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HTMLfixIT Archive for June, 2005




Thursday, June 23rd, 2005 by Franki

As an Adsense member, I spend a good deal of time and effort working out what the best methods are to get this site to pay for as many of its expenses as possible. To that end I have played endlessly with the position of the Google Ads to reach a balance between revenue and annoyance. The idea that the site should pay for itself (and one day perhaps for us also) isn’t such an unreachable goal I believe, but I will not turn it into a walking billboard as that would turn the people we most want to visit us away from the site in disgust.

Anyway, while moving things around and watching the Adsense earnings to see how the changes effect the click through rate on Ads, I noticed a somewhat annoying problem that probably affects a good many sites using content aware advertising.
Since we cover not just web development issues, but also security and some general IT issues, sometimes small stories on these subjects can almost completely kill the Ad revenue from the site. For instance both Don and myself recently covered the Mastercard card theft story here, and the result is that now our Ads are mostly for cheap credit card offers. Since most people get enough of such offers in their daily SPAM, I can only assume that they’ve had enough and this is why our revenue for the past couple of days has fallen into the toilet. Most of our traffic comes from Google search and Google news. Since both of those services are remarkably good at sending people to the right places, our visitors are generally interested in our subject matter. The problem is that that subject matter doesn’t really include cheap credit card offers. So our two tiny articles on the Mastercard issue (and probably this article as well) result in most of a weeks worth of advertising our users are not interested in at all.

There are two solutions to the problem. One is to not write about such things, which is something I’d prefer not to do as it is important for web developers to be aware of potential security issues. The other solution is for the Ad company (Google in this case) to create an ignore list that site owners can use to ensure that certain words are not considered “content” by the algorithm that decides what Ads are best suited for our sites. Google does give us the ability to block certain URLs from our Ads, but to stop the credit card Ads would seemingly require that I add about 200 or more different URLs to the block list. If they offered an “Ignore” list, I could simply add “Credit Card” and “Mastercard” to the list and that would be the end of our problems, this time at least. Companies offering these services seem much more interested in helping the people and companies purchasing the advertising rather then the publishers that end up displaying the Ads on site. Until that changes, all we can do is grit out teeth and wait for the “less desired” Ads to be replaced by something hopefully more profitable and related to our subject matter.

Failing the ignore list, I’d alternatively like to see something like the recent rel=”nofollow” attribute that content publishers can put around terms that they’d prefer the Ad services ignored when parsing a site. That would be easier for the Ad companies to instigate, and simple for content publishers to adopt.

No Comments »

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005 by Franki

The SCO group that has spent much of it’s time and money recently in a fight to extort billions of dollars from IBM for alleged intellectual property infringements with regards to Linux, has filled their latest server release (OpenServer 6) with all manner of Open Source/GPL products. Products like Apache (the worlds most popular web server software currently running on nearly 70% of the worlds web sites.), Samba ( software needed for Unix servers to talk to Windows servers and clients), MySQL, (very popular Open Source database), OpenSSL/OpenSSH (tools for encrypting communication between systems), not to mention Open Source applications like Firefox and OpenOffice and the KDE Window manager/desktop platform. It is interesting that the company that claimed in court and the press that the GPL (the license covering the vast majority of Open Source software) was unconstitutional and void or voidable has released a product in which most of the useful tasks such a product can do on a modern network are provided by the very Open Source software for which they have shown such disdain.

Since all of the same tools and more are available totally for free with an enterprise Operating System based on Linux like CENTOS, or for those that prefer a paid, supported product by Redhat, it makes you wonder who would buy an SCO product with the same features which would serve no real purpose other then to open yourself to potential future litigation from SCO, (Ask DaimlerChrysler and Autozone for example).

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Thursday, June 23rd, 2005 by Franki

MSN and Hotmail web mail systems will soon flag E-mail that doesn’t conform to Microsoft’s patented SenderID process as potential SPAM. There are several problems with their announcement, not the least of which is that Microsoft’s SenderID is not usable by Open Source MTA (Mail Transfer Agents, or Mail server software) which handle most of the Internet’s E-mail. It’s unusable because Microsoft made their license incompatible with Open Source software, intentionally it seems. This is the same tactic Microsoft are employing with their EU anti-competitive remedies. They are forced to make interoperability information available, and they did so, but in a way that makes their biggest competitor unable to use it.

