Nov 17 2010

Always check your forms

I think I’ve written about this before, but it goes without saying it to often. Always check to see that your forms are working, each time you muck with them. EACH TIME. I say this because I just made a tiny tweak to a form for a client, just now, and thought, well, I had better test it just in case something changed, and sure enough, something had changed enough that it threw the form off. I am so glad I checked it.

Well, we learn by our mistakes, and my first mistake with a form for a website happened so long ago, I can’t even tell you, probably in the early days of my web design, I created a form for a client, and according to the client, it didn’t work. Oh, I had tested it, but I hadn’t done the final test, that is the test to see if the client is getting the emails. It is not enough that you are getting them, but that it works for them too.

And it didn’t. Weather it was user error or not, it didn’t matter. And they didn’t tell me for a year that they had not gotten any emails.

Needless to dsay, I did not keep that client.

So check, once, twice, and then check in with the client.

Then you can breath easily.

Jul 2 2010

Apple fixes it’s iTunes mistake

Sheesh. I got an email today, after a week of wondering what was up. It was quite to the point:

Thank you for your recent video purchase on the iTunes Store.

You may have experienced a grey or black screen while viewing your purchased
video(s). Apple regrets any inconvenience caused by this issue and has placed a
new copy of your video purchase(s) in your download queue, free of charge. To
begin downloading, click this link:

Alternately, you can open iTunes and choose Check for Available Downloads from
the Store menu.


iTunes Store Customer Support

And normally, this wouldn’t have been a big issue. It sounds as though, fromt he email, that it was just a minor glitch, right? Well, it is an hour, at least, that I won’t get back, as well as a week of wondering if I could ever buy things from the Apple store again.

It started out last week. I buy the Daily Show for my iTouch, and I went to download it. It kept saying that it wasn’t authorized to play on my computer, and would not transfer to my iTouch.  i figured it was a one day thing, and tried again the next day. It still didn’t work. I could purchase apps, I could purchase tunes, but couldn’t download my videos. I finally bit the bullet and called tech support. It was the usual thing. Are you online? Have you changed anything? Can you restart your computer? And then they asked me to reinstall iTunes, which I did. All this took at least an hour or more. And when I had done it all, it still didn’t work.

I thought to give it a week, to see if anything changed, and it did, but during the week of not being able to watch The Daily Show, I seriously considered canceling my pass to download it.

If I had found a discussion on-line, of others having this problem, I might have felt better, or if the rep had said anything, but no one offered any information, and I know I wasn’t the only one going through this.

Of course, today, when I got the email, I looked again, and found I wasn’t the only one suffering, as reported in Electric Pig.  No one seems to be having the same problem, but it is all associated with the upgrade to 4.0.

Jul 1 2010

Write what you are passionate about

One of the things I hear over and over again is to write what you are passionate about. This seems rather odd, on reflection. Isn’t the whole point of a blog to write about what people what to read about? It sounds so much like the saying “do what you love, the money will follow”.  Should we all be writing about what we want to, and somehow we will magically get readers to read us?

And yet, in studying successful blogs, I have found that most people started out writing for fun, for the fun of friends they knew, for the heck of it. They did not start out with a passion to rule the world of the web, just to have fun with what they did.

And I have been mulling this over for a while. This blog is for business, to talk about my business and things that relate to it, but fun? No, I can’t say this blog is fun. Passionate? I can’t say that I am passionate about writing this, though I do enjoy getting things off my chest from time to time.

So, I have started another blog, about something I am passionate about, which is cooking.  We shall see what happens with it. I have done no design, yet, to the look and feel, as I am concentrating on the content.

Jun 4 2010

It’s all been said before

I was getting ready to write  a post about how clients don’t understand the difference between stock photography and the images that they find when they search on Google. Not that I thought it was going to be brilliant, but I hadn’t run into it before. Then I cam across Clients from Hell. My gosh, I am so glad I have good clients. Even the client that asked about using the Google images was asking because he didn’t know any better, and was ok once he was told about copyright.

If nothing else, reading some of these makes me realize just how pleasant and reasonable my clients really are. :)

May 11 2010

Always save a backup of WordPress Theme

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone, who has been tweaking themes in WordPress, the importance of saving the theme you are working with. Saving it on your desk top, save it in a separate folder, but do save it.  WordPress always suggests backing up your data, and perhaps that is important as well, but if you don’t have a recent copy of your design, before you start mucking with it, you will be sorry by the end of the day.

I have relearned this lesson several times, most recently on a WooTheme that I was mucking with. I did something that made it render wrong in Safari and Chrome, but not FireFox, and because I was testing in FireFox, I didn’t notice right away. The client brought it up, and I didn’t notice or understand what he was talking about until he mentioned which browser he was in. Fortunately, I had kept a copy of my earlier Theme, so I just reloaded it, and then copied my custom.css over again  It was so much easier than having to back track where I had gone wrong with the theme.

