My Recommendation for the Best Massachusetts Home Inspector

Our recent home buying experience was one filled with lots of research, paperwork, planning, and conversing. At times it seemed overwhelming, and my wife did a great job of managing things, especially during times that wore me down. However, among all my interactions with attorneys, real estate agents, insurance agents and such, my experience with the home inspector was the best. If you're in the market to purchase a house in Massachusetts, I highly recommend Paul Rogoshewski of Harmony Home Inspection.

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Our New Home and the Home Buying Experience

For several years now my wife and I have been researching towns of Eastern Massachusetts to find the best neighborhood to begin a family. In 2006 the real estate bubble in the Northeast finally began to deflate, and for the first time in a decade it became a real estate buyer's market. Coupling the favorable market conditions with regular seasonal lows, we felt the time was right and this winter our search intensified.

We considered factors such as the best schools, lowest crime, amount of open space, commuting distance, housing prices, and overall quality of life. Each year Boston Magazine publishes comprehensive spreadsheets which rank nearly 200 Massachusetts towns by more than 30 factors, including population, average house prices, percent change in prices, student spending, SAT scores, MCAS scores (Science/Math, English), crime rates, contamination, open space, disease rates, average age, and much more. Although this data is published in tabular format as a magazine insert, on some years Boston Magazine made the data available via Excel or CSV document download. We've kept some of these downloaded comparisons and found them to be very handy.

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My first talk - ColdFusion MX 7 Server Administration

Introduction slide for lecture 14 of Developing Web-based Database Applications In December 2006 I was honored to provide my first public presentation ever as guest speaker for Harvard University's course Developing Web-based Database Applications (CSCI E-253). This course is part of the Extension School curriculum for the Master of Liberal Arts in Information Technology and the Certificate in Applied Science concentration in Information Systems and Electronic Commerce, and it focuses on the use of Oracle and ColdFusion MX as the vehicle of learning database design for the Web.

The instructor requested that I provide 2 hours of material for the full lecture on the topic of administering a ColdFusion server. This resulted in a very comprehensive crash course presentation on ColdFusion MX 7 Server Administration from page request flow, to understanding directory structure and critical config files, to managing the web server connector stub, to walking through the ColdFusion Administrator, and including ColdFusion and JVM tuning. As a conservative estimate, I spent nearly 30 hours of my own time to build the presentation.

The course was part of Harvard's Distance Education program, which provides live, streaming video from the classroom to remote students around the country and around the world, in addition to the local students in the classroom. My presentation was conducted in state of the art video production classroom equipped with a control booth, several remote controlled cameras, and two slide screens. The control booth technician made me feel like I was on a Hollywood stage, providing hand signals to me as he counted down to begin live broadcast.

Surprisingly, I did a decent job without any major hitches. You can imagine how stressing this scenario was for a first-time presenter. Based on this experience, I intend to review my presentation to expand or contract some topics as necessary. Then if there's a need, I may offer the presentation to other groups when time permits. Since having joined the ranks of ColdFusion QA this year I've been much busier than I was in Technical Support, and even more now that my wife and I immersed in house hunting and negotiating, but things should slow down by the Spring and allow me to get back to this.

For now, here's a few screen shots from the preso, and I may generate blog entries for each of these topics in the near future, but hopefully there's some value in just having these cartoon diagrams. You may also want to check out last year's post on How ColdFusion Receives and Processes Requests.

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ColdFusion Protocol Tags CFHTTP, CFINVOKE, CFLDAP support SSLv2

My reply to a comment to an earlier blog entry about importing SSL certificates into ColdFusion cacerts file for CFHTTP purposes warrants its own blog entry here as a separate topic.

The comment:

[cfhttp url="https://httpmailbox1.beta.etrac.net/submit-to-etra... method="post" port="xxx" proxyserver="xxxx" proxyport="xxx" >

I am having the same problem but I am using BlueDragon and CFMX. I am trying to connect to vendor using CFHTTP to send a XML file. The vendor keeps telling me that I am faliing the SSL handshake on his side. I was told by him that I needed to purchase a certificate form a trusted third party which we did (Verisign). This certificate was installed by my server team but I am refused connection at the vendor.

Do I need to export the vendors certificate and install it on my WebLogic server using the Keytool.


It sounds as if the vendor is requiring SSLv3 with client authentication, rather than SSLv2 with only server authentication. The documentation here describes the conditions where you may have to import a certificate into ColdFusion for SSLv2 for server authentication, but this is often confused with the requirement for client auth:

To use HTTPS with the cfhttp tag, you might need to manually import the certificate for each web server into the keystore for the JRE that ColdFusion uses. This procedure should not be necessary if the certificate is signed (issued) by an authority that the JSSE (Java Secure Sockets Extension) recognizes (for example, Verisign); that is, if the signing authority is in the cacerts already. However, you might need to use the procedure if you are issuing SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates yourself.


