Quick Tip

So, I use Bluehost and there is an issue for some folks with email addresses. This may happen with other hosts, but this tip is specific to this provider.

The default email used to send messages to users when you install WordPress or Joomla and some other common content management systems tends to be [name of CMS]@[yourdomain.com]. If this email is not located/created in Bluehost anywhere then it sends from [username]@ box[xxx]bluehost.com. This is ugly and unfortunate if you are not the only user on the install.

Nine times out of ten when someone looks up how to fix the issue, the solution involves getting one’s hands dirty in some code that they don’t really need to. The Bluehost support answer is less than fantastic, because it suggests mucking about in PHP and changing the CMS to suit your needs. This is not necessary. There is a much easier way to solve the problem.

When you install whatever CMS that you plan to use, you can still use whatever admin email you like as long as you give Bluehost the heads up. The laziest way to do this is to setup a forwarder to your email of choice.

  1. Login to cPanel.
  2. Find the Mail category.
  3. Click forwarders.
  4. Click Add Forwarder.
    The address to forward should be [CMS]@[yourdomain.com] and the destination should be your admin email that you picked when you installed the CMS.
  5. Enjoy not having those crappy emails from [username]@box[xxx]bluehost.com

Fin.

Whip Up a Custom Fedora Spin with Revisor

One of the bigger issues with some Linux distributions is the software selection.  Some packages come with entirely too much software, while others require many updates and additions just to function properly.  By creating a re-spin of your favorite flavor of Linux, many of the issues can be solved.

The install discs for distros are simply an installer program with arbritrary packages thrown on top.  When installing, it mostly copies files over to the hard drive based on the information you input.  Since the questions and available packages are meant to be generic and are decided by the developers, they do not always meet the needs of the user.

Also in cases where the distro needs to be implemented onto a large number of computers in an office, the lack of specialized applications can be a hinderance.  Having to select the language pack and keyboard layout on each individual machine would be very tedious.  Custom install DVDs not only save time and effort in the beginning, but also positively effect overall productivity.

To achieve the goal of creating your own re-spin with Fedora, the developers took the initiative to add a program called Revisor.  This saves one from having to completely write the new spin themselves.  It allows the user to adjust the install by adding newer packages and still keep the system close to the original setup.  Revisor is also handy if the distro is installed on any portable media. Using the software to reconfigure the distro without having the need to install Fedora on the hard drive on the machine or create a new install on the portable media each time.

Distributions can still be edited without the aid of Revisor if a graphical user interface is not a requirement. Developers chose to create the GUI for some of the less adept users of the software.  For those running Fedora 7 or later Revisor can be accessed with the command

# yum install revisor

Since Fedora 9, Revisor has been included on the Live discs.

Revisor

First task after installing Revisor is to just type

# revisor

into the terminal.  This brings up a happy splash screen with prompts you through the next steps.  The next course of business is to select the media which will house the re-spin. Most importantly, the following step deals with selecting which repositories to use.  The repositories handle the software packages and selecting the one you wish to work with basically determines which distro of Fedora your re-spin most closely resembles.  This step is crucial in that you have to remember include at least one of the repositories that is mandatory for the system to function.

If you plan to run Revisor often, you can speed things up by copying the contents of the original DVD to your hard disk. The standard Fedora repository can be disabled and you could choose to either use the data on your hard disk or the DVD as the default repository.

After loading the repositiories, the Kickstart configuration file needs to be generated.  A Kickstart configuration file contains all the configuration information used with the installer, called anaconda.   The Kickstart file can be used to pre-configure the system so that the installer can run unattended. Unattended installs save the user from having to hover over the computer  and make individual selections about the configuration.  A Kickstart file usually contains a list of packages to install on the system, which services to run, and what the appearance of the X Window configuration should  be.

The one downside to Kickstart files is that they can explicitly copy a previous installation, but they cannot remove hard disk partitions. If the disc is already clear, this is not an issue. If you do not have Kickstart files already Revisor includes an option to create a fresh Kickstart configuration file.

Finally, the time comes for you to choose what packages to install on the media.

It is a simple click and select option in the interface which gives you the ability to leave the system mostly bear or load up applications.  Once again these packages can be sent to a Kickstart file saving you from having to pick and choose packages from the standard distro.  This can also be skipped for a generic install.  Revisor then creates an ISO image or whatever media you selected for the re-spin, which is the most time consuming of the processes.

The process of creating a re-spin can be done sans the Revisor program by beginning with an alternate installer and using Kickstart configuration files, but there still needs to be a third party program to combine them for a new ISO.

Code that Caters to Your Laziness

{{en|== Summary ==}} The font used in this ima...
Image via Wikipedia

Like clockwork, people build lists of resolutions and things to do for the new year. Many of the folks with websites end up scrambling to change the copyright dates sometime in the afternoon before they go out New Years Eve, or they end up doing it while hungover the next day. What is worse is when those of us that use a template created by someone else don’t realize that the coder got lazy and just threw the year in, and we don’t end up fixing the mistake until a few days later.

