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By Category: Tools

Web-Based Container Tracking Client!

Cairn Applications has been working for some time to bring our legacy container tracking solution, Box Tracker, onto the web!  Box Tracker has been quietly tracking customers, work orders, dumpsters, and tipping fees for nearly 10 years as a Visual Basic application. Now it's time to bring this work horse of an application to the web!  

This week, Box Tracker got it's first exclusively web-based client,  Budget Disposal, who provides dumpster rentals for residential and commercial junk removal in Nashville, TN.  They test drove the application for a week and signed on!  

They are now using the web to manage their container fleet and dispatch to their employees in the field.  It's an exciting time for Cairn Applications and Budget Disposal!

Contact Cairn Applications to learn more about Box Tracker, or other  web applications for your business.





Web sites that do work!

File Upload System

This is a working web site.  What does that mean?  This site was built not only as a marketing platform but also as an integral part of our new client's work flow.  

The project includes our new user management system, myUsers,  which provides secure access to user specific content and functionality.   

Behind the log in, we implemented a file sharing system that enables credentialed users to upload and share files.  Users can create notes to accompany files which are automatically organized by project.  

The user management system limits user access by project and functionality.  Key features,  such as deleting files,  can be limited to specific users or groups.




QR Codes for the AppMobile!

QR Codes for the AppMobile

The AppMobile ( official sled of Cairn Applications ) is now sporting QR Codes on the fenders and the rear window .  QR codes are special bar codes that can be read by a QR reader app on your smart phone! 

If you see it, then scan it! There's a coupon for you!



Internet Explorer Security Warning

Do you want to view only the webpage content that was delivered securely?

Security Warning:

Do you want to view only the webpage content that was delivered securely?  This dialog box will pop up in Internet Explorer when ever you load a page that has a mix of HTTPS and HTTP resources.  Stay with me....I'll explain what those mean in a minute.  I'll also show you how to disable the security warning.  

IE 8 Security Warning

HTTP and HTTPS

HTTP is a protocol that computers use communicate with one another over the internet.  The letters HTTP stand for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. This happens to a very open protocol, and as a result, bad people who are very smart can spy on your communication and see what is going back and forth.  

HTTPS ( the S is for secure ) was developed to frustrate these "man in the middle" attacks.  In very simple terms, HTTPS uses an encryption algorythm that garbles up the information being passed back and forth in such a way that only the sender and receiver can under under stand it. This is refered to as Secure Socket Layer communication, or SSL.  

Encrypting communication with an SSL Certificate carries some costs for purchasing, configuring, and maintaining the certificate.  As such, unless there is critical data being shared, a web site is unlikely to use an SSL Certificate.

So why the warning?

When you log into a web site that is using SSL to communicate, some of the information being passed is critical and needs to be secure.  Items like user names and passwords, bank account data, personal information, phone numbers, email addresses, etc should all always be encrypted.  

But there are number  of non-critical resources that make every web page.  Styling information ( what color the lettering is ), structural information ( how big a section of the page is and does line up or is it offset ), behavior information  ( such as the way a page responds to specific events like buttons or links ), are all examples of data that has nothing to with secure personal information.  

Many web developers will choose to create and share resources across many web sites.  Arguments in favor of this practice include faster page loads because browsers can request files from multiple domains simultaneously.  It also makes maintaining a web site less expensive and less complicated because common styles and behaviors don't have to be recreated and maintained separately for each web site a developer supports.

Because these common resources are shared across multiple domains, they are unlikely to 1) carry any critical information and 2) be wrapped in an SSL.  

What the security warning is telling you is that resources are being included on the HTTPS page that were obtained using the HTTP protocol, not that your personal information is exposed.  In the end, it comes down to whether or not you trust the developer of a web site.  I would argue that if you don't trust the developer, then you have no business on their web page regardless of whether or not you get the dialog box.  

