2/28/2006 10:22:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

Neighborhood Watch

Security risks, threats from viruses, privacy invasion, lack of consumer protection laws and the many problems associated with may be far less real than many Internet users believe. That isn't the point. It's what they believe that matters.

That quote is from eight years ago. You'd think we'd learned our lesson... The recent flap over MySpace is nothing new. We see it every time a new technology comes out, and the source is always the same: parents, special interest groups, and news outlets.


These fall into two categories:

those that have been convinced that there is a major problem when there really isn't.

This is the group I hope most parents are in. The news outlets are to blame for the most part. After all, loving parents are an easy target for a sensationalist headline. What better way to sell newspapers and advertising than to make it seem like there is an extreme danger threatening their kids? This, of course is evil. But there's money to be had, so they do it anyway. Special interest groups aren't far behind.

then there are those parents who want someone else to do their job for them

These are the parents I hope you're not. Unfortunately, there are parents out there who really don't care enough about their kids to be troubled in learning about online safety. Since they don't have the time to teach their kids morals or responsibility, they'd rather just try to make the threat go away.

In a twist of irony, their unwillingness to be responsible for the education of their kids results in the kids never having the chance to develop their own sense of responsibility or morals. Unfortunately, these kids are programmed to go astray; after all, 'if they shouldn't be doing something, surely someone would have kept them from it...' Hopefully these parents will realize that it's easier to teach their kids to drive the road of life, than to try to pave a road in front of the car...

Special interest groups

These mostly appear to be:

terrified parents with some money or political clout who forgot to do their homework polititians who want to look like they're doing something so terrified parents will vote for them

one is trigger happy, the other manipulative. 'nough said.

News Outlets

Some of these guys aren't as bad as you would believe:

If you look at stories about online danger in the last 10 years, some of them have been trying to steer parents into education. What's interesting is that they usually have stories every 8 months or so advocating the co-education of parents and students, often suggesting they go online together and talk about safety. Kudos to CNN and a few others.

Then there's the rags and soundbyte hunters. Again, loving parents are an easy target for a sensationalist headline. The good news is that people are learning that they can get their news elsewhere, besides the few companies that control nearly all news outlets. Kudos to all of you who refuse to be spoon-fed what your opinions should be.

Further Investigation

Finally, if you're one of these people who still is gung-ho about going after MySpace, like you were about video games two years ago, like you were about chat rooms four years ago, like you were about the internet six years ago, and like you were about the internet eight years ago, please do everyone a favor:

Back up eight years and start educating yourself on the proper way to use technology with your kids. (article is from 1998, but it's good to go back to when the paranoia started)

Anyone ready to place bets on how long it will be until people start asking for the Gov. to get rid of the Child-Food-Processor (tm) that is MySpace?

|W|P|114433701032141842|W|P|Please Government, protect me from MySpace!|W|P|2/27/2006 05:15:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

You are OS2-Warp. You're plagued by feelings of abandonment and disgust for your backstabbing step-brother.  Oh, what might have been.

Which OS are You?

(Just pray you don’t end up as Windows Me)

|W|P|114401623098542924|W|P|Test Results questionable|W|P|2/24/2006 10:20:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

So I was checking out one of Scoble's posts with a video of a recent party on Rocketboom. Apparently he gets a little "naked" to promote his book, 'Naked Conversations'. Wish I had known that BEFORE I clicked on it.

Check this out - I kid you not! The entire rocketboom broadcast was playing fine. About 2 or 3 frames into the shirt-taking-off of Scoble, GAAH! BROWSER CRASH!

Broke FirefoxI've never seen this error before. I've heard of 'breaking the camera, but geez! (click screenshot to enlarge) Apparently, Firefox is looking out for me and my sensitive eyes... What I want to know is, when did I install the 'NSFW' extension?

In an act of IT-helpdesk-based gluttony for punishment, I tried to replicate the issue. Regrettably, the video was able to play in its entirity the second time.

|W|P|114433685862570691|W|P|Scoble broke my browser|W|P|2/23/2006 10:18:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|There is a war going on right now, in the streets of the United States. The outcome of this war will determine the future of this country for the next hundred years. Chances are good that you've heard about it, but have no idea what it means. Details are scarce, but let me fill you in on some details.

Electrons in Wonderland

Priuses and Patents. Hydrogen Hummers and Homemade Hybrids. These are the weapons being waged. At stake? The privilege to be paid to fuel America's need for mobility. The future of transportation in the US is obviously electric, whether it be in a hybrid vehicle or 100% electric vehicle, this is unavoidable. But ever wonder why hybrids really aren't taking off that fast? After all, this technology has the potential to save Americans billions per year, while significantly lessening the strain on our environment. As it turns out, the issue is money, of course.

The batteries in electric cars (hybrid or electric) need to be very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we need to use very powerful nickel metal hydride batteries. NiMH batteries are the same as the ones in your TV remote, but obviously a bit larger in vehicles. However, if these batteries are able to be so strong, why is it so hard to make an affordable electric or hybrid-electric car? The answer, it seems, is in a clash between two massive corporations. And into the rabbit hole we go...

Ovonic Battery Company is the leading developer of advanced materials for NiMH batteries. After all, this makes sense, as Stanford Ovshinsky founded the company in the 1960 for NiMH development. Ovonic is a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, who currently holds the NiMH patent. ECD makes commercial and transportation NiMH batteries via it's spinoff copany, Cobasys. Cobasis is a joint operation between ECD and ChevronTexaco.

Uh, what?

That's right, the 125-year-old petroleum company has a substantial stake in the production of commercial-grade NiMH batteries. You might be asking yourself what a company that has spent billions on an industry to serve you gasoline might want with the manufacturing arm of the NiMH patent holders. The answer is easy: to keep you buying gas. You'd better believe that ChevronTexaco would rather have you fill up with gas than recharge an electric car with a solar panel while you're at work, or with a few dollars of electric while you sleep.

A new hope from the land of the rising sun

Panasonic thought they'd partner with Toyota and make a fortune bringing in the new era of transportation with vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 EV. This was a 'normal' car with a 100 mile range. It was relatively affordable and cost a fraction per mile of its gas siblings. Since it could be set to charge while you sleep, you'd never know the difference, except for the missing tailpipe, gas door and extra cash on the wallet. In addition, they would easily cruise at 80 mph. I know all of these things because I've driven one. They were sold in the US for a very short time, and several exist, despite attempts to have them erased from automotive history. My family was lucky enough to find one at the end of its lease, and it happily powers around in the mountains of Colorado to this day. For a vehicle that costs nearly nothing to maintain (no coolant, oil, gas, ignition, emissions, etc.)and an original MSRP of about $17,000 (most sold for over MSRP - now they sell for $40K with 30K on the odometer), one could make the argument that this is the ideal vehicle for most people.


So what happened? As it turns out, to have an electric vehicle come close to the performance of a gas vehicle, you need a powerful battery. A NiMH is the only type that is powerful enough to get to the 80 Amp/hour range to provide good performance at an attractive price. (An amp-hour is defined as "constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 meter apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2×10–7 newton per meter of length." In English, this means it measures how much and how hard electricity is being shoved down the pipe. For the RAV4 EV, Panasonic found they would have to make a battery rumored to be as high as 85Ah. They made this battery for Toyota and implemented it successfully in the RAV4 EV.

Unfortunately for Panasonic, Toyota and automotive progress, Panasonic wasn't supposed to make batteries good enough for vehicles. Cobasys, of which Chevron is a 50% stakeholder, limits the Ah of commercial NiMH batteries when someone requests a license to their NiMH batteries. Although the Ah limit numbers are confidential, the limits have been leaked to be in the range of 10 Ah, and only to be used (and only suitable for) hybrid-electric applications.

In 2003, Cobasys sued Panasonic for making the electric car batteries instead of the hybrid batteries and eventually won $30 million in late February, 2006. The advent of the electric car had been successfully blocked, and as the RAV4 EV's disappeared from the dealership lots, people attributed it to a lack of interest or failure of the vehicle to be a workable commuting vehicle. The inability of Panasonic to offer replacement batteries for these vehicles looked like it would send them to the scrap heap within a few years when the batteries needed to be replaced. Or so we thought.

The new kid on the block

You may have heard about President Bush visiting Johnson Controls recently to have a look at their Lithium Ion batteries. Li-Ion is a battery like NiMH, but gives off more power in a battery of the same size, and are much lighter (which becomes very important when the battery has to move itself around in a vehicle). In addition, Li-Ion batteries don't 'go dead' as quickly when you use them, and can survive a lot longer than NiMH when being constantly charged.

