Archive for July, 2008

When to buy Vista so it doesn’t suck!

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I have a number of PC’s at my disposal with both Vista Home Premium and XP Professional running on them.  My main PC is running Vista with a quad core CPU with 4GB Ram as I do a fair bit of design and graphics work.  My PC was built to run Vista among other things.

I frequent a lot of forums and to be honest I for one am sick of reading the ‘should I upgrade to vista threads’.  These will continue as most people hate to use a search tool on forums and often make a post like this hoping for the answer they want to hear but often see the one they don’t.

The Operating System (OS) you use be that Windows, Linux or Apple is a personal choice, however it is also a hardware choice.  In that I mean you would not try (or should I say you should not) and run Vista for example on a Pentium IV 1.8 ghz PC with 512MB ram (see my note below re minimum requirements).  While it might run (or walk) the computer was never designed to run Vista.

I do a small amount of desktop support mainly for relatives and I am often told that the computer shop salesman said that Vista will run on their old machine.  Just the other week a relative asks me to come over and have a look at their computer as it is all of a sudden running slow.  Well guess what they installed Vista because the salesman told them too.

It would be easy to blame the salesman for saying it should work but I believe it is the user to blame.  My reason is that for any purchase you make be it software, hardware, a car or even a house you should do your homework.  If your PC was bought with XP stay with XP unless you have made some good hardware upgrades.

I know there are also quite a few places that sell new PC’s with Vista that can hardly run Vista very well, this I believe is the salesman and shops fault but again the buyer should ask to see it running with the applications that the client is going to use.  Kind of like taking a car for a test drive.  Just ensure that the computer your testing it on in the shop is exactly the same specifications as what they are selling you and get it in writing if you can.

For those that have already bought it, what to do now that you have Vista?  Well if its an older machine, uninstall it and reinstall XP or update your hardware – plain and simple.

I often have a chuckle to myself about all the bagging Vista gets and will frequently make an argument for Vista rather than against it.  I find Vista far better than XP but again I have a PC that is well above the minimum requirements to run Vista.

Microsoft suggested minimum requirements for Vista

Microsoft suggested minimum requirements for Vista

So what are those minimum requirements you say?  Well this is where it gets interesting as Microsoft on their own site suggests;

  • An 800 MHz processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • A 20 GB hard drive with 15 GB of free space

Well I am here to tell you again while it might run (or crawl) it will not run well and really Microsoft needs a slap to the back of the head for those suggested minimums.

So I looked further and they have additional system requirements recommendations;

Microsoft recommended Vista requirements

Microsoft recommended Vista requirements

For Home Basic

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 512 MB of system memory
  • 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory

For Home Premium / Business / Ultimate

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
    • WDDM Driver
    • 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)
    • 32 bits per pixel

Again in my opinion these are still too low and should not be recommended as minimums.

My suggested minimum is;

  • Intel or AMD CPU at 2.4ghz or better, dual or quad core preferred (32 or 64 bit)
  • 2GB DDR2 ram
  • 160GB harddrive – but with hard drives so cheap go to 500GB
  • 256MB PCI-E video card

If you have those minimums the PC will run very well with Vista.  If you do not have anything close to that by all means try Vista but please please don’t complain on your local newsgroup or forums that Vista sucks as you should be using XP.

I am also sure that those that read this post will want to bag MS no matter what they do and that is your choice but please do that elsewhere, I for one am quite happy using MS products such as Vista and will probably continue to do so for a long time…

So does Vista suck?  Well no, not in my view.  I find it far better than XP and more intuitive once you get use to the few ‘minor’ layout changes and where things are.  I also find it handles multi tasking far better with little to no memory issues with many many windows open (remember I have 4GB) whil eon XP I continually had memory issues even with 3GB+ ram.

Crystalxp.net Bricopacks

Crystalxp.net Bricopacks

Visually Vista is nicer than XP but that should not be the only reason to go Vista, if that is your only reason for wanting Vista then there are many sites where you can get a Vista theme for your XP that will turn your XP machine into a virtual Vista one – the best is CrystalXP.

Personally I have never had an issue with Vista and while many are already looking ahead to Windows 7 please bear in mind that when that arrives that too will have its own issues and minimum system requirements and I am sure the same people that are bagging Vista will bag Windows 7.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be interested to read any of your similar stories…

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is an important (if not vital) part of any website.  In fact it is one of those things you need to do before you design your website.  If you already have a web site it is not too late to make use of SEO on your website and with a bit of hard work and consistency you will hopefully find your website better used and also able to be found in the major search engines.

