This will be a somewhat scatterbrained… err, random post.

First off if you are having problems with a certain contest, then plugging the secret letters into the Internet Anagram Server could be very helpful.

I like RPGs and play in a couple now & then.  I have also run the occasional session or two, but lately I got this itch.  The itch to play in a campaign world of my own devising which means I’ll need to run more than a single session or two. In trying to prepare myself for that, I’ve been following some new blogs and today read the logical article I’ve ever seen on the subject of war & international relationals.

This week while staying home sick1, I finally got around to upgrading my work laptop from Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10. I had been holding off mostly because it is my work machine and I had the idea I should keep it on Ubuntu’s LTS releases. Then I realized while I was keeping the system on a theoretically more stable version, I kept adding 3rd party packages/repositories to update specific programs I wanted (which contradicts the point of sticking with a LTS release). So I did the upgrade and was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the upgrade went. However I did run into one minor and one major problem after the upgrade.

  • Minor problem: My dual monitor configuration got screwed up. Most likely because I did the upgrade at home (where I don’t have a 2nd monitor for the laptop).
  • Major problem: All my SSH keys stopped working. I ended up recreating them and getting them pushed back out to all the servers I need to access using keys. Still that was disconcerting, especially since nothing about the keys (client/server) had changed. Even our network admin at work was confused by that one.

On the positive side, Adobe Flash Player 10.x is available for Ubuntu 8.10, so now I can watch Comedy Central’s clips of the Daily Show again (under Flash 9.x, they always crashed Firefox). Additionally there are prebuilt packages for Gnome-Do 0.8.x for Ubuntu 8.10, which like Mr. Pibb + Red Vines is crazy delicious! Specifically, Gnome-Do with the Docky theme. I believe the idea behind the Docky theme was to mimic some functionality of OS X’s dock, but could be mistaken (don’t own a Mac). The performance is bit slow on my older desktop2, but it works great on the work laptop.

1 Nausea + dizziness + complete lack of energy. Fortunately I’m mostly over it now, though still working to get my energy levels back up.
2 Based on an AMD 1800+ CPU.

Sometimes when you’re staring the bash prompt, you want to be able to see if a specific program is currently running. There are a couple of ways to do this; generally I run:
ps -ef | grep ProgramName

However I once saw a tip for doing something similar with top but I lost the link and for a long time couldn’t find it again. Truth be told, I still haven’t found that specific link but I did some googling and found the right cli switches to do it. Since I want to make sure I remember in the future, I’m posting it here:
top -b -n 1 | grep ProgramName

While I run Kubuntu as my primary OS on all my home machines, my work machine has Windows XP on it.  Recently our IT dept installed Norton AntiVirus 2006 on all our machines.  Some people had problems with this immediately, while others (like myself) had not noticed any problems.  Then today I tried to export some data out of Microsoft Access to a MySQL server via an ODBC connection; only the window to select which connection to use never came up.  One of my co-workers had this problem last week and it quickly escalated into something of a nightmare causing her to get stuck with the office’s loaner machine.  I did some googling and found a simpler solution to the problem:

  1. Double-click on Norton AntiVirus in the systray.
  2. Click on the Norton AntiVirus tab.
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click on Virus And Spyware Protection Options (under Additional Options)
  5. Click on Miscellaneous under Advanced Options.
  6. Uncheck Turn on scanning for Microsoft Office documents.
  7. Click Ok.
  8. Restart your computer.

And that’s it.  Simply disabling Norton’s Office plugin fixed the problem for me.

In my day job, I deal with massive databases of business listing information. Occasionally, I am required to go through those listings to review the sites attached to the listings. And for the love of god, people you’re making my eyes bleed. In hopes that some of you out there find this blog post and are willing to fix your site, here’s a few tips.

Give your homepage the title of your company.

When you build your site, make sure your company’s name is the title of your home page. It should not be things like: “Welcome!”, “email”, “under construction” or “index”. This makes your site both more professional and easier for search engines to properly index your site.

Do not use massive amounts of Macromedia Flash/Javascript/Animated Gifs.

Some truly amazing things can be done with Flash. Using it to animate your navigation is not one of them. Flash is best used sparingly as it limits your audience, blocking the blind for your site and users of mobile internet devices (e.g. cellphones).

Likewise, javascript should be sparingly and the site should degrade gracefully when a user without javascript visits. Which is to say if your navigation or other major site features break without javascript; then you’ve done something wrong. So go back and fix it!

