Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Using to Convert Images to Use as Icons for your Web site

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Just had a conversation about adding an icon to appear next to the name of the Web site in the browser and finally broke down and put one in.  When I was done, I was asked by a coworker what software I used to create the icon as an .ico file.

I just explained I used an online conversion tool that I always use at to upload a jpeg/gif/png image and have it convert it to an icon file.  The nice thing about as opposed to others is it has a preview tool to see what you are publishing before you save to your hard drive.  I did tell her the importance of taking the image (in this case my super, scary looking clown) and shrink it down in PhotoShop to 16x16 first, sharpen the image, and then save it as a jpeg. 

And, after doing that noticed that Internet Explorer 8 still has a bug that requires full physical paths to the icon file as opposed to virtual paths.  Thought they would have fixed that since I noticed it in IE6.  I am not trying to pick on Microsoft (even though my last three posts have been Microsoft bugs).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Custom Watermark Fail in Word 2007

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Yesterday, I was given a task to put a Watermark on some Microsoft Word documents before they went into our database.  As part of an end of day task to blow off steam, I sat down with Word 2007 to do just that.  Forget about blowing off steam, all I wanted to do was create a custom watermark with our company logo and put it on the document.  But, 'Custom Watermark' was greyed out under the 'Watermark' option (located in Word 2007 under the 'Page Layout' tab).

After some tinkering I realized that since I have Word 2007 default to Web view (under the 'View' tab), that wasn't an option.  Why?  Who know.  I guess we don't need Watermarks on the Web for printable documents - even though I can come up with ten examples off of the top of my head this very minute where it would be helpful.  To be able to add a custom watermark, you need to change the view to 'Print Layout' (under the 'View' tab), and then go under the 'Page Layout' tab, choose 'Watermark' and then 'Custom Watermark'.  Lovely doing business with you Microsoft.

This Morning's IT Duties - a Midweek Rant

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Early Morning Routine:

Earlier this year, my company went out and purchased a top-of-the-line water purifier for the office.  Us hapless employees were thrilled.  We get such few perks and the thoughts of a water purifier that could dispense both cold and hot water would be marveled.  Especially those of us in IT who could use some warm beverages when spending a great deal of our day in an unbelievably cold computer room listening to a multitude of servers buzzing so loud we begin to get an early onset of tinnitus.

In the end, the thing sucks.  I just spent my morning, like most mornings when I am in the office, cleaning water off of the floor because no beverage container can fit in the space provided without it shooting outward or hitting the rim of the container and then hitting the floor.  We had someone out to look at it twice and they tweaked it and modified it and, in the end, still sucks.  Last week I overheard a coworker wail in pain while scorching hot liquid struck him in a feeble attempt to make hot chocolate.

There were four of us at one point looking up at the spout wondering if by chance it was bent or if there was some foreseeable reason that it could not properly dispense water without causing a stream on the floor or causing third degree burns.  In the end, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason.

Begin Coding:

Everything is going well, the JavaScript that I wrote to catch bad e-mails seems to be working, my ColdFusion is placing the proper credentials into the needed databases and the 2010 security upgrade is almost complete.  Since it is the holliday's, most of the IT staff is out of the office and I gladly (I use the word lightly) offered to pick up the slack.  Which leads to, first call of the morning...

Coworker: "I'm working from home and my wireless connection stopped working so I plugged directly into the router and now my e-mail doesn't work."

Me: "Does anything else work?  Can you get on the Internet?"

Coworker: "Yes, I am on Yahoo! right now."

Me: "Can you access the file server?"

Coworker: "No."

Me: "Can you access the Web site."

Coworker: "Yes, I was in e-mail and then lost my connection and switched to the cable connection."

Me: "That's technologically impossible to make a difference since the e-mail server is in the computer room less than five feet from where I am sitting.  You making changes at home cannot do it.  I will go take a look."

Sure enough, file server and e-mail server were down and needed to come back up.  I am going with coincidence because, in the end, it is still impossible for a user to bring down the server by a loss of connection. 

However, I downed the locked up server without warning the world.  My phone began ringing incessantly with coworkers who couldn't print or access shared drives.  I told them that I had to down the e-mail and file server because they were locked up and I couldn't access the control prompt, etc.  They told me that I should have sent an e-mail (which would have been impossible since THE E-MAIL SERVER WAS LOCKED UP!!!)  I told them that we would be down a maximum of four minutes (it came back up in three) and all was once again right in the world.

I went back to coding.  Completed the 'Answer your security question' portion of the new security system (which surprisingly almost coded itself).  My water is empty but I am not even going to think about that right now.  The IT line has been ringing off of the hook and just had to walk a user through typing in their password because they were spelling their last name wrong.  Also, just got a message from AT&T that they were planning on servicing our T-1 lines this afternoon since they were noticing periodic outages (which explains the down file and e-mail servers).  Decided to take a ten minute break and write this.  It is going to be a great day!

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Week's Recommended VC Game: PilotWings

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In 1990, I was blessed with the ability to get my hands on a Super Famicom before the Super NES would be released in the US (almost a 1/2 year later). There were a handful of games I remember getting to play, Gradius III, Super Mario World (in Japanese, I never knew what hitting the boxes actually said until I would play an emulated version nearly a decade-and-a-half later), F-Zero, and PilotWings.

PilotWings stood out because it, and F-Zero, really showed the abilities of the Super Famicom/NES. The much talked about 'Mode 7' capabilities were brought to light with PilotWings. To give a brief idea of what Mode 7 was, it was really the first attempt by a game manufacturer to attempt to build 3-D rendering into the system. They were able to do this by using rotation and scaling of objects on screen to give a 3-Desque effect. No launch game showed this effect more than PilotWings.

