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I received another "Is this legit?" questions from a client today, and wanted to share so that others can also avoid this.

These people are combining “SEO” with “Registration” in their tactics, which is total shenanigans… it’s like a mechanic telling you that your car needs a new muffler bearing.  There is no such thing. 

I was recently frustrated when trying to find a freely available, open source responsive slider / slideshow plugin for Joomla K2 items.  It seems there are plenty available if you are willing to pay, but for something this simple, I figured I would roll my own and share. 

Notes:

  • This particular example is for using the K2 Joomla component, but the same overall concept will apply to any type of module that supports the standard Joomla template override structure.
  • Since it's hand-coded, it will apply to all versions / platforms of Joomla: 1.5.x, 2.5.x, 3.x
  • See "attachments" area for downloads, including the flexslider library, readme, template override, and new CSS.
  • Click here for demo

Directions:

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1.  Add the following jQuery and FlexSlider script to your template’s index.php file:

Background:

From the dawn of time, Google has provided you the exact keyword queries people have used to find your site. So, anybody that goes to Google, types in a keyword combination and winds up at your website, Google has told you the keywords they’ve used to find that. And that’s highly valuable information because you can use those keyword combinations to optimize your site around to get even more people to your site.

Well recently, they stopped doing that, and this was a big hit to a lot of people. But today, I’m going to show you three reports that Google has started including inside of their analytics dashboard, that can help you get around this, to identify what keywords people are using to find you, and to optimize your site around those keywords. So, let’s get going.

I put this video together to discuss some of the similarities and differences between Joomla, Wordpress, and Drupal.  In particular, I set up some sample content in a "plain vanilla" installation of each platform, and examine the underlying database structure.  Too frequently, I find myself reading peoples' opinions about which of these platforms is better than the other, and I can't help but think to myself, "You're just saying that because you learned (insert platform name here) first." 

If you already have a site built using one of these platforms and want to hire me, I'm happy to play the role of consultant.  If you don't have a site and want to engage me to design & build it, I can do that, too.  (I generally don't find the database structure by itself to be enough of a reason to switch from one platform to the other, but that's also an option if sufficient reasons exist.)  Get in touch today!

[Update 10/27/16: Apple has discontinued this model]

A client recently hired me to set up his new laptop for him.  To make a long story short, he needed a Macbook Pro with a non-retina screen.  He wanted something with plenty of storage space.  He also wanted a solid-state hard drive (SSD).  He also wanted a new computer with a warranty.

My solution?  Let's get started.

First, let's take care of the "oh, but this will void your warranty" argument.  No, it won'tHere is another article.  In a nutshell, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 states that a company can’t require you to upgrade with OEM parts to retain the warranty.

fluxF.lux
(Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
www.justgetflux.com

Does the computer screen ever hurt your eyes?  Do you have trouble falling asleep after using the computer? That's because your screen settings are optimized for daylight hours.

f.lux fixes this: it lets you control the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day.  It's better for your eyes and sleep cycle.


ublockuBlock
(Firefox, Chrome, Safari)
www.ublock.org

Too many ads on your favorite websites?  Tired of YouTube video ads?  With uBlock, ads are a thing of the past!

Greetings from the Poconos! We have some new features and options we’d like to share with you:

To zoom, or not to zoom?

I recently had a conversation with a client regarding their “responsive” (mobile-friendly) website. They were requesting “pinch and zoom” capabilities to enlarge photos.

We recently received this announcement from Google, they are replacing the "old" reCaptcha system with a newer, smarter, easier to use system.

Many of our clients have asked about adding a reCaptcha anti-spam mechanism onto their site's contact page (get a quote form, etc) and our advice was typically as follows:

  1. Avoid adding a reCaptcha field at all costs because it makes it more difficult for legitimate people to send messages through your site.
  2. Typically, we start by adding a security mechanism called Project Honeypot onto the site, which blocks malicious visitors based on their IP address. 
  3. If blocking malicious IP addresses still doesn't cut down enough on the amount of spam that is sent through the form, then we look into adding a reCaptcha system.

Building optimized sites has always been a major part of our strategy: they are easier to maintain, easier to upgrade, and they load more quickly.  I have never built a site using only Flash, and have always built sites using HTML-and-CSS based navigation menus.  They are search engine friendly and easy to expand or rearrange.

With that in mind, I have recently come up with a few other ways to speed things up.  A faster site will generally rank better in the search engines, plus it will have less people abandoning the site while waiting for it to load.

