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Diary of System and Website Development
Part 7 (January 2000 - December 2001)
The whole business is sufficiently complex that I am going start here with a contents list so here goes with the new project which I will call :-
A number of new pages will be needed to augment those in the Howto Series providing the complete set below:
Major work has gone into the New page - Search Engines and Directories - what you need to do to get visitors to a business site. I have tried a lot of it out in registering the sites I look after and sections of my own sites.
I have done quite a lot of work in the last month on the overall layout of the site now that there are so many valid entry points and set up a navigation bar across the top of the main pages as shown below
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The links reflect the style of each of the sections of the site. There is also a link at the left to the site Search facility on the Home page.
I have also done a lot of internal work to remove some of the hang overs from using CompuServe - The Home page used to homepage.htm which is not a default for other service providers so I used to have homepage,htm and index.htm as identical copies. I have now changed every link to be to index.htm and will only keep homepage.htm in case people have bookmarked it - it will probably be changed eventually to an automatic redirect.
Navigation and Standardisation of Format: Over the last year about 115 pages have had the navigation bars added and the formats standardised. these include all pages accessible from the Home Page, the whole of Uniquely New Zealand and all pages in the Travel and Diary Series.
Site Search: A site search was initially added to the Home Page with links from the navigation bar. This was provided as a free service by Netmind, and it worked very well over the last year then started to give problems in access at the same time as Netmind started to charge for parts of the Netmind Service.
The Search was moved to a new page and I have added a promising new Service from Atomz which provides Simple and Advanced search facilities and extensively customisation of the result presentation. It also provides a weekly email with a log of all the search strings used.
Google also provides a Site Search facility based on their excellent Web Search Engine and I have provide searches of the main and backup sites on the Search page.
The original site search used the META Tags for index terms and description. The Atomz search uses the text and displays the search phrases in context in the text - use of META tags is only available in the payed for versions. Google uses its own rankings and derives descriptions without use of META Tags in exactly the same way as for its WWW search.
Java popup Windows: We are standardising on a Java based function to allow pictures to "popup" in a window when an icon is clicked. This function minimises open windows and brings new pictures to the foreground automatically. A study of visitors shows that under 5% of visitors do not have Java or have Java deliberately disabled - they will only see the small icon.
New Pages: A number of new pages have been added many of which are accessible from the Home Page.
The Howto Page has been greatly improved with a series of tables and an index at the top to 5 sections.
A number of pages have minor updates added and there is one almost completely new and important Howto Article:
It is however an ongoing task to keep up with external events and I have yet to reflect the trend towards consolidation and withdrawl of free services in several pages. In summary:
Once I had Norton Internet Security Family Edition installed I found that it was actually two quite discrete packages and it was quite happy for me to unload the Security section! You must register before it will install but it does allow a printed paper registration process. This is a cheap way to get the Norton Virus Checker 2001 or update if you are registered for Internet Banking with Barclays. It also came with a year of free Virus data whilst the preinstalled versions seem to be limited to 3 months before you have to pay a nominal sum of about £4.00 a year and maybe Barclays will continue to issue updates.
I immediately ran its clever update process LiveUpdate which updated the program as well as the data files. Once the big initial update is complete it will download further updates in the background whenever you are 4.0 and install them (it gives an option to ask permission before carry out an update so you can keep track). This is a major advantage over McAfee 4.0.3 that I am running as the equivalent background downloading updates (Securecast) is now only available in the Enterprise (business to you) edition. The default configuration of Norton also gives better protection than McAfee 4.0.3 to email accounts present when you load but you have to then add any new ones which is easy to forget. I ran a complete machine scan which took nearly three hours because it checks within every compressed file so the total files checked was over 80,000.
