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Performing a Yearly Review

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

Near the start of a new year many people ponder changes they want to make in their lives.  This time can be expanded into a major review of your motivating principles, mission and vision statements, and your goals.  This expanded … Continue reading

The post Performing a Yearly Review appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

How To Set The Priorities of Tasks

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

If we do not take action, and choose what to accomplish each day or week then we will be doing the many random things that come across our path.  Each day we have decisions to make, and tasks to accomplish.  … Continue reading

The post How To Set The Priorities of Tasks appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

HTML Sitemaps 404 Error pages

Recently I read a couple of articles about HTML Sitemaps. The first one on HTML Sitemaps the second one on Custom 404 Error Pages, and the last was about an effective Archive page. I use the Weaver II theme, and … Continue reading

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Seven Productivity Tips

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

Recently, I came across this article, which lists seven productivity tips and the science behind them. Help Someone Develop a Routine Deal with Something Once Take a Nap Always Keep a Journal With You Just Say No Avoid the Snooze … Continue reading

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Website Scope

I have thought about website security lately.  One underused way of securing a website is to look at the scope of your website.  Most websites have a purpose, it may be a website for small local businesses, an e-commerce website, … Continue reading

The post Website Scope appeared first on Excalibur’s Sheath.

Performing a Yearly Review

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

Compass and MapNear the start of a new year many people ponder changes they want to make in their lives.  This time can be expanded into a major review of your motivating principles, mission and vision statements, and your goals.  This expanded process is called a yearly review.  Write in your journal how you think the year went.  Did you carry out your goals?  What were your challenges you faced; also how did you face you handle the issues.

Yearly Review: Stage One

Review your relationships and determine any changes.  Our relationships are important, but they are always in flux; try to determine where your relationships are at.

Review your motivating values, do you understand them differently?  Your values may have shifted slightly over the last year.  That is to be expected.  Because of your experiances in the previous year you are not the same person.

After you have examined your relationships and values, now edit your mission, and vision statements to reflect the changes in your life.

Review your year, write what you intended to do.  Next write what you accomplished.  If you have been doing weekly reviews as the year has progressed now is a good time to review them and look for ongoing struggles, and for areas of strength.

Yearly Review: Stage Two

Examine your projects.  Remove any that are no longer in keeping with your character.  Change priorities on goals as appropriate, and create new projects and goals.

Conclusion

Reviewing in this way can be performed at any time, but certain times, such as a new year, or a birthday tend to move our minds in the direction of pausing for deep contemplation.  Study of scripture & prayer, or meditation may also enhance this process.

The post Performing a Yearly Review appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

How To Set The Priorities of Tasks

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

Priorities-184717061If we do not take action, and choose what to accomplish each day or week then we will be doing the many random things that come across our path.  Each day we have decisions to make, and tasks to accomplish.  Our tasks can either be chosen by us, or for us.   If we do not have a way to decide what is important, then we can not be productive.  We become like a ship tossed about in the storm, without direction.  Or we can be like a ship guided through the storm.  The first part of the puzzel is to identify what is important.  The second is to make a plan to accomplish your goals.

Determining Priorities

In general a computer processes tasks in either a first in first out (FIFO), or a last in first out (LIFO) system.  Try that for yourself  and you will quickly see how inefficient it can be.  I am familiar with two types of systems for prioritizing:

  1. Level of Importance
  2. Context

In level of importance effiency you make a list of all that you want to accomplish, and make use of a system  to rank them.  Some systems I know of include using letters and numbers to decide priority.  Each task will have a letter, and then each set of lettered tasks is numbered.  So you may use A, B, & C. Then each A task will be numbered from 1 on up.  Another way to determine the importance of a task is to ask is this Urgent? Then to ask is this Important.  This will result in four possibilities:

  1. Urgent / Important
  2. Urgent / Not Important
  3. Not Urgent / Important
  4. Not Urgent / Not Important

You would then complete the tasks in the order listed above, further prioritorizing each section to accomplish your tasks efficently.

