05/28/2010

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a skill that seems like magic to many. I’ve been through a lot of efforts recently to improve it on some really old websites. It takes a lot of time to figure it out if you are not using a Content Management System (CMS).

So if you’re interested in doing some SEO research for your site, it’s going to very difficult if you’re not using Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, or some other CMS. Obviously I use Drupal, and it makes life really easy.

1.) The nodewords module let’s you easily add/change your keywords, and even alter the update interval with search engine spiders. It also

2.) The robotstxt module allows for easy editing of the robots.txt file. However, many people forget to delete the default robots.txt file. Also, editing the robots.txt file is fairly easy even for a non-CMS website.

3.) The xmlsitemap module makes editing the sitemap a breeze. I usually refuse to manually edit a sitemap, but that’s just me.

That’s really all there is as far as basic tools. Keyword research is something you should google if you want more info.

10/11/2009

Tabs, Rethinking the Web Browser: Mastering Firefox like a Ninja 4

I can remember long ago when I didn’t use tabs. I can also remember that it seemed like a stupid idea to use tabs. I doubt I will convert anyone over to using tabs, but I will lay out a very detailed set of reasons on why tabs are very necessary. There are a lot of standard things that can be done using tabs. I will also suggest a few radical ideas on how to use tabs that may help in some tight spots. There is no way that one can become a ninja of using a browser without fully mastering the use of tabs. It may seem like a very banal subject, but when actually looking at our habits when using tabs, we can save little bits of time in a variety of ways.

Please skip to Intermediate if you actively use tabs when you browse.

Tabs simply allow your browser to browse multiple websites at the same time. A New tab can be used to quickly look up a word/term that is not understood, then return to the page. Listening to pandora is difficult when not using tabs. Some tabs can be used for quick reference material. It is almost impossible to use google products, research a stock, lookup sports statistics, make date plans, or find an answer to a difficult question, without using multiple tabs.

Novice: Rarely uses tabs while browsing

It may not be clear to the internet browsing novice what tabs are:

Tabs are the “tabs” on the bottom of the top menu. They signify different pages that are loaded. If you didn’t know what they were before then becoming a ninja will be a long hard road.

It may also not be clear to experienced internet browsing novices when to use tabs. Tabs are supposed to be used to browse multiple websites/pages at the same time. This sounds easy, but figuring out when it is needed is a very subtle trick for a novice. Some see fit to open to much into new tabs, and ruin any organization that would help them save time. Others stick to the old way and incessantly switch back and forth between websites opening as few tabs as possible. It is difficult to say how to use the tool, but it would be more of a subjective area than an objective decision. One of the most basic ways for a novice to experience tabs, would be to sign up for Pandora and try to play music on one tab, while browsing on another. A good rule of thumb would be: 1 purpose to one tab, and 15 tabs max.

A good example of a website that is not up with the tabs concept is TheDrudgeReport . All articles open in the same tab as the website, thereby directing traffic away from the website. This lends itself more to the users who do not use tabs, typically Novice, Internet Explorer, passive, users. As this may be bad for some websites, it works very well for Drudge. More advanced users might choose to right-click>Open in new Tab for several selections from the main drudge site, and then read each of them on separate tabs. This manner of browsing would save the user much angst in navigating back to the main site and into another link, but it is not immediately apparent to a novice.

Intermediate: Uses tabs significantly for a variety of browsing tasks

One might conceive of a scale that would grade the skill required in the use of tabs. At the bottom end would be making piecemeal of Drudge, in the middle would be tasks that require a significant amount of tab judgment, and at the top would be only the most esoteric uses for tabs. Tasks that would require significant amounts of tab usage experience:

-Using google products becomes very cumbersome without setting tabs to each task you are going to use (home, mail, docs, calendar).

-I almost never make a stock/derivative trade without extensive amounts of research on that stock

-Looking up sports statistics

-Finding out all the information on a babe (cyber stalking)

-Making plans for a date is sometimes a very difficult task. I usually find that winging it is better, but sometimes it’s special.

-Sometimes you’re only one of a few people ever to have asked the question and you need to use tabs to search in different ways.
“how do i turn off the seatbelt alarm in a 2006 prius?”
“is there a nokia n95 compatible program that would allow me to remotely turn on my phone without a sound and listen?”

Planning a daytrip can also be much more pleasant when knowing how to use tabs:

Ninja: Using tabs in combination with other tools

It’s so great to make use of tabs while browsing doing every day things, but there are other more involved tasks that require more skill to ply. There are three scenarios here: setting up a reference guide, quick loading a workspace, and watching something.

Setting up a reference guide:

Here’s the scenario in short. I worked on a project where all that it required was for me to reference the same 5 documents incessantly. All but one were pdf’s (the odd one was a word file). I would incessantly have to load one, find something and close it. What I found was that I could set up a reference guide that loaded each document in a different tab. This saved me the discomfort of searching for and loading the documents one at a time. All the documents were right at my fingertips, and I could answer any question I had almost instantly.

HOW: Make a profile -> Set a Hotkey or a Shortcut to that Profile -> Right Click on the PDF files and load into the browser-> make sure that you save the session when closing->Word documents required me to use google docs.