A Discussion Drupal vs Joomla Theming

I think this might be my first post specifically about Drupal.  I’ve been using Drupal for a few years now, but as many know, I’ve been a Joomla guy for a lot longer.  One of the nice things about Drupal’s theming structure is their “content” is rendered as a regular block.  So, when you’re managing blocks in the admin panel, you can assign a contact form block to the content area block area, and it shows up right below it.  No need to tweak the template files create a new block area (in Joomla speak, a module position).

First, a bit of clarification because my clients frequently ask this question: what’s the difference between "social icons" and "social sharing icons”?  Social icons are links to your company’s social pages, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN.  On these pages, people can directly engage with your organization by posting photos, asking questions, and the like.  

Social SHARING icons are visually similar as well, they will typically include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+, Pinterest… these are used for sharing content from your company’s website on your site visitors’ social media accounts (newsfeeds, or pages).  When your site’s visitors share your content throughout their social circles, it translates into free exposure for your content.  Assuming that you are producing relevant, high-quality content, this should translate into increased revenues, profits, and market share for your organization.

Before we begin, yes, K2 does have its own, built-in comment functionality.  And yes, there are plugins already built and available for this.  The reason I like this solution is twofold:

  1. K2's comment functionality, while has many useful features (Captcha anti-spam, email notifications, admin approval process), people seem to like using Disqus because it supports logins from multiple accounts (Disqus, Facebook, Google, Twitter).  K2's inbuilt commenting feature can be set up to allow comments from anonymous visitors, which opens up your site to comment spam.
  2. I don't like installing an entire plugin just to accomplish one little thing.  While I'm sure the plugin works, you have more customization / control when you handle the actual code.  This is similar to the plugins that allow you to add Google Analytics to your site - maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine - but I'd rather edit a (single, easy) file than install a new extension, which is a potential security risk.

I've been a Photoshop user for almost 10 years now, and it's slightly embarrassing to say that I've finally figured out how to create a keyboard shortcut for "crop."  I've been using keyboard shortcuts the entire time, for things like copy, cut, paste... but I always felt like I was losing valuable time to reach for the mouse, go to the Image menu, then down to Crop.  

Do you have a mobile or responsive site? If not, on April 21 you may find it harder to rank in Google’s mobile search results.

Google announced algorithm updates that will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results worldwide for mobile searchers. The update improves rankings for sites that provide a mobile-friendly experience to searchers on mobile devices, and, by association, demotes sites that do not.

I noticed that the XMap for Joomla plugins are no longer available so I am posting them here.  

Just received a call from "Windows Support Tech" and the guy tried to pull one of these Support Scams referenced here and here.  It's surprising that they are still trying this scam, years later.

This guy called from "Suzan Champagne" - number 1-450-623-7415

Hello again, Nate here… I realized I haven’t sent out an e-newsletter since 2012, so hopefully you’re ready for my next one by now.

Important: USPS Shipping Calculations

You're probably aware that the changes UPS and FedEx introduced to their rates at the end of the year now take into account "dimensional weight" instead of just actual weight. Most merchants will be receiving their first invoices under the new rating in the next few weeks and some will be in for a bit of a shock. At the very least, you’ll want to test your eCommerce checkout process to make sure that USPS shipping rates are still working. As with any software update, things may go wrong, so it’s best to check for yourself.

Important: Sites Not Sending Email

We’ve noticed that some hosting companies are making changes to their servers’ configuration that relates to sending email. Most of our clients have not been affected by this, but occasionally, these server changes prevent a site from sending out email messages. This applies to sites that have contact forms, member/client/employee login systems, and eCommerce stores. Since the server-setting change only affects email, your site will appear to be functioning, but messages will be undelivered. Please check your own site by sending yourself a message through it and confirm that the email notifications are sending (and receiving) properly. Note that submissions are also generally stored in a database, so we can typically recover any data that would have been missed.

One of the most difficult things about being self-employed is taking a vacation.  It requires much effort to strike a healthy work-life balance.  Many of my clients rely on my fast turn-around time for making changes to their websites, and are frequently adding time-sensitive special offers and the like.

Every year, I manage to take a few long weekends and sometimes an entire week... below are some of my practices for handling such an event:

I want to take a brief moment to write up some important points to consider when dealing with securing digital communications.

Many of these items have come to light after Edward Snowden (bravely) came forward and contradicted what Obama told Leno: “We don’t have a domestic spying program.”  As you are (hopefully) well aware, this is 100% false.

Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden#Global_surveillance_disclosures

With all of this in mind, I am compiling a list of 4 things that anyone, not just industry-professionals, can do to protect themselves against such spying:

Nate Covington, owner of Covington Creations, LLC, will present:

Free Marketing & Technology Seminar
Greater Pocono Chamber of Commerce

Important:  This seminar is for Chamber Members only!  If you are not a member, join today!