Google Reader RSS aggregator retired

Google_Reader_logo

Google has decided to retire Google Reader in July 2013

Last week (Wednesday, March 13, 2013) Google announced via its official blog that it was retiring its RSS aggregator Google Reader in its annual ‘spring clean’ on July 1st, 2013. I hadn’t been a regular user of Google Reader, I had added a few blog feeds a while ago but I never had any use for it.

However I decided to take the plunge a few weeks ago and I got myself an iPad and overnight I found myself reading many more forums and blog posts. Rather than adding so many of my most read websites to my Chrome bookmarks I suddenly remembered Google Reader. Looking around for RSS readers for the iPad I came across River of News, A Google Reader iPad app. It was perfect for me I added a few more RSS feeds and was suddenly reading so much more than I ever was before.

So its such a shame that Google is retiring Google reader and although I found River of News incredibly easy to use I set about finding an alternative that would allow me to export my RSS feeds.

Without going into detail I came across Feedly which allowed me to import all my feeds from Google Reader. It has a Flipboard style interface and like River of News allows you to put feeds into categories making them quickly accessible. Feedly is also available for Android which is a plus as I do prefer the Android OS over iOS but that is a blog post for another day!

10 Password Tips to keep you safe online

Image of username and password fieldsA few weeks ago I started to receive SPAM emails from a friend of mine and it quickly became obvious that her email account had been compromised. Her account wasn’t compromised because of a phishing scam or because her computer had caught a nasty bug it was a simple case of a weak password.

I know my friends get bored of me banging on about how the name of their pet cat / mother / father is not a good password but I now have one friend who wishes they had listened to me!

The problem was that it was her business email address that had been compromised and after some embarrassing apologies to clients for the nature of some of these SPAM emails we set about trying to get control of the account back.

Now this was a Google account and the people that had hacked it changed the password so it was a few days until she could prove her identity to Google to enable her to get the account back.

In my experience people either use incredibly strong passwords such as $%^£@svr312£ and write them down (defeating the object!) or simple passwords such as password which are easily defeated in a dictionary attack.

Here are my 10 tips for secure passwords:

    1. Avoid Common Words – Sounds obvious but a study to find the top 25 leaked passwords of 2012 has revealed too many people are still using “password”, “123456” and “12345678” for their login credentials.
    2. Use different character classes – try to use a different character set in your password. A-Z is one character set 0-9 is another, so for example password could be Pa$$wor6
    3. Use letters from a phrase – You could use the first letters from a phrase e.g. To be, or not to be, that is the question would become tbontbtitq
    4. Don’t let the user include their user Name in the password – This just gives the attacker a head start, don’t do it!
    5. Keyboard Patterns  – Again, like a user name in the password, its best to avoid doing this. 12345 or qwerty will be one of the first sequences a hacker will attempt.
    6. Use more than one word  – A hacker running a dictionary attack will find it harder with more than one word e.g. football is easier to crack than iplayfootball
    7. Separate your two words with symbols and numbers – taking the above you could use i-pay@football this inserts random characters into your password.
    8. Don’t write it down! Use a phrase that only you know  – Writing down a password defeats the object of a password if you lose it! Use a memorable phrase or pattern such as an old computer e.g. Commodore-Amiga500+ or the colour and engine size of your first car e.g. V-Golf1600!!
    9. Use a different password for each site – Yes it can be complicated but it is a must if your password is compromised at least it will only be for one site. You could use:
      • amazCommodore-Amiga500+ for Amazon
      • hotmCommodore-Amiga500+ for Hotmail
      • googCommodore-Amiga500+ for Google
    10. Never share your password! – Seems obvious but it does happen!
    11.  Eleven? I thought you said ten password tips?! – I did but just to say it one more time, make your password secure!

Content First

Both Sarah @Sarah_Darby and I @RobertDicks attended the Port 80 Localhost event on Wednesday 29th August 2012 (thanks to Joel Hughes @joel_hughes for organsing the event).

I listened with great interest to Robert Mills of Bluegg who championed the ‘content first’ approach to web design projects, which I completely agree with. Due to time quickly running out at the event I wasn’t able to give my comments in response to Rob’s excellent talk, so I thought I’d write this quick post championing this idea.

lorem ipsum all the way…

Of course, traditionally many web design projects have used dummy content such as lorem ipsum text and produced the design first – something I have always felt uncomfortable with. As Rob points out:

  • designs often needed to change to accommodate the content
  • content was shoe-horned into existing design
  • projects stalled at the very end when everything is completed and you were awaiting the content

Taking Rob’s first point about designs changing when content is (finally!) provided, this, from personal experience is one of the biggest problems with the content last approach.

“I liked the design but now I don’t”

I have in the past been asked to change or tweak a design even when dummy content has been used only to be asked to change the design back again when the client’s content has been added in the final stages of the project. I often feel that it is difficult for some customers to visualise what the finished site will look like whilst the dummy text is in place.

