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An eventful few weeks

During the break between fall and winter quarters, I had high hopes of getting in a lot of work on my new websites, as well as some of the old ones.

Of course, immediately after school was out, the plan was to just crash for a few days, and I accomplished that with no problems whatsoever. I didn't even want to go snowshoeing with Laurie.

When the Pineapple Express hit us in November, it dumped 18 inches of rain on Mt. Rainier in just 36 hours, and the damage has kept the park closed ever since. So Laurie had to find an area to go up near the northwest corner of the park, where she could walk in till there was enough snow on the ground.

Cool tool to help pick colors

We're currently going through the hell that is selecting colors for the kitchen and dining room. I'm the first one to admit that I don't have the interior designer's flair for picking paint colors. Hell, I'd rather go to the dentist than deal with picking colors.

It isn't that picking the main color is so bad, you just find one that you like and go with it. What sucks is trying to find the other colors that will go with it, for the trim and accents and such. There are lots of books that tell you how to do it, but they either give you a few simple examples, or they are loaded up with theory that doesn't really help those of us that are color challenged.

Playing with AdSense

I've followed the workings of AdSense for a while now, but I've just never gotten around to playing with it much. As it is now obvious if you look to the right, that has now changed.

I'm playing with AdSense modules in both Drupal and Wordpress. While they are useful enough to start with, I would really like to put together a system that gives you a lot more control of all your ads. Doing something like being able to set specific overrides depending on what page is showing.

There are so many advertising options out there that might be appropriate for certain pages, but not of general interest around your website. Things like an affiliate link to Northern Tool when talking about a home generator, but I don't think I would want the affiliate link showing up for a page about sewing drapes.

Playing with themes

I just changed the theme to this site. Up till now, I was using the standard on that came with drupal.

The new theme is FriendsElectric, and it runs with the PHPTemplate engine instead of the standard engine. I'm looking forward to tweaking it around some to bet my own look to the site.

I'm also going to play around some with the positionaing of the various blocks, I started out with some on both the right and the left, but that took up all sorts of space when I wanted to print out a recipe. I'll probably put some back over on the right after I get the printable pages working.

I also want to mess around with putting up ads, but in a sensible fashion.

Wordpress experiment

Since I went and applied for a job at the college to help them select and set up their Content Management System (CMS), I decided that I should start aquainting myself with more of them than just the one that I am using on my current website.

Wordpress is blogging software that I looked at for my own site and discarded for a couple of reasons. First, Wordpress is blogging software, and I wanted the ability to make my site more of a community site than just a blog.

Second, and an even bigger turnoff for me, was that Wordpress doesn't have threaded responses in the comments. That means that if you comment on my story, and 10 people comment after you, but before I get a chance to repond to your comment, all those other comments will be between your comment and my reply.

Since this is a learning situation I went and set up a Wordpress test site to play with. Who cares if I like it or not, it is just so I can be conversant in Wordpress when I'm talking to someone about various CMS for a job.

URLs, full, absolute path and relative path

When putting links on one of your pages to other pages on the same site, there are three basic choices:

  1. Full URL - This is the protocol + domain + path version where there is absolutely no mistaking where you are intending to point. An example of this would be http://www.example.com/directory/file.html.
  2. Absolute Path - This version does not include the domain name, but does have the entire path name from the root directory down. This version always starts with a "/" instead of a directory name, filename or a ".". And example would be /directory.file.html
  3. Relative Path - This version is generally the shortest and points to the target relative to the current position in the directory tree. If you are in /dir1/file.html and you have a link to "../file1.html" you would move up one directory and open /file1.html. If you linke to "dir2/file2.html" you will go down one level to /dir1/dir2/file2.html because it will look for dir2 relative to your current location in dir1. Link to a file "file3.html" and you will end up at /dir1/file3.html.

CWIhosting sucks!

We have been hosting BGT at CWI hosting for at least three years now, and they have finally succeeded in running us off.

For much of that time we were happy with their service, they would reply promptly whenever we would submit a trouble ticket. Their prices remained high for the amount of bandwith and disk space we were allocated, but as long as we were getting good service there wasn't much point in switching just to save a few bucks. Not to mention, we were still well within our bandwidth limits, so why tempt fate by moving to a different server.

Scoop sites and SPAM

Lately I've been trying to come up with some ideas for some new websites, and some of these sites seem to be better suited for software like Scoop than Drupal. I'm actually a member at sevarl Scoop sites and really like the interface, as well as the ability to rate comments and gain Mojo.

The big problem is that Scoop sites are now being targeted by spammers, and there are no effective tools available to help deal with them. The idea that users will vote down story submissions that are full of spam seems to be valid, even on non-tech sites, but the only sites where users gain enough mojo to be able to hide spammy comments seem to be the tech-centric sites. That just doesn't work out well. And if you enable diaries, only admins can delete spammy diary entries.

Google Analyitics now updating

Well, it took a while, but Google Analyitics is now "working". It took about 36 hours to finally come up with some numbers. I'm not sure how often it updates the stats on a site, but it seems like it is longer than 24 hours. I guess I can't complain too much though, since it is a free service.

I've now added this site as well, and once again, it is taking its good sweet time.

The statistics that they produce are definitely pretty, and somewhat useful. I just wish I didn't have to click around so much between the pages. For this kind of thing, I would much rather have one big long page wh

Google Analytics

Google is now making Google Analytics available free to AdWords users as well as anyone that serves up less than 5 million pages a month (like me). Google Analytics used to be the Urchin statistics package before it was bought out by Google.

Just for fun, I decided to sign up to use it on my yahoo store, since Yahoo! has such shitty statistics tracking. The first thing that became painfully obvious is that Google didn't plan for the popularity of their offer! Just signing up was painfully slow. The pages containing the forms that you have to fill out aere taking several minutes each to get served up.

Changing Recipe Module

When I first started playin with Drupal, I was excited to see that there was a module for posting recipes to your site. How cool is that?

Well, it didn't take me long to realize that there were lots of problems with it. To start with, there was no way to have a recipe with multi-part ingredient lists. For example, with Kung Pao Chicken, in addition to the main ingredients, there are also lists for the sauce and for the marinade. As it happens, that Kung Pao Chicken recipe was the first one that I wanted to enter.

Even worse, there was a separate field for each ingredient, and the standard form only had room for 6 ingredients. You had to click a check box and hit preview if you wanted to enter more than 6. And it would only add 6 more lines when you did that.

MotD is Pathauto

Drupal actually has a pretty sucky standard design from both a processor use and search engine optimization perspective.

Fortunately, at least the SEO part of the equation is helped out with the addition of a couple of modules and a setting.

Most important is the setting "Clean URLs", which uses mod_rewrite in Apache to change the URLs from http://www.example.com/index.php?q=node107 to http://www.example.com/node107. The "?q=" part, in addition to being rather ugly, has been known to confuse some search engine spiders. Not to mention that if you add more values beyond one or two, some spiders just refuse to follow those links.

Module of the day is gsitemap

I've decided that I'm going to try out one Drupal module a day on this site in addition tp any content that I might add. Today's module is the one to generate a sitemap of all the filenames that are available for Google to crawl.

Google sitemaps give the webmaster the ability to tell google which files exist and when the last time they changed. This reduces the bandwith requirements for both Google and my website. It also lets Google know when a new page has been created, so it you don't have to wait for Googlebot to find it on its own.

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