jQuery to Add Content to a Column with Header Copy

I have recently had to use jQuery to add some copy to a column in a table. The problem I had was identifying which column. In my case the each column had it’s own class eg: –

<thead>
<tr>
<th class=”column-1″>Model Number</th>
<th class=”column-2″>Height</th>
<th class=”column-3″>Width</th>
<th class=”column-4″>Enquiry</th>
</tr>
</thead>

What I wanted to do was add some html (including a variable that represented the enquiry form) to the Enquiry column, in this case it would be column-4.

This all looks pretty simple if you have the same number of columns for each table, but I didn’t, so I needed to look for the enquiry column, then mark it to add the code to. The workflow is therefore: –

  • Find the column class where the column header (th) has the text Enquiry
  • Mark that column class by adding an extra new class, in this case enqcol
  • Add the additional code to the column with the enqcol class

Our code is as follows: –

var classname = $( “th:contains(‘Enquiry’)” ).attr( ‘class’ )
$(‘table tr td.’+ classname).addClass(‘enqcol’);
$(‘td.enqcol’).html(‘<a href=\”‘ + enquiryform + ‘\”><img src=\”http://simongriffiths.name/images/enquriy-icon.png\” alt=\”Quick Quote\” width=\”15\” border=\”0\”></a>’);

The first line defines a variable called classname. This is set as the name of the class of the table header (th) that contains “Enquiry”. The result in the example above would be that classname=”column-4″.

The second line uses the variable above. It adds the class enqcol to any table cell (td) with the classname=”column-4″. Therefore at this point our code would be modified by jQuery to become: –

<thead>
<tr>
<th class=”column-1″>Model Number</th>
<th class=”column-2″>Height</th>
<th class=”column-3″>Width</th>
<th class=”column-4 enqol”>Enquiry</th>
</tr>
</thead>

The last line essentially looks for a table cell with the class enqcol (td.enqcol) and adds the html shown. In this case we are adding: –

<a href=\”‘ + enquiryform + ‘\”><img src=\”http://simongriffiths.name/images/enquriy-icon.png\” alt=\”Quick Quote\” width=\”15\” border=\”0\”></a>

Note that the \ allows the ” to show as part of the text to be added rather than being part of the code.

In this case you can substitute the html above with anything you like, but I am a variable “enquiryform” which is the URL of a page I have set elsewhere as a link and I am adding an icon rather than copy to link from.

It should be noted that this relies on each column being marked with a class. If this isn’t the case, you can probably add classes with jQuery before you run this step. You may even be able to modify this code to use the child number rather than looking for a class.

Analytics Content Grouping Using WordPress Categories and Not using Googles Tag Manager

Analytics Content Grouping can be very useful to see how a range of products is doing in the market in a quick and intuitive way and also allows for some interesting insights that are hard to get to in any other ways.

In the past I have relied on manual tagging of pages, but over time as new pages are added, this manual tagging drifts and the ‘not set’ category increases. As a way to automatically group pages a great way would be to use WordPress categories and group based on category names.

Before I go any further I should add that most of the pages I want to group are product pages and all of them are in multiple categories. For example a product might be in a categories for products, industrial, steel and more. This method is based on picking out a few of those categories only as groups. In this case Industrial is the group I want to add this to. If you have pages with 1 category only, there are other methods that are even more automated (see below).

I should add that this method is loosely based on the article of https://www.highposition.com/blog/how-to-send-author-content-groups-wordpress-google-analytics/ and I will follow the same steps that they take you through: –

Step 1 – Configuring Content Groups

Log into your analytics account and click on the Admin link in the top menu bar. Select the account and property you want and in the View section on the left, you should see Content Grouping: –

analytics-content-groups-setup1

We then need to create a new Content Group

Click the “Create New Content Grouping” button at the top.

Add in the title of your Group, in our case “Categories”.. but you can call it anything you wish.

Just below the title is where you select the tracking method you wish to use, we will be tracking via the GA javascript code, so click the first option, “Group By Tracking Code”, you don’t need to change anything on this screen, just press “Done” at the bottom.

Now do the same process again for any others you want to add to a maximum of 5, but when clicking the tracking code implementation option, make sure you change the “Index Number” option, so they are unique.