Norton 2001 found the same Word Macro virus in two files which I was unaware of (WM.Wazzi.EC in Norton and W97M/Generic.dam in McAfee). They were two years old and from the OU which sends out student electronic TMAs in double zipped files (archives within archives) which McAfee does not seem to be able to reach down to. I checked from one level down with McAfee which then also found them. I checked on the site and found that the detection had only been recently added to McAfee, long after we had finished using them and the comments said that it was not a real virus but fragments left from a poor disinfection of a real virus by some early packages. McAfee said they had been forced to add it to the list because other virus checkers could not tell that it was a benign fragment and gave alerts so they were forced to do the same!
This was a warning that McAfee is not so thorough in the levels of checks and I have uploaded a double zipped file ( eicarzip.zip ) with the EICAR test virus for people to check their own systems. Interestingly McAfee found the virus within the nested archives on download from the Internet but not when manually scanned. Norton 2001 has a slight advantage on the Internet as it is capable of automatic heuristic checks on email which is not the case with McAfee VirusScan 4.0.3 . On balance I think that Norton 2001 may just have the high ground although I have not tried the new McAfee VirusScan 5 which I believe has better updating but the same scan engine.
Opera 5.12: The cover disk also had the Opera 5.12 Browser which I had been intending to download (10Mbytes) and install as a further check on my web pages. It seems excellent and it is easy to see why it is becoming so popular. The latest version has free option provided one accepts a small area displaying adverts at the top. This is inconvenient if one has a 800x640 screen but quite acceptable at 1024x768. It deserves a lot more investigation and it is easy to see why it is catching up Netscape in popularity and could easily pose a credible challenge to IE if avoids the security flaws which plague Microsoft software. It is small, very fast and has an excellent user interface.
The secondary drive in the machine was already partitioned into two 2 Gbyte drives so the simplest thing to do was to tidy up and move all the data to the higher drive number and delete everything from the lower drive to allow me to change it to a primary drive and and install a new system. This only took a few minutes but I also backed up to the CD writer on the other machine for luck which took a bit longer. I also made a new startup Floppy for luck. Then off with the lid, a change of links so the drive was the primary drive and in with the floppy to boot up to DOS and see if it all looked OK and then in with the Windows CD to rebuild the system. This was ssllooww process with an old 4x CD reader and is covered in my Article on HowtoInstall or Rebuild a Windows 95/98 System so I will not go into details. Almost all the software was either on CDs or in My Programs so it was remarkable little trouble but a lot of time waiting for each reboot.
What have I lost and learnt. I lost most of the recent web history and favourites and web pages saved in desktop folders. I have lost some of the dictionaries and that is about all that I have found so far. Toolbars needed to be reconfigured and Email accounts and DUNs set up. First Lesson is to periodically export favourites and cookies to be saved in My Backups - I had ones from 6 months ago when I did an intentional rebuild after changing to FAT32. Second lesson is to only use the desktop for very temporary stuff, I have lost several web pages which I will have to Search out again. However it could have been much worse and I now have a clean and slightly faster system and can get another drive at my leisure. In 24 hours I was back to the same basic configuration with the old machine providing all access to the outside world.
It proved quick and simple to get up signed up and running. Registration is via the web site and requires a full name, address and telephone number and you chose a username and password. Your address for email is of the form firstname.lastname@example.org and web space is http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/username - this is not as flexible as Telinco used to be with an email@example.com and http://username.telinco.co.uk/ option but you do get a lot of web space. Once you have signed up you get to screens where you are asked to download and run an Internet Connection file which installs your DUN and accounts in Outlook Express which also looks as if it customises and changes your settings. I downloaded but did not run the file and changed it to a .txt file as it contains useful information on accounts etc and also your password for all to read. They also send an email with a restricted set of information on configuration again including your password. I tried their Webmail and forwarded it to my usual account to amke sure everything was working.