What I don’t get is why the folks that make these templates don’t have the self-updating code in there already. If you took all that time to create a template for people to use, you would think you would make it easier on yourself and put the code in there. I can understand it if you charged for support and just wanted to drum up some business, but it just seems silly.

To solve this problem, I did a bit of searching for code snippets to have your copyright date update when the calendar does.  Below are ways to do it in JavaScript, PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, and SSI.

JavaScript:

© <script language=
"JavaScript">
<!--
    today=new Date();
    year0=today.getFullYear();
    document.write(year0);
//-->
</script>

which gives you:

© 2010

or if you want a range of  dates and a little text

<script type="text/javascript">
<!-- copyright=new Date();update=copyright.getYear();document.write("Copyright © 2001-"+ update
+ "    (your company name)    All rights Reserved."); //-->
</script>

with that one it will give you

© 2001 – 2010 (company name) All Rights Reserved.

There is also a JavaScript generator available at Webweaver if you are feeling really lazy.

PHP:

<?php echo Date(Y);?>

or for a range of dates

 <?php
$c="2009";
$d=date("Y");
   if ($d==$c)
      echo "Copyright &copy; $d";
   else
      echo "Copyright &copy; $c-$d"; ?>

this one will produce a single date for the first year, and then the date range afterwards.

ASP:

<%=year(date)%>

or for the range of dates

 < %response.write("Copyright 2001- "&Year(Date))%>

or

< % Dim yy yy = DatePart("yyyy",Now()) %>Copyright © 2001-< %=yy%>

or

Copyright © 2001-< %=Year(Date)%>

ColdFusion:

<cfoutput>&copy; #Year(Now())#</cfoutput>

SSI:

<!--#config timefmt="%Y" --><!--#echo var="DATE_LOCAL" -->

or make your copyright statement a file fragment that can be pulled in with a simple:

<!--#include virtual="/path/to/copyright" -->

Since not every site is the same, it helps to have this list on hand. You just need to remember to check for them in any new templates that you decide to use, and/or remember to put them in a site you make on your own. Also, do not forget to update any forms you have (especially the ones involving money).

14 Reasons Your Site Is Evil

World Wide Web
Image by Bull3t via Flickr

Everyone loves a nice pretty website. The design pops on the screen and it invites you to settle in and enjoy the experience.  Often designers and/or their clients take two approaches to catch the viewers eye:  some choose sleek minimal ideas and others go hog wild with bright colors, animations and a deluge of information.  Many times the result ends up being too extreme in either direction and the poor web surfer is given a case of eye poisoning, but that is not the only issue to contend with.  There are articles that address similar things strewn about the net, but apparently their are not enough.  So, here are a few reasons why some people think your site is evil.

1.    Videos that autoplay

Contrary to popular belief, the entirety of the internet community is not on a connection bulky enough to accommodate the downloading of high definition video.   That aside, folks hate when you have some advertisement laden video that wants to skip and buffer kick up when they go to your website.  I NEVER return to sites that do this. I had to once to pay a bill and went to the mobile version instead.  I will hold onto those grudges forever.

2. Advertisement overkill

Let’s say someone really, really wants to read your article, but they can’t find the damn thing.  You get upset because after that first surge in advertisement revenue it dwindles down to nothing because your audience became fed up with playing hide and seek with your content.  Guess what, there are plenty of other places to find similar content that aren’t covered in crap.  Some ads are understandable, but don’t make your place into an advertisement minefield.

3. Your code sucks

Yes, your website is very, very pretty . . . 3 days later when it finally loads because your code is jacked up.  This problem may have been one of the reasons that RSS is where it is today.  I read tons of webcomics, many only by feed reader because it takes 5-10 minutes for the comic to even load on the website.  This is mostly separate from the problem with connection speeds because crap code slows your load time no matter what.  There are some websites I will never see the full page for because I just gave up while it was thinking. There are tons of free validators out and plenty of people willing to help you clean the mess up (myself included). With all that gunk, how would you even notice if there was malware thrown in there?

4. It has an ugly, non-matching, gross, pastel/neon/tacky color scheme

People can’t buy what you are selling if they cannot see.

5. You pester the reader to do something

It is cool and all that you want the reader to come back. Nagging is not cool. You cannot make someone subscribe to your content by bullying.  I am not going to join anything if you tell me to eight times on the main page.  Things like little unobnoxious  share buttons on posts are fine.  Don’t beat the reader over the head with the fact that you have an e-book every paragraph.

6. Something on the page is blinking

Just last week I saw a site that had some blinking marquee. I wanted to shake the webmaster (because I know that is what that person calls themselves. I am sure they still wear Izod and have a big collection of cassette tapes lying next to their original Walkman. )

7. Navigation to nowhere

Honestly if you are still working on your site that is fine. But if you are trying to provide someone a service and they have to click through enough links to fill a novel, someone else will be much happier to help them out. No one should need a GPS to find your contact information.

