Archive for the ‘Backend’ Category

File Under: Backend, Security, Software

Modify User Permissions

File permissions on Unix and Linux are one of the most ubiquitous stumbling blocks for even regular users of those operating systems. The intricate structure of which users on a system are allowed to do what is one of the foundations of Unix, providing security and interoperability, but at times it can make working with the system a pain. Here’s a look at how permissions work and how to work with them.

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File Under: Backend

FTP for Beginners

It was in the dark ages of the Reagan era when I logged my first encounter with the File Transfer Protocol. I was involved in some nefarious video game-trading ring of the innocently naive variety, and a friend of mine had that hot new copy of Vladivostok Putting Challenge that I wanted oh so badly. The only problem was that he lived all the way on the other side of Orange County. Being too young to drive, neither of us had access to a car, and snail mail was just too darned slow. I wanted to lay down sloping fifteen-footers and rub it in the face of the Reds today, not in a week. “No problem,” my friend assured me. “Just log in to my server and grab it with FTP.”

“FTP? What is that?” I asked. My friend let out an Oscar-worthy sigh and gave me the quick run down of the Internet protocol that would forever transform my life.

Last I heard, my friend is collecting Galaxie 500s in Michigan, so calling him up with your FTP questions isn’t really an option anymore. Lucky for you, I’m here to give you a holier-than-thou sigh of my own and send you down the dharma path. For those of you who are entirely new to this whole game, we’ll start with a basic primer on the most comely of acronyms.

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File Under: Backend, UI/UX

Site Optimization Tutorial – Lesson 1

A picture’s worth a thousand words. An old saying, but true enough on the web where you can transfer chapters of text in the time it takes to download just one big image. Ever notice how pictures are always the last thing to show up when you’re surfing? That’s because the biggest hunk of download time comes from the image files.

Over the next four days, we’ll be looking at all the different ways to get pages down to their leanest and meanest. Today we start with the most egregious and most obvious culprit: images.

By the way, a lot has changed since the first edition of this tutorial – there’s more to optimizing image performance today than just knowing your GIFs from your JPEGs. (Though we’ll review that, since this may be your first time around.) There are now other file formats (like PNG) worth considering, and improved weighted-optimization techniques to throw into the mix.

And, hey, quite a bit hasn’t changed. For one, web users haven’t gotten any more patient. It doesn’t matter how ice-cool your images may look – if they can’t be downloaded quickly over a 56K modem, very few people without broadband will stick around to see them.

Fortunately, there’s still a host of tricks and optimizations that web designers can implement to speed image downloads. Let’s start with the easiest thing in the world.

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File Under: Backend

Gather Users Data From Server Logs

Hey, you! What are you doing? Where are you going? More importantly, what are you clicking on?

If only it were that easy. But no, most users like to travel the web incognito. They come to your site, poke around a few files, download a PDF or two, and then — poof — disappear, leaving nothing but questions in their wake:Where did they come from? Which browsers are they using? Are they experiencing any errors?

The most thorough method of tracking users is by planting cookies, which some folks consider rude or invasive, and, oh yeah, you need to know how to program them. Not to worry — there is an option that requires very little technical know-how, comes at no (or nominal) cost, and may already be a part of your site’s backend. I’m talking about logs!

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File Under: Backend

Learn Enough Unix for Your Resume

On the resume that convinced Wired to hire me, I said that I knew enough about Unix that it didn’t scare me anymore. This wasn’t exactly true. Unix was still a chilling concept for me when I arrived at the San Francisco office armed with a copy of Unix for Dummies. The managing editor steered me to my desk and instead of the Macintosh I was hoping for, there sat a purple SGI machine.

I realized then that I needed to learn a lot about Unix fast. Initially I tried using SGI’s graphical user interface, which mimicked the Macintosh desktop fairly well, but soon realized that it was just too damn slow. So I stole some better Unix books from the engineering staff and found a nice Unix expert to help me. Soon I was cp-ing, mv-ing, and chmod-ing like lightning. Unix still gives me the occasional nightmare, but basically I love it. It’s fast, it makes sense (most of the time), and anyone can figure it out with a little work. Plus, it looks great on a résumé. If you can convince a prospective employer that you have a working knowledge of Unix, you’re one step ahead of everyone else who is too scared even to try figuring it out.

I’ve put together a very basic explanation of Unix to get you started. But first, a warning. Unix is very powerful. The wrong collection of keystrokes can blow away files that you’ll probably never be able to recover, so practice on sample files before you move on to anything important.

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