Quick-loading a Workspace:

This one is very basic, there’s a cool thing about Delicious, all of the bookmarks under a tag can be loaded at once. While I don’t recommend loading a google finance tabs of all the stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial (DJI), or the S&P 500, it may be nice to load half a dozen of your usual suspects when browsing the web. Also, I have to load a different set of tabs for when I’m blogging versus when I’m just surfing.

Watching Something:

When you’re on the edge, it sometimes is hard to watch simple things like the weather, a stock price, or the number of new emails you have. It is very nice to be able to simply look at the title to a tab, and see what’s going on. This requires nothing but observing what the title menu’s do, and when they change. Most websites and pages are not going to do this but the occasional page that does is awesome. I love gmail for this.

10/07/2009

Bookmarks, Rethinking the Web Browser: Mastering Firefox like a Ninja 3

This blog can be said in one word: Delicious. Basically, go sign up for delicious and add the Firefox add-on. There’s not much to it. I could extol the virtues, I could blab about the concept of social bookmarking, but the basic point is that the issue is solved simply by Delicious.

If you actually decided to use Xmarks you may be content with the bookmark sync that it uses, but redundant systems are always good when they’re compatible. With Delicious you’re totally dependent on the cloud, and you can access your bookmarks from anywhere, but the sidebar makes it very convenient.

There are only a few tips that I have, as this post is completely simple. If you’re going through these articles this one should take a several days to work out completely. If you only work from a single computer this should take about an hour or so to complete.

Tips:

It is very convenient to have a set of tags that sit at the top of your delicious sidebar, you can use numbers to keep them at the top. Mine are 1Common, 2WorkRelated, 3Money, 4Fun, etc.

You can set your twitter, or facebook, or whatever to post your new bookmarks. Watch out because some bookmarks you may not want to be public.

For some reason Xmarks will not remember my Delicious Password.

Use the Xmarks bookmarks sync as a redundant system (not as the primary).

Annually audit your bookmarks for old junk you don’t want.

Delicious
Delicious Firefox Addon

10/05/2009

Browser Password Synchronization, Rethinking the Web Browser: Mastering Firefox like a Ninja 2

Being able to manage passwords is the biggest, and most important, time saving skill that can be learned about utilizing a browser. Having to remember and retype multitudes of passwords is very cumbersome, and in any given hour of using a browser it can significantly tax your time. Fortunately, there are a few very good solutions. These solutions allow you to save your passwords and have them auto-fill when you visit a login page. These solutions also encrypt the password storage file for transferring between computers.

Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks)
Keepass

Both of these tools allow for fairly seamless password sync between computers. The beauty is that they fully encrypt already encrypted passwords and sync them between different browsers and/or profiles. I use Xmarks, and have since it was in beta. I have not used Keepass, but know that it is a very good solution. The main difference is that Xmarks uses the cloud, and Keepass uses a flash drive.

The differences get even more subtle when comparing and contrasting the details. Once Keepass syncs your passwords to a new machine, only newer passwords saved will create differences between machines until a new sync. Xmarks advantage is that all computers/browsers remain generally similar in their password storage via a server sync. The Keepass advantage is that 3rd party servers are not involved in the exchange of the encrypted file holding the passwords. However, Xmarks gives you the ability to utilize your own server for the file. Saved passwords are associated with a profile. Also, Xmarks is a Firefox extension and thus needs to be associated with a profile. Keepass is a standalone program and works differently.

When it boils down to it, both are equally matched. The decision is basically between trusting the cloud, or being a flash drive toter. That decision aside, every button needs to be well understood by the user. Take a lot of care when adopting either of these programs, or any other. It took me 2 weeks before I fully trusted Xmarks when I was implementing it. This caution is well within bounds, because the systems are very simple yet hold a lot of power. Again, know what every button does before trusting any password management tool.

Once you have a good working password manager it will become extremely easy to browse to any website that requires a login. Having the password automatically fill in a login page is a very rewarding experience. First, you save the time that would have been expended typing the password. Second, your mind is free to concerns other than the password. Take the simple action of a login and span it out over how many times it is done in a given week, month, or even year. One might save tremendous amounts of time and brainpower over a number of given repetitions.

TIPS:

Again, know what every button does before trusting any password management tool.

NEVER print your passwords out on paper.

A random password generator will improve your security, but may hinder you when you need to manually type a password.

If you use Google, make sure that it knows your phone number, or that you have a good way of getting your account back if security is compromised.

A few login pages will not be recognized by the browser, and it will not prompt to you to save the password.

There are other solutions and strategies for saving passwords, that may fit your situation better.

It would be good practice to not save passwords for financial accounts (bank, credit, investment).

For Foxmarks avoid clicking the “Never” when prompted to remember a password, as there’s an unsolved bug that messes with sync(ignore this if they’ve solved the bug).

Links:

Lifehacker

Password Generator

Secure Passwords

Your Own Xmarks Server (not required, advanced only)

Projects & Links

Colonize the Moon
About moon/mars/asteroid colonies and space stuff

Computer Dungeon
About
linux/raspberry-pi/bitcoin and computer stuff

VidUploadServer
A video upload server I coded myself

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