Archive for Misc

Blog Comment Spam – Latest Development?

Ever since I’ve had a blog, I’ve been getting comment spam. Not so much on this particular blog, as it’s not hosted on its own domain, but particularly my new site, http://www.ridehard.co.uk is getting a fair share of it. Apart from the standard comments just consisting of a whole lot of random characters, lately some different ones have been coming along. Now I’m not sure if this is something new, or if other bloggers have already been facing this other type of spam…

Comments usually consist of some reference, attempting to pretend-socialise with the blogger “hey man, …) and then go on to ask some weird and totally unrelated question. Quite ridiculous ones as well such as “what’s the best way to combat a hangover?” Not sure why these spammers think that this type of spam comment will go unnoticed…

All I can say is, assuming it’s an automated script, wouldn’t it make more sense to have topic related questions posted to a blog of the same topic?

Well whatever they’re trying to do, I’m just glad Askimet is doing such a great job at filtering out these bullshit comments….

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My new project – Anything to do with Motorcycles

Although it pains my heart to divert people away from this blog 😉 I’d like to point everyone towards a new site I’m working on.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been riding our Honda CB500 (1996 model). And although I didn’t like it that much before, since I’m more of a retro type of person, I’m totally loving it now!

Now I’ve got this idea in my head that while I’m riding it, I don’t want it to look as old as it is. So I’m taking it upon myself to lovingly improve upon what is there, and transform the bike from bland blue and rusty to totally awesome. In order to document this process, and also talk about various aspects of bike travel, custom paint and anything else relating to motorcycles, I’ve started www.ridehard.co.uk . I aim to update that site regularly to reflect my most up-to-date progress on the bike project. So if you’re a biker or just love to see other people get their hands dirty, head over to Hedonist’s RideHard Blog!

Bloody Google Chrome! &%*$%£!

So after waiting for two weeks, I get my relatively new Toshiba laptop back from repair (hard drive had bad sectors). They replaced the hard drive, which means it’s a completely blank install of windows, as if fresh from the factory.

I couldn’t wait to get everything back the way I like it, out with Internet Explorer, in with Google Chrome! But it’s not that easy apparently…. upon going to the Chrome website, running the installer as instructed on the page, this happens:

chromeerror

What the hell???

I did a brief search online and found a link for the “stand-alone-installer”. Same bloody thing happens! Google, what’s going on????? Why can’t I have my browser? The last time I installed it was all smoother than a baby’s ass…
*Sigh* How I hate change. All I wanted was for things to get back to normal…

PS. in case anybody suggests that I should click the “Help me fix this” link; it has no useful information on it.

Buying a Motorcycle off Ebay…

If you’re an Ebay addict like me, it suddenly becomes very easy to buy more and more things from there than you would’ve originally planned. But the most important and exciting thing to buy off Ebay is a vehicle (Ok you could buy property or something outrageous like that, but that’s just pushing it!)

In order to introduce the launch of my latest website; http://www.ridehard.co.uk – I’d like to highlight the latest post I’ve written detailing how I bought my motorcycle on Ebay.

Some background info on RideHard ; Since I’m quite interested in all things motorcycles, I started a blog about ’em! I will be describing my first ever attempt of repainting my bike (a 1996 Honda CB500), as well as write about other things that might interest fellow Bikers, such as Motorcycle Travel, Gear and related topics…

Website Usability – Listen up you “revolutionary” designers!

I remember around 3 or 4 years ago, I picked up a big book dealing with Web Design Usability standards. I read through almost the entire one – 1000 pages or more! And I discovered that lots of what was mentioned, I had already figured out through online research, articles and forums I had read through, while trying to keep up to date as a freelance web designer. Nonetheless it convinced me further, that following certain simple rules, will help keep your visitors happy.

The designer in me, loves to see revolutionary design, different ways of dealing with the same concept, whether it’s an information based website, an online shop or god knows what. BUT: when creating our own websites, we must always consider the target audience. And in order to have an idea about what the average website user knows about techie stuff, I always use this rule of thumb:

“Would my mother know what to do on this website?”

My mother (64) , considered very “technical” in her generation; has been working with computers in her job for 30 years. Mind you – as a programmer for the better part of that, coding in COBOL. She is not very aware of online shopping, very wary of giving people her credit card number, in fact – she’s only had one for about 7 years now.

She knows about how to program, because this was taught to her in a course in the 1970s. She doesn’t know what HTML or CSS is. She has no clue how images are created in Photoshop. She will not know the difference between a Flash animation and an animated GIF. What she knows is, there’s a page called HOME, that’s the beginning of the site, and from there, it should be clear what this site has to offer.

So here are a few rules, when designing websites aimed at the “general public” (if you’re designing for the tech savvy elite of web designers and the like, you have a little more to play with though).