So what is SEO and how can you make best use of it for your website…

Before I go further just a note…  If you have read my ‘About page’ you may note I am all for open source and the sharing of information, unfortunately with SEO there are many out there charging a heck of a lot of money to do SEO for you.  I am not saying it is not worth it as it can be, just be very selective with who you use – no I cannot recommend anyone.

I also believe for the smaller to mid size websites (even some larger ones) you can do much of the SEO yourself, but this can also come down to individual skill levels and knowing what to use.

First what is SEO?

Wikipedia defines SEO as ‘Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results or the higher it “ranks”, the more searchers will visit that site. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.’

So what does that really mean, well you could visit Wikipedia and read through the history, its development and use.  You could also do a Google for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation (or Optimization) and you will get a very long list of websites that discuss and even try and help you with SEO, I know I have read many of them ?.

The process of SEO is simply preparing or modifying your website for search engines to read and index your website, that’s it in a nutshell, no more no less.  While that sounds simple the process of getting your site ready for SEO can be a lot of hard work and be rather time consuming as you make edits and modifications to best suit your site.  So here is a list of what I consider you should think about when looking at SEO for your website.

1.    Don’t overuse words or bury hidden keywords.

I recall a comment made by a fellow peer that said trying to cheat the search engines is like playing with fire in that if you think you can fool them into thinking your website is better than someone else’s by embedding repeated keywords, duplicating content, repetitive content and so on to try and cheat the system you better give up now as the major search engines have the knowhow in its systems and its people to outwit you and using any method to try and cheat the system could and most probably will result in your site being delisted and banned.

By cheating I mean where you try and over use keywords or key phrases in a non natural language sense and are only added to try and score ranking only.  While use of your main keywords and the like are important don’t abuse them.  As to what is the correct balance is really back to your content.  If the pages content uses your keywords and key phrases in a logically and natural language way then all should be fine.

2.    Don’t use competitors keywords (names)

I have lost count of how many times I have told people and clients of mine you cannot and should not use your competitors names in your content, keywords and the like unless of course you want to advertise for them.

I get the ‘ I did a search for “X” and these five web sites were first listed in Google so I want to use all their words in my keywords list’ – don’t do it….  Find and use keywords that related directly to you not your competitor.

3.    Don’t assume you know what people want or are searching for

You know your product, you know your service, you know what you’re about, but do your customers?  What you search for to find yourself may not be what the general public will use to find you.  On a scrap piece of paper or a white board do a think-tank on words, words that describe what your site is about, what your products are and what you provide.   Build yourself up a good list of terms and phrases and test them, do some Google or Yahoo searching for those keywords and key phrases and make notes about the results.

If you can ask an audience about keywords or key phrases about your product or service, get out there it is all networking and it also helps getting your name known.

4.     Research your keywords and key phrases

Once you have a set of keywords and key-phrases you need to check for alternatives, do some more research (remember how I said this can be a lot of work).  There are some great online resources for this to look at search engine statistics and to see how many people are searching for specific terms.  The main two I use are Keyword Discovery and Word Tracker.  If you have not yet used these before then you may like to take up their free trial and that might be just enough to get you started.  While the monthly or annual costs for these services in my opinion are too high the value you can obtain from them can be invaluable.

5.    Decide on your main keywords and key-phrases

Now that you have done all your research and identified all your keywords and key-phrases you will hopefully have noticed some core terms and phrases that are at the top of your lists.  These are what I call ‘your main keywords’.  It is these keywords you use most in your sites content to draw attention to them and to attract search engine indexing of your site for those keywords.  Be careful to only use them in a natural sense, remember point 1 don’t over use them in an unnatural way.  By ‘natural way’ I mean using them in titles, use them in sentences as part of site content and so on but do not repeatedly add them as hidden text or meta keywords over and over again.

6.    Add good content with your keywords and key-phrases

Content is very important to the major search engines like Google and Yahoo, you may have even come across the phrase ‘Content is King’.  This is not far from the truth as it is content that is indexed, especially if it is new and well structured.  With your keywords and key-phrases write a series of content articles using those keywords and key-phrases in your titles and links.  Remember to use headings correctly in your content and follow the most important first to least important last structure with your content.

7.    Use headings correctly

Too often I see websites use heading tags too much, especially the <h1> tag.  This tag is important yes but you need to limit its use, it should be reserved for the most important part of your site – know that that is?   It is your websites name – or it should be.

