Instant CloudFlare Starter Review

Introduction

CloudFlare cover

Instant CloudFlare Starter by Jeff Dickey is a primer to getting started with CloudFlare on your website. As you’d expect with a primer, it is not an advanced user guide. It provides a step by step walkthrough to getting your site configured and working with CloudFlare.

I picked this book because the guys at CloudFlare claim that they have a lightweight content delivery network that improves the security, responsiveness, team productivity and robustness of your website with minimal configuration. Cloudflare offer a free, lightweight version of their service for you to try out before delving into the paid service.

Mostly, I deal with small firms and start-ups. Being able to recommend and advise on a platform that provides some of the protection that a dedicated IT team would provide is a boon to myself and my clients.

What self respecting web master wouldn’t be intrigued?

The “meat”

I recommend you follow along with the book, configuring your site and making changes as you read. Don’t operate on any critical sites until you’ve worked through the guide, as you will be required to modify things like your DNS server settings.

Often when reading system-specific literature, the text can be dense and difficult to read for long periods at a time. I normally have to space reading these documents over a couple of days. I found Jeff’s writing to be informative, concise and clear. Without really realising it, I had finished the book in a single sitting!

Furthermore, the book doesn’t make any assumptions about the readers’ background. Everything is explained from the ground up. My personal pet peeve is if these terms are not explicitly explained, even if I know them. It’s nice to have all the information at your disposal, in case you’ve misunderstood something and haven’t realised it.

I am somewhat confused over the target audience of the book. In my experience, when getting non-technical people to handle their DNS generally results in a “terrified rabbit caught in headlights” expression.

After getting your system set up, the author doesn’t leave you to your fate. He recommends the most important things to consider next, why they’re important and how to handle them. There are a small smattering of links to further resources.

The book does what it says on the cover. It’s short, fast and focussed. And clear.

For when the unthinkable happens

[Disclaimer: this was posted elsewhere originally, but was written by myself – I thought it would be useful to also post on my here too..]

Credit : http://www.sxc.hu/profile/christgr

Not the rendition of “Happy Feet” we were expecting…

Like it or not, today’s world is driven by digital technology. So much of our personal information is locked behind various layers of passwords. It’s not fun to think about, but what would happen if you died tomorrow? The Deadman’s Switch site is offering an interesting service that is worth thinking about.

The official website says it best:

The service is simple. Type an email and optionally attach a few files. Every few days we will send you an email with a link that verifies you are still alive. If something does happen we will send your emails 30 days after we last heard from you. Is 30 days too long? No problem, someone close to you can use an emergency release code to dispatch the emails early.

Meaning that the service could be used in an emergency situation when you’re away from your critical information (think: holiday). You can provide someone with a pre-generated emergency code for a specific kind of emergency. Could be extremely useful you need a photocopy of your passport information, but don’t want to pass that info out to anyone unless they need it.

Why I’ve deleted my Instagram account…

Blood-spattered instagram logo

Instagram – bloodied but not out

Background

Unless you’ve been living in a internet-proof Faraday cage over the last few days, then you’ll have heard about the Instagram Terms & Conditions fiasco. (If you haven’t heard, here’s a pretty good synopsis from the Beeb: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20767537 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20782536).

One blogger has framed public opinion perfectly:

You are not our customers, you are the cattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder. Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk.

My Opinion

I genuinely don’t think Instagram intended to change their Terms and Conditions to begin selling user’s photographs to 3rd parties without their consent. However, they have opened the doors for that future abuse to occur, and this is why I’ve left the service. Unless these T&Cs are changed, it would allow future management (who might not be as trustworthy) to corrupt the service in this worst case scenario that everyone is envisioning.

Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook, I foresee more of these T&Cs blunders in the future, with a few cheeky privacy fiascos thrown in for good measure.

I’m certainly not deeply entrenched within the Instagram framework – I only use the app to apply filters to my images. I barely used the website – preferring to host the final picture on other networks such as Facebook, Google+, Tumblr & Foodspotting. I never saw the attraction in putting my artsy/indie style pictures on a site that’s bursting with other artsy/indie photographs. One’s pictures would never stand out…

Alternatives

If you’ve the time and inclination, you can replicate the effects provided by the Instagram app with programs such as Photoshop and GIMP.