Harmless in nature, PilotWings takes the user through a flight simulator in order to achieve pilot licenses in flying a plane, skydiving, hang gliding, and rocket belt use. If you are able to achieve this, you can use the coveted helicopter to blow things up (probably the only real violence in the game). These tasks are not easy, especially as the game progresses. Skydiving is always fun but can be a pain and flying the rocket belt to land perfectly can be maddening.

It would be followed up six years later by a sequel that is equally good, if not better, than its predecessor - PilotWings 64 on Nintendo 64. Overall, this game was one of my favorites when it first came out in 1990 because of the technology and its overall fun. When looking at other titles for the Super NES, this one always stands out in my library as the 'harmless' one. Outside of the helicopter stage, there really isn't any violence. It is just a fun, easy to learn but hard to master game. While I agree 800 Wii points is steep, I think you will find it worth the price and will get hours of enjoyment. And, for those who had it on Super NES/Famicom in the early '90s, it does hold its nostalgic value as well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Things you should know before Calling Computer Tech Support

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phoneCalling tech support can be one of the most frustrating things when dealing with computers.  Most users think that the person on the phone will be able to open up their big book of computers and solve whatever problem the user has and gets frustrated when they can't simply answer the question quickly and easily.  Here are some things that you should know before calling tech support to save yourself and the tech support person tons of headaches.

What OS are you using?  Believe it or not, not all operating systems are the same.  If you are using Mac's OS X, it is important to inform the tech person of this since, in all likelihood, they will be making the assumption that you are dealing with a Windows machine.  At the same time, letting them know which version of Windows you are using will save a lot of time.  Windows XP and Vista are completely different and tech support will begin to handle the situation differently.

What version of the software are you using?  If you are having trouble with a software package, know what version you are using.  I get calls all of the time and my first question is, "which version of the browser are you using?"  Since I am in Web development, this is a VERY important question since Internet Explorer 6 is going to run completely different than Internet Explorer 8 (see my post 'The Internet Explorer 6 Conundrum: Part 1' - here  This question will also matter when dealing with installing new hardware.  Usually new hardware comes with drivers, etc. but that doesn't mean they are up-to-date, know those versions to save headaches. 

When did the problem start?  This will take some brainstorming but it is important.  Did you download/upgrade new software or install new hardware?  Did you run virus scan and check for spyware?  Check for spyware and virus scan before calling.  Also, if Windows update ran recently or you recently installed new hardware to your machine, note that and inform tech support.  There are tons of program and hardware conflicts and this information can be vital to diagnose that.  And, when dealing with Vista, some updates have been known to cause hardware issues.

Have you created a system restore point and when was the last time you did?  Over the years, I have bought hundreds of machines for staff and there have been many an issue when setting them up.  When dealing with Windows, a favorite solution for tech support is simply, format and reinstall.  However, setting up a system restore point and knowing when the last time you did may save you from getting a quick format and reinstall solution. 

What machine are you using?  Note the machine's name and model number.  I stated above that tech support loves to use format and reinstall, they also love the blame game.  A few years ago I had a Dell machine with some major issues going on.  I called Dell and explained the issue and they blamed it on the OS.  I called Microsoft, told them about it and they blamed the machine.  Know all of the information to help keep yourself informed.  I mentioned hardware and software conflicts and knowing about the machine will help to diagnose know incompatibilities.  Also, know how much RAM you have, the speed of the processor, and the size of your hard drive.

Does your computer give the same problem in safe mode?  This is important in diagnosing if something is loading in Windows that is causing an issue.  It takes a little time but launch safe mode and see if you are having the same issue.  If you are not, then you know something is loading that is causing the issue and you can start to take action (running virus scan, spyware scan, etc.) to take care of the issue, and possibly avoid having to call tech support.  Note, if you don't know how to run safe mode, after BIOS runs (the little numbers etc. right when you turn on the computer), press F8 and run 'Safe mode'.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Edit your Facebook page to Show Information you Want to Show

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Since Facebook has changed its UI, it has confused some on how to take control of the information that shows on their profile page.  One of the easiest places that changes can be made is to the information on the left (under your profile picture) on your profile page.  In your profile page, the upper-left is your profile picture followed by your image information.

Here are the required boxes below:

Phrase box.  This can be edited simply by clicking the pencil, in the upper-right-hand corner of the box, and you can adjust what it says.pencil

Information Box.  You again can control this information by clicking the pencil and then you can check/uncheck the information that appears in that box.


Friends Box.  You can use the pencil to add the amount of friends that are shown, tell Facebook who can view the friends in that box and, if you have some friends that you are particularly proud of, you can force Facebook to only display those by typing their names in the space provided.


Voluntary boxes:

Below the friends box are elements whose options are to move to your Boxes tab or leave where they are by clicking the pencil. 

You can move any of the boxes, by left-clicking it and dragging it to where you would like it to go (staying within the left column - Facebook hasn't given you that much control).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giving Gadiel's Phish Page its Overdue Props

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Right before I left for lunch today, for no real reason whatsoever, a Web site I hadn't gone to in nearly a decade popped into my head -  In 1999-2000 that was a must visit site for me every single morning for my daily fix of Phish news.  I believe in 2000 (my dates can be totally off mark, it was a long time ago) Gadiel decided to close down the site and started working with  Today, I went there expecting a 404 and sure enough there is still a stripped down version of Andy Gadiel's page.  I was stoked.