Apr 27 2010

Problems with Edit Pages in WordPress

This is more a tale of caution that anything. I was working on a client’s site, and noticed that every time I tried to update a page, that the screen would go blank, or that I could only edit in HTML, or I couldn’t edit at all. Unfortunately, the client noticed this as well, so I had to fix it , and fast. The first thing I tried, was changing the theme, but that was a minor solution. I had worked harm putting the them together to be what he wanted, and I couldn’t imagine having to rebuild it from another template.

Exasperated, I finally started searching, and came across a problem with a solution. Apparently, there are certain plug ins that cause problems with the edit pages. There were some solutions offered, but the quickest  one was just to remove the plug-ins, which I did.

When asked why I had plug-ins that could be removed, that weren’t important, I explained that I was fooling around with new plug-ins that I thought would be cool. I will be more careful in future to vent every plug-in before adding it, especially when adding it to a client site where the client is trying to put together the content, and so needs access.

Mar 31 2010

Custom Widget for WordPress

I love working as a freelancer because people who ask me to design things have ideas that I would never have thought of. To me, working in WordPress is so cool because all the page formats look the same, but people used to web pages want to have each page look different. I had a client that wanted a different graphic in the header of each page, and I had to change the code to do that.

This time, it was having a different sidebar for each page. I was talking to the client, via skype, and she noticed the pause in my voice when she told me what I wanted. “Is that going to be a problem?” she asked. “I’ll have to look to see how to do it.”

And this is true. It isn’t just me. Someone else has usually solved the problem before me, in WordPress, which is why I love using it. And sure enough, after Googling it a little, and reading responses, I settled on “Custom Widgets”, and it worked a charm. I love it. And it solved the problem I was trying to solve by reworking the code.

Mar 23 2010

Things not to do when updating wordpress…

Sorry, couldn’t think of a better title for this one. Usually I can, but in this case it was the most bizarre thing that has happened. One of my client had an old WordPress site. I tried several times to update it (it was pre-2.5, so I had to do it manually), but finally learned from the hosting company that they didn’t want people updating WordPress. They said they weren’t sure it was stable, and that is why they kept it below 2.5. So, I informed the client, and thought no more of it.

Then, out of the blue, the hosting company suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to upgrade after all, but the only way they would let me do was so was to remove it and reinstall it. No, problem I thought, I’ll just export the wordpress content and then upload it again when 2.9.2 was installed.

But, and here is the but, the older wordpress exports in xml. The new WordPress doesn’t recognize that. And of course it was 11pm at night, on a weekend, so there was no one to call or contact, and the blog had no content. Sigh. The only good thing was that the XML code was easy to figure out, and I was able to extract all the content, and repost the site, so no one was quite the wiser (although it didn’t save some photos, which I had to request, saying they had been lost in the upgrade.

So, what is my advice? Oh, besides always having backup, as I thought I did? Always have the old WordPress blog site up when you update, so if you can’t retrieve things any other way, you can always see how it was supposed to be.

Actually, the best thing to do, if you can, is make all your updates on your computer, keep a copy there, so that if anything is lost, you can get it all back.

Mar 12 2010

No you can’t convert CorelDraw to Illustrator

Actually, that isn’t totally true, as I learned by trying to do this, you can convert, but you either need:

  • A copy of Correl Draw (hard if you are on a Mac)
  • or a  friend with a copy of CorelDraw

Oh, there are websites out there, that say they will convert for you, but you have to send them the file, and then they will turn it around for you. There does not appear to be a filter, or any kind of add-on for Illustrator to make the conversion.

When I was Googling this info, as I had a CorelDraw image to convert, people got rather annoying, asking for help, and the responses were almost always, “Get a Copy of CorelDraw and export it so that it is can be opened by Illustrator”. (And of course this is not a solution to those of us with a Mac) One responder even asked why someone would want to do this, and why they just couldn’t ask the original producer of the file to convert it.

So, that is the quick answer. Either have a PC that you can download the free trail on, or have a friend who can convert it for you, or go back to the original artist and ask them to save it to something compatible.

Mar 9 2010

On giving up Mercury News subscription

I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I still read print editions of the newspaper. Up until sometime this month, I have read two papers, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News. I like to support local newspapers. I want them to continue to be around. But, as the papers have had to cut back and fire people, I noticed more and more of my favorite sections vanishing. I kept saying, well, as long as they still have such-and-such, I will still subscribe. And then that person would be let go, and I would have to think hard about keeping the subscription.

And when it came down that I would give up when they let Gary Richards go (which they haven’t, which is good) then I knew I was clutching at straws, despite liking to read Gary Richards, by the way. The front page is almost all wire, the business is almost all wire, the lifestyles and movie reviews are almost all wire. There is hardly anything local.

So, when the paper came up for renewal, I just decided not to. End of story.

It hasn’t stopped yet, although someone keeps stealing it, or it keeps not being delivered often enough that I don’t always get it, and on those days, I say, ah, this is what it will be like. And one morning, when I didn’t get either paper, I put my lap top on the table, and read the news and comics while eating breakfast, but that didn’t feel quite right at all. I still like having the paper to shift through.

So, farewell to the Mercury News. It’s been good to know you. But the paper I knew and loved is long gone.