The title of the page/article should be using a H2 tag, this is the next level, if you have a few segments on the one page that are of high importance then by all means use H2 in a few places but remember the rule, most important first least important last.  Go further down to H3 and H4 tags where necessary, but only use them where necessary don’t use them unnecessarily, like overuse of keywords you can over use headings to your detriment too.

8.     Using Images or other media for title names in the header

If you use an image, flash or anything else media rich for your websites name in the header add a H1 tag to it and set a CSS style class for that H1 Tag to display:none.  This will assist the search engines to see what the title of your website is.  Yes you have it in the title tag but more importantly you need it in a H1 tag.  If you’re not sure how to do this then you may need to read up on CSS ?

9.     Test your website design for the blind

Everyone that has good eyesight loves to see all the nice colours, flash, sounds and everything else that make a website stand out from the crowd but what does it look like as text only.  You need to, and this is really a must, test your site for readability for the blind.  Not just for those people that are vision impaired but because search engines are blind.  While advances are being made by Google and Yahoo to index Flash and other media rich sites the pure text version is still at this stage the best for indexing.

If you use Firefox (if you don’t why not :P) you can test this very easily using the Web Developer plug-in by turning off css, images and the rest just to see your site in text only.

You should see a good structure of your page(s) with the most important text at the top and the least important last with headings appropriately structured from H1 down to H4 (if needed).

10.     Go with the flow

Following on from 9 above the flow of your content is important and cannot be stressed enough.  Whether read by you or someone that is vision impaired or by a search engine your page structure should flow from top to bottom as it is meant to.  There should be no difference in the flow of information if read in either method of media rich or text only.

11.    Keep your code clean

Making your site easy to read is one thing, making your website code readable is another.  Please remember to keep your html and CSS code clean and uncluttered.  Use comments where needed but not unnecessarily.  Make sure you use HTML tags appropriately.  If you need a list use UL and LI, for paragraphs use P and so on.  Tables should be used as tables not the design structure of your site, however do not over use DIV’s either.  I’m not totally against using tables for some layout needs but a good design can (and should) use few DIV’s with good CSS to make a sites layout flexible and easy to follow.

12.     Your Home page is your window to the world

Whether you are selling, buying, informing or anything else your home page is your front window to your audience and IS the most important part of your entire website so please don’t waste this opportunity to showcase yourself to the world.

I cringe when a client asks me for an entry page that does nothing more than try and be a showy entry page that adds no content value at all.  Don’t get me wrong there are some out there that do this well with SEO built into that page but it is not an easy thing to do or get away with.  I have lost count of how many websites I have gone to that starts with some flashy intro and I just go to the next website… ask yourself do you really need it.

Your home page should be about your site, easy to load, easy to read and summarise what your website is about.  It should entice any visitor to WANT to visit other pages of your site not drive them away.  Your use of your keywords and key-phrases here is important as it is most likely why you have a visitor as it is what they are looking for so use them,

Please don’t take this point as meaning the rest of your site is not important, it is but your home page should be well structured and summarise the rest of your sites content.

13.     Give meaningful names to your links

Please do not use ‘Click Here’ or Click Now’ links on your website.  Use descriptive content for your links.  Give your links some meaning that then goes to the page that obviously is related to that link meaning.  This is also a great way to use your keywords and key-phrases as links inside your content for additional indexing based on those keywords and key-phrases, but again don’t overdo it.  Ensure your links are relevant to your content and are maintained, especially if the links are to an external site.

14.     Link Checking

Having links on your site within your content is important for SEO, however having a series of dead links can be very detrimental.  Unfortunately websites come and go on a daily basis and you’re not always informed about those changes, actually your probably never informed.  There are a number of resources both free and commercial that allow you to do link checking.  Run these at least monthly to check on links within your site and update where necessary.

Also pay close attention to your own internal links, if you remove a page from your site that is probably linked to or indexed have a forwarder as in a redirect to the new page or an alternative page.

15.    404’s are not good but are a necessary evil

We all have them and we need them, and that is a 404 page.  A 404 page is a file not found page and these are VERY necessary in case of mistyped URL or heaven forbid you removed a page and forgot to add a redirect for it.  The web server 404’s are very plain and not helpful to anyone.  We are all use to 404’s but helpful 404’s can be very helpful to your SEO and website visitors.  There are many good examples of 404’s on the web – do a Google and have a look at other sites 404’s for examples, some are quite unique, entertaining and funny.

16.    Title for each and every page

Every page of your site needs a title and this title should be a title for that page not your entire site.  Don’t use the same title on every page, by all means incorporate your website name in the title but don’t leave it at that.  There is a 65 character limit (last I checked) for titles so use them all and best of all its free ?