I set up the Dial Up Network Connection in the usual way and likewise an account in Outlook Express and Service in Outlook 98 with no problem. I also tried out their web mail. It was all very easy and quick. The Tiscali Web Site at http://www.tiscali.co.uk has all the information you need but it took a little while to find it although it seems more logical when you have identified the links. Follow My account on the top navigation bar to Internet Services which has then got you to the help and FAQ files. You need to go to Personal Web Space to activate the web space by following the Activate link (you need to be using a Tiscali Dial-up connection for this stage). The web space is then enabled but they warn it will lapse if you take more than three months to upload an index file or continue to use it on a similar time scale. They have examples of configuring and uploading using WS_FTP, my prefered free package. The whole process of activation and uploading took about 15 minutes including making a new account in WS_FTP, modifying my home page to have absolute links and creating a DUN. I see no reason why it should not replace Telinco as a basic fast reliable service with direct Internet backbone access with less quirks than other contenders such as Freeserve b- if they have problems so do many others who depend on them.
As those familiar with my style of working will realise the above write up is heading for a separate Tiscali Guide and Tips page to update/replace the existing Telinco Guide and Tips page where I have had to grey out large sections which are out of date.
Internet Explorer 6.0: I have been forced into some upgrades tp my software so I can check the latest media and Java pages out. The main change has been to Internet Explorer 6. which I loaded off a cover disk. It seem to have some useful addition facilities and included media Player 7. in the install. Media Player has been further upgraded to 7.1 off the same cover disk.
McAfee VirusScan versions 5.21 and 6.0.1 I have also had a lot of potential problems with viruses as I have been intercepting up to 4 per day of W32.BadTrans@MM and others so I have been upgrading my Virus Checkers. McAfee for no good reason provided me with an opportunity to download the upgrade from 4.0.3 to 5.21 free in October just before version 6 came on the marke, I guess a mistake as they were upgrading the procedures but I was not going to turn it down when the Upgrade window poped up! The download was a huge 13 MBytes but was worthwhile as it improves the control of the scans. The Scan Engine and Data files remain the same for 4.0.3 through 5.21.1000 to 6.01.2000 but the control and update proceedures are considerably improved between versions and 6.01.2000 can be set to check file extensions longer than 3 such as .html which has become important. The other major improvement is in updating where weekly "differential" update files are used so it is very quick.
VirusScan 6.01: I have also bought a copy of the Standard VirusScan 6.01 for my own Dell XPS P120 machine and the Professional version for another Dell I look after. Installation as an upgrade was not as foolproof as I would have liked even though I uninstalled the earlier version and rebooted. One problem is that the boot scan locked on my Dell and I had to change the Autoexec.bat from a boot floppy before it would boot up. I am now using Scan.exe rather than the simpler Bootscan.exe for the initial checks as in the earlier versions. Version 6 has the ability to automatically check and update the data files when one is online but the programme that does that Rulaunch.exe seems to occasionally crash giving an error message, fortunately without further problems. The last problem is that it has not updated the Serial Number so my policy of bying a new version when it comes out for my Internet Interface machine and moving the earlier version down to the second Dell and on to the Toshiba has given me multiple copies of different generations but with the same Serial Number. It is almost impossible to get through to McAfee technical support but I got accidently put through to a consumer support where I was assured that the Serial Number did not matter.
Drive Reincarnation: Whilst testing out Internet Explorer prior to installing on my main machine I put one of my old drives into the plug in drive tray and had intermittent problems and it seems that it is an intermitent problem in the tray. The drives work when connected directly to the EIDA bus cables. The file system on the drive I had thought defunct had been damaged but the drive itself was OK and it has now been returned to service. I put it back as the slave and copied the Window and Program files directories across with all files in the root directory and then swopped it back to be the primary drive position. The only problem I found was that one could not copy the swop file which is huge 70 Mbytes because it is use but that does not matter as it is replaced on the reboot.
Both forms are useful - they allow a message to be displayed the first time the site is visited or a page is used rather than frustrating the user by repeating it every time. In the the less persistent form they can be used to pass information to a popup Window such as the Title to be displayed and the Picture to be shown. There are some other mechanisms which will do that for simple images but they break down for Embedded functions such as video.