In context prioritorization you list everything you can do where you will be.  For example you may use the following contexts:

  • Computer
  • Telephone
  • E-Mail
  • Office
  • Home

The idea is to complete all tasks that involve making calls, or sending e-mail, or using the computer.

You may find that one type of prioritorization works well for your personal projects, while another helps you at work.  I do suggest that you keep all of your tasks in one system, even if you use different ways of prioritizing personal and work tasks.

How Many Tasks Can I Complete?

Often your list of things to accomplish in a week will be longer than what you can accomplish.  Each day expect to be able to accomplish one to three major tasks and one to five minor tasks.  If your tasks are divided between work and personal, then you may not be able to complete as many personal tasks.

Conclusion

With so many draws on our time it is hard to accomplish what is most important to you, unless you have a plan for what to accomplish.

The post How To Set The Priorities of Tasks appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

HTML Sitemaps 404 Error pages

sitemapRecently I read a couple of articles about HTML Sitemaps. The first one on HTML Sitemaps the second one on Custom 404 Error Pages, and the last was about an effective Archive page.

I use the Weaver II theme, and so I delved into creating a child theme for it, that would give me a 404 error page, and an HTML sitemap page. In reading the article about useful archive pages I came to see that an archive page isuseful to the visitors to my site.

Custom 404 Page

I have created a custom 404 page that attempts to find the content the visitor came for, then it gives the visitor a way to search my site quickly, or scroll through a sitemap for my site, and lastly they can go to the homepage quickly. The goal of this page is to keep my visitors on the page longer. I am also trying out a plugin to capture 404 errors, so that I can decide how to permanently handle them.

Sitemap Page

I followed Yoast’s example and created a template that will list content from several ways to find what a visitor is looking for. One thing that Yoast suggests is that you do away with dated archives, so this page does not include the dated archives.

Archive Page

I found the article about how to make a useful archive page, and then created one. It includes dated archives as well as the sitemap categories, and a tag cloud.

Sitemap vs Archive

In the end I realized that I did not need both a sitemap and an archive page. I decided on the Archive, as my HTML sitemap. My reasoning for that is that this page is designed to help visitors, including bots, and the more ways to the content the better, as long as only one URL is being indexed. So be sure to make your archive/sitemap page follow, noindex.

Conclusion

You can use the articles to generate your own child theme or feel free to download a copy of my child theme, with sitemap and archive page templates, as well as a custom 404 error page.

Download the file Here (File is tar.gz archive).

The post HTML Sitemaps 404 Error pages appeared first on Excalibur's Sheath.

Seven Productivity Tips

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

image

Recently, I came across this article, which lists seven productivity tips and the science behind them.

  1. Help Someone
  2. Develop a Routine
  3. Deal with Something Once
  4. Take a Nap
  5. Always Keep a Journal With You
  6. Just Say No
  7. Avoid the Snooze Button

There are a few items from the list that I would like to comment on:

Help Someone

Going outside our comfort zone, and helping someone is a great way to forget your own problems for a time, and come back to them with a new perspectve.

Develop a Routine

Our lives have a tendancy to turn into routines.  This can be either a default routine, or one that you create to be more effective with your life.

Deal with Something Once

Anytime you have to deal with something more than once that is time that could have spent on another task.  Doing something once is a part of several productivity systems.

Take a Nap

I find that I can be more productive after a nap.  Napping can sometimes confilct with our work schedules.

Keep a Journal With You

Keeping a journal or notebook, can help you remember important things, and feelings.  It is also possible to loose the information if you do not know where to find it.

Just Say No

Do not do more than you are able to do.  Do not over commit yourself.

Avoid the Snooze Button

I agree you will sleep better if you do not use the snooze button, but sometimes you need  to bring yourself out of a deeper level of sleep, so staggered alarms may be a useful way to wake up in the morning.

Conclusion

These seven ideas are all great.  Look at them, and see what you can incorporate into your life.  Remember life is a about learning, and growth.  Look for the Endless Wonder in the World.