Tone of the site

Another problem that I have encountered with the content last approach is that the ‘tone’ of the site can drastically change when content is added at the end of the project. I have been involved in a few projects where we have discussed with the client the type of design, researched other relevant websites in the clients industry and have then suggested a design that is finally agreed. All is well and good, the site is built with dummy content, the client is happy, you are happy and then you receive the content.

Often the content provided is in completely the wrong tone for the design of the site. For example, the customer wanted a very corporate looking site and the copy you receive is very personal in nature, which doesn’t fit well into the design. More often than not, you receive copy that is very corporate in nature with all personality stripped out of it (which doesn’t read at all well in any site design!)

This is where the project is suddenly delayed whilst you A) Rewrite the copy or B) go back to the client and ask them to revise it which can sound somewhat rude at this late stage. As Rob refers to in his article, if you sell the ‘content first’ concept, clients can chat to you about what content is needed, the tone of the content and as enthusiasm is still high at the start of the project, they are also able to see the site taking shape without having to visualize what the end-product will look like.

Content First

We have started to go down this road in recent months at Forte, albeit we often ask for most of the content before we start a project. We still often tweak the content to make it more readable on the web but we have found this approach is far more rewarding both for us and the client. We will certainly be continuing with this approach and thanks to Rob’s excellent talk we will be working with future clients on an ‘all content first approach!’

Read Rob’s excellent blog post on Content First FTW.

Internet Explorer 9 not showing heading tags

Internet Explorer

A new version of Cufón Fonts is available which is compatible with Internet Explorer 9

Having just tested one of our new sites in Internet Explorer I suddenly found that none of the heading tags were displaying in Internet Explorer 9. After a little bit of digging I found the problem – Cufón Fonts, (Cufón is a font-replacement technique that uses javascript and vector graphics to write fonts from a font file). No, it’s not necessary to use this technique but it does make the site more aesthetically pleasing than the standard system fonts.

It’s a simple solution version 1.09i was released a while ago which is now compatible with IE9. If you are experiencing this problem download version 1.09i replacing your current cufon-yui.js file.

Forte Web Solutions August Update

Its been a busy few months here at Forte Web Solutions, having recently launched a new website for Mark Hodge at MH Exec Travel, and successfully pitched for three further web projects that are now well underway.

We are very pleased to be developing a site for Pamper Divas in Bridgend.  Pamper Divas  provide specialist beauty treatments from the comfort and the privacy of people’s homes, or a at venue of their choosing across South Wales. The Pamper Divas website is nearly complete and ready for launch during mid August.

We are also delighted to have been selected by Jeff Collins of Impact People Coaching in Barry, to redevelop his website, as well as devising an effective online marketing strategy for the company. We are very much looking forward to working with Jeff and are currently in the process of designing his new website.

Finally, we are also undertaking work for Passmores Solicitors in Barry to produce a sister website to complement the firm’s main internet presence. With the design now finalised, we are now working on the site and are well within schedule to deliver the project to the team at Passmores during August.

We continue to run successful Google AdWords campaigns for many of our valued customers helping to drive sales whilst being a cost effective sales channel and an excellent return on investment for our customers.

Watch this space for further updates!

April update at Forte Web Solutions

May is here already and it seems like an age ago when Sarah and I combined our expertise to set up Forte Web Solutions back in January. It is often said that time flies when you are having fun and we have both been involved in some exciting projects during the past month.

New Websites

We have recently launched a website for Jonathan Lloyd Daviesjonathansflowers.co.uk, an award-winning freelance floral designer based in Swansea.

Images from the Jonathans flowers website

Jonathan's Flowers Website

We have also launched a website for Campus-Associates who offer event management, training, business development and specialist consultancy to local, national and international companies. Its great working on such diverse websites it certainly brings a variety to our day to day work!  Brian from Campus-Associates was after a very clean and simple design, and is currently in the process of updating his own content.

Campus Associates Website

New Microsites Package

April also saw the launch of our new ‘Microsites Package’ for small businesses in South Wales. Sarah and I both understand the challenges facing small businesses today, particularly people who often start out on their own, like plumbers, electricians or hairdressers. Forking out for a website when you’re just starting out can be quite daunting, so we decided to offer a mini website for just £10 deposit and £10 a month thereafter with no large upfront cost. This is an ideal way to test the waters of the Internet before taking the plunge to invest in all the bells and whistles!

Google AdWords

Furniture Assembly Services Logo

Furniture Assembly Services Logo

We have also run a further Google AdWords campaign for David from Furniture Assembly Services, which continues to help him to grow his business. The campaign has been, and continues to be a fantastic success, which not only great news for David, but is also very satisfying to see this new business flourish with our help and support.

