Love thy neighbour use UTF-8

I run UK based websites which have international reach.
Specifically a travel essentials site with more than 5k pages indexed at G sees exposure to Europe and its various languages.
A while back I allowed to start showing non UK advertising on this site.
To my surprise there was quite a take up by Germans Polish sites and further not so common languages.

They do have one thing in common they use special characters like umlaut accent super scripted etc.
The standard
<meta http-equiv=Content-Type content=\”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1\”>
is limited in it\’s display capabilities and usage of these.

Digging around a bit and testing I now switches the site to use UTF-8
<meta http-eqiv=\”Content-Type\” content=\”text/html; charset=utf-8\”>
No it does not use more bandwidth but there are some things worth noticing

Here is some blurb about coding and bandwidth implication

With UTF-16, all characters—at least, all the ones you\’re likely to use—require 2 octets, so the phrase \”Hello, world!\” will use 26 octets to store 13 characters. This is only required if one uses complex characters like Chinese and will have obvious bandwidth implications.

With UTF-8, basic ASCII characters require only 1 octet, so \”Hello, world!\” would use only 13 octets to store 13 characters; however, Cyrillic or accented European characters require 2 octets each, and other characters for other languages can require up to 6 octets.

With the ISO-8859 character encoding, each character requires only 1 octet, even accented European characters, but any characters not in the set require html/XML character references, such as м.

so utf-8 instead of ü is probably more efficient

The placement of the Meta tag is important

<meta http-equiv=\”Content-Type\” content=\”text/html; charset=utf-8\”>

But that meta tag really has to be the very first thing in the r sees this tag it\’s going to stop parsing the page and start over after reinterpreting the whole page using the encoding you specified.

So one doesnt want a head interpreted only to be run again….

Also using UK based systems and standards as well as an older version of DW to manipulate Dreamweaver I use a blank template to generate new pages (if ever).

If one uses special characters that are not on the keyboard it is advisable to check the UTF coding and use this instead of country standards. I found this out the hard way when using superscript degree which is coded differently in ISO than in UTF.

Otherwise I\’m pleased that umlaute and other specials now seem to show correctly.

I\’m eager to see if now these are slurped up correctly by the SE\’s and will keep you posted


Directories – useful?

In a discussion about a particular site and would you link to it or not I was appalled to learn that editors of some directories can\’t tell the difference between commercial or not, downgrade commercial sites with high informative content and live in an bygone area.

Particular some of the free directories that rely on \”volunteer\” editors seem to have forgotten to adjust their watches to the new time and must be deaf not to have heard the time signal from Google.

So I took a closer look at DMOZ

After digging round a bit I have to say who would use this? Titles do not reflect what is actually on the page, lots of dead links and redirects.
DMOZ gathers submissions than \”volunteer\” editors edit (usually the hell out of it) and plonk it into a category whose structure no longer reflects the real world.
The search throws up a list of sites whose categorization is all over the place.

From a users perspective: Do I really want just a list of sites that may vaguely reflect my search? Than to go to each and every single one to find out?

So my verdict: These directories are only link mules – yes if you attempt to and get listed you may get some links BUT than it\’s static. No chance to change a mspling or update with a more fitting title as the underlying content has been refined. Lots of start up directories take a feed, blast it in their database and never ever update any.
These directories are actually a scourge as they provide now own content and as such no added value. The perceived value is syphoned off real sites.

For fledgling sites they had the power to help them getting started but that is ancient history nowadays they sadly have the power to ignore them and even worse by doing so may hinder the progress of great content rich sites.

I hope the the big engines devalue further the \”power\” they give to general directories that are just collectors and regurgitators of information not adding any real value except still acting as what I call link mules.

Directories that highlight niche markets or pockets of information, directories or link collections (come on that\’s what they are) on the back of unique and desirable content are a complete different story.

I don\’t mind finding a directory of lets say \”solar power developments\” when searching for advanced solar power technology. But I do mind being confronted with directories when searching for \”Batteries\”. I want the commercial sites and yes OK the odd shopping compare site is rather nice as well. But do I really want a directory of battery related sites – I think not.

Enough ranted – Content is still king and great unique content can and will outperform link mule supported sites anytime.


how to go wireless on AOL – a guide

Here is the simple experience of going wireless and being happy with it for the last 6 month.

Yes I do use AOL. Being slightly more expensive up front they just doubled the bandwidth for the same money AND you get a free firewall and great spam protection.

They provide free support.

One thing that needs to be looked at, AOL run a slightly different network.
There is a Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) which in nearly all Lana\’s and other wireless networks is 1500 AOL\’s MTU is 1400!

