Personal Computing Web hacking

A house call goes wrong

While looking after his church’s Ubiquity UniFi network plant, the Moocher scrapes his knuckles. A simple update and put guest policies on the various guest wireless networks.

A year ago a local managed network services contractor configured our USG, switches, and access points. The church played the role of contractor subbing some of the wiring, doing some ourselves, and hiring a network installer to dress out the rack and install the service outlet plates. A second contractor configured the church purchased network core.

A year later, we discover that one of our contractors had left the guest WiFi networks open to the main LAN from whence the controller could be configured. So change that right? Yes, but not from the WiFi. All hell broke loose. The hot wash is after the break.

Personal Computing Technology Web hacking

Moving to Unifi USG Router

For the longest time, Apple Airport Extreme secured the Dismal Manor networks. This began back in 2002 when, out of curiosity, the Head Moocher bought an Air Port Express to add WiFi in the early days. The Moocher had noticed that firmware updates kept showing up for the Airport products so concluded, rightly, that Apple was making an effort to keep these products up to date and secure. When Apple discontinued the Airport product line, it was time to move on. But to what?

Home automation Personal Computing Technology Web hacking

Further thoughts on the GDS3710

The Grandstream 3710 Door System provides a video intercom, security camera (its recordable using compatible NVRS), RFID reader, and door unlock control relay. The device has a contact input that can be used for an inside exit demand input and a second that can be used as a door status sensor input. And all of this for the price of a door controller from HID or AXIS.

This is a new device so it has a few rough edges. This post talks about the rough edges.

Web hacking

Updating a WordPress Page at a future time

Ever need to update a club page at some time in the future? There’s actually a way to do it using Tao Schedule Update plugin.


Web hacking

Do It Yourselfer’s Guide to Web Hosting

A couple of years ago, I wrote a guide to web hosting for small non-profits having relatively simple content management system based sites. Since then several acquaintances have asked about personal web hosting for DIY efforts by folks who are not software engineers. This article explains the planning you need to do in the beginning and why I use WordPress for this DIY site.

This guide is intended to be of some service to my artist, dog breeder, and hobbyist friends making promotional sites or personal communications sites like this one. There are many hosts out there but most of what is written evaluates hosts for use by small agencies and solo web services consultancies. There is little for the DIY community.

Web hacking goes live

This has been a busy week bringing live. Earlier, I wrote an article about developing an Open Outreach Drupal 7 based site for my church. This summer, I joined ODU Institute for Learning in Retirement and joined the communications and technology committee. At the first meeting I found myself volunteered to become webmaster and committee chairman as both incumbents were eager to move on to other roles.

The old site at was originally developed in the early days of ODUILR using Microsoft Front Page. The site had a dated look and was difficult to update. It was appropriate in the club’s early days but now that we are 700 members and 100 or so programs, social events, and trips per year, the organization has outgrown the old site.

Web hacking

Hosting Options for Small Non-profit Web Sites


ODU Virginia Beach Higher Education Center


This spring, I enrolled my church in Google Apps for Non-profits. Being new to the process, we started with a Small Business Trial enrollment, then the non-profits enrollment, and finally, tying the two together.

Today, I started my second Google Apps for Non-Profits application, this one for Old Dominion University Institute for Learning in Retirement. ODU ILR is an almost all-volunteer run non-profit. We have two office staff that handle member enrollment, program registration, book keeping, and receive the member’s program fees for us. We have a web site, accounting system, member enrollment and course registration system, and do mass mailings. Most of these systems were established in the 1990’s and have become dated, especially our MS FrontPage and E-mail.

Web hacking

Google Apps for US Houses of Worship, Part 2

Google Apps for Non-Profits

Google offers its Google Apps services to qualified non-profit organizations. In the United States to qualify an organization must be either a

  • US IRS 501c3 corporation whose Employer ID number is registered as such in the IRS EIN database
  • An affiliate of a 501c3 corporation that has established an Group Exemption Number and has included the affiliate in the group.

To verify your status, Google checks the IRS database. If your organization qualifies, its records will include a group exemption letter like the one shown below.

Google Accepted IRS Group+Exemption+letter+formatThe annotations to the right show the information that Google requires.

Google Follows the Rules!

Back in the spring I wrote about applying for Google Apps for Non-profits on behalf of my church, Unitarian Church of Norfolk. Apparently, our application awoke Google and they have developed stricter guidelines for application processing. At the time UCN applied, UUA had established its EIN as a 501C3 qualified corporation but had not established an affiliated-organizations group number.