Disabling This security Warning

Amazingly, Internet Explorer still gives the security warning even after you add a site to your Trusted Sites list.  So instead, do the following:

  1. In Internet Explorer, select Tools -> Internet Options
  2. Click on the Security tab
  3. Click on the Custom level... button
  4. Scroll down until you find the category titled Miscellaneous
  5. Find the item titles Display mixed content and move the radio button to enable
  6. Click OK and confirm that you did this intentionally

Note:   Read dialog boxes carefully.   Pay close attention to the dialog as Microsoft has a tendency to switch randomly between positive and negative affirmation.  These switches not only occur from one context to the next, but one version to the next.  




New Platform Tool: myReports

There is a new tool on the Cairn Applications platform called myReports.  This is an abstract, database driven application that will enable a wide range of reporting on the platform.  Initially,  the tool is being launched with 2 reports, one to show all closed tickets within time parameters and a second to see the details of a specific ticket.

The tool delivers reports with dynamic input parameters.  Report are available to specific user groups based on security flags. 

The tool will soon be used to deliver monthly analytic reports. 



Google Analytics Overview


I was asked recently to write a post about Google Analytics (GA), specifically what kinds of thing I pay attention to on a daily basis. For those who may not know, Google Analytics is the premier tool to monitor traffic and activity on your web site. At Cairn, we cycle through analytics data for each client every morning. A blog post is not the right format for a comprehensive tutorial for Analytics, so what follows is a high level explanation of a few key ideas.

We are also working on a glossary of web terms which can be found here.

It is important to state at the beginning that every web site will have a unique set of objectives and a unique design ( or at least that's true for our clients ). So you can't apply some cookie cutter success template to your web site. Mostly, GA is a tool to measure your progress toward a unique set of objectives.

Quantity Measures

In order to accomplish anything on the web, you need to have some traffic. GA provides a couple great measures of the traffic on your web site; they are visits and pageviews. Visits is simply the number of people who come to your web site in a given period. Pageviews are the number pages your visitors saw in a that same period. Pageviews are not the same as hits. Click here for the difference between hits and pageviews.

Quality Measures

Next, I pay very close attention to some metrics that are suggestive of the quality of the traffic that we get. Start with the bounce rate. The bounce rate shows number of people who came to your site, no matter how, looked at one page, and went away without clicking anywhere else on the site. By implication, the visitor did not find what they were looking looking for, although there are important exceptions to that rule. One exception would an ajax driven web site that delivers all of its content on a single uri. Another exception would be a site that delivers its content through a blog where visitors come, get their daily update, and leave. Both of these sites will have a bounce rate that skews high. .

Another important quality measure is Pages/Visit (PPV) which is simply the number of pageviews divided by the number of visits. The calculation results in an average number of pageviews per visit. A site with a significant amount of content and a high PPV number is likely engaging their visitors with the content. A photo gallery makes an excellent example. Many sites now employ an ajax photo gallery that allows the visitor to cycle through the images without reloading the page. The down side is that you may be getting a lot of paging behavior ( your visitor interacting with your site ) without seeing that behavior in your Pageviews and PPV results.

A third important quality metric is average visit duration. This answers the question: how long did visitors stay on the site on average during the period? If your site is a marketing site, you probably are hoping for a longer duration, where as if your site provides some functionality that is a critical part of a company's work flow, you might be trying to drive that number in the other direction.

Traffic Sources

Another thing to be thinking about is where your traffic comes from. Common sources would include organic search, referring sites, direct traffic, email blasts, pay-per-click campaigns, etc. Organic search will be a result of your SEO efforts. Referrals are a key part of search engine optimization, so Cairn monitors the Visits and PPV numbers by referral source. There is also information to be had that breaks down referrals specifically from social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, etc.

Search Data

No discussion in this area would complete with out mentioning search. Google is very clear about the traffic they deliver to your site based on search phrases. It is important to understand the search phrases relevant to your business and optimize your site around those phrases. An initial moment of success is found when your brand name drops out of prominence in the keyword phrases driving traffic to your site to be replaced by phrases that describe your products or services. I like to say that it is better to have your site drive traffic to your brand than have your brand drive traffic to your site.

