Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to Start a Website

How do you start your own website? This is a common question asked among beginners that need computer help. After you buy or upgrade your computer, and master using the internet, the next logical step is to create your own home within this virtual world. The nice thing is that technology has progressed to the point where there are nearly an unlimited amount of options if you do want to start up a blog or web page.

You have two ways to go about this adventure - learn from scratch and build your website alone, or pay someone with the experience and knowledge to do it for you. If you need business web design, the latter option is for you. You can talk to a new jersey wordpress designer specialist and get a site up and running in no time. If you are more of a hands on person, get ready to dig in to the world wide web.

I'll highlight some of the more common options, and give a few details of how to start a website that doesn't involve using a free online service.

1) Blogs, blogs, blogs... If you're just looking for a place to vent, write about friends and family, keep an online journal, or discuss your passion, the easiest option is setting up a blog. You may notice that this website is hosted on - you can build a blog here from start to finish in a few minutes! And it's 100% free, which is always attractive to the beginner who just wants to try something new out. This is not the only site where you can do this, though - you'll want to check out several free blogs and determine which you like best for starting a website. Some of the more popular options are,,, if you want to find more just Google something along the lines of 'create free website' or 'create free blog'. You will undoubtedly find more options than you could possibly want.

2) Buy a Domain - This is optional if you start a free online blog from one of the aforementioned websites, but usually you have the option to redirect your subdomain to a custom domain name if you do choose to buy one. You'll notice that most blogspot blogs use a subdomain of i.e. If you simply want this to be you need to buy that particular domain. This is actually very cheap - the most popular site to register domains is, and it only costs about $10/year. While this is not necessary for the free blogs, it is easier to remember and a little bit cleaner. You will need a domain if you choose to purchase a web hosting plan. Which brings us to our next topic....

3) Web Hosting - A lot of computer beginners do not understand the details of web hosting. They know it's necessary to build a website, but don't dive into to the deep end to figure out more. I'll likely post a more detailed entry about this in the future, but I'll keep things simple and clear here. There are plenty of companies that offer web hosting plans for your website needs. One of the more popular options is They usually offer several options, such as shared hosting or reseller hosting. If you plan to start a single website you only need a shared plan. This means your website will reside on a shared server that belongs to the hosting company, along with many other websites. A shared plan is actually pretty cheap, anywhere from $5-10/month. You must read the details to determine whether the plan fits your needs. You will see several options, such as storage space, bandwidth, e-mail accounts, ftp capability, operating system, database options, shopping cart etc., etc. If you are new to the game, this can defintitely make your head spin.

I'll keep things basic here - storage is self explanatory, that is basically your hard drive space on your portion of the shared server. Bandwidth is usually a monthly cap of how many MB or GB can be downloaded from your server in a month. So for example, if you have a one-page website that is 1MB, and your bandwidth is 1GB, in any particular month you can serve 1000 page loads (1000 visits x 1MB = 1000MB = 1GB). If person #1001 tries to load your website, they will likely get a message in their browser that says 'bandwidth exceeded'. If your website is mainly text, the chances of you exceeding your bandwidth are very low - high bandwidth is really only necessary if you are hosting a lot of images or videos.

4) Website Design - once you have your website registered, whether its through a free service or web hosting plan, the next step is to design it. This can be costly if you choose to outsource this, but if you are a beginner you will clearly be looking to learn a little and do this yourself. Again, if you are using a free blog, chances are there are a lot of templates you can download to really hide the details of this whole process. If you want to learn about design, I suggest you use a free template that you like and then dig in with some HTML or CSS code to get a basic understanding of what is going on behind the scenes. Web design is actually very fun when you get into it, because it brings together science and art in a very practical way. If you have any photoshop skills, it's definitely worth looking into web design because you can probably create a sweet site by your lonesome. Don't be afraid to go on forums and ask people for help, too. The best resource is a helpful person.

I've been through a few basics here, and I will surely write more detailed posts about web hosting and web design in the future. These are very hot topics when it comes to people who want to proudly display their website. In the meantime, look into some free blog or web services and play around. The investment is all time and no money, so you've really got nothing to lose.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Antivirus Software

Computer technology has advanced unbelievably quickly in the past decade. This has led to numerous solutions to ubiquitous problems in society, but at the same time it has introduced a lot of vulnerabilities to the computer systems that are used for these solutions.

While people generally associate the term computer hacker with bad guys, there are really two clear divisions within this term. The white hat computer hacker is a guy who simply wants to gain a deeper understanding of technology, and 'hacks' hardware or a computer program to do something it wasn't intended to - BUT it's important to note that they do not try to maliciously alter what they are hacking. The reason I make this distinction is because I currently work with a research group that involves people like this and they do not like the negative connotation of computer hackers.

