Is Google Sidelining Analytics?

With new tracking rules coming in from both Europe and I’m sure the rest of the world and modern browsers including a “do not track” feature it must be hard for Google to see a future for Analytics. Increasingly it seems that it is trying to depreciate the value of analytics by reducing the value of the information we collect, in favour of the information it collects.

Let me give you an example: –

  • Recent changes to Analytics have logged in users not passing their keyword information through to Analytics (although this isn’t evident in Adwords).
  • Google is encouraging people to stay logged in by increasingly pushing us to be logged in to use their services.

The end result of these two policies is of coarse that Analytics is seeing less and less keyword information, but Google is seeing more and more from it’s logged in users.

If I was to be cynical about this, I would say that it is an attempt by Google to still collect all the information it wants (as I’m guessing its in their terms of service), but not passing that information through as it has done before.

So what can we do about it? More and more it seems that Google is leaving itself open for new competition. In the analytics field there are paid options which are now starting to look quite attractive now we are hooked on the value of this type of information. If any of you out there have used any, please let me know. I’d be interested on your feedback.

WordPress on Crazydomains

Installing WordPress on Crazydomains hosting drives me nuts!!!

I always forget how to install it, as to say that it’s not the most obvious installation method is probably the understatement of the century! For anyone struggling (and for me the next time I do this) this may help: –

  1. Fantastico installation from Crazydomains hosting DOES NOT WORK. I have tried this on different accounts using different methods and it never works. Don’t even bother wasting your time trying.
  2. Download WordPress and follow the instructions on http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress.
  3. When you come to configuring the wp-config.php file you will need to add in the database, user, password and hostname. This bit always completely throws me as these are not what you expect at all ie they are not what you set up in phpMyAdmin! The following is what you need: –
    1. DB_NAME – Here you need to include your account (not database username). If you are using phpMyAdmin you will see this on the left hand of the interface, but you need to include the first and second level bullet which shows ‘account-name’ and ‘database name’. Eg if your account name in Crazydomains is ‘account-name’ and the database you set up is ‘wordpress’, you will need to use ‘account-name_wordpress’.
    2. DB_USER – Follows the same format. You will need to include your account name despite the fact this is not shown anywhere. You will also see in phpMyAdmin a username like username@localhost. You need the first part of this before the @ sign. You need to then include the Crazy domain account name too. Add in ‘account-name_username’.
    3. DB_PASSWORD – Just the password. Finally something simple.
    4. DB_HOST – Just ‘localhost’.

Hopefully this will get you set up. After that just run the install script and you should connect ok!

Good luck!

Spry Collapsible Panels to jQuery

Moving Spry Collapsible Panels over to jQuery is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Just to give you a bit of background, Spry is a javascript library that comes with Dreamweaver. They really pushed it to start with, but haven’t updated it since 2006, so to say that it’s a bit long in the tooth is an understatement in web terms. JQuery on the other hand is the javascript library of choice and in the latest version of Dreamweaver, also seems to be pushed over Spry.

However if you have already included Spry on your page, you may just want to keep the existing html markup exactly the same and swap over to a jQuery system. I did this with an admitted simple single panel system (used for dropping down a form), as below: –

1. Add jQuery into your page. I’ve used an old version and am pulling this off Google servers as follows

<script src=”http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.3/jquery.min.js” type=”text/javascript”></script>

2. Remove Spry javascript code from your page.

3.Create a new javascript file and add the following code

$(document).ready(function() {
$(‘.CollapsiblePanelContent’).hide();
$(‘.CollapsiblePanelTab’).click(function() {
$(‘.CollapsiblePanelContent’).slideToggle(‘medium’);
if ($(‘.CollapsiblePanelContent’).is(‘:visible’)) {
$(this).val(‘Hide’);
} else {
$(this).val(‘Show’);
}
});
});

4. Link to this new file in your document (and below where you add in the jQuery file).

Firebarriers.co, Fire Barrier Domain Name as Good as .com?