The post Seven Productivity Tips appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

Website Scope

image

I have thought about website security lately.  One underused way of securing a website is to look at the scope of your website.  Most websites have a purpose, it may be a website for small local businesses, an e-commerce website, which servers a niche market.  In most cases not every country needs access to view your site.  With the correct tools it is possible to block countries based on IP Addresses.  This can allow you to maximize your possible audience, while blocking populations of hackers.

Where  are Hackers Located

The top ten countries for hackers as of May of 2013 according to abcnetspace.com

  1. Hungary
  2. Italy
  3. India
  4. Romania
  5. Brazil
  6. Taiwan
  7. Russia
  8. Turkey
  9. USA
  10. China

How to Use the List

I suggest that you first decide what countries your website does not need to be seen in.  For example if you have a local website, then you may want to block all countries on the list, except for your own, if it is listed.  You can also look at where your traffic comes from, and determine countries that do not have a lot of traffic to your site, and decide to block them.

Creating the List

You know what countries to allow or block as the case may be, with the .htaccess file you can either explicitly allow or block based on IP Address.  This means that if you only want one to a few countries to have access be ready to only allow traffic from those countries.  On the other hand if you are just going to block some countries then be ready to block them.

Now that you know what countries to keep or block, you will need a tool to help you in generating the .htaccess code.

Country IP Blocks will generate code you can just paste into your .htaccess file.  And like that you have secured your website a little more.

Limitations

This is not the only way to secure a site.  In fact this is a tool that must be part of a comprehensive  plan for security.  Those hackers you blocked can always hack a computer that is let into your site and still hack you if you are not careful.  The last imitation of this method is that it only works with web servers, like Apache that support .htaccess files.

Conclusion

Blocking countries intelligently based on your need for traffic,  can be a strong part of web security.  It should not be the only piece of the security puzzle.  Also you will need to make sure your server allows that kind of security before you can use it.

The post Website Scope appeared first on Excalibur's Sheath.

Preparing for Success in Life

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

MazeAs I searched for a productivity method to assist me, which eventually led to the Middle Way Method, I found that preparing was a big part of my personal productivity.  It is good to periodically go through and examine what you want to accomplish, or need to accomplish, and make plans.  In addition it is also possible to always be preparing, and to never accomplish anything.  So that while everyone should take some time to prepare for productivity, they should limit the time preparing to a minimum.

The Levels of Preparation

Each level of preparation, will involve a different level of granularity about your life. As part of the review process you will want to look at each of these large items and break them down into steps, or groups of steps to make projects.  Projects are your overall large goals for the year broken down into steps.

The preparation process can be divided into four phases:

  1. Yearly
  2. Monthly
  3. Weekly
  4. Day

The Yearly Review

A yearly review may be done at any time, but around the New Year holiday is a natural point in which to conduct this review. This review should be sweeping in its scope.  You are not going to get into the fine details here.  For example at this level you may decide large things, I want to go back to school, learn to play an instrument, write a book, start a blog.  The idea is to get them on the board for the year.

The Monthly Review

At the start of each month identify the tasks from your set of projects that you want to accomplish.  Try to balance all of life’s commitments so that you can be successful without getting bogged down in to much to do.

The Weekly Review

How to prepare to be successful:

  1. Review each week after it has occurred to learn lessons, and evaluate progress and effectiveness.
  2. Examine the committed time for each week, as well as the time needed for tasks.
  3. Include in each week a set of goals for the rejuvenation of yourself.

The weekly review is the heart of the reviews.  It is the ideal time to do two things:

  • Review the past week
  • Plan the next week

Reviewing the past week will allow you to learn lessons from the time just ending, and how to apply them to your life.  It will also let you know if your plan is still on track, or if changes need to be made.

Planning the coming week should be a straight forward exercise of looking at commitments, and tasks and ensuring you are not doing to much, or to little.  Try to work in time for yourself to grow and improve.

The Daily Review

The daily review is the review of time commitments for the day, and choosing which weekly tasks to accomplish.  It can be accomplished usually in a couple of minutes each day.

