Thursday, September 13, 2007

Moving to another Blog - clear.bluedei.com!!!

Just a reminder that I'm now only posting new posts on my blog: Clear Blue Dei. Please come visit me there!

~Susan Mellott

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Las Vegas 1.0: Where's the free wireless access???

I am getting ready to leave for Las Vegas on Monday and I realized that the hotel where we are staying does not have free wireless access. In fact, it is rather expensive, especially since I am used to being able to go almost anywhere and get free wireless access. Fort Wayne is an amazingly progressive town and has had many free wireless access points for a very long time, as a matter of fact, it was nationally recognized as one of America's most "wired and inspired" cities (according to Mayor Graham Richards) and has many, many wi-fi hot-spots. Some of the more interesting hotspot areas include:

  • Headwaters Park
  • Freimann Square
  • Lawton Park
  • Several downtown restaurants
  • Allen County Courthouse courtyard
  • The main Allen County Public Library and all 13 branches
  • The Fort Wayne International Airport
  • and of course all the other common ones like MacDonalds, House of Pancakes, coffee houses, bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.

So I just assumed that I would have no problem finding a free wireless hotspot in Las Vegas (specifically, the strip). Buzzzz. Wrong. As near as I can tell, there are maybe 5 free hotspots on the strip and the strip is a couple miles long. The closest to where we will be staying is the Apple Store in the Fashion Show Mall which is across the street and down a "Las Vegas Block" from us. If you've been to Las Vegas, you know what a Las Vegas block is. It is about a half a mile.

There is also one at the Las Vegas Hilton (and in the Las Vegas Hilton Monorail station - why couldn't they have put it in some other monorail station?). Again, if you know Las Vegas, you know that *nothing* is close to the Las Vegas Hilton. So I could pay $5 each way to ride the monorail there, but that would be $20 for the two of us, just to get wireless access (although I do enjoy Star Trek - The Experience). There is supposed to be one at the Planet Hollywood/Aladdin hotel, which is a little farther than the Fashion Show Mall, but in the other direction. And someone thinks there is one by the hallway between Luxor and Excalibur which is at the far end of the strip. Oh yes, there should be one at the Wynn too which the same distance as the Fashion Show Mall, but on our side of the road. The Wynn is new since I was last at Vegas and I forget about it. But that really is about it! And in a town that is wall to wall hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars, I find that unbelievable.

And I really don't want to be lugging my laptop all over creation in 100+ temps, just to get to the internet. I don't want to, but I will. I can't imagine going for 4 days without logging in.

But I plan to make it as little as possible, which means I won't be posting much, if any, in the next week. And I have things I want to post! And I wanted to post about our trip.

I love Las Vegas, but it needs to get its 2.0 on.

~Susan Mellott

Las Vegas 1.0: Where's the free wireless access???

I am getting ready to leave for Las Vegas on Monday and I realized that the hotel where we are staying does not have free wireless access. In fact, it is rather expensive, especially since I am used to being able to go almost anywhere and get free wireless access. Fort Wayne is an amazingly progressive town and has had many free wireless access points for a very long time, as a matter of fact, it was nationally recognized as one of America's most "wired and inspired" cities (according to Mayor Graham Richards) and has many, many wi-fi hot-spots. Some of the more interesting hotspot areas include:

  • Headwaters Park
  • Freimann Square
  • Lawton Park
  • Several downtown restaurants
  • Allen County Courthouse courtyard
  • The main Allen County Public Library and all 13 branches
  • The Fort Wayne International Airport
  • and of course all the other common ones like MacDonalds, House of Pancakes, coffee houses, bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.

So I just assumed that I would have no problem finding a free wireless hotspot in Las Vegas (specifically, the strip). Buzzzz. Wrong. As near as I can tell, there are maybe 5 free hotspots on the strip and the strip is a couple miles long. The closest to where we will be staying is the Apple Store in the Fashion Show Mall which is across the street and down a "Las Vegas Block" from us. If you've been to Las Vegas, you know what a Las Vegas block is. It is about a half a mile.

There is also one at the Las Vegas Hilton (and in the Las Vegas Hilton Monorail station - why couldn't they have put it in some other monorail station?). Again, if you know Las Vegas, you know that *nothing* is close to the Las Vegas Hilton. So I could pay $5 each way to ride the monorail there, but that would be $20 for the two of us, just to get wireless access (although I do enjoy Star Trek - The Experience). There is supposed to be one at the Planet Hollywood/Aladdin hotel, which is a little farther than the Fashion Show Mall, but in the other direction. And someone thinks there is one by the hallway between Luxor and Excalibur which is at the far end of the strip. Oh yes, there should be one at the Wynn too which the same distance as the Fashion Show Mall, but on our side of the road. The Wynn is new since I was last at Vegas and I forget about it. But that really is about it! And in a town that is wall to wall hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars, I find that unbelievable.

And I really don't want to be lugging my laptop all over creation in 100+ temps, just to get to the internet. I don't want to, but I will. I can't imagine going for 4 days without logging in.