About your visitors

Depending on the nature of your business and web site, it may be important to know where your traffic is geographically. The location functionality in GA provides information as wide as continent and as granular as city.

You can also gain formation about the technology your visitors use. If you are considering a mobile landing page, it might be useful to know what percentage of your visitors use mobile devices to read your site and what areas they access with those devices.

Social engagement metrics are also available.

Caveats

There is a great deal to be learned about your traffic through Google Analytics, and you can spend an enormous amount of time trying to understand and manipulate your web site to increase its performance. Especially in the “post -panda” world, you need to understand that Google is constantly looking for ways to deliver only the the highest quality search results to their users. A lot of smart people at Google are paid a lot of money to prevent web site owners from gaming the Google algorithms. The best advice is to be an expert in your content area, and work hard to deliver quality content to your visitors. That's Google's objective and it's Cairn's objective as well.    




New Client Site in Production

Last month, Cairn Applications launched a new client web site: Action Authorized Parts.

Action Authorized Parts (AAP) is a dealer of repair parts for food service equipment.  They came to Cairn with a series of exploded diagrams that they use to find the right parts for their customers.  AAP's idea was to put these diagrams on line so that the customer could have a visual reference when placing an order.  This greatly enhanced the communication between AAP and thier customers.

By building a database driven site, Cairn was able to incorporate the manufactures, diagrams, and parts list data into thesearch engine optimization strategy giving the site much greater search engine visibility!

Check out the project in our  web design portfolio.  

The site also features our new myContact system!  myContcat is a new site integrated tool that keeps track of contacts on your web site.  It also filters out unsolicited/unwanted form posts!




What is msgapp.com? It's Sales Fusion.

I came across the following javascript include in a client I am taking over: https://www.msgapp.com/js/frs-app.js.  It was immediately followed by a call to a function called frt(###) where ### was an integer value. The original site was all hard coded and I found this call on every page with the same integer value in the frt() call. 

The script itself has no branding on it at all and no enlightening comments.  It was also written in a cryptic manner that made it difficult to follow.  Worse, the www.msgapp.com/ page is set up like a 404.  Very cryptic.

This client uses Sales Fusion to gather contact information from clients who wish to view a directory that contains their knowledge base, and I suspected that this script was related to that, but was having a difficult time confirming it.

I Googled for "what is msgapp.com" and found the usual bewildering array of automated sites that speculate on that the site is a spam site or some other sort of malicious code, but I found nothing authoritative.

Finally I started through the script line by line and found components that concatenate together to create a link to a .gif and guess what?  It was the Sales Fusion Logo.  Mystery solved. 








Cool new email alert feature on the myCairnApps platform!

The NH Web Developer just built a cool piece of functionality for the myCairnApps platform. 

In response to customer requests, we built a simple Ajax component that collects email addresses for the client mailing lists.  That happened a couple clients ago.  Today, however, we put into production a tool that integrates  that email list with the myBlog tool on the myCairnApps platform   Now clients can push an email to their subscribers every time they publish a new blog entry.

This is a completely self service system that users self subscribe and unsubscribe to on their own.

Call Cairn Applications today at (603) 966 6851 to see our site integrated tools can benefit your web site.



Twitter Integrattion

The New Hampshire Web Developer has just done our first Twitter Feed Integration.  Check it out at:

http://www.jeremysbootcamp.com/blog/

The client's Tweets will show up on his site automatically!



Google AdSense Integration

The New Hampshire Web Developer has just completed our first Google AdSense integrattion.  Check it out on :

http://www.jeremysbootcamp.com/blog/

It was pretty easy to integrate directly into the web site and customize for consistency.  You can chose from text ads only, or rich ads or a combinitaion.  Obviously the rich ads stand are more likely to clash graphically with the site. 