Right after college I went ahead and attempted my own music blog (before blogs were popular and had some sort of ad revenue programs) and Gadiel was one of the few sites that would ever post my articles and help bring traffic over to my site.  When the site was forced to close down and I had to go and get one of those actual job type things, I never forgot Gadiel's help and was happy to see that it is still around. 

I realize that this isn't particularly geeky and doesn't mesh with anything else I have posted thus far but wanted to give Andy his due props for keeping me up-to-date with one of my favorite band's earlier in the decade and hopefully for a long time to come.  You the man Andy Gadiel!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Internet Explorer 6 Conundrum: Part 1

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ieI just got a call from a user who couldn't get logged into one of my company's sites.  I knew that since it was passed to me, most of the steps were taken to insure that there wasn't a basic block somewhere but had him run through everything again.  Me: "Are cookies allowed?"  User: "Yes."  Me: "Are your cookie setting set for medium or below?"  User: "Yes." Me: Stumped, why was the cookie being blocked?  Ah ha, me: "are you in the office?"  User: "Yes."  Me: "Are your coworkers accessing the site ok?"  User: "Yes."  Me: "What browser are you using?"  User: "Internet Explorer 6.0.blah.blah.blah."

There it was again, the infamous pimple on the face of Web development, Internet Explorer 6.  What made this case even more vexing was that his coworkers also had IE6 but were not having problems setting the cookie.  It made no sense that with a global install, it would work in one case and not the other.  But that is the definition of IE6, inconsistent nonsense.  Theoretically, there would be no rhyme or reason that cookie handling would be any different between two machines (and yes, other IT gurus, I did have him check to make sure the site wasn't blocked and other advanced settings) running the exact same browser, on the same OS, set up by installing from the same image. 

I prodded why he was using a browser that was slowly nearing its tenth birthday and he answered as plain and simple as he could, "we have no say over it, our IT department has to install any new software."  Being the pain that I am, I got an IT contact from the user and contacted their IT department and asked why they won't upgrade the browser for users - for no other reason, there is a definite security advantage to using IE7 or 8.  They explained a common issue that I hear, their third-party browser extensions won't work on IE7 or 8 so they need to stick with 6 and that was the end of the discussion.

I pose this question to these IT staff's, how long are you going to keep an outdated browser before you bite the bullet and have some of your third-party extensions rewritten?  I realize in this economy IT budgeting is dropped down the list of priorities but eventually, there is going to be a time when using a eight year old browser will have some repercussions.

In closing, if you are using your personal machine, have a say of what browser you can put on it, and are using Internet Explorer 6, please, I beg of you, upgrade.  You will be so much happier, more secure, and will make the Web developers in the world feel at peace.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Things to Remember when Sending a Professional E-mail

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emailI am surprised how many e-mails that I get from both my classes and my job that are nonprofessional in nature.  All it takes is one e-mail to change someone's perception of you as a coworker.  Here are some things to remember when writing a professional e-mail.

- Keep it short and address only a single topic.  I have a received in the past e-mails that go on and on and it becomes too difficult to read.  Keep it short, simple, to the point, and only discuss one thing at a time.  If you send an e-mail with multiple topics, make sure to separate them.  People do not want to spend a great portion of their day dealing with your ramblings and answering fifty questions.

- Keep it timely.  Business professionals receive an extraordinary amount of e-mail a day and the e-mail builds up quick.  If you have something that needs to be discussed, deal with it at the time.  Do not wait until a later date or the person you are e-mailing may have no idea what you are talking about or may have put the topic behind them. 

- Be professional and courteous.  It sounds stupid and like a no-brainer but people think of e-mail as an informal form of medium, and it is.  Your personal e-mail can be full of inside jokes and side discussions.  Professional e-mails should be just that, as professional as if you were writing a memo.  Also, remember what your mother taught you, thank you goes a long way when dealing with coworkers or clients.

- Watch misspellings and Grammar.  It is important to remember that, in a lot of ways, e-mail is a way that people know who you are at work.  Even in a small office setting, these days most conversations take place via e-mail.  Sounding uneducated or careless by spelling 'the' as 'teh' speaks volumes to coworkers, especially those who don't know you at all.  Take the time and reread e-mails before sending, even if your e-mail client has spell check.

- Don't use emoticons (smileys).  They are cute and should be used only for personal use.  Writing the CEO of your company that, "our stock numbers are down :(" is not professional.

- When dealing with clients, always include a signature.  Signatures at the bottom of an e-mail are like a business card to clients, never forget to include it.  Generally, try to keep the signature no longer than four lines.  I usually put name (line 1), phone | fax (line 2), e-mail (line 3), Web site (line 4).  But, these may not apply to all businesses.  Some may want to put a mailing address, etc.

- Don't leave subject fields blank.  I stated above that business professionals receive loads of e-mail a day.  Putting the subject is no longer just a courtesy, but a must for all e-mail so that they can prioritize them. 

- Don't e-mail everyone in your address book every little thing.  The situation to e-mail everyone in the address book should be limited to only important information.  An example of one that warrants writing everyone in the company, "the e-mail server will be down Friday at 4:00 for maintenance."  An example that does not warrant writing the entire company, "we will be playing basketball during lunch, please move your cars if they are parked by the hoop."  That previous example is a real e-mail I received at my old company.  This individual e-mailed all 2,000 employees including the CEO and VPs that e-mail - unprofessional. 