But I plan to make it as little as possible, which means I won't be posting much, if any, in the next week. And I have things I want to post! And I wanted to post about our trip.

I love Las Vegas, but it needs to get its 2.0 on.

~Susan Mellott

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 2: The Results

So as you know from my first post on this "Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 1: The Test", I am reviewing and evaluating several different blog engines, with an emphasis on Google Blogger and WordPress (.com and .org). You can see my previous post to see the different blogs in action. And I'm sure this is going to be a large post, just reviewing the Blogger and WordPress blogs, so I will have a "Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars: The Other Options" post following this one where I'll talk about the other blogs I looked at. But for all intents and purposes, it came down to Blogger and WordPress (2 ways).

I wanted to decide which type of blog would work best for my needs and which one I would recommend to others. It turned out to not be quite that simple. Each of the 3 main blog engines (Blogger, wordpress.com hosted Wordpress and self-hosted Wordpress) had some serious advantages and some serious drawbacks. So as it turns out, rather than recommending one above all others, I will give an overview of each, what is good and bad about them and why and for whom I would recommend each particular one.

And to make a long story short, I recommend Blogger for people who want someone else to host their blog, don't want to pay for a web hosting service and/or who want a quick and easy blog that takes hardly any maintenance or technical know-how.

For people who want the all-around best solution, who have their own web host and like to get 'techie' (and know how to do installs, use unix and ftp, etc), it's definitely WordPress from wordpress.org. This is the most flexible, you have the most control over it and your data and it will do almost anything you want if you find the right plug-ins or code. But you have to have the know-how and desire to use it and it is only as good as you make it. And you have to have somewhere to install it like a web hosting service.

Google Blogger: I personally give Google Blogger the edge over WordPress.com hosted WordPress for anyone who doesn't have their own web host and/or wants an easy and quick blog. I think it is good for:

  1. Anyone who doesn't have a lot of programming, moving files, installs, bits and bolts of how things work experience
  2. Anyone who wants an easy setup with the most features for a blog hosted by the blog provider and the most options for adding plugins and html code easily.
  3. Anyone who wants to have their own domain name, but use a blog hosted by the blog provider. In other words, who wants to buy a domain name like say, www.allaboutme.com (costs about $10/yr) but doesn't want to have their own web hosting service where they can put and maintain their own data and blogs (costs about $10/month). Redirecting is free in Blogger, it costs $10? (10 credits) in Wordpress.com
  4. You might want to have commercial usage on your blog. WordPress.com's term of service prohibits 'commercial usage' (although its unclear to mean exactly what they mean). It appears OK on a Google Blog (see this post from the Blogger Help group).

Google Blogger has the most features, the most choices and the ability to add html code easily including that using javascript. That means that when you find something you like (like say Odiogo, which is the text-to-speech widget you see at the top of my posts on my google and personally hosted wordpress blog), you can add it to your blog posts very easily. You cannot add Odiogo to a Wordpress.com hosted blog because it doesn't allow javascript. I've run into several widgets that I wanted to add to my blogs, but could not easily do it in Wordpress.com. You can easily redirect it to your own domain name so when they type either your original blog name or your domain name, both will go to your blogger blog. It is an easy, attractive and flexible blog engine. It doesn't have as nice a built-in statistics page as wordpress, but you can use Google Analytics (which is nice, but isn't real time) or any other stats tools like ActiveMeter or Sitemeter or ShinyStat (or I'm sure there are others) to keep track of it.

The one thing that seems to keep a lot of people from recommending Google Blogger is that it does not allow you to back up your posts. Therefore, if anything happened to Blogger, you could lose your data. Also, you can't move the data to another google blog if you wanted to. And looking at the hacks to backup your data, there really isn't a good way to do it. Except...

What you can do is to create a WordPress.com blog and import your blogger data into your wordpress blog. It is very easy in WordPress.com to import posts and comments from other blog engines, basically just point and click. Then you can export the data from your wordpress blog into a file of your own. You can't reload that file back into Google Blogger, but you have all your data and can recreate it in wordpress easily. Which is better than losing it all. And if you use a redirect to your own domain name in Blogger, if something happened, you could change the redirect to point to your Wordpress blog (for $10/credits per year, I believe). It's a work-around, but I tried it and it works just fine.

There is some concern about losing your rank if you move (which I don't totally understand about rank and all yet) but here is a post that explains things you can do to help with that, called "Moving from Blogger to Wordpress without Losing Traffic and Page Rank" (Actually, when I qit blogging on all my blogs and switch to one (clear.bluedei.com), I may have to figure out what all this means.) Also, as I understand, Blogger (as would be expected) integrates very well with Google Adsense, which I gather is a way to make money from your website, with advertising, I guess.

Also, if you start with Blogger, you can choose later to go to WordPress. You can't go the other way because Blogger doesn't have an import or export function. For the life of me, I don't know why.