Then there are the black hat guys. The guys that want to use their technological experience to compromise security of computer networks, steal someone's identity, spam your e-mail, make a profit off of innocent people, etc. These are the hackers that one needs to protect your computer from.

With this in mind, here are some simple steps to defend yourself from these bad guys.

1. The first step is to install antivirus and firewall software programs. I use the plural form because one single program does not usually work to stop everything. If you have multiple layers of software protection, there will be less of a chance that you install something you don't want. This type of software is best used for stopping internet viruses from being downloaded to your computer while you use the internet. Whether it's a virus, trojan, worm - you don't want it, because the possibilities of what this software can do is endless. It's really only limited by the imagination of the enemy.

2. Try not to store much sensitive or personal data on your computer, as this is what a lot of the bad computer hackers are looking for. If you do transfer this type of information over your connection, ensure you are using a safe channel, such as the https secure protocol, or some type of encryption, such as 3DES or AES.

3. Don't ever open files without scanning them antvirus software first. A lot of operating systems and web browsers have protection built in to do this for you, but it can't hurt to find additional software. The files you really need to look out for are executable files, or files with a .exe extension. Also, DO NOT click on links from an e-mail where you are unsure of the origin. This is known as spamming or phishing.

4. Use a firewall. Windows has a firewall built in, but many antivirus software programs have firewall protection built in as well. Essentially this is used to block incoming internet connections that may be a little shady. The antivirus software may only be able to scan files that are already on your computer.

You don't need to be a computer expert to protect yourself, but you do need a basic knowledge of the programs which will protect your computer for you. This is by no means an extensive list, but it should give you the basics to keep yourself protected from any unwanted outsiders.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Computer Buying Guide

If you have a computer at home that is five or six years old, it may be about time for an upgrade. People that have dealt with this process in the past know what to look for when purchasing a computer or laptop, but if this is your first time you are sure to have lots of questions.

You want to get a lot of bang for you buck but don't necessarily want to shell out a fortune, particularly now with the economy as bad as it is. With that in mind, here are several factors you must be familiar with before heading to the store.

1. Operating System - First and foremost, you need to decide upon the operating system. If you're not a computer geek, you can probably throw out Linux as an option because this is not very popular among newbies - it will ultimately boil down to Windows or Mac. You've probably watched enough TV to see those PC vs. Mac commercials and don't know what to make of them. Macs tend to be more popular among the artsy type people, but after using one I have to say I'm very impressed by the ease of use and the beauty of the system that PCs just don't have. Thing is PCs have a stranglehold upon the vast majority of people and they are unwilling to learn or switch to something different. If this is you, I have no problems with PCs. Yes, you will probably get more random errors, programs crashing, etc. But as long as you buy a good system from a trusted vendor you will get your money worth.

2. Desktop or Laptop - This decision is pretty simple. If you're looking for a home computer for the whole family to use, it's probably to set up a computer desk and get a desktop PC or Mac. You don't want a family computer floating around, and you will get more for your money with desktops as compared to laptops. If it is a personal computer and you travel a lot, or you would like the convenience of using the computer in any room of your house or apartment, a cheap laptop would be a great option. You do pay a little extra in the way of convenience for the small size, but even these models are becoming cheaper by the week. You might also want to look into a netbook - kinda like a mini-laptop.

3. Figure out the main use of the computer - If the computer will serve solely for web surfing, e-mail, and writing documents, you don't need too much in the way of extra or upgraded components. If you're into making movies or other forms of media processing, you will definitely want to look for higher end graphics cards - this is something a MacBook Pro is good for. If you're into music you'll probably want an upgraded sound card. If you're a multi-tasker and like to have many programs open at once, you'll want to get enough memory (RAM) to handle several applications running simultaneously. Another beautiful innovation in this respect is multi-core processors. This allows several operations to run in parallel which can greatly increase the speed, or reduce the lag time when you are doing a lot at once. I highly recommend Dell for building a PC - you can choose each component and customize your system based on your needs and preferences.

4. What Brand? - You might find some good deals on cheaper brands, but we can't recommend buying one. The bigger brands generally have better components, or at least allow you to upgrade to higher quality components. They usually have much better customer service which could be essential for a computer beginner. They normally have better warranty plans which might come in handy if you have rambunctious kids. This is one product where you really should stick to the better known names.

These are just a few simple suggestions for computer beginners. I highly recommend that you go to your local electronics store and at the very least ask some questions. You will probably find better deals online, so keep that in the back of your mind, but it's tough to rival person-to-person interaction in terms of getting answers to your specific questions. Hopefully this computer buying guide puts you on the right path to the right computer for you!