 

GTellem Photography Logo

GTellem Photography Logo

We have recently embarked on an AdWords campaign for Geraint at G.Tellem Photography.  Although it’s still early days as far as this campaign goes, but we are certainly starting to see some positive results for Geraint… watch this space!

UK is the ‘most internet-based major economy’

Image of Network Cables

A report shows that 40% of SME's in wales do not have a website

In a recent report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) published on the BBC Technology website, it was revealed that the UK is the ‘most internet-based major economy’ with the internet contributing 8.3% to the economy as a whole. This translates to the “internet economy” being worth £121bn in 2010, more than £2,000 per person in the UK. The study, supported by web giant Google, assumes that in four years 3bn people will be using the internet – this is nearly 50% of the world’s population.

These are staggering figures especially as the report predicts that the internet economy of the UK will continue to expand at a rate of 11% per year for the next four years, reaching a total value of £221bn by 2016. Some 13.5% of all purchases were made over the internet in 2010, according to BCG, and this is projected to rise to 23% by 2016.

This is great news for the UK in general but is it great news for the whole of the UK? Worryingly, Wales could well start to fall short of this rapid growth of the UK Internet economy.

According to Google, 40% of small businesses in Wales still don’t have a website and given that 97% of consumers are now using the Internet to research products and services in their local area, businesses in South Wales are missing out on this Internet boom.

This is a trend that needs to be reversed, and quickly if South Wales based businesses are to compete with the rest of the UK in this rapidly growing sector. If you own a small business and are looking to get online please feel free to contact us for some free advice.

 

Forte Web Solutions Update

We have been busy at Forte Web Solutions over the past month, with two websites close to completion as well as some highly successful Google AdWords campaigns that we are running on behalf ofour  clients.

Campus Associates

We are delighted to be developing a website for Campus-Associates. Campus Associates offers event management, training, business development and specialist consultancy to local, national and international companies.

The Campus Associates website is nearing completion and is on course to be released at the end of March.

Jonathan’s Flowers

We are proud to be developing a website for Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, an award winning freelance floral designer based in South Wales. Jonathan’s work has taken him to prestigious events such as Royal Ascot and “Glorious Goodwood” and high profile venues such as Wentworth golf club, the Lainsborough Hotel and Knightsbridge and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Jonathan’s Flowers is nearing completion and like our other project for Campus Associates is due for launch at the end of March.

Furniture Assembly Services

Furniture Assembly Services Logo

We have been working with David from Furniture Assembly Services to increase his online exposure through Google AdWords. The campaign has been running for two months now and has already proven to be a cost effective sales channel and an excellent return on Investment.  Find out more on how Google has helped David.

A big welcome to Forte Web Solutions!

A big welcome to Forte Web Solutions from Robert and Sarah.  You may already know us from ‘Forte Web Solutions’.  We are pleased to announce that we have now re-launched as a limited company under the new name of “Forte Web Solutions Ltd”.

Back in November, we decided that it was time to re-visit our service offering and and revamp our own website, and thought it would work really well with a new name that better describes what we are all about.

We are experts in our field, with almost 20 years of experience between us both – so we wanted to get this across.  ‘Forte’ is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a thing at which someone excels’. Synonyms include ‘strength’, ‘specialty’, ‘talent’…well you get the picture!

Our main aim is to help small businesses in Pontypridd, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, Cardiff and other areas in South Wales to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.  We offer web design and online marketing services, are crystal clear about our prices, and even offer a monthly payment plan to help our customers manage their budget more effectively.

Please take a look around our website and find out more about us!

 

 

 

NextGEN Gallery Thumbnail Generation Error

Thumbnail Generation PHP Memory Limit NextGEN Gallery

If you are having trouble generating thumbnails with NextGEN Gallery, this could be down to your web hosts default memory usage allocation for PHP applications.

Increasing the memory usage for PHP Applications

You can increase the memory usage allocation for an individual PHP applications, such as NextGEN gallery, which require more memory usage than other applications. You can do this by using @ini_set:

@ini_set('memory_limit', 'x'); where x is the memory.

In the case of NextGEN Gallery:

  1. Open /wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/lib/gd.thumbnail.inc.php with a text or code editor.
  2. Search for the text @ini_set(‘memory_limit’, ‘128M’); which should be commented out.
  3. Remove the // from in front of the @ini_set(‘memory_limit’, ‘128M’);
  4. Save the changes and upload the changed file to your server (replace the gd.thumbnail.inc.php file in /wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/lib/ with this new saved file)
  5. Go back to your WordPress admin site and in NextGEN select all the images that do not have thumbnails and recreate them.

You should now see that the thumbnails have been generated. 128M is usually enough in most cases from our experience, but if you find that thumbnails are still not being created then try increasing the memory limit to  @ini_set(‘memory_limit’, ‘256M’);

Remember – if you update NextGEN Galley automatically from within WordPress you will have to repeat this process.