Oct 27 2010

Subscribing Made Easy

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 8:46 pm

Whether people come and visit your site to read the latest developments in the world of console comparisons, to catch up with the latest photos of your family and friends, or enjoy checking what complete strangers are up to, it is great when they make the effort and leave comment for everyone else to read and perhaps reply to.
One problem I come up against (as a visitor, rather than site owner) is I tend to leave comments at a wide variety of sites and don’t have time to check for replies in the conventional manner. My Google Reader account is already full of all the RSS feeds I have the time to follow, and keeping bookmarks for a million and one sites just clutters up the browser’s menus, and realistically means you’ll forget to check them very often.
This is why I am very happy when I come across another site that uses the Subscribe To Comments plug-in. The premise is simple – if someone fills in the e-mail field correctly, when leaving a comment, they will be e-mailed by your site should somebody else then leave a new comment on the same post. This means the visitor doesn’t have to actively check whether any replies have been left, and also improves the chances that a visitor who randomly came upon your site will return.
One issue is that the latest versions of the plug-in have had the checkbox to subscribe to comments left unticked as default. This was due to a conversation had between WordPress developers, who decided that to comply with anti-spam legislation (as there is no double opt-in etc.), visitors should have to explicitly indicate that they want to receive further communications. This makes sense (especially legally) if you are a business operating in America with their CAN-SPAM regulations. However, on a personal site like this, I tend to think it is more likely that I’ll have family, friends and random strangers who will not notice, or neglect to tick the box. For this reason, I modified the code to revert its behaviour to the old system of relying on visitors to un-tick the box if they don’t want to be told about new replies. You can either search for Subscribe To Comments on this blog to check my post detailing which lines of code to change, or check the comments section in this plug-in’s post over at txfx.net.
In terms of settings, you can check which addresses have subscribed to the most amount of posts, which posts have the most amount of people subscribed, and also tailor the text that is used when presenting the option to subscribe.

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Oct 21 2010

That New Post Is Over Here Google!

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 1:27 am

Continuing this series of posts on WordPress plug-ins that I’d recommend to people starting up a blog, this one is on a sitemap generator. This plug-in is strictly backroom only – your visitors won’t explicitly see it in action.
Although sitemaps are sometimes included in a website for people to get a run down of what pages exist, and sometimes their hierarchy, this plugin creates the sitemap for search engines. Although titled “Google XML Sitemaps“, it actually also informs the Ask, Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo search engines about your site.
Every time you write a new post, or edit an old one, a new sitemap is generated and the search engines bots will be able to find your fresh content.
Why should you care about all this? If you don’t want visitors to find your site, then you don’t need to worry. However, most people are happy for new visitors to take a long around, and the more the search engines know about your site (specifically its content and obviously the URLs they can be found at), the more often you’ll appear in a search result. Obviously a lot more SEO comes into the equation, however in terms of an install and then forget about it plug-in, you can’t really go wrong with it.

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Sep 22 2010

Calais Auto Tagger

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 3:07 pm

This plug-in is something I should be using each time I write a post, but I have fallen out of the habit again. Calais Auto Tagger takes the leg work out of deciding which tags you should attach to a post, by using semantic analysis on your post content, and making suggestions.
If you tag your posts, people will find it easier to discover related articles on your site, and search engines will also have a better idea of what subjects your site talks about. This may lead to higher rankings, and therefore hopefully more visitors. If you discuss a topic, Google will pick up on those words and lead some visitors to your site. If you tag your post with medical, pimple, spot, zit, traditional medicine , for example, you will probably pick up more traffic, and if other posts are also correctly tagged, a visitor will find other articles more easily.
You will need to have v5.x of PHP in use on your server, but to be honest if your host is still using PHP 4, you either need to give them a reminder of the need to upgrade, or consider switching companies.

