Archive for the ‘Internet Marketing’ Category

Fun With Mobipocket Creator

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

So it seemed very important to me that the Textaments be available on Mobipocket.com. There were just a few hangups, some of which I found out later rather than sooner. I signed up for a Mobipocket account and downloaded the Mobipocket Creator software, then took the Textament .PDF files and imported them in the software. PDF files are not Mobipocket’s favorite way to go, however I decided to give it a try rather than import the Microsoft Word files one at a time. What could go wrong, I figured. Unfortunately, I was not able to create tables of contents and the program would hang when I tried to finalize a file. After a couple of days of frustration I discovered on Mobipocket’s forums that Mobipocket Creator isn’t compatible with Windows Vista. Luckily, all I have to do in a circumstance like that is turn around and use an older XP box that is sitting right behind me. But because of other duties it took me a couple of days to get around to downloading the software onto that machine and getting to work on the files over there.

A second headache that presented itself was Microsoft Word’s messy way of making HTML files. Believe it or not the files wound up back in Microsoft Word for editing before being finalized in Mobipocket Creator, though they were in HTML and not native Word files at that point. Mobipocket uses HTML as the basis for the files that ultimately wind up in the .PRC format, and for Mobipocket’s purposes the cleaner the better–without styles and CSS. Although Microsoft Word doesn’t use CSS, it does make extensive use of defined styles, as well as throwing in metadata and a lot of random tags with nothing in between them.

Fortunately, a user named JVOG had posted a fix to the Mobipocket Forum in the form of a VisualBasic script and even described how to use it. Unfortunately, it was cut off in mid sentence and lacked the handful of commands needed to close it out and write the final output file (chance are it was also missing a lot of the commands that clean up the HTML, but I wasn’t too worried about that). I needed the script to work. I don’t know any Visual Basic, but because the program created, saved (and then destroyed) two temporary files in the course of doing its work, there was just enough information there for me to dope out what VisualBasic needed in order to close out the loops and write the final file.

I had also downloaded the ConText text editor, so between Microsoft Word, Context, and the Mobipocket authoring software I was ultimately able to convert the Textaments into Mobipocket format and upload them to the Mobipocket site and activate them for sale to customers.  You can download them here if you would like: http://www.mobipocket.com/en/eBooks/searchebooks.asp?Language=EN&searchType=All&lang=EN&searchStr=textament

One user on the Mobipocket forums described uploading revised versions of his books numerous times, and that’s what I will have to do as well. For instance, there is still no table of contents yet.

Adventures with Google Analytics Plug-ins for WordPress

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

So I wanted to get Google Analytics going for this WordPress blog (the one you’re reading right now). The way you do that typically is to copy a small snippet of JavaScript to the bottoms of your HTML web pages, or you can insert the same snippet into your theme so that it runs every time a page is rendered.

There is, however, another way to go: a plugin. I decided to use a plugin for WordPress frankly because I didn’t know where to find the files for the theme and I didn’t want to track them down and I didn’t want to do the detective work to figure out which file is rendering the bottom of the page. So the idea of using a plugin was attractive because without it I’d have to do all that. Plus, plugins can offer more convenience than Google Analytics because as the site administrator you can get information about your site’s visitor statistics right from the admin panel rather than having to go to Google Adwords/Analytics and log in over there.

The first plugin was a non-starter. It was by Rich Boakes. I’m sure it’s a good plugin and works for some folks under (probably) older versions of WordPress. However, I’m taking heed whenever Fantastico! tells me there’s an update for a piece of software that’s running on my site. So when running the very latest version of anyone’s software it’s likely that the third-party software may be lagging behind in the compatibility department, and the analytics plugins are no exception. Boakes’s plugin was DOA … it simply dumped its source code as HTML ahead of whatever WordPress was putting on the screen, which made my site largely unusable. I went looking for another solution.

However, TanTan’s Google Analytics plugin runs. It did throw numerous errors when I loaded it … I believe there are three panels of results it won’t be giving me until TanTan updates it (probably twice as many panels do work) … but perhaps I also have some setting that still needs fixing. Remember folks, I’m a newbie at all this stuff. Google’s website confirms that the needed code is on at least the home page of the site.

I didn’t have the smoothest installation experience. My IPP, Bluehost has a control panel that provides a nice file manager, and I was trying to drag and drop the Tantan folder that I created on my notebook computer when I downloaded the zip file that Tantan comes in. It wasn’t working. In fact I tried creating the Tantan folder by hand in the WordPress plugins directory, and I didn’t seem to be creating it.

However, I decided to use Microsoft ExpressionWeb to try to move the Tantan folder where I needed it, and it turned out that I had actually been creating the folder, it simply wasn’t visible to me. It’s possible that the FrontPage extensions that are running on my site had affected the ability of the control panel’s file manager to do its job fully. I’ll have to check the flacorps.com website to make sure it’s still working OK and the oh-so-fragile extensions weren’t broken by my having dared to use something other than ExpressionWeb to make changes to folders that aren’t part of the site that I work with using ExpressionWeb, but that are subfolders under that site.

I picked up the Dummies book on Pay-per-click advertising last night, and I’ll be poring over it looking for every scrap of actionable information it might contain. At $25, just one good idea from it could pay for itself many times over.

Major Progress on Flacorps Website

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Over the years, the Flacorps website has suffered from two major flaws, both of which were pretty unforgivable (though enought users forgave them to keep me too busy to pay them too much attention). First, transactions lacked security, and second, the order forms required users to total their own charges.