Fire barriers are a a piece of material that you use to protect areas of your home from fire. Its a competitive market in some areas and a company I have been working for was looking to move their site up the Google rankings.
To help with this we set up a microsite with specific copy aimed at the key phrase and used the domain firebarriers.co. This is the first time I have used a .co domain as really a replacement for the top level .com, but in theory we should now also be thinking of .co in the same way.
So what has happened? Over the last couple of months the site has really struggled. For some reason the home page didn’t get picked up by google despite frequent changes and a secondary page really struggled too.
Despite the competition I really would have expected a .com to do much better, so even though I’m not testing side by side, I have to conclude that the .co domain is not given equal authority to the .com domain.
Let me know if you have similar experience, but in the meantime if you are interested in fire barriers and your in the UK. Try firebarriers.co, they really know what they are doing and seem great to deal with.

iOS4.3 Home Sharing – How To

I have just updated my iPhone to iOS4.3 and was excited to try out Home Sharing, but it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it might be. I had thought that you would send it from iTunes on your computer as you do with other types of sharing, but this is slightly different and has to be enabled on the phone.

Anyway, here’s how to set it up: –

1. Go into iTunes on your computer, to the preferences dialogue box, then to sharing.

2. Enable sharing as per the image below. Personally I like to add a password, and this is maybe what made setup on the iPhone more difficult.

iTunes sharing preferences for Home Sharing

3. Go to your iPhone and make sure you are on the same wifi network as your computer. Then go to Settings, then scroll down to the iPod settings, as below: –

Settings iPod Menu for Screen Sharing

4. Clicking on the iPod settings will take you into the following: –

iPod Settings Menu

5. You can see that Home Sharing needs your Apple ID and password. So enter that info: –

Home sharing settings completed in settings

6. Once this is done you can leave settings and go to your iPod and click the More button on the bottom right of the screen. You should now see a shared option with a little house icon! : –

iPod Application Showing the Shared Option

7. From now on it’s just a matter of selecting the library you want to see, then browsing your library as you normally would: –

Browsing the iTunes Library in Home Sharing

The procedure will be a bit different for iPods but if iPads are anything to go by, videos appear in a shared tab in the Videos application and in the iPod application you touch the Library in the top left of the screen, which then allows you to pick your iPad or a shared library.

So far I’ve found that streaming audio works great. Video seems to cache for a while before it starts playing, but also looks good. It looks like it will then be possible to stream to your TV with the appropriate cables although I haven’t tested that yet. If it works it will effectively allow you to use your iPhone/iPod/iPad as an AppleTV!

Very Cool!

 

Blackberry Playbook Review

I saw the Blackberry Playbook yesterday. In case you don’t know this is their tablet competition for the iPad.

It’s quite a bit smaller than an iPad with a 7 inch screen and large bezel, so it is a bit easier to hold and thumb type on. One thing that was particularly interesting for corporate use is that if paired with a Blackberry phone, emails get wiped if the two go out of bluetooth range, which is a nice security feature.

The things they couldn’t tell us included price. They said competitive…but with what? Galaxy Tab is similar sized but is more expensive than the iPad and the Motorola Xoom is priced US$300 more than an iPad! Battery life is the other big unanswered question and they just said competitive on that too. My guess judging by the weight, is that battery life will be about 4-5 hours which I don’t think is long enough now we are all used to the 9 or 10 hours of the iPad.

It’s big claim to fame is true multitasking which they show off by running video and games and other things simultaneously. Seems to me that although this makes a great demo in the real world you just wouldn’t use it. The user interface is nice though and the gestures are good. Overall I’d say better than a Galaxy Tab, but not quite an iPad.

Overall I’d say this is a corporate machine where security is vital and if you fit into that area, the Playbook is well worth a look.

Redlands Flood Map

For all those in the Redlands like me, trying to get hold of a flood map. I’m struggling getting them off the council as the file is very large and their servers struggling.

Click here for a copy I put together that should load much faster.

I would appreciate anyone mirroring this for me too! Leave a comment below and I’ll send you the files.

Mirrors
http://www.scaffoldingqld.com/redlands_flood_map.html
http://lexiphanic.com/floodmaps/ – look in top right corner

NOTE: This is a general flood map only. It does not show potential flooding from the current event. For latest information, please go to the councils official site at http://www.redland.qld.gov.au.

Apology: Sorry for having to link to my commercial site. I couldn’t work out how to code an image map in WordPress!

Read Articles on Your iPad

I don’t know about you, but I always have 20-30 browser tabs open, mostly with things on there that I intend to read, but never do. The following video shows a really nice way to move these from your browser and onto your iPad, where you can read them at your leisure.

UPDATE: In MacOSX Lion, the pdf shortcut to add the pdf to iTunes is already set up, so you don’t have to do this any longer. It’s just a matter of hitting print, then pdf in the left side of the print dialogue box, then selecting the Add PDF to iTunes option.

iPad Review Australia

I am writing this about 2 weeks before the official iPad launch in Australia, but having used mine for almost a month. I didn’t want to rush in to a review as I wanted to be sure that I was back into my normal pattern of usage before I jumped to any conclusion.

