Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Past Blogs

Click Here, I've Been A Jerk to You.

3.31.2008

I've fervently believed that using "click here to whatever" on one's links is always a terrible idea. After all, "click here" doesn't mean anything; it doesn't tell the visitors (or the search engines) what's on the other side of that link. "Click here" seemed to me to be a completely useless, lazy, and dangerous forerunner to mystery meat navigation. Even Jakob Neilsen said don't use it.

Recently, I've read an article that convinced me that I'd been unfairly harsh to "click here". It's still true that "click here" isn't appropriate for navigational use, or for informational pages. But landing pages have a completely different goal - getting the visitors to do one specific thing - convert.

When a web page has a specific goal, many of the general rules of web design don't apply. When on a landing page, users very quickly decide whether they are interested in the goal, and if interested, will try to do it. In this case, best to tell the users what you want them to do, and why they should do it. Being direct is generally quite effective, and there's nothing more direct than "click here to whatever".

"Click here", I hope you'll accept my apologies. I will be nicer to you in the future, and I pledge to remember that the actual goals of a website determine what user navigation (or herding) techniques are appropriate.

Widemile Is Hiring.

3.27.2008

Yes, I've put on my corporate shill hat yet again. But you're getting the inside dope right here. I just put up two new job descriptions on our website: Office Manager and Technical Support Team Manager.

The Technical Support Team Manager position is a great opportunity for someone out there with great support experience and web coder chops. The job description asks has quite a few bullet points, but I'd still like to see some applications you, my peeps. So polish up those resumes, and drop my name on your cover letter. Widemile's going places; you can come along.

Pissed at XP.

3.26.2008

I had a very frustrating weekend. As I was about to wrap up the taxes on Saturday night, my Windows XP desktop machine started giving me crap. First it, after being awoken, it informed me that there had been a registry problem, but it had recovered and everything was fine. Then it refused to open new applications - one of those "An error occurred. Would you like to report it to Microsoft?" situations. So I figured I'd better reboot the silly thing. Sadly, rebooting was the last straw for poor Lulu.

After rebooting, all I got was a black screen. There was no error message, and I hadn't installed anything recently. How am I supposed to troubleshoot nothing? No amount of work would allow me to boot from the hard drive - even Last Known Good configuration. I pulled out my XP CD and booted from there. I couldn't get into Safe Mode, or Command Prompt, but I could get into the Recovery Console. I tried a couple rounds of fixes in Recovery Mode, including this Repairing Recipe from a Squad Geek. Alas, nothing helped.

Do you know how long it takes to boot the Recovery Console from the CD? That was my whole Saturday night. I was so mad I broke a piece of furniture. Seriously. It was flimsy furniture; it crumbled beneath my wrath.

On Sunday, we copied my hard drive to the husband's external USB drive. Yay - external USB drive saves the day again! Then I was able to reinstall WinXP on my drive from scratch. Monday night it was the apps, as was Tuesday. Now on Wednesday, and I think I've got things under control again.

As an aside, I keep a pretty tidy system, and I'd backed my critical data just 6 weeks ago. But I still didn't want to lose the newest data. I haven't a clue what caused the crash, but a co-worker suggested it might have been one of the myriad of updates that my computer downloads all the time. I really do feel that auto-updating is the right policy, but the news of Apple pushing Safari as an iTunes update news does make me suspicious.

Ballard News.

3.20.2008

We live in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, which has a rather interesting history including lots of Scandinavian fisherman, an independence from Seattle, and acting as a smuggling drop off point. (I'm told that "Snoose Junction" was how 19th century smugglers referred to Ballard; where they could drop off illicit cargo before going to Seattle.) With all this history, Ballard feels like it's own little community, and here are some of the community issues floating around lately.

Ballard house surrounded by proto - Trader Joe's Ballard house surrounded by proto - Trader Joe's First off, there's the Trader Joe's that's being built around the Little Old Lady's house. (It's the teeny brown house in the pictures at right. ) Well, it's not only a Trader Joe's, it's actually “a Trader Joe's supermarket, a health club, and a 468-stall parking structure”. There's a whole block of construction there, except for a chili joint, and one little house. According to folks on the bus, the owner of the house (a Little Old Swedish Lady) was offered a price three times the market rate, but simply wouldn't sell. It's a bit sad, actually, to see this one house, surrounded on 3 sides by another building three stories high. But the husband and I will be rather glad to get a TJs in our neighborhood.

Secondly, there's the saga of the old Denny's. (Also covered on the AP Wire.) These article contain most of the relevant details. I wonder what will happen to the little blue house with the boarded up windows near the Denny's? According to family history, the husband's grandfather and grandmother rented a room there when his mother was born.

Lastly, there's the this satisfying conclusion to the smashed cars that we saw after picking my mom up from the train station last week: Suspect Tasered in Interbay after wild ride, carjacking.

Yes, that Widemile.

3.18.2008

My company, Widemile, finally made our big awesome secret announcement today. And we had a website to go with it. :) This is really huge news if you're a marketer who spends money on pay per click advertisements. Or someone who provides web services for one of those marketers.

For about 2 years, Widemile has provided full service landing page optimization. A landing page is where you go after clicking an ad, such as the ones at the bottom of my site. Each time those ads are clicked, the advertiser pays a few bucks to the ad-server (Google, for instance) and the clicker is taken to the advertiser's webpage - the landing page. A well designed landing page is going to entice visitors to convert - for example, to sign up for a newsletter or buy a shiny new widget. Landing page optimization is the process of refining those landing pages to get visitors to convert; to do whatever it is that the advertiser wants.

