Unofficial WordPress Plugin Rules

The internet, by and large, is still very much like the wild west. As in, nobody really has a handle on it, no one entity can control it. aka free-for-all.

me: started with wordpress – 2005

# of sites built? no idea, hundreds.

As a rule, less plugins is better. Choose ones that are absolutely beneficial to the scope of your project. Evaluate the rest based on workflow vs site efficiency.

When searching for plugins that will address your needs, Google is better than the wordpress.org search. Just be mindful that many of the search results are people/companies selling plugins. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but a paid/premium plugin is also not necessarily your best option.

Do the research.

Legitimate wordpress themes and plugins reside in the wordpress repository. The “Support” tab will give you a good idea of who’s maintaining their work and who isn’t.

Testing works.

If possible, set up a test site before going live. And, if possible keep a dev site operational to test new things in a safe environment. Especially for larger sites. If a testing/dev site is not an option (it always is, but whatever), put your site in maintenance mode, activate the new plugin, bounce around the site as an admin to see that everything works, and if nothing breaks, go for it.

Careful updates.

Don’t update automatically. We’re just not there yet. Some plugins will make major code changes which can effect the entire site. Look first at the log changes. Then go to the support section on wordpress.org for that plugin to see the issues that update caused.

 

That’s all for now. More later.

 

Share

Lost it – Got it back

i lost flatheadenterprises.com in april, 2015. just stupid.

i was using two webhosts at the time, 1&1 and wiredtree.

flatheadenterprises was the first website i had success with. it was the name of my company. it was my primary email address. never got around to transferring it to my (then)current registrar.

one day it stopped working.

i had allowed it to expire.

almost immediately my domain was purchased by another company

not only did emails stop coming in, but the multitude of accounts set up using that email became unresponsive. clicking the ‘forgot password’ link meant nothing.

i can only imagine how many i pissed off…

tried to get my domain back…one company returned my query stating that starting bid was $500.

fuck that.

..

waited 3 years.

domain came up. bought it back.

HERE’S THE WEIRD THING!!!!!

all my emails from the last 3 years came flooding back in.

 

Share

Current Favorite WP Plugins 01

Participation and interaction directly impacts the success or failure of a website. Providing content that impels, inspires or challenges people is the holy grail.

01.Gravity Forms

Highly configurable, lots of integrations, relatively easy to use. For the most part, Gravity forms plays well with others (third party plugins). It has the ability to be simple, but you also have the ability to create complex forms, which can send data to other wordpress applications, which is cool.  And support is good.

Working with Gravity Forms extensively these last several months, I’ve only touched the surface, but really appreciate the power of this plugin.

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

 

Share

#Hashtags – Tint vs Tagboard vs Twubs vs Postano vs Rebel Mouse

#Hashtag #Aggregators.

I call myself an “IT” guy…an “SEO” guy, yet somehow I almost completely missed this..

#Hashtags digitally connect us. When you include a #hashtag in a Twitter post, facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and a few others, the #hashtag serves as a subject matter identifier.  Searches can be made using #hashtags to give you results from others who have also used that particular #hashtag in their posts.

Red PaintAs an example, when you do a google search for “red paint”, you get Behr, Sherman-Williams, Home Depot and others that sell red paint.

If you do a #hashtag search on Twitter, instagram, facebook, etc., the results you receive are from the social media accounts of people who have used that particular #hashtag in their post, comment, whatever. So open up your Twitter account, go to “Discover” and search some #hashtags like; #tomhanks, #frozenmargaritas, #rosebowl, and see what happens.

What each of these #hashtag aggregators do is search for a specific #hashtag from several social media services and then feed the posts, comments, pictures and videos onto a webpage dynamically for you to see, often in real time.  

So I was hired to produce the live social media feed at the BCS tailgate party at the Rose Bowl on January 6th, 2014.  Since I was barely familiar with how cool #hashtags are, I launched my own research campaign on five different companies that aggregate and curate #hashtags.

Postano

I had heard about Postano, but didn’t realize there were so many others.  My first criteria was the ability to monitor the posts that come in, because we can’t have “Debbie does Dallas” on the screens.  Second was presentation. The look of the feed itself has to be classy, cool and engaging. Postano calls the presentation of their feeds “visualizations”.

Third, but extremely important was price.  Our approach was that this would be a onetime thing, it’s an amenity, meaning we’re not getting any money for it, so it has to be affordable.

Postano Visualization
Multiple visualizations for multiple screens

I talked to Postano first. I spoke to Cooper who walked me through a powerpoint presentation.  Great guy, great product, the “visualizations” as they call them, are great looking and they have the ability to create multiple visualizations for multiple screens at your event.  

However, I don’t need multiple visualizations and they were a bit more expensive then our budget allowed, plus they want you to buy into a year contract and that’s just not for us.

Twubs

Twubs is a totally free service that gives you the power to moderate. It also pulls #hashtags from the entire internet and posts them on a wall they create for you when you register a #hashtag. I love the totally Free and the control they give you, but I didn’t like the interface (see below).

twubs screenshot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next are Tagboard, Rebel Mouse and Tint.

 I put these three together because they all offer free options and the opportunity to upgrade for varying levels of functionality and control.

For each, the free option allows you to pull #hashtags from your own social media accounts and they are displayed on a dynamic webpage on their host under a subdomain that is created for you when you sign up.

