I own and operate a website called Destination4x4.com.  I started the website about two years ago with the primary goal of keeping my website skill set at a cutting edge of website development.  My past projects include a lot of LAMP based database driven content and custom built shopping carts.  During my time doing web development it became easy to fall upon past skills, knowledge bases and technology, however the results continued to be profitable.  Several years ago, my career path was changed rather dramatically.

I lost a job of 15 years which I loved, and found myself looking for work for the fist time in over a decade.  Fortunately, my job search did not last long and I found myself working in the Gaming Industry here in Nevada.  As new opportunities presented themselves, I was quick to prove my worth and began to flourish in my new job.  However, I could tell that my old skill sets were being diminished as time went on.  As much as I love my new job, it is not a creative endeavor.

To address my own personal needs I decided to start Destination4x4.com.  The site combines several personal points of interest: off road and back country driving, 4x4s, camping, hiking, photography, exploration, history  and website technology.  The primary purpose to personal continuing education, but as an additional side effect, the problem solving and research that I already conduct for my own trips, now has an outlet and can be branded to a property that I own.

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As an active Network Administrator I have several bad habits.  The first is that I play with computers in my spare time.  The second, is that I have too many computers.  Five years ago when I purchased my home, a friend gave me a 1/2 height server rack.  I mounted by home server on a shelf and ‘It began’.

By ‘It Began’ I mean the expansion of my home computer requirements.  Over the past five years, I have added a variety of new systems to my home network, including phone servers, alarm systems, etc…  My 1/2 rack is perfectly suited to hole these systems and my home stereo system as well.  The functionality was nice, it securely holds my computers, although .  However, it doesn’t look all the great.  This isn’t a huge concern for me, but I would always like it to look better.

Recently a friend of mine gave me a full height, enclosed server cabinet.  The cabinet comes with locking doors, side walls, exhaust fans, side doors and in reasonably good shape.  The price was right, and certainly would add a certain cache to my home office.   The server cabinet didn’t come with any shelves, or rails.  The cabinet will be rather heavy when full which could cause a problem in a home environment.  There are a few small issues to overcome, but for me, the advantages significantly outweigh the work.

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Search Engine Optimization is all the buzz these days.  Early days of the Internet, websites were all about the information and content, along with really low quality gif clip art.  Early search engine companies found it reasonably easy  write ‘bots’ or spiders to parse the website, analyse the content and make it searchable.  As bandwidth increased, multimedia found its way to the internet, and soon followed by ads.  There was a time for about two years, when all web development was about Adobe Flash. To the point that I even witnesses entire websites being on large flash file.  Flash would make your website look good, but there was no content for an outside source to analyze your website.

So, now Google, Bing and others allow the web developer to encode information about the website within the website.  In the olden times, this was just content.  Now with SEO, you develop your content, and then encode your content, marketing keywords within the html of the site.  This is all well and good, but it makes it more important that your website design to condiser this prior to the start of development.

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Development efforts continue on the latest website I am working on.  For the first time in a while, I am excited to build something which really has potential to grow beyond myself.  Development work so far is going well, although slower than I hoped.  The reason for the speed issue is that I am trying to wrap my hand around the Web 2.0 concept, and exploiting the open-source community and their hard work.  As such, when I find a cool widget I am going to post about them here to further help and pay tribute to this valuable source of code.

To date with the site, I have a basic framework setup.  Supporting structures are built, such as sitemaps, xml files, etc… and users may actually join the site, and login and out.  My next step in this arena is to allow users to update their personal information as the user component takes shape.  I am hopeful that this portion of the site will be complete this evening.  The biggest issue I see at this point is uploading images files.

The next step will be to design and build the main piece of the site.  I don’t wish to write too much about it at this time.

More to follow…

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Today, a jeep trip was cancelled at the last moment.  The cancellation was no ones fault, just life.  As such, I found that I had a “found” day today and started work on a new website.  I am not ready to announce the site at this point, I have a lot more to accomplish before that event.

For my new website, I have a new philosophy that I am working under.   My idea is the build the site with as many off-the-shelf open source components as possible.  This will re-educate me to the various projects out in the world and hopefully allow me to deploy quickly.  Beyond just open source, I am hopeful to exploit some of Facebook’s developer features to market the site amount other things.

Although keeping copyright information in open source files is a common feature of open source tools, in order to further pay back the community and the developers who work within it, I have decided to call them out specifically on this site.

Open Source Tools:

  •  jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. jQuery is designed to change the way that you write JavaScript.  The jQuery website is www.jQuery.com
  • ImageMapster is a jquery plugin, which allows a developer to quickly build image maps for their website.  This plugin is written and maintained by James Treworgy and more information is available at http://www.outsharked.com/imagemapster
  • Sliding Login Panel with jQuery is available from web-kreation.com. This plugin adds a cool div overlay which can be dropped down to all your users to register and login.  Very cool gadget and easy to implement.

More to come….

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