17.     Listing in the Major Search Engines is Free

Following on from 16 above and I think we all need to consider this is that listing in Google, Yahoo and the rest does not cost you.  You are not charged for Google to index your site and you’re not charged to have your website appear in the search results.  The cost however is the time in developing how you will be indexed and appear in the search results.  I added this one as I have come across many sites trying to sell to you the number 1 spot on Google or elsewhere… don’t use them.

18.     Use of meta tags

This one is really up to you, I use them and have always done so, probably due to my background in managing organisational records.  There are many reports that say none of the search engines use them and likewise there are many that say that they are used.  I believe point 6 is more important, remember ‘Content is King’, however it does not hurt to use meta tags moderately either.  By moderate I mean again do not over use, don’t try and cheat the system and bury inappropriate keywords and key-phrases, only use what is part of and is most important to that pages content.

The basic meta tags I believe that you should include are;

<meta name="Description" content="A 150 character description of your website/page
 – don’t abuse it" />
<meta name="Keywords" content="your main content keywords separated by commas, these
should relate to the pages content – don’t abuse it" />

Other options;

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en">
<meta name="Revisit-after" content="XX Days" />
<meta name="Distribution" content="Global" />

19.     Give meaning to your navigation menu

If you don’t use them yet then this single point here will improve your SEO very quickly.  This is where you give your navigation menu items a descriptive title tag, for example <a href=”yourlink”  title=”name of page being linked to”>.  Do this for each and every menu item you have in your menu/navigation and very soon you will reap the rewards.

20.    Alt tags matter as do title tags

Ensure for every image you use alt tags at least, even better is if you can use both alt and title tags to cover all browsers.  This again ensures that your site is seen and readable by the vision impaired and again by the search engines, remember they see the text not the images.

21.    File names should be meaningful

Whether your site is static or dynamically generated the file names of your images, directories and other files should be well named.  While having any old name will still work having the file and image names with meaning adds value to the search engines, the visitors and most of all yourself.  Don’t use spaces ever in your file names, and use a dash ‘-‘ instead of an underscore ‘_’ instead of spaces.  Something like ‘my-file-name.ext’ is better than ‘myfilename.ext’ though both can be used.

22.    Have a site-map

Each of your websites should have a site map, in fact I recommend two, one for humans and one for Google and the rest.  There has been a fair amount of discussion on the worth of site maps and if they need to be easily accessible, my view is that it will not harm you but it will help you and your visitors be that human or others.

Your human readable site map should be just that made for humans to easily read and utilise for navigation, also remember to give your links titles.

Your Search engine site map should be in the format suitable for Google, this is usually xml and must be in the required and best format.  There are several generators and software available to do this – the XML-Sitemaps.com Google site map generator is a good one you may find useful.

Oh by the way you can combine your human and Google style site maps into one and only have one sitemap if you wish ?

23.    Keep your site fresh

I often have clients ask me why their website is not ranking well by Google and others and I ask them how up to date their website is.  I commonly get the it was made for us X years ago and it is still not on Google, I again ask how up to date is it.  They will often say it has not changed so why is it not on Google.  I then obviously say well that is the problem, it is stale and needs to be updated.

A website is not a book, in that once written it is not set in stone, it needs to be updated, needs to be added to, needs to be freshened up often.  Remember ‘Content is King’ but if your content no matter how much, if it is never added to or changed then it is going to get stale very quick.  A website needs to remain current, by all means like many blogs have an archive and/or past content but keep adding to your site, let it grow but do it naturally and don’t repeat what everyone else has already got.

24.    Design your site for humans as well as SEO

Please do not forget it is humans that will value your site more, while Search engines will help people find you it is humans that will decide if it is of ultimate value/use or not.  So when your designing your site don’t place all your eggs in one basket, as much as all the above points are important the site much be well structured and usable by humans that keeps attracting them back to your site long after the search engines have come and gone, and remember keep it fresh.

25.     Use of Flash/JavaScript etc

If you like your site being media rich there is nothing wrong with that, however please again ensure you have it structured well enough with alternative text and no script code to allow for anyone accessing your site that has Flash or JavaScript’s etc turned off.  Remember that the major search engines will not index flash and JavaScript.  Again go back to looking at you site in plain text, can you use the site, is it structured well from important at the top to least important at the bottom, does it flow well for text only readers.

