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Syndication for the Really Simple May 3, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, General Ranting, News and politics.
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The family gathers around the wireless

           The Internet is rapidly transitioning from a text-based to a media based venue.  One of the most popular methods today to share information on the Internet is to establish an RSS feed to share your message with the world. 

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  It is a set of Internet protocols (or rules) for spreading information in the form of audio and video media.  It allows for devices other than PCs to download and save the content of the feed in question and allow it to be viewed/listened to.  Things like iPads, iPods, tablets, PCs, and even newer model car and home radios can access the information, most commonly through the Apple iStore.  The feed files are downloaded behind the scenes and stored on board the device until it is accessed.  The  feed is easy to set up, the media is easy to generate, and the  connection is completely reliable.  Along with social media outlets like twitter.com and facebook.com, the RSS feed is a perfect way to present information, promote a business or site, and generate steam over an issue.

The heart of an RSS feed is a document written in a format called Extensible Markup Language or XML.  This markup language allows for the entering of text that can be described like an entry in a database.  The layout is similar to HTML in that it uses tags and brackets to designate your tags.  Instead of using tags like <bold> and <center> todemark text, XML uses tags to describe what the text stands for.  If you are making a list of books, for example, you might create a tag called <author> to describe who wrote the book.  When viewed in a browser, the tab is not visible but the text is.  More importantly you can then use various database operations on the text file to search and analyze the data without having to create a database of the information.  The tags let you manipulate the data. In creating a syndication feed, only a few tags are needed in a very simple layout.  No special software of any type is needed.  I do most of mine in notepad.  XML documents must have  a proper header.  I am not going into the creation of every tag in a document but I will show you the most important ones.  You can download the example I am using, it is the XML document that feeds the news tag embedded in this page.  Right-click HERE and select “Save target as…”  Tell it to save on your desktop and you can open it in notepad and examine it at your leisure.  You can also use it as a template to make your own feeds.

The tags determine if the feed is of proper format.  If not, the browsers and devices will not be able to read the feed.  That is why it is called a protocol.  The word means rule or procedure.  If you don’t follow the rules, the feed won’t work.  Since this feed concerns audio mp3 files, we need to create tags that associate with that kind of media.  The first thing we need is a tag to designate the title fo the file.  We use the really imaginative tag <title> to designate the title of the file.  When we read the feed in a browser, the tag won’t show up but the title will be there and it will act as a link to the file.  On a PC you can click and listen.  On an iPad or iPod the file will automatically download if it has not already downloaded.  That is the great thing about RSS.  The feed only gets things you don’t already have. 

Each file needs a text description that is visible in the feed so that we know if we want to listen to it or not.  The tag we use is (once again very descriptive and imaginatively)  called <description>.  Remember, each tag must have a closing tag that relates to it.  For each <title> there must be a </title> and so on.

Download and use the file above as a template for your own RSS feed.  You will need an Internet server to host with.  Godaddy.com is a combination of best, easiest, and cheapest and I use it exclusively.  You don’t have to establish a web site but you need a directory that is accessible to the Internet.  Put your XML file and all your media into this folder and use the folder/domain name to acces it via the Internet.  If you are not familiar with registering a domain or setting up directories and links google something like “setting up a domain and web site” and you will get everything you need.  Once you have the feed set up and connected, be sure to set up an account with Apple’s iTunes so you can use it to distribute your feed.  You can also put links into every page you own or can talk to owner into.

If you own a business or publicize via social media or have any message to present to the world, you would be hard press to find an easier way to reach more people.  The iTunes app does all the promotion for you.  Just remember to get the tags right and be sure you have an iTunes account and you are on the way.  If you choose, you can forgo the iTunes completely and just publish and promote the feed yourself but iTunes is free and it is a shame not to take advantage of it.  You will need some special tags for the feed to be iTunes compatible but they are already in place in the template I have provided you.  Happy Podcasting – nite all.


A Brief Word from Our Sponsor May 3, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Good Evening.  I just have time for a short entry tonight.  This is more of a status report than a real blog entry or tutorial.  In previous entries I have talked about the importance of writing valid code and sticking to standards even when it seems like an inordinate amount of excess work.  In keeping with my convictions I have finally gotten HauntedRadio.net validated correctly.  It is validated as xHTML transitional and the CSS also checks out according to W3C standards.  (If you don’t know who the W3C is, hang around and you will.  My next entry will probably be a history lesson about them.)  Essentially validation says that I care enough about my web page to make sure that everyone who sees it gets exactly the view that I want them to have and sees all the elements of the page as they were meant to be seen.  I use conditional comments so that Internet Explorer and Firefox users all get the same view, and I validate my code with the W3C validation application so that every browser knows what to expect.