In the past, Li-Ion batteries were only used in cell phones and laptops for good reason. Li-Ion costs just as much as NiMH to manufacture, but due it its construction is prone to a 30%+ failure rate. When you are making AA batteries for a remote or a cell phone battery, it hurts to throw away every third battery, but due to the power gains and weight savings, it is acceptable. Laptops are at the edge of this compromise, as they can't live without Li-Ion due to their weight and power requirements, and the battery costs too much to produce. Since the alternative is no laptops, manufacturers compromise by using lower-powered (and lower performance) parts, and charging more for a laptop, due to the cos of throwing away one $100+ battery for every two produced. About $50 is added onto the other batteries to compensate.

In an electric vehicle system, a Li-Ion battery of sufficient power would be somewhere in the range of $3000. A much better cost solution would be NiMH, but we already know why that won't happen. So what is the big deal with Johnson Controls rolling out a new Li-Ion battery for gas-electric hybrids? They're starting to find a way to make Li-Ion cheap enough to work. In late September, 2005, Johnson Controls built a new $4 million research facility dedicated to developing Li-Ion batteries for Hybrid and Full Electric vehicles. The new facility is sponsored by $14.4 million from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium, a group of companies consisting of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM, along with the US Department of Energy (the "Big Three" manufacture basically every car not made in Japan). Note the absence of anyone interested in preserving the gasoline-based infrastructure. The next two years, 2006-2008

It will be interesting to see where we go from this point. We seem to be on an electric car breakthrough wih new battery technology that isn't controlled by a dominant petroleum company. The idea of the electric car being weak is shattered by this Lithium-Ion 180-mph prototype sportscar. It appears as if President Bush has expressed a dedication towards advancing large-scale Li-Ion battery development in the US with his support of our main research lab. For everything people say about Bush, this may well be one of the things he is most remembered for: eliminating our dependence on foreign oil and electric vehicle technology.

What can you do?

If people only knew how hard Cobasys has worked to keep the gas flowing to you and the money flowing to them. (And the emissions flowing to the environment). The best thing you can do is to get the word out. Link to this post. Write about it. Tell your friends. Write the people who represent you in government and tell them you support Li-Ion and Electric Vehicle technology in the US. You support budgeting that will give the Johnson Controls battery lab what they need to make an easily-manufactured Electric Vehicle Li-Ion battery. You need to tell them these things yourself. Gasoline companies have invested millions in lobbyists, whose sole goal is to perpetuate our addiction to gasoline.

Finally, do all of these things for yourself. Even if you don't care about the environmental effects, do it for the money you'll save on gas and complex gasoline-powered vehicles. Do it because it's the right thing to do. Do it because you're a Technocrat.

This won't be a war fought with guns at the expense of soldiers. This will be a war fought with patents and corporations, meant to continue a source of revenue for companies that believe in purchasing political power.

At stake is the right to use the best solution possible to solve one of the world's greatest problems. ---

I've made as best an effort as I could to verify the historical facts from sources close to the action. Due to the confidential nature of many of these events, it has been extremely rough putting them together. If you have any information or corrections, please let me know. My main goal is to get the information out and have it be as accurate as possible.

|W|P|114433677827176398|W|P|The new war, in the US, 2006-08|W|P|2/22/2006 10:16:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

rssInteresting argument on the Scobleizer today on RSS feeds and the reasons behind full or partial text feeds. THis actually is a big deal as far as traffic is concerned, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents:

Jeremy Wright had this to say:

Traffic doesn’t equal readers. RSS subscribers don’t equal traffic.

FYI Jeremy, I just asked wordpress how hard it would be to map a second line on the traffic graph for RSS pickups. If you want it too, hit the feedback button and ask for it. I love the idea of being able to graph Web views vs. RSS pickups. (I realize that there are problems here, like people who have their reader set to update every 5 minutes, so there would have to be something to distinguish between unique hosts...)

..but getting to the matter at hand, he also had this to say:

The reason you want full text RSS feeds is so you don’t have to visit a site, after all.

I agree. I just went and changed my feed to full text due to that comment. Here's why I had it in partial though:

The web-based readers NEED to have partial text, IMHO. Otherwise, with one post, you completely push out any other post a few page-downs from the bottom of the screen. I've been trying really hard to keep as many posts on the main page as possible. Compare this to my older posts that were imported from Blogger that I haven't fixed yet. There is no way anyone is going to scroll past the 'don't get ripped off on a laser printer' post on that page to see the rest. I'd much rather be able to give them 5 snippets that fit on a 1024x800 screen, rather than one monster post and hope they'll scroll down to see the other 5 monster posts.

Based on these reasons going on over on the Scoblizer, I really think the way to go is to do partial text on the web, and full text on RSS. In this way, you tailor your content for the medium, as they are both very different.

Most people do full text on RSS, and full text on the web posts, which IMHO is pretty painful to the web viewers with all the scrolling they have to do to look at more than 1 or 2 posts.

As far as money making is concerned, that's not what I'm interested in, but it seems that partial posts are indeed a good way to con people into loading up an ad-loaded page. Give them just enough text, them make them go to the site to see your ads and get paid.

Of course, Ozh makes a good point, in that the RSS aggregation sites will have an easier time indexing if you do full text RSS, which may get you more interested readers.

In the end, it's all up in the air as to what will be the most profitable using RSS and Web publishing. Until more people use RSS, it's not going to be clear, as there just isn't enough data to go off of. In the meantime though, you can follow my suggestion of partial web posts and full rss feed to make it easier for people to get your work...

|W|P|114433670453544146|W|P|Blogs and RSS: full text or partial?|W|P|2/21/2006 10:14:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|Firefox logoSo my friend just had me help him buy a laptop from Dell (he had an Employee Purchase discount), and I'm helping him set it up. It's a Dell XPS M140 with Windows XP Media Center Edition. What would you consider an 'essential application' for him? Now, before someone chimes in with the 'OSX' or 'Gentoo' comments, think about what you would recommend to someone other than yourselves, possibly your mother or first-time computer user. You're still on the mac/linux thing. OK, he wants to leverage his investment in Win32 software. (ok, stop with the 'Wine' already) I'm thinking the following:

A VirusScan utility. Preferably something like Symantec Antivirus or other application that comes on a CD. Costs money, but so does a hijacked box. I can't recommend Norton, I've seen way too many machines destroyed for it to be a coincidence... haven't been impressed with the free offerings, but the last time I tried was about 18 months ago, and haven't had a reason to test since then...

A browser. Firefox. Possibly with Google toolbar (for the spellcheck, he's a blogger also) and StumbleUpon (we all get bored) Got any other killer extensions?

An email client / RSS aggregator. Thunderbird 1.5, but I would set him up myself. I'll be writing a post later on the annoyances of Thunderbird, and how once you get them sorted out, it rocks! (default settings are counter-intuitive, though - what's with putting my sig underneath the inline reply text???) The RSS is a nice addition. It's an easy-to-use tech that most people have never heard of.

Spyware protection. Spybot Search and Destroy with TeaTimer and IE. Update the def's and scan, WinXP MCE had a few red flags out of the box...

Productivity suite. He had a free copy of Office XP through his graduate program, but otherwise I'd advise people to use OpenOffice. A few days ago I completely uninstalled Office XP (my org's standard). Only annoyances so far are difficulty graphing in Calc. Definitely set it up to save as Microsoft file format by default though, otherwise no-one else will be able to open your stuff. (for now. When the next version of office natively supports the open office standard, wait 5 years fr everyone to upgrade, then switch the defaults back...) If they don't already have Office, install OO and go spend the $373 they save on a new __________? Multifunction printer? iPod? 7 day thermostat and light bulbs? (ok, shameless, nerdy plug) $20 donations to each of the free softwares listed here?

PrimoPDF. This free utility will allow you to make anything printable into a pdf file, no adobe products needed. (except viewer).

What else? I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Post your suggestions with the URL's. Save Google some bandwidth. (That last one is a joke, obviously)

In additon, you'll want to make some tweaks to the OS, of course.

|W|P|114433649976924846|W|P|What to install on a new PC|W|P|2/20/2006 10:11:00 AM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

Hello all, hope you enjoyed your weekend!

The Old BlogContinuing on in my series, I've taken a few suggestions from Robert Scoble and tried to expand on them to make a full-featured how-to on blog improvement. I'll continue polling other leading bloggers and posting how-to's based on their suggestions, but today we'll look at Scoble's tagging suggestion:

Another way? Steph Booth taught me this one: tag often. Tag frequently. Tag better. In Wordpress.com your categories are also tags. Don’t worry about using too many tags. The more tags you use, the more likely someone will find you in a search engine.