 The first was remedied by having my IPP, Bluehost, get me a dedicated IP and a security certificate. Setup ran about $35 and there will be an extra $2.50 per month charge. All I needed to do to make any page secure is invoke it with “https” instead of “http”, and that was done in the links leading to the order forms. I could also secure the entire site by creating a redirect in my .htaccess files if I wanted to. But it’s not a good idea to monkey with the .htaccess files if you’re using the Frontpage extensions, which are notoriously easy to break.

Speaking of Frontpage, I was halfheartedly looking for a way to get calculated totals going in my order pages because my 3 year old was asleep and I had nothing else to do. I figured I would have to do it in Frontpage or PHP, and since I don’t know PHP and I’m using Frontpage that would be the way to go. What I wound up finding was an implementation in Javascript referenced on the Frontpagetalk website. It’s on a second site, but there’s a good discussion of it on the Frontpagetalk thread that I linked. Surprisingly, it required only that code be dropped into the page in three spots, and the checkboxes for the charges suddenly began producing a total in the total box. The last time I had that capability was in the ’02 time-frame, about the time that Peregrine dropped support for the ordering system that fed directly into Peachtree Accounting.

This is another one of those “what-an-idiot-I’ve-been” moments where you realize that so much in life is out there free for the taking, you just have to wake up, take your head out of the sand and look around for the resources that surround you.

The All-Important DOCTYPE Declaration

Friday, July 13th, 2007

So I’ve been having trouble getting the bizbox template I downloaded to render correctly in the browser window. The template itself should have showed up nicely centered in the browser window, but in some cases it was shoved over to the left side. I was at a loss … I couldn’t find any reason why it wouldn’t work. So I commented out whole blocks of text and HTML code using the <!– …. –/> format. and still the text boxes stayed stuck to the left.

Stumped, I looked at the first tags in the document. And on the good ones, I found this:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd”>

And that is the tag needed to invoke the latest standard, the one that supports that nice centering I wanted.

Flacorps.com website has been redesigned

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

My redesign of the flacorps.com website is in full swing. The site is still operating while I tinker with the look, but it all should be completed pretty soon.

In short, I’ve entered the world of Cascading style sheets using the bizbox template I downloaded from freecsstemplates.org under the Creative Commons attribution license. I have been editing it using Microsoft Expression Web. It’s been a little bumpy, but I’m getting the hang of both CSS and Expression Web. Style sheets were a 1999 innovation for the web, so it’s about time I got with the program. In short, what style sheets do is exactly what they do for documents: they create a new canon for the appearance of various features that are left ordinarily to the browser to guess at, and they also allow you to carry that canon from one .html document to the next (with the ability to make minor changes when necessary in each document without affecting the others when you so desire).

While I’ve had an easy time getting the basic appearance elements correct, and my submission forms have been unaffected in their operation, I’ve still had trouble getting the header and content sections to stay aligned with each other, and also difficulty getting them to center in the browser’s window … so far only the home page and the FAQs are doing that correctly. It seems that HTML tags in the text inside of divisions can override the division’s controls, so you’ve got to comb through your HTML to find the offending items and remove them.

I’ve also had trouble turning a nice vertical menu bar that came with the format horizontal so that I can use it in another spot where I need it to be horizontal. I created a second menu style in the style sheet and declared it in the document I’m working on, then tried varying all sorts of settings. I got it showing horizontally, but I’ve yet to clear up a couple of white space issues. I’m reading a document from Adobe labs on making an auto width horizontal menu bar that I found online and I expect to fix the problem shortly.

Over the Weekend

Monday, July 9th, 2007

I did more reading on Ruby On Rails and thought about the architecture of the new site. One component I considered was Liquid for the static parts of the Florida Incporators site, however the main reason I was considering it was that it supports themes. Investigation led me to believe that theme support could be acheived with a plug-in for rails without the necessity of using Liquid, which is recommended for situations where you want another team (perhaps the end-user themselves) to be able to affect the look of the site (such as changing themes, or adjusting positioning of design elements) without being able to touch the model or controller. Although the implementation of Model, View, Controller architecture in Rails should insulate the data and program logic from anyone inadvertantly or maliciously damaging them, the fact is that once you’re able to access one in the development environment, you can access them all. Since this will not be a problem for me (at the moment), the use of Liquid is obviated.

Meanwhile, I have had several phone calls from Microsoft tech support in the past few days. I’ve been trying to get Vista to allow me to print directly from PaperPort 11 to Windows Fax & Scan, something that was working OK and suddenly is not. Uninstalling and reinstalling both programs did nothing to solve my predicament, and I’ve now been through Phillip, Balu and Vinod (and one early guy whose name I  didn’t put down), so it’s been elevated three times without getting closer to a fix. What is interesting is that the problem originally affected Paperport 11, but subsequently has spread to other applications so that at this point I don’t think there’s any application I run that can print to the Windows Fax & Scan printer driver. Also, the window that advises that the fax cannot be sent recommends sending the item as an attachment from within Windows Fax & Scan … and that doesn’t work either.

 Meanwhile, also over the weekend my wife and I picked a new theme for the Florida Incorporators website and I downloaded a trial version of Microsoft’s replacement for FrontPage to effect the site redesign. This will probably hold me while I use rails to write the back-end so that it’s not a simple form anymore.

I didn’t get into the PC boxes I’m building over the weekend, but there is work that I did which I haven’t posted about yet, so I’ll be doing that shortly.

fromjumpstreet.com – starting From Jump Street

Friday, June 29th, 2007

What is FromJumpStreet going to be about? It’s going to be about all the things I’m having to learn and relearn, starting from zero, or near enough to zero that it shouldn’t make a lot of difference to you, the reader.

 

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