New Web host

I’ve moved! No, not physically; I’ve changed web hosts. The site address is still the same (brianshah.us), so no one should notice anything different. I was using ReadySetConnect to host my site, but things weren’t working out for me. I just signed up for Vizaweb, and the transition seems to have moved smoothly. Seriously, I was up in about an hour or so today (yes, it is Sunday).

I chose Vizaweb based on several factors, including prices, its location in Minnesota (I try to support the midwestern U.S. companies as much as I can), the very helpful salesperson (available on a Sunday afternoon), and good reviews regarding customer support. I did spend a lot of time reviewing many reports of different hosts. A very close second choice was midPhase, which is based in Chicago and also has both a very lucrative offer and great support reviews.

In the meantime, I haven’t done much on either the new site or the UK scrapbook. Because I’m now using Dreamweaver to develop the new site, I need to go through the migration process again. Some of this should not be difficult since I already have them in FrontPage, but I still haven’t redone the photos pages.

If you had any problems getting into my site earlier today, I really apologize (for some reason I couldn’t connect from home). The site is now active again, so enjoy.

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Macromedia Dreamweaver

I just downloaded a trial version of Macromedia Dreamweaver, and I’m really trying to make it match my needs. I think I need to figure out the server-side includes stuff to make some uniform navigation items. If I figure it all out, I may start moving my site to the new software. If anyone tried to visit my home page and had difficulties, I apologize. Somehow, Dreamweaver tests things on the server if you tell it to (I didn’t realize that I was telling it to). But it’s all fixed now.

In the meantime, I have more days from last year’s England trip. Enjoy.

Metallica

Originally posted: June 2000 

Metallica is a heavy metal music band. For a heavy metal band that’s been around for over 20 years and can still sell out a concert, I can’t help but notice some people still whining over their recent recordings. Since Load and ReLoad were released in the mid-90’s, I have heard people say that Metallica has sold out. I beg to differ.

Metallica began as a heavy metal group in the early 80’s. They actually brought heavy metal as we know it to the US from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were pioneers. As they progressed into the 90’s, they continued to increase their momentum as a dominant heavy metal force.

But they changed their tunes with Load. ReLoad was no different (basically, music that didn’t fit on Load). They began to move into areas they had never before recorded. For me, it was a great change of pace. They are still Metallica, and the music is still as skillful as it ever was. Yet some people think they’ve gone downhill. I thought rock ‘n’ roll was about doing what you enjoy doing, not what the critics have to say. And if they’re doing something wrong, then perhaps all of those people who are buying tickets and helping them sell out concerts are missing something.
As a person who has come to appreciate music on various levels, I think Metallica has actually gotten better. Singer James Hetfield really produces a range of tones with his awesome voice. Bass player Jason Newsted has done some amazing things to jam his riffs in your face. Drummer Lars Ulrich rolls and bangs the life out of the skins. And guitarists James Hetfield (yes, he sings and plays) and Kirk Hammett ride wild and daring riffs that scream and wail, plunging you deep into their twisted and wicked world. Hearing them play just sounds like they really are pouring their souls into the music.

I especially like the sounds they’re producing now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what they did years ago. But their range of sounds is amazing. Some songs are bluesy, others are somber. But it’s still loud, present, and alive. And they still found room to put out music that has just as much thrash as their earlier stuff. Their a true heavy metal band that can perform a wide range of sounds and show more talent than many other bands that have been around in the last 20 years.
Perhaps some people are afraid that Metallica is getting old. Those people should try listening to the double-album where they play with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They haven’t lost their touch… they really rock! Or maybe they’ve been together too long. Given the average lifetime of most music groups, I’d say Metallica seems to have some longevity in them (despite Newsted’s departure in 2001).

In April 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit with a company that puts out MP3 files of their music. Apparently, copyright infringement does not seem to be an issue on the Internet. But do I blame them? No; in fact, I hope they set a precedent. How would you like it if you worked hard on a project and someone else reaped the benefits of it? I’d be upset and frustrated, and I’m sure Metallica feels the same way. I don’t think it’s about the money. I believe it’s about taking advantage of someone else’s talents. Essentially, the band was ripped-off, and I’m glad they fought back.

In 2001, the band seemed to be falling apart. Early in 2001, Jason broke away from the band, feeling the need to focus on other things in his life. The break-away was amicable (from MetClub sources). In April the remaining three band members went back into the studio to start work on their next original album (Bob Rock, their producer, filled in on the bass), all while on the search for the next Metallica bass player. In July, Metallica settled their suit with Napster, which seemed to be a windfall. But a week later, James was admitted into rehab for “alcoholism and other addictions.” This postponed many Metallic-events and left things in the hands of Lars and Kirk. Things were probably starting to look abysmal. Then September 11 happened. It seemed that everything else suddenly seemed so insignificant. A week later, Metallica expressed that their site was a hate-free zone and put the word out that they don’t want people to spread the hate that many of us felt after the morning of September 11. Although still looking for a new bass player, Metallica informed its members on its web site that James was out of rehab and “feeling rather good about life.” Despite all the adversity of 2001, this band is dedicated to its music, its expression, and (most importantly) its fans.

