Why HTTPS Matters

By on March 22nd, 2019 in Security

SSL/TLS is a security protocol that provides privacy, authentication, and integrity to Internet communications.

A website that uses SSL/TLS has https:// in the beginning of its URL instead of http://, like https://www.example.com.

In modern web browsers such as Chrome, websites that do not use HTTPS are marked differently than those that are. Look for a padlock in the URL bar to signify the webpage is secure. Web browsers take HTTPS seriously; Google Chrome and other browsers flag all non-HTTPS websites as not secure.


Reason #1: Websites using HTTPS are more trustworthy for users.

HTTPS uses the SSL/TLS protocol to encrypt communications so that attackers can’t steal data. SSL/TLS also confirms that a website server is who it says it is, preventing impersonations. This stops multiple kinds of cyber attacks.

Reason #2: HTTPS is more secure, for both users & website owners.

With HTTPS, data is encrypted in transit in both directions: going to and coming from the origin server. The protocol keeps communications secure so that malicious parties can’t observe what data is being sent. As a result usernames and passwords can’t be stolen in transit when users enter them into a form. If websites or web applications have to send sensitive or personal data to users (for instance, bank account information), encryption protects that data as well.

Reason #3: HTTPS authenticates websites.

When a user navigates to a website, what they’re actually doing is connecting to faraway computers that they don’t know about, maintained by people they’ve never seen. An SSL/TLS certificate, which enables HTTPS, represents external verification by a trustworthy third party that a web server is who it claims to be.

This prevents attacks in which an attacker impersonates or spoofs a website, making users think they’re on the site they intended to reach when actually they are on a fake site. HTTPS authentication also does a lot to help a company website appear legitimate, and that influences user attitudes towards the company itself.

Reason #4: HTTPS is a Google Ranking Signal.

Google introduced SSL/TLS as a weak ranking signal way back in 2014. At the time, Google hinted that over time, they might decide to strengthen it as a signal because they wanted to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS.


Source: Cloudflare

The Printliminator

By on October 22nd, 2015 in Web Tools

Sometimes I still print stuff off the web, crazy huh?  When I do it, I may not necessarily want everything on the web page to print.  I don’t want to print advertisements, social network buttons, certain text or graphics, etc.  With The Printliminator, you can selectively remove parts of a web page before you print.  It saves paper and creates a nice and neat printed sheet with only the content that you want.

The Printliminator is a bookmarklet.  A bookmarklet is just a regular web browser bookmark, but it runs code on the current web page you are viewing instead of linking to another site.  When you want to print something and remove elements from a page before printing, you click the bookmarklet and a little box of tools pops up in the top right corner of your screen.  Now you can just click on parts of the web page and remove elements.  After you are done, you click Send To Print and your nice clean page is printed.


Here is a video walking through the installation and use.


Backup your computer!

By on May 14th, 2015 in Backup

Do you use a computer? Do you save files to it?  Your pictures, videos, documents… do you only have one copy of them? If so, you need to be backing them up! It’s not a question of “IF” you will lose files, it is “WHEN” will you lose files. Backing up will greatly reduce the odds of you losing your files and thus put your mind at ease.

There are many ways you can lose your files:

  1. Accidental deletion
  2. Overwriting a file
  3. Crashes, corruption, errors
  4. Physical accidents/damage to equipment
  5. Fire, water damage
  6. Theft

The easiest way to avoid losing your computer files to any and all of these situations is to use an online backup service.  An online backup service will keep versions of your files to allow you easily restore to a previous state plus if you lose all of your files either by an accident or theft, you will have all of your files safely stored offsite.

We have used and recommend two online backup services: CrashPlan and BackBlaze.  Both of these services offer online backup at a very inexpensive monthly fee.  CrashPlan is even better that it allows you to backup locally to a hard drive connected to your computer for free as well as backup to a friend’s computer.  CrashPlan and BackBlaze are set it and forget it.  Backing up needs to just happen in the background and be there when you need it.


My dentist would always say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep”.  So…

Only backup the files you want to keep!

Computer Ergonomics

By on December 11th, 2014 in Work

When I started working from home full-time a few years ago, I noticed I was starting to get pain in my hand, wrist and arm from using the computer. In prior years working in IT, I never noticed this as much because I was constantly getting up and walking around the office to help users. Now that I was at home sitting all day long, the consequences of using a mouse and keyboard were starting to surface. After a visit with a physical therapist, I got some good advice to improve the ergonomics of my office situation. I have made several changes to my equipment and also have tried to change my behavior when working. Certainly it goes without saying that these changes may not help everyone and if you are suffering from pain while using a computer, you should consult with a doctor or physical therapist first. There is tons of information out there regarding ergonomics, I just want to share my experiences.


I switched to using the Evoluent VerticalMouse. The first time I saw this mouse, I knew that I would never like it. However, the benefits of using it can greatly help with any pains you may be having. This mouse is essentially a normal mouse but tipped up on it’s side to have your hand form a “handshake grip”. It avoids forearm twisting that occurs when using a normal mouse. It took me about a month to completely get used to using this mouse, but I definitely notice that it has contributed to a less pain in my hand, wrist and arm.


logitech-trackmanBefore I switched to the VerticalMouse, I tried out the Logitech TrackMan which is a trackball mouse (the newer model is the M570 Wireless Trackball). It was a nice change and I could tell it helped my wrist in particular.  However, I did start to get pain on the right side of my hand and a little in my thumb from using the trackball.  I will still pull out the TrackMan once and a while when I notice my hand hurting.  It works well as a replacement to the Mac’s trackpad, since I can use it anywhere without having to worry about a mouse surface.