Thats No Moon! It’s a Rogue Spyware!! April 30, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Well, I guess it’s about time that someone did it.  For so long it has been easy to get rid of rogue spyware applications that download themselves onto your PC and try to weasel your credit card info from you by holding your PC hostage.  As I posted last time, all that is necessary is to start up the PC in safe mode and start up a reputable scanner and the bug would go away.  Well, this new breed of bug does not care what mode your PC starts up in.  Safe or Normal mode, the bug will run the minute you try to start up an application.  If you should see something on your PC that resembles this…

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whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK OK, GO, CONTINUE, OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.  Use ctl+alt+del and stop all applications.  You might get lucky and catch this before it installs.  This is not, however, likely.  Once these screens show up you are usually too late.  This bug is installed by a trojan that comes in on a drive-by download.  What makes it different is that when it installs it makes a minor registry change that makes removal almost impossible unless you know what you are doing.  This program changes your registry so that any program you try to run, whether safe mode or not, will not start but the virus program will run, even in safe mode.

You can follow the steps from the last post but you need to do something first in order to get rid of this little monster.  Download this registry fix.  Right click and save it to your desktop.  You will need to unzip the download once you save it.  It is a registry file that you can merge into your registry to repair what the bug does so that you can use malwarebytes to get rid of it.  Once you have saved the file, find it on your desktop and right-click on the file.  The menu will include an option to merge.  Select “merge” from the menu and in a moment you will see a box that says you have successfully accomplished this.  Now you can remove the bug.  Make sure your PC is in safe mode.  Start malwarebytes, update it,  and run the scan.  This bug, like all the others,  falls quickly and permanently.

Remember, once you have completed the scan and you believe you have removed the bug, reboot your PC and run DiskClean to get rid of the scraps.

OK Where was I?? Oh Yes, that Horrible Growth on Your PC April 24, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Well, having dealt harshly with the evil foe I return to my original task with frightening singleness of purpose.  We were talking about making sure that your PC was clean before I was so rudely interrupted.  We just zapped the evil box using Task Manager (if you don’t remember, make sure and read the last two posts before you continue).

It is likely that you caught the bug and zapped its setup application before it had a chance to infect you.  You will know if we failed by the little box that pops back up and asks for your credit card numbers.  Either way, this method will fix what ails us.

Step 1: Get the Tools You Need.  Everyone should have a shortcut in their web browser to http://www.malwarebytes.org  (this is the best in the business at cleaning and removing this sort of bug).  Click on the link and, once the page loads, click on the large download button.  You will be taken to C-Net  and you will need to click on another download button.  It looks like the following:

malwarebytes download button

Click the green image or the “download now” link and you will receive the setup file.  Remember where you save it.  Once you have the file saved to your drive, close all programs including Internet Explorer.  Find the install file and double click the application.  The setup process is short and simple.  Click “yes”, “next”, or “continue” until the program tells you it has successfully installed.  The last window will ask if you want to update the program and run.  Uncheck BOTH BOXES.  DON’T DO IT YET.

Step 2: Time to Clean.  You need to reboot your PC at this point and you need to bring it up in safe mode.  To do this, wait until the screen goes dark and start tapping the F8 key on your keyboard about once every 3 seconds until you see a screen similar to an MS-DOS screen that gives you several boot options.  The first should be “safe mode”.  The second should be “Safe Mode with Networking”.  Select the second one and let the PC boot.  It may give you another screen that asks what operating system you wish to boot.  Make sure it say whatever flavor of Windows you are running and hit the “Enter” key on your keyboard.  (This will happen if you are using Windows XP).

Once you have booted up in safe mode (I know the screen looks funny, ignore it)  you will need to run the malwarebytes application you recently installed.  Find the large red “M” icon on your desktop and double-click.  It should load the application.  You will see a window with tabs across the top that look like this…

Select the UPDATE tab and click the update button.  Let the process run until you receive the message that the update was successful.  If something does not work, skip the step and move on.  It will still work.

Select the SCANNER tab and be sure the dot is next to “Full Scan”.  This takes longer but you don’t want to take any chances.  Click the “Scan” button and let it run.  It should take about 30 minutes or so.  When complete you will see a button that says continue and likely a text file will open.  Close the text file and click the “Next” button.  You should then see a button that says “Remove All Selected”.  Click the button and the program does the rest.  It will likely ask you to reboot.  This time, let it come up in normal mode. 