WordPress on wordpress.com: This is the most middle-of-the-road bet. It doesn't really do anything as well as any of the others (except for import/export) but it doesn't have anything really wrong with it either. Many people would recommend it over Blogger. But it seems that it is mostly because Blogger doesn't provide a way to back it up and my work-around takes care of that, in my opinion. One thing that I really like about wordpress.com is that they provide an easy to use stats page that tells you how many page views you've had each day, which pages were viewed, how people got to your site and what they clicked while there. The one thing it doesn't tell you is who actually viewed your site. You have to use another stats package like sitemeter or ActiveStats to see that. And Google Analytics will not give you as much information using wordpress.com as it would if you were using Blogger because it requires some code to be added that you cannot add to Wordpress.com blogs.

This appeals to all the people that Blogger and would be a better choice if:

  1. You really want to be able to export your data and import it back into Wordpress easily, or want to be able to import posts/comments from other blog engines.
  2. You plan to go to a WordPress blog that you host yourself and you just want to get started now with WordPress.com and then import your posts and comments into your own hosted WordPress blog.
  3. AND you don't plan to have to have commercial usage on your blog. wordpress.com's term of service prohibits 'commercial usage' and you are supposed to use wordpress.org (your own hosted site) if you do...
  4. UNLESS you are a big business and want wordpress to host your blog using their VIP Hosting Service that costs $600 to setup and $300/month hosting fee. If you have that kind of money, you can decide if that is worth it. Briefly looking at it, I would think not. For that kind of money, you have many, many options. But if you have that kind of money for a blog, I doubt that you are reading my post :)

As I said before, Wordpress.com has some drawbacks. It is not as flexible as Blogger. There are things you want to add that you can't (but you can in Blogger). You can't use javascript and you cannot have any commercial usage or you run the risk of being shut down. You also have to pay to redirect your blog to your own domain name (this is something you very well may want to do at some point) and for many other things too, like more upload storage space or the ability to customize your css or unlimited users.

Self-hosted Wordpress from wordpress.org: This is, in my opinion, the very best option for:

  1. anyone who is 'techie' (understands files, uploading, ftp, unix, etc) and
  2. who likes dealing with the bits and bolts, likes installing, maintaining and customizing their own blog and templates and all and
  3. who has a host server to put their install on.
  4. who wants to be able to do pretty much anything they want to their blog, wants to add all sorts of plug-ins and who wants to really 'pimp their ride'.

Self-host Wordpress offers the most options and is the most flexible of any of the choices. Really, it is about the only option I've found for being able to have total control of your own blog, outside a CMS (content management system) like Drupal, which is extremely more powerful than just a blog engine and requires a lot more knowledge and programming know-how.

Some drawbacks of it are that you have to have a host to install it on (either your own, or from a web service that costs about $10/month) and you have to install and maintain and customize it yourself so you have to have some experience with these things and you have to want to do it or it will just be a hassle and frustrating. And your blog will only be as good and functional as you make it. It comes as basically vanilla and you have to add everything to it.
You also have to be sure your host is stable and has good backups in case something happens. The other blog engines are as stable and well-backed up as google.com and wordpress.com can make them so it doesn't vary so much. But your own host system can be very good or very bad, depending on who you are going with.

Also, I tried exporting from my wordpress.org blog to import into my wordpress.com blog (as if I had a problem with my web host and had to move) and it didn't move my extra pages (like about me and books I am reading). Nor of course, any of my plug-ins or customization. So it is important to save your plug-ins and files. Since they are just files on a server, you can back-up any or all of it any time you want.

Here is an article that talks about the differences between Google Blogger and self-hosted Wordpress from wordpress.org that has some good information. It is part one, but for the life of me, I can't find part two. It still has good info.

So to me, it comes down to Google Blogger for flexibility and ease of use vs. self-hosted wordpress for control and customization. And that is a choice that depends on what you are looking for and how much you want to do.

I will post my reviews of the other, less well-known blog engines in my next post on this subject.

-Susan Mellott


Comment posted by Ayush
at 9/6/2007 5:37:00 AM
Wordpress has numerous plugins to use compared to google blogger.I have been looking around on plugins for wordpress and have realised it will take months for me to know all of them. I installed this one from GoStats, it worked great I realise how easy and simple life has become now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Doing the JibJab Disco

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Is this cool or what? It's a bit of a waste of time, but a lot of fun. It will be better when they add more movies and things. I can see some possibilities, but for now it is just a fun thing to try.

Also, this link should take you to our video on JibJab. BTW, you can create a post/link directly from JibJab to Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, Typepad and several other Web 2.0 tools. And it generates html to add it elsewhere.

Thanks to Libraryman, from whom I shamelessly stole, even down to starring in the same movie. What can I say, it was the best one :)

~Susan Mellott

Doing the JibJab Disco

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Is this cool or what? It's a bit of a waste of time, but a lot of fun. It will be better when they add more movies and things. I can see some possibilities, but for now it is just a fun thing to try.

Also, this link should take you to our video on JibJab. BTW, you can create a post/link directly from JibJab to Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, Typepad and several other Web 2.0 tools. And it generates html to add it elsewhere.

Thanks to Libraryman, from whom I shamelessly stole, even down to starring in the same movie. What can I say, it was the best one :)

~Susan Mellott