plugins and their ease of modification. He stressed on the contributions of the WordPress community and their never-ending quest to make the platform better and better.

Looking for keyword rich domains is a thing of the past, said Mohit. Additionally, he was in favor of looking for a brandable domain name, and not one based on the personal name.

On of the key thrusts of Mohit’s presentation was a call to use your blog as a resume. “Written words can be easily scaled”, said the lively and humorous businessman. “I haven’t ever made a resume in my life, it is my blog that has served as a resume!” Paradoxically, Mohit’s newest venture is a resume writing service called FreshResume, that promises users to help them stand out in the job market.

Mohit gave examples of how his blog helped him spread word about things ranging from his thoughts to his latest ventures. A key example was that of a blog post titled 13 tips on organizing a TEDx event which ranks pretty high in SERPS, and attracts enquiries from all over. Another instance to note was that of Paras Chopra using his blog to promote his “visual website optimizer”.

Furthermore, Mohit suggested direct advertising as preferable to AdSense, initially, and said the distraction of revenue when starting out would be mostly detrimental.

On the frequency of blogging, he advised making a plan and putting up posts more often in the beginning. He also advised the audience to network with people with the intention of helping, and not winning favors from them.

The conclusion: Write blogs, if you’re looking for opportunities!

The information-filled presentation included interesting glimpses into Mohit’s own blogging-cum-entrepreneurship journey. The man started his first business at age 16 with a small sum of money, and moved on to gain tremendous experience. He admitted to have made the mistake of cramming together too many tasks in his early days, and now believes single-tasking is a far more efficient way of life. On those lines, he stressed on focusing on one domain and then moving on.

He talked about a post titled 17 businesses you can start with little or no money, which looks like a must read for budding entrepreneurs and anyone convinced that blogging can supercharge your career.

‘Google and Facebook are Stalking You’

Sanjib Parida, Co-Founder and CTO of Muvi.com, was the next to take charge. He spoke in detail about better strategies and tactics to rank higher in Google’s SERPS.

Sanjib expressed dislike for the excessive use of SEO, which essentially involves gaming the system to beat competitors. He instead emphatically talked about the use of branding to build trust in the minds of users looking at search result pages. A good example he gave was that of StackOverflow, which is loved by programmers around the world. A programmer is likely to click through if he or she see a StackOverflow result, even if it isn’t at the top.

Sanjib was intensely dismayed at the massive data collection being carried out by both Google and Facebook under the pretext of improving user experiences and presenting more relevant ads, with the frightening reminder, “Google and Facebook are stalking you!” However, he essentially indicated that the pervasiveness of these services made us accept the loss of privacy as a reality of life.

When I asked him about the influence of advocates like Richard Stallman in the fight for web privacy, he was highly skeptical about it and quick to point out that the software freedom pioneer’s supporters had to rely on these ubiquitous services to spread word, which defeated the logic of fighting privacy.

It was interesting to hear this speaker’s view that SEO needs to be a more programming-oriented activity, that will tailor websites better for search-engine-based visitors.

Another statement that caught my attention was the one about gaining the early mover advantage by making the most of the newest bubbles. The fact of the matter, he highlighted, is that we are living in the social bubble.

More Speeches, Followed by a Workshop

I too got a chance to speak about my perspective on WordPress and blogging. I reiterated the views expressed by Mohit and basically had three immediate benefits of blogging to highlight:
1.The learning experience from collective knowledge.
2.A chance to share your knowledge and views.
3.A chance for new opportunities to come knocking on your door.

It’s a good idea to follow role models, and the best I could think of were the key organizer Soumya himself, Arun Prabhudesai of the business blog trak.in, Jeff Atwood of codinghorror.com (a must read for programmers!) and Amit Agarwal of Labnol.org.

Post-lunch, the next speaker Rahul Banker spoke to the audience via Skype, the main essence of his talk being to give up the obsession with money when blogging away your thoughts.

Web entrepreneur Jaydip Parikh, also connecting remotely, spoke about how to choose content for your blog. Jaydip stressed on quality content being the king, not just content. He had some fine suggestions on where to look for the best content that would have the potential to turn viral. Here’s the complete slideshow:

Next, a workshop was conducted by Amit Singh, the director of AmiWorks. He touched on topics ranging right from those concerning fresh starters to the advanced use of WordPress, and was pleased by the enthusiasm exuded by the participants.

