Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Plaxo....Why?

I have been using Plaxo for some time (a few years now) and the whole time I have had their free account (now referred to as a Basic membership). When I started using the service it was just that, an address book and that was all I really wanted.

Over time, they have advanced and upgraded their system, providing further integration into the world of social networking. With that foray, they have also added different levels of membership. That is fine, and I expected that as such, I would lose certain functionality from the Basic membership, and have. But, there is one feature that I have lost and must say that it is a bit disturbing. With the Basic membership, you are no longer allowed to export your contacts from your address book without paying for their Premium Sync service (even though all you want to do is export and not actually sync with another device or service). I just want to back up my contacts now and again, keeping a copy in case anything ever happened to the Plaxo servers or Plaxo itself.

So, after steaming a bit and having a bit of a livid rant with a friend over the whole situation, I did some investigation into who I could get my contacts out without forking over $$ for the "privilage" of backing up my data myself.

It took me about 20 minutes of looking around but if you go to your main address book page, you will see that there is a complete list of all of your contacts. There is a top line right above the first contact that has a blank check box on the left and a few buttons (email, merge, print, delete and Add to group).

If you click the empty check box on the left of that row, it will select ALL of your contacts in your list. Then, simply click on the "Print" buton. This did two things for me: first, it opened a window relatively quickly that showed the output. This window is HTML based and if you look at the URL bar has a wicked long URL. Second, it opens up another window that has print options. Simply select the option to Print to PDF (if you system offers that) and you can then print them to pdf so you have a copy.

My interest though was in the first option, the HTML output. I right clicked on the HTML and version and selected "Save as", saving the html output to a file. When I examined that file, it was quickly apparent to me that the output was pretty nice and the way they formatted things, it would not be that bad to parse and output to a CSV file. Once I have it in that format, I can then use it to import into other services or even a database of my own.

Either way, I will be working on a script to parse the HTML file and extract all of my information. If I get something relatively usable, I will share it hear for others to use as I am sure that I am not the only one that has been in this predicament.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

To Setup Or Not To Setup?

I know, that is a pretty vague question I pose as the subject of this post. To clarify, I am talking about a mail server. On my new server, I have been setting up a lot of things, but one thing I have yet to setup was a mail server.

I was torn because I really wanted to have mail from my new domain and without a mail server, that just isn't possible. First and foremost is that I have absolutely no experience setting up a mail server. You have to think about things like:

- the installation of the software for mail delivery (ie: Postfix, Sendmail),
- the managing of spam with software like SpamAssassin.
- the increase in traffic on your site due to email

As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about, and this short list is just that, short. So, in speaking with a friend today led to a suggestion which, in a matter of only a couple of hours work, I have implemented.

I have Ben Howarth of CodeGecko to thank, not only for the suggestion that follows, but also for his guidance in setting it up. I also want to thank him for being so infinitely patient with me as I can ask a lot of questions when I am learning something new. You rock, Ben!!!

The suggestion that Ben made was to use Google Apps Standard (Free) Edition. He quickly enlightened me as to the fact that it would use my domain and that all the emails would be for my domain. The sweet part is that Google handled all the email server end of it, which means you get Google's absolutely incredible spam filtering capabilities and scanning for attachments. It also comes with a bunch of free apps such as Google Docs, Google Chat and much more.

A quick search of the internet on setup guides for Google Apps landed me here, which proved to be a good "get you going in the right direction" guide. It at least got me to the sign up site, which it what I needed.

The sign up process was pretty painless and even the verification was cake (upload an html file to your site, visit it and then tell the setup you did it). When it came to the DNS setup on GoDaddy (where I bought my domain), that is where Ben really shined. He gave me a really good set of explanations into the inner workings of CNAME's, MX records and DNS as a whole, helping me to get a better grasp on it than I previously had.

Its hard when you are a geek and all of a sudden have to work with technologies that you have never messed with before, but its wonderful when there are friends who are willing to help.

After all was setup, Ben dropped another Easter Egg in my lap, telling me that instead of the nice long URL that Google gives you to access your email accounts, you can set it up for your domain. I really do owe him about a case of beer now. I have, with his guidance, set it up as a sub domain of my site. Once again, Ben ROCKS!

Once I get it all written up, I will have to post some details on the setup of MX records for Google Apps in GoDaddy as well as CNAME's. I am just having so much fun with all of this. Now off to the next setup and configuration task.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Disabling Account Creation In BugZilla

I don't know about anyone else, but I am one of those guys who likes to implement what security I can on the server(s) that I have. Recently I have been doing setup on a new machine and have setup BugZilla as my issue tracking software.

I know that plenty of people have plenty of suggestions as far as the different software's that are available for different tasks. I have gotten some earfuls from some of them asking "why the heck would you choose that?". Please know ahead of time that the software I am using, I have chosen because:

#1: It meets my needs
#2: I have either used it or played with it before and am comfortable with it.

I have nothing against other software's, I just have the stuff I like and I use it.

Ok, that said, I have installed Bugzilla on my new server and have it setup with an account for myself. Upon getting it to that point, I quickly decided that I did not want anyone just creating an account, so I looked into how to disable account creation by anyone and here is how to do it.

1. Log in as an Administrator
2. Go to: Administration->Parameters->User Authentication
3. Scan down to the bottom of the screen till you find 'createemailregexp'.
4. Clear out the value in the box
5. Client "Save Changes"

AFter that, log out and ensure that the button says "Login" in stead of "Create Account" and your all set. After that, in order to create an account, you will need to log in as the administrator.
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