A Few Helpful Web Tools

Here’s a short list of three really cool and helpful web tools/technologies that I use on a daily basis that you should take a look at too.

OpenID

OpenID has been gaining lots of traction lately, and is definitely one technology you’ll want to keep on your radar. At its core, OpenID is an open specification for a distributed framework for web identity authentication. There’s a lot of buzzwords in that last sentence, but what it means to you is a really good way for you to sign into websites using a single ID and password.

Here’s how it works, as best as I understand. You sign-up with an OpenID provider (or create your own OpenID server, if you’re into that) and create an OpenID that is unique across the Internet. I currently use, and recommend, MyOpenID if you’re looking for a good provider. In most cases, it’s a website URL. Mine is actually the address to this blog. Then, when you go to an OpenID enabled website, you enter your OpenID instead of creating a new login and password account as you’re typically used to. The website then delegates authentication to your OpenID provider, which verifies your identity with a password and/or an additional security credential. If you successfully login, you’re passed back to the original website, where you’ll now be logged in.

This all might sound vaguely familiar if you remember Microsoft’s Passport, now called the Windows Live ID, but this implementation is different. Most importantly, OpenID is an open specification not owned by anyone, especially a huge corporation with questionable motives. Also, if you use your own website URL as your OpenID, you’re not locked into using any one OpenID provider, so you can move whenever you want.

OpenDNS

OpenDNS is a free DNS service you can point your computers to in order to get some pretty nice features. It’s quite a bit faster than the DNS service you’re most likely getting from your ISP, so your web browsing will be quicker. It also warns you of known phishing websites and auto-corrects misspelled URLs. If you take a few minutes to setup an account, you can also turn some additional filtering and features on or off.

This one is free, and only takes you a minute or two to setup when following their really good step-by-step instructions. There’s really no reason not to use this one.

Coral Cache

The Coral Cache is a distributed content delivery system that comes in handy when trying to get to a website facing lots of traffic. It basically serves as a back-up if the original web host is unavailable. To use it, simply append .nyud.net:8080 to the end of the host name in any URL. For example, here’s what the URL to one of my most popular pages looks like when “coralized”: http://www.berbs.us.nyud.net:8080/archives/2006/02/03/moneydance/.

The first time anyone checks for a web page in the Coral Cache, the system attempts to go out to the source and retrieve a copy, which it will then display in the browser. If it finds that it’s already in the cache, you see the copy immediately.

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