Major Server Side Organization

I got to do a little reorganizing today since my downloads folder was getting extremely disorganized and crazy.

I cleaned up the hierarchy levels a great deal and simplified several levels, so overall it was a successful clean up.

Most links that were updated were various download links to Opera skins, widgets and other Opera related downloads.

However, please let me know if you come across a broken link. I did my best to update all links to files that were changed, however, as I am human I am prone to error. :P

BimmerMania.com – Some minor updates

Since I had a slow day with nothing to do I set out to do some work and repairs to BimmerMania.com and today turned out to be rather successful!

Redirecting incorrect traffic

For a while now I have been tracking incoming links to kyleabaker.com and I have noticed for a long time that several of the incoming links are originating from BMW enthusiast web sites and forums across the Internet.

The reason for so many incoming links from various BMW related web sites is due to the previous content and purpose that I used kyleabaker.com for. In the past I had a small, but very popular, BMW enthusiast web site with rare resources such as car manuals and video clips.

Since those days, I have moved that part of the site to a new domain and did so way back in October 2006. The new domain name of course became BimmerMania.com and all of the content was moved over and preserved.

The traffic is great since it brings new and fairly random users to my blog, however, it isn’t very practical to continue to let these visitors roam around kyleabaker.com randomly looking for BMW content that is no longer here.

Honestly, from the logs it appears that many of them were unable to read and failed to notice the “BimmerMania.com” link at the top of every page on kyleabaker.com, haha. :P

What I did instead of letting them roam around (on an unsuccessful search for BMW content that they were never going to find) was to redirect any incoming traffic to kyleabaker.com to BimmerMania.com if and only if the referring address matched any one from a list that I compiled.

The list simply contains the domains of various BMW related websites that link to the old BMW content that I hosted. This effectively filters the incoming traffic to kyleabaker.com and points BMW enthusiasts where they are looking for while at the same time helping BimmerMania.com continue to take advantage of these referring addresses that are continually sending me traffic.

If anyone is interested in how exactly I did this then you can find the code samples here for an Apache .htaccess file. I will continue to update the linked forum post as I find more incoming links that need to be redirected and learn new ways to optimize the code for faster parsing. :D

Cleaning the MySQL database

I took up the task of cleaning the BimmerMania.com database today which basically meant that I had to go through and remove unused tables that had previously been used when I had the phpBB 2.x forum installed.

I actually don’t know of an easy way to do this. Fortunately for me, I have always used a non-default extension for the phpBB tables (default extension is “phpbb_”) so I was able to tell when tables were old and which were new. Cleaning the database should increase performance a little, however, I don’t think it will be noticable for this clean up since it really wasn’t loaded down enough to slow it yet anyways.

BimmerMania.com RSS Feed back online

I spent some time today working to get the RSS feed link back and it is now working again. It still needs just a few tweaks to perfect it and validate it, but it is very close so far.

I would like to get different versions of feeds available and this shouldn’t be too difficult, but no one has written a good modification for the phpBB 3.x forums yet so I will be writing it from scratch or modifying the Simple RSS mod that I used.

I think I should be able to quickly modify that script to produce output for:

RSS Feeds

  • RSS 2.0
  • RSS 1.0
  • RSS 0.92
  • RSS 0.91 (UserLand)
  • RSS 0.91 (Netscape)
  • RSS 0.90

Atom Feeds

  • Atom 1.0
  • Atom 0.3

Hopefully I can manage to get all of these formats into one file that accepts a parameter to specify the type and version so it can be a very simple installation and a very simple file to update. :D

Attention to detail

I spend some time working through some flaws in the site like placement and erroneous or poor choice of words for various links and descriptions. I also plan to go through and clean up the home page so it updates more often as a Feed subscription would and just show a list of the latest posts and some BMW news that I post.

Feedback

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments!

Opera 9.5 gets improvements after feedback

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Today the Opera Desktop Team released improvements to the new skin which was released only yesterday! The improvements come from an amazing 300+ posts by users like you and me in just 24 hours. What makes that even more incredible is that this is a beta and snapshot blog, so it’s typically just a small group of people who participate…but not this time!

The new skin has brought the Desktop Team a great deal of attention! If you have a digg account then you should help digg this!

http://digg.com/software/Opera_s_new_modern_UI

The improvements to the skin are aimed at correcting issues that were reported by the majority of the visitors yesterday. More improvements will come shortly (maybe Monday!), but for now the changelog consists of the following:

  • Improved contrast between active and inactive tabs in the tab bar
  • Higher contrast for the text on inactive tabs to increase readability, especially on laptops
  • Brighter background in the panels
  • A tiny bit more color: We added the Home button as default by popular demand
  • We tuned the color intensity of the color themes (Tools: Appearance: Color scheme) to be more usable with both this and other skins. Try it out again!
  • Improved visibility of the scrollbars
  • Buttons no longer grow wider when you press them
  • Nicer background for security status on https pages

To use Opera with the new improvements and test them out, you can go to the latest post or you can use the links I’ve posted below for you:

If you find a bug or an improvement to the skin or this build then help us all out by posting it here:
http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/2008/06/06/turtle-wax

This post is an update to the initial Opera 9.5 skin improvements post from yesterday. To read more about this, you should read the post from yesterday.

