Digital era – Things every brick and mortar business needs to do

I’m amazed every time I do a Google search for some local business and don’t find a website.  Sometimes they have a Facebook page, and sometimes they have barebones information on Yelp, but that’s not enough.  Even when I do find a company’s website, it’s pretty rare that it’s populated with enough of the right information.

Brick and mortar businesses may not think they need a web presence – but the internet is changing more and more of our culture, and they can’t afford to ignore these things:

1. At least a basic WordPress site with:
  • Address
  • Map
  • Phone number
  • Menu/Products – avoid a PDF if you can help it
  • About us – short paragraph
  • Hours

2. Facebook page

3. Google Analytics account set up to gather info about visitors

4. Yelp info up to date

5. Respond to negative reviews on Yelp

This post has some good tips on doing this properly: How companies should respond to negative reviews

6. Company profile on Google Maps

7. If you’re a service company – list your services on Thumbtack.com

Many of these things can be done by someone with very little web savvy.  With a few hours of web design/development help, you can make your mark online and get a leg up on any competition in the area.

Kynetx

I’ve been playing around with a new web tool called Kynetx. Some people I worked with down in Utah are pretty heavily involved so I couldn’t help but try it out. Rather than generating content in a standard load-this-website format, Kynetx apps sit on top of existing websites, many of which the developer may not own or control (Google Docs, Twitter, Amazon, etc.).

Kynetx apps can add a layer on top of the site to provide additional details and views. They can also manipulate the DOM structure of the site to provide extra details. Imagine adding geolocation info to search results, integrating twitter results where they wouldn’t otherwise be available or doing custom filtering on the output.

The coolest thing about Kynetx is that it goes beyond Javascript tweaks by running in the cloud and providing dynamic lookup. This gives it incredible power from a mashup and API-driven perspective since it can tie in parts of a distinct platform like Twitter with search results, location-based context, etc. from anywhere.

They are quickly building up a collection of pretty useful apps that are all available to try out – and developer accounts are free!

Kynetx

Twitter OAuth for PHP

For anyone writing a PHP Twitter App to interact with the Twitter API, TwitterOAuth is an incredibly helpful piece of open source code.  It handles the secure authentication through OAuth, and then includes function calls for using that authenticated status to carry out any desired GET or POST exchange with the Twitter API.

The project is located at: http://twitter.abrah.am/

The author is pretty careful to remind readers that the library is still in beta, incomplete and likely to change.  Nevertheless, his documentation, comments, and live examples make this library a must use.

Power Chrome: Keyboard Shortcuts and Omnibar Info Commands

omnibarIn addition to the extensions described in the previous post, Chrome includes functionality for a few helpful keyboard shortcuts and diagnostic/status information about browser operations.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Many of these are well known but they are all incredibly helpful

  • CTRL-F6 or ALT-d: 
    • Select the URL in the address bar
  • CTRL-SHIFT-N:  
    • New incognito window
  • SHIFT-ESC:  
    • Open Chrome Task Manager
  • CTRL-SHIFT-T:  
    • Open recently closed browser tab
  • CTRL-Click on a link: 
    • Open this page in a new background tab
  • CTRL-SHIFT-Click on a link: 
    • Open this page in a new tab and switch to this tab
  • CTRL-TAB: 
    • Switch to the next tab
  • CTRL-SHIFT-TAB: 
    • Switch to the previous tab
  • CTRL-#: 
    • Switch to this tab

(Full listing available at: Explore Google Chrome Features)

Omnibar commands:

The Omnibar is Chrome’s address bar and search bar rolled into one thing.  Typing a URL goes to that site, typing a search query looks up results in Google Search.

In addition to those operations, Chrome allows access to some valuable information about the browser’s inner workings.

  • ? <search-query>
    • search the item <search-query> in Google
  • type a web address then hit TAB+<search-query>
    • allows searching of the query on that url’s domain
  • about:memory
    • chrome process memory usage
  • about:stats
    • load times for Chrome, Javascript
  • about:network
    • behind-the-scenes network info
  • about:dns
    • dns info, time, stats
  • about:version
    • version, user-agent, etc.
  • about:plugins
    • installed plugins
  • about:cache
    • cached content
  • view-cache:[URL]
    • specific content cache info (e.g. view-cache:http://www.thanscorner.info)
  • view-source:[URL]
    • source of content (e.g. view-source:http://www.thanscorner.info)
  • about:crash
    • crash the tab (just for fun!)

Power Chrome: Chrome Extensions

chrometopThis is the first in a series of several posts outlining ways to take advantage of lesser-known Chrome features.

To try out the most recent development version of Chrome, you will need to make a few easy changes to your installation.


