iRead, iLearn, iWrite. Hence, iBlog.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

F-15 Wallpapers

Some of the pictures that I use as Wallpapers. These are images of the F-15. All images have been cropped to 4:3 ratio.


20080329f15wally0120080329f15wally02


20080329f15wally0320080329f15wally04


20080329f15wally0520080329f15wally06


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All images courtesy af.mil


Very often while attending lectures, when I get bored (an every day occurrence), all I have to do get my focus back is to try to associate what is being taught with its application in combat Aircraft. Things start falling into place as soon as I do it.


........I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad........


P.S: One of the Aircrafts shown here belongs to the Israeli Air Force. Can you identify it? :)


In all likelihood, this would be the last post for the month. I am currently out this weekend and by the time the weekend ends, so would the month. Those of you who have mailed me, I shall try to get back to you as soon as I can. Those who have dropped in a comment, I hope you won’t mind if I reply back on Monday.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

axfr.everydns.net is back online

Last night (IST), while pinging the servers, I found that axfr.everydns.net (sharing its IP with ns4.everydns.net = 64.158.219.3) had come back online. I had mentioned this in my comment in this post. This should cause all domain owners with secondary domain records, with EveryDNS involved, to heave a sigh of relief. You can now have up-to-date records both in your Primary and Secondary DNS.


The proof:



My domain records in EditDNS, which earlier were looking like this (I was trying to setup a secondary domain at that time),


20080326axfronline01


now appear like this


20080326axfronline02


complete with my copy of domain records from EveryDNS.


The result obtained after pinging the server.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


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A special note of thanks must go to the people at EveryDNS for bringing it back up within a totally acceptable time frame. You people ROKK!!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Update : ns4.everydns.net Nameserver not responding

I was chatting with the support volunteers who man the everyDNS channel on the irc.oftc.net. This is the related transcript of our chat conversation.

<Tres`Home> reading back log, just a se
<Mecah> np

<Tres`Home> Mecah: It is being worked on while we speak

<Tres`Home> Basicly a group of machines at the same facility have been having problems

<Mecah> so should i exepect the axfr server to be functioning in a days time?

<Tres`Home> they are in the process of being moved

<Mecah> ok

<Tres`Home> It was functioning a while ago.. But apparently has gone down again

<Tres`Home> [13:01] everydns support: I know... I’m working on it.

<Mecah> so can you give me a tenetavie time by which the problem shall be solved?

<Tres`Home> I don’t have that kind of info... I just report problems higher up and do basic support for configuration and stuff like that.

<Mecah> ok

<Tres`Home> best I’ve got for you is the message from everydns support ;)

<Mecah> and what may that be :)

<Tres`Home> <Tres`Home> [13:01] everydns support: I know... I’m working on it.

<Mecah> k
Well this is the transcript of the relevant portion of the converstion. The post has also received a response from David Ulevitch himself, who has assured that the problem shall be addressed to.

Keeping my fingers crossed. Will keep you updated.


Monday, March 24, 2008

ns4.everydns.net Nameserver not responding

Since it appears that neither EveryDNS’s announcement page nor any search query in google is returning any relevant result, I guess there is no harm in me claiming the title of BREAKING NEWS!!!! for this article.


I usually ping my sites and Name servers from time-to-time, to ensure that they are accesible. As I was doing the same on Saturday, I found that I was successfully able to ping ns1.everydns.net, ns2.everydns.net and ns3.everydns.net. However as I tried to ping ns4.everydns.net, I found that on each occasion I kept getting the message Request timed out in Windows command prompt.

(Click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080324ns4down01_tn


Since it is not unusual for Name servers to be taken offline from time-to-time, I waited 2 days for it come online. Yet nothing has happened. So how, as an everyDNS user, does it affect you?

EveryDNS is the only DNS service you are using.

If this is your case, then you should be happy to know that the unresponsive Name Server in no way will hamper the accessibility of your site. The other 3 accesible Name Servers - ns1.everydns.net(208.76.56.56), ns2.everydns.net(204.152.184.150) and ns3.everydns.net(208.96.6.134), should be more than capable of handling your requests.

Rejoice ;)

You are using EveryDNS as the primary or slave domain.

The reason why the IP of ns4.everydns.net (64.158.219.3) is significant, is because, besides being a Name server, the server also sends and requests axfr queries (axfr.everydns.net = ns4.everydns.net = 64.158.219.3). The inaccesible ns4.everydns.net, would effect you differently in two different cases.

