Keeping Up with Technology

I use an Excel macro to send my grades from a spreadsheet to my website, where students enter a password to see their grades.  For over a year, now, the macro has not worked.  With help from our school’s IT folks, I tracked the problem down to CylanceProtect, a sophisticated malware/virus detector installed on all the school’s computers.  CylanceProtect lets macros run as long as they don’t try to write anything to the hard drive, which my macro was trying to do.  The solution is to store the macro in a particular directory (IT told me its name) where such macros are allowed to run.

Another problem with the macro was how to get a file’s location when it is stored in Microsoft Onedrive.  You’d think that would be trivial in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), but it isn’t.   What is usually returned is a url instead of a directory.   I finally found a post telling how to get the directory path, so now my macro is up and running, again, and students can see how they are doing in my classes.

Since I’m editing web pages lately, I was, once again, wondering if there is a better web page editor available.  I’ve been using an older version of Adobe Dreamweaver at school, and Microsoft Expression (unsupported, but free) at home.  Amaya by W3C is a free, open-source editor that is OK, but hasn’t been updated since 2012.  Because Mozilla Firefox includes so many developer tools, I’ve often wondered if there is a way to edit pages within Firefox.  Mozilla now has a Learn web development section, though it isn’t easy to find.  in the “Complete beginner” section, they suggest starting with the Brackets text editor.  I’m thinking, “I don’t want a text editor, I want to edit web pages and see what the edited page looks like.”  Times have changed:  click the “live preview” icon and the content of the web page being edited is dynamically displayed in Google Chrome (or in Firefox, if experimental live preview is turned on).  I’m going to start using Brackets to create and edit my web pages.

Updating the Website

I’ve added SSL/TLS security to the website. I had to pay $50 to buy a certificate to do that (the hosting company, opensourcehost.com, doesn’t support the free Let’s Encrypt certificates).  Now, these web pages have a green lock next to them in the address bar in Firefox, and the address starts with https://, which indicates that the site is secure in regards to having entered personal data, such as passwords, picked up while the page is being transferred from your computer to this site’s server.

Yet another bit of security was required by the school:  Troy University doesn’t want data transmitted over the internet by ftp because the data isn’t encrypted, so I had to figure out how to make SSH (Secure SHell) work on this site.  Fortunately, the required key is free, but it took a while to figure out how to get my preferred client, WinSCP, to handle SFTP (secure FTP) using SSH.  Now I can transfer grades and passwords to the site without worrying about them being intercepted along the way.

I’ve been thinking of adding blogging capabilities to the site for some time, and decided to do it today, so, now, WordPress has been installed.  Since it’s open-source, there was no charge.  However, to allow comments, I needed to have email capabilities on the site, so I’ve now got an extra email address:  cking@christopherking.name.  Fortunately, Microsoft Outlook handles this smoothly, and all my email is collected in the same “pot” as my cking@troy.edu email.