The first thing to mention is that I am writing this on the ipad in the Wordpess app.
This seems to be working pretty well. I have is set up in landscape mode and I’m typing at a reasonable speed. Not quite as fast as a normal keyboard, but certainly fast enough to get by on.

iPad Quality
This is typical Apple. The construction is solid and seem very robust. There’s similar controls to the iPhone and iPod Touch, but there is a small microphone port by the headphone Jack, and a switch to lock the orientation (very handy).

This has been mentioned in other reviews but it is worth repeating, the speaker looks similar to the iPhone, but it produces considerably better sound in terms of volume and base. So much so that my initial thoughts of having to get a speaker system for the car, I don’t think is worth it now. I’m also using it for night time audio books for my son, where previously I would have plugged in my iPhone to some speakers.

I should also mention the screen. As I got this before the official release, there are currently no screen protectors available in Australia. I bought a silicon protector sleeve for the outside on eBay having heard that this scatches easily, but the screen I nervously left. What I have found is that it seems to be extremely robust and scratch resistant, despite some heavy use when typing and playing fruit ninja.

Lastly I should give the battery life an honorable mention. This is as long as is claimed, usually longer. It’s pretty amazing to watch a film, then see you still have 90% battery life left.

iPad Software
If your used to the iPhone or iPod Touch, this won’t take much getting used to. In most ways it’s extremely similar. I have found a few gotchas though where I look for things where they would be on the iPhone and they aren’t there. These include:

– Controls at the top of the screen rather than the bottom. This often means you have to take your hand off where you are holding it in order to activate the control you want. Somehow I would have preferred that the controls are placed within easier reach of my hands normal resting place.

– The keyboard. I’m constantly typing double full stop (period). Somehow I am used to the double space bar, but when I see the full stop I double tap that instead. I’m also never sure whether things are going to be capitalized or not, so continuously am hitting shift then realizing I should have as I’ve removed capitalization rather then added it.

– Browsing – Dont get me wrong here, the browsing experience is probably better than ANY device I’ve every used, but I find the tab menu thingy to be a little annoying and hard to follow. Why there isn’t just tabs at the top like a standard browser, I don’t know. It would really make a lot of sense particularly in portrait mode.

I am finding it hard to adapt to little issues too as when you go back to the iPhone you get into the text entry and menu habits again.

Highlights of the software really include browsing, which is just awesome, and this is a great device for reading those PDF books or documents you just never seem to get round to (I’d get the goodreader app for this as it really makes it a lot easier).

Recommended Apps
There are a few must have apps I think for the iPad. These are:

– Goodreader – a PDF reader that allows you to upload files from your computer, download files from the web, and provides a great reading experience. I buy a lot of PDF books and this finally gives me the experience I’m after to read them.

– Kindle – iBooks isn’t out yet, but the kindle app is great and has a load of books available even on the Australian store! I have to say that I think the kindle reading experience is better here purely for the size of the device. Also if your eyes are at all dodgy there’s a trade off for the extra contrast, and that seems to be. That fonts can’t be quite as big.

– VNC Viewer – I haven’t exactly used this one a lot, but it’s a great way to get a full Mac or Windows experience on your iPad. It’s also away to get flash on hour iPad if you really need it!

– WordPress – if you blog this is a really usable and portable way to write your posts and approve comments.

– Twitter client – I haven’t found a decent one yet. Twitteriffic I found to be very buggy on the iPad so much so that I have set up hootsuite in safari to handle my Twitter posts.

– Harbour master HD – This is a great, and free game. You guide the ships into ports and back out again. Sounds simple but it’s great fun and addictive.

– Lets Golf HD – If you like Lets Golf, you’ll love this. The larger screen really adds to this game and it’s worth the upgrade even if you already have the iPhone version.

– Fruit Ninja – I’m not sure if it’s worth buying the iPad version of this, the iPhone version is cheaper and seems fine. Again though it’s a game that really gains from the larger screen.

Using my iPad
So where am I using the iPad? This is the device that’s just left about for instant Internet access. I used to use my iPhone, but have found myself searching round for the ipad to get the extra screen size.

I’m also taking the iPad to business meetings. It really is a big advantage to be able to type notes in the notes app. Not only can you type reasonably quickly, but you can still see your client at the same time. They seem to respond much better when you do this as you’re not putting a barrier of a laptop screen up in front of them.