The text only ads integrate better site which might make them more likely to recieve clicks from visitors.  We'll see in the months ahead.

If you are interested in monetizing your high volume site, contact Cairn Applications, and we'll show you how!





Value of Back Links

It's funny, I must get a dozen comments,and twice that many emails every week telling me that I would have more traffic if I would just let xrumerservice place spam back links on a million other blogs every week.  Let's look at what they are really selling. 

A back link is a link on another site that  points "back" to your site. A back link extends the credibility of one site to another.  If the search engine views a site as an authoritative source on a given subject and your site related to that subject, then a link from the first site to back your site extends their credibility to you. That's a win!

If, for example, you own a business as a web developer in Nashua, NH then it makes good sense to have a back link on all of your clients indicating that you are the web developer for that site.  Additionally it would make good sense to have a link on the Nashua Chamber of Commerce ( if you are a member, which Cairn Applications is ).  The link  on the COC makes sense because you are a business that is associated with that  chamber.

But these are not what xrummer is selling.  What xrummer sells is a link on an enormous number of blog sites that are in no way related to your site.  They have written a program that trolls the internet looking for sites that accept random comments. They are hoping to ( and do ) find sites that accept comments without moderation and dump spam comments on them that include links to your site.   Ask yourself, are the readers of piglust.com ( some cyber-squatter actually owns that - unreal ) really the customers that you are trying to connect with?  Of course not. 

For xrummer, it's simply a numbers game.  Will a certain number of readers on piglust.com click any link they see n their endless pursuit of naughty entertainment?  Of course.  Will this behaviour increase the traffic on your site.  Sure.  Will it increase your sales?  Not a chance. What it will do is burn up your bandwidth and increase your bounce rate. I'll pass on that.

Back links are only valuable if they come from a reputable site that has authority and credibility in a subject area that is related to your site.

So, xrumer ( and colleagues of which there are many ) go ahead and send the emails, they go right to the trash folder.  Keep posting comments, they all get deleted.





myBulletin is here!

The New Hampshire Web Developer is pleased to announce the first release of myBulletin, a site integrated bulletin board exclusively for Cairn Applications' clients. 

Great for short term announcements, or for promoting specials  or special events, myBulletin posts feature an expiration date that automatically removes each bulletin at a pre-set time!  You don't even have to remember to go back in and remove the bulletins.

Like the entire suite of Cairn Applications tools, myBulletin is managed from the web and integrates seamlessly into your web site.  Call today to find out more about myBulletin and all of the Cairn Applications site integrated tools



About PayPal


About PayPal....

A customer called me yesterday requesting that I remove all references to his home address from his web site. Apparently, his wife had just opened the front door of their suburban home to find a large man demanding a cash refund for a product he had purchased but not used.

I was in the car car when the call came in, and promised to remove all reference to the home address as soon as I got back to an internet connection. (30 minutes tops).

When I got back to an internet connection, I was extremely relieved to confirm that I had not put the client's home address on their web site.  But that did answer the question of how the man found their home address. 

After a little digging, I discovered that when the client set up his PayPal account for the ecommerce portion of his web site, he had input his home address as the home/business address.  This was completely appropriate as the customer associated a credit card wit the PayPal account and the credit card validation process requires an address.  My client's home address.  My client confirmed that his wife saw a return shipping label in the large man's hand.

It is completely reasonable for PayPal to associate an address with the credit card information.  This basic security measure is for the protection of the credit card holder.  But as this experience demonstrates, it is important to create a disassociation for public purposes. 

Solution!  Fortunately, PayPal provides a way around this issue.  You can create multiple addresses on PayPal.  In this case I left the suburban address for association with the credit card account and created new business and home addresses. For the time being, the business address is C/O Cairn Applications, One Chestnut St, Ste#322, Nashua, NH 03060.  This will change when my client gets a PO Box  tomorrow morning. 

Lesson:  Check your ecommerce accounts and make sure that they do not have your home address as a return shipping address.  This will help prevent large men from showing up at your door demanding cash.