I’m a WordPress fan and programmer. Rebel Mouse and Tint both have WordPress plugins, which is a major plus for me. They can be used in widgets, posts and pages.  So for my purposes, since I wasn’t exactly sure how I would be presenting the live social media feed, having the option to present on a WordPress blog took Tagboard off my list since there was no WordPress option.

The Two Finalists

Similarities exist between Tint and Rebel Mouse, however the clear winner for me was Tint. The presentation from Rebel Mouse is fine, however it’s very commercial and self-promoting. Besides that, it’s a little more expensive then Tint, and I’m always looking for a deal.

I knew immediately when viewing the wall that Tint produced, that it was perfect for what we were trying to accomplish. It fills up the entire screen real estate in a classy, engaging manner and there are no ads.

The Tint Interface
The Tint Interface

Additionally, Tint offers special promotions for bloggers. I’m not a whore. I won’t promote something or someone unless I believe in it.

Tint met all my criteria, period.

It really is a cool thing.

Cheers

Share

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is it VooDoo or Brain Surgery?

My Vote Is VooDoo

SEO - VooDooHere’s the deal…  SEO is the practice of increasing visibility and traffic to your website or domain. You increase traffic by creating original, high quality content and by putting a link to your website on other websites.

You put your link on other websites by creating countless profiles to said websites (blogs, forums, directories, etc.) and then being inundated by millions of emails for further promotions.  Which is an annoyance.  The choice is to pay someone like me to do it for you, or to spend 1-2 hours a day promoting yourself.

It’s not “brain surgery”, it’s just a commitment of time. And if you’re like me, you’re too cheap to pay someone like me to do something you can do yourself.

Domains:

My domain is flatheadenterprises.com. That string of letters is the human recognizable name of my website. Computers read that name differently. Computers read it as a url and an IP address.

The internet is like a Thomas Brothers map with over 630 million streets (as of December 2012). Your website resides on one of those streets. Your website has an address, just like your house does. It’s called a url.  The url of this website is http://www.flatheadenterprises.com. Your website address also has an IP address.

IP addresses are a set of 4 numbers. IP addresses route web traffic to the server that your website resides on, and often multiple websites reside on one server and/or resolve to one IP address. The subject of IP addresses can get really boring, and I’d like to keep you interested, so to illustrate, click on this IP address:

67.203.4.197

Staying with the house analogy, your house has a parcel number just like your website has an IP address.  It’s a number few can readily recite, but it exists and it’s the number that other computers use to locate your website.

That’s enough of that for now.

 So how do you “proliferate” your website?

The basic premise is this; the more traffic a website gets the more important the link is.  So having a link on facebook (the second most popular website in the world), is better than having a link on flatheadenterprises.com. Right?

Yeah, sort of.

There are two kinds of links; DoFollow and NoFollow.

SEO CurrencyIn the world of SEO currency, DoFollow links are Benjamin Franklins, and NoFollow are scratched up pennies you find in the street.

How do you know the difference?

Some sites will tell you that any links added will not be followed, or NoFollow, but most the time you don’t know until your link is added. But let’s not worry about that just yet.

The focus here is to add your website link to as many good sites as possible. What are good sites?

Popular websites, websites that get a lot of traffic, or websites that have a lot of value. (To find out more see this)

Hopefully you’re starting to get the gist.

As a jumpstart, you want to add your link to these online directories and social media sites:

DMOZ

YAHOO LOCAL LISTINGS

BING

GOOGLE

YELP

FOURSQUARE

WHITEPAGES

SUPERPAGES

CITYSEARCH

MAPQUEST

MERCHANTCIRCLE

You also want a facebook fan or business page and accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn.

That’s a great starting point.

NOW WHAT?

You want to continue proliferating links to your website. Strategies abound, but here are a few:

Cheapos like me: Do It All Yourself

Hunt down every web directory you can find and add your website/company.

Find online forums and blogs and make comments. Why? because again, you set up profiles on countless websites, but in many of them you can add a signature to your profile that includes a link back to your website. You can also try to sneak adding a link to your website into the comment. Doesn’t always work, but worth a try.

Build profiles on Bookmarking sites like Delicious, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Digg, etc. and interact. (pretty good list here)

 BUILD A SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING

Facebook ‘Likes’, Twitter ‘Follows’ and LinkedIn ‘Connections’. The more of those you have the better. And better still is interacting and building relationships with your likes/follows/connections. People are looking for authentic relationships, not marketing BS.

Facebook:

Build a “Welcome Page” that requires new visitors to “Like” the page before they can go to the main page. Create “Special Offers” that are only available on your fan or business page to attract new likes. For instance, “For A Chance To Win $1,000, Like Us On Facebook!!”

Search out prospective clients by aligning similar interests.

LinkedIn:

A LinkedIn profile allows you to add all kinds of information about your business and add links. Get involved with groups and build your connections by identifying prospective clients. Search through your connections “connections” and try to connect with them (really redundant right?, that’s just the LinkedIn lingo.)

Twitter:

Try to get as many “followers” as you can. Again, in your profile you can add a link to your website.

Sounds daunting right?

It can be, but there are also services that you can purchase that will automate some of this for you.

Yext

For a monthly fee Yext will add your information or profile to over a hundred directories, depending on the package you buy.

