Category Archives: Webstuff

The “Follower” problem.

For those of you running a straight blog, with no fancy technical additions, there will actually be no problem visible, for the simple reason that you don’t have one.

If, however, you have had the temerity to aspire to the next Geek level, and have added your Twitter feed to your WordPress blog, you will be seeing the same problem as I do:-

The Follower count is never updated!

What happens when the two systems are merged is that the Follower count for the blog is added to the Follower count for Twitter, and the combined count is displayed.

For Twitter users, the Follower count is quite dynamic. I am seeing increases of up to 10 per day, only to be followed by a decrease of 5 the next day, for example. You would expect the combined account to follow the same pattern, but it doesn’t:- it remains completely static as the count calculated when the two systems were merged.

The problem has been reported, and I am awaiting developments.

In the meantime, if you are absolutely desperate to display the burgeoning number of your followers, you can always disconnect Twitter, and then reconnect it – at which time your follower count will be updated to the latest status.

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No Wonder I’m Still Thirsty!

About a year ago, as part of the Blogging 101 course I was enrolled in, I revised my ‘About’ page. Shortly before that, I had decided to write the “Buy me a Beer” page, in the hope that happy readers would buy me a drink now and again. The idea of linking from one page to another was to make it easy for the reader, and hopefully increase the volume of donations.

It was a nice thought, but that’s all it was!

Why?

The link from the ‘About’ page didn’t work as I wanted – all it did was download another picture of a glass of Guinness to a new tab in the browser!

This morning, in response to a new Blogging 101 request to revamp my ‘About’ page, I checked it over – and discovered the problem that has been laying there for a year!

So, if you see one of these, guinessjust click on it, and you will land in the right place!

Want your own Owl? Here’s how!

I came across a web page entitled “Owl bar is London’s latest ‘just one thing’ hip bar”, which has a picture of a dear little owl on somebody’s shoulder. It really looked so cute, I wanted a copy of the picture myself, but when I did the customary right-click to start the copy sequence, I had a surprise:-

The picture was suddenly enclosed in a ‘light-box’. Its a relatively new device that enables you to sequence through all the pictures on a web page in turn, without being distracted by text.

In this case, however, there was a problem. Although there was a total of 6 pictures of different owls on the page, somebody had screwed up. Only one picture was available in the light-box – and that was the one I wanted.

Well, I didn’t want a copy of a light-box, just the owl; so I did what I usually do under such circumstances – look behind the scenes.

Although I use Opera, other browsers will have the same facility. “Ctrl – U” (View Source) takes you to a new page where you can see the source code that your browser is rendering for you.

Now we use the browser’s “Find” facility in this page to look for pictures. Its simple enough; you just put the extension for a picture into the search facility – that would be ‘jpg’, ‘gif’ or ‘png’ usually. In this particular page, the ‘Find’ facility indicated that there were 72 occurrences of ‘jpg’. I was lucky, I only had to step through to the third to find what I wanted:- the url of my chosen owl picture!

When you paste this url into a new tab in your browser, you can download the picture alone – no web page, no light-box – nothing. Then your usual right-click procedure will let you save the picture.

Here is the result:-
owl

I think there is something magic about owls, you might even say wizard?

Whatever, they really are a hoot!

The Best Deal in Town!

You may have noticed a new panel in the right-hand column entitled “Like Music?”

I am a recent convert to the wonders of “Spotify”. Its a never-ending source of free music, as long as you are connected to the Internet. It has been available for some time now, of course, but I have only recently (in the last two weeks) decided to see what it is all about.

Well, I’m completely sold!

What’s not to like?

Stream any song, anywhere. Listen to millions of songs on your mobile phone. Browse for a playlist, create your own playlists, search for an artist or a specific track. Skip a song if you don’t like it. Its really easy to handle the program. And if you don’t want advertisements, go for the Premium version!

Spotify

I love music. I used to have about 12 Gigs of it saved on my hard drive. Unfortunately, when the flood hit the computer, the hard drive died, and my music went with it.

I don’t have problems like that any more with Spotify! I don’t have any storage requirement at all, but have free access to millions of songs. And when I found out that I could hook Spotify into my website, I just had to try it out.