I have been reading that Google and the other search engines are testing methods to index more media rich sites, and while that is a good thing I still believe you need to have your site accessible in a text only format.

26.     Network, network network

If you have ever got into the property market you may have heard of the expression ‘location, location, location’.  Well for the web my view is that networking, networking, networking, is the equivalent.  By this I mean get out there on the web and join forums, blogs and other social networks where you can discuss matters related to your product, service or informational site.  Many will allow you to have a link either in a profile, signature or even as part of your entry contents.  This not only helps with back linking to your site but helps advertise it as well – so go on get out there 🙂

Well there you go, a long post I know and I probably could have broken it up into 3 or 4 parts but thought it looked better complete.   I am sure you and others reading this post have some comments to add and I will value each and every one of them.

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Keeping your CSS code clean

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I love code, that is pretty simple to see and I like it as it can give me full control over every element of the website design.  I also like clean code, without it your website may look nice but if you need to come back to the code in a year or two my bet is that it will take you more time to work out what is what in the code instead of simply getting the job done.

Clean code in whatever language you are using and for whatever purpose you need it for is essential.  This first post of a series I will do is for CSS (style sheets).

You can go even further by breaking up the CSS into separate style sheets such as Header, Footer, Content and so on, this is totally up to you, the following is my starting point I use for CSS, I hope you find it useful.

/*
Site Name:
Site URI: http://somedomain.com.au/
Description: Stylesheet for somedomain
Version: 1.0
Author: That Net Site
Author URI: http://thatnetsite/
Version Comments
v1.0
This Style sheet is ......
*/

/*-----------------------------------------------------
Reset all basic browser properties
-----------------------------------------------------*/

* {
     margin: 0;
     padding: 0;
     border: 0;
     font-family: sans-serif;
     font-size: 1em;
     font-weight: normal;
     font-style: normal;
     text-decoration: none;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Basic Page Properties
-----------------------------------------------------*/
html {
     height: 100%;
     margin-bottom: 1px;
}
body {
     margin: 0;
     padding: 0;
}
p {
     margin-top: 10px;
     margin-bottom: 15px;
}
fieldset {
     border: 0;
     padding: 5px 0;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Font Size Properties
-----------------------------------------------------*/
h1 {
     font-size: 200%;
}
h2 {
     font-size: 170%;
}
h3 {
     font-size: 150%;
}
h4 {
     font-size: 120%;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Padding and Margins
-----------------------------------------------------*/
div {
     margin: 0;
}
h1 {
}
h2 {
}
h3 {
}
h4 {
}
h5 {
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Fonts and Font Weights
-----------------------------------------------------*/
body {
     font-family: "Lucida Grande", Tahoma, Helvetica, sans-serif;
}
h1 {
}
h2 {
}
h3 {
}
h4 {
}
h5 {
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Colours
-----------------------------------------------------*/
body {
     color: #5B5648;
}
a {
     color: #960000;
}
a:hover {
     color: #000000;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Backgrounds
-----------------------------------------------------*/
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Text Decorations
-----------------------------------------------------*/
a:link,
a:visited {
     text-decoration: none;
}
a:hover {
     text-decoration: none;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Borders
-----------------------------------------------------*/
a img {
     border: 0;
}
div {
     border: 0;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Width and Heights
-----------------------------------------------------*/
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Floats and Alignments
-----------------------------------------------------*/
.clear {
     clear: both;
}
.right {
     float: right;
}
.left {
     float: left;
}
.center {
     text-align: center;
}
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Lists
-----------------------------------------------------*/
/*-----------------------------------------------------
Displays and Positions
-----------------------------------------------------*/

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments on how the above can be improved or even if you have some alternative methods that work well for you.

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.htaccess file Code Snippets

Monday, July 7th, 2008

I often have a need to add specifics to the htaccess file to make the web site meet a clients needs (or my own).  Over the years I have compiled a number of htaccess code snippets that I have used that may be useful to you if needed.