EveryDNS is your primary domain

If this the case, then any changes you make in your primary domain will not be reflected in your secondary domain records. This should ideally not be a problem, if your primary domain is working without issues. If however, your primary Name servers go down due to some reason (D-DOS attack), then in this case, all requests for your sites will be handled by your secondary/slave domain, which however does not have the complete records of your domain (because of inaccesible server handling axfr queries). In this case, depending on th changes you made on the primary domain, your site may not be correctly accesible.

EveryDNS is your secondary domain

Similarly, because of the inaccesible axfr server, your secondary domain will not be updated. This would cause the same set of problems as mentioned above, if your primary domains go offline.

Well i have mailed the support guys at EveryDNS (with a BCC to David Ultevich) seeking clarification. Due to the time difference I hope to receive a response in a couple of hours time now. Lets see what response I get. Will even log in to their irc channel in some time. Will keep you updated.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Make site accessible without the www


In order to follow what I am explaining here, you would need to read my previous post first.


Configuring a Free Domain Name with your blog


Please read that before you read the following.


You have successfully configured your domain name with your blog hosted by Blogspot (Google). However, you will find that people will need to add the www to your address in order to access your site. This is especially true if you are using a free domain name registrar like co.cc or uni.cc. If someone makes the mistake of not adding the www to the url (site address), then in all likelihood, one would encounter a message in the browser window that would say "Server not found" or "Could not locate remote server", depending on the browser you are using (the only exception being Safari). If there could be a way to let people visit your site - www.shubhspace.co.cc, without having to add the www, then people would find it a lot more convenient to visit it (less letters to be typed in your site’s address), resulting in your blog becoming more accesible.



One solution to this problem is to employ the URL redirection method. A visitor types in shubhspace.co.cc and the person is automatically redirected to www.shubhspace.co.cc. Of the many re-direction methods available, we will see how you can perform the redirection with HTTP status code 301 (301 redirect). The other redirection methods are often employed by phishing sites to run their scams. So a 301 redirect is the only one that search engines approve of. So in this post we shall see how to perform a 301 re-direct.


The idea behind this is that you assign your domain name (shubhspace.co.cc, in my case) to a host that allows 301 re-direction. Once this is done, you enable the 301 redirection so that requests for shubhspace.co.cc gets redirected to the subdomain www.shubhspace.co.cc, that is located on a different host (Blogspot). As a result any visitor trying to access my site by typing in shubhspace.co.cc will be automatically re-directed to my actual site www.shubhspace.co.cc. He would thus be spared the trouble of punching the keyboard 4 times to visit my site (w-w-w and ’.’).


In order to do so, we would need a free web-hosting site that allows 301 redirects (I like to find ways of doing everything for FREE!!). One such hosting service is www.axpsace.com. Signing up for their service is another complete no-brainer. You may check out their features here. Since axspace has offered you the use of the cpanel interface, your job of redirecting is extremely simple. When you first log into your cpanel interface it would look something like this.


(Click on the image to view a large sized image)


cpanel interface


If you scroll down, you will see an section title Domains. In that you would see a link titled Redirects.


Domains


Clicking on it will take you to the page where you can redirect your site example.com to www.example.com. In my case, I select the Permanent (301) option from the drop down menu. For the domain name shubhspace.co.cc, I add the redirects to address as www.shubhspace.co.cc. Once done click on the Add button.


(Click on the image to view a large sized image)


301 redirect


On clicking on the Add button you shall be taken to the page that will inform you that all requests for shubhspace.co.cc will be redirected to www.shubhspace.co.cc


(Click on the image to view a large sized image)


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Clicking on the Go Back button will take you back to the page where you had entered the details. But now it will show you the list of redirected addresses in your account.


(Click on the image to view a large sized image)


redirect list


Your work in your Axspace control panel is over. You may safely log off.


Log into your EveryDNS account. In your domain records, add an A-Record, pointing shubhspace.co.cc to Axspace’s IP address - 66.49.222.169


add A-Record


Once you click on the Add Record button, your updated domain records would look like this.


domain records


(I have blanked out the unrelated domain records to prevent any confusion)


Wait for around 24 hours. Now when you would type in shubhspace.co.cc, you will be automatically redirected to www.shubhspace.co.cc.


If you choose to do a 301 redirect using a Host that does not have a cpanel account interface, but allows you to modify the .htaccess file (Apache web servers), then you may add this piece of code to it.



RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^shubhspace.co.cc$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.shubhspace.co.cc/$1 [R=301,L]


It too will do the same thing (just replace shubhspace.co.cc with the appropriate address).


