Google Analytics

I just saw a link to an interestingly-worded article on Reddit suggesting that Google Analytics is no longer a viable service because it is subject to spamming of traffic by Bots. Others suggest some ways of solving these issues and clearing up any confusion or misjudgment placed in the first article. I suppose Google could do a bit more to curb these issues but the exclusion list function is good enough for me.

 

10 Helpful Web Design Links

Just a few resources that I’ve found to be quite helpful for web design.

  • Bootstrap – The best framework for simple websites (<8 pages) because of its good documentation, responsive grid, navigation options, and ease of customization when adding your own CSS. Set up containers, use the carousel, and customize the featurettes with your own marketing lingo.
  • WAMP – A lightweight, friendly, and easy to setup local testing server for when you want to play with PHP or map out a website folder structure easier. This will allow you to access your hosted site when you drop the files in C:\wamp\www and point your web browser to localhost.
  • Google Web Fonts – Free CDN (what is a CDN?) hosted web fonts that are easily added to your website with a line each of CSS and HTML. Good typography can transform a website feel.
  • The Magic of CSS – Learn the basics of CSS layouts quickly for those of us with visual learning styles.
  • NetBeans IDE – This well known development environment still works great for creating a modern website. Create a project and drop Bootstrap CDN into your HTML file. Download the PHP oriented version, it’s lighter on its feet.
  • How to Setup PHP Includes for HTML Pages – Save time when producing a website that has multiple web pages and one universal header/footer by using includes. Be sure to remove “active” tags from your bootstrap nav, too!
  • Bootstrap 3 Tips & Tricks – Part One and Two on Scotch.io. Also check out their latest article on Foundation, a framework similar to Bootstrap.
  • HTML5Please – Research the nitty gritty compatibility..y of all the HTML5 and CSS classes available.
  • Best Tools for Designers – A great list that includes links to stock photos, templates, infographics, and much more.
  • CSS Color Words – A fun way to find hex codes.

Building a Computer: Part Four

Cable management allows your new computer to breath better and is an important last step. I like to get everything hooked up, with software installed, before I start zip tying. Every build is different, but most cases have a general layout that is similar across the ATX standard. The area behind the motherboard mount is generally designed to hide the mess, with many cases including cable channels to route away bulky PSU cables.

I won’t delve into how to cable manage. The best thing that you can do is to purchase a large amount of zip ties and just start going to town on every bunch and cable route you can find. As you work and isolate paths to route, it’ll be more apparent which zip ties should stay and which should go. More information can be found here.

Installing an operating system is as simple now as dropping a DVD into your optical drive. No more BIOS to configure or Boot drives to select. More information can be found here.

I hope this series has been helpful for you. I’ve added a gallery of pictures below from a friend’s build. He used the Black Fractal Designs Define R4.

Their food. Their contrived questions. McDonalds’ Latest P.R. Effort is an Awkward Dance With Reality.

A YouTube marketing effort was recently launched by McDonald’s with the hope of appearing more transparent regarding their food sourcing. They’ve coined the PR effort, “Our Food. Your Questions.”

The troubling thing about the video shorts is their obvious high production quality, which I feel makes them appear quite contrived. They present characters like “Grant Imahara” and “Wes Bellamy” who are supposed to appear like ordinary people – but we honestly don’t know who these people are and what they are receiving from the golden arches as compensation for their time in the productions. But hey, they look happy.

The videos are all smiles, with commentary that plays into the public perception of McDonald’s, and ultimately just creates more questions for the viewer. Have they improved their sourcing? Are we seeing new manufacturing efforts initiated only recently? Is McDonald’s acknowledging their processes of today, hoping the public will lose their perception of yesterday?

It’s been a while since I’ve eaten anything at McDonald’s, after being mostly disappointed from the late night runs with friends in college. I never really felt like I was eating something that would provide me sustenance and that’s a feeling that I greatly pay attention to. I like walking away from a meal feeling clean, like I ate something that wasn’t a reshaped, preservative-filled, frozen patty – reheated in an engineered oven-drawer of soaking barbecue sauce.