Widemile has an awesome platform that we use to optimize the pages. Our platform automatically tries various elements on the page, and measures which elements are effective in getting visitors to convert. The big announcement is that instead of just doing this for our customers, we're going to let partners use the platform to help their customers out.

Why I will Never Be a Hollywood Movie Producer.

3.15.2008

Many moons ago, when production for the Lord of the Rings movies was just beginning, a co-worker told me that a live action Lord of the Rings trilogy was being made, and it would use real actors for all the roles and rely heavily on special effects.

I said that would never work, and that the movies would probably be critical, financial and fan-service failures. Do'h!

I'm Incredulous. And You Would Be Too.

3.13.2008

I started writing this at work, which is a rarity. I'm waiting to download a 50 meg file from an agency for the second time. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it didn't take 35 minutes to download this file, or if it weren't 5:30 pm, or I didn't really need this file. This is really frustrating.

The first time I downloaded the file, it also took about 40 minutes. Then after I got the cursed thing, the .zip file was corrupted. The last time I had to wait this long for a 50 meg file, which isn't really that large any more, was before I switched to high speed internet.

It got to be such a desperate situation that I asked one of the project stakeholders to call the agency and see if anyone were still at the office. I could walk down there and back in half an hour and get my files. But no one was at the agency. Eventually some muckedy-muck called and said that some of their downloads were corrupted because there was a traffic accident near the agency. Or at least that's the message that was relayed to me.

Really? A traffic accident is causing the failed file download? That's horse crap of the steamiest kind. If that is the case, then your file server is completely unsuitable for the job to begin with. I'm pretty sure that's actually the case, given the tremendously slow downloads I get from that server anyway.

Later: Well, I got the file on the second download. But many of the press releases that I laboriously encoded are messed up. It looks like they just pasted straight out of Word - which of course doesn't encode quotes, dashes, apostrophes, trademark and registered symbols correctly. Now I'm going to have to go back and fix it all. Ug.

It's Not Me. It's Them.

3.10.2008

Check out this MySQL bug. It's exactly what I was trying, and failing, to do this evening. Ha! For once, it's not a mistake on my part.

I'm pretty sure that the trouble I've been having with configuring my .htaccess file is all my fault though. I did manage to get it working for now, but only through the voodoo of re-typing the code. I sure hope my O'Reilly books arrive to soon to reveal the secrets.

Got Mac.

3.5.2008

My Macbook Air came this week. It's just as delightfully slim and just as sleek as you'd imagine. I got Firefox installed with only a bit of trouble. This may be obvious to you Mac users, but I was confused when Firefox wanted me to drag it to the fonts folder. Turns out, that's not the fonts folder — that's the applications folder.

But it's not all chocolate and roses with the Macbook Air either. We did have trouble installing the CS3 Master Collection. You see, there's no optical drive on the MacBook Air. So we connected my Macbook Air to the husband's Macbook over the network, so as to borrow the husband's Macbook's DVD drive. Unfortunately, this made the CS3 installer (which normally runs like molasses) about as slow as ...something really slow. Since it was so slow, I quit babysitting, and did some dishes. When I came back, both Macs had fallen asleep. I started them back up, but the installer kept insisting that it couldn't find CS3 Disc One. The husband did some magic with his USB hard drive, and he eventually got the install completed, but the Installer said there was a problem with Photoshop, and we should re-install.

Long story short, here's my advice should you need to install CS3 (or any of it's components) onto your Macbook Air via Drive Sharing: Do not let either Air or other Macbook fall asleep. Babysit them, or disable all of the power saving options until the install is complete. Be sure you've got the computers connected to power.

An even better option is, if you have a USB hard drive, use it to make disk images with your other Mac, hook the USB drive the to the Macbook Air, and then install from those disc images. It's going to be a lot quicker that way.

Where Are My Skillz?

3.3.2008

I've been playing The Legend of Zelda - The Minish Cap lately. It's pretty good; not great, but much in the vein of Link to the Past. Except, the Minish Cap seems much more difficult than Link to the Past; particularly the puzzles. I've had to look for help on the internet a couple of times. With most games, I don't need help until the Game+. Sigh. Maybe Minish Cap isn't really any harder than Link to the Past; I just don't have the advantage of having played it in my youth. Or perhaps I'm just not paying attention on the GBA.

Oh well. Cross your fingers for no more cheating.

Sometimes, Cursing Does Help.

3.2.2008

Last weekend, I finally got around to installing some new parts on my Antec Aria Case. Around the end of last year, the card reader had quit working, and one of the LEDs was constantly blinking. So I emailed Antec, and they sent the parts right over.

I'm a reasonably competent computer technician, but I had trouble installing these. No instructions were included, and it was a pretty complicated install. The worst part was getting the old faceplate off - it was screwed on in the middle, and it took me a good bit of yanking before I discovered the screw. Once discovered, it was tricky to reach the screw - it was right in the middle of the case, near the bottom. I had to pull out the entire drive mounting mechanism, and there was quite a bit of cursing.

Oh well. The new parts fixed all my issues once I got them installed. This computer should continue working for quite a while yet; unless I get into digital video. I still won't hesitate to buy an Antec case in the future.

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