Basically, if you own a Hotmail or MSN email account, after Microsoft starts flagging non SenderID email as potential SPAM, you can no longer guarantee that you will actually see all the E-mail you are sent, whether it’s SPAM or not. The reason for that is because SenderID is not universally used, in fact it’s not even on the majority of the E-mail systems (try slightly over 1% of mail servers).

This appears to be yet another case of Microsoft’s Extend, Embrace and Extinguish philophosy. They joined the coalition that was looking for an answer to the SPAM problem, they came up with their own solution that rides on the backbone of another technology (SPF) that was provided free to all for the good of all. Then they patented their version in a manner that blocked a significant portion of the worlds biggest MTA’s from adopting it and that ended up disbanding the coalition with nothing useful decided upon as a result. Now Microsoft are trying to use their vast number of Hotmail and MSN users to force ISP’s and other mail server providers to adopt their technology. The ironic thing is that when they find themselves in court for anti-competitive behaviour, they honestly don’t seem to understand why they are getting targeted all the time, and while all this goes on, their PR people are busy telling the gullible how wonderfully interoperable all their products are.

My advice? get a free Gmail or Yahoo email account, they both offer more space and features then the free MSN/Hotmail anyway and you actually stand a good chance of seeing all your E-mail. See CNET for the full scoop.

Update: Apparently I’m not the only one to view Microsoft’s move with disdain. Speaking of alternatives, TheInquirer has done a small review of AOL’s new free webmail service and given it surprisingly good marks. Apparently they offer 2GIG just like Gmail, but also offer IMAP as a connection option, meaning you can use any IMAP capable E-mail client (like Thunderbird) to access your mail. They did say that AOL’s offering doesn’t have the same search ability as Gmail, but if you are using Thunderbird as your client, then you have Thunderbirds search facilities at your fingertips which is very powerful with tools like Virtual search folders (a folder that doesn’t really exist but contains all the results of a particular search term (or multiple terms). IMAP is a huge improvement over POP3 because the mail stays on the server. With POP3, when you download your mail from one location, it is no longer available to download from another. IMAP looks and works the same as POP3 from a users perspective, except that you can access all your mail from any location and until you delete it, all your old mail is accessable to all of them. I’ve bene a big convert of IMAP’s features for some time now.

No Comments »

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005 by Franki

Root kits are not something the average Windows user has had to spend much time worrying about in the past. According to Eweek, that’s about to change as common spyware programs use root kit like techniques to hide from detection and make removal more difficult. Put simply, they use Kernel level functions to hide themselves on users systems. Since the Kernel is the heart of a system, if it is compromised anything can be hidden on your system and you may never know anything is amiss. With the increasing sophistication of Viruses and Spyware, it is logical to expect them to adopt more complex methods of avoiding detection. Get yourself a free copy of Adaware if you don’t have any Spyware detection and you use Windows. Or you could just get yourself a Mac or Linux PC as both have proven themselves more or less immune to Viruses and Spyware so far.

1 Comment »

Monday, June 20th, 2005 by Franki

While I was upgrading our Statistical hit counter, I was required to download the latest versions of Netscape 8.0.2 and Opera 8.0.1 in order to ensure I could correctly detect their browser strings in the counter. I already have IE6 SP2 and Firefox 1.0.4 installed so this looked like a good time to do a “first impressions” review of the four browsers. I’ll start with the browsers I am most familiar with and work my way down from there.

Firefox 1.0.4
Firefox’s default theme is fairly intuitive and clean but extremely bland. Most things are roughly where you would expect them to be and Mozilla have made an effort to make IE users feel at home with the menu system. Firefox boots reasonably quickly but it doesn’t seem to be much better or worse then any of the others in that regard and I don’t consider 3 seconds faster or slower to load as a valid reason to choose one browser over another. Firefox loves rendering pages written to W3C standards. It also handles most sites written with older invalid or Microsoft only code, but there are some exceptions that will probably require Internet Explorer if you can’t avoid the sites in question.