Games and video really shine too on the iPad. Games are just so much more enjoyable and immersive on the bigger screen and videos as great. I can’t think anyone would buy an in car entertainment system if they take a look at an iPad.

Lastly my ipad gets used for reading a lot. Reference books are great, but so are novels. I’m reading my son, kids books at night too, as it let’s me put the light down to try to get him off to sleep.

Summary
If your thinking of buying an iPad, these are great devices. You will use it more than you think and in ways that you can’t imagine. I have the 64GB wifi version which has stupid amounts of storage (I current have 30 films on it), probably you can get away with less. I would get the 3G if you can too. Much to my surprise, plans from Telstra and others are quite reasonable and flexible, and I do miss the access when I’m out and about.

My advice on the model would probably be a 32GB with 3G.
If you have an ipad and want to add anything, or want to ask any questions, please feel free to add comments.

iPad WordPress

Netbook Setup for Kids – Cost Effective & Secure Solution

I recently bought my son a netbook for his school work. These are small, cheap laptops with low powered processors, but are great for smaller hands doing web browsing, mathletics, reading eggs, and even word processing.

The only issue I had was that securing these devices can be more expensive than the device themselves and you can’t risk bringing viruses into your local network as they are more than likely to get into every machine in that connects to it.

To minimise the chance of problems I searched for cheap, appropriate solutions, and thought that I would share them with you.

One thing to note. Although these guidelines should secure your netbook, there is no such thing as complete security, and giving your kids a netbook makes it particularly vulnerable, due to their more trusting browsing habits. Never, ever do your internet banking on your kids computers.

I have written this assuming some knowledge of Windows, how to set up accounts, add and remove programs etc. If you are unsure of this, let me know and I will try to add additional help.

Your Kids Computer

Chances are your computer came installed with Windows XP and a whole load of trial programs, most of which are pretty much useless after a trial period (and often aren’t appropriate for this type of machine in the first place).

First thing to do is connect your computer to the internet and run Microsoft Update, making sure you don’t do anything much until this is completed. What this does is plugs up any security holes that are known and patched. It can take a while, and prepare for a few restarts along the way.

Second thing you need to do is create another user account that your kids will use. The reason you do this is so that you can restrict what this account can do, and hopefully therefore restrict what any malware can do with your computer if it get in. You should also put a password on the main account, but not your kids, so they don’t go into the wrong area by mistake.

The third thing to do is remove the junk programs. The type of trial programs you will find are: –

  • Microsoft Office
  • Norton Antivirus
  • …a whole lot more

Do this using the add and remove programs feature to declutter the computer. The new antivirus you are going to install also doesn’t like other antivirus being installed.

Antivirus

My choice for antivirus was Microsoft Security Essentials. This is a free program available from Microsoft. The reason I picked this was: –

  • It is free
  • It is light weight, so doesn’t bog a low powered machine down
  • It is relatively quick
  • The integration from Microsoft may help remove things that have got in to the machine

This product is not the best antivirus, but is probably the most appropriate for this class of device, and is free.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials from:

http://www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials/

Web Browser

Windows is very much integrated with Microsofts Internet Explorer (IE) browser. However this is a browser with problems. Although IE8 is much improved, and has some nice security features, it is still very insecure compared to many of the alternatives. You can’t uninstall IE, as it is used in many other places. If you want to really reduce the risk with it, you can change the security zone to high (allowing Microsofts sites only to run scripting) however basic advice is it’s wise not to use it as your day to day browser.

Alternatives browsers include: –

Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/firefox.html) – the second browser in terms of market share. Firefox is a browser with many great features, but can hog your computers resources in the latest version at least. One great feature of Firefox that make it your browser of choice is that it warns you when the Flash plugin (allows you to play many videos on the net) is out of date.

Safari (http://www.apple.com/safari/) – Apples browser for windows is fast and includes many features that IE and Firefox currently don’t. However, in Windows it has had some security issues itself, though it’s unlikely it has the market share for them to be widely exploited.

Chrome (http://www.google.com/chrome) – Googles browser is fast and includes the same features as Safari. It allows the best performance of Googles online apps and Google is probably going to patch security holes quicker than others. Disadvantage is that privacy could be a bit of a concern.

Note that any or all of these browsers can be used alongside IE as your main browser.

In all cases I would ensure you go into your browsers settings and disable use of 3rd party cookies. This prevents advertising companies, and others from adding cookies into your system, potentially tracking you round the net or worse.