Concluding a Memorable Day

Quick contests were conducted by Soumya and T-shirts given away, and the glow in everyone’s faces appeared to promise to spread awareness about WordPress.

Blogger Puneet Jain launched BlogWorkshop.org via video and was aptly applauded.

The concluding moments included a ‘30 seconds of fame’ session in which participants talked about their interests, with one of the most pleasing comments being “I’m now going to blog regularly!”

I’m immensely grateful to the iDev team, the attendees and fellow speakers for having done everything that made this event an evergreen memory. Were you at WordCamp Cuttack 2012, or following the proceedings via Twitter? Feel free to comment about your experiences!

What does the Amazon vs Flipkart Contest Herald for us?

When you’re out to shop online, there’s a greater variety than ever before if you’re in India!

Shopping giant Amazon has launched the curiously named Junglee.com in beta mode to target Indian customers. Presently, it is only a comparison shopping site rather than one that allows customers to order directly and obtain shipping from Amazon’s own dedicated courier services. Shoppers are taken to vendors’ individual sites to complete their purchases, and experiences may vary.

UPDATE (10th Feb, 2012): Amazon has been granted FDI approval to set up its logistics service in India.

Junglee means ‘of the forest’ in Hindi, and by all means, the offering at the first instant indeed looks to be just a subset of the vast forest that Amazon has become!

The move appears to be cautious, given the fact that Flipkart has achieved wide acceptance in the country, and a full-scale online shopping war of dominance is going to leave consumers frustrated.

Hanging Around on Junglee

I checked out a few camera deals on the new site, and found the comparisons impressive. It’s a good thing to see several aspects of multiple sellers like seller information, shipping rates and return policy nearly at once, and it would be even better if a summarized at-a-glance chart was provided.

Camera Deal on Junglee.com

What about the shopping experience? That will depend on the sellers and their past track records. For now, I’ll hang around on Junglee if I’m looking for something, but probably head over to the trusty Flipkart to hit the “Buy This Now” button.

It’s the same early mover advantage that stops Facebookers from migrating to Google+.

When will Amazon Stamp the Accelerator?

Amazon has chosen to mark its presence through a yellow-pages-cum-reviews shopping website, which is likely to help give good exposure to little known merchants.

That’s great news if you’re a seller seriously looking to expand.

In my opinion, what ultimately will make the difference is Amazon’s ability to match Flipkart’s low prices, timely delivery and the friendliness of trusted delivery personnel.

A quick look at the Amazon services page reveals tremendous promise for sellers. What can be more encouraging than “convert our traffic into your customers” and “no listing fees”?

The question is whether the individual merchants will help maintain the image Amazon needs to make it big in India.

Do you think Amazon will give Flipkart a run for their money? Will healthy competition in India boost the online shopping experience? We’d like to hear your thoughts!

5 Ways to Boost Your Efficiency with Eclipse

Shortcuts

Learn to use the shortcuts. Seriously!

Did you know that if you need to scroll suddenly while typing, you don’t need to reach out for your mouse? Just use the Ctrl or the Ctrl key combinations to scroll up or down.

To learn more about Eclipse shortcuts, head over to TechNonStop’s tutorial on Eclipse Shortcuts.

Templates

Templates are a must-learn – there are so many out there.

For example, sysout, syserr, and systrace.

Look up Window->Preferences->Java->Editor->Templates for all the pre-defined templates available, and don’t forget to add your own!

Often, those working on a single project would like to share templates they create so that the whole team enjoys the shortcuts.

Eclipse Preferences - Java templates

Tweaks to eclipse.ini

I’ve had a noticeable improvement in startup time and overall response times on my Eclipse installation by adding the following to eclipse.ini, at the bottom:

-Xincgc 
-XX:-DontCompileHugeMethods 
-XX:MaxInlineSize=1024  
-XX:FreqInlineSize=1024 

Source: Nerds-Central: Tuning The JVM For Unusual Uses – Have Some Tricks Under Your Hat

Also, tweak the Xms (initial heap size) and Xmx (maximum heap size) to higher values, depending on your RAM and the number of other running applications, or in the event that Eclipse gives you nasty “OutOfMemory” errors. 384m and 1024m respectively for Xms and Xmx work well on my 4 GB machine.