Ok, so you may not like the choice of music. No problem, get your own!

If you would like me to change it to a different tune, just let me know! I only heard this one recently, and I liked it straight away. I don’t know if that has anything to do with having read the books. More of this in another post later, perhaps. It seems that the film “50 Shades of Grey” has become rather controversial, there’s already a campaign to boycott the film. We’ll see how that develops, but in the meantime, we can enjoy the music.

Anyhow, if you are interested in getting the App yourself, just click on the picture above, it will take you straight to their website.

Happy Listening!

The Death of a Website!

It is sad to see a website change in such a negative way that it becomes an unpleasant experience to visit it. When this happens to a website that was one of the best in its class, it is even more tragic. Unfortunately, exactly that has happened to my favourite news site:-
The Guardian.
Guardian

This is not only my personal opinion. If you go to
“Welcome to the new Guardian website”
the comment labelled “Guardian Pick” says most of it in a nutshell:-

“As a Grauniad reader for over 40 years and a daily website user/consumer, I agree with many of the negative comments, most of which are much better articulated than I could manage. The new design generally feels awkward, unenticing, and hard to navigate – no longer a newspaper with a front page, headlines, and sections any more. I guess that’s the point, but I’m sad to see it go and will undoubtedly spend a lot less time on it after these awful changes. That said, the first thing I was able to find was the crossword!”

And flicking through the 69 pages of comments which accumulated before commenting was turned off, the above comment is accurate, but very mildly stated compared to some.

Where did it all go wrong?

I have tried to pinpoint some relevant factors, as I see them, and will offer them as clues. But first, I need to clarify one point:-

In my experience, engineers want a full set of documentation for anything they are working on in the smallest format possible. The back of a cigarette packet would be good, the back of a postage stamp would be even better!

How is this relevant to a website?

Well, if we think about the home page, and its function, we realise that it is nothing other than a list of contents. It may look a bit fancy to make it attractive, but its function is to convey in the quickest method possible what is available on the rest of the site.

If we couple that with the requirement for minimum area, we end up with a single page, with everything listed on it. Ok, it might well be a long page that you have to scroll down, but the main thing is there is no need to click on anything, or fiddle around. Apart from the scrolling, it is not interactive – it doesn’t need to be. After all, we are not playing a computer game; we are reading a page of text, for goodness sake, interspersed with pictures!

The old Guardian site was pretty well organised. There were three main columns. I would sweep down the page scanning the first column on the left, looking for topics of interest. If I found something, I would load that in a new tab in the browser, and continue on down. When I reached the bottom of the page, I would scroll upward, checking the centre column for items of interest. The third column I could mostly ignore, as I have no interest in sport, etc.

Often I didn’t need to scroll right down the page. The practice of moving older items further down from the top meant that as soon as I had reached an item that I had already seen I could scroll back up again in the next column.

The whole process was quite quick, unless there was a lot of interesting material at one time. But even so, once I had loaded up my various tabs, I could disconnect from the site altogether, and leave it free for someone else.

So right from the start there is a mismatch:- The Guardian wants me to spend longer on their site, and I want to spend as little time there as possible.

While I appreciate that the requirement to present content to devices of differing size and capability may present some problems, they are by no means insurmountable, as we can see by this blog. The theme is designed to be read equally well on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone. I don’t have to take any notice of who is using what at all. I just write the content and post it.

The same should be true of the Guardian website, but unfortunately, with the new version, it is not.

The reason for this is that the new site is slanted in favour of the mobile phone, with its very small display area. Containers may be a perfectly good way of dealing with presentation here, but they are certainly not needed for a desktop display, as we already know that a single page presentation offers the best experience. I have no experience of using a tablet as yet, and so will have to reserve judgement on that.

So we see that the limitations of the mobile phone have dictated the format of the whole site, which means that the advantages of having a desktop computer have been thrown away.

While I appreciate the desire to move everything onto a single code base, this does not mean that the data so stored cannot be presented differently for different types of device. The data just needs to be filtered three different ways:- mobile, tablet and desktop.