Disable Directory Browsing

Options All -Indexes

Enable Directory Browsing

Options +Indexes

If you want to block specific file types from showing you can use

IndexIgnore *.wma *.mp3 *.avi

Prefer to use Custom Error Messages

ErrorDocument 403 /forbidden.html
ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html
ErrorDocument 500 /servererror.html

If you need SSI working with HTML instead of just SHTML
These do not all have to be used they are provided just as examples

## SSI for html files
AddType text/html .html
AddHandler server-parsed .html
## SSI for shtml files
AddType text/html .shtml
AddHandler server-parsed .shtml
## SSI for htm files
AddType text/html .htm
AddHandler server-parsed .htm

Change the Default Home Page – note the order you place them in is followed

DirectoryIndex home.html index.html index.php

Block Users from accessing the site

<limit GET POST PUT>
order deny,allow
# By the IP Address
deny from XXX.XX.XXX.XX
# By Domain
deny from .domain.com
allow from all
</limit>

Allow only LAN users

order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from 192.168.0.0/24

Redirect Visitors to New Page/Directory

Redirect oldpage.html http://www.domain.com/newpage.html
Redirect /olddir http://www.domain.com/newdir/

Block site from specific referrers

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} block-site\.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} block-site-2\.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

Block Hot Linking/Bandwidth hogging

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?mydomain.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ - [F]

Want to show a “Stealing is Bad” message too?

Add this below the Hot Link Blocking code:
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ http://www.mydomain.com/nosteal.gif [R,L]

Another example of not letting someone hotlink or use your images on their site

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} .*jpg$|.*gif$|.*png$|.*php$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !domain1allowed\.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !domain2allowed\.org [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !google\. [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !search\?q=cache [NC]
RewriteRule (.*) /pathto/nohotlink.jpe

Stop .htaccess (or any other file) from being viewed

<files file-name>
order allow,deny
deny from all
</files>

To use or not to use www in your URL

# Rule for duplicate content removal : domain.com vs www.domain.com
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.domain\.com [NC]
RewriteRule (.*) http://domain.com/$1 [R=301,L,NC]

or in reverse

# Rule for duplicate content removal : domain.com vs www.domain.com
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^domain\.com [NC]
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.domain.com/$1 [R=301,L,NC]

Prefer to use just domain.com/ and not domain.com/index.php?

# Rule for not using index.php or index.html etc as home page
Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^./index.php
RewriteRule ^(.)index.php$ http://domain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Avoid the 500 Error

# Avoid 500 error by passing charset
AddDefaultCharset utf-8

Grant CGI Access in a directory

Options +ExecCGI
AddHandler cgi-script cgi pl
# To enable all scripts in a directory use the following
# SetHandler cgi-script

If you want to change script extensions

AddType application/x-httpd-php .gjw
gjw will now be treated as if they were PHP files!
The same can apply for cgi files
AddType application/x-httpd-cgi .gjw
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AVG Link Scanner fix coming…

Monday, July 7th, 2008

If you have been reading any of the Internet or web developer or similar forums you may have come across several posts in relation to AVG’s linkscanner found in its latest Free and Paid products.

If you are not aware of the issue here is a quick summary 🙂

One of the components of the version 8.x of AVG is called LinkScanner and what is does (or did) was follow links from search results via Google and other search engines and visited those sites and checked the pages for any malicious content.  The problem is that it did this even if you did not intend to go to those sites and as a result slowed down your Internet experience and added to your download bandwidth without you even knowing.  It also caused web statistics of the sites it checked to record the visits and as a result this caused massive incorrect analytical data as the pages were in fact not being visited.

While the best intentions were their to protect you from any possible malicious web sites (which is good) it had a negative effect on your browsing and bandwidth.  There were many suggestions that your should change your Virus Scanner to other products and while that may have been fine for some others that have either already paid for AVG or did not have the know how to change were sort of stuck with AVG.

Hey me for one, I have the knowledge to change my Virus Scanner but I went with and bought a 3 licensed copy of AVG based on positive feedback on the forums I often read some several months back.  I am also very happy with AVG with exception to the Linkscanner which I disabled anyway.

Fortunately with the volume of users on Whirlpool and other like forums AVG has accepted the issue as not ideal and is now about to release an update on the 9th July that will change Linkscanner to only scan those pages you will actually visit, just prior to it loading.  This will result in a slightly slower connect to the site your wanting to visit as I assume it has to be checked first but it is better to be safe than sorry,  Actual performance of the new Linkscanner is still to be determined but if it is still causing grief you can still deactivate it if you want.

So great power to the people and it is good to see Grisoft accept it and take action to resolve the issue.

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Contracting Work Out – Elance

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

On a recent project I had to make the first step of contracting part of a project I am working on to a third party.  While I had contracted work out to third parties in a previous employed 9 to 5 job, I had not considered doing the same now that I was out on my own so I was a little hesitant. The job was graphic design and while my graphics work is quite good I have my limits.  It also needed to be incorporated into a Flash format with all the bells and whistles.