If you’re just wanting the convenient app alternative, then you’re in luck. Flickr has recently released their new app - some are claiming it’s better than the existing Instagram app. I’ve not tried the new app yet, but I’m downloading it as I type this post.

What if Instagram doesn’t change the wording of the Terms and Conditions soon? Get out of there with your pictures – and move to another service BEFORE the deadline in January. Here – I’ll even give you a hand: http://freethephotos.com/

Useful Links

I’ve found over the last couple of days, people have asked me for links to useful services. So I thought I’d share one of my favourites on here too!

Dropbox

A useful tool for being able to remotely backup or transfer data across different machines easily. This is software that most people need, but don’t realise they do. And when I say most people, I mean everyone. Not just the tech savvy.

Dropbox hug

I <3 my Dropbox

For example:

You’re working on an excel document and using a pdf a colleague has sent you as a reference. You look at your watch, you’ve got to leave for that meeting now! You quickly (and responsibly) shut down your desktop and rush off to the station to catch your train.

On the train, you wake your laptop from its slumber. Connect to the train wifi or, if you have a newer generation smartphone, your personal hotspot. You continue working on those documents within minutes.

This is possible if you’re working from your Dropbox folder. Your desktop uploads your information to Dropbox’s centralised server, without you having to remember to do anything. You fire up your laptop, and it begins to download your files from the server. You can continue working without needing USB sticks or sending emails to yourself.

Throw in other useful features like being able to share documents/folders with other Dropbox users, being able to recover deleted documents and previous revisions? This begins to makes Dropbox a tool,  you just can’t live without.

Did I mention that its free to use?

(Admittedly, this is only for a “meagre” 2GB worth of data. If you need more space, then you pay for it.)

Blox: Glitch Games

Once upon a time, I partook in Dare To Be Digital, the United Kingdom’s premier video game development competition. Whilst my team (Contrived Studios) produced a game that won a prestigious award, we missed out on the shortlist for a BAFTA.

We were based down in Birmingham with another group of lads who produced Boro-Toro. In the end, these chaps deservedly snagged the lofty “Ones to Watch” BAFTA. A couple of them joined Rockstar North, one of them continued with University, one I lost touch with another and the last guy seems to have dropped off the face of the planet. In today’s digital ‘n’ social media driven world, it’s an impressive feat!

The guy who continued at University later began working on his own projects. Every project Graham has worked on has been interesting, it’s been consistently annoyingly enviable.

So why the trip down memory lane?

Glitch Games is releasing a new mobile game, available on Android and iOS! Its called Blox, and you can check out the Facebook event here.

They’re hosting a digital launch party tonight, coupled with a Google Hangout. I’m really looking forward to trying out their latest creation, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint. Catch the Blox trailer here

Hopefully see you tonight at midnight!

We’ve moved…

Morning all!

For those of you who risk their sanity by following my twitter feed (@IntrepidBrit) know that I’ve had a lot going on with moving into the new office. So on-top of keeping my required contract hours, I’ve had to look at getting everything set up in, what I laughably like to call, my “free time”.

As a result, I’ve not really had a lot of time to come up with new ideas and develop them in full on this blog. Things are getting less mental now – so I”ll be able to put more content up here.

You lucky, lucky people. I know, there’s no need to thank me.

Beanscene

First of all, let me clarify that this blog is independent and I have no affiliation to any organisations other than my own businesses. I receive no funding and under no obligation to write articles about specific companies and products. If this ever changes, then I shall publicise it clearly on this blog by creating a post and having a permanent page explaining what and why.

I have mentioned in a previous post that I frequent coffee shops like Starbucks, but I haven’t actually discussed my favourite place to sit down and work. Beanscene.

Beanscene Logo

Its a bit cheaper than some of the more popular brands, such as Costa, Cafe Nero and Starbucks. It has a more relaxed atmosphere, comfier chairs and (most imporantly) WiFi access that doesn’t rob you blind. They provide WiFi access for an hour free, every time you buy food/drink. Which, if you’re sitting down occupying one of their chairs for three hours, is perfectly reasonable. You ask the staff for a unique username and password that comes with your order, fire those details into their Beanscene web page login and you’re off.

And, my “regular” Beanscene does a mean beans on toast for a decent price. Awesome.

The only drawbacks? The spelling always looks wrong, no matter how many times I confirm it and trying to leave this comfy chair I keep sinking back into…