“Why is the McRib only sold seasonally,” asks the consumers? A McDonald’s executive responds, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” No McDonald’s, absence makes the heart grow stronger.

Perception is an important and powerful thing. A couple of videos will not sway the general public from choosing alternatives that make them feel better about what they are spending money on. And besides, most people are happier not spending their money today. Crushing debt isn’t fun anymore. Sorry 2006.

Anyways, enjoy the two most striking ads they’ve published to YouTube and try not to laugh, because I did without a beat:

Update 2017: McDonald’s has since removed these commercials but luckily they can still be found on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.


 

BookingWizz by Convergine

I wanted to take a moment and share a really great PHP based system designed for the simple purpose of taking bookings for a business. I found BookingWizz while looking for a solution for a Bed & Breakfast website project. After looking at popular systems like “BookFresh” and antiquated “Rezovation/Webervations“, who charge a monthly fee to host and support the backend software (which is built on Silverlight 0.o), I headed to CodeCanyon. I don’t have the time, resources, or experience to develop a system on my own. This solution was perfect for me – it offers multi day services, events, coupons, and integration with PayPal and WordPress. All for $39. And the kicker, it is fully viewport responsive. Setup was accomplished in a matter of minutes. I’m impressed. Thank you Convergine! One thing to note about this application is that there is no back end calendar viewing portal as of version five point five and it lacks in the sense that you cannot easily view bookings in a list view, in case you run a very busy business.

Building a Computer: Part Three

Note: This post contains many images that may require additional load time.

You’ve ordered your parts, they’ve arrived, and you are ready to build your computer! This is the fun part. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the amount of wasteful packaging involved with all of the individual components. I wish Newegg and the manufacturers would come together to develop packing materials that fit together like a build your own computer puzzle, as to reduce the amount of overall waste.

The first thing you’ll want to do is setup a clean, dust free, and well lit area to build your new computer. Wash your hands well and frequently throughout the build. Wear an anti-static wrist strap if you have one. If you don’t have one, don’t worry too much, but do be conscious of any movements that may build up a static electric charge. The most vulnerable components are the motherboard, processor, RAM, and graphics processor. Frequently discharge yourself on the steel portions of your case.

I like to start by assessing every component followed by removing the case side panels (usually attached with thumb screws in the back). You’ll notice some cables that come out of the front portion of the computer case, these are used to power the computer on and provide peripheral connections like audio or USB. We’ll worry about these once we have the motherboard installed, so feel free to tuck them away from the mounting area of the motherboard. In the case should be a box or bag containing a set of screws. Sort through these and identify their individual usage. Your case should come with a manual or reference printed on the box if you aren’t sure. The first set of screws you’ll want to find are referred to as “motherboard standoffs”.

Album one, prepping the case for the build.

Motherboards that adopt the sizing standard of ATX will require all of the available screw holes in your case, most likely. Extended ATX would present the only exception. Check out the manual included with your case, it should outline for you where to install these screws. There’s a good chance you’ll need to screw in nine of them, three on the top, three in the middle, and three on the bottom. I purchased two additional case fans, one to act as an exhaust for the top and another to act as an intake for the front of the case. Now is a good time to mount these as well.

Now, go ahead and mount your optical drives and card reader, if you have them. For this build, my case had thumb screws and quick detach covers for the front 5.25″ bays. Note at the end of this build the black bracket that surrounds the 3.5″ card reader, I had to order this to ensure that the card reader fit nicely into a 5.25″ bay seeing as my case did not include one. This is a Bytecc product at Newegg, about $15.

The last step before moving onto the motherboard is to mount the hard disks or solid state drives. The Define R4 case I bought for this build included two separate modular hard disk mounting areas. The top is easily removable and has the ability of holding five hard disks. I cannot imagine why anybody would ever need to do this, but it certainly is nice to know that you can in a $90 mid tower case. I had three hard disks from my old computer that I mounted along with two brand new Sandisk Extreme II solid state disks that nicely mounted behind the motherboard.