Step 2 – Modifying the Analytics Tracking Code

This article assumes that you are using the universal analytics code that Google has been pushing for some time. The code you have running on your site should therefore look something like this: –

<script>
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXX-X’, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

</script>

We want to change it to add an extra line as shown below (in this case to add the category name, which is industrial to contentGroup4, which is the one I set up in the step above: –

<script>
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXX-X’, ‘auto’);
ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

</script>

 

Find this code in your site. In theory it should be in the head section, but I load mine in the footer just in case Google is slow (which is quite often). You will often find this code in either the theme settings, a wordpress plugin or in the footer.php or header.php of the theme you are using. The code should look exactly as the top example above, so, after backing up, make a space between the ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXX-X’, ‘auto’); and ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’); lines to type in your new code to add the content groups.

The code I am using assumes that you know the groups you want to track, you have a page in multiple categories (see below if you have 1 category) and you don’t have many groups (as each one needs a line of code).

<?php
if(in_category(’19’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’16’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial2’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’18’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial3’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’11’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial4’);\n”;}
?>

So this is very simple, each line checks to see if the page is in a particular category and if it is adds the analytics code to tag to page. In more detail:

if(in_category(‘19‘)) – Checks to see if the page is in category 19. You can get the category number easily by going to the category page in WordPress (under Posts), finding the particular category you want, then hovering your mouse over the top. In most browsers you will see the url of the link you would go to if you clicked. In that url you will see “tag_ID=19” in this case, but the number is the number you need to enter here.

{echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial’);\n”;} – This bit is just the code from analytics, but I have manually written in the category name. In this case Industrial. You could do this in code, but if I am setting the category ID for an individual line, you might as well just add it in manually. \n gives you the line break.

If you add that in to your analytics code it should look like the below: –

<script>
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXX-X’, ‘auto’);
<?php
if(in_category(’19’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’16’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial2’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’18’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial3’);\n”;}
elseif(in_category(’11’)){echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘Industrial4’);\n”;}
?>
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

</script>

Once you load up a page this should then be tagged appropriately with the categories you have set.

Step 3 – Viewing Your Data

Once this new data has begun flowing in to your GA account, head over to your All Pages Report….  Behaviour -> Site Content -> All Pages

analytics-content-groups-setup2You will see a new option appear at the top of the report asking which content group you would like to see your pages grouped by. You should now see your groups in there. Select the group you want and it will show you pages together with useful on-site behavioural metrics. This can be very useful to see how certain sections or product ranges are performing against site stats over time.

Another interesting way to display this information is in a Dashboard. I particularly like to use the map view on the dashboard so I can see how particular groups are performing in different parts of the country or the world: –

 

 

If you have Single Category for Each Page

If each of your pages only has a single category, and you have a much larger range of categories. You may want to use this code instead as it automatically fetches the 1st category the post is in. Note that this is for Universal Analytics and also creates a group for the first tag. If you don’t want the tag group, just delete that section: –

<?php if (is_single()){
while(have_posts() ) : the_post();

$category = get_the_category();
if ($category && !empty($category[0]->cat_name)){
echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘”.$category[0]->cat_name.”‘);\n”;
}

$tag = get_the_tag();
if ($tag && !empty($tag[0]->tag_name)){
echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup5’, ‘”.$tag[0]->tag_name.”‘);\n”;
}

endwhile; // end of the loop.
}
?>

Explanation

<?php if (is_single()){
while(have_posts() ) : the_post();

………..

endwhile; // end of the loop.
}
?>

This section just makes sure that the page includes a single post only.

$category = get_the_category();

This section creates a group (array) of categories.

if ($category && !empty($category[0]->cat_name)){

This makes sure there is a category assigned and if there is applies the category name rather than the ID number or slug.

echo “ga(‘set’, ‘contentGroup4’, ‘”.$category[0]->cat_name.”‘);\n”;

This is the section that actually writes the line into the page html (echo). In this case the start of that is all just text from Google analytics. Change contentGroup5 to whatever content group you have set in the Analytics admin panel. The options are basically contentGroup1 to contentGroup5. The next bit ‘”.$category[0]->cat_name.”‘ is really the crucial bit that pulls in the category name. This will be the first category on the list you see in the pages, All pages list in WordPress.

Aldi Mobile – Review

I have been a big supporter of Aldi Mobile and have recommended it to many people. The service is Telstra 3G, so as long as you haven’t got a need for 4G support it seems to offer great value for money.

However, recent changes to Aldi plans and terms of services have shown another side to their business, which I for one do not like a bit.