This is a new concept for me, since I'm new to Wordpress (moved from a very basic blog at blogger). One of the reasons I moved from blogger was for the categories wordpress offers. Categories/tagging in a blog can take two very different approaches. I've done both, so I'll try to summarize them:

Intentional Discovery

If you have a look at the screenshot of this blog before I started improving it, you'll notice that the category structure was very different. This was a direct result of my writing style. I tend to tackle some larger-than-normal topics on this blog, and I has been trying to keep the different 'part 1', part 2' topics organized on blogger. This ended up being a mess, so I moved to Wordpress and basically used the categories as a table of contents for my content. This method of organization ensures that people will quickly find what they are looking for. Unfortunately, people who read your blog most often will not know what they are looking for. In this respect having 'a great roadmap' of your blog isn't nearly as helpful as you would think, since the bulk of visitors aren't looking for an exact post, they're looking to browse a genre (category) of posts.

Accidental Discovery

old structure:

  • Free Money
    • At Home
    • Automotive
  • Tomorrow's Solutioproven
    • In the home
    • In the ocean
    • On the road

This was okay, or so I thought. But after watching Wordpress' analysis tools, I found that people who wanted the 'free money - at home' category were missing out 'Tomorrow's solutions - in the home' postings. They were obviously interested in tech for the home, so why not give tme both? Sure, the would no longer get exactly what they were looking for, but as I mentioned before, most people don't know exactly what they're looking for.

So the key seems to be: get an idea of what they want in general, and throw everything you've got at them. I don't neccessarily like this method, as it is much less precise, but tfor.Sobers speak for themselves: my visitors are staying longer and visiting more posts now, since I am giving them a winecessarily based loosely on what they want,lesstead of narrow offering tailored to their wishes. In the end, I hope that visitors come away with more than they were looking for.

As you can tell, I'm still on the fence about all of this, but the results show that the second method produces more traffic by far, so it's hard to argue with that. Thsi is why for.Astegories listed above are now organized as:

  • Automotive
  • Free Money
  • Home Tech
  • HowTo
  • Marine Tech
  • My Projects
  • Renewable Energy

In addition, each post now belongs to multiple categories, instead of being in its own (i.e. an electric motorcycle post is in the 'Automotive' and 'Renewable Energy' categories instead of the 'On the Road' category under 'Tomorrow's Solutions'. In this way, that post will get exposure to people interested in both Automotive and Renewable Energy, instead of people interested in just 'Tomorrow's solutions on the road'.


Hopefully this explains how to use the "shotgun approach" to get more posts exposed to your audience, while at the same time giving them something close to what they're looking for. The method is somewhat less precise/organized than what this IT guy would prefer, but it seems to profoundly increase the number of posts that get viewed, so I view it as a 'neccessary evil'.

|W|P|114433642630708833|W|P|Deconstructing Scoble IV: Categories/Tagging|W|P|2/17/2006 05:00:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|The Old BlogContinuing in this series, I have been dissecting the suggestions given to me by Robert Scoble on his blog, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

To recap, I had a lot of good content, but the blog itself looked a little drab [screenshot], and I wasn’t advertising my content as well as I could have.

I’ve already gone over the first suggestion, and added a few common-sense suggestions of my own. (then again, it took a second look for me to realize it, so maybe not that common)

Here I’ll take a second look at what can be done about another powerful promotional tool: personalization. To quote Scoble,

Another thing? Dan’s title tag is boring. You need some personality! Look at Darren Barefoot’s title tag. Lots of personality and gives me some sense of who Darren is. Oh, and his blog’s design sticks out too. Different. Clean. Personal. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that smile? Yeah, Wordpress.com makes it hard to change the template right now (Matt Mullenweg promises that’s changing soon, but in the meantime you can get ready by doing the other things — come up with a better title tag, write better headlines, work on finding interesting content that’ll help you stick out of the crowd on search engines and memetrackers.

An unlevel playing field

Darren’s site is pretty customized, and after looking high and low for ways to customize a Wordpress blog, I don’t think there is one. It’s not ‘pretty hard’ like Scoble says, it’s ‘pretty impossible’. Right now, you’re limited to using one of a very few templates that have customization in their control panels, and that’s it. I agree that customization would be ideal, but for those of us who don’t have an in with wordpress.com, you’re out of luck. Coincidentally, a quick look at the source code for Scoble’s blog shows that his Wordpress customization is definitely some sort of special arrangement. Score one for Blogger.com. I like Wordpress’ tagging feature, though, so we can make do for now…

In the meantime, compare the current site to the screenshot. I added a little human element on the ‘what is a technocrat?’ page and in the ‘Hall of Fame’ and ‘Links’ sidebars. It gives it a little more flavor as to who I really am, and how much it means to me that people read my stuff. (explained on the ‘what is a technocrat?’ page)

‘In the meantime’

come up with a better title tag

Gotcha. And I agree on that one. My Blog’s title was boring. I just hadn’t been able to think up a better one. Then I was called a technocrat by a co-worker. Wasn’t sure if they meant that in a derogatory way, (later they admitted that they meant it as a compliment) but after looking it up, I liked it! (I hadn’t heard the term beofre, which I guess is surprising since it’s supposedly common…?)

So I got the new name. I’m definitely a technocrat by the definition of a person who “…supports the control of technology for the benefit of humanity.” I also try to post at least one meaningful article per day. So, ‘The Daily Technocrat’. Appropriate and different.

write better headlines

…like ‘Deconstructing Scoble’? :-) I realize it probably is a little inflammatory, and might seem like I’m going to be breaking down Scoble in these articles. In a way, I am, and the title is describing exactly what I’m doing. I also am aware that it might imply controversy, which there is a small amount, I suppose. My past headlines were (for the most part) pretty dry, but accurate. I guess I do need to spice up the title, if I want them to get to the actual content. The main point is that it gets people in the door. If they read the article, who cares if it wasn’t exactly what they thought it might be. The title is accurate, and if they get past the first paragraph, they’re interested in improving thir blog, and I’m happy to offer my own insight, extrapolated from Scoble’s suggestions. In the end, they might not get what they thought, but probably something that will provide quite a bit more value, hopefully. If it was the dual-meaning title that got them in the door, then so be it, I’m glad they read it for the possible benefit to them.

work on finding interesting content that’ll help you stick out of the crowd on search engines and memetrackers

I’m thinking this was a general suggestion (albeit a valid one) since I try very hard to come up with original, interesting content. The reason I try so hard is because I’m sick to death of every blog being a mirror of Slashdot, Wired and CNN! If I want CNN, I’ll go to CNN, I’m coming to your blog for you. If you don’t have anything to contribute, wait until you do. You’re much more likely to capture an audience posting a great post every 3 days or so than posting 10 times a day on something that a million other bloggers are posting on. You have great ideas, don’t bury them in a pile of filler posts.

Eventually, I might run out of things to post seriously about, but the worst thing I could do is to compensate by filling in the spot with a goofy post. I already have enough of those

In a way, you should find this encouraging. By coming up with original content twice a week, you’re probably in the top third of all bloggers, quality-wise. The bottom two-thirds are the ones doing the me-too latest-news posts, or the play-by-play-of-my-adolescent-life blogs. Congratulate yourself with a trip down to the corner.

Speaking of which, have a great weekend everyone!

|W|P|114401532496779067|W|P|Deconstructing Scoble III: Personalization|W|P|2/16/2006 04:56:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|Today I have a collection of commute-related photos for the technophiles, and a few tech-disasters…

Trailer that has logo of StumbleUpon:

StumbleUpon trailer StumbleUpon Logo

I know technology isn’t for everyone, but upon completion of the new high-speed tolling lanes, the DOT put out this sign, which flashed:

“IDOT”, (something like ‘2 lanes open’) and then “Open Road Tolling (OTR)”

Nope, I didn’t type that incorrectly. It said OTR for about 4 days, likely to the amusement to millions of commuters. I started making up my own acronyms, like Open Toad Rolling… Sorry for the pic, but you get the idea. (this pic was after they fixed it, I wanted to show how giant the sign was though…)

Open Toad Rolling

I had to take a cab from Midway to O’Hare a while back, and the cab had this CarPutuer installed. I thought it was cool. The driver said it was normally set up for people to use the yellow pages online while the cab was driving around. Note I said normally. Instead, the machine would POST, Show the Windows 2000 splash screen, blue-screen and restart. Repeat this process for the entire 45-minute trip, in the dark, to O’Hare. I offered to fix it, but alas, no keyboard, and the touch-screen drivers weren’t loaded until the OS booted, which never happened. The flashing effect on my early-morning (~5-6AM) eyes was very Clockwork-Orange-ish. Since the driver couldn’t turn it off, I wanted to take the opportunity to write ‘don’t let this happen to you’ on a bunch of my side-work cards and stuff them around the screen. Alas, all I had were my official work cards, and I didn’t want to give that info to a bunch of strangers… next time… (pic is blurry from combination of taxi suspension and highway pavement…) blue cab of death

The following are examples of how not to use tech, in this case, personalized plates. In fact, this should be considered abuse…

Hopping on the Leet-speek bandwagon: your future pridePersonalized

plates for your new SUV in Illinois: $190

Being branded as a ‘Roxr’ when leet-speek goes out of style 2 weeks later: priceless


…and the winner…


Personalized plates: IWAGB4

I can’t imagine why this “lady” would want to advertise ‘I Was A Guy Before’…

|W|P|114401501899191817|W|P|Ridiculous commute-related tech photos|W|P|2/15/2006 04:54:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|In my request to Scoble, the first thing he recommended was more images and graphics…

Scoble, commenting on this blog, as of 2/14/06 (screenshot):

First notice how his blog looks very similar to tons of other blogs? That’s hurting him.

