Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is your website down for everyone, or just for you?

Is your website down? Or is it just you?

Click here to find out if your site is down for others.

How to test your website

I've given this link to so many people I thought I'd just create a post for it. Here's what you do:

  1. Copy the URL (address) of your site;
  2. Click over to the website test page and paste the URL to check into the test box;
  3. See if your site is down for others, or just for you.

Read more!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Website and logo design

Here are a few websites I've designed:


Here are some logos I've designed:

Read more!

The best free FTP program you never heard of

This program automatically sends any files that have changed to your server. Make a change, click, it's done. Wonderfully simple and easy, and the ftp itself is faster and easier than many other programs, such as Dreamweaver.

You won't find it in any directories of ftp programs

Why? Because it's a full-featured XHTML editor that works on many platforms. Not to disparage it as an XHTML editor (for example, it includes features such as HTML Beautify, HTML Validate and jump to closing tag), but I use it almost exclusively for ftp.

It's called Arachnophilia, it's been around forever, and you can download the free self-installer for Windows here, and download it for other platforms as a Java .jar (Mac, Linux, etc.) here.

Once you have installed and opened the program, Alt-F opens the FTP service window. Simply type in your settings, click "Rehearse" (to see which files will be sent) and then click "Execute." It's lightning fast.

Ridiculously easy to use and setup

I've circled the key ares in blue below when you first set up the Arachnophila FTP service:

  1. When you first enter settings, the window does NOT offer to save your settings, but they are saved nonetheless. Don't bother looking around for some kind of "save my setttings" button--there isn't one. Just select a site number, and type in a name, and after you're done and come back to this dialog box, your settings will be there waiting for you.
  2. Be sure to click the "Save password" checkbox for your convenience.
  3. The "Level" slider will NOT show enough detail for you to see what's happening unless you slide it most or all of the way to the right.
  4. Before you click "Execute," which will upload all your changed files, click "Rehearse." Among other things, this will tell you how many files will be uploaded. There are a number of oversights you can make that would cause unexpected files to be uploaded. For example, you might have moved some files over to your ftp location without thinking that they would appear to Arachnophilia as "new" files that need to be uploaded. There might be files you meant to delete, but didn't. And so forth.

Tips and tricks

It allows you to save up to 32 presets, so I commonly set up several presets for different folders within each website I work on. Remember to uncheck "Scan subdirectories" if you only want it to look in the main folder. Even if you don't change much in the subdirectories, it's easier to maintain if you limit the files it checks.

The first time you run it, of course, it will ask to upload all files in the directory you point it to, because it has no record of which files have been uploaded before. Simplest is just to let it upload everything, even though this will overwrite your remote files on the web server unnecessarily with your local files.

Read more!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blogger blog tips and tricks to get more traffic and other improvements

Note: all these short tutorials  are for "new blogger" also called "layouts" and may not work for "classic templates" also called "original blogger." If you want to upgrade (recommended!) follow Google's instructions here

Want to encourage others to start blogging? The last tip is a 90-second video to creating your first blog!

Here are some of the tips in this article:

  1. Find great free custom templates for your blog.
  2. How to view your layout HTML to make changes.
  3. What to do if you get errors.
  4. Get more traffic from search engines by making the title tag of your web page the same as the title of your post.
  5. When several posts are showing on the home page, have each offer a "Read more" link.
  6. Changing or hiding the Google navbar at the top of the page.
  7. Easier post editing.
  8. Fixing the "Tag is not closed" error
You might also be interested in:
1. Get a free custom design for your blog

  1.  70 Great designs from around the web
  2. Some very nice free designs by Blogger Tricks.com 
  3. Classic designs from Free Blogger Templates
  4. Most favorited designs at BlogSkins.com
  5. Designs by one of Google's chosen designers 
  6. Simple templates from eBlog templates
2. Start by viewing the layout HTML so you can make changes

To make these changes, you'll need to be in the Layout / Edit HTML tab in the blogger editor, which looks something like this:

Be sure to click the "Download Full Template" link and save the file before continuing. This is a backup of your site layout that you can use to go back to before you made changes, in case you make a mistake.

To get started, from the Edit HTML page, click the small checkbox to expand Widget Templates, which looks something like this:

Once that's done, you should be able to see and edit all the code necessary for these tips to work. Here's a brief introduction to what a lot of the code on your page is there for:

The <body> area of your template is mostly (1) sections and (2) widgets.
  1. Sections mark out page areas like the sidebar, footer, etc.
  2. Widgets are an single page elements like a picture, blogroll, or anything else you can add from the Page Elements tab. You can include any HTML you like around the sections in your template.
Each section in your template has an opening and a closing tag, looking something like this:

<b:section id='header' class='header' maxwidgets="1" showaddelement="no">

3. What to do if you get errors
Errors are not uncommon, but can often be worked around, or will clear themselves up.

General tips:
  1. Close the page that is giving you a problem and try again in a few minutes.
  2. Log out and log back in again.
  3. Check the unfixed issues page.
  4. Rebooting your computer is one option, but usually the issue can be made to go away without that.