A Special note regarding the Define R4 SSD Mounts: These mounts make it difficult for the SATA cables to attach to the SSD’s, because they are flushly mounted to the case and some SATA cables come with “L Connector” ends. This causes a protrusion and can damage the SATA cables or the SSD’s if someone attempts to bend the L cable into place. I had to purchase two SATA power extension cables in order to get them to connect flush, because I had two SSD’s. Just search, “SATA Power Extension” on Newegg and you should encounter a Startech product, many other people have posted reviews stating that they used these extensions as a solution. The cost is about $9 per cable. I wish power supply manufactures did not ship “L Connectors” because they are a pointless feature.

 Album two, mounting the standoffs, fans, and drives into the case.

Now, remove the motherboard from it’s anti static bag and place it onto a clean surface. Depending on whether or not you purchased an upgraded CPU fan determines whether you need to remove the stock mounting brackets or not. I show removing them and installing the ones required by the 212 Evo, which are pretty substantial in comparison. Follow the 212 Evo directions the best you can, as they are marginally helpful. If you have troubles, watch this video. Now mount your processor while being aware of the arrows that match up. If you bend any of the pins, you will ruin your processor. This is sort of difficult to do because the processor drops in nicely if aligned correctly.

Do not touch the top face of the processor, be sure to wash and dry your hands before handling.

I apply the thermal paste pretty heavily. Be sure to apply it in a nice straight line or as a single dot (look up the recommended method of application, which can vary based on the processor architecture) without the possibility of creating any air bubbles. If you mess up, get a washcloth, remove it, and start over. Don’t sweat the tiny size of the tube, you’ll have plenty of thermal paste for about three applications. Check out this article on applying thermal paste. Mount the CPU cooler to exhaust out the back of the case (see pictures for more reference). Place the CPU cooler and try not to lift it once placed, screw down in a cross pattern, starting with the top left screw. Tighten down on the 212 Evo just before you reach the black plastic washer-stays, they serve as a good indicator. You can wiggle the cooler to help the thermal paste settle and spread.

Now, mount your RAM by carefully placing it into each slot as evenly as possible. If you purchased dual channel RAM, be sure to place one in the first slot of each DIMM module. And just before you mount the motherboard into the case, pop in the back plate for the rear I/O connections.

Album three, prepping and mounting the motherboard.


To finish up, mount the power supply and graphics card. To mount the power supply, simply place it into the shelf and screw in the four mounting screws at the rear bottom of the case. The graphics card can be mounted after removing the case PCI slot covers. Note the wireless card I installed as well. These cards are commonly referred to as PCI slot or PCI Express slot cards, this is the naming convention for the Peripheral Component Interconnect bus standard. Your graphics card runs on a very fast and modern version of this original bus standard, so it may include a mounting lock that clicks upon placing the graphics card onto the motherboard.
Re-secure these cards with the screws that secured the PCI slot covers. I would never recommend using tool less mounts that some cases have for these slots.

Album four, mounting the PSU and PCI cards.


In part four, we will discuss the process of wiring, cable management, and the first boot up of your new computer.

A quote on modern life from Jon Foreman and “The Economy of the Garden”

I recently read a very intriguing article by Jon Foreman, the lead singer of a popular band called Switchfoot. Not only has he made a name for himself on the stage, he’s also made a name for himself among the modern philosophy community. The best quote, in my opinion, from all of his writings comes from a Huffington Post article titled “The Economy of the Garden” (part one and part two):

“…our unquestioned commoditization of all that we interact with has striking implications for the things that cannot be bought or sold. Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No, these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life. Envy is just a nudge towards another sale. Even in our relationships we consume each other, each of us looking for what we can get out of the other. Our appetites are often satisfied at the expense of those around us.”

Sure does make me question why I went into the field of marketing. I love advertising and I love stuff, who can blame me? Fast cars leave me in awe of their engineering prowess and design character. But why? Is it because I’ve fully bought into the highway just beyond the garden? Is slow growth unattractive to society now? I believe it is and I believe that we’ll continue to ignore what we should really appreciate until we are forced to face the reality of our own destruction, caused by our newly minted, crisp, packaged, and very fake economy.