The occasional animated gif can add impact and interest to your site; while dozens are annoying and look amateurish.

Color is important, but try not to blind your site visitors.

When you blind your site visitors with odd bad color choices; they will move on to your competitors. Along the same lines if you have overly complicated background images behind the text of your website; you are marking it harder for people to read what you have to say. Keep it simple for maximum impact.

Make sure all your links have logical names.

Naming your various pages as: “Page 1”, “Page 2”, etc… might seem simple and easy, but it makes those links useless to your visitors. How can anyone other than you know that “Page 1” is the page where you sell dildos or whether it is the page where you’re selling balloons? They can only find out by clicking the link.

Avoid Comic Sans MS

While Comic Sans MS may seem like a fun, cheery sort of font to you; it’s been greatly overused and most people find it annoying/unprofessional.

So faithful readers that’s my list of big tips for the small business owner who wants a web presense. Did I miss one of your hot button issues? If so, please add it in a comment!

Updated: 2007-03-19

Kind readers have added some extremely good tips that I should have remembered in the comments on this post!

This post was inspired by a recent article over at LifeHacker. But before I get into the tips, I’m going to bore you with a slight digression.

LifeHacker is one of the very few blogs that I actually check daily for new content. And I’m not talking about using an agregator, I will actually pop up a webbrowser to hit them up. I read their site so often it wasn’t until today that I realized my portal page didn’t1 link to them. As a general rule, the articles there are interesting and/or useful. I don’t have a Mac, so some articles don’t always help me, but overall they have a really good mix. I suppose given how much use I’ve gotten out of their site, I should be a bit nicer about this…. But the tip posted today was so shockingly lame that I feel the need to compile my own list of tips for windows users. Sorry, justrick but this one shouldn’t have made it past the editor’s desk!

Right that’s more than enough complaints, here’s my favorite Windows tips (in no particular order)

  • Reformat your drives and load your favorite linux distro (I suggest either Kubuntu or OpenSuSE).2
  • Use the Windows Key shortcuts:
    • Win + E: Launches Windows Explorer
    • Win + D: Pressed once, shows your desktop. Pressed twice, restores your windows to their prior positions. The same effect can be achieved with Win+M and Win+SHIFT-M, but Win+D takes less effort.
    • Win + R: Launches the Windows Run Box. True, this isn’t as powerful as the Linux cli but you can do some good tricks with it (I’ll cover some of those later).
    • Win + L: Locks your computer, good for corporate environments.
    • Win + BREAK: Launches the System Properties window.
    • Win + F: Launches the Windows Explorer Searach function, useful in locating files3. Of course, if what you’re really looking for are other computers on the network then you could use Crtl+Win+F.
  • If you use the Windows Command Prompt frequently, then setting up some aliases for your most commonly used commands is helpful. the one I like to do on evey Windows machine I use is to create C:\Windows\X.BAT. This batch file contains only one command and that’s EXIT. Since the batch file is in the Windows directory, it’s in the system path on a default configuration. When I’m ready to close any command prompt, I just hit “x” (minus the quotes) and I’m out.
  • If you don’t have a fancy keyboard with extra keys for macros or launching other programs, you might want to use things like:
    1. Press Win+R
    2. Type in “notepad” (minus the quotes)
    3. Press enter or click ok. This will launch the Windows Notepad accessory, great for editing small text files or making quick notes to yourself. the other app I frequentally launch this way is the Windows Calculator (use “calc” instead of “notepad”).
  • If your Quick Launch bar is overflowing but you still need quick access to more programs and you don’t have a fancy macroing keyboard, then you can setup shortcut keys for your programs by right-clicking on their icon/shortcut, selecting Properties, clicking in the Shortcut Key field and pressing the key combo you want to launch the program. For example…
    1. Go into Start -> Accessories.
    2. Right-click on Paint and select Properties.
    3. Click in the Shortcut Key field and press Crtl+Alt+P
    4. Now whenever you press Crtl+Alt+P Microsoft Paint will launch. Keep in mind that this can cause problems with other programs if you try overwriting a keyboard shortcut that the other program already uses (e.g. Ctrl+C).

Those are all of the Windows tips that immediately come to mind. If any of my readers have additional ones they like, please post them in the comments.

1 As soon as I realized this, I added the link.
2 If this tip offends, I’d apologize but you should know by now from reading this blog, that I vastly prefer Linux.
3 Though installing Google Desktop and using hitting Crtl twice is easier overall and GD does a better job searching.