I have found that switching between different input devices (VerticalMouse, TrackMan, laptop trackpad, regular mouse), seems to help with any pain. Changing your hand’s position and the different ways these devices make your hand move can aid in getting sore in the same places.

I tried several different ergonomic keyboards that were split, had built-in wrist-rests or gel wrist-rests. These worked well, but these early models (and every keyboard I had used up till now) had either buckling spring keys or mechanical switches.  In the last few years, buckling spring keyboards have become popular due to the satisfying clicky sound they make. Most keyboards today are either mechanical or scissor-switch (laptop keyboards).  Mechanical keyboards require you to push the key further down and this can cause strain on your fingers.  Scissor-switch keys do not require the keys to be pressed as far down and hence do not cause the same strain.

I now use the standard Apple Keyboard with numeric key-pad.  Since I have a MacBook Pro, I do enjoy having the same type of keyboard both at my desk and on the laptop.  I have always been interested in the ergonomic keyboards, but it’s hard to find any that have scissor-switch keys plus have Mac versions.  Microsoft has the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop which does have scissor-switch keys, but there isn’t a Mac version.  I think I will have to give it a try regardless to see if I like it.

herman_miller_aeronOne of the recommendations the physical therapist made was removing the arm rests from my chair.  This helps to stop you from resting your elbows on them and to promote better posture when sitting by keeping your arms at 90 degrees.  The chair I had at the time just happen to allow me to remove the arms, so that worked out well.  Another benefit of this is that the arm rests do not bump into the desk, which drives me crazy.

I have since gotten a Herman Miller Aeron, which is the quintessential office chair.  It is definitely a great chair and since I spend many hours a day sitting at my desk, I feel that it is a great investment. The version I have does not allow me remove the arm rests, however I can position them all the way to the bottom and they are out of the way but are still there in case I want to use them.

galantSwapping out my desk for something more adjustable was also helpful. I now use the IKEA GALANT which has since been replaced by the BEKANT. It has several different surfaces you can combine and most important adjustable legs have any surface height you want.

Workstation ergonomics
Having good posture at your desk is crucial to avoid pain and soreness or worse injury.  Jeff Atwood has a great post at Coding Horror going over good posture and the best way to position your chair, desk, monitor and keyboard.  It’s extremely hard for me to be strict and have good posture while sitting at my desk.  Eventually I will slouch or put a leg up underneath myself.  I try really hard to notice when I do this and just get up and take a break (which I will go over in the next section).

Source: Anthro

Source: Anthro

Taking breaks
Working many hours straight at your desk without breaks can cause serious damage to your body. I try to get up and walk around and do something else at least every hour or usually even more often. This will also help me refocus on a project or problem that I have been dealing with.  When I am on the phone, I will typically get up and walk around (or rather pace) which is still better than just sitting at my desk.

The 20-20-20 Rule can also be a good guide to avoid soreness and eye strain.  Every 20 minutes take a break and take your eyes off the computer screen.  Take a break for at least 20 seconds.  Look at something 20 feet away to avoid eye strain.

Stretching and exercises
When I’m taking my breaks, it’s a great time to do stretches.  There are several hand and wrist stretches you can do to loosen up.  I’ve also found it helpful to use stress/squeeze balls for my hands.  Yoga is great for overall stretching and releasing tension.  There are many poses to try and each can be good when focusing on certain parts of your body that need it.

Mixing up working environments
Sitting all day long can contribute to soreness, so I also mix up my day by standing and working on my laptop.  We have a tall table in our kitchen and a tall dresser that I will stand at and work.  There are many studies on both sides that sitting all day long or standing all day long will cause you problems.  I find it’s best to just do both.  It’s also nice to break up the day in different parts of the house.

Putting it all together or just doing a few things
It’s hard to do everything correctly all the time when using the computer.  It’s best just to try different things and be aware of your body and what it’s telling you.  If you do that, then you can hopefully avoid any soreness, pain or injury.

Staying Focused

By on February 11th, 2011 in Work

Since January 2010, I have worked full-time out of my home. Being at home alone all day in front of the computer can bring a lot of opportunities for distractions. Emails from friends and family, jokes from grandma, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messages, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc, etc. This is just a recipe for disaster. Over the past year I have had to try and block out as many of these distractions as I can and really force myself to get work done. Here’s a few things I have done (or don’t do) to help myself stay focused when working on the computer:

  • Disable Facebook notification emails: By default Facebook is setup to email you whenever someone posts to your wall, pokes you, or whatever. I have disabled all emails from Facebook. All of these notifications can be seen within Facebook and you do not need them in your email. Instructions on how to disable them.
  • Limit Instant messages: I limit my buddy list to only specific people. Usually only work-related contacts. Anyone else can contact me through email.
  • Disable sound notifications: I turn off sound notifications for instant messages and emails and opt for visual notifications (to an extent). Besides distracting sounds beeping at me all day, I usually listen to music or podcasts and sound notifications would get annoying.
  • Disable pop-up notifications: I use Pidgin for instant messaging and I only use the taskbar highlighting when I receive an IM. For emails, I use Scott’s Gmail Alert which displays an icon in your system tray.
  • Avoid social network add-ons/plugins: These are such services as Gist, RockMelt, and Rapportive. These add-ons put your social network contacts “conveniently” in your web browser or next to your Gmail. Doing web design, I am working in the browser all day long. I do not need to know when my friends are online or what they are doing.

These are just a few things to help with avoiding distractions and staying focused.