FollowerWonk

FollwerWonk is a service where you can filter your searches for Twitter followers. For instance, in the search parameters type in “Los Angeles Real Estate”. The results will be anyone in L.A. who has real estate in their profile. Then you follow any who look promising.

 HootSuite

You can manage all your social media accounts in one place! So instead of having to login in to each and every site (facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc), you can interact with all of them in one spot.

Finally!

In Closing, the idea is to spend a little time every day playing on the internet. Seriously. I haven’t touched on Website Optimization at all because that’s not for your average Joe (no offense Joe).

The stuff above are things anyone can do, and the more you do it, the more the search engines like it. The more the search engines like it, the more traffic your website gets.

Hope this was helpful.

 

Share

Send Gmail From A Different Email Address

How Many email addresses do you have?

Personal email, work email, facebook email…

If you’ve started your own business, or many businesses, then you most likely have an email for each venture.  It’s a pain to have so many, but if you want to look pro it’s a necessary evil.  You must be able to respond to potential clients or customers with an email address from the same domain as your business website.

You will have to set up each individual email account, but it doesn’t mean you have to check each account individually.  You can pull them all into one place.

When you set up a Gmail account you can send and receive emails from each of those accounts all through Gmail.

Below are the steps necessary to send email from a different email address in Gmail.

Obviously first you’ll need to create a Gmail account if you don’t have one already.  After that, make sure all your individual email addresses forward to your Gmail account.  There is an option to receive emails from different email addresses also.  I may add that at a later time, but for now let’s start with this:

1. Log Into Gmail, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner and select “Settings”

google-01

2. Click on the “Accounts and Import” tab

google-02

3. Click on “Add another email address you own”

Send Gmail with different email address

4. Type in the Name and Email Address, then click “Next”

Send Gmail with different email address

5. You have two choices here, but sending through Gmail is by far the easiest.  Select “Send through Gmail”, then click “Next Step”

Send Gmail with different email address

6. Gmail needs to send a verification email to the address you’re trying to use.  Click “Send Verification”, then login to that email address and there should be an email from Gmail with a verification link. Click on the link and it will be set up.

Send Gmail with different email address

7. Now, when you send an email through Gmail, you will be able to choose which email address to use.

Send Gmail with different email address

Let me know if this was helpful!

Share

WordPress iPhone Android App

Just downloaded this WordPress app for the iPhone, and it’s seriously cool.

(WordPress for Android, Blackberry and Nokia Also Available)

I had the ability work on my WordPress blogs through iPhone’s Safari browser before, but there was a lot of window resizing, and repositioning. Plus having to login every time was a drag.
With this app, you register each blog and it offers the essentials; posts, pages, comments and stats. But you also have an option to add code:
This is a link

You also have the ability to add photos and videos in an easy to use interface. Location mapping allows you to share your whereabouts as you compose your masterpiece blog post.

Wordpress for iPhone

So far, I’m really digging it! Originally the apps worked only with WordPress.com sites, but later versions include the ability to register self-hosted WordPress sites as well.

The WordPress App for the iPhone, very cool. Oh, and of course it’s FREE!

Below are all the WordPress Smart Phone Apps:

Here’s a link to the official site for the iPhone: IOS for WordPress

The Android App for WordPress is here: WordPress for Android

WordPress on your Blackberry: WordPress for Blackberry

Your Nokia Phone as well: WordPress for Nokia

Cheers

David Kelsen  - aka - reeljerc

Share

Fix Your Damaged CD’s – Recovery Toolbox

Is Your Favorite CD or DVD Scratched? Recovery Toolbox Can Help

This one surprised me. A very good friend had a CD with literally hundreds of photos from Sept. 11, 2001.

She is a Fire Captain herself, and was totally distressed because she couldn’t access the data. The CD itself was almost 10 years old, which brings me to the first point:

CD’S ARE NOT DESIGNED TO LAST 10 YEARS!

With regular play, a CD can wear out in less than five years, which doesn’t account for it getting scratched in car visors and glove boxes.

I figured it was history, but after searching a little and trying 3 or 4 products out, I came across this one which totally rocks.

Recovery Toolbox for CD FREE

Yes, FREE!

You know I love that, and it couldn’t be easier. Just download and install the program, put in your damaged CD and choose the drive to fix.

Recovery Toolbox for CD - FREE

If you have data that you feel is important, please copy it onto more than one disk and onto a folder on your hard drive or on a thumb drive.

You should have at least 3 copies of important information.

That’s all folks, download it here:

Recovery Toolbox for CD FREE

Share

Google, What the Hell!

Google, What The Hell!

Update (04062011):

Called Google AdWords Support (866.246.6453). Was connected to a customer service rep almost immediately. Faster than I had anticipated. “Andrea E.” confirmed that my particular issue was atypical. Words to the effect that she hadn’t come across this particular issue before. She also addressed the perpetual “Under Review” issue. She mentioned the 1-3 day promise, but when she accessed my account she saw that these ads had been “Under Review” for weeks.

email response:

Hello David,

Thank you for calling regarding ad scheduling and your ad reviews.  I do
have an update on both issues for you.

Ad Scheduling:

I talked to a specialist on our team and they have reset your time zone to
Pacific Time as it was before.  If you could please try using the Ad
Scheduler again and let us know if it works.  

If you continue to have issues we can investigate this further but we
would need your permission to try to recreate this problem in your
account.  This would require making some changes to the Ad Scheduler in
your account. If this is the case and you would like to give us
permission, simply respond to this email stating so.

