Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Four Official Themes for Windows XP

Posted in Random, Tech on May 7th, 2010 by Matt – Be the first to comment

Staring at the same computer screen at work day after day can drive a person batty. Unfortunately, we're stuck in XP land where I work, so theme options are limited.

Here are the 4 extra official Microsoft Windows XP themes I've been able to dig up. I've included them all in a single zip file to at the bottom of this post. Simply download the zip, extract everything to c:\windows\resources\themes then double-click on the first .theme file, Display Properties will open, hit OK, double-click on the second, hit OK, then the third, hit OK. Now under Display Properties > Appearance > Windows and buttons, you'll now have three more options. Zune, Embedded and Royale with two sub color schemes.

Royale Noir Theme:

Royale Theme:

Embedded Theme:

Zune Theme:

I'm currently running the Zune theme with Office 2007's theme set to black and Google Chrome's theme set to Grayscale:

You can download all four themes in the following zip file, installation instructions are included in the readme.txt file:

Download Royale XP Theme
Download Royale Noir XP Theme
Download Zune XP Theme
Download Embedded XP Theme

Email for Your Domain for Free

Posted in Tech, Tutorial on May 5th, 2010 by Matt – 1 Comment

This is part 3 of a series on Starting Your Own Website on the Cheap

Until recently setting up your own domain with email required having a business class internet connection, knowledge of how to set up a physical server and email server and someone to run the whole thing. No longer. Today anyone with a couple spare dollars can pick up their own domain and have their own custom email addresses up and running in mere minutes. If you've been following along in this series then you've already purchased a domain and set up DNS for it. Now were going to set up email.

You can, of course, roll your own email server. Just add your home server IP as the MX (Mail Exchange) record on your DNS providers site, set up an email server and away you go. However, even if you are a skilled administrator, I wouldn't recommend this. With spam emails representing 50-60% of all emails, running your own server is just asking for spam headaches.

Two of the webs largest email providers, Microsoft and Google now offer their own free email for domain services. Microsoft now offers Windows Live Admin Center and Google offers Google Apps. There are quite a few differences in their features offered between the services. Microsoft's services is a little easier to use and a little less business oriented. There are a few decisions to make about which features are critical to you in order to determine which provider is right for you. Do you care about exchange connectivity? The benefit of the exchange protocol is its push email, calendar and contact syncing. Oddly enough, it's Microsoft's service that does not offer exchange connectivity for their Live Mail services. For me Exchange connectivity is important. It keeps my email, calendar and contacts synced perfectly across my iPhone, laptop and desktop. Who's web email interface do you prefer? Its a small issue, but if you're a regular email user it can make a difference. Myself, I prefer Google's web interface. Last, do you plan to expand? Google's Apps service can be upgraded in-place to more professional levels with guaranteed levels of uptime and 24/7 support. The only place I feel Google's service falls short of Microsoft's is in accessing their webmail interfaces. In order to log on to the Google Apps webmail interface, users need to navigate to then login with their credentials. While with Microsoft's webmail users can simply navigate to or even and login with their credentials. Why Google doesn't simply let users go to and login with the alternative credentials is beyond me. This could be a moot issue since both services have the option of setting up cname (alias) records so that you can access their mail login interfaces at something like

Once you've decided on a particular service the initial setup is fairly straight foward on both services. Google requires you to enter a custom string into your DNS cname or "alias" record to prove you control the domain. Microsoft checks that you've set their mail servers addresses for your domains MX (mail exchange) record before they let you create accounts. Once you've confirmed to each provider you hold the domain and enter in their mail servers in your DNS MX records you can begin creating users via each providers admin interface.

Microsoft's Windows Live Admin Center Interface

Microsoft's Windows Live Admin Center Interface

The admin interfaces reflect the level of features offered by each service. The Windows Live Admin interface is very simple with only three main options areas: adding new users, enabling "open enrollment" and some options for custom logos on the webmail interface. Click the "Add User" button, enter in the account name and user name, and you're off and running. The "open enrollment" option allows anyone to create an email address under your domain, a  handy feature not offered by Google.

Google Apps Admin Interface

Google Apps Admin Interface

The Google interface is more robust with many tabs and sections to cover the various features offered. Fortunately, adding users is just as simple a task as with Microsoft. With Google you have to understand that this is indeed Google "Apps" not just Google Email. There are options for calendars, logo customization, document sharing, member groups and sites.

Now for a $10 investment you've got your very own personal domain with any email address you could want.

Previously -
Part 1: Finding and Purchasing a Domain
Part 2: DNS for Your Domain for Free

DNS for Your Domain for Free

Posted in Tech, Tutorial on May 4th, 2010 by Matt – 1 Comment

This post is part 2 in a series on Starting Your Own Website on the Cheap.

Setting up DNS for a domain is a commonly glossed over detail in most tutorials about setting up a website. It appears everyone just assumes that everyone else plans on paying for a hosted solutions which include DNS. The goal of this tutorial was to give people an idea of how to get started for cheap so I'm going to assume you only have a domain.

The details of how DNS works are beyond this tutorial. Here's what you need to know: The company you purchased your domain from only hosts a record of who (aka the nameserver) a computer needs to ask to find your website. They don't point to your website directly, that point to a nameserver who knows. We need to find someone to be our nameserver.

