Saturday, November 22, 2008


Tools for Web Pages

When I first started creating web pages back in early 1996 I used a text editor. Now almost 13 years later I still use a text editor for my own site As you can see everything is pretty simple. No great effort was expended to select a particular font or colour. The over-riding criteria was that the site should work correctly on the maximum number of browers.

To this end one can quickly develop a list of things one should not do.

Do not:
  1. Use Flash
  2. Use animated gifs (these are really annoying)
  3. Use technology that only works in IE
Now with sites that are artistic things change a bit. Let's take mandalacreation as an example. It's far better looking than the site. If you look at the HTML files of mandalacreation you will see that the largest file is over 20,000 bytes. It's too complex to go in there with a text editor and update things especially with all the tables. In this situation I would recommend using NVU.

As one can see from the site NVU is a free web authoring program which is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. It's a relatively easy to use program in the "What You See Is What You Get" mode. Better still NVU is open source and covered under the MPL/LGPL/GPL tri-license.

What other software you will find useful depends on what you are trying to do. For picture gallerys I use Coppermine and for forums I use Drupal and your host server will need to run the open source database Mysql (along with Apache, PHP, and GD).

Things change so quickly on the Web that there's no way to keep up with all the newest technologies. My main advice remains the same: Keep things simple and provide as much useful information as possible.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The Best PTC Site

One of the newest net phenomenas are the rise of numerous PTC or Pay to Click sites. To briefly describe PTC: basically they are sites where you are paid to look at online ads, usually for a minimum of 30 seconds. Judging by the number of these sites advertisers must love them. I've tried a number of PTC sites and one site stood out from the rest:

Naturally it is Linux compatible. There was only one PTC I tried which wasn't compatible and that was SandraClicks. Sandraclicks is still a pretty good site, just not for hard-core penguinistas!
UPDATE: Dec. 6, 2008 It appears that the Sandraclicks site is now dead.

Neobux has a clean design and has a forum for any questions you may have. Looking around the net you will find that many sites rate this PTC site as the best of it's kind. You will get at least 4 ads per day even for standard members and possibly more if you check back often.

One may rent referrals and the system will replace inactive referrals after 14 days of no clicks. Paidouts are fast and requests are filled within 48 hours via AlertPay.

After thinking about PTC sites it seems that it is better to concentrate your efforts into a few really decent sites rather than signing up to a bunch of them and given the good qualities of Neobux I can say that this one is worth the effort.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Linux Game Publishing Auction for EFF

This appeared today from Linux Game Publishing:

Today, we have made the decision to do some good with the extremely sought-after #1 copy of X3: Reunion - Special Edition. We have assigned #1 as a special For Charity Auction on Ebay, with the proceeds going to the EFF. We ask all of our customers to consider bidding on this auction and raising money for a great cause.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Linux Accounting Software

If you have your own small business you probably need some sort of accounting software. It would be nice to be able to download a basic account package at no cost and run it on your Linux box wouldn't it? Fortunately such a package exists called Quasar.

I should mention that I have used this program to issue invoices and quotations to customers. As I am in Ontario it was setup to charge GST and PST where appropriate. It's easy to use.

Here is an example of an invoice.

The program can print to a ps file. In the example above I used the utility ps2pdf to convert from ps to pdf. Usually I email my customers the pdf file as everyone has software that understands pdf.

The source code is available and can be modified and licensed if one wishes to use it for their geographical area.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


The Trouble with DRM

Recently I experienced first hand one of the major problems with DRM or Digital Rights Management. It seems that under certain conditions that Windows will not play certain media, even if the media has been legally purchased. Now the situation is rather bad on Linux as there is no DRM mechanism to legally buy music or videos so I use a secondary computer running Windows 2000 to do that. The problem was that I would get a codec error after Windows Media Player downloaded the license for the media. Using a program called Fairuse4wm I was able to remove the DRM. Once the DRM was removed I no longer got the codec error and could play the media, which to me means the codec error was bogus.

For Canada the online music store of choice seems to be Puretracks. Most of the music there is DRM-laden I'm sorry to say but there are also some mp3 songs. One can purchse music using their credit card (songs are usually 99 cents to $1.25 each), use Fairuse4wm and then transfer your songs over to your Linux box.

Now there are three big sticking points with DRM:

1) You must obtain a license to play media files with DRM but all sorts of problems can occur. You might not be able to talk to the server which provides the license or your operating system could have some problem with files used in the DRM process. DRM essentially adds another level of complexity which makes screw-ups more likely.

2) Your media could have some expiration term. Some of the tennis videos will expire after one year.

3) You are forced to use Microsoft Windows in almost every situation so your choice is restricted unless you remove the DRM. This is quasi-legal ground but to me the greater good is to have files which can be backed up and transferred to another device, whether it be the CD-player in your car, or a portable mp3 device or your Linux box.

Now let me just say that I don't advocate downloading music illegally or using file sharing programs to share copyrighted material with the rest of the world. My policy is to buy DVDs, CDs and to download music from respectable online stores. The big problem is that the powers that be continue to tweak their DRM so many folks can't even play the media they legally purchased. So far I can report that the removal of DRM was possible every time I encountered it. It's the old story once again: You will need a Windows computer to make this minor miracle possible.

Even if some DRM mechanism was made for Linux I don't think it would work very well, and let me say that the prospect of my media becoming expired really kills the whole idea for me. DRM is so problematic that many customers who are normally law-abiding citizens could be tempted to use file sharing programs instead of using legitimate downloading services. The best solution is to make downloads easy and perhaps make some appeal to customers like "OK folks, we got rid of the DRM. Almost everyone hated it so we removed it. Please don't share the files and we promise not to reintroduce the DRM". It could work, 99 cents per song is a price people are willing to pay.

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