Lets back up a moment to consider the practical difference between SSLv2 and v3. First, imagine a simple HTTPS connection between a browser and server. A user at a browser types in the URL of a website beginning with https:// and the brower makes the request. Lets assume that the server is using SSLv2. The request gets to the server and the server replies with a message header stating it supports SSLv2 and sends its certificate. The browser receives the SSL certificate, inspects it, and negotiates a session key to be used for the remainder of the request/repsonse communication. This negotiation period is known as the SSL handshake.

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I've been Schmapped!

Schmap Brussels Guide
This week I received an email in my Flickr account from the editor of Schmap Guides requesting the use of several of my Brussels photos:

I am writing to let you know that four of your photos with a creative commons license have been short-listed for inclusion in the second edition of our Schmap Brussels Guide, to be published mid-October 2006.


Schmap Guides are described as:

Every Schmap Guide comes with dynamic maps, useful links, playable tours, top picks, plus photos and reviews for 100s of sights and attractions, hotels, restaurants, bars, parks, theaters, museums...


I'm thrilled to be included this interactive guide that is free to download and run (Windows only though). I've read some thoughts on this from other bloggers about Schmap's creative marketing strategy, but I won't over analyze it here. Rather, I'll just say that I'm pleased to freely share my photos for non-commercial purposes whenever possible so long as attribution is given, something formalized in the Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution Share-Alike license. Sure, they might generate revenue with Ads, but they don't charge for the use of the Schmap player to browse cities. No doubt, this is a Web 2.0 idea.

Otherwise, this has been a good year for getting my photos into publications. I'm considering moving into professional photography, at least on the side, and for now I'm trying to gain some exposure, so to speak. This year started with a bang when my photo of Main Street's Market and Cafe was selected for the cover of New England Print and Publisher magazine. Most recently, The Writer magazine requested a different photo of the same cafe on Main Street in Concord, MA for use in their upcoming December 2006 issue. I've also had numerous requests to use my photos in newsletters and other small publications, including Indiana University Faculty Newsletter, the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture, and the online Concord Magazine..


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Two day seminar in the Boston area: Deep AJAX

At this week's Boston CFUG presentation of AJAX by Rob Gonda, a new member informed us of an upcoming, comprehensive seminar on AJAX sponsored by the Greater Boston Chapter of the ACM. At Harvard University's Maxwell Dworkin center, this two day conference Deep AJAX will feature speakers from Yahoo!, the Dojo Toolkit, and the Django Framework, running the weekend of October 14th at a cost of $495. I won't be able to attend it unfortunately, but just wanted to get the word out if you're in the area.

Deep AJAX
A two day deep dive into developing real world applications using AJAX
AJAX - more an approach than a technology - is one of the hottest topics for Internet developers. AJAX builds rich interactive applications using standard browser technology, enabling delivery of sophisticated user experiences without the problems of distributing and updating client software.

Two Upcoming Online Meetings: FusionDebug and ColdFusion Security

Thanks to Charlie Arehart and Adam Wayne Lehman, the Online ColdFusion Meetup Group will conduct two online events in October. Be sure to check out Charlie's blog for a multi-part series on FusionDebug.

Please note the time: The event times are in US/Eastern Timezone. For timezone conversion, see:
http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-bin/tzc.tzc

Click on the event link below to RSVP. On the event detail page, see the link under MORE INFORMATION for the Breeze Meeting URL. Then at the specified time and date, go to that URL and enter as a GUEST using your name, but on the login page please use the form field towards the right which does not require a password.

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New event for The Online Coldfusion Meetup Group: Rob Gonda on AJAX

Welcome Back ColdFusion Enthusiasts!

The summer is winding down, and most everyone has returned from vacations, so the Online ColdFusion Meetup Group is getting fired back up. To kick off the first online event this fall, Rob Gonda will present on AJAX, in the context of ColdFusion applications.

If you have ideas for topics or speakers you'd like to see, please contact me to let me know. Nate Nelson is preparing a couple talks on Advanced SQL, so look for those in the near future, too.

Thanks!
Steven Erat
Organizer, OCFMG

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ColdFusion Training from Fig Leaf Software is a valuable experience

Earlier this week I was very fortunate to attend ColdFusion MX 7 training from Fig Leaf Software. It was a great experience, and even though I recently passed the Certified Adv ColdFusion MX 7 exam, I still found the course very helpful. The 5 hours spent on Flash CFForms was the highlight of the course for me since this is one area where I've haven't spent much time.

My manager requested a brief follow-up of my experience in the course to assess the value of the material and the quality of the instruction. I'd like to extend my internal recommendation to my blog to share with everyone else.

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Science blog on cloning research at Harvard

Science Blog has a long blog posting today about Harvard's Stem Cell Institute and their initiative to begin human cloning or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, including thoughts on the work, the history, and the controversy.

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