The Current State of Web Design (As Observed in Early 2012)

Back in early 2012, I gave a work presentation detailing what I saw to be the latest trends in web and application design. The main purpose of the presentation was to help guide the design of various in-house projects. Since then, my observations/predictions have, for the most part, stayed/come true. When setting up this blog, I tried to keep in mind my own design advice, so as a result, you’ll find many of the elements I discuss in this post reflected in the design of

I recently came across the presentation, and figured it would be interesting to briefly share the main talking points. My hope is that laying out some of these observations will help someone out down the line. Just make sure to keep up with any future trends. What’s current now (or close to two years ago) will seem woefully outdated just a few years from now. Also, please don’t mistake this for a Web Design 101 course. Rather, this is merely a listing of observations that were/are relevant to my purposes. The Web is a Wild and Untamed Place. There is no right or wrong. People will do what people will do. Continue reading

Expanding DPM Storage with the Dell MD1000

MD1000 Front

I’m a fan of Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager (now a part of System Center 2012). Data Protection Manager (DPM) is a data protection and recovery application, designed to protect an entire network. The protection of network data is absolutely essential in any business, regardless of size. DPM is a great system, but really uses up disk space. What do you do when your DPM server runs out of space? This article will discuss one approach to solving the space issue: the use of a Dell MD1000 (connected to a Dell server) to expand available storage. Continue reading

Recommendations for Free PC Security Software

Working at a small business, my co-workers often ask me for recommendations regarding security software on their home computers. What anti-virus should I install? Is there other software I need? Since these are questions I don’t see going away anytime soon, I figured it was time for me to write up an “official” article about my preferred software choices. Now, most home users tend to be a bit frugal when it comes to their computer. Getting them to invest in the security of their system can often be a challenge. So, for this article, I’ll be focusing on the free security solutions that I typically recommend.
Continue reading

Installing Microsoft Office Data Connectivity Components

Pretend for a second that you are an application developer, developing in VB.Net, and you find yourself needing to work with an Office-based data file (like Access or Excel). So, you write your code, put together your connection string, and go to run your program. Maybe the program works on your workstation, maybe it doesn’t. The real problem is that the code bombs out when you run it on your web server. You get an error that looks like this:

The ‘Microsoft.ACE.OLEDB.12.0’ provider is not registered on the local machine.

Now what? Well, the error should be pretty clear to anyone working with OLEDB or ODBC connections. Whenever you go to make a connection to a database, using a database API to do so, you need to have the appropriate drivers installed. If you have the latest version of Office (2007+) installed, then you may already have the necessary drivers. If you don’t (and you really shouldn’t on a server), then you’ll need to separately install the drivers. They can be a bit hard to track down, but here is what I’ve found.

Continue reading

Building the Blog Part 3: Customizing the Blog

A look at this blog's theme, before and after my customization work.

One of the key features of WordPress is the large number of themes available. You can find a theme to suit any purpose you like, and many are extremely flexible. WordPress, designed to meet almost any website need, has an ecosystem of themes covering every type of website you could possibly desire. Standard blogs, image-heavy Pinterest-style blogs, corporate websites, e-commerce portals, and so on. Most users will select a pre-made theme, apply it to their website, and go on with their life. Well, I guess I’m not “most users.”

I tend to be a bit picky with website design, combing every inch of a design, tweaking even minor details. While there are many talented theme developers out there, none will ever release a WordPress theme that meets every bit of criteria important to me. That is to be expected, of course, and is why many businesses hire designers to create a customized theme (versus select a free, pre-made theme). So, if you can’t find a theme that suits your needs, what are your options? Basically, you have two. You can either create a whole new theme, from the ground up, or you can simply modify an existing theme. I chose the later.

Continue reading

Permissions. It’s Always the Permissions.

Lately, much of my work time has been spent upgrading the servers that keep the company network running. As the Extended Support End Date for Server 2003 has crept closer and closer, it has become essential to role out updated hardware running the latest version of Windows Server. There’s almost two years left before Server 2003 loses its support, but the earlier I can get things upgraded, the better. Now, any server upgrade can be a scary proposition, but my latest upgrade was particularly worrisome. It was time to upgrade the Primary Domain Controller (PDC), or perhaps more correctly, the Domain Controller (DC) that has the PDC emulator role assigned to it. For those not familiar with Windows networking, here’s a simple overview. DCs are the servers setup to store all network information on them. These servers work together to run a system called Active Directory (AD). Many items are stored in AD, but the most familiar to an average user would be user logins. Without AD, you wouldn’t be able to log in and access files and services on the network. So, not only was I upgrading one of the core machines behind “the network,” but I was upgrading the one that handles the bulk of the networking workload. That makes for a lot of potential for something to go wrong. Continue reading

Building the Blog Part 2: Choosing WordPress

WordPress Logo

In part one of this series, I discussed the reasons for launching Having made the decision to create a blog, I then set to work on building it. Part two of the “Building the Blog” series, which you are now reading, will explain why I chose to use WordPress.

The way I see it, there are three primary choices available to someone starting a blog: Tumblr, Blogger, or WordPress. Many other choices exist, of course, but these are the big three. Each is a well-developed, mature platform, rich with functionality. While all would work well, I chose WordPress for a number of reasons. Here I’ll briefly discuss each platform, laying out what I see as the pros and cons of each system. Looking for a simpler, bullet-point rundown? Try here, here, or here.

Continue reading

Building the Blog Part 1: Why a Blog?

Why would I put together a new blogging site, put it out on the Internet under my own name, and make plans to start posting content to it? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Not too long ago, I decided that it would make sense to build a professional presence on the Internet. I wanted more than just a typical LinkedIn profile, though. I wanted a place where I was completely in control of the content and the presentation. A place where I could discuss the latest technology I’m working with. A place where I could share what I’ve learned, and what I hope to learn.

Continue reading