« December 2007 | Main | February 2008 »

January 20, 2008


I wanted the transition to the new website to go as smoothly as possible. In the past there were certain things you could do to help search engines categorize your page. There are simple things that are part of HTML like using a title tag, using header tags to identify important parts of the page, etc. But you can also add META tags. A description of the site is good, and the descriptions I used would usually show up in the search results under the title of my page. At the time it was good to include keywords, but those seem to be less important now and instead the search engines find their own keywords in the text of your page.

Looking into all of that again, I signed up for Google's webmaster tools service (they had me verify that I owned my site by including a specially named file on my site). Google pointed me in the direction of using a special sitemap.xml file that would tell the search engines where all of my pages are located and how often they are updated. Though Google seems to have originated this, a lot of other search engines use it too. A lot of websites have an html sitemap for visitors that shows all of the pages on their site, like a Table of Contents. But this file is xml and is intended just for the search engines. A piece of it might look like this:


A record is created for each page. Google points to an open source project that runs in Python that will create a sitemap.xml file of your site as long as your server supports Python. I have no idea if my server supports that, so I looked for other options. I clicked on a Google ad for a site that would produce a free sitemap, called sitemap.xmlecho.org. You had to register using an e-mail address and then confirm that address. Then you enter the site. Sometimes you get what you pay for and the result was basically the text written above, produced for the site that I had entered. I think it was just a scam to get a valid e-mail address and they used my input to produce the text for that one page.

I did a Google search and found a site called freesitemapgenerator.com that would do it. Again I had to enter an e-mail and validate it. I also had to validate that I owned the site by uploading a specially named file to my site. It then put my site in a queue to be processed. I was number 202. Not bad, I thought. I hit refresh to see how fast it was moving through the queue. Still 202. I waited about five minutes. Still 202. I was beginning to think this was a scam too. But about 15 minutes later I had worked my way to 199. By the next morning I was down to 98. That evening I was down to 54. The following morning I was down to 2! At about 10:30 it started processing my website. A few minutes later it was still processing, with one page identified. An hour later it was up to 15 pages. A couple of hours later it was up to 33 pages and 76% complete. But I knew it hadn't found my movie reviews yet. An hour later it had found a couple of hundred pages and was down to 26% complete. When I went to bed last night it was 80% complete. I'm thinking this person must be typing all of the code in by hand or something. I don't understand why Google, with a significant portion of the world's computing power, needs a sitemap in the first place. The irony of this is that while I was waiting to create a sitemap, Google started referring people to the site anyway.

This morning the file was done (56 hours after I first submitted it). They even pointed out some errors I had in an image map on my Galapagos page (which I have fixed now). I worried that the file would be completely useless, but it actually seems like it is pretty good. No duplicates. I checked my AW stats and it seems like a lot of the movie pages were loaded 4 times each, so I'm thinking that was all the sitemap generator. Certainly it can't be working very efficiently though.

After downloading the file and unzipping it, I uploaded the sitemap, along with a robots.txt file pointing to the sitemap.xml file. This was recommended by a Wikipedia article on Google Sitemaps which also has links to the different search engines so the sitemaps can be submitted. I wound up signing up for webmaster accounts at Live and Yahoo (and uploaded a unique file for each of them). All I had to do for Ask was enter a URL with the location of my sitemap. If I am verifying site ownership anyway, it seems like Google and the others would allow me then to tell them directly that I am moving the site from one spot to another. Then I could avoid a lot of this transition hassle.

January 19, 2008


This week has been a winter wonderland with two big snowfalls. Wednesday was fun at work as we anticipated the snow and watched its approach on radar. Once it started coming down there were giant fluffy flakes of snow. And in almost no time it started sticking to the grass and parked cars. A couple of people were talking about how silly it is when the news talks about bridges and overpasses icing over. Overpasses are bridges. The only time this distinction seems to be made is when referencing ice. And there just isn't a distinction.

Another thing we talked about was the history of warning signs about ice on bridges. I remember years ago they had signs with hinges where someone could unfold the sign that said WARNING ICE ON BRIDGE, but that whatever held it closed would wear out and you would see the sign open all the time (it also meant someone had to go out every time there was ice and open the sign). Eventually the warning became BRIDGE MAY ICE IN WINTER on a regular diamond warning sign. The current state of the art is BRIDGE ICES BEFORE ROAD.