  1. Call your homepage “Home”. Don’t get too creative!
  2. The quickest way to get to the “Home” page is by clicking the logo on the top left corner of the website. Ensure that there is a logo there, it also says the name of the site, and it is clickable and sends you to the homepage!
  3. Navigation must be obvious, clearly placed towards the left or top of the site “above the fold”!
  4. Don’t get creative in naming links! My mother should know what you mean!
  5. If my mother cannot find what she’s looking for, there must be a Sitemap, and a Search “above the fold”!
  6. If you use a column based layout, 2 or 3 columns, the right hand column is for ads and secondary information. The first things the visitor will look at is the middle, the top and the left side of a website, if they cannot find what they’re looking for, then they will look at the right.
  7. If it’s an ad, it should look like an ad. (unless you want to trick people). Nothing is more frustrating than clicking on something expecting new information, and ending up on some advertising landing page.
  8. People love the back button. Ensure that it’s functional! Warnings about having to “resubmit forms” are scary to non-tech people and cause frustration
  9. Waiting is a pain. Most people will not enjoy waiting longer than 5 seconds, unless they are absolutely sure it will be worth it! So think twice about using that 1024x768pixel high quality photograph as a background!
  10. A website should NOT start with a flash intro! Many people are in a hurry and do not want a blinking “Loading” screen to welcome them to your site.
  11. Too many flashing and blinking things can give people epileptic seizures. (OK maybe I’m exaggerating, but they’re still annoying)
  12. Anything “below the fold” will be less obvious, and not viewed by a significant number of your visitors. Important stuff goes up top!
  13. Backwards compatibility is a must! My 64 year old mother doesn’t care that IE6 is an ancient monster which should have been slaughtered ages ago! Neither does she bother to buy a new pc with a 1280×960 resolution monitor. (after all, the old 15″ CRT monitor still works fine!), so make sure your site is viewable on smaller screens and older browsers, and at any cost avoid horizontal scroll bars from showing up!

Favicons – or: That little picture next to a website URL

A picture speaks a thousand words – Or at least that’s what people say. And you will have seen lots of websites, that after you’ve opened them, display a little tiny picture towards the left of the website address in most popular internet browsers in use today. And if you run your own site, you may have wondered, how do I get one of those?

Well wonder no more – The picture is called a “Favicon”. And you get one by creating an icon (.ico file) based on an image you design, and putting it in the root directory of your site. So that’s it in a nutshell. Below I’ll go through it step by step.

1. The image
Choose an image or create one from scratch which will look good even when displayed extremely small. If you’re creating this image from scratch, it helps to work on a small scale so you need not resize too much in order to use the icon. Make a new image sized 64×64 pixels. Once it is done, resize to 16×16 pixels and see if you like the look of it.

For this example, I have taken part of a photograph of sunflowers, and selected a square of the original to create this small picture: (64x64pixels)

sunflowers1

Resized to 16×16 to see if it looks acceptable:

sunflowers16

Well it ain’t perfect, but it’ll do for my example.

Next – we need this image to be saved as an .ico file (Windows Icon File). Depending on what software you have access to, you may be able to do it from your graphics program directly (For this example I used The Gimp, which can directly save as .ico, if you’re using Photoshop, you may need to install a plug in). OR: You can simply convert your .png file to .ico using This Very Handy Website. Then rename your file to “favicon.ico”.

2. Your Website

Now that we’ve got the icon, we need to include it in our website. In order to do this, upload it to the root directory of your website. Now most browsers will automatically recognise it. But in order to make sure, include the following code on all pages, within the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags towards the top of the page:

<link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”http://www.mysite.com/favicon.ico&#8221; type=”image/vnd.microsoft.icon”>
<link rel=”icon” href=”http://www.mysite.com/favicon.ico&#8221; type=”image/vnd.microsoft.icon”>

And done! Now everyone who visits your site (provided their browser supports it) will see your favicon next to the url, next to the title of each page in tabbed browsers (IE7, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc), as well as next to bookmarks.

NOTE (Thank you Odzer for reminding me) : if you’ve done all the above and your favicon is not showing up, empty your cache (temporary internet files), or the change won’t show up. This is because your browser is basically still looking at the files it had previously saved on your hard drive, not the ones you just updated.

Versatile Blogger – Me?!

Thank you Odzer for awarding me with the “Versatile Blogger Award”!

versatile_blogger I still consider myself a novice blogger, having only done around 60 posts, and in the last month having been extremely lazy, making this an even bigger honour of course! Hopefully I will not run out of things to rant about, and thereby continue writing on this blog often enough to keep it interesting.

Taking this opportunity to attract some attention to my most notable achievements in the blog-osphere. My most popular post:

iPod Nano 4th Gen Video Freeze Problem – (1,575 views) Explains what to do when your 4th Generation iPod Nano freezes upon playing a video. Apparently this is an extremely common problem with the latest little iPods…

iPod Nano 4th Gen Video Freeze Solution! – (278 views) Strangely enough, more people are interested in looking at the problem, than the solution. People! When you find that blog post describing how to reset the iPod when it freezes, take the time to scroll down a bit and follow the link to this post which explains exactly how to convert your videos to suit your iPod, preventing the freezing problem altogether! It’s tried and tested! huff… people just don’t pay attention…

The next posts that have attracted the most views are:

CMS Made Simple?! – my first impressions of a free, open source PHP based CMS called “CMS Made Simple”. This post is in need of some updating, as between then and now I’ve actually built a website from scratch using it. And I would say quite successfully so.