Opera 9.5 just got a face lift!

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Good news today for Opera browser fans! The Browser received a much needed face lift today. The desktop team has (on a side project) put together a new skin for the browser to enhance it’s appearance, improve functionality and bridge the gap between a few more cross-browser usability issues.

The new skin is now installed by default in the latest Opera 9.5 snapshots from the Desktop Team’s blog. However, if you need some time to get used to the new skin, they have also packaged the previous skin in the installer as well and it is called the Opera Classic skin.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go download this bad boy as you continue reading the rest of this post! You can grab the download from the original post (which is here), or you can just use the links I’ve gathered below for you. ;)

Now that you’ve got the download process going on in the background, I’ll tell you a little bit about the changes that you may notice.

The new skin has replaced all of the old icons that you may be used to and with glossier and shinier new ones. The back, forward, refresh, stop, etc. buttons are all easily recognizable, but different.

It didn’t take me long at all to like the new skin! I actually liked it from the instant I restarted Opera!

One thing, however, that I used quiet often that has been changed is the panel toggle button that extended up the left-hand side of the window. You could click the talk and narrow button to show or hide the side panel and it’s windows.

A new button has been placed to the left of the tabs that does the exact same thing now. I’m still getting used to it, but I think it’s a good change..as many of you may not have known about the older button in the first place. :P

The New Tab button is now moved to the right side of the row of tabs. It moves as the tabs row grows and is designed..or placed there to be more conveniently placed. This change is also one of the areas that Opera is working to bridge the gap between usability in Internet Explorer 7+ and Opera.

If you’ve used Internet Explorer 7 or 8 (beta) then you known that the new tab button is on the right side of the row of tabs and follows the tabs. Well, this is the same behavior as Opera now. :D

The panels icons are also new. Although they take a little more time to get used to than the navigational icons, they are still a much needed update!

One thing that I’m not in favor of is the background color of the windows in the panels tab. The windows are, in my opinion, too dark and slow for the eyes to glance through.

I’ve spoken with some of the developers and they have told me that the skin is by no means finished. They are taking feedback from everyone, tweaking the theme, releasing it and then taking feedback again.

If you have any suggestions or feedback at all for them then you should go post it in the blog so they hear your voice! You can make a difference in the development of Opera!
http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/2008/06/05/looking-sharp

More progress on BimmerMania.com phpBB3 conversion!

While sitting on my butt at home (after another surgery) I’ve been converting my BimmerMania.com website from phpBB 2.0.23 to phpBB 3.x. The actual forum was fairly straight forward and simple to convert! That took about 15-20 minutes before that part was complete. That is counting the time that I wasted searching for guides, tips and tricks on the conversion so I wouldn’t piss off any members of the site by messing up anything. :D

Well, I made the new design live and the board is enabled! I’m still tweaking several pages, but I decided to make go a head and make it live simply because the boards are pretty active and I didn’t want to manually copy new posts from the old forum which was live (phpBB2) to the new one (phpBB3). That would have been too much work! Oh and copying over new members and matching their posts.

The conversion is simple, but it’s a one time deal, you can’t sync several times to update posts and members as far as I know. If I could have just synchronized all of the posts and members later then I would have completed the entire conversion behind the scenes and released it all at once. Oh well.

Anyhoo, the fun and long part of the conversion if two fold:

  1. Recreating all of the custom pages, such as the downloads section, takes some time to perfect. I have a good habit of trying to validate all of my pages (the entire site), so it takes a bit longer per page than just making the content show up. ;) (Btw: WordPress has a nasty habit of mixing lists and <p>’s like crazy. I’m still trying to work out some of those validation errors. :( Can’t blame anyone but myself..and the javascript back-end to the visual editor, lol.)
  2. Tweaking the theme to look awesome, clean, slick, relevant -> Zen. This is one of the most important aspects of web design in order to get a crowd to use the site. I mean, who wants to use a website that looks like it was designed back in the text only days of the world wide web? Even if it worked perfect and never made or caused any mistakes..the interface has to be appealing!

Well, I’m now about half way done recreating the downloads section of the site. The only remaining portions after this are the contact page (it’s there, but none functional at the moment) and a garage. There are apparently no garages made as of yet for phpBB 3.x, so it looks like I may need to port the car garage that I used in phpBB 2.x over. This could take some time. :(

Oh well, back to work!

UPDATE (2008-05-23):
Well, BimmerMania.com is pretty much completely converted to phpBB 3.0.1! I’ve held off on a couple of items in my to-do list until I have time to get around to them. They aren’t show-stoppers, so the site is fine without them (just two fairly small tweaks).

The phpBB Garage for phpBB 3.x is coming kind of slow. I’d prefer to use a Garage that’s already been developed, but hey..what are you gonna do when there’s nothing out there already!? If anyone comes across a garage mod then please let me know!