Conclusion

We need to set up our own success.  We often rush forward into life without any idea of what we really want to accomplish, and this leads to less than successful productivity.  Taking a small part of time every so often to look at the big picture at different levels helps us to avoid the mistake of only preparing, and also helps us to know what we are moving towards.

The post Preparing for Success in Life appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

The Middle Way Method on Android with Free Apps

The Middle Way Method – Bottom-up Meets Top-down

Android droid dancing because of the Middle Way Method on AndroidThe Middle Way Method needs a few different types of apps:

  • Text Editor
  • Task List
  • Calendar


Text Editor

A text editor is needed for two parts of the Middle Way Method.

  • Mission and Vision
  • Journal

The text editor I have chosen is Evernote.  Evernote has a free and paid version.  I chose this app because it can take notes when the tablet is off line, but still syncs with the Evernote web app and any other device which has an app.

In Evernote I have two notebooks for the Middle Way Method.  The first has three notes:

  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Overview of the Middle Way Method

The second notebook is my journal.  I use the date for the title of journal entries.

Task List

The task list is a very important part of the Middle Way Method.  From the task list what I need to do is scheduled.  The task list gets the following put on it each week:

  • Roles
  • Self Improvement Goals

 

The task list I have chosen to use is called GTasks.  I chose GTasks in part for the widget it provides.  I mainly use the widget to see what is on my list.  GTasks is a front end for Google Tasks.  This means that I can access my tasks anywhere.  A trick I do is to use a symbol at the start of roles and improvement goals so they cluster in my list of tasks.

Roles

Roles are relationship goals.  Some examples of roles are:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Employee
  • Friend

The key to roles is to find what the other person or company would find important.  For example I recently asked my daughter what would she like me to do for her.  She replied that she wanted me to help her crack her Geode.

Self Improvement Goals

Self Improvement Goals are related to helping an individual grow as a person.

The Self Improvement Goal Categories are:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Social

I try to complete something in each category each week.

Projects

I keep the Tasks for each project on its own list.  I do have to use the Google web app to add or remove lists.  This is the one negative about GTasks.

Calendar

Some items need solid dates and times. For the calendar I am using the default calendar in my device which connects with Google Calendar.  I do use the Meshin Calendar App for the widget.

Conclusion

It took a little work to get the apps in line.  After I put this together I realized that this system can be adapted to almost any device or the web.  The biggest weakness is that it depends on Google, and Evernote.  So far the system is going strong.

The post The Middle Way Method on Android with Free Apps appeared first on The Middle Way Method.

Security of Scripts vs Security of Software

security

WordPress is a great tool for creating websites.  Some people believe that they do not need to keep their scripts updated.

The most common reasons for this are:

  • Forgotten Scripts
  • Custom Coding
  • Waiting For Code to Mature


It is possible for people to forget about old code that is on their server.  It is possible for old code to be left in place and for the vulnerabilities to be exploited.  The solution for this problem is to regularly go over your server & remove old code.

Others have custom themes or plugins written for specific versions of WordPress. When WordPress is updated the old plugin or theme may not function correctly any longer.  The proper solution may be to redo the custom code.  People do not always have the ability to update.  If you are in this situation be aware that you have a security vulnerability.

The last situation I want to discuss is the issue where people know that there is an update available, but they do not update.  Sometimes these people feel that their site is perfect.  Sometimes the site owner puts the site into maintenance mode, & stops updating the site.  Another thing that is sometimes done is people will skip updates.

I see the skipping of updates by some people as comparable to people skipping Windows versions.  When a vulnerability of Windows is is discovered  Microsoft will release an update for all versions of Windows that are now supported.  When WordPress fixes code, it releases a new version of WordPress.

The post Security of Scripts vs Security of Software appeared first on Excalibur's Sheath.