Using my online community friends as a reference I was directed to Elance.  This was suggested to me as it would attract freelance operators world wide thus giving me a greater and wider selection of possible freelance workers. So far all is sounding really good.

elance.comOn the Elance website I had a look around at both the projects currently available and also several providers and had a look at their work.  All reports were good and there is an escrow service if required which was comforting. (If your looking for work as a Freelance operator – try Elance 🙂 )

I developed my story boards and specifications of the required work with enough detail to enable those interested to provide me an example of their work based loosely on those requirements.  I became a member of Elance, posted my project and set a 5 day schedule.  Within a few hours I had a few bids which was great as it enabled me to have a look at their work well before hand.

The five days passed and I then reviewed each bidder (9 in all) and then shortlisted to the two that I felt addresses my specific requirements and their portfolio was of high quality.  I also had three that were nothing even remotely related to my project so they got the flick straight away.  In my view if a person cannot read and follow a specification they do not deserve the work.

For the two shortlisted freelancers I asked for a rough example of what they can do and within 24 hours had both to select from and I ended up selecting a guy from the UK.

We then via the Elance system confirmed requirements, set timelines, set work detail with detailed scope and agreed on the final price quoted and I paid a 1/3 deposit up front (that is fair as I do the same for any work I do).

I then got on with the rest of the project and other work and within two days I had a first draft and the work was excellent.  I can’t share the work yet as it was still ongoing but I can say that over the last few weeks this process has been very encouraging and I therefore have no hesitation to recommend if you have a project that has elements out of your own skill level or simply have little time for, then why not outsource those parts and source your freelance workers from Elance.

Being a past Project Manager myself for a number of years I found this quite easy to manage and I am looking forward to using the Elance site again for other projects.

BTW I have no connection with or any benefit to gain personally or commercially in recommending Elance.

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2nd Post :) – What I use everyday

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

OK not the best start to my blog as I have been rather busy with many other things, so what helps me organise my busy schedule and what applications do I use everyday?

My email clientThunderbird and the Calendar add-on called Lightening.  I was a long time user of Outlook and its built in calendar until a friend a few years back said had I tried Thunderbird and once tried and tested I never looked back.  If your an Outlook user and are considering either upgrading Outlook (or Office) or looking at other email client options I really do encourage you to try Thunderbird – you will not be sorry.

Like Firefox it has a host of available add-ons to meet your specific needs, for example I liked my Signatures feature in Outlook, Thunderbird does not come with a same signature feature by default but a nice add-on comes to the rescue and all is good again – there are several options as well as stationary options – have look at them here and choose the one that best suits your requirements – I use Signature Switch as I have 8 well used email accounts 🙂

My browserFirefox 3 now after its recent release, much better and faster than Firefox 2 and is way way ahead of Internet Explorer.  I have and still have to use IE for testing as more often than not there is some small style quirk that causes a page to look odd in IE compared to what works well in Firefox, but I will admit that IE7 is a big improvement on IE6 but still not up to scratch with FF2, let alone FF3.

My Firefox would not be complete with my most used add-ons including;

Brief – excellent for RSS feeds to get the latest feed updates (that you subscribe to) and then be able to quickly browse through them and then follow the relevant links to read the full articles.

Colourful tabs – been using this one for a long time, it helps me track which tab I am on as I tend to have around 10 open at any one time.

DownThemAll – A must for anyone that does quite a bit of downloading :).  You can use it to download all links on a page, images and more – really nifty features with simultaneous downloads and also the ability to add downloads paused so you can download them during off peak times if you are like me and have an ISP that uses Peak and Off Peak bandwidth settings.

Dummy Lipsum – neat and easy to generate example text strings for filling content for example pages etc as I design and create web sites and templates

My Aussie dictionary of course so my colour is with a u and not just color – no offence intended for any US readers 😛

Firebug – now this is a MUST for any one that has or is developing a web site.  It allows you to inspect the code of the page and more to identify any coding errors – what can I say this has saved me countless hours of time.

FoxyTunes – got to have my online radio (radio.wazee) playing while I work, be lost with out it – simple and easy to use with my winamp player 🙂

Google Toolbar – well I guess I added this as it helps me in a number of ways, searching is one – er der.  But also for finding images, translating pages, highlighting searched text, spell checking and more – I just find it useful.

Stumble-upon – Probably one of the best add-ons I have ever come across.  The whole stumble-upon idea is just brilliant and simple.  I have located countless web sites I now use often (that is for another post soon) that I would not have found without Stumble-upon – if you have not tried it yet I suggest you do – excellent.