- Don't mark a message as urgent unless it is.  I had a coworker that would constantly send everything as urgent.  Of course, in the IT staff, when we see the little red exclamation point on the e-mail, we drop everything to see what was going on expecting a crashed server.  Nope, it was someone wanting to know what I wanted to do for lunch.  Only use urgent when something actually is urgent.

- Avoid sarcasm.  Just because you know that you are being sarcastic doesn't necessarily mean your reader will.  Good sarcasm requires body language, a fluctuation of the voice, rolling of the eyes, hand gestures and none of these exist in e-mail.  Avoid sarcasm.

- Don't use uppercase.  This goes for anywhere on the Web, don't use uppercase - it sounds like YOU ARE SCREAMING!

- Remember that e-mails can be saved.  When teaching my intro to computers class, I always use the 'coworker getting promoted' example to explain why it is important to remember that people can save e-mails.  Say you and a friendly coworker are constantly e-mailing back and forth about another coworker who is constantly late for work.  All of a sudden, that coworker gets promoted and your friendly coworker wants to get in this person's good graces, and just happened to have kept some of those e-mails that would put you in a position you don't want to be in.  Just keep in mind even when you are angry, these things can come back to bite you so when you are rereading for spelling and grammar, double-check to make sure you aren't saying something that could become something more if in the wrong hands.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why Fringe is just as Frustrating as X-Files

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frustratedI started to free up the DVR this weekend and one of the many shows I was behind on is Fringe.  I have to admit, I really liked Fringe last season.  It had that X-Files vibe going for it without being as crazy as Lost.  This year, we also have Flash Forward which is similar in nature.  To make this clear, in a lot of ways, I always thought of X-Files as being one of the best science fictions shows on TV.  However, I have noticed a similar pattern between the two shows and one that always frustrated me about the X-Files

Fringe loves to start a storyline and then abandon it for way too long just to bring it back like nothing happened in between.  X-Files used to do this as well.  For three weeks straight the X-Files would bring on a powerful storyline, smoking man in tow, and then the following week, no mention of it.  All of a sudden Mulder and Scully would be hunting down a wolf boy in the middle of the woods after spending the past three weeks uncovering government conspiracy.

Fringe does this to an unnerving degree.  They start a storyline about the observer and the episode is great.  Then we are forced to succumb to episodes that completely drop the storyline just to have it come full circle and bring them up again.  I understand that they may want to avoid making the show 'soap operaish' but at the same way, you can't really have it both ways.  It can't be a one episode show one week (Snakehead a few weeks ago), ala CSI or Law & Order, and then bring up an elaborate storyline the next.  Perhaps you need to consider new writers if you can't fill a twenty/twenty-four episode season without having to put in filler episodes between relavent story patterns. 

BTW, what ever happened to Dunham's partner who died and then was saved (who I learned through writing this were married in real life, go figure)?  I know he has a new show on so I guess he won't be back.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blaster Master Released for Virtual Console - Must Have

Blaster Master was released for Virtual Console on 12/14 and I am here to say, one of the best games to be released for the NES.  It costs the standard 500 Wii points to get and will be well worth your money. The game itself is a combination side-scroller and overhead scroller that shows a variety of graphical abilities and tight controls.  Sunsoft had attempted to duplicate the same experience of it in 'Fester's Quest' and failed miserably.

Released in 1988, Blaster Master was based off the Famicom game, Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight.  A fabulous (sarcasm intended) story of a boy who follows his frog Fred down a pipe into the center of the earth (after the frog becomes huge after touching radioactive materials, I would hate to leave that out).  Our main character jumps down the pipe to find that there are radioactive creatures living below the earth's surface and he must defeat them using his special vehicle.

Storyline aside, the game itself is eight difficult levels split with half being spent in the vehicle as a side-scroller and the other half controlling the character in a overhead 2-D experience.  Overall, not only is the game tough and graphically superior to 90+% of the rest of the NES library, it offers op notch controls and killer soundtrack that make this a must have for Virtual Console.  Since I don't have VC, I think I will go play it the way God intended, in my NES.

Side note, there was a sequel Blaster Master 2 for Genesis,  Blaster Master: Enemy Below for GameBoy Color, and Blaster Master: Blasting Again for PlayStation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Delete Sensitive Data Properly Using Eraser

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Most knowledgable computer users know that by deleting a file from within your Operating System that you do not actually delete the file, youeraser just take the reference to the file from the system table.  The file remains until another file takes its place.  Even then, it still may be accessed with recovery tools.  Things like passwords, financial records, and personal data that may be removed from a hard drive may still be recoverable by someone wanting to get that data.  Even formatting the drive does not make those files impossible to retrieve. 

One tool that I found that does a good job of eliminating these files is Eraser.  Eraser allows you to remove files from your drive by overwriting it several times with a selected pattern to effectively remove magnetic remnants from the hard drive.

Just by using this, you can be sure that your sensitive files are safe from prying eyes.  You can also set it on a schedule so that it erases unused disk space to make sure some of your past files can't be retrieved.

In short, if you have sensitive data that you want to make sure no one can retrieve from your machine, Eraser is a must-have program.