Ad Review:

I have submitted a request to the Ad Review team to let me know the status
of your review process. As soon as I have an answer from them I will let
you know.

Sincerely,
Andrea E.
Google AdWords Team

Let’s see

 

 

Is Google Too Big To Care?

I’d been a Google fan for years. I had set it as my homepage, tried all the apps, talked it up to my friends and when I began transitioning into SEO work, I gobbled up as much of the voluminous free info that my pea brain could hold.

There are a multitude of reasons why Google has become the financial behemoth it is today, not the least of which is AdWords. AdWords, of course, is the Pay-per-Click web advertising tool Google offers.

Earlier this month I started a new ad campaign. I’d been working with AdWords for years. It took maybe an hour to create the campaign and come up with approximately 15 text ads.

Is It A Bump In The Road, Or A Rod In My Spokes?

Six of the Ads are “Under Review”, no problem I think, so I head over to the help page and read that Ads typically take 1-3 days to get approved. I can live with that I think…

1 WEEK LATER…

I wasn’t rushed to get this campaign online, so I figured before I spent anymore time on it, I’d let the ads get approved. Still “Under Review”? Okay, a little disappointing, but I’ll tweak the campaign a little and get started anyway.

First thing is to schedule when I want the ads to run.

No go..

The message says I can’t schedule ad placement until I set my time zone in billing preferences.

Google Ad Scheduling - What the Hell!

So I figure, “damn, how’d I miss that”, scratching my head…

Google Ad Scheduling - What the Hell!

I DIDN’T MISS IT!!

Over the course of the next several hours I begin the arduous and ultimately unsatisfying task of trying to get an obvious Google screw up fixed.

Typically you’d expect a “Contact” page would provide you, the paying customer, an opportunity to actually CONTACT the business. Especially if it’s a technical issue in which the customer has no control.

Not so…

Google’s “Contact” (in the loosest possible sense) page does not have email addresses, phone numbers, instant chats nor even a stupid form to that goes directly to Google.

No, instead they have a “Forum”. Now granted, I acknowledge that most of the time this method to solve simple problems is sufficient.

BUT NOT IN MY CASE!

 

2 WEEKS LATER….

Still “Under Review”?!? What? Really?

Now I’m getting angry. The putrid answers I received to my “Forum” queries directed me back to the beginning of the Help gauntlet. Huh?! Are You Not Listening? Did you not read what I asked? It was fricking Rod Serling-esque.

With a little digging, you can find a number to call, check out this post:

http://www.semreportcard.com/how-to-contact-google-customer-service/

And I’ll update this post after I attempt to contact this horrible example of American business customer service.

PROGNOSIS

Google WILL DIE if it continues to treat it’s customers in this manner. I have begun using BING and YAHOO, although heretofore I’d abhorred using anything Microsoft-related because of the inherent frustration due to their forced proprietary strategy.

But at least they run my ads.

 

 

 

 

Share

SEO – The New Frontier – (Don’t get conned) part 1

“There’s a sucker born every minute” – unattributable

So, the guy said my site would get page one google results in one month. I said “AWESOME”, I need that kind of exposure. I sat back and started fantasizing about the millions I was going to rake in.

I mean C’mon, there are nearly 7 Billion potential customers at my fingertips. I don’t need all of them, even half of one percent will make me rich, and surely I can attract that with page one results!!

Yeah, that’s it, that’s the ticket, one-half of one percent of internet users. All I need is page one search results….

Three months, six months, a year – Why isn’t the money rolling in?

So the truth is a geek can spout off a litany of technological terms, and you’ll smile and nod, and have no idea what the f**k he/she just said.

Don’t feel bad, you’re in the majority.

This new type of marketing your business, which becomes more important everyday, is still completely foreign to most.

The funny thing is, that even though it’s a new language (and it is global), the principles that drive the success are the same basic, good practices business approach that people have been using for centuries. There really isn’t anything new under the sun.

The Problem

The Problem is (and typically is) that scammers have identified yet another way to separate you from your money with very little effort. At this juncture in the evolution of internet marketing, John Q. Public is clueless. That will change, eventually, but what do you do in the meantime?

Stay tuned.

Share

Torrents – Torrent Sites – Torrent Software

Torrents - Torrent Sites - Torrent Software

I’ve been asked numerous times about how to obtain Operating System (OS) software for free. Here’s how:

But First

Be forewarned, we are treading on morally and/or legally questionable ground here and taking advantage of this particular technology has the propensity to infect your machine with all kinds of ugly little beasts if you’re not careful.

In a classic application of the “Good News/Bad News” cliche, let’s explore…

The Good News

You’ll be able to download, install and enjoy almost any software, movie, music or other digital property for free. With few exceptions, I’ve found every application I could ever use, for Windows and Macintosh, and thousands upon thousands of movie titles, music albums, audio books, photographs, etc.

The good news is easy, next;

The Bad News

Legal

The nature of this type of technology is questionable. Many, namely the major movie studios, record companies and software distributors, consider it illegal.

The technology is peer-to-peer (P2P) and started with applications like Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus and Limewire. Bittorrent is considered the 3rd generation of P2P and is not only more efficient, but also more elusive from a legal standpoint.