Web-Developer – as the name says this is great for anyone that develops web sites.  Used with Firebug this adds more functionality to pin point errors, test with and without style sheets and other web components, resizing windows for window size tests and so much more, again a must for anyone that designs web sites.

My Graphics Application of choice is now Photoshop CS3.  When I say now it is because I have been a long term user of Paint Shop Pro, back when it was owned by JASC, then Corel got their grubby hands on it and well ever since then I would not even think about upgrading from my version 9 of Paint Shop Pro.  I resisted for a long time the move to Photoshop simply because of the cost of the software.  While great I think it would be better and more widely used if it did not cost so much, but in the end I went with Photoshop.  Before any would be Gimp users out there say have I tried Gimp the answer is yes, and while it is a great piece of software, especially as it is Open Source I like the way Photoshop works and for the moment prefer it.

My Code editor(s) of choice – yes I like code more than I like WYSIWYG applications.  Homesite and Notepad++ are my two very regularly used applications.  While Homesite is now getting a tad old I have not ‘yet’ found a HTML editor that works as good as it does.  By all means I have tried and tested many others, many many others but I keep coming back to Homesite.  I have a host of snippets and other bits of code I use over and over again that I have embedded with Homesite and its link with Topstyle for style sheet creation is very handy.  I hope that Adobe look at developing a new version of Homesite soon as I don;t know what to go to next (by all means suggest away and I will see if I have tried them already).

Notepad++ is my quick edit notepad replacement and source viewer for Firefox and IE.  I like it as it is able to have multiple files open with a tabbed interface and it will pretty much open any file you want it to open and it does not mess with any of your code when you save, close etc and has very good search and replace functions.

For file comparisonWinMerge is my side by side code checker of choice.  It has helped me many many times where I have had to update a piece of software (php script or the like) and I had to check for changes from one file to the next – easy to read with highlighted changes when comparing one file to another – also allows full directory comparisons.

FTPingCuteFTP, I know filezilla is good but have been using Cuteftp for so long its more a trust in its use form me than anything else – I know it back to front and it has worked flawless for me for many years.

Backing up Syncback SE, ever heard of the phrase backup backup backup, if you do not yet backup daily, or at least weekly then give yourself a quick slap :).  Backups are a must and while Windows and the various Linux distros have backup options built in I have always gone back to and use SyncBack SE.  There is also a free version that works just as good.  It allows me to synchronize between PC’s so I can jump on the other PC here in the office and still have all my files and it can also sync to external drives, CD, DVD or even memory sticks.  Has a built in scheduler and can be invoked with Windows scheduler if required.  This little tool has saved me many time 🙂

Well they are my every day apps, I have others but that will do it for this post – I will add others later as I find more time.  Oh and y the way, none of the links above are affiliate links – just links to the products in case your interested, I simply use these products myself and thought I’d share my experiences with you.

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First Post

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Well, here we are, or here you are – a new blog you say.  So what makes this one any different to any other one you have read.  Well that is a really good question but I cannot really answer that for you as what you get out of my blog will depend on many factors that are too long to get into on this initial post.

I don’t claim to be an expert in any field, nor do I wish to be labeled as one.  My blog is simply that ‘my blog’ and will simply be about whatever it is that is of interest to me and hopefully to you each day, week, month and year 🙂

So what’s in a name, as in my blog URL and title, that being ‘That Net Site’ or ‘thatnetsite.com’?  Well nothing really it is simply a name – and a catchy one at that – I could not believe this one was still available – lucky me I guess.

What will be included in my blog will depend on my mood each day and what I am doing, it will include general comment and opinion as well as information about other sites I find useful and tips and tricks that I learn along my daily paths that may be of interest and benefit to others.  My writing style is simple and to the point, I tend to call a spade a spade but endeavor to try and look at things from every angle.  I tend to horde many things (mostly computer related) and I am fairly well organised (when I get around to it 🙂 ) – a little too organised at times.

So why blog now, well my better half (PetArtist and wife) has been suggesting I setup a blog and use it as my daily hobby to relax, have a bit of fun and do what I like to do which is to share a little with everyone.  It has been a long time coming I must confess and I am sure you will say or read bits and pieces on my blog that are also covered elsewhere, but hopefully my way is a new and more interesting way for you.  I have actively been using the Internet since 1995 with my first website still operating – dogsites.com.au.

Anyway that will do it for my first post I am sure I’ll add more about me and this site later on, at this stage I am simply putting it together so if you drop in every now and then I am sure you will see it changing daily as I play with the templates, styles and format of this great open source blog software called WordPress.

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