Download the newest version of Eraser from here -

Eraser's Web site here -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The First Rule of Web Design - Build a Thick Skin

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Recently, a student of mine from a few years back wrote me and asked for some advice as he was going out on his own as a Web designer.  He had finished his four years of studying Web design, purchased the necessary software packages, and built a small portfolio.  I thought about the last decade of doing Web sites and the different clients, etc. that I have had and my advice to him was simple, "build a very thick skin."
Web design is one of the few forms of medium that everyone has an opinion about, even though it may not be what is considered good Web design or follows any sort of design standards.  There are a lot of "bells and whistle" Web sites out there and an average user gets drawn to those things when they think about how they would like their Web site.  As designers, we know that these things are more times than not, interfering with the site and the concept of the product that is being sold.  An example that comes to mind happened a few years ago, a friend since high school asked me to create a Web site for him.  I put together a nice site, based off of the colors of his logo, that flowed nicely with easy to use navigation and a strong presence for his product.  When I was done, I showed it to him and got a, "yeah, it's good, BUT seems like something more is needed."  I thought to myself, "here we go."  We talked it out and the next day, partly as a joke, I put together a short Flash presentation taking his tag line and animating it and putting it on the site as an introduction page with a little 'Skip Intro' at the bottom.  I figured he would get a good laugh out of it and realize that the site was better without it.  To my surprise my next phone call was greeted with, "now, that is what I'm talking about."

Part of a Web designer's job is to save the client from him/herself.  You will design a site for them (which is what they paid you for) and then at the end, they will come in and start knit picking each section.  When the project started, you would hear, "you're the expert and I am sure that you will make the best site" and later hear, "can't the left bar be moved over more and the color of the background by the logo be different."  To add insult to injury, the designer takes the brunt of the criticism for a client's interference.  There are so many times that I have heard complaints over the most miniscule of things simply because it is obvious that the client feels that their role is to direct the site and have some input (even though theoretically, isn't that why they hired a designer for in the first place).  Here is where the thick skin is needed as it can become very unnerving and frustrating some of the things that designers deal with when trying to save a client from him/herself. 
Example of what I mean, this is a conversation I had not too long ago:
Client: "Can you make the text a lighter color, it doesn't seem to work well in black?"
Me: "If we make it lighter, I am afraid it is going to be hard to read seeing as the background is gray."
Client: "Yeah, let's make it closer to the gray color of the background."
Me: "But if the background is gray and the text is gray, the user won't be able to read it."
Client: "Let's just mark it up and let's see."
Adjust the CSS and e-mailed the client.
Client: "Yeah, that looks good."
Me: "I really think that you should go with a darker color, the gray is making it hard to read."
Client: "No, this is perfect, let's go for it."
Two months later I get an e-mail.
Client: "I keep getting e-mails from customers saying that the text is too hard to read, can you change it."
Me: "Sure, but I will have to charge you since the site is complete and you signed off on it."
Client: "Ugh."
Also, not only does the client feel that he/she knows about design, everyone that they know also believes that they know about design.  Don't be surprised if you get an e-mail one day that says, "my friend was using the site and she thought that the navigation was a bit hard to use, I think that we need to change it since she did make a Web site in college for her English class so I think she knows what she is talking about."  Then, the designer will have to go against everything that they know to be true, like navigation should be relatively simple and users shouldn't have to relearn how to navigate the Web just to use this one Web site, and make the site the way the friend of your client says.  Then, when they come to you in six months wondering why they are getting visitors but not many page views, you can tell them because the navigation doesn't make any sense since you listened to your friend who works as a toll booth operator instead of the Web designer you hired.

Not only do designers have to deal with the interference of the clients (and everyone they know), they take the brunt of the blame if the site doesn't perform.  I make it a point to explain to any start-up that SEO only can do so much and that patience is the key in getting traffic.  However, that isn't the mentality of most clients.  In their mind, they are putting the money into this new business, and once the Web site is done, they are ready to get rich.  Unfortunately, most sites do not take off right away - especially brand new sites that haven't even been spidered yet.  But, when that first month passes and they don't get the traffic that they originally anticipated, you become the scapegoat.  In 2001, I was brought on with a team of other designers/developers to put together a site very similar to Facebook.  It was a social networking site for a specific industry, which was inventive then and common now.  There were tens of thousands of dollars put into this projects and a team of designers and developers put together to make it.  Since the dot com bust was still going on, there was added pressure for this thing to take off since the investors had signed onto the project in the 90's when everyone was still making money off of the dot coms.  Well, not surprisingly, the site didn't bring in the revenue that they had hoped right away, the blame was passed on the team of developers and designers with the idea it was a design flaw, and they scrapped the project and basically wrote it off.  To think if they would have kept it around for the past eight years when social networking started to boom, they would probably have made their investment back tenfold.   But, someone had to be the scapegoat for the lack of traffic and the designer is the easiest target.

In the end, I am sure my student had read this and is now rethinking his career, I will say that if Web design is your passion and what you want to do, then do it.  It is rewarding and it is a ton of fun.  Just remember to let the criticisms and interference roll off your back and keep your thick skin and you will do ok.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Submit a Form in HTML Using the Enter Key

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Today I was writing a quick form to transfer a person's e-mail address to another page where I was going to look up the user based on that e-mail.  The page took all of five minutes to write and I went ahead and did my data manipulation, etc. on the subsequent page.  Got the application completed and shipped it off to the powers that be for approval.  The first note I got back, the e-mail address form doesn't submit when the 'Enter' key is pressed.

I looked at the code:
<form name="ReqPassowrd" method="post" action="mysubsequentpage.cfm">
<b>Please put your e-mail address:</b><br>
<input type="text" name="EmailAddress">
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="submit">

Works perfectly well in Chrome and FireFox.  The default should kick in that either clicking the 'Submit' button or pressing 'Enter' on the keyboard should submit the form.  However, it appears Internet Explorer doesn't allow this - especially the dreaded Internet Explorer 6 (which is what was being used by the individual who let me know of the issue).  I did a little research and found others having the same issue and read about 25 different solutions.  In the end, I had to combine several and came up with using an invisible input tag.  That is right, an invisible tag that more or less is tricking the browser.