Without getting into too much detail, when you install a bittorrent client, like Vuze, you enable the bittorrent protocol which allows you to download very large files from multiple sources simultaneously. The source of those files do not reside on a server, which would be copyright Vuze - Formerly Azureusinfringement, but rather on a network consisting of millions of personal computers.

When you initiate a download of a particular file, the protocol searches through the network of computers, locates the file, then downloads the file a small piece at a time from each computer in the network and reassembles them in order after the download has completed. The ambiguous nature of the download presents a challenge, legally, and while there are efforts to close this gap in the law, as of this writing nothing with teeth has come about.

(Please also keep in mind that much of the software downloaded requires serial numbers and activation. Very often the tools required to activate the software are provided with the files. Serial numbers and activation codes can be generated by programs called “Keygens” and files or programs called “Cracks” are also used to make the software fully functional.)

Moral

On the face it would seem obvious that downloading a movie you didn’t buy is wrong. But what about software and movies that you have purchased?

There was a time when Microsoft included full-install disks when you bought a computer with Windows installed. With Windows 95 you could install that OS on as many machines as you wanted. As greed and time progressed, less features were offered by the software behemoth, and now if you’re hard drive fails and you only want to replace that, you conceivably are forced to purchase another OS disk from Microsoft.

So the morality of P2P is subjective, and many industry techies not only endorse using it, many use it themselves.

Virus, Trojans, Questionable Material

The last caveat is the sites where torrents are available. They are often cluttered with ads for pornography and a good percentage of the files themselves are either infected with little nasties or are fake downloads to begin with.

Demonoid

DemonoidShould you decide to try this out, Demonoid is the safest place to do it. In the beginning you could only register on Fridays, but this seems to have loosened up a bit. Demonoid does not allow pornography, nor does it advertise pornographic sites or products. One really great feature about Demonoid is the comments sections.

Before you embark on a torrent download, read the comments section to see if it works, and whether or not there are any virus’ or trojans associated with the files.

Pirate Bay, Isohunt, Btjunkie

Pirate Bay has a rich history of scoffing at legal threats from the largest corporations in the world. Go HERE to read through the letters and responses, very funny stuff. Pirate Bay has lost some of it’s luster since the original owners sold the company to a Swedish software firm, but at least you don’t have to pay for the service.

Isohunt, Btjunkie and hundreds of other tracker sites is where you’re exposed to porno ads and a higher probability of infecting your machine with above mentioned nasties. To add insult to injury, many of these sites want you to buy a subscription so that essentially you are paying for what they got for free.

Summary

If I bought a computer with Windows installed on it and something happened that required I reinstall the Operating System, I am not given the proper tools to correct the problem. As we Windows users are well aware, updates, patches and security fixes are a regular part of our computing experience. It is also well known that the Windows OS gets messed up after regular use.

Since Microsoft admits, by insisting on constant updates, that their product is flawed, why do they not include a full install disk with your purchase?

The simple answer is that they don’t have to, because they monopolize the market. They force us to either re-purchase the OS or seek other means to obtain it. Installing Vuze and downloading the OS from Demonoid is one other way to obtain it.

Share

Buying Online – How NOT to get Ripped-Off

Convenience, and pursuit thereof, will ultimately kill us all. Well, either that or incessant safety measures.

But online purchases are more than just convenient, they will also save you money when properly executed. Problem is, there’s always a catch. Within any relatively new market there are the naive newbies and the bottom-feeding exploiters effortlessly extricating the hard-earned cash from their doughy fingertips. In reality, both have co-existed throughout history and this is simply, bluntly a different medium.

With that in mind, how do you buy stuff online and not get ripped off?

FACTS, UNSETTLING AND OTHERWISE

The Big Guys

Target, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, etc., are large, well-known corporations with corporate offices located somewhere, so when buying from one of those guys, chances are you’ll get what you paid f or with some degree of certainty and some kind of warranty attached. These guys have been at it so long and are so big that their brand of deception is 5 moves ahead of what most of us think is sly.

The thing to watch out for with them (not necessarily the ones listed above) is indirect. Newsletters, product alerts and other sneaky spammies like the cookies they dropped on your machine whilst you were transacting with them, special offers or check boxes that sign you up for stuff you never wanted and could get billed for later.

Nobody reads the TOS (Terms of Service) agreements, I mean c’mon, those things are purposely dry, boring and insufferably long specifically for that reason. But, those aren’t the problem. I’m telling you to watch out for special discount offers and anything else that either requires leaving the page you’re currently on to confirm, or 3rd party software in sneaky check boxes you miss as you excitedly click-through the prompts. PAY ATTENTION.

And for goodness sake, clean your cookies regularly (the cookies those sites dropped onto your machine are transmitting your web surfing history data as we speak, no lie). For more info on the discount scam checkout Clark Howard’s report.

The Wild West

Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, and a growing number of sites just like ’em present a whole different set of potentially hazardous circumstances. First, there are no guarantees. I don’t care what the text says, the truth is, you don’t really know where they are, who they are or how far they will go to reach into your wallet or purse. You don’t know whether they are on the up-and-up, scammers or in some cases even worse.

That being said, I’ve probably made hundreds of purchases online and have NEVER been disappointed. Below are a few simple rules to follow:

eBay & Amazon

The sellers are you and me and there is very little you can do in the way of recourse should you experience mild or even extreme dissatisfaction with the purchase. The fate of your investment rests solely on the seller. Preemptive strategy is mandatory.