With the release of St. Anger, it seems that Metallica is missing one long-standing component to its music: the guitar solo. But this album is not business-as-usual; instead, it’s a vehicle for the band to get over one of its most difficult obstacles and move forward. After seeing Metallica in May 2004, I realized that it was as strong as ever, despite what the critics say (did I mention that it sold out the concert in Madison in a record 22 minutes?). Some people say that St. Anger is the biggest disappointment from the band. I think it’s one of the greatest albums, because it’s raw, heavy, emotive, and absolutely genuine.

Metallica as a band does something that some people just don’t seem to get. This is a band that really has recognition, that has a great track record, and that really does what others are afraid to do… write and play music that allows them to really express themselves. And as for me, I love listening to it. Some people think I’m off my rocker when I say that my favorite band is Metallica (I usually listen to them in the car, at the office, at home… just about anywhere I can). If I were to choose an example of someone with celebrity status who sets a good example, it has to be them because they know how to express themselves through some amazing tunes. They do the one thing that they do best: play some really loud, awesome music. And if they’re good enough to play with a symphony orchestra (and you’re reading from someone who loves the symphony), then they deserve more praise and credit than they’ve received. Did I mention that they write their own music, play their own instruments, and actually sing their own tunes? How many “bands” and “musicians” do that nowadays? And for a band that’s over 20 years old, they still have this amazing ability to sell-out concerts wherever they may roam.

More UK scrapbook pages done

I managed to complete two more pages of my England scrapbook (June 6 and 7). This brings me to about the halfway point of the process. Next up is a big one (on June 8, I visited Castle Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath). I’m actually getting excited about completing this project. If I spend more time on it this week, I should have it completed by the end of the weekend.

More new site progress

I’m really making progress on migrating various things to the new site. I managed to renumber and add all of my soapbox articles, and the technology items will go through the same process. I am also updating the biography pages, and existing photo pages will need to be redone for consistency, so I still have a ways to go.

I plan on taking a different approach to the scrapbook pages, though. Instead of publishing all of the pictures that I can possibly post, I will focus on a very few. This should (hopefully) help make the site easier to load for visitors who use dial-up connections. Pictures of my family and friends will be dispersed through various pages between the biography section (“about me” and “my family”) and the scrapbook section (“trip to India” and “trip to UK”). The scrapbook will be more of a “memories” area (such as trips and special events), whereas other pictures will be related to the topic of the page (so pictures of myself and my family will be in the biography section, hobbies will be in the hobbies section, how-to will be in the particular technology or projects sections, and so on).

One thing I plan to avoid is using JavaScript to make pictures pop-up in separate little windows. They are not very difficult to code, but they are pretty annoying for visitors. Pictures will instead appear in a new page, so you can use your back button to return to the previous page, as is the case with older scrapbook pages. Although I will still have JavaScript on the site, you just won’t notice it as much as before. Fortunately, I’ve learned enough about Cascading Style Sheets to add some other automatic functionality to the site.

I am still debating if I should add some sort of site map to help visitors find specific items. However, a search feature (powered by Google) will also be added. I think the navigation bar is useful enough, but I may add a map of some sort to better define some of the pages.

Regarding the current site, I’ve finally updated and added a new Tech-know article. After dealing with PC security questions, I finally put together a Computer Security write-up. Hopefully I’ve added all of the important information that most home users need to know about protecting themselves from various bad things that can happen. Of course, it doesn’t do any good if you don’t actually implement them, so be safe and protect yourself and others from malicious technology events. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to add another two or three pages to the England section. I also hope that the table of contents and the navigation bar at the top are helpful.

New site is valid HTML

I’ve managed to debug the new site format (thanks to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) HTML validator), so now I’m ready to migrate all of the old material to the new site. I did manage to migrate two soapbox documents over to the new site. Speaking of which, I also updated the Metallica article. I have to admit that I really like the band’s latest album, St. Anger. It’s different, it’s edgy, it’s raw, and it’s very genuine. It’s helped me through some recent rough spots, so I sometimes feel that I can relate to the music. At any rate, I know that the scrapbook will need a lot of cleaning up, so migrating will not be as simple as it sounds. I’m still aiming to finish and release the new site by the end of the year, assuming major events (i.e. moving due to a new job) don’t slow me down.

Site republished

I’ve managed to republish my web site tonight. If you had any problems visiting it earlier, I really apologize. It should be up and running now. I haven’t spent much time on the other site, though, because I’m helping a friend out on a project.

After about two months of a friend asking me if I’ve posted my desk with the computer on it on the site, I’ve remembered to check. I also apologize for not posting this sooner. See below to view a picture. I also placed a picture of the desk in the projects page, but I haven’t done much with the page since April. Add that to the list of things I need to complete for the new site (yikes!).

I realized that there is a lot of scrolling through the England scrapbook, so I added a table of contents to the opening page. I also added a little number guide to the top of each page so that you can jump to a particular day. Of course, if you need to know what I did on a certain day, you can visit the home page to find out. I hope to add more pages later this week (yeah, wish me luck).