Much is made of the new faster download time, which might mean that the data is in your computer a few seconds earlier. It does not mean, however, that you will find what you are looking for quicker – you won’t. The difficulty of finding things with the new layout far outweighs the saving in download time.

Note also that although you can’t see everything that has been downloaded on a single page, as before, the data has already been downloaded – even for the sections that you may have switched off because you have no interest in them. This means that you are consuming more bandwidth than necessary, which may involve a cost penalty.

I could continue to pick out individual aspects that cause irritation, but instead I will just state that while a responsive site may be perfect for a mobile, or even a tablet, it is of no value whatsoever on a desktop computer, where instead of helping it can only hinder.

I sincerely hope that the Guardian will realise that there is an easy fix for desktop computer users –
GO BACK TO THE OLD SITE FORMAT!

At one stroke, you will make more than 41 million people very happy!

And suddenly there is Access!

Although I haven’t been so active on the blog of late, that doesn’t mean that I have been idle. On the contrary, I have been busy trying to get the hang of Twitter and its many facets. I found another one, quite by accident, today.

I decided to send a direct Tweet to a certain person, and once it had been sent it was only visible in my browser. The repeated version of Twitter that is sent to my blog didn’t have that particular Tweet at all. Curious, I thought, and did a couple more just to confirm the fact. Sure enough, they were invisible to the rest of the people reading my Twitter line.

While I was doing this, I was thinking of people who I would like to write to, but could find no access for. I don’t know if you have had similar problems, but some people just don’t seem to have an email address – or of they do, (and its almost certain they do), they are doing an excellent job of keeping it private.

Not so with Twitter!

You want to send a Tweet to Gordon Brown, for example, just search for the tag in Twitter, and up it comes:- @gordon_brown

For Tony Blair, though I can’t think of a possible reason for wanting to contact him, unless its to be very rude, there are several – @tonyblairoffice, @Plaid_Blair, and @TonyBlairEurope. Curiously enough, the search for “tony blair liar” leads also to @tonyblairoffice.

David Cameron? Yes, he’s the US at the moment, and I did send him something:- “@David_Cameron If you are not bringing Shaker Aamer with you after 13 years internment, you might as well stay there!”

cambo

I must admit, knowing that it is a private conversation, there is a tendency to be more rude than usual. I really will have to watch that, or I might find myself upsetting the wrong people!

So, if you want to contact someone, and are having a difficult time finding how to do it, try Twitter – you will probably succeed.

All of a Twitter!

This blog has been inactive for a while now, unfortunately, and although it has caused me some concern to leave it alone so long, I have had other matters to attend to that had to take priority.

What I jokingly referred to as “Fat Feet Syndrome”, was not just a temporary problem caused by higher temperatures, as I had expected, but a sudden drop in urinary output for some unknown reason, which was ongoing.

My doctor diagnosed this as Burger’s disease, and uttered those dreaded words “STOP SMOKING”.

Every time he had said that before, I had studiously ignored him, and told him that I wasn’t going to do that. This time was different, however. I could see that he was completely serious about it. He also said that if I didn’t stop, I would start to lose body parts at the extremities, as the blood supply to them would just not be sufficient to maintain them in good condition.

Besides which, my swollen feet didn’t feel like my feet any more. Walking, although not exactly painful, was no longer comfortable. I realised that If I couldn’t walk any more for any reason, life as I knew it would be thing of the past, and I didn’t relish the thought of what would replace it!

Although I had tried giving up smoking before, I’d had no success with it – probably because I had no real incentive to do so. Now I had. And it made all the difference. I went cold turkey! I have not smoked since the end of August 2014, and have no intention of starting again.

Although not writing anything in the blog, I have not been completely inactive. On the contrary, I have become much more familiar with the niceties of Twitter, and am now quite active on that program. You can now follow what I am doing there very easily, as I have now fixed the connection, and the links are displayed on the left side of the page.

For those of you that are considering giving up smoking, and are having difficulties, you may be able to use the same trick as me. Whenever I found an urge to smoke getting too insistent, I went to sleep. By the time I woke up, the problem had gone away! Ok, for me its easier – I am retired. But if you have the time available, and need the extra help, its heartily recommended.