  • Research the item – Google new and used price estimates and model numbers. Match your info with the item that’s listed and any pictures that may be available.
  • Don’t buy large ticket items that are out of driving range – It’s a lot like gambling, so if the item is worth more than you care to lose, make sure you can drive to where the item is supposed to be located.
  • Don’t buy anything from a different country – Look, if it’s a $5 pair of headphones and the seller has made hundreds of sales, big deal, go for it. But there are a lot of fakes out there, and I’m not pointing any fingers but lots of them come from China and Japan.
  • Check the sellers history – How many sales have they made? What’s their rating? Read comments from previous customers.
  • Try to communicate with the seller – Ask a specific question about the item. If they don’t get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, or they give some funky answer, well…that’s a red flag.

Craigslist

Craigslist is one of my favorites. They’ve kept the site simple and the ads are either free or very affordable. However, in that the ads are free and there is virtually no accountability nor qualitative measures taken to verify a sellers veracity or even identity, the risks here are greater.

Actual verbal conversations with sellers here are highly recommended.

Again, ask specific questions about the item.

Be very, very careful with items that cost beyond several hundred dollars. Look, you’ve got a bunch of cash in your pocket and you’re meeting up with a total stranger.

As a Craigslist seller, don’t bring the buyer to your actual residence. Arrange to meet them in a familiar public place, preferably with plenty of people around and in the daylight.

As a seller, don’t take checks and look carefully at the bills you’re getting. Counterfeiting does still exist, here’s an article about what to look out for.

Do some cyberstalking. There’s nothing wrong with Googling a name or email address to see if you can find out who you might be dealing with.

White Hats

There are some great “safe” sites to purchase from as well. For anything computer/tech related – Newegg.com and Microcenter are two of my favorites. Both have detailed information about specs and Newegg’s customers regularly leave comments about the items.

Generally, a business that has a physical, traceable address is a good sign and using Google Street View you can even see what the building looks like in many cases.

Again, cyberstalking comes in handy here, google the name of the business and add, “scam” or “rip-off” or something similar to the search term and see what you come up with.

Stay local when possible. Obviously companies that are local are preferable geographically speaking, but oft times especially with larger companies, items are warehoused in different locations. However, you can still drive to the store or business should issues arise.

THE GOOD NEWS

Purchasing online will save you in time, money or both. The overhead for online stores is significantly less and in most cases the savings are passed on to you. Security encryption is improving, but you don’t have to use your bank account or credit card if that freaks you out.

Paypal ( a subsidiary of eBay) has been a trusted online payment option since 2000. You do link a credit card or bank account with a Paypal account, however when purchasing an item, the seller has no access to your personal accounts. They only see the Paypal account.

Green Dot Prepaid Cards – Relatively new, you can buy or add cash to a Green Dot prepaid card and use it for purchases and it’s like paying cash online. No personal information whatsoever. A great option for those concerned about exposing personal data on the internet.

Overall, with the proper precautions in place, purchasing online is a great way to buy. No pressure from salespeople, no driving and tons of information and reviews.

Just be smart about it and use some common sense.

Share

What Is This Thing Called Joomla?

Web Design For Dumbies or The Way of The Future?

Leo Laporte (The Tech Guy) repeatedly rhetorically asks, why would anyone develop a website from scratch anymore when Content Management Systems (CMS) exist that do it better for free?Leo Laporte

Thousands of geeks around the world freely contribute multiple hours to create, innovate and improve the functionality, usability and aesthetics of many popular open-source CMS’s like Joomla, Drupal, WordPress and others.

Why…? Because they love doing it. Initially, there may be an element of selfishness, an attempt to fix something on one of their sites. But after the epiphany and breakthrough that magically happens after hours of stubborn, obsessive, frustration-laced concentration, rather than keep it to themselves, they share what they’ve learned. In what I term the “True Spirit of the Internet”, many then spend countless hours on forums answering questions and trying to help.

The cliche “Labor of Love”, comes to mind.

So to reword; A collaborative effort by dedicated and intelligent individuals sharing freely of their time and expertise for the simple common goal of self-improvement, improvement for the sake of their peers and further discovery and learning. If you can conjure a downside to a project with this ideal as it’s sole motivation, you’re free to go, because that is a determined negativity and trolls aren’t welcome here.

Joomla is such a project

I’ll spare you the Joomla history lesson, if you’re interested check out the wikipedia entry here. The basic idea is to offer a web development system that can be created with a minimum amount of technical knowledge and allows the individual complete control over numerous powerful and effective web components.

Bulletin Board SystemIn the 80’s and 90’s the average web viewer or user was highly UN-sophisticated. We were easily amused, and there really weren’t that many actual websites. I remember being thrilled after logging into a Bulletin Board (BB) and the Sysop broke in to say “hello” on my Apple IIe. We were dial-up, monochrome and working on 64kb’s of memory, wow.

In those days, just having a website was impressive and “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) didn’t really exist, so you could build a 5-page website with Dreamweaver and get respectable traffic.

Today, just having a website is not good enough and website viewers are growing substantially more sophisticated by the packet.

Relevancy in cyberspace today requires dynamic content, semantic html markup, meta tags, keywords, nomenclatures, site-maps, link building, social network cross-utilization, etc, etc…Who has the time to learn all that stuff?