Aldi Mobile Plans

Previously Aldi had an Unlimited plan which for $35 per month offered you unlimited call, texts and 5GB of data. This was great value, but in a recent change, they have slashed this to 2500 minutes of calls, 2000 SMS and 2.5GB of data.

To sweeten the deal, there was obviously a price reduction involved…actually not! They halved the data and restricted the call time but kept the price exactly the same.

On top of this, they have introduced a ‘fair use’ policy that, well… it’s hard to define it as being fair in any shape or form. This amongst other things adds that: –

  • You can’t make more than 300 mins of calls, 300 SMS or download more than 400MB of data per day for 3 consecutive days
  • You can’t make more than 480 mins of calls, 500 SMS or download more than 1000MB of data on any given day

These apply to any mobile plan or addons.

Comments

Now forgive me if I’m wrong, but if I buy a 2GB data pack for the month I expect to be able to use it as and when I like. Typically I use on average 50-80MB per day when not on wifi, so I then let my son use it to watch youtube videos while I was out at dinner. Guess what, that is apparently not fair use!

I should add that I got no warning that the usage was too high, until I got a email threatening to cut me off 24 hours later.

I should note again that I have paid for the data, and lets face it. If they have a number of customers, it shouldn’t matter to them if I use it on any one day or another as the affect would be spread out amongst their customers.

Summary

Aldi’s plans are still a great deal if you … don’t use your phone much and do that consistently. The previous unlimited plan is no longer the value it once was and data restrictions mean that the data packages have become next to useless too.

Probably my biggest complaint is the way Aldi’s have done this. They slashed the value of a previously good plan while maintaining the price and enforced new ‘fair usage’ policy that is anything but fair.

It is true that Telstra and others have similar policies on fair usage, but these tend to be far less restrictive, certainly on the data side where a monthly limit is what you tend to get. It’s almost funny that at the same time as pushing services like Foxtel Go, services such as Aldi’s don’t seem to understand that minutes of video streaming is a huge amount of data.

My advice, after being a huge advocate for them is to probably steer clear. Most of us with a smart phone will have times when we use data heavily and having Aldi come down and say a day after the event: –

If this is the second time you have breached section 5.3 of our Acceptable Use Policy, then your service will be suspended. We will attempt to contact you before we suspend your service to let you know when it is going to happen. This suspension will block both your incoming and outgoing calls, but you will still be able to make calls to 000 emergency services and the ALDImobile service centre on 2534. You will need to find a new provider and transfer your number to them.

Thankfully this was first time being caught by this but it is certainly not my idea of a great service!

Fixing a MacBook Pro with Liquid on the Keyboard

20131013-114138.jpg

I had the misfortune the other day of spilling Ribena on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro. A short while later I got the sad Mac icon and it refused to boot up properly. I thought I would write down what I did to get to the stage where I am now typing out this article on the previously broken computer.

The first step is to take the system into Apple. In my case despite trying to be as nice as possible, the sales ‘genius’ was that busy writing it off on their system that he almost forgot I was now without a computer. Basically he said (without ever looking inside it) that they would need to replace everything and the cost of doing that was slightly more than a new MacBook Pro. I did manage to get him to run a software check and that basically told me that the hard drive was not doing so well.

So knowing that the computer is said to be a write off, I thought that I might as well try and revive it myself, but I needed to buy a few things to do some testing.

First thing was to test that the computer was still functional. I was lucky here as I create a mirror back up on an external hard drive every week. If you don’t though, create a recovery disc and try and boot into that. In my case from the external drive everything booted and ran ok.

The next thing I bought was a USB to SATA connection device. In the Australia you can get these from jaycar ( http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=XC4145&CATID=93&form=CAT2&SUBCATID=1044#6) or buy from OWC Macsales ( http://eshop.macsales.com/search/uda). These devices allow you to take your hard drive out and try to connect to it.

It’s pretty easy to open up your MacBook. Follow the instructions on the Macsales website ( http://eshop.macsales.com/installvideos/) to take off the back and remove your hard drive. You might be using these later too.

Once you have the drive out, plug it into your USB device and try to connect to it from another machine. I couldn’t on my system.

Next step is to buy another hard drive. I would do this from OWC again and in my case I picked a similar drive to the existing one which was 750GB at 5400rpm. You could go to any drive you want so SSD for the ultimate in speed or for a bit of a boost a 7200rpm drive. I didn’t go with higher speed as I am a bit worried about heat of a faster spinning drive in a notebook in Brisbane, Australia, but now I regret not going for an SSD which is probably the ideal combination of speed and fast access.