At the time, Google let UCN slide in to home. Since then, Google has expanded Google Apps for Non-Profits to the UK, Japan, and more. As the program has grown, they have become stricter about the rules. UC Boise attempted to apply in late summer of 2014 and was unable to find a way through the maze. Like most Unitarian Universalist churches, they were relying on their existence as a house of worship to provide tax-exempt status. They, like UCN, had not enrolled as an IRS 501C3 corporation. And the UUA has not established an exempt affiliates group.

UC Boise’s experience is that Google strictly requires one of two things.

  1. The church’s qualified EIN
  2. The church’s membership in a qualified group

Further, Google is requiring that this be verified electronically by query to the IRS database. They are no longer crawling submitted paperwork.

Becoming a 501C3 Corporation

The process is not complex but it will take a day or two of a member’s time to complete the IRS paperwork. The rub is that the IRS charges an $850 fee to process the application. This is a significant one time expense that would have a 1 to 3 year payback time depending on the number of Google Apps seats needed. Most houses of worship will want from 5 to 15 seats to cover employees and church jobs that need E-mail. Google Groups may be used to reduce the number of addresses needed. Google Groups is useful for church activities that don’t need to have an official voice. Most committees are better served by groups but minister, office, web admin, and the officers really should have E-mail accounts.

Two IRS forms are of interest. Form 1828 describes the regulations governing US houses of worship. Form 1023 is used to file to become a 501c3 organization.

Form 1023 includes the application, instructions, and fee information. The applicant’s yearly budget determines the fee with a break point at $10,000/year. Most churches will be above the break point and will incur the $850 fee (2014). The IRS estimates that it will take 8 to 16 hours to gather the relevant supporting information.

The wise church will apply for 501c3 status while its budget is below $10,000/year. Although not strictly required for tax purposes, membership has its advantages like free Google Apps for Non Profits.

 An Alternate Google Apps Approach

UC Boise has elected to use Google Apps for Small Business which provides similar features (but probably not the new Classroom product). Google charges small businesses $5/E-mail per month or $50 for the year prepaid. UC Boise has elected to establish 5 accounts, probably a workable minimum. Most congregations will want accounts for the following billets

  •  Minister
  • DRE
  • Office
  • President
  • Treasurer

It is good to have accounts for the Webmaster and Google Apps admin but these can be directed to the office. This design will cost UC Boise $250 per year. With a more robust 15 accounts, Google’s bill would be $75 per month or about the same as the phone service. This more robust provisioning would cover the rest of the officers, provide Google Apps and Webmaster dedicated accounts, and provide an account for the Volunteer Spot volunteer coordinator.

By way of comparison, $75/month is about the cost of high speed Internet service or telephone service for 3 lines from Cox Communications in Tidewater.

Why Google Apps?

The more astute moochers out there will quip that free services will do all of the stuff that Google Apps does. That is indeed true. Zoho does E-mail, Dropbox and Evernote support collaboration, YouTube is free, etc. Why Google? Generally, when a service is free, facts about the users are the product. Be sure you read the terms of service and understand the acceptable uses and what the provider will do with information derived from your activity.

UCN elected to go the Google Apps for Non-profits route because

  • 50 or so of our fellow congregations had blazed the trail
  • There is a single point of administration and control
  • All services can be UCN branded
  • Key services G-mail, hangouts, drive, YouTube, etc are increasingly integrated


Site changes Web hacking

New URL:

The New URL

Today, I finally took the plunge and gave this beast it’s own URL, Those of you having book-marked will find that you are forwarded to Please update your book-marks as Automattic makes no promises about how long the mapping will be maintained.

I registered the domain indirectly via Automattic, the fine folks who make WordPress and operate Automattic still hosts the blog for me. For a simple, no-frills site like this one, it made sense to do it all with Word Press rather than registering separately with EasyDNS at retail. That route would have been a bit more complex and expensive. Word Press with a custom URL is $26/year. There will still be an advert at the bottom and I’m still restricted with respect to theme choice and plug-in choice but the stock 2014 theme and plug-ins meet my needs.

Web hacking

Web Scale Software Challenges for Lay Folk

An Example

This post grew out of a chat with Jae Sinnett, a great jazz drummer, composer, band leader, and music educator here in Tidewater Virginia. Jae likes to write essays about jazz music and the joys and trials of being a working jazz musician. He publishes these on Facebook and he writes well and at length. But Jae’s essays often come out as a single block of text with the paragraph breaks missing.

Thinking Jae had not discovered the secret sauce for getting Facebook to create a paragraph break, I commented on a recent essay to describe the shift-return technique. It turned out that Jae knew this technique but that it worked or failed at random. What could be going on?