RSS Feed Functionality Update

The RSS feed functionality on the myCairnApps platform has been updated.  Previously we were removing HTML from blog posts entirely which caused the RSS feeds to be completely without formatting, stripped images and merged paragraphs, etc.


Cairn Applications has updated the system to encode the HTML generated by the myBlog system instead of removing it.  Now your RSS audience will enjoy the same fully formated HTML experience that they get right on your blog page.

Click the RSS link above to subscribe to the NH  Web Developer blog via RSS!




Apache2 DirectoryIndex being ignored and images not being served by HTML::Mason

I am setting up a development environment on my laptop so that I can take it with me into the field.  I am using Apache2 with mod-perl2 and HTML::Mason. I just spent a long time trying to get this to work this out so I thought that I would share.

Symptoms: Apache2 would not serve images and it would not serve the index.html file despite the precence of the DirectoryIndex index.html  line in the sites-available/ file for the virtual host.

I figured out that I was attempting to set my response handler on the Document root directory when I should have setting it on the file type. Originally I had the following in my HTML::Mason Config file ( /etc/apache2/conf.d/MasonConfig.  The default name is "libhtml-mason-perl-examples.conf." This is the Apache2 File that hands control over the request off to HTML::Mason).

     
< Directory /path/to/doc/root >
     SetHandler perl-script
     PerlResponsehandler HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler 
     PerlSetVar MasonArgsMethod CGI
     # CGI was previously required for Mason to work in Apache2
< /Directory >

This was causing all files in the document root to be handed off to Mason, including images and directory calls ( I guess interupting DirectoryIndex directive).

When I changed it to the following, viola!

     
< FilesMatch \.(html|htm)$ >
     SetHandler perl-script
     PerlResponsehandler HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
     PerlSetVar MasonArgsMethod CGI
     # CGI was previously required for Mason to work in Apache2
< /FilesMatch >

Now everything works!  I think what was happeneing was that all files in the document root were getting passed off to Mason, including stuff it doesn't know how to deal with, like directories and images!  By using the FilesMatch directive, I gained control over what was and was not being passed to Mason.



Apple iPad 2 review

Why I bought a tablet

I am working with a couple of clients on web based applications.  In our discussions, it has become evident that we will need to have a platform to demo the respective applications on. 

Taking a laptop into the market and passing it around seems clunky and the limited screen real estate offered by smart phones makes them inappropriate for demonstration.  The tablet concept seems to offer the right mix of usability, screen real estate, pass-ability ( I probably made that word up.  I mean that it is easy to pass to someone which helps to get the product into their hands).

Additionally, these devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous as they are smaller than a traditional laptop and provide a lot of te same functionality.

Choices

As with all things tech, there are a dizzying array of available choices.  These devices range in price from about $180 to well over $1000.  They come with or without access to the various 3g cell phone networks, blue tooth, cameras, and wide range of storage capacity.

One thing that I found surprising, is that most of these devices have their own proprietary operating system.  A few, like the new Hewlett Packard machines, come with a Windows derivative OS and the Apple devices come with the Apple OS.

A big factor in my choice was the intuitive nature of the interface.  The last thing I want in a sales situation is to spend time, or worse, have a user spend time fumbling to understand the machine.  I am a web developer, so I view the device as a conduit, not a product.  The first several devices left me asking the sales person how to perform this or that task.

My Choice

In the end, I chose the wi-fi enabled Apple iPad 2 with 64GB of solid state memory.  I am a developer, not a salesman, so I choose to forgo the 3g enabled model as my work will be done mostly under the umbrella of my wireless router. The machine was $700 at Best Buy and I got an 18 month same as deal through them.  Oh yea, every one keeps asking: I got the black one.

My Impressions

Aside from my Apple Airport Extreme wireless router, this is my first experience with an Apple product since the Apple 3c I got as a hand me down in college.  This is nothing like that.