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Sep 22 2010

Compaq Windows XP Drivers

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 1:11 pm

See the last Virtumonde related post for more information, but I’m currently cleaning up, tweaking and updating a friend’s laptop. For some reason, after installing Windows XP’s Service Pack 3, I had major problems with the display being severely under performing. It has been a while since I saw Windows in a 640×480 resolution, and probably close to twenty years since I encountered a 4-bit colour scheme!
Anyway, there were a few other hangovers from the massive updating done (it seems it hadn’t been allowed to update Windows or the anti-virus app in a long, long time), but most of these were simple to fix. For some reason, finding the correct drivers for a Compaq Presario 2500 series laptop (a 2580US to be specific) wasn’t easy. I don’t know whether Compaq don’t optimize for SEO very well (lack of clear results from Google), and if they don’t think people will easily need to be able to find drivers for a slightly old laptop, but if you find yourself in the same position, here here. I can currently only vouch for the video card drivers as working well, but I’ll be checking if the other drivers are more recent and an improvement later.

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Sep 22 2010

Putting Asides Inside Your Site

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 12:51 pm

On this blog posts are displayed in two different ways. The normal method is the post’s title is displayed, with the date, categories and then the main post content itself. However, whenever I send a tweet, using up all that space for something that will be less than 140 characters just seems silly. This is where the AsideShop plug-in comes into play.
You decide which categories a post must belong in, and the plugin will then decide whether to process the post as normal, or just present the actual text of the post, with a small link to the comments section after it. This can save around 60-80% of the space used normally, and hopefully helps to make tweets a little more natural, and doesn’t stop the flow as much. You could of course reverse what I do, depending on the topic of your blog, and have all categories except for one or two be set as asides. If you blog about fashion, the plugin could set up so it misses clothing for children posts, but all others are just presented in a minimalist fashion.
You can also set whether asides should be displayed in a compact form all over your site, or only on certain pages (a bit like the Google AdSense plugin, you may want it to only appear on the homepage, or archives, or search results etc.

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Sep 21 2010

All in One Adsense and YPN

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 1:01 am

It has been more almost two years since I wrote a series of posts on the plug-ins used for this WordPress blog. Since then I’ve cut down on some of the code that did nothing on the front end for visitors, but did slow down the server somewhat, especially when occasional spikes of high traffic occurred.
So, I’ll go through them alphabetically, mainly because that way it is easier for me to keep a track about which ones I’ve already mentioned. I’ll try and stick to one post per plug-in, but for the simple/popular ones, I’ll probably combine posts.
First on the list? All in One Adsense and YPN. The principle behind the code is to provide a one stop shop for blog owners, whether they write about their life in Kazakhstan, to place PPC adverts (Yahoo and/or Google’s AdSense) on the page. You just type in advert network’s ID, select whether you want text, image or both type of adverts, and the dimensions that are allowed. Once you have selected the colours to be used (text, background, URLs etc.), number of ads per post and/or page and the justification (top, bottom, left, right, centre etc.) you are all done. If you want to wrap the advert within some code (be careful with Google on that one), or hide the adverts from certain types of pages, it just takes a click or two. One minor thing you need to notice is that the plug-in’s config page is titled just “AdSense”, which normally throws me for a few seconds if I haven’t changed any settings in a while.
You can of course simply add the exact code you want into template files manually, but should you change themes, or just update it to a more recent version, you’ll always need to make sure you’ve kept a copy of the code and where it was inserted, then hope the new/new version of your theme will work as well without too much tweaking. Using a plug-in means you can skip all of those headaches and just know it will work.

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Sep 15 2010

Alexa Toolbar Comes To Chrome

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 11:10 pm

The title for this post probably doesn’t require a great deal of clarification, but just in case…

Chrome – This is an internet browser made by Google. Like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or even Safari. (There are others of course, but as people using them make up less than 2.5% of this site’s visitors, I’m happy to gloss over them for now).

Alexa Toolbar – This is some code that will tell you how popular a website is when you visit it. The lower the number, the better, so if your site had an Alexa ranking of 1, you would (theoretically) own the most visited site in the world. Until recently, only Internet Explorer and Firefox users had access to the official Alexa toolbar, and I believe it was only this one that actually registered visits to the sites you frequent, within Alexa’s system. (Other toolbars/extensions exist that will tell you the rank, but they do not tell Alexa to +1 to the number of visitors for a website on any given day.)

Comes to – It now exists 🙂 See their blog post here, or if it is down again and you don’t fancy checking Google’s cache of the page, head on over to here directly for the download link.