Step 3: Finish The Job.  Once you have completed the scan process you need to make sure all the trash is cleaned up.  Close Malware Bytes and click your “START” button.  Select “Accessories”, “System Tools” and “Disk Cleanup”  When the program opens it should look like this…

If you should see a box that asks what drive you wish to clean, select your boot drive and the above box will show up.  It make take 10 minutes to scan.  Once it does you will be presented with many options, each with its own check box.  Select all check boxes and click to continue.  The clean process may take up to 15 minutes or so.  Don’t panic.  Once the process is over, the drive will be clean.  This process will clean the recycle bin, the Internet cache, and all temp files.  This process will make sure that even if you stopped the install process you also deleted the installation files of the bug. 

These steps will absolutely sure that your drive is clean and that whatever you ran into will not trouble you any further.  Hopefully this will take care of the problems.  Should there be other issues, you may need to reboot into safe mode and run the scan again.  Make sure you get the program to update before doing this.  If I can be of further help, please let me know.  Nity Nite.

I’m Gonna Hijack this Bus To Cuba!! April 23, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Help Help!! I’ve been hijacked.  I know I promised to get the other part of cleaning up rogue spyware apps from a PC up and running but this evening has been too disturbing for me to create a new tutorial.  I have been hijacked!!  I noticed that one of my tutorials about Dreamweaver sites only had 19 hits while the second part of the video had over 300 hits in one month.  Why would you watch the back half of a tutorial and not the front?  Well I discovered that the hits were being referred from a site called dreamweavertutorial.net.  I dropped by and discovere that they had embedded my tutorial that I posted on youtube.com into their page.  I would not ordinarily mind but they gave NO credit to the author at all.  They put my video up as if they had posted it themselves with no mention of me or my site.  How RUDE!!!

Sooo what to do?  I might have seized the moral high ground,  removed my video from Youtube and sent a scathing letter to the admin of the site.  I have never been a big fan of heights so I did not seize the high ground.  Instead I went back in to Youtube and edited my video slightly and added some captions.  I will let you decide if you want to go the dreamweavertutorial.net site and see what I did.  I also found that every video tutorial on their site had been hijacked from Youtube and no one had been credited so I notified all the Youtube account holders of what was going on.  Hopefully everyone will add comments and subtitles and captions to these videos and let them keep playing.  I will do my BEST to get the other half of my spyware article up tomorrow night.

So You Wanna Build a Web Site… April 21, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Silly Computer Graphic

I am forced to install multiple browsers in order to keep up my position as a web designer. I don’t understand why we can’t make standards standard??? I have spent the last 3 hours debugging a CSS problem with Firefox. It works in IE (few things do) and it works (oddly enough) in Opera but it refused to work in Firefox. I suspect it is a server error on the host side because when I look at the pages on my server from Firefox it works but when I look at the pages on the host server, the browser completely ignores all CSS instructions.

Should you ever decide to develop web sites there are some very important things you should consider.

  1. Make sure you have access to the host web server so you can upload your files your self. It is almost impossible, I am finding, to finish a page, upload to my server, get the customer’s approval, and then zip and email it to the host so that they can upload.
  2. Make sure you get, IN WRITING, the target browser that your client expects the site to work perfectly in. I know that everything should be perfectly accessible by any browser and that everything should work together regardless of the company that makes it, but save yourself some time and tension and accept the fact that it won’t. Give your clients ONE browser that everything works perfectly in and then make sure that the pages are at least usable (navigable) in the other main browsers.
  3. Make sure that who ever you’re dealing with does not have friends in tech places who are trying to get their toes in the door. Establish up front that you are not in the business to tear someone else down (and mean it) and demand that same respect from your clients. The most annoying thing I can think of is for you to get a web site up and running for a client and then have some other IT person from another company start talking to other members of your client’s organization and asking questions like “wonder why he didn’t use this or that technology?” or “wonder why he didn’t optimize that for Unix users?” This issue needs to be discussed long before a design is ever begun. Nip it in the bud and it won’t come back to nip you later.
  4. Be familiar with standards and make your clients familiar with them. You should already know who World Wide Web Consortium is and your clients should know before their web site is complete. This organization provides the standards for the web (such as they are). If you abide by these standards and show them to your client before the design ever starts then you will have an authority to fall back on when someone else asks why you didn’t incorporate some obscure and esoteric bit of html that they use to appear superior.