A new user would get no impression about the benefits of tabbed browsing in Firefox because the default install seems to go out of it’s way to hide this incredibly useful feature. The first thing I always do upon a new Firefox installation is to right click on a blank section of the menu bar and select Customize and drag the “New tab” button onto the tool bar. I’m writing this review in Firefox with 23 tabs running so there is no doubt in my mind that tabbed browsing is a huge boon to my productivity.

On the subject of tabs, having one closing button for a whole row of tabs is not good UI design and more then once I’ve accidentally closed the whole page of tabs because I clicked the X in the top corner while thinking about something else. Netscape and Opera get the points for best tabbing UI on this issue because they both have a close button on every tab, (Firefox can have that too but you must install an Extension for it) and also because tabbing isn’t hidden away in the file menu in those browsers by default. Having said that, these probably aren’t serious issues , just a minor annoyances really. Mozilla would also benefit by replacing the default theme for something like Noia extreme for home users and give them the choice of bland corporate or eye candy home themes. Noia is the best eye candy home user theme I’ve seen thus far and most of my corporate clients like it as well. Since some corporations don’t like eye candy, it’s probably a good idea to have a bland theme choice available upon install.

(more…)

4 Comments »

Sunday, June 19th, 2005 by Don

I just discovered another handy Google feature, automatic reverse look-ups of phone numbers. If you type 555-555-5555 or (555)555-5555 (replace 5’s with real numbers in a telephone number to try this — I have to explain that in case the University of Kansas Financial Aid Department is reading this — see prior story today) into the google search box and hit search, it will return the owner of that number together with an offer to draw a map to the address associated with it using Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Mapquest. It will then continue on to show pages containing that phone number as you might expect.

Yet another nice feature at Google.

No Comments »

Sunday, June 19th, 2005 by Don

Reports are beginning to circulate as of late last week and continuing this week that Google will start an on-line payment program to compete with Paypal. That is good news, if it is true, for consumers. We personally like Paypal and find it to be fair and easy to deal with, even though others will tell stories of difficulties (usually from earlier in time). However, any time there is competition that is a good thing.

We recently wrote about a Paypal initiative to allow payments by buyers without leaving the merchant’s site. So Paypal continues to think agressively about how to improve and expand services. Competition usually keeps both tools sharper in my experience, unless the product is of a type that having business split increases operating costs (example something like utilities with expensive distributions systems). The nature of this could lead to a price drop for the service and cause each of them to think of ways to improve and expand the service offered.

So once again I say, go Google!

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HTMLfixIT Site Stats.

Browser Statistics
Internet Explorer 85.88%
IE 717.63%
IE 62.3%
IE 50.00%
IE other8.6%
Moz Firefox 3.x3.03%
Moz Firefox 2.x0.18%
Moz Firefox 0.x/1.x26.65%
Netscape 8.x0.00%
NS 6+/Mozilla2.73%
Moz Seamonkey0.00%
K-meleon0.00%
Epiphany0.00%
Netscape 4.x0.00%
Opera 9.x0.00%
Opera 8.x0.00%
Opera 7.x0.42%
Opera 6.x0.00%
Opera other0.42%
Safari Mac/Intel5.21%
Safari Mac/PPC0.06%
Safari Windows25.2%
Google Chrome1.51%
Konqueror0.18%
Galeon0.00%
WebTV0.00%


Resolution Statistics
640 x 4800.25%
800 x 60026.14%
1024 x 76836.55%
1152 x 8640.25%
1280 x 80011.68%
1280 x 8540.00%
1280 x 102417.01%
1400 x 10500.00%
1600 x 12001.02%
1920 x 12007.11%
2560 x 10240.00%


OS Statistics
Windows 741.55%
Windows Vista2.4%
Windows 20033.91%
Windows XP20.86%
Windows 20000.36%
Windows NT40.05%
Windows 98/ME0.05%
Windows 950.00%
Linux/UNIX/BSD8.76%
Mac OSX8.03%
Mac Classic0.00%
Misc14.03%



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