[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

A Brief History of Sudhar.com

I am not sure if anyone is interested in knowing more about how I got this site up and running, but alteast let me write it, if only for myself. Warning:Read only when you have lots of time at your disposal and if you dont easily get mad at reading boring stuff 🙂

The history of the site goes back to may 1999. Thats when I got www.sudhar.com registered. It was more out of curiousity to get a domain registered on my name, with no idea of what to do with it. For an year or two after that, the domain name was doing nothing, except debiting my credit card for the annual charges. Somewhere in 2001 came the reniasance day, I came across a personal website of somebody in singapore. It was a well presented personal site and i really liked the way the guy presented himself on the web. Naturally, the kind of person I am, I wrote to that guy asking him how he got his site up and running and what he did with hosting. He was kind and prompt enough to reply soon with the details. He was hosting with Pegasus Web Tech in US and had only good things to say about the ISP. I called them up, enquired about the services and opened up a very basic (and cheapest) account with them for 50MB of disk space and windows hosting. The very next, I put together a rudimentary website, mostly copying/recreating design/layout from other personal website. It was only about myself, my immediate family members and a handful of pictures. Hence sudhar.com was born. It may not sound a great story, but was a great moment for me. Try to get yours up and running (do it yourself), you know what I mean exactly.

The site and the hosting partership with pegasus went very well. The initial spirit was soon gone and I failed to update the site with anything. I was working with CBSI ( convansys now ) then. I switched jobs to KPMG Consulting ( BearingPoint now ) in July 2002 and its a pity I had to force myself to update the home page where I had mentioned I work for CBSI, to BearingPoint and that remained the only change for a very long time. Everyone who knew about the site were bitching me that it wasnt any different from what it was, when they saw an year back.

HTML Editor: Though the site remained static and unchanged for a year, the thought of making it an up to date had been hitting every now and then. Every time I see a good persoanl website, I get excited and start looking HTML editors and online reviews. On one of those occasions of soul search, I came across Trelix Web. It was a cool, light weight HTML editor that helped HTML-illiterate folks design personal/business websites in matter of few hours, if not minutes. I was tired of trying to think of myself as a web designer, so I was badly in need of some help. Trelix was not coming for free and I had looked at freeware HTML editors of no use. If paid less than 100 bucks (not sure!) and bought Trelix Persoanl Editon. I tried to create a new look and feel for sudhar.com and I indeed got a new look in almost a few hours, mostly with out of box templates. It also helped me easliy publish into my FTP server on Pegasus. All of a sudden, I thought my website had become easier. I contined to be in love with Trelix for a few days, before I started realizing its clumsiness. Since I am software programmer by trade, I couldnt digest some of the workings of Trelix, specifically the way the HTML files/images were named and managed. This frequently bothered me from understanding what content was on what page and also linking them. I also had probelms with frames and other strange things. I was also unable to publish from another computer when I had no access to Trelix Web. Trying to understand the files name outside of Trelix web is a wasted effort. Perhaps, it was a strategy to lock the users in. Even then, I managed to make some updates here and there with my limited HTML knowledge, never using Trelix Web. As frequently happens to every other PC, my PC crashed one day. I had to reinstall OS, lost Trelix Web and chose not to reinstall it. The site remained with no change to either content and look and feel. A new born child of Internet, a personal publishing system called WebLogs was in the making, exploding in great silence.

Weblogs started spreading like wild fire. I spent a lot of time reading a lot of weblogs, of every kind from every continent. It actually takes no time to get attracted to weblogs. Reading weblogs, specifically weblogs published by real common people was fun. It also gave a boost to my thoughts that i could also write one. I didnt think I could have a weblog myself, until I came across Blogger.com ( now part of Google ). It was very easy to get started and I had a weblog for myself in a matter of few minutes. I was really excited and start posting something frequently, sometimes crap. All of a sudden I had a great feeling that I was a part of new online community. I didnt have a lot of things to write about, so I limited everything to my daily happenings and sometimes about sites/places I had been to. I am still amazed at how good some weblogs are. The people who write for them are just down to earth folks like you and I, writing mostly about what they have seen or heard or read. I had also set up the web log page to be hosted on my host server/website. I used to login to Blogger.com, write my logs and post into pegasus servers. I had a link from my still static website into the weblog. It didnt take long time before I got stagnated again. The laziness factor soon returned home and I did write a weblog for months together. If you go back and look at my monthly archives, you still see a lot of months missing in 2003. I guess I was waiting for the weblog industry to mature. It had by then coined scores of other words, like Blogosphere, Blogzilla, Blogrolling etc, each one obviously with its own site and technology.