Email

Chances are you computer came installed with Microsofts Outlook Express. My advice would be to not use this (unless you lock down IE). Instead use webmail, which is also portable across different devices. The most common services are: –

  • hotmail – Personally I’ve not used this, but is is renowned as being the worst of the big 3.
  • yahoomail – Yahoomail is okay but has some issues with security, and wants to charge you if you try to pull it into an email client.
  • gmail (https://mail.google.com) – the standout service. Gmail has the best spam filters in the industry, enforces a secure connection, allows you to sync email across accounts, allows push email to iPhones etc etc etc….and it’s free!

Office Suite

Netbooks were originally designed to run web based applications, and Office Suites are no exception. For low end word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, use Google Docs (https://docs.google.com) or Zoho’s huge range of web based applications (http://www.zoho.com/).

If you want something more powerful (and I’m not sure why you would on a netbook), but don’t want the expense of MS Office, try OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org). This is similar to MS Office, but free and open source, so in many ways tends to be more secure.

Backup/Recovery

There are many aspects to backup and recovery, but the ones I tend to use focus on the netbooks idea of a small, light weight, portable device that isn’t designed for heavy duty applications. As this is the case, there is actually very little need to create backups. If you are using Google Docs for example, you don’t save locally, but to Googles servers, so you have nothing on your machine to backup.

If you really have a need to backup, I would suggest using an offsite backup solution such as Jungle Disk (http://www.jungledisk.com/) or Carbonite (http://carbonite.com/). Both of these work in the background, are light weight, and just back things up without you really noticing. They are both paid solutions though.

More of interest for a netbook in many ways is recovery. Many netbooks provide a recovery system, but I know that in the Acer unit we have, this is not that good. A better recovery solution would be to use MS Windows Steady State (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/default.mspx). This allows you to roll back your windows installation to a previous known state. What makes this useful is that it will also delete any rubbish that has been acquired on the computer over time.

Steady state is a free tool available from Microsoft. I must admit I haven’t added it to my system yet, but will be doing very shortly. For what I have read, essentially it creates a mirror image of your installation and allows you to reset at any time.

Other Programs

I personally believe that netbooks should be kept as clean as possible, but I have installed some programs for web communications: –

Skype (http://www.skype.com) – Netbooks are great machines for video chat and Skype is the king here.

Drawing – I have installed the open source Tux paint (http://www.tuxpaint.org/)

iTunes – if you want to listen to music etc. Note that you can share another iTunes library so don’t actually have to keep your music on the netbook.

For Older Kids

If your kids are older than mine, there are other issues that you might want to think about. These include censorship and social media.

Censorship

Although I’m not a big fan of censorship (try keeping the computer out of the kids room works too) there are various ways of doing it that are unobtrusive and harder to get around than your standard government scheme!

For content filtering try OpenDNS (http://www.opendns.com/). DNS is the system the web uses for taking the name of the link you type into your browser, and translating that into the  address the website lives at (IP address). OpenDNS replaces your ISP’s DNS servers (often increasing speed into the bargain) but also allows you to filter objectionable words, create whitelists (allow only those sites) or blacklists sites of concern (ban sites). It is easy to set up both on a single machine, or you can put the settings into your router so all sites going through your router will be filtered, including yours!

Social Media

There are various social media sites, and which one your kids like will no doubt depend on which their friends are on. Things you need to know about social media are as follows: –

MySpace – still big in music, but a dying social media platform. Not likely your kids will want to go on here, but if they do, it is a closed system. This means it’s not searchable by Google and friends have to be approved.

Facebook – the big one! Facebook was a closed system. This used to mean it’s not searchable by Google and friends have to be approved. Note though that they have tried to open this up recently and the standard settings on a new account now mean that it is accessible from outside of Facebook (I believe). You will need to go into your privacy settings and make sure everything is appropriately closed off.

Twitter – twitter has the buzz at the moment with everyone using it including a lot of celebrities. It is totally open and searchable, so may not be a place you want your kids to lay their souls bare! I am http://twitter.com/funkygorilla by the way!

Foursquare – this is the new kid on the block, that will come on strong this year. Part game, part social network, part marketing machine. My prediction is that this will take off with a bang. For kids it is a closed system but it relies on ‘checking in’ at certain locations. This means your location becomes known, which may not be so great even for their friends.

Google Buzz – Googles first attempt at getting into the social space is both interesting and useful. You can post things both privately and publicly and Google do use it in search results, so it may not be the one for kids!

I hope this is helpful. If you come across any tools that you think are netbook appropriate, please post a comment and I’ll add it into the post.