If you got any query related to the post, feel free to drop in a comment. I shall try to address it to the best of my ability.

Further Reading

What do HTTP status codes mean? - An article from Google’s Webmaster Help Center

Status Code Definitions - Learn more about 3xx HTTP status codes

How to setup a 301 Redirect - This article will tell you about the different ways of performing a 301 redirect

Wkipedia entry about URL re-directions


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Creating your own, unique email id - Google Apps

The other day I was trying to register to a forum. However, while filling up the registration form, I was 1met with a brick wall in the form of a condition, which said I would be unable to register using an email id provided by the free service providers - in other words no Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc ids would be accepted for registration. But in the imitable words of Dr. Randy Pausch, ‘Brick walls are meant to keep the others out.’ Or ‘Brick walls let us prove how badly we want something.’ So I decided to find ways of overcoming this brick wall since I indeed badly wanted to register to the aforementioned forum. Having read Digit’s Fast Track to Free Office in September 2007, I was aware of Google Apps For Your Domain (GAppsFYD) service that they were offering. So I decided to take a look at it to see how it could help me. A little later using some services offered for free, I was able to create and use my own unique email id, quite unlike anything the others have right now.



In order to create your own, unique email id, you would need to make use of 3 things:



  1. A Domain Name (provided by co.cc )
  2. DNS Nameserver service (provided by everydns.net)
  3. Google Apps account

This tutorial is divided into 3 stages




1.) A Domain name


The uniqueness of your email id would come from your own domain name. In your email-id, the domain name is the string of alphanumeric character that appear to the right of the ’@’ symbol in your email id. For example, if your email id is pappu@coldmail.com or pammi@hooya.com, then coldmail.com and hooya.com are the domain names. Usually the domain name is that of the service provider. So, although you may have any characters to the left of the ’@’ symbol, subject to it not being taken already, you cannot change the characters to the right.


In order to be in a position to change it, you must have your own domain name. You may shell out money and acquire a domain name with a .com, .org, or .info TLD. However, if you are planning to use the email id for your personal use, then there are the options of free domain names. Although there are a plethora of free domain name providers with a wide variety of esoteric TLD, like .co.nr, .tk, .biz.ly etc, you must, without a second thought, stay away from these. You need to register with a domain name provider that also allows you to add entries of DNS Nameservers (discussed later). Currently there exists two such domain name providers - co.cc and uni.cc. Of these, we shall use the co.cc domain name. There are two reasons for this - a .co.cc sounds not so much like a free domain name and it also has explicitly mentioned the support to the use of .co.cc domain names for Google Apps services. Using a uni.cc domain name is fraught with risks. Though it is an older domain name provider compared to co.cc, one of its Terms of Agreement is that you must insert a certain code, that enables it to ping, ensuring that the domain name that is registered with it is being used. If it finds that it is unable to ping the domain name, it assumes that you are no longer using the domain name and could reallocate the domain name to someone else. so any email account created with this id will cease to exist, or even worse, if another person sets up his email account with that domain name, all your emails would be forwarded to that person. If you have a website that uses a .uni.cc domain name, then there is no problem since you could add the code to the page and safely use the email account you create with it. However if you are using the domain name only for creating an email account, then it will be a problem.


So when you have finished registering your domain name with co.cc, you domain name would read www.example.co.cc, where example would be replaced by the name you select. The first step to registering a domain name is to see if it is available or has someone already taken it. That you may do in the box provided.



check domain name

If it is available, then you shall get a message congratulating you and asking you to register.


20080302uniqueid02


Registering for the Domain name is a complete no-brainer. Just fill up the simple information that you are asked to fill up and then your domain name would be registered. You may have to activate your domain account through the link sent by them to the email id that you entered. Once activated you will officially have your own unique domain name that you can associate with your email account.


Log back in to your domain account in .co.cc. All this while, although you had registered your domain name you had not configured it. So when you click on My domains, it would appear in Red, asking you to ‘Please Set Up’. Click on the Edit button.


edit Nameservers


You would now be asked to select between two options - Manage DNS and URL Forwarding Records. Select the Manage DNS option. Pay no attention to the statement that says - It can be difficult, because if you have reached this stage after having followed all the steps described earlier, it means that you have already passed through the difficult part (and you didn’t even know that, How cool is that!!!). Select option 1 Manage Name Servers(ns). When you select that option click on the [+ Add more Name Servers] link twice. This way you will have two more sections to fill in. The Name Servers used by EveryDNS are as follows.


ns1.everydns.net
ns2.everydns.net
ns3.everydns.net
ns4.everydns.net


(The everyDNS service will be configured in the next stage. But there is absolutely no harm in add their Nameserver entries right now)


Nameserver entry


Enter the data accordingly and click on the Setup Domain button.Next you shall be taken to a page that would look something like this.