Easy South Indian Food – A prime example of my alleged “versatility”; of course people who regularly visit this blog know that roughly 50% of the time that I don’t spend nagging about something I’m dissatisfied with, I spend posting recipes on this blog. And not just regular recipes, but those which I tried and tested myself, multiple times, and mostly those that suit a working lifestyle (Quick and easy).

Well hopefully everyone enjoyed that quick overview of my (seemingly) most useful posts… And now I’d like to take this opportunity to forward the award to: (drums please…) Hades of The Times of Bullshit; for an endless supply of satire, sharp commentary as well as some entertaining movie reviews. May my tiny little gesture fuel his sense of humour so I can spend more time – when I should be doing something else – reading his blog!

I haven’t been a good girl, but I’ve had no complaints!

Here I am, on Christmas eve, almost dinner time and I’m sitting in front of the laptop, desperate to waste some time, waiting for that darn rabbit to get tender.. Apparently if it doesn’t get tender in the oven (even if you’ve kept it at low temperature, for hours, covered so it doesn’t lose moisture, after marinating for 24 bloody hours) … I’ve read you should instead put it in a pot with the sauce, and simmer it. So after slow cooking in the oven, I’m now simmering… It smells pretty nice, but I don’t have the patience. And having already finished the potato gratin side, as well as dessert, my fingers are itching to do something useful. I should keep away from the kitchen to avoid opening the pot with the rabbit every 5 minutes and poking it to see if it’s tender yet. 

Well anyway.. enough ranting. As (according to German tradition which was forcefed to me as a child) today is Christmas, and not tomorrow, I wish you all a very merry Christmas. Eat, drink, enjoy and be nice to oneanother. Or try to at least 😉

Oh and my wishlist, in case people are feeling generous……

1. Lots of chocolate

2. Lots of cake

3. Lots of biscuits

4. Breakfast in bed tomorrow and a hot cup of tea right now without having to make it myself!

 

My odd christmas tree

Merry Shopping Frenzy

So it’s almost Christmas. And as I’m sitting, waiting for my last two days at the office to finish, the mood is all around; nobody really feels like doing anything. People are just waiting to run off and enjoy their holidays. In certain cases they already have even; my office is working at less than 50% capacity. And perhaps the word “working” in that sentence should have been put in quotes.

As I see it, Christmas, especially in the UK, is a highly romanticised yet commercial affair, that gives people an excuse to go out and hike up their credit card debts. But the effect of the global economic (F*cking) crisis is evident all around us. People are not spending like they normally would this time of year, and are even trying to be a bit more rational when it comes to their shop-a-holism. People are out looking for bargains on major purchases they need/want to make anyway; be it TVs, electronic gadgets, mobile phones or house hold appliances. The consumer is aware that Christmas during a recession will tempt the retailers to put prices down further, in order to make the most of what will be the only profitable period for some months to come. Or so you would think!

As one of the biggest retailers has already gone into administration and is desperate to sell off all their stock until early January (Woolworth), are there really bargains to be had?

I for one am not sure! During the week of the 8th – 14th of December, the Woolworth bargain-hunt mood was in full swing. There were queues outside the shop, people waiting for maybe an hour or more to get in. Queueing to get into WOOLWORTH?! I wish I was joking. During the days before and after this insanity, I went to check it out myself. And I found that nothing that was of any use to me, was actually that cheap. No bargains for me at all!

Looking for videogames, I spent ages in that shop, trying really hard, to find something or the other that would attract my attention. But none of the titles I found there were reasonably priced, even after the measly 10% discount they gave. Woolworth’s biggest sale ever (as it’s proudly advertised throughout their shops), is ridiculous to say the least. They must expect consumers to be total idiots – drawn in by the “(up to) 50% off” signs. Well I guess they must be, if they queued for that! I personally didn’t see anything useful that was at 50% off. Greeting cards – well alright maybe that is useful if you would like to stock up to cover your needs for the next calendar year…

But people did indeed come. And they shopped. And the shelves are getting emptier – (mind you I haven’t seen them properly stocked even in the best of times)… So much so that I heard the latest news is Woolworth is selling the display shelves as well.

So if anybody out there wants to take the plunge and open a shop in these tumultuous times, get your display shelves at Woolworth.. where I imagine they may still be more expensive than elsewhere!

I won an award! Whoohoo!

butterflyaward

Yay! Last Friday Odzer gave me this Butterfly Award. Not sure if I truly deserve this honour, but what the hell! Thanks man 🙂

As apparently is custom with these blog awards, they are to be passed on… so I shall do exactly that. I will award it to astralwicks, as an ode to dark humour, sarcasm and cynicism which in my opinion is the only non-ignorant way of dealing with reality that does not lead to depression and suicide.

Thanks again – *Bows deeply*

Now, time to start thinking about my next post… hopefully direct and filled with plenty of humour.

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