One of TechCrunch’s popularity secrets is that he uses lots of graphics and screen shots. Makes his blog more pleasing to the eye. Sorta the way Technorati looks better than Google’s blog search.

TechCrunch isn’t bad looking, and I can understand where Scoble was coming from.

You can divide TechCrunch’s use of graphics into two categories, the use of screenshots/pictures and the use of logos. Both have their benefits:

Screen shots/pictures

This should be obvious, but pictures add to an article/posting. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’? This is as true today as when Fred R. Barnard supposedly said it in 1921. Apparently, this phrase was used to sell advertising on the side of streetcars.

This is an interesting comparison. People would only see streetcars for a moment, and then they were gone, so it was important to have something that would capture their attention. Sounds awfully familiar to blogs!

This is easy enough to demonstrate. Consider the following comparison: “I have installed a freeware application called LClock (supposedly named for LonghornClock) that installs on top of the standard windows tray clock. It makes the clock look like the upcoming Vista clock, and provides additional functionality. When I click on the time, it shows a full calendar with a few butons that enable me to scroll back and forth to previous or future months. It also shows the date and time in a nice format when you hover over it. I think this is an improvement on the standard WinXP clock.”

or, I could just do this:


“I have installed a freeware application called LClock (supposedly named for LonghornClock) that installs on top of the standard windows tray clock. You can click on it to get a calendar, and I like how it looks:”

(click the thumbnail to enlarge)

Much better. To summarize, I would say that Scoble/TechCrunch have something going for this style. IF I were to sun it up, I would say the rule would be “If you find yourself describing the characteristics of something visible, just give the picture”.


This is something I never thought of, but is a great idea that TechCrunch seems to use quite frequently. Take a page from Nike’s playbook and use their branding. Everyone knows the “swoop” logo. The next time you’re doing a story about Nike, don’t wait for your reader to see your zippy headline, start reading and see that “Oh, this is about Nike”. Just throw the logo in there. People don’t want to read what the story is about, they want to know what the story is about, and as quickly as possible. Billions of dollars have been spent by these companies to make sure their logos are instantly recognizable. Use it! One word of caution, though. I would discourage the use of logos simply to make a story seem more legitimate. Adding a logo makes a story seem more legitimate/knowledgeable, but all that means is that it had better be legitimate/knowledgeable. The harder you try to make a poor post seem legit, the bigger of a flame war you’ll get into. The

use of logos/avatars has been used extensively on Slashdot and Tom’s Hardware for a long time, and the result is great! It’s a wonder why no-one on the blog front has adopted this ‘graphic tagging’. This is especially true for wordpress users, since they have a bank of easily-accessed images right below the text box when they are entering a post!

The legal side of this should be covered under Fair Use in the United States, which states that the use of copyrighted materials in “…criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” In addition, if the logo/avatar isn’t copyrighted, but trademarked, the law says that trademarks can be used to refer to a product in the same way as a copyrighted article. Ultimately, this means that if you are writing a post about the Apple iPod, you are allowed to use the name ‘iPod’ (trademark) and the Apple logo in your posting. Just make sure that the purpose of your posting is for “…criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research”.

|W|P|114401492241954796|W|P|Deconstructing Scoble II: Images and Graphics|W|P|2/14/2006 04:50:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|OK, so I think I have some good content on here, and I’m happy to share with anyone who wants it. But I just wasn’t getting the traffic. What good is helping people if they don’t listen? So I figured I’d shoot an email out to Robert Scoble and see if he had any suggestions. Here is my email:

From: me To: Scoble Subject: blog success - a 15 second question

Hi. I’ve had a blog for 3-4 months now, but despite having good content (I think), no success.

You’re obviously doing something right. I was wondering if you would take a 15 second look at my blog and let me know what I’m doing right/wrong?

I appreciate it, and it’s cool if you don’t, I just figured I’d ask someone who knows what to do…


Much to my surprise, he wrote quite a lengthy article in reply, and posted it to his own blog, entitling it ‘Tips for joining the A list’. I appreciate the lengthy response immensely, but I want to clarify that my intentions are not for fame personal gain. In fact, I commented later on in his thread with the following:

My personal goals for traffic are to give away information for free that has worked well for me…

(like investigating the value of Compact Fluorescents - ok, a little nerdy, but $30-50/month in my Toy Fund is pretty sweet - got a USB GPS unit this month)

…or get discussions going on things that are important

(like maybe getting lobbyist influence in the public eye instead of Britney Spears!)

Kinda like a think-tank-coop/tech-mob idea…

OK, that said, his suggestions are very good no matter what your goals, and I plan to have a second look at my own blog based on his suggestions. Since it’s going to be a process, I’ll start a new sub-category dedicated to designing an effective blog.

The Old Blog
Say goodbye to the old blog (screenshot)

Be sure to point your feed reader to http://techandother.wordpress.com/feed/, and follow along on the path to blog improvement, no matter what your motivation!

I’ll be deconstructing all of Scoble’s suggestions into several how-to’s and discussions. Stay tuned!

|W|P|114401483121264824|W|P|Deconstructing Scoble|W|P|2/13/2006 04:58:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|GPS SatOk, so as I mentioned before, I was able to use a few money-saving tech improvements to buy a new toy this month, a USB GPS receiver. ($39-$9 with Coupon Code - I think ‘DEALNEWS’ …?) It finally came in the mail last night, so I immediately started playing with it.

“Wardriving” with GPS

On my way to work this morning, I ran NetStumbler with the GPS receiver and recorded all of the wireless access points on my way to work. There were quite a few! It’s all fine and good to have this info, but what to do with it?

Visualization First of all, I wanted to see it myself. I tries a few online sites, and settled on a very high-quality script put together over at GPSVisualizer.com. They have the ability to output this info as a google map, which is exactly what I was looking for. The only downside is that they can only accept up to 2MB files at a time, which is about half my commute. After splitting NetStumbler’s .ns1 file into two 1.8MB files, I fed them into the script:

Commute 1 of 2 (available for a limited time as an active google map, here is a screenshot) Commute 2 of 2 (available for a limited time as an active google map, here is a screenshot)

Nice! I now have a map of accessible WAP’s. (Note the green ones are not password protected - ouch!) Not too much use, though, unless I have evil intentions…or maybe just want to find a public access point, like a Starbucks or something. Also, since there seems to be a WAP every few feet, it’s fairly easy to track my course…

Navigation Now that I have a map of Access Points along my route, I might not even need GPS to find my way.

GPS navigation systems in cars work because they know where you are, and what you have to do to get to your destination. They are extremely accurate because they know where you are, and use a database to look up the rest.

Well, I could know where I am if I had a script that would translate the WAP’s I can see to my global position. In this way, I would be able to use a database of known access points to find my way, without GPS, as long as I had a map database to take along with me. However, the low cost of GPS is rapidly making WiFi location awareness irrelevant.

For now, I can’t access Google Maps on the fly in Chicago, but that day is rapidly approaching, I hope. If I could get a wifi connection of the fly, however, it’s not that big of a stretch to change Google Maps from ‘Address 1 to Address 2′ to ‘Current Location to Address 2′.

(It really is only a matter of time until internet access is regarded as a utility and is offered like cellular service, but I’ll save that for a different post)

This opens up a whole new area of service, as well. Car low on gas? Have it automatically find the lowest gas prices at gas stations along your way when it gets to 1/8th of a tank. Convenient and cheap. Hungry? Thirsty? Need a pinball machine ASAP? Sync up a voice-recognition program to a steering-wheel mic control (common in current nav units) and ask Google Local to find one along your route.


Connection of current location to relevant, local information


Subject to high overhead, navigation systems are $2K+ OEM, but a good CarPuter design that fits in a standard radio bracket could revolutionize this industry. My recommendations would be a design like this with a touch-screen, but with USB port and an embedded Ubuntu-like Linux OS to foster OSS development and ease of use.


Since I picked up this GPS receiver for $30+shipping, it’s a hard case to make for not going this route. There is freeware out there that will provide you with driving navigation, and it’s only a matter of time (depending on interest) until there will be an open-source solution out there that will provide a quality interface.