Meanwhile I am still working on the Flanagan web site.. This is one you should check out. It is completely CSS formatted, 100% XHTML compliant, and the pieces of code (navigation and header information) that are the same from page to page are server side includes. THAT is the way to set up a site. You can change colors, layouts, and everything about the design by editing one file. You can change content on every page just by editing a text file. It is a little bit more tedious to design but it is infinitely more convenient to maintain.

By the way, if anyone out there were to have a tech related question (or even a non-tech related on) I would probably do my best to answer it. Just comment on the latest entry with your question and I will help if I can. (No guarantees though, Not responsible for damages resulting from advice, I reserve the right to refuse service to any one, no shirt, no shoes, no service, if you break it you buy it, etc…)

Making Internet Explorer Behave… April 10, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Greetings…It seems that this blog is taking a turn for technology.  Tonight I wanted to do something quick and easy but also useful.I am going to show you how to make your web site look good to multiple browsers by using a handy little feature called conditional comments.  We will use Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 to edit a site and add conditional comments so that the site will format correctly as we expect in Firefox as well as in Internet Explorer 8.

First of all, a bit of development background.  The best way to lay out a web site is to do the original design using Firefox or some browser that is 100% W3C compliant.  The World Wide Web Consortium is the governing body that sets the standards for how the Internet works.  They say what is and what is not good HTML, although now it is XHTML that we have to worry about.  A compliant browser is a web browser that interprets web pages and their supporting document exactly as the 3WC says it should.  As you might guess, Microsoft, for whatever reason, has never been one to follow along with the crowd.  Internet Explorer, aside from being the most popular browser in the world, is terrible when it comesto displaying web pages in a predictable manner.  It misinterprets style sheets on multiple levels.  In order for all of your traffic to get the same experience you need to have multiple formats.  The easiest way to determine which browser format to present is a tool called conditional commenting.

Lets begin by setting up some standard formatting.  Here is an HTML document with two divisions set up.  They should be exactly aligned and there should be 3 pixels between them.  You’ll notice the white text in each square.  If we look at Firefox, the text looks as we expect
with a 3 pixel space between the text and the top of the division.  If we look at the same page in Internet Explorer you’ll notice that that space between the top of the division is gone.  IE measures distance differently that everyone else.  In order to fix this discrepancy we will use a feature that was built into Microsoft Windows and works only on Internet Explorer running on windows; conditional comments.

The best work-flow, when designing any type of web page is to begin building in a compliant browser and then make IE match.  We set up our site to work in Firefox and then adjust from there.  In order to link a cascading style sheet to a web document we use the following code snippet:

<link href=”CSS/FireFoxStd.css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” />

This code snippet, placed in the <Head> area of the web document, will force that document to follow the formatting
cues set up in the Firefoxstd.css style sheet found in the CSS directory of the web site’s main directory. Any browser that sees that code will reference that style sheet and render the page accordingly.  HOWEVER, the way IE renders the page and the way Firefox renders that page are two different things.  In order to make them look the same to all viewers, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, or browser you need to make some minor adjustments that only IE can read.

Step 1: Create a new style sheet, name it IEStd.css and save it in the CSS directory with the Firefox sheet.  Copy all format
information from the firefox sheet to the IE sheet.  Enter the following code snippet directly beneath the link to the Firefox sheet.  Copy this code snippet exactly.

<!–[if IE]>
<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”IEStd.css” />

Step 2: Re edit the page using IE to evaluate the results.  Make all your changes on the IEStd style sheet.

Step 3: Post both style sheets as well as the web document you are editing to whatever server your domain is hosted to.  Whenever a client using IE loads the page they will it formatted according to the IE sheet.  When anyone else sees the page it will format according to the Firefox sheet.  The differences between IE and Firefox no longer present a problem.

And there you have it.  You can completely reformat a page based on what browser the client is using.  You can even differentiate between versions of IE.  The following code snippets will allow you to designate what versions of IE follow your style sheets.

If you are targeting IE6, for example…

<!–[if IE 6]>
Special instructions for IE 6 here

Just enter the version number in the comments section and link the style sheet between the comment tags.  This will also work for embedded styles.  You simply put format instructions between the comment tags instead of linking a sheet.

And that’s it for another exciting adventure in targeted formatting.  Thanks for stopping by.  Don’t forget to rate the post and offer comments. TaTa