Susan went to the grocery store yesterday evening and more snow was forecast for today. She was pretty much out of everything, so she needed to go regardless. But she said the Publix had been thoroughly looted. I asked her to get me some milk since I was nearly out, but there was absolutely no Publix milk to be had. She said all they had was some lactose-free version of Mayfield milk for more than $5 per gallon. I passed.

Today there is a great layer of snow of on the ground, but nothing on the streets since it is still above freezing. I decided to head to Kroger and see if I could get milk. There was a lot of traffic on the way and the Kroger parking lot was very full. Tons of people were inside, but there was plenty of milk. I got a gallon and then stood in line for about 15 minutes behind some people in the express line as we waited for a guy who apparently was unable to count past 15 items and held us all up.

The dogs seem pretty ambivalent to the snow. I think Katie has concluded that the snow is just rain and she does not like going out in the rain. Austin doesn't seem to care and was pretty excited. With the snow coming down pretty fast, both of them get a dusting on their black fur in no time.

January 17, 2008

Cinemania 96 Updates

I still use Cinemania '96 to look up movies and tell me the difference between Panavision and Panascope. Microsoft stopped issuing new versions eventually and no one else has come up with anything quite as good. I can eke out a little more info by getting the updates and installing those, which gets me current through the summer of 1996.

You can get downloads from Microsoft's FTP site (updates for other versions of Cinemania as well as Encarta are available there too by going up to parent directories and then back down):


Download the executables, double-click to run them which will give you a bunch of .cin files. Rename them to give them the extension .cin96upd

Put them in the Program Files/Microsoft Multimedia/Cinemania folder. Then when you run Cinemania from CD again, it should see the files and incorporate them.

January 15, 2008

Pepper Pad

Prior to today's Macworld keynote speech by Steve Jobs, there were rumors that Apple would announce an internet tablet device with a large touchscreen that would fill a gap between the iPhone and a notebook computer. What Jobs actually introduced was a very thin notebook computer for $1800.

In the days leading up to Macworld I looked up what else was out there. Several years ago Microsoft had introduced Tablet PC's which were to be notebooks without the keyboard. But the idea of a true slate form has met resistance and instead what you have are sub-notebooks and notebooks that convert into a slate by rotating the screen and folding it on top of the keyboard. They're expensive too, more than the average notebook. Later, Microsoft (again) introduced the Ultra Mobile PC or UMPC which was supposed to be a small slate like I am talking about. With Microsoft behind it, it was supposed to run Windows and have several other features. They have gone nowhere either, but a few companies make subnotebooks that are considered UMPC's even though UMPC's are supposed to be slates, without a keyboard.


I thought what would be a great idea is an oversized PDA (or iPod Touch) with a 7-11" touchscreen. Nokia has a line of internet tablets, including the N800 tablet which is $400 $232 at Amazon but the screen is only 4.1 inches diagonally, not much larger than the 3.7 inch screen on my Palm (though the N800's 800x400 screen resolution blows away my 480x320 Palm TX, now down to $236 with no replacement in sight now that Palm has focused on smartphones). Nokia has since introduced the N810 which has a small QWERTY keyboard that slides out ($440).

Last night Jeb sent me an e-mail with a link to an article in Wired about the birth of the iPhone. Apple felt like they needed to develop it internally because of a bad experience with Motorola in developing an iPod/phone combination that was really just a phone. And they were able to use some work they had done on a tablet to come up with a touchscreen interface. I told Jeb that if Apple introduced a tablet today that was less than $800 I would probably buy it. With high speed wireless internet it just makes sense to have an internet appliance where you can surf the net and pull music and videos from your computer's hard drive over the network. I told him they could throw in software to make the device a killer universal remote control just to really impress people.

As I said before, that didn't happen. However, filled with disappointment, I looked up "internet appliance" on Wikipedia and came across a mention of something called a Pepper Pad 3. Like the Nokia, this was an internet touchscreen running a version of the Linux operating system. But this device was larger, with a 7-inch screen (800x480) and a 20 GB hard drive, a USB port, and an infrared port to make it behave as a universal remote control! But at $635 and without the snazziness of an Apple product, the price seems kind of high (interestingly, the Pepper Pad 2 was even more expensive but had an 8.4-inch 800x600 screen and an SD card slot).