When my drive came a few days later I mirrored the hard drive copy I had, from a back up via Carbon copy cloner or super dooper onto the new drive then installed that into the MacBook. If you are lucky here that’s as far as you need to go. In my case though that still didn’t work.

What I found was that I still couldn’t boot onto the new drive, but if I booted onto a USB drive, I could see it.

The next step was then a reformat of the drive again and cloning the drive from the USB.

With the newly re-cloned drive, I could not only see files, but it will boot quite happily.

The end result is a MacBook Pro that was written off by Apple, is now perfectly good and will probably last me for another couple of years. The only compromise is the lack of a DVD drive. As I rarely use this and I have the old drive as an external drive using the OWC DVD drive enclosures, this doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem.

Bauhn / Aldi Hard Drive Docking Station Review

I bought one of these a few months ago, but they seem to repeatedly come up when Aldi’s are doing a tech special week.

The only thing I can say is DO NOT BUY!

They have a fundamental problem in that they don’t fit any hard drives! I have tried 6 different drives from 2.5″ laptop drives to 3.5″ full desktop drives and none of them fit!

The problem seems to be that the plastic casing gets in the way of the the drive mounting into the sockets. This doesn’t seem to be a tolerance error on this particular unit either as the case is locked into a base. I haven’t taken this all apart yet (as that looks like a nightmare of a job), but I really should not need to do that, and neither should you. Just don’t be fooled into buying it!

I also tried the After Sales Support telephone number on the bottom of the unit and that is unobtainable!

btw. This one is a Bauhn Product Number 36732.photo 1 photo 2

 

Jackson USB power/charger – iPad beeping

I recently bought a Jackson USB power /charger and have just been charging my son’s and his friends ipad in the USBs.

The iPads started beeping about every second after half an hour or so. After a lot of restarting etc I checked the supply and sure enough the blue light on it was flashing on and off in the same rhythm. I unplugged the iPads and the beeping stopped, so it looks like the supply was switching on and off. When I went to unplug the unit from the wall it was very hot!

My guess is that the two iPads were causing the charger to overload despite the 10A rating. Thankfully the unit was protecting itself by switching on and off but who knows what would have happened if I had been out and just left them plugged in!

Not sure whether this is a fault with mine or a general problem but please take care. It’s worth noting that I have had iPad and iPhone plugged in previously with no problems.

image
Jackson USB power / charger

***UPDATE***

I have had a response from the manufacturer as follows: –

Two iPad devices would draw well over the rated current of this charger (1 Amp), which would cause the overcurrent protection on the charger to activate. The overcurrent protection is calibrated to activate well before a hazard could exist, and this is all tested as a part of our QA procedures, so we can confidently state that at no time would there have been any risk to you. Even with this protection in place, we do recommend that you do not attempt to exceed the rating, as such we would suggest only connecting 1 iPad at a time to the device.

I think their last line summarises this nicely.

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!

 

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.

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.

DVD to iPod Conversion

I often buy DVD’s and while some companies are now providing iPod and AppleTV compatible files, many are not.

To convert I use handbreak to rip the DVD to a suitable format. However there has been an increasing trend of trying to hide the track number in 99 tracks, most of which are just the same chapters out of order.

To record the correct track you need to know what it is, so I’m going to start posting the actual track numbers on my site whether I rip a film or not. I would appreciate any help you can give me by posting in the comments too.

The way I find track numbers is a control on my DVD remote labelled I think prog which gives chapter and track number of what you are watching at the time.

I should add that I am looking at Australian (region 4) content. If you have any details from other regions let me know and I will put them in a seperate post.

G-force – track 32
Up – track 68
Harry Potter & the half blood prince – track 1 (as it should be)
Ice Age 3 (has iPod version on disc) – track 1 (as it should be)
Fame – track 1 (ok no taking the mickey for this one! I know I’m sad!)
Michael Jackson – this is it – track 1 of 99
Lego – The Adventures if Clutch Powers – track 23 of 26
Sherlock Holmes – track 48 of 99
Princes and the frog – track 51 of 99 (US is track 29 of 99)
Alice in Wonderland – track 35 of 99
Iron Man 2 – track 33 of 99
Last Airbender – track 7 of 99
Cats and Dogs 2 – 1 but also get track 3 a roadrunner cartoon.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice – track 28 of 99