(img src: popandpolitics.com)

Instructions:

  1. download the Chrome channel switcher here
  2. after installing and running the program, select the ‘Dev’ channel
  3. to enable plugins, right-click your chrome shortcut and select properties.
  4. in the ‘Target:’  field, add  ‘–enable-extensions’  to your path.  (e.g. ‘”<chrome-path>” –enable-extensions’)

This developer channel might be a bit buggy but it gives you the chance to try out the newest Chrome release.  A few notable features at the writing of this post:

  • ability to edit starting page thumbnails
  • support for extensions (.crx files)
  • support for video tag

Info about current releases on each channel can be found on the updates blog for versions: stablebeta, and dev

Available Chrome extensions include:

Additional flags for adding functionality: (turn them on just as you did –enable-extensions)

  • -omnibox-popup-count=10
    • specify the number of suggestions Chrome gives when typing in the omnibar
  • -remote-shell-port=10
    • change the port for remote shell
  • -single-process
  • –process-per-site
    • run a separate chrome process for each site (2 google tabs will be within the same process)
  • –process-per-tab
    • run a separate chrome process for each tab
  • –enable-extensions  
    • turn on support for extensions (.crx)
  • –proxy-server=PROXYSERVER:PORT
    • specify a proxy server
  • –enable-user-scripts
    • turn on support for user scripts
  • –enable-user-scripts –user-data-dir=”path\to\your\profile”
    • specify the directory for user data
  • –enable-logging
    • turn on logging for developer use
  • –enable-greasemonkey
    • enable greasemonkey (place scripts from Userscripts.org in the C:\scripts\ directory)
  • –auto-spell-correct
    • enables fixing of little spelling issues automatically

Typing Upside-down

¡ʎɐqǝ uo pɹɐoqʎǝʞ ɐ ʎnq ı ǝɯıʇ ƃuı…ɟ ʇsɐן ǝɥʇ sı sıɥʇ

It’s stupid but cute.  In the extended alphabet sets of, there is a vast selection of letters.  Among these are those that can be used to model normal english characters upside-down.  This site has a script for converting text and a key of each character’s representation.

How to type upside down text and letters in HTML


Bungee Connect – Platform as a Service

 

The age of Web 2.0 has been dominating more clearly with every successfully integrated web app out there. Facebook apps dominate hours of time in the lives of people from all walks of life. The iPhone’s webapp integration is familiar to way more people than it should be, and high-speed internet has steadily grown in accessibility allowing more and more powerful web projects that are more application than web site.

Bungee Connect aims to provide a powerful portal to the design of highly integrated and exciting applications on the web. Now, I’ve just recently started an internship with the company Bungee Lab so I’m somewhat biased. That bias comes, however, in the form only of one who has had the opportunity to really see what this is all about.

The builder requires no downloaded software, relying on a browser-based interface. Developers can build AJAX-driven applications without the complicated and unpleasant detail management of the low-level message-passing involved.

In my opinion, however, the biggest feature offered by this development environment is its focus on integration with existing web services. Bungee Connect provides interfaces for handling the low-level communication between a Bungee app and other information sources on the web. This allows developers to automate the integrate of information like Google Calendar events, local weather details, RSS feeds or Facebook friend details without sorting through the nasty details of coding these connections by hand.

This is an entirely new way of approaching web design that opens doors to powerful applications. The novelty comes with a relatively steep learning curve, but the Bungee Connect team is committed to helping developers overcome difficulties along the way. Anyone is welcome to register and try out the service and I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity. The internet is an exciting place to be these days.

Bungee Connect

IEs4Linux – Internet Explorer for Linux

IEs4Linux Main Site

Why would you want to run IE when you don’t have to?  Some websites require particular browsers and web developers need to test for browser compatibility.   This link is for you.

IEs4Linux simplifies the process of installing several versions of Internet Explorer for linux distributions using Wine.  Download and run the script and it takes care of all the details

Mozilla Prism: Webrunner with A Little Extra Juice

Well I’m a bit slow on this one, but I finally noticed that mozilla labs has been working on the project previously known as Webrunner. For those who don’t know, Webrunner was a ‘browser’ of sorts that allows a web application (gmail, google reader, meebo, etc.) to be run as if it were a desktop application. More here (Read: Mozilla WebRunner 0.7).

Prism makes strides to simplify the process of harnessing this web application -> desktop application capability. Once installed, opening Prism prompts for a web url and options to create Desktop, Quick Launch, or Start Menu icons. This new version also gives the users options allowing them to display a location bar, status messages, and navigation keys, should they so desire.

Mozilla Labs: Prism

Command Line Hack for Maxed Out Remote Desktop Connections

“The terminal server has exceeded the maximum number of allowed connections”

If you’ve got an unreliable internet connection, it’s possible to build up remote desktop connections that don’t time out when they should, putting you in a rough position.  If you have access to another server machine, you can use the following commands to view and reset active connections.

> query session /server:servername

> reset session [ID] /server:servername

More information at: Command Line Hack for: “Terminal Server Has Exceeded the Maximum Number of Allowed Connections”


Update: In the syntax ‘/server:servername’  The ‘server’ is explicitly the text ‘server’.  For instance, if my server is at 192.168.1.104, the command would be: 

> query session /server:192.168.1.104

> reset session 2 /server:192.168.1.104