Getting an error message page?
  1. Trying going back one page (leave the error message page) and refreshing the page, then trying what you did again. You can click the refresh button, or press the single F5 key at the top of your keyboard. (You can also hold down the Ctrl key on a Windows computer while pressing the F5 key.)
  2. Switch to a different browser before trying again. Try switching between Internet Explorer (or Maxthon) and Firefox (or Flock).
  3. Clear cache (delete temporary Internet files) and cookies in Tools-Internet Options.
    Not seeing the latest update?
    1. Add a question mark to the end of your blog's internet address in the address box and check again.
    2. If you're in classic Blogger, try republishing
      4. Get more traffic from search engines by making the title tag of your web page the same as the title of your post.

      This helps search engines show searchers the topic of each post you've written. Otherwise they may just show the name of your blog for every post. After this change, search engines should show searchers the actual title of the blog post on the search engine results page. Here's a before and after example:

      Here's what you do. First, search for this text:


      And replace it with this text:

      <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
      <title><data:blog.pageName/> | <data:blog.title/></title>

      Now the title of your post will also be the title of each web page, followed by the name of your blog. If you want to eliminate the name of your blog from the title of your web pages entirely, use this as a replacement instead:

      <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
      <title><data:blog.pageName/> | <data:blog.title/></title>

      5. When several posts are showing on the home page, have each offer a "Read more" link.

      This is a more advanced technique. Note that this won't affect a page that is just a single post. Read Google's tutorial if you're having trouble. Here's the abbreviated version of what to do:

      Step 1 of 3: Add the below to your style sheet. If you know what you're doing, you won't need the <style> and </style> tags, but if it isn't working, try it with these:

      <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'> 
      span.fullpost {display:inline;}
      span.fullpost {display:none;} 

      Step 2 of 3: Add the following code to your template, somewhere after the <data:post.body> tag:

      <b:if cond="data:blog.pageType != "item"">
      <a expr:href="data:post.url" href="">Read more!</a>

      Step 3 of 3: Then add span tags to each post, so they look something like this when viewed on the "Edit HTML" tab of the blogger editor:

      Here is the beginning of my post. <span class="fullpost">And here is the rest of it.</span>

      Tip: You have to be working in the "Edit HTML" tab of the blogger editor, and you should make adding the fullpost span code the last thing you do: DO NOT switch to the "Compose" tab once the span tag has been added. The editor may remove the fullpost span code if you do. Google will probably eventually fix this, but for now, you have to make your final changes from the "Edit HTML" tab and then click "PUBLISH POST" when done.

      Here's Google's tutorial on this effect, which they call creating expandable post summaries.

      6. Hide the Google bar at the top of the page

      Note that Google discourages this, but specifies that it is NOT against their terms of service. Also realize you can change the color from Layout / Page Elements, and clicking on the "Edit" link for the Navbar page element. You have your choice of Blue, Tan, Black, or Silver.
      1. Blocking the "next blog" link. Google's method for blocking it on a LAN.
      2. Completely hiding the Navbar: one method.
      7. Easier post editing

      Make the box you type and edit in larger:
      Pressing down with the mouse and dragging on the tiny gripping lines showing on the lower-right box corner (shown below)

      Easier image dragging:
      Making the editing box bigger helped, but also try pressing the enter key on your keyboard to add more lines of space where you want the image to go. Delete the extra lines of space when you're done.

      Use keyboard shortcuts:
      To use these, hold down the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard while pressing:
      • shift + a = Link
      • l = Blockquote, when in HTML-mode only (this is the lower-case letter "L")
      • shift + p = Preview
      • d = Save as Draft
      • p = Publish Post
      Some keyboard shortcuts you probably already use in other programs also work in blogger. Again, hold down the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard while pressing any of these keys:
      • s = Autosave and keep editing
      • b = Bold
      • i = Italic
      • z = Undo
      • y = Redo
      8. Fixing the "Tag is not closed ... " error

      Here's what the beginning of a typical error message of this type looks like:

      If you switch back and forth between Edit HTML and Compose modes, in some situations blogger will remove some closing tags. They are easy to type back in.

      When you see the error, just scroll down until you see the text that blogger has highlighted for you as being in error.

      If the tag not closed starts with an embed (I've shown this below highlighted in green) near the end of the text blogger highlighted as in error, you'll need to add a closing embed tag (highlighted in yellow below). If there is a div tag at the very end, type your just in front of it, as shown. Click the picture below for an enlarged version.

      So that you can encourage other to blog, here's a 90-second video on how to create your first blog on blogger:

      Read more!