The possibilities of combining location awareness with information management is probably one of the biggest things we’ll ever see happen. The location awareness part seems to be finally met by such a low cost of the GPS unit. The advent of Municipal WiFi (powered by 802.11n - and therefore Municipal Mobile WiFi) will connect the information of the internet to the location awareness of GPS in a world-changing partnership.

|W|P|114401522385165926|W|P|Local Info and Navigation with GPS and 802.11n|W|P|2/10/2006 04:43:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|

In the spirit of doing something good for our climate, and also in line with the ‘free money’ series I get into, I wanted to share the following link:

Top 100 Renewable Energy Projects

This really is a great site. It makes you wonder - why don’t these ideas take off? Could it be that the politicians under corporate oil control don’t want to lose their method of revenue? But what good is money if the climate kills you?

Seriously, if it’s not obvious already, the reason why electric cars, etc. haven’t taken off is because the energy companies want to develop their own lines of distribution so they can continue to profit. Hydrogen? Much less efficient than 100% electric vehicles. But the oil company lobbyists want to profit, not do what’s right. The bad part about blocking the best technologies for profit is tht it ends up taking money out of your pocket. Instead of a dollar or two for 100 miles in an electric car, you’ll spend much more to fill up on hydrogen.

And that’s just the way they want it. And since they own enough sway in government, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Or is there?

Here’s an interesting idea: Clean Elections. Basically, this means you can’t buy your way into a political office. Everyone gets the same amount, and it is up to you to get elected, based on your principals. But why not apply that to all politics? If a company wants to drill for oil in your backyard, should they be allowed to buy off your representative? If anything, why not have them try to put the money towards the citizens, and let them decide? After all, we are the ones who have to live with these decisions…