Snippets

1. Access to WordPress

It has been a frustrating week, with access to WordPress being intermittent, or non-existent – hence the lack of posts. I am hoping that with an update to my browser that at least some of the problems have been resolved. Its good to be back – I’ve missed you!

I did find other options to get to my blog, but I won’t detail those unless it becomes necessary.

2. Introducing a new friend.
Bitmeter2
I mentioned previously that I had to change to the latest version of Opera, which entailed the loss of an important facility – the Data Transfer Rate indication. Since then, I have managed to find an alternative – “Bitmeter2” – which does the job I need very nicely. It is a free program from Rob Dawson, a freelance software developer from Manchester in the UK, who has done an excellent job with this!

You want one too? Go here!

3. The Real Horrors of Gaza.

What you may see in the media is often bad enough, but usually will not depict the full brutality of the situation, as such pictures are too gruesome for general use.

If you want to see what is really happening to those poor people, it is superbly documented in both poetry and picture by http://palestinerose.wordpress.com/

Just be prepared for the reality!

4. Whichever way you turn – Fracked!

Despite all the protest and uproar, the government is intent on ignoring the wishes of the public, and doing what the hell it wants – again!

Half of Britain to be opened up to fracking

However, no damage has actually been done yet, so there is still time to work on the problem, and try to avert disaster.

Need options? Try the following:-
Frack Off – Extreme Energy Action Network
British Anti-Fracking Action Network
Sign now for a Frack-Free UK!

(PS. For the last one, you will have to enter a valid-looking phone number, they check!)

How do you handle Cookies?

Almost any site you browse to will want to set a cookie on your computer. This is a small amount of information , typically 100 – 200 bytes, that tells it how you would like your page presented, or how many times you have visited this site in the last day, week, or month, for example.

Normally, these cookies are only used by the site that sets them, but as there is no safeguard anywhere, they can also be accessed by other people. These are typically those that want to see what your browsing habits are, (trackers), so that they can target advertising to suit your taste, but there could also be others that have a more sinister intent in mind.

Why are cookies stored on your computer?

It would be theoretically possible for every site to keep its own record of every viewer it gets, but the amount of effort and storage space would be prohibitive, not to mention the cost. It is far more convenient for them to store it on yours.

Even though a cookie is small, it still requires one Storage Allocation Unit on your computer, which would probably be enough space to store 4 kbytes of data when used for other purposes. So, to leave a lot of cookies lying around on your computer is very wasteful of storage space, especially as this is all data that you normally can’t access, and have no use for anyway.

I get round this problem by deleting all cookies when I close my browser. If your browser doesn’t allow you to do that, I suggest you find one that will.

Even then, after a heavy browsing session, I sometimes get a message such as –
“Subscribe today to continue reading”

Then its time to delete cookies early!

You can normally do this under “Settings”, “Privacy”, “Cookies” – then delete everything you see from the site that is sending you the message. Refresh the page, and you should get what you wanted to see in the first place.

Happy Browsing!

Weeding out the Sneaks!

It is part and parcel of the blogging game; the people who want to make money on the Internet look for ways of increasing the links to their site, and thus improving their traffic.

One of the ways they do this is to make comments on your blog, and hope that the link they provided will be left in the comment.

With me, that won’t wash!

I check all the links given, and if there is a hint of something commercial, out it goes!

I look at the comment itself as well. Mostly it is the usual SEO rubbish, but occasionally there is something that seems perfectly innocuous, such as the following:-

“Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would really benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Cheers!”

The first question was not really necessary. It has long been accepted practice to quote other sources, as long as the origin is given. It was, however, polite.

The website referred to however, has nothing to do with my ‘niche’. In fact, I don’t know of any niche that my site would fit into – the coverage is far too broad.

A quick look revealed that it was all gaming apps for mobile phones, and it had to go!

However, and I always do this final check, I do give the person a chance to justify themselves by sending an email to the address provided.

As expected, no deal! The address was fake, and the email could not be delivered.

So, scarlettshook@gmail.com, better luck next time,
but elsewhere please.

You have been rumbled!