After the input tag for the e-mail, I had to put in the following:
<input name="doesntmatter" type="none" style="display:none">

Then the form will submit.  Yet shows once again the IE is buggy.  If you are using Internet Explorer 6 - please, do us all a favor, UPGRADE!!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gaming 100: Two Online Games for Toddlers to Get them on the Road to Gaming

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The conundrum I have been wrestling with is how am I going to turn a toddler into a gamer.  I started out slow with the basics - Sonic, Mario, and the Monkey Ball series but her hand-eye coordination wasn't up to par yet.  So we moved on to online Flash games.  Here are her two favorites that I recommend for anyone with a toddle to not only occupy their time but to start laying the groundwork for the future gamer in the family.

Kindergarten.  It's 'The Sims' for kids.  You act as a teacher of a kindergarten class (even though the students look a lkindergartenot more like they are in preschool) and do very 'Simmish' things including changing them, feeding them, playing with them, sending them to bed, and bathing them.  The whole concept however not only cracks my daughter up but also empowers her to take care of the 'babies' instead of being one.  The only downside is that 9/10 times I have to do the operating since it requires a bit more hand-eye coordination than other simple point-and-click games.  However, the positives definitely outweigh the negative.
NOTE: There is a pay version of the game that gives you more options.  I never paid for it so I can't vouch for the money and whether what you get is worth it.  I just play the free version and lose my progress after a week or two (after all it is not like it is real intensive).

Dog's Day Out.  This game is great stepping stone.  Like many current games, you get to customize your character (thedogpark dog), and the jump is the most important part.  Your dog runs through the park jumping over obstacles and jumping to catch bones and frisbees thrown their way.  The major advantage of this is that it only requires the space bar to jump so my daughter can do it completely on her own.  She had been able to play this since just over 2-years old.  It gets some basic, much needed, hand-eye coordination down and also teaches the fundamentals of some of the simpler action games - including timing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Use your PlayStation Controller on your PC for better Emulator Goodness

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I will more than likely end up blogging on this little project often as I add to it.  I have an old XP laptop that I more or less have very little use for so I went ahead and took anything of any importance off of it, slapped on a fresh copy of ColdFusion server, and created a machine strictly for emulating video games.  I built a little management system and put all of the games into a database to keep track of which one's I played so that the most played games could be tracked on the front page and, since it was running off of ColdFusion, I could run the whole thing through Internet Explorer.

After several coding issues, another issue I had was that I got really sick of using PC based controllers for emulation.  Just didn't give me that video game feel - still felt like I was playing a computer game that looked like a console game.  I tried several different controllers and none of them did it for me.  Then I stumbled on a small piece of hardware that would take my old PlayStation 2 controllers and plug them into the USB of the computer.

Since it cost the whopping $1.99, I went ahead and picked one up.  Sure enough, plugged it right in and was ready to go.  There were no drivers to install, just worked right out of the package.  On top of that, it had some pretty good accuracy and the controls were good.  Not top notch and not like playing the console itself but really close.  NOTE: I have never played anything emulated that has the console feel and highly doubt I ever will.

In retrospect, a great buy and a recommendation for anyone who wants to play emulated games on their home machine.

Here is the one I use...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Farkle Follow Up - The Real Dice Game

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On Thanksgiving we were hit with a conundrum, what the hell were we going to do with our time while being forced to succumb to family time.  We decided to go buy a board game and do something "not plugged in" for once.  I found it hysterical that we found a version of Farkle - that used REAL DICE!

Being a fan of the Facebook game (see my Farkle strategy guide here -, I was surprised at some of the rule changes.  For one, you have to get to 500 in order to stop rolling.  In my strategy guide, that is my lowest limit to stop.  The second big change I noticed is, three ones are only 300 points.  What is up with that?

While I found my strategy, generally, still worked, it wasn't nearly as effective as the online version.  So, in retrospect, stick with the Facebook version - the other is just so...archaic <shudder>.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

10 Things you say if you Suck at Video Games

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10.) "I wish every game had the Konami code." or "I'm going need to look up a code for this one."
There are many a game I wish I had up to 90 lives to tame, it is a sure sign that you suck and should just admit it to save us all some wonderment.  If you can't take the time to try to get good at the game before begging for a code, you probably shouldn't be playing it. 

9.) "My favorite game is a toss between 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero'."
In the end - fun, yes...true gaming - no.  These are for those who cannot understand the complexity of solving the puzzles that lie beneath the outter shell of gaming.  These are games that are intended to bring nOObs into gaming.  Hence, making them suck at gaming.

8.) "There is something wrong with this controller." or "I think the batteries are going on your wireless controller."
The famous, "I pushed the button" statement.  If you "pushed the button" you would have fired/jumped/ducked.  It worked fine for me.  Perhaps, push the button a second earlier, it will make a BIG difference.

7.) "I hate playing online because my connection just isn't fast enough to keep up."
While I understand that bandwidth can vary depending on provider, plans, area, time of day, etc.  That being said, the reason that you are being schooled at Halo isn't your slow connection, it is your slow reflexes. 

6.) "Going to Dave and Buster's huh?  I love skee-ball!"
Gaming and drinking, all in one place.  Don't get me wrong, I love skee-ball (reminds me of the old arcade days), but there is only one place where you can have such a utopian combination.  Do not waste it simply because you suck.