20080302uniqueid20


Once this is completed your job is done. Log out.

One stage successfully completed. Just two more to go.


2.) DNS Nameserver service


A Name server is a link between your domain name and host. It will direct any queries for your site or account to the respective locations where your mail account is hosted. Name server services can be paid for or free. For our purpose we shall use one of the free services - the one provided by everyDNS. Again registering to use their service is a complete no-brainer and I leave it up to you to figure out the easy procedure to register. Once registered, log into the account. On the left hand side you shall see a column. In that column there is a section titled Webhop Domains:. In that section there is a category titled Add new domain (basic). Type in the domain name you registered at co.cc and click on the button >>(basic)


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Once this is done, you shall see the entry of your domain name at the top of the same left column. Click on it.


domain entry


You will now be take to the page where all the records/entries related to that domain would be shown. Since you are yet to add any records of your own, you will see 2 dummy entries - one A-record entry and another CNAME entry.


20080302uniqueid05


Delete the A-record entry. You may not be allowed to delete the CNAME entry since it is expected that a domain name must have some entry in the Nameserver. It should be no cause of worry since we will be able to delete it easily as soon as we add our own entries to the domain name. In order to be able to associate the domain name with the email account in Google Apps, you must add 1 CNAME record entry and 7 MX record entries to the domain. In order to do this, you should locate the section titled Add a record. It should not be difficult to find at all since it is situated just below the Current Records section. We shall first add the CNAME record entry. Just enter the information as shown in the picture and then click on the Add record button.


add CNAME record


You will now see that the added CNAME record is now seen in the Current Records table. You may now delete the dummy CNAME entry from earlier. We shall now add the MX record entries related to the email account in Google Apps. The procedure to be followed is similar. Against the available categories, add the following entries and then click on the Add Record button.


Full Qualified Domain Name = shubhspace.co.cc


Record Type = MX


Record Value = ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM


If MX Record, MX value = 1


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The complete list of Record entries that needs to be added are tabulated below.


emergency


You may use any other word instead of mail as the Fully Qualified Domain Name in the CNAME record entry. If you do so, then please note this down, as we would be needing this when we configure our Google apps account in the next stage. Once you have finished adding all the above mentioned entries, your completed Current Records table would look something like this.


(Please note that these settings are for your Google Apps account for which we shall sign up in the next stage. No harm would be done if you make these settings even before you have registered for the service)


20080302uniqueid08


In order to avoid confusion, I have blanked out entries not related to this particular tutorial. With this you have successfully completed the configuration of the DNS settings of your email id. In order to notify your domain registrar (in our case, co.cc) of theses settings we had already added the entries of EveryDNS’s Nameservers - ns1.everydns.net; ns2.everydns.net; ns3.everydns.net; ns4.everydns.net


Two stages successfully completed. Just one more stage to go.


Note: co.cc has now started offering its own Nameservers for adding CNAME, MX and A-record entries. However it being a new service that they are offering, its stability and security is still quite unknown. Moreover it is also a good practise not to club domain registration with DNS service together, in order to avoid any hassles at a later date. So I advise you to use the DNS service provided by everyDNS, which is now an old, stable and reputed free DNS service provider.



3.) A Google Apps account


Google Apps is essentially a set of services, bunched together, and offered to any enterprise who would need these services for the functioning and collaborative tasks of its employees. The services include a Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Talk, Gmail etc.


Well now a question that may arise is that how is GAppsFYD different from a normal Google account using which you can make use of all these sevices. The answer lies in the term ’Your Domain’ in the name of the service. You can associate your own domain name with these services and hence any individual using these services [with your permission] will be doing it as part of services provided by your company. For example if you have a domain name example.com, then using Google Apps, you can create email accounts for your employees which would read user1@example.com, user2@example.com etc, where user1 or user2 could be replaced by a name of your choice. Thus you may create up to 100 such accounts using GappsFYD. So if you running a small company employing up to 100 people and need to provide them with services email accounts or planner calendars, you could make use of this service.