This machine is unbelievably elegant and simple to use.  Navigation takes place on the touch screen with intuitive gestures and finger clicks. 

The operating system is extremely responsive.  There is no waiting for this machine because the memory is all solid state; no spinning platters.  The box starts from cold in about 10 seconds and applications load instantly. 

It seems to have access to the key office type applications.  I was extremely pleased to find an ssh application and a version of Drop Box.  I am thrilled to get my calendar off my telephone; I cant tell you awkward it is to try and make an appointment with the calendar next to your ear!

My wife does not like the on screen keyboard, because you cannot rest you fingers on it as you would a normal keyboard without firing a keystroke.  I don't touch type, so that's not an issue for me. 

It's sexy and fast.  So far, I love it!



Search on myBlog

The NH Web Developer is pleased to announce that we have implemented search on our client's blogs.  Now your visitors can search your blogs. Search results are ranked by relevance. 

Search tems are logged and emailed to our clients weekly so they can see what their vistors were looking for.

This opens the door for a new set of uses for the myBlog application.  Cairn Applications is starting an FAQ category on the blog to provide self service answers to our client's questions.  In the comming months, we will also be implementing the blog tool as a stand alone help system. 

Stay tuned for more great features on the myCairnApps platform!



RSS feed builder goes live!

The myCairnApps platform now has an aurtomated RSS ( Really Simple Syndication) feed tool.  It's completely hands free! When you create a new blog post using the site integrated tool, myBlog, the rss feed builder will rebuild your feed automatically within 10 minutes!  Now all those want to follow your blog in a reader.

Call us today at 603 966 6851 to find howto set up your RSS feed.



Automated Client Redirects

Don't you hate when you go to a web site and the piece of content that you were looking for has moved?  You were all excited because you thought you found what you were looking for, but you end up with a 'File Missing' page. This is especially a problem when web sites get redesigned and their directory structure changes.

Well, the NH Web Developer has added an application to the Cairn Applications platform that will interrupt requests for missing files, and attempt to redirect the request to the new content location!

It works like this:

Let's say that our visitor finds and clicks an outdated entry on Google (or any other site for that mater)  pointing to www.example.com/contact.htm.  Now say that the example.com site has been redesigned and the content has been moved to  www.example.com/content/index.html. 

Ordinarily, the web server would simply look for the originally requested file, not find it and serve up a missing page file (404). The Automated Client Redirects system will now interrupt that request, find the new location of the requested content and serve that instead.  The system also incorporates a communication piece that immediately notifies Cairn Applications developers when a requested file could not be redirected.  This allows our developers to update the Automated Client Redirects system to prevent further 404s.

As a whole this system enables Cairn Applications to stay on top of legacy inbound links to your web site making sure that your visitors reach the content they are looking for.

Cairn Applications...this is the way.



Custom Blogging tool for Cairn Applications clients

It's here!  The new blogging tool has arrived and this is the first post! 

It has been my experience that many web sites are built around blogging tools like Joomla or Word Press. These tools are great for the novice web developer, but they create huge issues when trying to integrate with other web sites.  This is because these tools use themes and templates that rigidly limit the structure of the site.  Additionally, since they are written for the broadest possible user-base, they are chocker-block full of tweaks and exceptions.  Attempting to make adjustments in style or server side code can lead to a cascade of unintended consequences.

Because of these difficulties, most people handle this by limiting their web design to the confines of the blogging tool.  I perceive that as a huge error and a significant negative for my clients who would prefer not to be bound by a theme generated by someone they will never meet.

In response I have build a web based blogging tool that enables my clients to blog to their heart's content and is sufficiently generalized that it can be integrate into any site in less than an hour.  The tool uses the tiny_mce JavaScript text editor which will behaves like a word processor but generates valid HTML.

Posts can be managed and comments can be moderated all on the myCairnApps Platform!  Also, because this is Cairn Applications design, it performs at near desk top speed.  this is Web 2.0.  this is the future.



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