This is important because not all wireless AP\’s (access points) and / or router combinations have the necessary firmware (their little operating system) that allows this to be changed.

Also it is money well spend to get a router and / or access point that is already updated to the latest firmware.

I just recently had a friend of mine buying exactly what I use: DLink router/AP and Buffalo cards. The DLink router had an age old firmware on it thus couldn\’t connect to AOL.
Upgrading the firmware to the latest took 5 minutes (but one needs to know what to do) and there it was, MTU could be set to 1400 one mail account was declared the connection account. Restarted and immediately on-line.
We now meet in the local bus shelter in driving rain just for fun because both of our networks are available there ….

Also Buffalo cards have the advantage that you can connect a small external antenna to gain signal.
This is great when you\’re on holiday driving a car and simply park in front of a hotel / airport or private house and use the Internet comfortable. Sometimes one has to pay for the privilege sometimes is simply free.

I strongly advise to buy at least two different makes of cards I use Buffalo and Dlink. The Dlink card looses signal every now and than although I have flash upgraded it. The Buffalo 54 card is stable and runs a stronger signal than any other I\’ve tested / used.

Testing throughput regularly the AOL DSL 512 runs at 480k down and 240k up all the time. There are no drop outs and I usually restart the router and AP once a week.

Best of luck

Refresh your windows registry

OK so you look after your PC. Trow out old apps and temo docs as well as cleaning up behind your favorite browser. See keep it running for more tips.

One ofter overlooked fact is that windows uses a registry to keep which is sort of a who is who on your computer and contains vital information for windows to function.

All files breathe – the get larger over time and may contain deleted records or spaces where there where records.
The problem with the registry is it\’s not a straight forward file and maybe locked when windows is started.
There is the registry editor that can be used but is a bit of a tool for nerds.

Now there is a nifty Little tool that on a click saves and restores your registry and the saved version can easily be taken off-line just in case.
Have look at this brilliant Little tool Backup – Restore registry

The backup and than the immediate restore will compress empty spaces out of the file and readjust the size.

Another simple bit often forgotten task.


A quick ecom fraud check list

Having run on line ecom for the last 2 years I\’ve gained some experience and in exchange with others have generated the following fraud check list:

Don\’t bother – reject – it\’s fraud (on-line / on phone line)

Customer doesn\’t know the cardmember ID (CID) found on the back of the card, indicating that they probably don\’t have the actual Card.

The order is repeated or customer asks that you try lower the amounts when a decline message is received (I always look at the declined messages first).

The order is repeated with- or customer uses different expiration dates when initial attempt fails

An order is split (should be a single large order) or the customer attempts to place a large order using several credit cards to obtain the total amount and/or may use different cards, etc.

Never even dream of accepting or using an authorization center number given by a customer.

Shipping and billing country are different if you dare to accept different addresses which is likely if you run a gift, present or gadget related site.

Reverse IP look up shows anonymous site or an anonymous proxy is used

Fraud Countries: Nigeria, Indonesia (be vary of Singapore and Malaysia) I reject these.

Highly probable fraud

Order is split up to avoid paying \”import taxes\” and/or \”duty fees\” – reuest banktransfer instead

If you request personal information the customer hesitates or there is only scarce information forthcoming.

A purchase of a large quantity of a single item, specifically expensive ones
there is little or no concern for return policies, warranties and/or rebates.

High Fraud Countries: Romania, Singapore (people from Indonesia will use this and still get it), Ghana, Ukraine, Uganda, Hungary, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Russia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Phillipines, Thailand, Malaysia

Initial or follow-up order is more than 3x your average order

Shipping and billing address or country are different without reason


New order or customer tries to make a very large credit card transaction

Customer repeatedly sends e-mail messages requesting confirmation of shipment

The order contains several more expensive items, that are not related / appear random

Customer details entered in all upper or lower case

Cell phone number in combination with \”free\” e-mail account and, to top it, a PO box is used

The order ust be rushed regardless of cost

Some tips:

There is no reason why you cant try to contact a customer and ask for more details or talk to your credit card processor.

It also possible to set a merchant account to pre-authorisation. This requires that each order is accepted within 5 days (manualy) or rejected but there are no transaction fees!

If it sound to be too good to be true it isn\’t.

Be cautious it is cheaper to reject an order and ask for a banktransfer than to loose the whole lot.
Oh and on checks, make sure you know what your bank is doing. This is no joke they most of the times don\’t. When you cash in a foreign cheque and it\’s done under \”negotiation\” you may get the money faster but if the cheque bounces it\’s gone as well.

Just hope it helps