      Saturday, September 06, 2008

      What you can do easily and cheaply when "Check engine" lights up on your car dashboard?

      What should you do when your check engine light comes on? At this point the OBD (on-board diagnostics) in your car have logged a code providing information about the cause of the light coming on.

      The first step is to get the code checked for free, then read about the code on the internet, and finally reset the light to see if it comes back.

      Once you're done, use what you found in reading about the code on the internet to decide whether to see a shop or not, and what to ask them to do. Or, if you're fairly sure that you're not going to learn anything new, you might just want to reset the light to see if it comes back.

      Get the code checked for free

      Here you have two choices. You can do it yourself, or find someone to do it for you free. Some auto parts stores will read the code for free, as will some oil change places, and a few similar businesses. Virtually all places that work with cars have what is know as an OBD scan tool for doing this.

      Make a few calls, because those that won't read it free often charge more than the cost of buying your own code reader! You can buy your own reader for as little as $40, but getting the code read can cost $50-90. Try searching for "scan tool obd"  or similar if you want to buy your own. They're easy to use, and worth having. You can help friends get their code read once you have one.

      Learn what the code means

      Once you get the code, search the internet for that code to learn more. Many causes of the check engine light going on are not serious or harmful, yet many shops are trained to use any code as an excuse to sell you things you don't need.

      Easily reset the check engine light yourself

      Open the hood, remove only the positive terminal of the battery, wait 10-15 minutes, re-connect and the check engine light should be off. Some suggest making the disconnection for only 5-10 minutes, and turning on the headlights during that time. Some find even less time works. It depends on your vehicle.

      Read more!

      Wednesday, September 03, 2008

      Google Chrome descends from the Mother Ship: 10 reasons to try this browser

      Are you a geek? Start with this comic book explanation of Google Chrome. (Seen the comic? Try this parody of it. Or this one.) Looking for a slightly longer review?

      Most of us already have several programs that browse the web (browsers). Why download another browser?

      If you use more than one browser, I recommend using Google Chrome. I have set my Gmail notifier to show me email in chrome, for example.

      Ten Reasons

      Here are the reasons, in order of importance, I think you should consider downloading and trying Google Chrome:
      1. More secure by design. Very important!
      2. Better protection from crashes by design;
      3. Makes your computer run faster (uses less memory);
      4. Runs advanced web pages very fast: Test results. (okay, soon Firefox will too, but Chrome is poised to get very fast);
      5. The best pop-up blocking ;
      6. Fast browsing (page loading, memory leak protection);
      7. Better search features (such as automating Open Search sites);
      8. Useful features not found on other browsers, although you can enable a lot of similar features using Firefox add-ons;
      9. It's open source;
      10. It's easier for developers to create for (incorporates Google Gears).
      However, I'm going to wait until they add a few more features (and it's been tested a little longer--today is day 1) before installing this for my mother. Here's another review: 7 reasons for, 7 reasons against.

      How much faster is it TODAY?

      Does Google Chrome have a security problem ?

      Note that you actually have to have Internet Explorer installed for this to work, although in principle it could take advantage of other programs.

      So here's the story: Currently, there are places all over the internet that offer harmful files for you to download. Google does a better job than any other company at identifying which web sites have harmful files, and has integrated this nicely into Chrome: they warn you about these places before you can browse to their pages.

      So, to get a harmful file onto your computer, and get it cause harm, you have to:
      1. Click a link to reach a page with a link click that will download a file;
      2. Have your browser fail to warn you that the page has harmful files on it;
      3. Click the link on that page to open a box asking you to download the file;
      4. Click "Save" in the box that pops up, authorizing Windows to save that file;
      5. Have your anti-virus program fail to block the program from downloading;
      6. Find that file on your computer and try to run it;
      7. Have your anti-virus program fail to stop the program from running.
      If you make it through all seven of these steps, it doesn't matter what your browser is. These steps have nothing to do with Google Chrome.

      So, how does the "Carpet Bombing" problem with Google's Chrome make these steps worse? In step #3 above, the download box opens automatically, but only if it's a particular type of file (java JAR). Everything else is the same. That's all!

      How bad is this, really?

      This problem has been known about for awhile now, and was left unfixed by Apple in their Safari browser for several weeks. Microsoft reports that there is no known example of anyone being affected by this (read their advisory about it).

      If you manage to find and click on harmful links without realizing and save harmful stuff, and run it on your computer, harmful things can happen. Having the download box open automatically when you reach a page seems as likely to RAISE suspicion as to trick you into clicking "Save."

      Furthermore, if you try to run the file from within Google Chrome, Windows Explorer will show a warning (that Google Chrome passed to it) that this file was downloaded from the Internet. (If you close Chrome and browse to it, Windows Explorer will run it without warning).

      Read more!