Hosting @ Home:
Prasanna, a very good friend of mine and colleague from L-Cube has been my motivation to get started with Linux. Besides, he was also hosting his website from his home servers, running on Linux. Another colleague from L-Cube, Srini was working in Turbo Linux and he shipped me a full version of Turbo Linux the moment I told him I was interested in Linux. I didnt want to screw up my PC and so I chose to buy a throw away computer from eBay to play with Linux. To make an otherwise yet another long boring story short, I found a compaq desktop machine for $200 in eBay. I had Turbo Linux installed/configured the very same day I had got the shipment, ofcourse with Srini on the phone support. I didnt know head and tail of Linux. I installed apache and everything else I wanted to host my own website from home. Everything worked fine with the installation, except the important one, the Network Card. The primitive compaq desktop had a network card built into mother board and with my lack of linux OS configuration, I could get it identified by Linux. Poor srini and prasanna couldnt help me by phone. Atlast I made the natuarl choice to return back to Microsoft and with my sense of desperation and urgency, installed W2K the very next day!

The enthusiasm didnt last long as I couldnt set up the hosting of sudhar.com from home, or atleast I couldnt do it myself. As always, I continued to use time as an excuse to convince myself. For the first few days, the poor pc remained next to the other better PC, inviting my roommates attention. They took a while to tell me, but finally they did, that I could save some space on our computer table, if I moved it out of that area. I had no choice but to oblige and moved it into a corner in my bedroom, though feeling sad, but assuring myself that i would soon bring it back on to the main computer room to give it the honour of hosting my website. I lied again. It was resting peacefully until a while ago.

A few important things happened in my life and I moved to new jersey. The poor old compaq, resting without power for months now, came over with me. As I parked him in a new corner in the room, I told myself that I am not doing justice to myself and ofcourse, to this lifeless PC. I decided to dig down and find out how to host from home and then move my website from my ISP to home. I knew I could also save 20 bucks a month. The timing couldnt have been better, my ISP ( pegasus web tech ) emailed me saying, the NT servers that I have been using with them, are retiring (microsoft doesnt support them anymore!) and that I have to move my site, myself, from their old systems to their new systems. They had to ask customers to move their own files, it ended being a trigger for my ego. The time had to come. I called up pegasus and said I would cancel my account by the end of the month. I started searching online as to how to move/setup the website from home. I didnt think then setting up a webserver at home to host our own website, could be so easy. I remembered I had registered a long time ago, another domain name ( website address ). I knew Network Solutions was the company, thru which I registered this other domain. I thought I would move sudhar.com domain name ownership to newtwork solutions as well, so I could have one stop management. This marked the beginning of a smooth transfer from pegasus to home based hosting. It was a breeze from then on. All I had to do was, wake up my poor compaq, get him hooked to an internet connection ( I already had a hub in place ), start IIS, configure network solutions account to point sudhar.com to my IP. The network connection sharing hub gets this IP from comcast ( my cable internet provider) and all the PCs conneted to the hub get internal local IP addresses. Though it took a couple of days for me to figure this out, but I knew I could do something to the hub to rediret the port 80 traffic to one of the internal computers. Eventually I nailed it out and Alas, sudhar.com was up and running from my home, from my own PC. It was a great feeling. I immediately moved the website html and image files from my back into the new website. The site looked the same, except it nows runs from home. I thought, now I had the freedom to try new things on my site, at my own liesure and from my bed side.

New Avathar & MovableType:
I continued to feel bad about the look of my website and about its content that never gets updated. I always felt updating the content for the website should be easy. I didnt want to spend time on HTML or images or anything like that. All I wanted to do was write, and it should show up there on www.sudhar.com. I was ready to provide content, but i wasnt ready to care about the look of the site. I spent nights looking at different HTML authoring tools. I knew they werent for me. I didnt want to be a web site designer, I just wanted a place to express my thoughts and share it. I continued to adimire weblogs, though I didnt post a lot through blogger. I knew that satisfied my core requirements of writing and posting for sharing, but I wanted a little more than that. I wanted control over the entire web site’s content. I had my eye of MovableType for a while. I knew it was free and easy to use. I just didnt know then, that it would change my site forever. After spending few more nights and days on reading about movable type, i decided to spend a day getting my hands wet. I spent about 5 hours downloading/installing and configuring it in the old pc. It was not difficult, but wasnt easy either. My wife was cursing me that I hadnt stepped off from the computer for 5 hours. I posted my first message into MT running from my site. It was yet another moment of elation. I soon started thinking about redesigning the entire website based on MT and importing all the content from the old into this. I spent an entire weekend for the redesign, a new Avathar of sudhar.com was born. This time it is centered around content and not looks. I felt even more happy. In just a few days time, I was doing things that I always wanted to. The excitement was apparent in everything else I did. I felt successful in a whole. The site you are reading from today, thus evolved. The new look and the frequently updated content, gives a kind of feeling, of great achivement may be.

All of a sudden writing content for website had become very easy. I now post very frequently. We even created a separate weblog for myself and Harini. To my surprise, she turns out to be a good writer. Friends and family now get details of anything happening here much sooner.

I also made some analysis on online photo albums and spent yet another hard-working night to install and configure Gallery, a php based tool. The photos link from the left side main menu takes you to gallery. This now makes our life a million times easier to post any new set of pictures into my website. I just need to upload them to Gallery by pointing to a directory where I have my pictures scanner and just name the album, boom…the new album will be up online at sudhar.com, in a minute.

All of this had made my life easier and happier and ofcourse, makes me do what I really wanted to do, WRITE.

More updates to this story continues here : New Face of Sudhar.com

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