Why Update Scripts

When websites have security issues there is one cause of the problem which I see more than any other. Scripts that are not updated. When I ask people why they do not keep the scripts updated to the newest version I am told a few different reasons. In general they boil down to the site being abandoned, or to people using custom coding. Sometimes I’ve heard that people want to wait for a certain period of time until the scripts are “Mature enough.” The problem is that while this strategy can work for software, and operating systems scripts are a little different. We need to update scripts so that security holes.  ograms and operating systems are compiled. Compiling means that the code is changed into code that the computer natively understands. A script, like the many used to run websites are not compiled. Each time it is loaded the software that is compiled is the result of constant coding, and as it matures bugs, and other problems are removed and it functions better. Scripts also have bugs, every time a script releases an update it has fixes for the previous bugs that hackers may be able to use to place malicious code into the web hosting account. Keeping your scripts updated is a way to make sure that hackers do not have as much of a chance to compromise your account. Many scripts in use today are mature products, and are not prone to major changes, which cause performance to degrade.

The post Why Update Scripts appeared first on Excalibur's Sheath.

WordPress Security and Information

Cracked Baseball, like a hacked WordPress site

In my job doing technical support for web hosting I have assisted many people in getting their WordPress websites going. There tend to be people with two sets of issues that call.

  1. People who do not know where to begin with using WordPress
  2. People who have security issues

I want to discuss these problems with some information to aid in getting your WordPress site started, and to help you secure it.

WordPress is a great “Personal Publishing” platform. It started life a just another blogging platform, but has evolved into a very powerful CMS (Content Management System) capable of being used by sites that do not have a blog.

One of the advantages of WordPress are the resources in themes, plugins, and documentation.

Recommended Themes

  • Weaver II
  • Yoko

Recommended Plugins

These are the plugins I use in all of my sites. I believe they give the best bang for the resources.

  • Akismet
  • All in one Favicon
  • Better WP Security
  • Blog Copyright (by BTE)
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • Jetpack
  • Page Comments Off Please
  • Send From
  • Strictly Auto Tags
  • Sucuri Security – SiteCheck Malware Scanner
  • TentBlogger 404 Repair
  • Theme My Login
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • WP Smush.it

Increase Speed and Efficiency of WordPress

Occasionally when your site gets a large number of simultaneous visitors the site could appear down due to the overwhelming number of php processes running on the server. There are a couple of ways that you can combat this. You can install a caching plugin, like W3 Total Cache, or Super Cache. I have found these to sometimes slow a WordPress Site down even more, and when I have gone to remove them I have found that I had to rebuild my websites. Another option is to make use of a service like CloudFlare. My sites have access to CloudFlare through my hosting at HostMonster. CloudFlare provides the same type of caching as the caching plugins.

Securing WordPress

Securing a WordPress site can be complicated, but there are two items which can help dramatically each day:

  • Change the Admin Username away from admin
  • Change the database table prefix to something other than wp_

This is one of the first things I do when I make a brand new site, but if you have an established WordPress site you can make use of Better WP Security to do this.

WordPress like all database driven websites is vulnerable to attack through vulnerabilities in the code. Since WordPress will always have vulnerabilities it is important to keep WordPress, the plugins you use, and themes updated, and your passwords secure. One part of securing a password is to use a strong password (8-12 characters long with at least 1 uppercase letter, lowercase letter, number, and symbol).

Steps to Secure a Site

    1. Remove files you are not familiar with.
    2. Keep code updated
    3. Remove unused scripts
    4. Monitor file permissions
    5. Hide configuration files
    6. In the php.ini file make the following changes:
      • Set ‘register_globals’ to Off.
      • Set ‘display_error’ to 0 or Off.

      Remember to confirm all user inputs. Items on Forms, in URLS and so on. Remember to make use of access Control. Keep users away from admin areas, and other places they do not need to be.

      Make use of .htaccess to block known bad users, or the IP ranges of countries that you do not want accessing your website. Better WP Security is able to add some black list ips to your .htaccess. You can also make use of some free services Like this one to block access to certain countries. This may be useful if you see attacks coming mostly from certain countries and you do not need traffic from those countries this can be a useful tool to protect your site.

The post WordPress Security and Information appeared first on Excalibur's Sheath.

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