|W|P|114401450172561235|W|P|Killing us all for profit|W|P|2/09/2006 02:57:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|When I first moved into my townhouse, I couldn' figure out why my electric bill was so bad. I had attributed to summertime and the air conditioning, but soon noticed something else... The fire hazard A light bulb had burned out, and while replacing it, I noticed that the bulb was a 70-watt unit, and the recessed lighting receptacle was only rated for 60W. This can be a fire hazard, so I checked a few other bulbs - all 70 watts! A few were even 100 watts, with the labels on the recessed lighting turning brown from the heat! This was bad. I counted how many 60W bulbs I would need. For my small house, I needed about 50. Ouch. "But wait", I thought, "If I have 50 bulbs at 60W each, and I pay ComEd 8.275 cents per kilowatt/hour, I can figure out how much these bulbs are costing me." A kilowatt/hour is a measurement of how much energy is flowing to your house. It represents 1000 watts being used in an hour. So let's say I have my lights on for about 43.5 hours per week... (when I'm home during the week, and 8 hours on the weekend) Excel to the rescue 70W x 50 bulbs = 3000 watts 3000 watts x 43.5 hours per week = 130,500 watt/hours = 130.5 kilowatt/hours 130.5 kW/hours per week * 4 weeks = 522 kW/hours per month 522 kW/hours per month * 8.275 cents per kW/hour = $50.39 43.20 per month $50 per month! Just for these lights! That doesn't count for computers, bathroom lights, fridge, TV, AC, etc. OK, so settling down, I could just go and buy 50 60W bulbs. This would cost me about $1.00 for a 4-pack from Home Depot, or about $12.50. It would also save me $7.19 per month, making my bill about $43 instead of $50. I would pay off the new bulbs in 1.7 months, and save $7 per month after that. Pretty weak, especially since 60W bulbs usually need to be replaced about every 400-800 hours (on average), which means every 9-18 weeks. However, Home depot also sells Compact Fluorescent bulbs. CF bulbs are basically like the big, long bulbs you see at work or in the grocery store. They are filled with a gas that glows when a small amount of electricity is applied to it. They use hardly any energy, and are more efficient than a regular bulb, which uses a lot of electricity to heat a small wire. CF's are different than the big, long ones, in that someone made the tubes very narrow and curled them all into the shape of a normal light bulb. Sometimes there is even a glass covering over the fluorescent tubing to make it look more "normal". The good thing about the CF bulbs is that you can get a 6-pack that costs less than $30 these days, with each bulb putting out as much light as a 60W bulb, while only using 13 watts each. In addition, these bulbs are rated for anywhere between 8000 to 10,000+ hours. The bad part is that each bulb costs about $5, instead of 25 cents. OK, so let's see what would be better over the course of 8000 hours of use, the equivalent of 3.8 years of use for me. Regular bulbs Cost for bulbs: 50 bulbs, each replaced (on average) every 800 hours = $125 Cost of electricity for 8000 hours: $1,986.00 Total cost: $2111, or about $46.29 per month CF bulbs Cost for bulbs: 50 bulbs, lasts for 8000 hours = $250 Cost of electricity for 8000 hours: $430.30 Total cost: $680.30, or about $14.92 per month Conclusion So what do I do? Replace the 70W bulbs with 60W bulbs, or bite the $250 bullet and go with the 13W bulbs that output as uch as 60W bulbs? The CF bulbs, of course.
In fact, I then replaced every bulb in my entire house with CF, including bathrooms, lamps, outside lights, even the garage light. Total cost was around $325, no small amount, to be sure. But then again, saving $50 per month on 70+ bulbs...pretty sweet.
Project Name: Compact Fluorescent Replacement x 50 Initial Cost: $250 Recurring cost: $250 every 8000 hours, plus $14.92/month (new bulbs and energy costs, bulbs will probably be cheaper by then) Time involved: 90 minutes (Get the bulbs, remove old, install new) Time to pay off initial investment: about 8 months (varies, the more you use them, the faster they pay off) FREE MONEY: $31.37/month for 50 replacements (about 63 cents per bulb replaced) *Combine these savings with a seven-day thermostat and save $54.11 per month! (about $650 per year!) |W|P|114314749180097718|W|P|Money for free: compact fluorescent light bulbs|W|P|2/08/2006 02:58:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|I don't like bills. I'd rather have less bills, or at least, smaller bills. The nice thing is that there are ways to use technology to lower your bills. The really nice part is that you don't have to spend a lot to save a lot. I'm going to start posting about how to save some money with minimal or no investment by using technology. This is the first of these postings. Saving money by managing your heater It's winter here in Chicago, and it's cold. If it's winter for you right now, you know that your bills are a lot higher due to the increased heating costs. Whether you heat your home with gas, electric or oil, you can benefit from some thermostat management. Turn the thermostat down Whether you like it or not, 68 degrees is a perfectly normal temperature for the human being to be in. It may feel cold at first, but you can survive just fine at 68. If you're cold, that is what clothes are for. You shouldn't be in the dead of winter and sitting in your beach clothes at 75-78 degrees. Not only are you overheating so you can wear shorts in winter, but the bigger the difference in out- and inside temperature, the more expensive it will be to maintain the temperature. In addition, whether your house is at 50 or 80 degrees, the fridge will have to work to keep itself at about 35 degrees (F) and the freezer at about 30 (F). Also keep in mind that the human body is about equal to a 175-watt heater. You're supposed to be able to keep yourself warm at a reasonable temperature like 68. If not, see a doctor. Get a 7-day thermostat I picked up a deluxe model at Home Depot for $30. It was the cheapest one they had, but allows for the themostat to be adjusted at 4 different times during the day, 7 days a week, plus an extra 'special day program' with 4 times. Here's how it works: On a given weekday, I know that I'll be in bed from midnight to 6:45AM. I'll be up and about from 6:45AM to 7:15AM. I'll be gone from 7:15AM to 5:00PM. I'll be home from 5:00PM to 10:00PM, and I'll be in bed from 10:00PM to midnight. On Saturday and Sunday, I don't know when I'll be home during the day, but I'm pretty sure I'll be in bed from midnight-8:00AM and 10:00PM-midnight. Looking at this information, on the weekdays my house sees me in bed for 8 hours, 45 minutes. I'm gone for 9 hours, 45 minutes. I'm home for 5 hours, 30 minutes. If I keep the thermostat at 68, the temp is higher than it needs to be for me in bed or at work. That's 18 hours, 30 minutes per day that I am over-heating my house. Set the 7-day thermostat Based on the above information, I know I can have the following settings: *Weekdays*
  • 6:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15 minutes later)
  • 7:30AM: set temp to 55 degrees (I left 15 minutes earlier)
  • 4:40PM: set temp to 68 degrees (I get home in 20 minutes)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)
  • 7:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15-30 minutes later)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)
*Special Day Programming* (there is a 'SDP' button on the thermostat to put on a daily override for weekday holidays, etc.)
  • 7:30AM: set temp to 68 degrees (I wake up 15-30 minutes later)
  • 10:30PM: set temp to 65 degrees (I fell asleep in a warm bed 30 minutes ago)
As you can see, I can time the heat so that I never notice the lower temperatures, and in the meantime, the heater takes a break during a large part of the day (and the fridge hardly has to do anything all day). That also means I'm not paying to have my house heat itself when it's empty, and have my fridge fight the house to stay cold. A few very important points
  • The amount you save on your bills will relate to how well insulated your house is, how long you can let it be cold, etc. I can't say you will save $xxx per month, but most people save anywhere between 10-30%, and sometimes as much as 50%+, depending on if you can use the sun to heat your house by opening curtains, efficient windows, etc.
  • Don't forget about the pets! If you have a pet, make sure the temperature during the day is one that will be warm enough for them!
  • The thermostat will pay for itself very quickly. My gas bill is about $100, and the electric is about $60. (I'll explain how I do that later) Let's say I save 20% on gas, and 5% on electricity from the fridge. That's $20 + $3 per month I save!
  • Install the thermostat yourself. It's easy, and comes with easy instructions. If you have an electrician do it, it will take a while to pay off that cost in energy savings
  • The new themostat comes with a function that will tell you to change the filter after xxx hours of furnace operation. You can program the hours. A clean filter doesn't make the furnace work as hard, and reduces risk of fire, in addition to cleaning the air. Bonus!
  • My thermostat had a 'copy' feature, where I programmed Monday and copied it to the rest of the weekdays. A big time saver.
Project Name: Thermostat Management Initial Cost: $30 (after tax) Recurring cost: $3.08 per year ($0.26/month for a 4-pack of AA batteries for the new thermostat) Time involved: 30 minutes (remove old themostat, install new thermostat, program thermostat) Time to pay off initial investment: 6 weeks (varies, depends on insulation in the house and how aggresive your programming is) FREE MONEY: $22.74/month (varies, I estimate I'll save at least $23 per month, about 20% on gas, 5% on electricity) |W|P|114314755149720301|W|P|Money for free: Change your thermostat|W|P|2/07/2006 02:59:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|I'm impressed with bloggers, for the most part. I think we all can do without the detailed accounts of exactly how boring someone's life is, though. The best part about blogging is the research aspect. In fact, tat's what I try to do here, mostly. Why not use this as a forum for the advancement of others? In return, I hope to get feedback on my ideas and we can share in the advancements. Take this posting I did a while ago. I wanted to find a way to trade in an assrt (my car) and lose the same amount of debt (credit cards). In the process, I wanted to gain something else (in this case, a higher credit rating and lower mortgage payments), otherwse there was no sense in moving assets around. I worked out a specific order to do things in, and I am happy to say the following: This blogger is putting his money where his mouth is. I sold my car about two weeks ago, and am paying off my last credit card as we speak. I think this is what blogging should be all about; sharing each other's expirience to collectively become more knowledgeable. So far, I have only found one problem with my plan, and it was from feedback from a co-worker. OK, so he didn't comment, but still... The problem is that when you trade in a car for another car, you only have to pay sales tax on the difference in price. So if you trade in a car worth $10K, and the new car is $18K, you only pay sales tax on the $8K difference. By doing my plan, you pay sales tax on the full $18K, since you sold the car for cash. That's OK though, because since I sold my car for $10K, that is only about an extra $800 in sales tax on the new car. Sounds like a lot, but on a 48-month loan, like in my original posting, it only amounts to $16.67. I am planning on easily making that up due to the higher mileage of the new car I'm looking at. Wish me luck, and if you want to contribute to our collective knowledge, feel free to comment! |W|P|114314763134003834|W|P|The knowledge of the blogosphere|W|P|2/06/2006 03:33:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|I got an idea the other day while watching a commercial for the upcoming Pink Panther movie: 'What can we do about horrible movies'? Now, to be fair, the movie isn't out yet (I think), but let's just hypothetically say that it's going to be horrible. Who thinks up these ideas? I'm sure they're highly paid consultants who don't have any idea on what people really want to see or just have some other agenda (Home Alone 3 and Brokeback Mountain). I mean, what is up with the hierarchy here? Should people come up with the ideas for movies, maybe even help write them? Seems like having your product designed by your target audience is a win-win situation. I like this idea, so I introduce to you, "WikiScript". Basically, anyone can log onto the web site, and search by genre. Let's say someone wants to help write a comedy. Click on the 'Comedy' section of the site, and you will see all of the works in progress listed, and a short description, much like the back cover of a DVD. Anyone registered with a user account could edit any script, and anyone could edit their edits. Furthermore, there would be a mechanism in place that would keep track of how many words you have contributed to a script. In the end, when the script is done, it ould be listed as 'completed', and have a list of all of the contributors, and how many words they contributed. The script would be free to be read by anyone. To compensate people for their creative genius, the license for use would be that any production that earns money with the script would have to pay a portion of the proceeds (maybe 10%?) to the authors. That 10% would be divided up by how much each author contributed. Sound like a good idea? I think so! Let me know if you like this idea, and I'll make the site. |W|P|114314966391140573|W|P|That movie was horrible? Enter WikiScript!