The Rad Story
Radified breathed its first bit of bandwidth in the summer of 2000. It began as a practical way to learn about web sites and web site development, as learning-by-doing has been a consistent theme here. The site soon became a convenient place to post info intended for family & friends.
Learn by Doing
At the time, I was dating a Film School student » Wendy, who got accepted into the Critical Studies program at USC (world's finest Film school). She asked if I knew anything about building a computer that could edit digital video.
Now-a-days, it's easy to edit video on a computer. But back then, it was a bear .. especially the storage aspect. Had to design the entire system around your specific editing application (using only approved/compatible hardware).
So you can see why I take credit (in part) for Wendy later getting accepted into the famed graduation Production program .. USC's flagship program. (Graduates include the likes of George Lucas and Spike Lee.) Supposedly it's harder to get into than Harvard Law (based on percentage of students accepted per applicant).
I learned a lot in the process of building that first video-editing beast. Much of it, unfortunately, the hard way (trial-n-error). Editing video is cool, cuz it's one of the most creative things one can do with a computer.
Word soon got out that I knew about computers, and questions started coming .. first from family & friends. Later from friends of friends. "Uh, you don't know me but..." Free technical support .. from someone they could trust.
Emails » to » Web Pages
Eventually I found I was writing emails that contained the same responses (to the same questions) over & over. So I decided to copy-n-paste the contents of these emails into web pages .. which I uploaded to the site. Then I'd respond to many questions by sending a link that said, "Read this."
I receive much positive feedback from these rudimentary guides. Many readers expressed an appreciation of the way I am able to present technical concepts in everyday language. And I agree, I seem to have a knack for this. (Patting myself on the back.)
This is how the world-famous Guide to Norton Ghost began (with a single web page copied from an email, which had been rewritten numerous times) .. as well as the Guide to Ripping and Encoding CD audio, the Partitioning Strategies .. and many more.
In this respect, the site became focused (first) on freeing ourselves from the mercy of tech support .. (some of whom are worth their weight in DRAM, while others » a waste of time). Once free, we began to explore the cool things technology can do (indulging our technolust).
Search Engines Arrive
Over the years, these single-page guides gradually developed into comprehensive, multi-page documents .. as readers from all over the planet offered their insights (which I gladly incorporated). This was my way of repaying the online community that had helped me so much .. when I badly needed it.
The guides represent the heart of Radified. While my ego would like to believe traffic is coming to read about my personal life, truth is .. most people come for the guides, and the technical insights they contain. (Which is cool by me.)
I never write a guide, btw, if there is already something out there I can link to. Rather, I only write one if there is a need. And I edit more than I write (way more) .. to ensure the guide is well-written .. conveying sophisticated concepts in simple English, using as few words as necessary. (See for yourself.)
Back when I wrote, for example, the Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD audio, there was nothing like it. Now however, many have followed suit. Some sites have even copied my guides -- word for word -- and re-posted them on theirs. (Which is *not* cool.)
Radified guides are also updated periodically. I feel this continual refining, over time, which few sites do, is what separates ours from others.
I also labor to incorporate principles of effective writing, such as those found at sites such as Bonneville. From personal experience, I've found truth in Nathaniel Hawthorne's comment » "Easy reading is damn hard writing." On the topic of usability, I subscribe to the principles espoused by Steve Krug and Dr. Jakob.
The NEXT guide I plan to write (update » am writing) is one on » Virtual Private Servers (VPS) .. for those interested in upgrading their websites from Shared hosting (the low-rent apartments of the webhosting world).
I have done considerable research on the topic, and had to dig in many different places to find this info. Having it all located in a single document, I feel, would benefit the hosting community .. especially since I'm not selling anything, and therefore less apt to be biased. (Wish I would've had something like this myself.)
Another major milestone occurred when I installed the forum software (June, 2001) .. which I did as another learning experience. (We use YaBB, which is free, open source.) Guess I shouldn't have been surprised when people started showing up and posting questions .. but I was.
I kinda felt obligated to provide answers. The "Rad community" grew quickly. Now, people smarter than me (and far more experienced) frequent the message boards there. Some threads have accumulated nearly 100,000 page-views.
Today we have one of the cooler online communities, where we host some 35,000 posts, specializing in backing up your hard drive with an imaging/cloning program, especially Norton Ghost.
We even have some of the program's original developers (from New Zealand) frequenting our forums, providing insight difficult (impossible?) to find elsewhere.
Webhosting History: Shared » to » VPS
Radified began its webhosting career with a small company based in Kansas City (Communitech) .. which was later bought by a bigger company (Interland, who changed its name to web.com), who moved our server (in a truck) to Atlanta.
In 2006, unhappy with Interland, I moved the site to a different webhost (Lunarpages), based in Los Angles. In 2007, Lunarpages booted us off their "Production server," due to "excessive resource usage," .. and exiled us (banished us) to what they called a "Stabilization server".
For months, I worked hard to rein in our use of server resources (cuz I didn't want to pay 5-times more for VPS hosting). But in the end, I was not about to reduce our usage (CPU/memory) to levels which Lunarpages would allow us to return to the "Production server."