Joomla developers and coders have built many of those assets into the framework.

Learning Curve

You still have to familiarize yourself with the terminology and system, but in that it is a system, once you figure out how it works, that part doesn’t change.

Web sites are a series of files and folders on a computer called a server. Web pages are a series of boxes systematically and aesthetically organized that hold different types of content. The typical web page is broken up into 4 or 5 basic display elements which are organized by TABLES, FRAMES or DIVS:

Header – Top of the website that usually contains the logo or banner

Left Column – Traditionally an area that holds menus or navigation

Main – Area where the content resides

Right Column – Banner ads or ancillary information typically goes here (although navigation elements are increasingly being used here)

Footer – Further navigational elements, copyright info and validation or sitemaps have historically gone here

TABLES or FRAMES were the most popular way to organize these sections of the webpage in years past. More recently DIVs are the method of choice for serious coders because of their superior configurability and flexibility.

My usage of the term “boxes” in this article equate to the same function as TABLES, FRAMES and DIVS.

Flexibility

The Joomla system is comprised of Templates, Components, Modules and Plugins. There is a front-end, which is what the web surfer sees when finding your site online. And there is the back-end, which is the web-interface or Graphical User Interface (GUI), which is the administrator area where you develop the site and add content. Joomla, like most CMS’s, is database driven, cross-platform and uses server-side language. For our purposes, that means that you can log into your Joomla site from any computer that has internet access and add content and/or perform any function necessary.

In Plain Language

Templates – Templates are the basic framework of the site’s aesthetic design. The template is like the map of where all the boxes on the page are located. You can put almost any element in any box. below are a couple examples of templates and their modpositions or Module Positions.

EXAMPLE 1Template Module Positions

Joomla Template Module Positions

EXAMPLE 2 – Template Module Positions

Module Positions

Components – components are applications that process data, usually from another GUI within the admin area, and display the result of that formatted information typically in the main content area of the site. In “EXAMPLE 2” above, you see all the module positions, but there’s a blank space in the middle. That space is typically where the component data goes, that is the “Main” area. Many Joomla extensions offer Component, Module and Plugin versions of the application so that that particular element can be available for display in any of the positions.

Modules – generally, modules are slightly less complicated applications that are designed to be placed in any box or module position on the site.

Plug-ins – plugins are also applications that are designed to be placed within content posts or Articles.

Articles

In the Joomla framework, Articles are the main content. Articles are the basic resource that feed many of the modules within the framework. The Articles are the meat of the site itself.

Summary

Hopefully you’ve gathered that if you choose Joomla as the delivery method for your website, that certainly you can place any element in any module position, thus exhibiting total control of your site. But what are the elements? Here are a few (not anywhere near how many actually exist)

  • Forums
  • eCommerce
  • Business Directory (Sobi2)
  • Ad Management Systems
  • Videos
  • Slideshows
  • Gallerys
  • Contact & Feedback Forms
  • Menu Systems
  • Calendar & Event Management
  • Communities & Groupware
  • ETC…

Implementing any of these features into your “hand-coded” site can be really expensive, let alone incorporating several of them. One of the several advantages to utilizing the Joomla framework is that all of these features are offered free, but not only that, there is support available as well. The power you’ll be able to harness for a simple investment of time is astonishing.

Share

File Recovery – SmartCard Recovery

How to Completely Recover Documents, Pictures and More Off Your Failing Hard Drive or SmartCard

Nearly every computer user has experienced a crash at one time or another. Most times your machine fires right back up, but sometimes not. So what do you do about all your pictures, music, videos and miscellaneous documents you’ve gathered over the years? Here are a few ways to save your precious data.

(BTW: this wouldn’t be necessary if you regularly backed up your files onto an external hard drive or or burned them onto DVD’s, but you probably haven’t done that).


Whoops! I Deleted Everything, Right?

If you’re a CSI, Law & Order or NCIS fan you’ve seen that data can be retrieved from a hard drive, even if it’s been deleted. That’s possible because even though you delete a file, it doesn’t actually go away. Your computer simply moves the file to an area of the drive where it can be overwritten and tells the OS (Operating System) that that space is now available.

But the TV Detective IT Squad has special tools to extract the damning digital evidence, right? Sure, but so do you and it’s free. Before I go there, what do you do when your hard drive completely dies and your computer won’t fire up? Honestly, most of the time it’s just a corrupted system file or portion of your boot sector which can be corrected by running the chkdsk command in a DOS command prompt, but that’s for another tutorial.

The most cost effective way to retrieve your data and even repair the drive is to open up the case, remove the hard drive and plug it into a another working computer as a slave drive.

A hard drive is a peripheral component and is not OS exclusive, however, in order to retrieve data from a Windows machine, you’ll need to hook the drive up to another Windows computer.

Remove the Failing Drive

  1. Power down the computer and unplug the AC from the back.
  2. Remove the side of the computer case.
  3. Locate the Hard drive and unplug the Power and Data cables from the back of the drive. (Newer computers use SATA connectors, but yours may have the PATA or Parallel connector, there are only two kinds so it’s one or the other)
  4. Unscrew or detach the drive from the chassis or case (check your manual for instructions) and remove the drive.

Hard Drive Connectors

(The power cable pictured is a Moler cable, yours may be the SATA power connector, again there’s only two choices so it’s one or the other)

Most newer computer motherboards have both PATA and SATA connectors, check your hard drive connection and the motherboard connections of the computer you want to use to make sure.

