August 14, 2008

Expressing in Sanskrit is now more fun

After the success of Sanskrit-Digest, we are now offering a couple of fun ways for students to express in Sanskrit on the web.

In a survey, a consistent pattern was noticed among several Sanskrit students. Many students in India study Sanskrit during their school days, but they do not get an opportunity to speak or use the language after graduation. As a result, they forget the language very soon.

These students should be given opportunities to converse in Sanskrit on a regular basis, and they should be fun too. So today, we're launching Sanskrit-Expressions - An online community tool that will enable interaction among Sanskrit learners. It has two components to it: Word-Game and Two-Liners.

The Word-game helps the users build their Sanskrit vocabulary steadily, while the Two-liners will encourage them to frame short-sentences and converse in Sanskrit. Further, the users will have complete control over their data (create/update/delete) at all times. One can also keep track and follow other writers via RSS feeds. These tools are proven to be effective tools in the past, and are used in several domains. Now, they are available to the Sanskrit community for the first time.

I conceive this as a proof-of-concept to fix a commonly observed problem which hinders the spread of Sanskrit. If user response for 'Sanskrit-Expressions' is on a high note, new features such as Online-Chat-Rooms shall be soon be launched.

Thanks to the sincere efforts of several NGOs such as Samskrita Bharati which enabled many to embrace Sanskrit in their daily lives. Regular Sanskrit workshops are conducted by Samskrita Bharati in India and abroad. With increasing number of Sanskrit teaching institutes, it is now important to retain the interest of the people and help them stay in touch with the language. Engaging in Satsang and community-meet is a good way to appreciate the language. For the Computer Savvy, online tools like 'Sanskrit-Satsang' can help build an e-Community for Sanskrit speakers.

August 13, 2008

Elgg and WP-BuddyPress - Evolving the Social Networking space

New BuddyPress Default ThemeImage by Andy Peatling via FlickrScheduled for release on Aug 18, Elgg v1.0 is set to create a stir in the world of social networking scripts. With an open-source strategy, it has won the laurels of many. It already has a well established community for the Classic Elgg v0.9, and hopes to expand its market with the new release. The v1.0 is advertised to be more flexible and robust in design, and allows developers to create custom social apps with ease.

The best feature of Elgg is the access controls that empower users to control who can see their data. Elgg is used by a few Universities and large organizations, and thus demonstrates its scalability.

However, here are a few things to have in mind before you embrace it for your new webapp.

  • The community is not as large as that of Wordpress.
  • There are no ready-made plugins yet for integrating thirdparty components with Elgg (Ex: Integrating a MediaWiki or BBpress). You may expect them in future.
  • Its hard to find developers/freelancers for developing with Elgg
  • There are not many themes available out on the web.

Well... A good alternative to Elgg is BuddyPress, a project backed by Wordpress. BuddyPress is a set of WordPress MU specific plugins, each plugin adding a new distinct social feature. The idea of BuddyPress is to take a standard vanilla installation of WordPress MU and turn it into something that represents more of a community building tool, or niche social network. The new theme developed by Andy is awesome. See it for yourself on the sandbox.

BuddyPress is still new and half baked right now. Wordpress has promised to complete the project by the end of this year. The lead-developer Andy Peatling has done a terrific job of adding the social layer over WP-MU edition. He is now employed by Automattic, the company who makes Wordpress.

BuddyPress or Elgg??? Hmmm...
  • Wordpress has a larger community, easy to find freelancers to work on it, plenitude of themes and plugins, and has a huge community.
  • Elgg v1.0 on the other hand has the best access controls for users, more flexible in design, and has been well-tested for over an year.
  • Developing on Elgg may require more work and tech knowledge to integrate various third-party components, build a theme, and configure it.

Next week, I will get my hands on both of them and test the waters. So until then, I cannot choose one over another.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

August 05, 2008

How to Secure Your Web Application

Disclaimer: This is a guest post written by Heather Johnson, who writes on the subject of dial up Internet.

Web applications will install firewall to restrict unauthorized access to ports 80 and 443. But these don’t exactly stop unwanted attacks that come over these ports. There is much more that a web professional should do in addition to installing firewall. We’ve come up with a list that should help you sew up any holes that may appear in your latest web application that you’re working on. Without further ado here’s our list that should help maintain the integrity of your newest program:

  1. Limit access to your profile. One of the first things a hacker looks for is information regarding your web server. Be sure to take away the server header from the response of your web server. Go ahead and map out different paths to the file extensions of your dynamic pages. Take steps to ensure your machine isn’t named something that could identify its operating system. Take out your personal information from your WHOIS records that help someone in a social engineering attack.

  2. Authenticate. Unfortunately you can’t always trust the users that visit your website. You need to have your users authenticate who they are and their intent for visiting your site. You want to try to separate legitimate traffic from traffic that can hurt you. We’re not saying that every user is evil, but you need to be aware that there are unsavory people out there that try to hurt people in your position.

  3. Always be ready for the worst. If your server is compromised it’s important that you go offline and plug up any holes. You need to protect customer data such as credit card information and in order to do so you need to install security software that will protect this information.

  4. Always be monitoring. Instead of waiting to take care of a problem after it occurs if you are constantly logging your website’s activity you can help avoid a problem instead of simply reacting to it. Make sure you pay careful attention to your server’s error log.

  5. Don’t execute a poor request. There will be times when a user’s request is simply not good for you. Many attacks occur that attempt to modify the HTTP request that will end up create an averse effect. You should set up the positive model that will only allow what you want to allow; everything else should not be allowed to be processed on your site.

This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who writes on the subject of dial up Internet. She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.