Now you have to decide who's going to host your DNS records.You have three options. Do it yourself, use a pay service or use a free service.

Do it yourself. You could set up a DNS server at home and set your home's IP address as the nameserver for your domain. Then, by changing the settings in your DNS server, point your website to wherever you want. However, if your home computer has consumer level internet access, then it most likely has a dynamic IP address (an IP address that changes frequently). This means that the IP address you just set for your domain will constantly need to be updated on your registrars site. If your skills are high enough for that, you probably don't need to be reading this.

Pay someone. If your paying for hosting, DNS will probably come along with it... since this is about getting your website set up for cheap I'm going to assume you're not going to pay someone.

Free services. There aren't many decent free DNS services available. If you plan to host your website from your home computer on a consumer internet connection with a dynamic IP addrees, then you have fewer options. FreeDNS or ZoneEdit appear to be the top options when it comes to free DNS with dynamic updates. Sign up for a free account on either service then, on your domain registrar site, set your nameservers to the providers servers (e.g. and now you can point your domain wherever you'd like via you DNS provider's web interface.

If your goal is to run a website on your home computer connection then you will need to run either ZoneEdit's IP update client or FreeDNS's client on your home computer. These will keep the IP address for your home computer updated when it changes. Be aware that many consumer level internet providers (including mine) block the port (port 80) that web traffic runs on. You can get around this. One option is to run your home webserver on a different port and set the DNS settings to the new port.

In the situation of I've set up a "web foward" for my domain. So when someone requests the nameserver tells them to go to instead. This allows me to host my site on any one of the numerous free providers and simply forward my domain to it.

Next - Part 3: Free E-Mail for Your Domain

Previously - Part 1: Finding and Purchasing a Domain

Finding and Purchasing a Domain

Posted in Tech, Tutorial on May 4th, 2010 by Matt – Be the first to comment

This post is part 1 in a series on Starting Your Own Website on the Cheap.

If you're going to have a professional presence on the web or get that million dollar idea off the ground, you're going to want your own domain name. But how do you start? Do you randomly type in domain names in the address bar of your web browser to see if anything shows up? Sure you can do that, but you'd be surprised how many domains have zero content. Here's how I went about it.

Determine what Top Level Domain (TLD) is acceptable for you. There's more to the web than just ".com". There are currently 280 TLDs available. You can see the full list here. For personal use, a relevant domain name with a less common TLD will be cheaper and easier to obtain. In fact, the TLD ".name" now exists specifically for that purpose. For professional use, a ".com" TLD may be more desirable. However, should you desire a ".com" be prepared to pay someone for it other than a domain name registrar for it, as almost every reasonable combination is taken.

Choose a name. This part should be easy other than the fact that most everything decent is already registered. Be original. Did you know the name "Lexus" never existed till Toyota decided they needed a luxury brand? They combined the terms Luxury and Elegance into one term. Invent a new term. Sites like Twitter, Spotify, Digg  or Google all made up their names. Think license plate. was taken. was not. If you're having trouble coming up with decent options you could always let a website generate a name for you. Sites like Wordoid or NameStation will generate you a list of gibberish names that sound good in english and tell you if that domain is currently available.

Determine if the name is taken. The most reliable way to determine if a domain name is taken is to do a "WHOIS" lookup on that domain. (A note here: Many companies that sell domain names also offer this service. I heavily recommend not using their services until you are absolutely ready to purchase a particular name. Many of these sites will instantly purchase a name you merely search for, assuming you will buy it later. Then you can't buy it from anyone else and they may hold it for more money.) Sites like Domain Tools allow you to search for a specific name and see to who a site is registered to, if it is registered. Searching though names one by one can be tedious. Sites like Domain Name Soup allow you to search through listings with all kinds of combinations. Including alphabetically listing every possible letter combination.

Purchase the domain. A note: If you're going to pay someone else to host your content you should probably purchase your name through them as well. Many hosting services will purchase the domain for free assuming you sign up for hosting with them at the same time. I looked at the various registrars when purchasing my domain and decided on GoDaddy. Their prices are good to average and they almost always have some sort of sale going on. I suggest checking RetailMeNot for discounts no matter who you decide to purchase through. When you start the process of purchasing do not stop! As soon as you begin the process the registrar will purchase the domain. This means if you drop out halfway through the process you can end up without the domain and you can't get it from any other registrar.

Now you have a domain... only it doesn't go anywhere.

Next -
Part 2: DNS for Your Domain
Part 3: Free E-Mail for Your Domain

Starting Your Own Website on the Cheap

Posted in Tech, Tutorial on May 4th, 2010 by Matt – 1 Comment

Instead of that $10 fast-food lunch you had yesterday you could have started your very own website with its own email. Buying a domain is probably one of the most lucrative things you can do right now. Names in the top-level domain (TLD) of ".com" are already fairly well picked over. Odds are if you can think of a noun or verb, it's already taken. Now (or more correctly, yesterday) is the time to buy a domain name. The process isn't hard, but there are some steps that can seem daunting to someone who's never done it before. I'm going to cover the process that I went through of buying a domain, getting content on it and setting up email for it all for around $10.

Part 1: Finding and Purchasing a Domain

Part 2: DNS for Your Domain for Free

Part 3: Email for Your Domain for Free