Motherboard Connections

Next, be sure you have the proper cables. For the SATA drive you can pull the one from your computer and take it with you. If you have a PATA or Parallel connection you’ll need a PATA ribbon with three connectors like below:

PATA Ribbon with 3 connectors

The only possible remaining issue could be the jumper pin settings on the PATA hard drive (SATA drives are preset). The most common jumper setting is CABLE SELECT (CS). Jumper settings on both drives should be set to CS. Otherwise, the drive you’re plugging into should be set to Master and your drive to Slave.

(Check the hard drive manufacturers website for the correct jumper settings for each drive, the image below is an example specifically for this article)

Jumper Pin Settings

As above, power down, unplug and open up the computer you’re going to hook your drive to, plug in the appropriate cables, put everything back together and fire it up. There’s no need to replace the side of the computer you’re using, unless it makes the other computer owner feel better, than by all means.

Failing hard drives may have corrupted system files or may not have enough juice to fire up the entire computer, but even slightly damaged drives will register with the other machine, and that’s when you can navigate to the folders where all your stuff resides.

Your drive will show up as E: or F:, depending on that computers set up, it could be anything except C: or D: (in most cases).

Once you find your drive go to – E: (whatever drive letter it is)>Documents and Settings>Owner (or whatever your user name is)>My Documents. That is the default location for personal data storage, although you may have files on your desktop or other folders you created as well.

Once you have that figured out, start moving your data over. You can use your friends hard drive, an external drive, a thumb drive or you can burn the files onto a DVD or BluRay disk.

What If…

PC File Inspector File RecoveryIf the drive registers but doesn’t allow access the drive may be damaged. In that case, you’ve got a couple options. The FREE option is to download and install PC Inspector – File Recovery.

PC Inspector is a FREE data recovery program that can not only pull data from a damaged drive, but it also has the ability to retrieve deleted files on your computer. As mentioned above, when you delete a file it just gets moved to another area and is overwritten. If the file was deleted recently or not much activity has taken place, there’s an excellent chance that you can completely restore the file. PC Inspector – File Recovery is awesome.

PC Inspector also has a SmartCard Recovery program that performs the same function for the SmartCards used in digital cameras and other PC Inspector Smart Recoverydevices. Digital cameras have been known to re-format a SmartCard for no reason at all, but when that happens you just need to download and install PC Inspector Smart Recovery. Plug a card reader into your computer, or use the card reader bay, start Smart Recovery, navigate to the card and your pictures magically reappear. Again an awesome program.

If All Else Fails

If that doesn’t work, there is one more option you can utilize that isn’t free, but it doesn’t cost hundreds either. The absolute best data recovery, hard drive repair program is called SpinRite.

SpinRite - Data Recovery|Hard Drive Repair

For a mere $89 (as of this writing) you can save data and repair hard drives over and over again. I’ve used SpinRite on dozens of drives and have had 100% success in restoring them. SpinRite will restore corrupted system files, boot sectors and it can even repair physically damaged drives. Absolutely amazing.

Summary

If you’re cheap (or broke) like me, you may go through the steps above to retrieve your data. If you’re not interested in cracking open your computer, than SpinRite is definitely the best way to go. Please leave any questions in the comments section.

Good Luck!

Share

4 More Free Software Picks

Anti-Malware, Web Development Tools and Entertainment

My aversion to paying for anything software related results in countless hours scouring the internet for useful FREE software. Each of the programs listed below not only rock but are absolutely free, however, it would be nice if you threw a couple bucks at them if you appreciate their efforts.

Came across a great anti-malware program, not by mistake. Just so you know, my internet surfing behavior could be described as daring, controlled recklessness or idiotic. The fact is, I’m convinced I can fix anything computer related, real or imagined, and I’ll die believing that, regardless of the veracity of the sentiment.

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes.org

Malwarebytes

My admitted unsafe internet surfing practices led to infection by a nasty little trojan. After 2 minutes of googling, I found Malwarebytes.org which erradicated the infection. I had to run it 3 or 4 times, but it did the job.

HTTrack Website Copier

HHtrack.com

HTTrack Website Copier

As a Web Designer, Web Developer, it can be advantageous to gain an understanding as to how Pros put their sites together. HTTrack downloads the entire html translated site. Protected or encrypted directories won’t download, but most of the files and directories will. Great tool. Or,what if you like the content of a particular site? Whatever content that is?

Or, what if you want to use elements of a particular site? Need I go on?

Notepad++ Source Code Editor

Notepad++

Notepad++

Taken from their site:

Notepad++ is a free (as in “free speech” and also as in “free beer”) source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL License.

Based on a powerful editing component Scintilla, Notepad++ is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL which ensures a higher execution speed and smaller program size. By optimizing as many routines as possible without losing user friendliness, Notepad++ is trying to reduce the world carbon dioxide emissions. When using less CPU power, the PC can throttle down and reduce power consumption, resulting in a greener environment.

Foobar2000

foobar2000.org

Foobar2000

So many of the media players available have more bells and whistles than one could want or use. Foobar2000 is a Windows based media player with cool features, but it keeps it simple. I use it for it’s simplicity and that it adopts all the codecs on my machine. No ups, no extras just music how you want to hear it.

No big deal this post, just some cool stuff.

Have fun.

Share