Here's the problem: I don't really want a notebook computer because I want something that just sits on my lap, doesn't need a mouse or trackpad (the worst part of a notebook computer) since you just touch the screen, and and has no keyboard (you could add a bluetooth keyboard if one is needed, but most people could get by with an on-screen keyboard). However, the tablet I'm looking for is essentially a notebook computer only with a smaller hard drive, no hinge, and no keyboard. Those things just aren't that expensive. So you wind up with something that costs only slightly less than a notebook but can't be used as a notebook and has much less competition than notebooks. I suspect this is why Microsoft's tablet PC's haven't taken off and why Apple has been working on a tablet for years and never released anything.

January 13, 2008


One problem with changing web sites like I am doing is to make sure the search engines can still find you. The best way to do this is apparently to use an .htaccess file that will automatically re-route people (and search engine crawlers) to the new site. Another way (that apparently search engines don't deal very well with) is to use redirect pages. I tried doing an .htaccess file at speedfactory, but it would just give me an error message. So instead I have installed a couple of redirects (with a one-second delay), but not on my main battery and dejumbler pages since those bring in the most revenue. I figure I can watch and see how long it takes Google to start referring to those files in their new location.

Also I did a global find and replace on the blog to at least get all of my past links to point to the new site. On my web pages that I am leaving at Speedfactory for now, the links to other pages point to iGirder pages instead of local versions. Maybe that way Google will see the links to iGirder and start to rank those pages.


Now that I am switching to high-speed internet and will eventually ditch Speedfactory (where I have been since 2001), I wanted to move my web page to its own website. This meant I needed to buy a domain name. Jeb suggested I use my own name, but this is from someone named Cashel, so I didn't think it was a good idea to use my actual name. A few months ago I went through and tested out whether different domains were available by going to networksolutions (this could have been a mistake, because recently it was revealed that when people search for domains there, networksolutions takes the name so that only they can sell it to you).

If I tried bridge-related names, then bridgeguy, boxgirder, and ibeam were not available (all with .com on the end; I don't see any reason to get anything else). Other names like gobbledygook, spiderwort, and seriesoftubes were also not available. However, in addition to my name being available (not just last name which was taken years ago), dejumble, dejumbler, and my web username brted were all available. With bridge themes, igirder, georgiabridges, kipfeet, kipfoot, and igirder were available. "Kip" is short for kilo-pound, a unit that comes up a lot when designing bridges. And kip-foot is a unit for moment, torque, bending, or leverage meaning you have one kip pushing down one foot away. It's a fun word.

In the end, I decided that igirder was the best name because not only does it describe beams used in bridges, but it has the iCachet of iPod, iMac, iTunes, etc. So last weekend I went ahead and bought igirder.com at namecheap which I had used before and where I already had an account with money in it. Last time I bought a domain with them it was $8.88 per year, but now it is $9.29. However namecheap often has coupons available and I was able to get 88 cents off and got the domain for $8.21.


The next step was to get a place to actually store the files. With GDOTEA I had used asmallorange, but since I get many more visitors than GDOTEA does (using the $25/year tiny orange plan), I would have to get a plan that would be at least $60 per year (small orange). That's still a good deal, but there was a slight possibility that I would even go over that plan's limit of 10 gigabytes per month and need to upgrade to the medium orange plan which is $10 per month, giving me 25 GB of traffic per month.

Jeb came to the rescue saying I could use his server. With asmallorange I changed the domain name server to the one at asmallorange instead of at namecheap and it worked fine. But Jeb's server doesn't have a name server, so instead I pointed namecheap to the IP address of Jeb's server and he made some kind of entry that would tell traffic where on the server my files were saved. It took a while to get to that point, but I moved a copy of all my files over to the server and the site is up and running. One trend lately is to get rid of the www part of a web address and just use the domain. So that's what I have done:


Thanks, Jeb!