8. Extreme minimalism

There needs to be more than just your domain, a jpg, and a copyright. At least one link or sentence should be there to give the readers something to go buy.

9. You try and trick the visitor with a bait and switch

If I can’t just read your article, why am I here? Why do I have to sign up to pay for something to get one little tidbit of information that you could provide free without damaging your drive for revenue? At least throw out an excerpt or summary.  3 links ago there was no obligation to pay, there could at least be a disclaimer somewhere else on your site.

10. Useless back button

I cannot directly vouch for anyone else’s level of annoyance at a website that just reloads when you try to navigate back to the one you were on before it, but it irritates me immensely.  It insults me when a page decides I am not allowed to go back the way I came in.  Subconsciously you have associated your site with a little kid holding a glass door closed from the other side. Good job.

11. Resizing windows

Hire somebody who knows how to design a website that is standard size.  It is not that hard.

12. Music that autoplays

Resource-wise, it is not as bad as the videos.  We still hate it. The mute/stop buttons are usually not very responsive and frankly nobody asked you to be their DJ for the evening.

13. Tons of flash/flood of ajax

Netbooks are quite popular. Netbooks do not play nice with a pile of flash. Not unlike many people that will stop by your site, my old notebook wheezes in pain anytime I get to a site with this.  Even with browsers that are better equipped to handle the onslaught some computers just freeze at the thought of loading these pages.

14. You still have the same webpage from 1990

People will not be sure your company/product is still relevant if it looks like it predates their teenage children.

There is a way to avoid all of these pitfalls and give your user base a great experience. It shocks me that there are enough of these sites still around that have all of these problems when there are loads of talented designers and programmers out there who would not stand for this nonsense. Be considerate to your customers and realize that your site is supposed to help them, not drive them away.

Don’t Force It

It is understandable that you want people to consume your content and then share it with all their friends.  It is also quite considerate of you to try your best to make the process easier, by adding sharing methods directly to your content. The “social” toolbars that are showing up with great frequency lately however, may not be the best route to take to accomplish this.

Many of these toolbars are full of chunky code and just make a decent number of visitors  leave the site before it finishes loading.  Many of these toolbars are, for lack of better expression, butt ugly and completely clash with the design of your site. The worst offenders actually load in front of your content, preventing users from reading what they came to see.

To be honest, once one of those things pops up on my screen, I’m pretty much done. Your content can be FANTASTIC, but I hate the “social” toolbars with a passion.  If you added one of those atrocities to your site for a mainstream visitor, you probably could have just added a small “Add to Facebook/Email” link somewhere.

It is much worse when the content is geared toward more of the tech savvy/extra geeky crowd. Probably 80-90% of us have a stack of sharing bookmarklets we can navigate in our sleep.

The toolbars scream desperation, and that is just not attractive.

Favicons Are Our Friends

Favicon-in-Firefox
Image via Wikipedia

Sure there are plenty of posts out there on the internet covering this same topic.  For some reason there are still not enough sources.  So here is one more.

Favicon = is a small graphic that is associated with a page or Web site. (short for favorite icon, sometimes understood as favorites icon), also known as a website icon, shortcut icon, url icon, or bookmark icon).

1. Get an image

To get that happy little 16 x 16 square associated with your site, you first need an image (16 pixels by 16 pixels of course).  Bear with me and pretend it is a picture of a cake.  So get your cake picture ready in your favorite image editor and save it as a .ico file.   If you cannot do that it is not so bad, you can just save it as a gif, png, or jpg but there may be a few browsers out there that don’t like those options.  There are plenty of favicon generators available so dive into the pool if you need to.  In the example it will just be called cakefavicon, but you can name it whatever you want.

2. Put it somewhere

The second thing you need is somewhere to put the icon. If you host your own site this is not likely to be a problem, but some free hosts might be a wee bit upset about letting you upload a .ico file. This is why the standard was relaxed to include the other formats. So if you run into trouble when you upload the image, then try the next image format on the list.  Make sure wherever you decide to put the image, that you save the full link. You will need this for the last bit.

3. Tell the site what to do with it

This is the fun part.  You need to find the header of the site and add 1 line of information. The hardest part of this step can sometimes be the header since some sites use a CMS and some do not. In both cases this line of information needs to be placed somewhere after

<head>

and somewhere before

</head>.

This is the line of information that tells the site what to do with the image:

<link rel=”SHORTCUT ICON” href=”http://www.example.com/cakefavicon.ico” />

After you place that in the header (substituting the words in bold for the real address of the image) save and enjoy the favicon. In some cases you may need to clear your cache to see the image appear.

Bonus:

For WordPress users there is a plugin called MaxBlogPress Favicon which appears to just have a bunch of icons and just lets you pick one without having to get your hands dirty with image editing and code.