|W|P|2/03/2006 03:00:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|At this point, we have a perfectly-functioning web site: http://intranet.domain.com/joomla with a great backend: http://intranet.domain.com/joomla/administrator username: admin password: whatever you put in when you installed Joomla We're looking pretty good with all of our sample data in there, but it's time you learned how to administrate Joomla. Lucky for you, they have a manual for the Administrator backend. Read it. Un-publishing the sample data I want to keep the sample data in the site so I can look at it later if I need help figuring out how to make a menu, or if I want to copy off of something. But I don't want to have people see it. It's easy to 'un-publish' these pages in Joomla. They'll still be there in the admin backend, but not be published to the frontend. Log in to the admin backend. Click 'Content Items Manager' (news). Click the checkbox at the top of the list to select all of the stories. Click the 'Unpublish' button on the top-right menu. On the top-left menu, do the same for: Content > Static Content (web pages) Modules > Site Modules (we'll turn a few back on in a sec - modules are how components display stuff on the web site. think of component-module as computer-screen) Menu > mainmenu (except leave 'Home' published) Menu > othermenu Menu > usermenu (except 'Logout', if you take this away and publish the 'login' site module, users won't be able to log out..) Menu > topmenu OK, have a look at the site now. All clean. But wait - we told the main menu to publish the 'home' link! Well, the menu itself isn't published. On the admin backend, go back to the site modules and publish the main and user menus. Now the site is ready to be made your own. Check out the default site modules, and see if you're lucky enough to be able to use some of those. I went with mainmenu, usermenu, login form, syndicate (RSS feed maker), and template chooser (just for now, so I can easily test all of my templates as a user). I also went and published one example news item, and set it to display to the frontpage. Since I'm not going to be using the news archive, all of my news will have to be on the front page to be visible. However, it is possible to navigate to a published, non-front-page news story from within a published front-page news story. Bottom line, don't publish it if you don't want it out there. At this point, the junk is not being displayed on the web site, and before I install any third-party components and modules, I want to decide on how my site will look. Installing Templates
If you haven't found a template you want to use, or want to use the default templates, either go find one or skip ahead...
In the admin backend, hit Installers > Templates - Site (because we want to change the look of the web site, not the admin backend) Hit 'browse' and find the .zip file you downloaded for your template. Click 'upload and install'. It's that easy. (Note: Joomla looks for a specifically-put-together zip file. Sometimes people have the template zip file along with a README or something inside of another zip file. Joomla doesn't like this, you'll have to get to the bare template .zip file. Hit 'Continue' and repeat for all of your templates. When you're done, log out and go to the web site frontend to play with the templates. Choose your favorite. I decided on one that is called apple_com. It basically looks exactly like the www.apple.com web site. I figure I'll put a real apple on top and have a humorous educational site... :-) Now you can unpublish the template chooser module, and go to site > templates > site templates. Select your template of choice and choose 'default'. 'assign' is used if you want different templates for different parts of your site. Note: I noticed what may be a bug, in that, if you leave template chooser on a template, it will use that template, even when the template chooser module is unpublished. No matter what template to tell the site to use in the admin backend. ??? Workaround: make sure your template is chosen when you un-publish the template chooser module, and then set the default template in the backend. Summary Time spent in article: 60 minutes (30 minutes to read admin manual) Time left for project: 295 minutes (over halfway done on time, and looking great!) Goals accomplished:
  • Learned how to use the admin backend
  • Cleaned up the Joomla installation, while retaining valuable references
  • Selected which default modules to use
  • Selected the site design via template
|W|P|114314769079582832|W|P|Rapid Web Prototyping with Open Source: Part 7|W|P|2/02/2006 03:01:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|Getting a little stressful now - I've used up about 3.5 hours getting a machine set up with the Ubuntu OS, setting it up to be a web server, and finding all of the Joomla packages that look like they might be remotely helpful in my situation. This last step is actually pretty important to the 'Rapid Prototyping' that I'm doing. By grabbing 3 or 4 calendar modules, for example, I won't have to waste time going and looking for another one if the first one is junk. I can just throw all four of them into the site and see which one fits the site best. This is where having a popular and modular Content Management System like Joomla is helpful. In addition, it is also important to note that there are a lot of modules out there that allow you to connect Joomla to other web systems. A perfect example of this is a phpBB forum. Basically, I would install the forum in the /forum directory of my web server, install Joomla in the /joomla folder, and find a little module that links Joomla to the forum and provides the SSO that I'm looking for. This is definitely another plus for Joomla, in that you not only have LOTS of modules to choose from, but chances are that you can tie other web apps into Joomla. Speaking of Joomla... Installing Joomla Got the latest .zip install file from joomla.org? Make a folder on your desktop called 'Joomla' and extract the contents of the zip file to that folder. Windows has a free extraction utility built in, but a lot of people use WinZip (trial version - free!). You should have a 10MB folder now. I know, it's huge. But worth it. Fire up your favorite free FTP client, I use an old version of WS_FTP. It's not offered by the company any more, but you can find a copy of WS_FTP LE here: oldversion.com. You should have an FTP account set up for the server. FTP into the server using your credentials, and find the web root. This will be listed as /wwwroot, and might have folders like /public_html and /public_ftp in it. If you've got a folder called public_html, open it up. Transfer the /joomla folder from your desktop to the web server. This will take a while, so we'll go do something else for a bit. Setting up the MySQL database for Joomla You should have phpMyAdmin installed. If you don't, install it. It's a big help in managing the MySQL backend of the web server. Log in to MySQL and create a user named 'joomla' (no quotes) and give it a password. Then create a database called 'joomla' (no quotes) and give the user 'joomla' all-access rights to the database. What we're doing here is giving the joomla installation its own user credentials so it can work with the MySQL server without having to use a person's name and password.
Joomla should be done uploading by now. If it's not, see if there are any other components you might want. Or look for a template that will make your web site look the way you want. I went over to joomlaya and found a few good ones that are 1024 pixels wide (a lot of templates are only 800 wide - watch out if you don't want this). As with the components, the look of my site might not be what fits your situation.
Now that all of the files are on the server, fire up your browser and go to http://yourserver.domain.com/joomla. You should be greeted by the 'pre-installation check' page. Yes, it really is going to be this easy! Check that the required folders have the right permissions. You can usually set the permissions using your FTP client. If having the permissions set to 755 doesn't work, you can set them to 777 and then switch them back to 755 later. Test to make sure this works on your web server though. Don't worry about configuration.php, we'll get it later. When able, hit next. Agree to the GPL, next. host name - localhost username - joomla (remember?) password - ********** DB name - joomla database prefix - jos_ This last setting is OK. A lot of tables get put in the joomla DB from components, etc., and the table prefix just makes it easier to tell what tables belong to what component. I've seen some components rely on the jos_ prefix for Joomla tables, so just leave it. I always install sample data. It's easier/faster to modify existing menus, etc. than to create them. Name your site. Enter in an admin email address and password. You can choose what default permissions get applied to new folders and files when you install components, etc. I kept the defaults. OK, this part is important. Fire up the FTP client and copy the text it gives you and replace the contents of configuration.php-dist with that text. Rename configuration.php-dist to configuration.php. Delete the /installation directory. NOW you can see your site by clicking the 'view site' button. The website is online. And has a lot of sample news and menus. Good job. Summary Time spent in this article: 60 minutes Time remaining for project: 325 minutes Goals accomplished:
  • Set up MySQL for Joomla
  • Install the Joomla Core
  • Find a template that will make Joomla look like I want it
|W|P|114314774131258749|W|P|Rapid Web Prototyping with Open Source: Part 6|W|P|2/01/2006 03:02:00 PM|W|P|Dan|W|P|Setting up Ubuntu to be a web server In the process of configuring Ubuntu to be a web server, the soon-to-be-boat-anchor machine I was using died. That's probably why it was pulled from production... Anyway, I had to go find some instructions that were for my version of Ubuntu, and found these very excellent instructions by Till Brehm and Falko Timme at howtoforge.com. Follow their directions, and you'll have a full-fledged LAMP web server with mail and ftp support, which will get you up to speed with where I'm at now... with the web server running, plugged into the power strip and ethernet jack only. Everything will be done via the web and FTP from here on out! While we wait for the Joomla Core to download... Choosing additional packages for Joomla I made this simple on myself. I loaded up the Joomla Developer Forge, sorted by date (recent first) and downloaded anything that looked like it might fit into either a) where my organization is at or b) where they could be/might want to be with this intranet tool. It's important to stay focused here. There are a lot of "cool" components out there, but not all of them will be helpful. You'll notice I have more than one event calendar solution, etc. This is because I'm not sure which (if any) will work for me. Here's what I got, along with the author comments.
It is important to note that my organization is different than yours! I'll only use maybe a half-dozen of these, but since there are good and bad modules, this is what you call the 'shotgun approach' - try it all and see if you get a hit!
Components that look interesting for this project: (some more important than others) Gottesdienst Component This project is aimed to contain a little custom Joomla! component I've written to maintain the service events for the web page of our church. Joomnik Gallery This is a simple component displaying images of items from specific folders, using CSS to shape frontend display and Javascript for slideshow. Image operations must be performed through FTP or Media Manager. Each item can have up to 10 fields of information associated with it, which are stored in Joomla database. In case of multilanguage site, common words used in items description can be translated. SEF Service Map SEF Service Map Component creates a complete sitemap (index) for Your site, and is a good solution for Joomla! and Mambo CMS. Component uses standard defined menus to generate a dynamic site map. This Map is integrated with standard CMS components, like: content, weblinks, contacts and newsfeeds. Thanks to mambots integration, component has open structure and can be integrated with additional components, like: galeries, forums, shops and other. Components integrated with Sef Service Map are at the moment: - Mambo Phpshop - VirtueMart - Simpleboard Forum - Joomlaboard Forum - PhpBB Forum and the next mambot-integrators coming soon. Now, You can configure the number of sublevels, columns, visible menus, menu items and other parameters. josCommunity josCommunity is a custom Joomla portal designed with all the needs of a community website. josCommunity aims to provide a one-click solution to the need for community projects and sites. Current features are: Community based web site, Photo Album, User Home Pages, Private Messaging, Forums, Mailing Lists, Glossary, Calendar, Download Repository, FAQs, Bad Word Filtering, Online Polls, Awards for Users, Google Sitemap Generator, Dynamic User Sitemap, User Shoutbox, Advanced Search Engine Friendly Management System, Advanced Site Statistics Tracking MetaFly mambot For up to date versions of this bot, please visit: http://www.jomres.net/component/option,com_docman/task,cat_view/gid,20/Itemid,79/ I don't know about anybody else, but I get bored with searching through the text of my content to find sensible words to use in the meta keywords of a given page. metaFly is a mambot that will search through the content of the page being viewed & will append