January 9, 2008

Multi-Dollar Advertising Deal

This week the owner of a company that sells iPod battery replacements contacted me about my web pages. He wanted to take over the pages from me so that he could use them to promote his company or place banners on my site. I said I still wanted to control my site, but he could advertise there. Rather than place additional ads, I agreed to replace the current Google ads with ads for his company. I like AdSense ads because they are text and never too garish. His ads are more like regular banners but I said I didn't want any animation, garish colors, or pop-ups. He also wanted to have me place the banners at the top of each page, which I didn't want to do. And he asked that I change some of the content on the page. I didn't do that, but I did make a few changes on my own that should help him out without hurting any other companies I link to.

To figure out an ad rate, I took the monthly average each page had been generating with Google for the last 2 years and added 50% (since he is getting an exclusive deal and with Google he would have to bid against other advertisers), then rounded to the nearest dollar. He has agreed to pay me by the month, so I hope he sees enough in sales and click-throughs to continue indefinitely.

iPod Battery Pack $20 (for 2 ads)
3G iPod Battery Replacements $4
Tests of My Band-Aids Battery Pack $3
iPod Emergency Charger Review and Tests $2

Right before I started writing this entry, I told the guy the pages were posted. By the time I finished, he had sent money to my PayPal account. Pretty good! But alas, it wasn't entirely free money. Because he was really paying PayPal by credit card, rather than just transferring money to me from his own PayPal account, I got hit with a 4.9% charge plus a 30-cent fee. He agreed to keep paying for two years, but I will have to upgrade my PayPal account to receive more than 5 credit card payments per year.

January 4, 2008


My passport expired in 2005 and I needed a new one before the Ireland trip in July. After hearing horror stories about long delays last summer that forced people to cancel their vacations, I didn't want to wait any later than this week, so I went ahead and filed today. Since it had been less than 15 years since my old passport was issued, I was able to file through mail and save a $30 fee for a new application, but still had to pay $67 for the passport itself. I got pictures at Walgreen's for $8 (not a good picture, but it's for a passport) and mailed in the application, pictures, check, and my old passport in a padded envelope. They said it should take four to six weeks, so I think they have worked through their backlog.

The State Department's passport site (doesn't render correctly in my SeaMonkey browser, but looks okay in Internet Explorer)

January 1, 2008

4th Quarter Report

I re-started my Amazon Associates revenue on November 1 since I wouldn't be paid for November until 2008. As I wrote earlier, things started kind of slow, but ended up doing fine. In addition to the camping stuff, I sold a 160 GB iPod for which I earned $13.80 in commissions. That was my most expensive item, but two others included a digital camera and a USB hard drive. The things I sold the most of were 12 Maxell battery packs, 7 TuneJuice2 packs, and 6 EZGear Powersticks. From my Sony car stereo page I sold 7 PAC adapters at $30 each. Total earnings were $109.98 from Amazon in the two months I was selling stuff. That still puts me slightly ahead of my target of $50 per month to keep below the IRS limit of $600 per year.

AdSense has been down, I think mostly due to advertisers being unwilling to pay as much per click but also decclining traffic: SiteMeter tells me my website traffic was off a little, down from 159,000 in 2006 to 137,000 in 2007 (I didn't get any big spikes from Digg or Hack-a-day this year, but traffic has been trailing off a little). The DeJumbler page earned the most money, $200, with the battery pack page earning $134, and the Sony page getting $74. The DeJumbler gets a little more traffic than the battery pack, and five times as many ad clicks, but the ad clicks aren't worth as much. My total for AdSense was $466. Revenue is down in the last quarter with November and December coming in less than $30 each whereas last year they were both over $40.

Still I have enough money for a new iPod if Apple releases something interesting January 15. And, now that I'm getting DSL and don't need my Speedfactory dial-up account (which also provides me the space for my web pages), I will need to move the web site. That could be trouble because the search engines are all used to pointing to my Speedfactory space and I could lose traffic in the transition. I could keep the Speedfactory account just for the web page and for occasional dial-up service for $99 per year, or buy a domain (like uncleted.com) for $10 a year plus hosting for $60 per year from A Small Orange or from Jeb. Anyway, I don't pay for internet access from my web-generated funds, but I would pay for hosting.