5.) "I'm really in the mood for some Wii bowling."
The fact that these words escape your mouth speaks volumes.

4.) "This game is just impossible.  Seriously, no one can beat it." 
I admit there are some games that give me a hard time (see my 10 Hardest NES games here - but saying the game is impossible just shows your lack of desire to get better at the game.  There are a ton of games that I wouldn't take the time to get better at but I don't think there are any (maybe Silver Surfer) that are impossible (I would like to believe the game's developer at least beat it). 

3.) "I can't play the old school games because they suck compared to the next gen systems."
No, you can't play them because you suck at them and don't want to admit to your friends that you suck at a 2-D, 8/16-Bit game.  Perhaps beating some of the old school games will make you suck less.

2.) "The system reset."
You go to get a drink leaving your sucky video game friend alone in the room and come back to find out the system mysteriously reset itself.  It doesn't matter what system it is, a NES, Genesis, TG-16, Wii, 64, Super NES, PS I/II/III/P, Atari 2600/5200/7800, Xbox/360, etc., they all have serious power problems that only result when you leave the room.

1.) "That Glass Joe is a real bitch to take down."
Self explanatory.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

4 Ways to Win Stuff through Twitter (the Geeky way)

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American Express $100 gift cards. Now through Dec. 15. 
Follow them and tweet: Hey @americanexpress. I have _________ on my holiday list. Pick me! #amexgiftcard.
They will pick three winners at random a day. 
More info:

Macy's $50 gift card.  Go here and see how to sign up for their 12 days of Christmas (can do it through their comments section or Twitter):

Kodak stuff.  Go to and post the #kodaksweeps hash.   You can win free camera equipment.

Overstock winsday. This one is every week (not time sensitive) but follow @Overstock and keep an eye out each Wednesday to win (you have to retweet their tweet).  I really wanted the six foot chair they had a few weeks ago but didn't win.   Maybe they will see this and give it to me just to be nice : )

Monday, December 7, 2009

6 Things Facebook Could Do To Make User's Experience Better

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I am kind of a Facebook fanatic and make it a point to try to embrace every user-interface change they make.  Some I agree with, others - not so much.  Either way, here are six functions that can be added to Facebook to make the user experience better.  Are you listening Facebook?

1.) An edit button.  There have been many times that I have made a status update or a wall post and found that I misspelled something or typed something that sounded right in my head but didn't come out right in text.  My only choice?  Delete and start all over again.  This is especially frustrating when it is a long post.  An edit button would be a perfect fit that would allow me to go ahead and correct what I typed without having to start all over.

2.) The infamous dislike button.  Everyone under the sun has been asking for this and I think that Facebook is purposely avoiding it just out of spite.  There were rumors that it is going to be in the next UI upgrade coming down the pipe but until I see it, I don't believe it.

3.) A rich text editor.  These are all over the Web and if there is one place that it would be nice is when making wall posts, etc.   Wouldn't the ability to change the font size and color, be able to bold, italicize, underline, strike, and change the size enhance the user's experience?

4.) Let the user pick their content on the right bar.  It would be real nice to move the sections around on the right bar (off the live/news feed) like you can the applications on the left.  Especially being able to switch Facebook's suggestions (which 9 out of 10 times completely worthless) and the 'Events' area (which is one of the few reminders I have to remember birthdays).  I realize that the ads are one of the few ways that Facebook makes money and they can stay where they are, just give us the ability to decide on content around them.

5.) Make friend requests separate from other requests.  Since there are so many different requests that can be made now (especially with all of the Facebook games and quizzes out there), it would be nice to make friend requests separate.  This way, if we can get #4 in place, we can move all the other BS requests to the bottom and leave friend requests at the top.

6.) Make photo albums transferable.  My wife and I share a camera but we do not share friends.  She uploads our pictures, then I upload the same pictures.  It seems like a waste of storage space for Facebook and a pain for both of us.  I realize she can upload then tag me but what a waste of time, especially if there are a lot of images.  And, it is even stranger tagging me when I am not in the pictures.  A simple function that allows the user to put in names of friends that can also access the album as if it was uploaded to their profile would solve the problem.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

4 Old/New School Things GeekyClown wants for Christmas (TV Memorabilia Edition) – Pt 2

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True Blood Ultimate Party Kit complete with a 24 pack of Tru Blood. -
As I stated in a past post, Twilight isn't for me but True Blood is awesome.  And, if you really want that vampire feeling, you can buy Tru Blood and drink it.  Personally, I haven't tried it and imagine it tastes like red death but how cool would you be walking around with that at the party. 

Dexter Bobblehead. -
He is the coolest serial killer ever.  To have him sitting on my desk with a bloody knife behind his back, possibly to scare off potential coworker's from taking IT tickets out, would be a welcome addition.

Charlie's Horse Shirt from Always Sunny. -
Always Sunny is the funniest show on TV, hands down.  For no other reason, it is worth watching to see Kevin Arnold direct.  Charlie is my personal favorite but arguments can be made for several of the others.  His signature t-shirt would look awesome for New Year's Eve!
  NOTE: If that actually sold Kitten Mittons, I would be all over those.

The Simpsons Series 6 Action Figure Professor Frink. -
I haven't been a fan of action figures since I was 11 but will gladly make an exception this time.  Why?  Because Professor Frink is the best character in Simpson's history.  All other arguments are pointless (unless maybe Disco Stu) so don't bother.  There is a definite lack of Frink merchandise but this would give a little bit of a Frink fix.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bejeweled Blitz: Strategy or Luck?