frequently occuring words to the keywords section of your meta data (on the fly). It has several filters: Offending elements, which will simply filter out something that you don't like, eg ", stopwords, which will filter out specific words, and goldwords, which are words that should be retained regardless of the frequency of their appearance. Header Image This module allows to change images based on Section-, Category-, Main Menu or Current Menu Item-ID of the actual content. Supports default image file, checks for presence of image files and supports Module Class Suffix for CSS styling. With its ability to support HTML Code integration also Flash files can be used in addition to static images. jAwards This components helps you to manage awards in a Joomla: You can create medals, hand them out to the users, and display them e.g. in Simpleboard or Community Builder. Joomla OWA intergration This will be a module that will Connect to your Exchange server 2003 OWA. JEvents This project will bring the well known and loved Events Calendar to Joomla. Originally by Eric Lamette, mod by Dave McDonnell. This project will host the component (events), the related calendar module (events_cal) and the latest events module (events_latest). Here you can: * let us know what features you'd like to see and * report bugs encountered by the existing events components and modules in Joomla installations Birthday Component Simple birthday component and related module. In the admin interface you can insert people's name and birthdate. The module will show upcoming birthdays in the next x days. Player Profiles A component for a team database with profiles and uploadable image files. perForms perForms is a Joomla/Mambo Component, that allows admins to easily create dynamic forms using this component on their site. Results can be emailed to any email addresses, or saved in a database table and using a basic report page, all results in database can be viewed. All form elements and simple validation rules are supported. Google Adsense Referrals Module Google Adsense Referrals Module allows webmasters to place Googles new referral ads on ones site. The module is easy to use and covers all the languages available for these referral ads. Banner Manager Advanced This component is an rewrite of the Joomla included banner manager with loads of added features including, start date / end date, list multiple banners in multiple locations PLUS lots more - worth checking out!! Submit Content Want to expand your sites with a lot of useful articles? Why not let your users or guests share their contents and ideas! This component is based on EZ CZ Submit from MamboZip.com (now is www.joomlaya.com). The project aim to enhanced, updated, and fixed many bugs in EZ CZ Submit. Some new features in Submit Content component: - Full multiligual support. - Changed the whole source code to enhanced User's Accessibility and Interface. - Administrator can now config the MAXSIZE of upload images! - Intergrated SecurityImage of WalterCedric --> better anti spamer and hacker. - Installer Guide is now more clear. Auto chmod created folder. - and many more... ExtCalendar Events Calendar This events calendar component & mini-calendar module are ports of the gorgeous-looking ExtCalendar 2 by Mohamed Moujami at extcal.sourceforge.net. Allows for easy addition and management of customizable events to your site's calendar. This joomla project has been created because the original project at mamboforge seems not to be maintained any longer. Analytics Get Fantastic Stats for your website with Google analytics Obtenez des statistiques hors du commun avec Google analytics Player Roster A small solution to show the world who is playing in your team a picture and some personal stats about the player. Right now it can only manage one category of players, but categories will be added soon, so that this component can be userd to manage multiple teams (e.g. football team, cheerleaders, junior team) josquote Josquote creates graphically pleasing quotes from text in articles. Just {josquote}quote something{/josquote} and it will show that text in nice indented area. http://www.primakoala.com/josquote/ DutyRoster This component will allow registered users to sign-up/volunteer for various duties and various times. This is useful for organizations and groups that need help from their members with events. It will allow users to pick a role and a time off of a grid. Other members will be allowed to view the filled and available slots and sign up for remaining available slots. What's On A system to manage listings for events on your Joomla! site. Post events according to categories, list upcoming events for each category, list upcoming events for next seven days, or list all upcoming events. ldap hack joomla 1.02 Modified ldap hack version 9 for joomla Attend Events Atend Events is a fork of the Events Session component http://mamboforge.net/projects/eventssessions/ created by Tony Blair greenBILL a billing component for joomla mod_include A very short module whose only purpose is to built a module which includes a PHP/HTML file. Usefull to display ads, or pages coming from previous site. Param : file to be included. E Knowledge Management To manage the knowledge happen in workplace com_securityimages Security Images or CAPTCHA for Joomla Ever been to a site where you had to register and the registration form required that you type in the same phrase that is found in a hard-to-read image? Joomla has now this possibility thanks to my component com_securityimages. CAPTCHA definition: A captcha (an acronym for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart") is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human. The term was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, and Nicholas J. Hopper of Carnegie Mellon University, and John Langford of IBM. A common type of captcha requires that the user type the letters of a distorted and/or obscured sequence of letters or digits that appears on the screen. JoomlaDesk A helpdesk component, capible of creating tickets, email allert, user learing, help database, main work list, personal work list, overvieuws, prioratising, planning and manny more. It was for mambo (private) and now i am upgrading it and porting to joomla (public) PCM Personal Content Manager - Allows Admin to define in Backend in what Sections/Categories an Editor is allowed to write articles. In Frontend component the Editor only can edit the Content written by him. Z Weather This component and module combination displays weather from U.S. cities using data provided by the National Weather Service. Current conditions, forecasts and weather alerts are supported for multiple locations. Z Weather uses data from the National Weather Service, which means you can provide accurate weather information on your Joomla web site with no advertising from a commercial weather provider. A demo of the component and module can be seen at http://www.zcontent.net . The latest release is available for download in the File Releases section. LDAP Tools LDAP tools contains a variety of useful items (mambots and components) for the LDAP environment, tested in a Novell eDirectory environment. It contains: - LDAP User Synchronization - LDAP User Authentication - LDAP Single Sign On Google SiteMap Google SiteMap Component for Joomla EZ Store A simple ecommerce solution for online sellers. Google Sitemap Generator A full backend Admin component which generates the XML file for Google Sitemap. Further a Module will be released which will generate the XML automatically on a specified time and if possible Google will be infomed IMAP IMAP email Client for joomla! On This Day in History This is a component and module that will allow a Joomla site to display what happened on this day in history text. The module will print a brief description and allow a clickthrough to the component giving more detailed information. jDonations Joomla Donations module, a Paypal IPN donation solution for the Joomla! Content Management System. Children Submenu I have created a small module that will display an item's children (as determined by the mainmenu) in a submenu of its own. If a child from the submenu is clicked on, this module will check if the that item has children as well and will display the children of the child and so on... I was finding that I was having to create so many submenus with the menu manager and it wasnt dynamic what-so-ever. I wanted to be able to click on an item, and if the item had immediate children, show those children in a seperate menu dynamilcally. Hope this helps others. DS-Syndicate DS-Syndicate is a replacement of the standard Syndicate module of Joomla. It contains the RSS formats: 0.91, 1.0, 2.0, OPML and Atom 0.3. Some Features:Only Frontpage items or all items, Create a feed per category, Multiple feeds possible, Different formats RSS, OPML, ATOM, Add a picture to the feed, Statistics http://www.JoomlaFun.com/ is the place for support. livesupport Install a live support chat to your website, is easy, this is the second version, all the code in english and work with JavaScript+XMLHttpRequest+PHP, and multilanguage. Image of the Day A module to display an image of the DAY OR an image of the WEEK. Admin parameters for: image folder, image type, mode of operation, link, sizing, default image, alt text, module class suffix and Debug Mode to show image path & url being called by your settings. Calendar Calendar gives your visitor the possibility to view the events the site manages. Day/Month/Year list views are supported. An administrator can define events. phpbb phpBB modificated to work within joomla. Please check www.tim-online.nl/redirect.php?forum for support questions VirtueMart The complete Shopping Mall Solution for the Content Management System Joomla!. It is already used by thousands of storeowners. It can also be used as a Catalogue. Its powerful Administration Tool can handle an unlimited number of Categories, Products, Orders, Customers.. WebAmoeba Ticket System The WebAmoeba Ticket System is a help ticket support system component for Mambo and Joomla. For more information see http://www.webamoeba.co.uk Jobline Jobline is a component to let clients publish job postings on your website. CiviCRM CiviCRM is a Constituent Relationship Management System for Joomla! (and other CMS) RSGallery2 Based on the original RSGallery, RSGallery2 aims to be the easiest to use and most functional photo and image gallery available for Joomla! Google Site Search Description: "Google Site Search" is a module for Joomla that enables you to search your site by using the Google-Site-Search feature. The classic search is also implemented. There are different options to choose like the background-color and others. It supports GoogleAdsense. AJAX Shoutbox This Joomla module adds live chat functionality to your Joomla site. Your visitors can chat with eachother right in your website without refreshing their browsers. It’s almost like chatting on an instant messenging network! And it’s all powered by AJAX, a hot new old technology that powers things like Gmail, Google Maps, and other brilliant web apps. Now, you can get a piece of all this in your own site. Gallery2 Bridge Bridge Component to Embed Gallery2 into Joomla. The Main development and Support is given at http://opensource.4theweb.nl JUICE Joomla User Import ComponEnt allows a site administrator to import usernames, passwords, and email addresses into Joomla's user manager from a properly formated CSV text file. josCommerce josCommerce is a port of mosCommerce (developed by http://www.byrgius.com) which was orignially designed to port osCommerce to Mambo 4.5.2. The initial goal of this project is to create a port of osCommerce for Joomla! (relying heavily upon the mosCommerce code developed by Byrgius). Longer range goals will strive to modularize josCommerce (at the cost of backward/forward compatability with osCommerce) and in doing so fully separate Presentation from Business logic and provide more robust integration within the Joomla! framework. This site is a demo of the current release candidate v1.0.1 It is intended to serve as a testing bed for those interested in kicking the tires. Those interested in downloading this code are encouraged to visit the forge at http://developer.joomla.org/sf/sfmain/do/viewProject/projects.joscommerce and check it out of the subversion repository - located in the branches directory under 1.0.1. - at http://scm.joomla.org/svn/repos/joscommerce/branches/release_1.0.1 josCommerce uses the major.minor.micro (eg. 0.18.2) release numbering convention. Major - Indicates a very large change in the core package. Rewrites or major milestones. Minor - Significant amount of feature addition/modification. Micro - Usually bug fixes or minor features School This component shows student classroom allocations, personal details of students (including parents and contact stuff), marks, lessons and more. Appointment Scheduler A multi-department and multi-person (or resource) scheduling component that is highly flexible. Each appointment department (category) can use customized appointment fields. Provides an Outlook-like look and feel. Community Builder Community Builder suite extends the Joomla! user management system. Key features: extra fields in profile, enhanced registration workflows, user lists, admin defined tabs, image upload, front-end workflow management, integration with other components, etc. Summary Time spent in article: 120 minutes Time left for project: 385 minutes Goals accomplished:
  • Joomla Core is downloaded
  • I have enough extra components to compare to each other, possibly enough to finih the project
|W|P|114314780928528365|W|P|Rapid Web Prototyping with Open Source: Part 5|W|P|