What’s New..

Well, I think you’ll all find this useful at one point or another. I’ve implemented editing for user comments, finally. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and correcting some errors here and there, but now you can correct your own or add more to your comment. However, there are just a few things you will need to know:

  1. You will not have the option to edit your comment unless your ip address is the same one that was used when you posted the comment. It is best to edit the comment soon after originally posting it since ip addresses do change frequently for some.
  2. You cannot edit your comment after a specific time period from originally posting it. I will use a 48 hour interval to start out with. This interval may change, but I’ll keep you up to date.

Off to finish F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on TBS!

UPDATE:
Quoting is also an option now! Both of these features rely on javascript and will be improved greatly in the near future. They are just kind of 1.0 versions I guess, or maybe alpha. ;) Enjoy.

no-www.org and kyleabaker.com..

nowwwSo you might be wondering what this post is all about with such a weird title. Basically, me being the little web developer that I am, I’m pushing myself to learn new standards and actually use these standards as I further my knowledge of web design. I mean this both in the visual sense as well as the behind the scenes or backbone coding sense.

I strive to apply standards to everything that I have on this site. It is actually evolving as I learn more and understand how to implement some of the standards that I’ve learned. I know by now you’re wondering what this has to do with No-WWW and kyleabaker.com, so I’ll break it down for you..

I just recently (as in today) did some server side work to force a domain redirect from www.kyleabaker.com to kyleabaker.com. This is in theory how most all websites should handle the www sub-domain. The reason being that it is redundant for most all websites. For example, with my website I have no other sub-domains served to the public. When visiting or browsing this site you will never need to enter a sub-domain to navigate this site. Therefore the use of ‘www’ is understood. This is how the majority of public websites on the Internet are today. The exceptional websites would be sites such as yahoo, google, ms, etc…that actually take advantage of sub-domains such as ‘mail.blah.com’ or ‘search.blah.com’. However, it is still understood that when visiting Google.com for instance that the ‘www’ can be left off. If you’ve ever seen websites do this in the past then it was probably because they had a crafty URI and wanted it to stand out by removing the ‘www’ automatically.

If you would like to learn more about No-WWW then visit their website at no-www.org. You can also test your site there to see what class level your site is in. The most common is Class A, but the small editing that I did moved mine to a Class B. Class A means that the site is accessible with and without the www, however, it does not redirect to the non-www URI (or from the non-www to the www for that matter). Class B means that the site does redirect to the non-www from the www sub-domain. Class C (which is very strict, but according to standards is how websites should be designed) means that visiting a site with ‘www’ at the beginning will get you a 404 file not found page, but non-www version will pull up the site perfectly find. If you want to see one of these sites in the exact opposite form then try visiting the following links (their implementation is the strict like Class C, however they have the allowed sub-domain and blocked sub-domain backwards.):

http://ncsecu.org <- Should work, implemented wrong
http://www.ncsecu.org <- Works for them

If you have any questions about this or any other standards (this one being supported less than most) then please do ask questions or feel free to look into their site and find a bit more information!

New site design under way..

I’ve been working on redesigning the site a bit so it doesn’t feel so cluttered. I’m not finished yet and still have a bit of cleaning up to do. However, I wanted to get some comments, feedback and constructive criticism. Please let me know the goods and the bads. If you can..please give a suggestion or 20. :D

I don’t want to officially launch the design yet, so I’m waiting for reviews. I’m curious if it’s better or worse and what is better or worse about it. I haven’t gone as far as setting up cookies or passing the css tag, so the style sheet will only apply on pages with css=2 appended to them. If you view another page and would like to see how it looks with the style sheet then just add ?css=2 at the end and press enter. Here are some links to get started..

http://www.kyleabaker.com/?css=2
http://www.kyleabaker.com/archive.php?css=2
http://www.kyleabaker.com/news.php?news=71&css=2

Check them while their hot! I’ll be removing this feature/option soon and these links will be disabled. ;)

UPDATE:
New design is up. I’m still tweaking it and working in the comments and suggestions. Thanks for the feedback!

Screenshots now use on-the-fly thumbnails

phpI finally got around to implementing thumbnails for the screenshots to the right and in the gallery! Basically, instead of loading full screen images (which take ages to load on a slow internet connection) you are now loading images that have been shrunk from the originals down to the size that you see so no bandwidth is wasted and you see them load much faster!

Here is how it works:
The script that I’m using takes a src param and a width param. [You’ll see this if you’re viewing the source of the images. ;) ] The src (or source) param is the path to the original full size image. Once the source or path to the image has been established, the script shrinks and caches (saves or stores) the image on the server and then sends it to you. This makes my job of maintaining screenshots much easier!

Just thought you ought to know. ;) You most likely would never have known that these images were served to you on-the-fly and are not actually stored on the server in the sizes that you see. Just a neat little php trick!

If you’re interested in the script that I used you can find it at phpthumb.sourceforge.net/. It’s open source and updated fairly often (just enough so it’s not out of date, lol).

Enjoy the faster page loads!