Note: The above optimizations are for Sun’s Java 7. If you use another JDK version, look up this StackOverflow.com thread for optimizations that have worked for others.

Useful Plugins

Mylyn is an excellent plugin to keep track of your TODOs. The Java EE version of Eclipse has this plugin installed, as well as others that are quite useful. Examples are the Web Page Editor for HTML editing, and the XML editor for XML editing.

Use your version control system’s plugin for Eclipse, so that code check-ins can be done from within.

The JDEclipse Decompiler plugin is useful for class decompilation.

Google’s CodePro Analytics is great to analyze and improve the quality of your code.

Eclipse color themes has a cool plugin for changing color themes.

There’s also this cool JSON Editor Eclipse Plugin.

Whatever plugins you use, ensure that you turn them off on startup. Go to General->Startup and Shutdown, and uncheck ALL plugins listed. Also, disable or uninstall the ones you don’t need.

Improve General Eclipse Knowledge

Did you know that you can use the Navigator View (rather than the Package explorer) to see all the files present, including .project files and the bin directory?

Did you know you could just paste exception stack traces into the Java Stack Trace console, and lines numbers turn into hyperlinks?

Use the documentation to keep improving your general knowledge on Eclipse, and for more tips and tricks!

Add shortcuts to related external tools

Yes, I did say 5, but here’s a bonus!

Using the External Tools Configuration window (accessible from the External Tools icon in the toolbar), add shortcuts to scripts that automate commonly run tasks.

For example, I have a script that does the following: syncs down latest code, builds it and runs the test cases after deploying the newly generated artifacts to a locally running server. Adding a shortcut to this within Eclipse has greatly eased the way I run the script and refresh my workspace after it completes.

Five Reasons to Adopt Linux, Today!

The popular open source news site LXer recently published a detailed article on the advantages of Linux, with the aim of dispelling unfair cynicism.

Whether you are a home user or a business owner, Linux is a great choice for an operating system. I entered the Linux world pretty recently, after spending a long time with various Microsoft Windows versions. Now, there’s no looking back!

I’ve identified the top 5 reasons to consider turning to Linux:

1) Cost of operating your computer.

Microsoft Windows offers various paid license plans to run your computer, or install copies on several machines in a network. When you turn to Linux, software that runs your computers is completely free!

This is a great advantage for both home users and businesses who are seeking to cut costs.

2) The spirit of sharing.

Linux is based on sharing and caring. Linux is often the force behind social initiatives that bring computing power to less privileged children and people in war ravaged areas.

When you adopt Linux, you are automatically enrolled into community service – pure material aims take a backseat.

3) Vibrant support communities.

There are extremely active support communities that help users of various distros troubleshoot their problems. The AskUbuntu forums which I’ve used for my Ubuntu system is just one of countless examples. Experienced users will patiently help you run your computer flawlessly, without asking even a cent for it.

If you’re new to Linux, you surely won’t feel lost.

Paid support is also available from companies specializing in it, especially at the enterprise level.

4) Security.

Linux provides the harshest environment for viruses to live. Open source software is collaboratively scrutinized by developers from around the world, which means that viruses will be busted well before they make it to your computers.

You do need anti-viruses on a Linux box, at times. These are chiefly meant for scanning Windows drives, or viruses that execute themselves with Wine!

5) Linux encourages you to be tech savvy.

What is more gratifying than knowing the what, where, when, how and why of the software that powers your computer?

If you’re an Apple user, you’ll typically head straight to the nearest Mac genius for help in times of distress. As a Windows user, you’ll probably hesitate to venture beyond the basic troubleshooting methods.

Linux users set a very different example. They try to get to the bottom of every problem themselves (if they ever come), get help from worldwide networks of users if they’re stuck, and ensure that they’ve straightened out issues with their operating systems.

Linux has retained the way the classical Unix operating system works. Most servers today run Unix-like operating systems – if you’re technically inclined and get accustomed to using Linux, you’re getting to know how operating systems worked in their original design.

Sounds cool?

Choose from an array of distros, and get ready to go the Linux way!

What has been the most compelling reason for you to adopt Linux and stay with it? Are you skeptical about using Linux? Use the comment form below and speak your mind!

Setting up the DB2 database on Ubuntu and testing JDBC connectivity

I got my DB2 database installation running on a Ubuntu 11.10 machine recently, and have documented the steps I carried out below.

