Login to HDRLab Using your Facebook Account

It is now possible to log in to this website and post on the forums using your Facebook account. This was added so that people don't have to create and remember yet another user and password combination. Like many people, I have an increasing number of accounts on multiple websites, and remembering all of those usernames and passwords gets harder and harder (particularly with websites that have "special" rules regarding what a password should have). Special thanks to Will Rossiter for developing the Silverstripe Facebook Connect module.

Blocking Hotlinking of Images by Other Websites

There have been several cases of external websites embedding images from this website directly into their pages. Known as hotlinking, this results in bandwidth being used up on this website, for the traffic belonging to another website. Hotlinking is essentially stealing of bandwidth from another website, which someone else (or me, in the case of this website) has to pay for. Up until now I have been fairly relaxed about this, after all, some of these external pages were discussing projects on this website and providing inbound links. However, I have also had totally non-related websites hotlinking websites. Most recently, a classified listing on another website was using a photo of my old Compaq Presario in order to sell their item. Not only is this non-related traffic, but the photo shown in the advertisement was most certainly not of the item being sold; something that could be misleading to prospective buyers (it's clearly not a company promotional shot, so the assumption would be that it is the second hand item being sold). With this latest incident I decided that I was fed up with others stealing my bandwidth for non-related websites, and any page that hotlinks to this website now shows the following image:

Every Man and his Dog has a Web Forum...

... and now, so do I.

Improving this Website's Usability

A screenshot of the new and improved HDRLab website
A screenshot of the new and improved HDRLab website.

This website has undergone some changes recently in order to improve its usability. In chronological order, they are:

Are Web Directories Obsolete?

When was the last time that you used a web directory in order to find a site? In fact, when was the last time that you used a web directory for anything? The last time that I even looked at a directory was after Website Grader noted that this website did not appear in DMOZ or Yahoo's directory. Other than that, I probably haven't used a directory to find information in over a decade. My first instinct is to use Google, and just try different keywords until I find what I'm looking for.

Find Out Your Website's Grade

I stumbled upon an interesting and potentially useful website grading service today. Website Grader examines the homepage of a website, and brings together data from multiple sources in order to give an idea of how effective the marketing effectiveness of that website. More importantly, it provides tips on how to improve. For example, this website is not listed on DMOZ and Yahoo Directories, something that could be done in order to improve ranking.

Finally, A Tool to Backup a Website and its MySQL Database

SiteVault LogoI have been searching for a convenient method of backing completely backing up this website, files, database and all. This is important because sites can and do get hacked, or experience hardware failure which results in lost data. All the hard work put into a site can be lost in a flash if a backup is not available. Web-hosts do not necessarily make or guarantee backups, which is why making ones own backups is necessary.

Improving Website Navigation/Usability

Don't make me think by Steve KrugRegular visitors may have noticed the addition of drop-down menus on the navigation bar above. This was suggested to me by my brother, who correctly pointed out that this would make it easier to navigate this website. Indeed, examining the server logs shows that many visitors are already using it to jump to the sub-section of greatest interest. Previously, they had to click on a section, and then choose the desired sub-section in order to get to what they wanted. Not only do the new menus save time, they also give an instant overview of what the major topics of this website are, thus making it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for. The menus were implemented using the Simple Drop-Down Menu code found on this page.

Site-Wide Search Now Available

This website now features a search function which can be found in the left column. I have opted to use Google custom search since I have found that Google's search engine often is better at locating information than a website's own search engine. Google's search technology is simply far superior to many of the other search engines provided with various Content Management Systems (CMS). Adding search functionality was relatively easy, although it did require that I create a custom page type for the search results page. The reason for using a custom page type is because the HTML insert functionality in the Silverstripe CMS won't embed the Google search results page code properly; it performs some sort of operation after closing the HTML edit window that destroys it.

Backing Up a MySQL Database (do NOT use phpMyAdmin)

I have always regularly backed up this website, including its database. However, I have discovered that the database backups have been either corrupt or incomplete. This came to my attention when I looked back at the database backups and noticed that they were all less than a few MiB in size (compressed) and the size remained constant. The database itself, however, is approximately 27 MiB. Even taking the compression into account, these files were too small; a test uncompressed  backup (i.e., raw *.sql file) came to 5 MiB. Clearly, something was wrong.

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