I should point out that some people (and anti-malware programs) will report this toolbar as something that needs to be removed. It does, after all, meet most definitions of spyware – a company records details of every site you visit. However, if you decide to locate the download, and then initiate the installation procedure yourself, I’m assuming you know what it does and are happy with this system.

Finally, many people make the argument that Alexa’s stats are not reliable (they only count people with the toolbar installed) and are easily gamed. So don’t go losing sleep if your site slips down in the rankings, or assume you’ll be able to sel your site for a 5 figure sum, just because you make it into the top 1000.

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Sep 08 2010

Mad In Argentina

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 8:13 pm

OK, rather than again forgetting to post about a friend’s site until well after it is properly launched, I thought today I would write about a site that exists but doesn’t yet have any content. One to bookmark (or subscribe to) and wait for new posts in the future. The site is called Mad About Wine, and will be run by our good friend Javier. He runs wine tours back in Argentina, and he will hopefully be posting not only contact details (word of mouth from previous visitors seems to have increased demand), but also some pictures and thoughts about the beautiful countryside, successful vineyards and great people to found down there. At some point, the original Argentinian domain name ( madaboutwines.com.ar ) will also point JavierEppens.com , but first we need to navigate our way around the government run Argentine domain name admin system. Not easy when… a) I speak no Spanish b) A lot of the menu items are labelled with graphics, not text (difficult to translate) c) The admin system itself is quite counter intuitive at points. If anyone reading this has dealt with their system before, and has 10 or 15 minutes to spare, please do let me know.
At some point, when Javier remembers to pass on the user name and password needed, I’ll be importing all the content from his original Mad About Wine Blogspot site into JavierEppens.com . The main reason for moving that data is the warning that you get when entering the blogspot version, and also it looks a bit more professional to have your own proper domain name, and you’re not at the mercy of Google’s policies in the future.


Sep 08 2010

PockeTwit Fixed!

Category: Windows MobileChrisM @ 1:53 am

If you happen to use PockeTwit to read and write your tweets, you should start the application and make sure check for updates is ticked with the options. Re-start if necessary.
Alternatively, head on over to here to grab version 0.82a . If you prefer, just grab the CAB to copy to your device and install from here.

Because of the changes Twitter made to their authentication and application verification system, namely OAuth being the only acceptable method, we had to wait for the writer of this (FREE!!!) program to update his code. This took a while, but TBH, the program is free, works like a dream again, and matches 98% of my tweeting needs. If it had YouTube access for video uploads (like TinyTwitter that I tried to use temporarily, but also had OAuth problems with) or possibly TwitVid, I could finally dump Qik. I just checked over at PockeTwit’s User Voice Page, and someone had already requested that enhancement. Added my vote.

Anyway, once the update is installed, start up PockeTwit, goto the Settings menu on the left, and select Accounts. Assuming it is already showing your Twitter account, click on Edit Selected, and follow the on screen instructions. One other person reported a problem with OAuth verification, it might be worth temporarily changing your phone’s default browser to Pocket Internet Explorer if this occurs. No reason I can think of that this would be the issue, but worth a shot. On an unrelated note, if you get general application errors, make sure your .NET CF is up to date. (Basically 3.5 or 3.7).

Now I just need to see how easy the program will be to operate on a device without a D-Pad, like the HTC Touch Pro 2 soon to be arriving.

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Sep 08 2010

From Towers To Zombies

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 12:44 am

This is a general request for help. Does anyone own “Tower Wars: Time Guardian” on a Windows Mobile device? It is a pretty good Castle Defence style game, but I am stuck in Campaign Mode on the American Civil War level. I have tried quite a few combinations of weapons, but always seem to have lost by around the third level. I’m not asking for a complete break down of the necessary placements to win the whole level, I’d just really like to have a good solid base to experiment with, rather than play the same three waves over and over. Before any smart arse tells me to google for this sort of information, I have tried, but no joy so far. Whilst we’re on the topic of games in the Castle Defence genre, make sure you give Asgard Defence a try sometime, apparently also available for WinMo, though I’ve got the PC demo. Quite addictive. Obviously nowhere near as cute as Plants vs. Zombies, but then again I don’t think they are supposed to be the same beyond the basics of strategy planning and shooting things.

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