In fact, the support admins at Lunarpages told me our resource usage had actually grown .. such that we did not even qualify for their VPS program, but rather (they claimed) we needed a full-blown, dedicated server .. something I found difficult to swallow. (Especially when their cheapest dedicated server plan cost $100/month.)
So I moved the site (February 2008) to WiredTree, which is based in Chicago. This represents our first foray into the wonderful world of Virtual Private Servers (WiredTree VPS). And I must say (in hindsight), I wish I would've moved the site sooner. The site is much more responsive than it was at Lunarpages (tho it costs considerably more, too).
Rad Bloggage » Movable Type
Another turning point came in 2003, when I installed a copy of Movable Type 2.63 (dubbed Ye Olde Rad Blog) In 2006, I upgraded to version 3.35 (Ye Olde Rad Blog II). And in 2008, I installed the first open source version of Movable Type » MTOS 4.1 (Ye Olde Rad Blog III). Each new version came with major improvements over previous installations.
Movable Type Open Source 4.1, which I now use .. is arguably the most powerful blogging system on the planet .. next to its Commercial brother, which (for a price) comes with a few extra bells & whistles. I've also looked into Expression Engine, but decided MTOS was a better choice (at the time).
The blog allowed me to express myself with an ease not previously possible. Note that I've been "blogging" long before there was a word to describe it.
Regarding the blog and blogging, I realize my reader's time is valuable. So I try -- both with my selected topics and writing style -- to make time spent here worthwhile. You'll should also note that I endeavor to post original content (however lame that may be), and resist the impulse (as many sites do) to merely repost content found at other sites.
Google's AdSense Program
In the end however, I caved. But hey, it helps pay the bills. And nobody has complained. On the contrary, many have expressed approval. Fortunately, I've been hosting ads long enough that the sell-out doesn't bother me any more. =/ (Not sure if that's good or bad.)
The way Google's program works is » I determine the size & shape of the ads. Google determines which ads get placed .. based on page content, and how much a particular company might bid for a given keyword contained on my pages. My guide on Partitioning Strategies, for example, might receive ads for hard drives.
I only get paid when someone *clicks* on them. (Mere viewing pays nothing.) But enough about ads. They've become a fact of Rad life. Hopefully you don't find them offensive or distracting. Rest assured, I will never host any animated ads .. that flicker or distract from site content in an obnoxious way.
Acknowledgement & Appreciation
I would be remiss if I didn't thank the people who field questions and offer their (considerable) insight in the forums, which is a major part of the site. I can't list everybody, but I can certainly note the heavy-hitters.
- NightOwl (Olympia, Washington). He helps administrate the forums and has contributed his (surprisingly popular) Guide to Creating a Bootable CD/DVD, which now has its own dedicated board. NightOwl has a rare genetic mutation that allows him to stay awake for weeks at a time.
- Mr Magoo (Phoenix, Arizona). Can't say enough about him. I feel fortunate to have made his acquaintance. He's our resident Linux guru, and helps me with site/server admin questions. He also moderates and has contributed several cool guides, including:
- Christer (Sweden) Moderator, whose hobbies include glider pilot.
- "Pesky" (Bayou country) Moderator, and finder of great deals on Norton Ghost. Resident expert on external hard drives, especially those that work best with Norton Ghost.
- "Pleo" (where you from, Pleo?) Moderator, and author of our most eloquent posts. Pleo and I have been known to disagree from time to time. I appreciate how he's able to disagree without being disagreeable. He is our resident guru on ShadowProtect (by StorageCraft).
- Brian (New South Wales, Australia) Demigod. You're in good hands if Brian is helping you. His expertise is enchanting, and he has experience with many different Cloning programs.
- John (Orange County, near Los Angeles) Übermensch. He maintains the FAQ, and ensures the forum is operating properly in addition to offering insightful support.
- Nigel Bree (Kaiwaka, New Zealand) Ghost Developer. Nigel allows us a rare peak into the inner workings of Ghost. Always nice to have a developer visiting the forum. Beyong Ghost, Nigel knows a lot about many different subjects, and he's glad to help with trickier questions.
- Dan Goodall (Northern California) Special Guest. He shares insights in greater detail than normally available. Dan has been imaging & cloning hard drives since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
- Rama - Very knowledgeable. Rama, are you a developer, too?
- Ajay (India) - Must be the reincarnation of Rama, cuz he's equally knowledgable and showed up about the time Rama disappeared.
As you can see, the forums offer truly international support. (Radified International .. has a nice ring, doesn't it?) But we're more like a family. Many more folks help out in the forums. Too many to list here. You know who you are. You help make the site what it is (» Rad).
Recently, my technolust has been focused on website design, especially learning CSS .. on a professional level. [I've already learned (X)HTML.] Before this, my web-dev skills have been acquired on an ad hoc basis (only learning what I needed to know).
Now that I've shifted to learning on a professional level (by reading the best books on the subject), I'm much more comfortable implementing designs that I feel complement the content.
Actually, you can already see some of this now .. in designs found on pages such as the one you're currently reading, and the home page, and the forum (which I massaged into something more to my liking).
Where did I develop a lust for the things of technology? And how did this technolust become Nuclear Grade? See my » Nuclear pages.
Vaya con dios, amigos,
October, 2008 (update February, 2011)
Newport Beach, California