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I can honestly say that I have had it.  I have read every blog and strategy guide I can find through my vast, in-depth, resources (Google) for Bejeweled Blitz.  In the end, I still suck.  I pride myself on being somewhat of a gamer - more retrogaming than anything but not one to bow in defeat to a video game.  When I wrote the Farkle strategy guide (, I did it with the core concept that I am pretty good at Farkle and have something that I can share that may be useful to others.  It remains my most read blog post.  I thought I would really try to get the concept of Bejeweled Blitz down and possibly even be able to share my wisdom (or lack thereof) to my loyal (yet scarce) readers.  I tried every strategy I can think of and every one I had read.  I tried to concentrate on getting five in a row.  I tried to work to get multiple power gems.  I worked to get multipliers.  I tried to do nothing but go for speed.  Nothing worked.  My high score: 70,000. 

 I threw in the towel.  I called the game bull shit and decided that it wasn't for any true gamer.  It had to be luck and anyone thinking otherwise was kidding themselves.  One game I would get 6,000 and another I would get 60,000.  That can't be coincidence when using the same strategy.  My mind was made up.  The whole game was luck.

 Then I noticed a pattern from week-to-week, the same people were the one's getting these astronomical scores.  225,000; 175,000; 115,000.  It was consistent.  So someone has a strategy that works.  Why can I not figure it out?  

 Is it luck?  Is it that the people with the unbelievably high scores are doing nothing with their time but playing Bejeweled Blitz and by sheer random luck, someone has to get those kinds of high scores?  Does it require a certain skill set - hand-eye coordination or a mind shaped for such a game?  Or, is there a strategy that I just don't know or understand? 

 Any thoughts, etc. please feel free to leave in the comments section or Tweet me.  I am dumbfounded and will continue to persevere and figure this game out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

6 Ways to Enhance your Facebook Experience

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Over the last several months I have been reading countless posts etc. about the hatred for the new Facebook and the Live Feed.  And to those who have a hard time embracing change, here comes some more bad news for you - Facebook is making more UI changes (check it out here at Mashable's Web site:  Below are five things that you can do to enhance your Facebook experience even with the new Live Feed and cosmetic changes.

Hide posts on your Live Feed.  I am so thrilled that you are playing Farmville/Mafia Wars/YoVille!/Bejeweled Blitz but I don't need to see a post of it each time you play.  When you get a post like that hover over the upper-right hand corner of the post and a 'Hidden' button will appear.  Click that and you can get rid of those posts.  You can also use this tool to get rid of annoying posters who post every five minutes and eat up your entire live feed (as long as it isn't me).

Show more posts from certain friends in the Live Feed.  A friend commented the other day that he keeps getting posts on his Live Feed from people he doesn't really care about and some of the people he does he never sees.  We chuckled and called it, "Facebook's Favorites."  You can adjust and hide certain friends (mentioned above) and you can tell Facebook to show more posts from certain friends.  While in your Live Feed, scroll all the way to the bottom.  On the left it will say 'Older Posts' and on the right it will say 'Edit Options'.  Choose 'Edit Options' and you can type in the names of friends you want to show more posts from.

Create lists to categorize your friends.  As I mentioned above, the Live Feed sends everything out and if you haven't been online in awhile, you may have to scroll through countless pages of friend's posts, etc.  One way to keep these in order is to categorize your friends into lists.  Generally, you can create a list of people you actually care about reading their posts (the I only have 15 minutes because I am on break list); your people you care about and some of the people you haven't talked to since college list (the I have an hour lunch break list); and your everyone and everything, no holds barred, the people I haven't talked to since grammar school list - aka the Live Feed.  You can create a list by (from your Live Feed or News Feed) click on 'More' in the left column (where your apps, etc. are) and at the bottom it says 'Create List'.  Name your list at the top and then put in your friends/fan pages for this list.  Once completed and saved, you can move your list to the top of your apps so you can access it easily.

Control what Facebook e-mails.  I hate getting Facebook messages every time anything happens on Facebook.  I alleviated this by adjusting my notification settings.  You do this by hovering over 'Settings' (at the top between your name and log out) and choose 'Account Settings'.  Click the 'Notifications' tab.  Now, you can go through your long list of items and choose which items you want to clutter your inbox with.  If you are like me, most of the items are unchecked.

Make status updates from the Live Feed or News Feed.  If you make status updates from your profile page, it just puts it on your wall but doesn't alert your friends of the update.  Always make your updates from the Live Feed or News Feed.

You can remove Facebook suggestions.  I used to see a whole lot of suggestions from Facebook of people that I didn't know.  Note to Facebook, just because I have friends that may know this person doesn't mean that I do.  You can help train Facebook by clicking the black X that appears next to the suggestion so Facebook won't show it to you again.  That helps to eliminate suggestions of people you don't know and just keep the people you are ignoring.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Grab YouTube Videos to Watch on Your Computer or Burn to DVD

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Last week I wrote how to take videos from YouTube and add them to your music library (  I forgot to mention that you can also take the videos and add them to a DVD or put them on your machine to watch later.  Here is a quick way to do this:

1.) Find the video you want from YouTube.

2.) Copy (control-C) the URL of the video.

3.) Go to and paste the URL at the top. 

4.) Download the video as a Flash Video (either high or low quality is up to you, your bandwidth, and your machine).

5.) Download Prism Video Converter from

6.) Load your Flash video into Prism Video Converter and convert it into a format that you can use.  .WMV if you want to play it on your machine or .AVI if you want to burn a DVD.