Downloading DB2

The express edition is free, and can be downloaded from Download DB2 Express-C. You’ll need to register for an IBM id if you don’t already have one.

Download DB2 Express C Using HTTP

Extracting and installing

Use the command tar -zvxf db2exc_975_LNX_x86.tar.gz to extract the gzipped file. Run the installer using sudo ./db2setup, and choose “Install a Product” on the left menu. The installation process is quite straightforward after this point.

DB2 Setup Launchpad - Install a Product as root

Troubleshooting libaio.so.1 ‘not found’ when running db2setup

I faced the following problem when I ran the setup script:


$ sudo ./db2setup
ERROR: 
   The required library file libaio.so.1 is not found on the system. 
   Check the following web site for the up-to-date system requirements
   of IBM DB2 9.7
   http://www.ibm.com/software/data/db2/udb/sysreqs.html
   http://www.software.ibm.com/data/db2/linux/validate  
  Aborting the current installation ...
  Run installation with the option "-f sysreq" parameter to force the installation.

To fix it, I had to run sudo apt-get install libaio-dev to install the missing package.

Verifying the Installation

The following command verifies the db installation and configured instances:

sudo /opt/ibm/db2/V9.7/bin/db2val -a

Creating a database

Switch to the user account that is the owner of the instance (db2inst1 is the default).

$ su db2inst1

Switch to the bash shell if necessary:

$ bash

Under this user account, you can run DB2 commands as illustrated below. Note that the create database command takes time – it took several minutes on my machine.


$ db2 create database test
DB20000I  The CREATE DATABASE command completed successfully.
$ db2 connect to test

   Database Connection Information

 Database server        = DB2/LINUX 9.7.5
 SQL authorization ID   = DB2INST1
 Local database alias   = TEST

$ db2 "create table test.technonstop(id int, username varchar(200))"
DB20000I  The SQL command completed successfully.
$ db2 "INSERT INTO test.technonstop VALUES(1, 'abdullah')"
DB20000I  The SQL command completed successfully.

Troubleshooting

If you’re unable to run any db2 command, the db2 environment variables may not have been sourced. To do it, run the following command at the terminal, replacing db2inst1 with the instance owner.

. /home/db2inst1/sqllib/db2profile

Java Program to Test JDBC Connectivity

I use the following Java program to test to see if JDBC connectivity works from a Java program, after assigning appropriate values to the constants at the beginning:


import java.sql.Connection;
import java.sql.DriverManager;
import java.sql.ResultSet;
import java.sql.ResultSetMetaData;
import java.sql.SQLException;
import java.sql.Statement;


public class PrintSQLTable {

	final static String dbdriver = "com.ibm.db2.jcc.DB2Driver";
	final static String dburl = "jdbc:db2://localhost:50000/test";
	final static String dbuser = "db2inst1";
	final static String dbpassword = "myPassword";
	final static String dbtable = "test.technonstop";
	
	public static void main(String[] args) throws ClassNotFoundException,
			SQLException {
		Class.forName(dbdriver);
		Connection connection = DriverManager.getConnection(dburl, dbuser,
				dbpassword);
		Statement statement = connection.createStatement();
		ResultSet resultSet = statement
				.executeQuery("SELECT * FROM " + dbtable);

		StringBuilder tableContents = new StringBuilder("");
		ResultSetMetaData metaData = resultSet.getMetaData();
		int noOfColumns = metaData.getColumnCount();

		for (int i = 1; i <= noOfColumns; i++) {
			tableContents.append(metaData.getColumnName(i) + " \t ");
		}

		tableContents.append("\n");
		int sbLength = tableContents.length();
		for (int i = 0; i < sbLength; i++)
			tableContents.append("-");
		tableContents.append("\n");

		while (resultSet.next()) {
			for (int i = 1; i <= noOfColumns; i++) {
				tableContents.append(resultSet.getString(i) + " \t ");
			}
			tableContents.append("\n");
		}

		if (tableContents.length() == 0)
			tableContents.append("No data found");

		System.out.println(tableContents);
	}


}

Run the program with the db2jcc.jar file in the classpath, as shown below:


$ java -cp /opt/ibm/db2/V9.7/java/db2jcc.jar:. PrintSQLTable
ID 	 USERNAME 	 
-----------------
1 	 abdullah