Although you may do a lot of things with Google Apps, this post will look only at the emailing feature of this service. Google Apps is available in three different versions - Standard Edition, Premier Edition and Education Edition. Of these, you may register and use the Standard Edition and Education Edition for free. We shall be making use of the Standard edition for creating our own unique email id.


Registering for the Standard edition of the service is a complete no-brainer. This is your start page. You start by entering the domain name with which you want to associate Google Apps. Then click on the Get Started button.


20080302uniqueid09


The next page that opens up you will have to enter some details, none of which need be authentic, except for the valid email id part. This because if something goes wrong with your account at a later date, then your contact with them would be through the email id you have entered here. So fill up the form and once you have done that, click on the button that says Continue.


20080302uniqueid10


step_02b


You will now be taken to a page where you will be asked to enter the username of the Administrator. When you enter the Google Apps account under the Administrator account, you will have complete control over all the settings in Google Apps. If you so desire, then you may make your Administrator account as the email id of your choice. However I suggest that you create your choice of email id later as a user account and not set it as your Administrator account. For now we will create a simple Administrator account. You may give it any username. I chose the username admin, ie, admin@shubhspace.co.cc would be the username and email id of the Administrator (ie, you, or your alter ego ). Once you have completed filling up the form, click on the button that says I accept. Continue with set up>.


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I accept. Continue with Setup


Once this is completed correctly, you will be taken to your Google Apps control panel as an Administrator. On first arriving at the control panel, it would look something like this.


(Click on the image to view a larger size picture)


Dasbhoard


The main services are shown, but not activated. You will have to activate them. Since we are interested in the email component of the service, we shall take a look at it. Once you successfully activate your email account, activation of the other services, if you so desire, can be performed in a similar manner. But before that you must perform a task that is known as Verify domain ownership. Once this is done the services would be activated automatically. One of the methods of verifying domain ownership is by updating your domain records to point your domain to Google’s servers providing the Google Apps service. But we have already done that!!!!. So all you will have to do now is log out, wait for a few hours (An estimate on the safe side) and then log back in. (In the meantime you will receive an email in the address provided by you while registering). When you log back in your dashboard will now look like this. All the services have now been activated.


(Click on the image to view a larger size picture)


20080302uniqueid15


Now that your services are activated, you may create a new user with the unique email id that you wanted for yourself. Click on the link that says Create new users. In the new page that opens up, enter the Name (the one which people will see when they receive a mail from you) and the username of your choice. Assign the account a password right now by clicking on the Set password link below. You may use the same passwords you had used for the admin account, but you will still have to type it out. Then click the Create new user button. With this your own unique email id will be created. Rejoice!!!!!.


20080302uniqueid16


Never underestimate the extent to human stupidity. You give them your email id - mailme@shubhspace.co.cc and they, in all their wisdom assume it to be maleme@shubhspace.co.cc . So any important mail they send you at the email id maleme@shubhspace.co.cc could be expected never to reach you ever. Google, in anticipation of such erros, comes to your rescue with a cool nifty feature called Catch-all Address. Click on the link titled email on the dashboard. Select the Forward the email to option and type in the id you have created or yourself and then Save the changes. Simple!!!!. From now on anybody trying to send you an email will only have to get the domain name correctly (shubhspace.co.cc, in my case). They may take the liberty of mistyping your username (to the left of the ’@’ symbol) and still reach you.


Catch-all Address


So now if you wish to check your mail you would have to open the site http://mail.google.com/a/shubhspace.co.cc. It is quite a long url to remember. In order to shorten your url, Google allows you to create a subdomain that will open up your email login page. In order to do this, click on the Email link on the dashboard. The page that opens up will have a section called Web address. Clicking on it will open a page that will let you specify the subdomain you desire. In your case it must be the same name that you had entered while updating your domain records in EverDNS control panel. Once done click on the Continue button.


mail login subdomain


It will then ask you to add a CNAME value to your domain records. We had already done that in stage 2. So you may just click the button labeled I’ve completed these steps.


With this you too have successfully completed all the steps needed to create your own unique email id. To log into your newly created email id just open your login site (mail.shubhspace.co.cc, in my case). Type in your username and password and you will enter your email account to send and receive emails through your one of a kind email id.


I have only talked about the email service of Google Apps. It, in fact, has a plethora of features available that you can make use of to great effects. Explore them and use them to know more about them. If you have any doubt or query regarding this post, please feel free to get in touch with me, either through the Comments or through email listed above, which, by the way was laso created using Google Apps.

Godspeed

References

If you would like to know more about Google apps then you may read a nice article that has appeared on lifehacker.