Facebook App Contest - Westshore Mall

Just launched — Face­book App Con­test for West­shore Town Cen­tre! Designed by Cre­at­ing Excel­lence and pro­grammed by Blender.  This con­test exists in the con­text of Face­book and runs in con­cert with West­shore’s in mall contest.

Note­wor­thy fea­tures include: mobile friendly, Like gate, Face­book login, Face­book shar­ing, Tweet­ing, Pinning.

This project brings together sev­eral technologies:

  • Face­book SDKs to inte­grate into it’s social media network
  • Pin­ter­est + Twit­ter sharing
  • Javascript + jQuery for interactivity
  • PHP for server side coding
  • MySQL for stor­ing con­test entries

Face­book appli­ca­tions are great ways to engage peo­ple with your brand or busi­ness.  Vis­i­tors inter­act with you and can eas­ily share out to their friends.

Face­book App Con­test for West­shore Town Centre


local SEO: first steps to better Vancouver results

local seo search results vancouver

Local SEO (Search Engine Opti­miza­tion) refers to search opti­miza­tion with a regional focus, for instance tar­get­ing a city such as Van­cou­ver.  An exam­ple of local search engine opti­miza­tion would be my web­site, Blender Design, tar­get­ing searches orig­i­nat­ing in the Van­cou­ver met­ro­pol­i­tan area. For a local busi­ness this means focus­ing SEO efforts to com­pete for the searches that mat­ter most — poten­tial local clients.

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that search results are tai­lored to the searcher.  If a search engine, and by search engine I really mean Google, believes local search results would bet­ter answer a query, then local results will be pri­or­i­tized. For instance, if you do a Google search for “best restau­rant” you will likely see a cou­ple of web­sites fol­lowed by a list of local restau­rants.  For many obvi­ous local searches Google takes this a step fur­ther and includes an area map of results. (more…)

internet security: Yahoo email accounts hacked

security breached Yahoo emails hacked

In the past week I have received emails from 2 friend’s Yahoo email accounts — sent by hack­ers!  The emails con­tained a link which, had I clicked it, would have done who knows what.

The hack­ing attack which was used to take con­trol of my friends email accounts used a secu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­ity at Yahoo to copy an access cookie that had been issued from Yahoo.  This access cookie gave the hack­ers full access to the email account until the cookie expired. This attack did require my friends to click on a link, either in a web­site or in an email. (more…)

programming WordPress plugins

Sample Link image for Related Links Blender WordPress plugin

I was hav­ing trou­ble find­ing the right Word­Press plu­gin for a clients web­site … so I pro­grammed it!  You can see the results of the Related Links Blender plu­gin at the bot­tom of this post.  The plu­gin is a sim­ple but effec­tive way to keep vis­i­tors brows­ing your blog.  Sim­i­lar plu­g­ins existed, but none did exactly what I wanted.  Pro­gram­ming the plu­gin was an inter­est­ing exer­cise — always be learning!

Plugin features:

  • Choose which posts to link
  • Just add the post ID of the tar­get you wish to link
  • Links include thumb, title, and brief intro­duc­tory text — automatically!
  • Links can be struc­tured and styled to suite your website


security alert: Twitter hacked

Twit­ter announced on Fri­day Feb­ru­ary 1st they had been hacked in a sophis­ti­cated attack.  Twit­ter said 250k accounts may be affected and have emailed those users.  The stolen data included accounts, emails, addresses, and pass­words. Whether or not Twit­ter con­tacted you it is prob­a­bly a good idea to change your pass­word, both for your Twit­ter account and for any other login that uses the same pass­word. It is not a dif­fi­cult mat­ter to find more logins asso­ci­ated with the same email address, espe­cially for pop­u­lar ser­vices like Google, Face­book, etc.

Wired — Twit­ter Hacked

design - web page realestate

infographic on the relative values of web page realestate

Web design firm Graphi­tas has cre­ated this fun and under­stand­able graphic to show the rel­a­tive value of dif­fer­ent areas of a web page.  Helps illus­trate some of the design deci­sions and com­pro­mises made in web­site design.  (To see the graphic nice and big click on the image to the right, then hit the zoom but­ton to enlarge)

Design with Impact Info­graphic by Graphitas

Amazon Glacier cost calculator

Recently I sug­gested using the Ama­zon Glac­ier data stor­age ser­vice for cre­at­ing an online backup of your impor­tant data.  I said the ser­vice was inex­pen­sive cost­ing me under $10 after 50 days.  Wong Liang Zan cre­ated a cal­cu­la­tor through which you can fig­ure out var­i­ous costs you might incur if you use Ama­zon Glac­ier.

To use:

  • open the calculator
  • choose a data cen­ter (Ore­gon)
  • add a backup size in Giga­bytes (200GB — this is pretty huge, or look how much of your hard drive is used)
  • enter a dura­tion in days (365?)

You can also test some sce­nar­ios like a retrieval to see how much that would cost.  Using my sam­ple num­bers the cost for the year was $24, and the retrieval would be $30 for a 24hr transfer.

Glac­ier Cost Calculator

If you haven’t read them already you can learn more about Ama­zon Glac­ier in my blog posts off site backup with Ama­zon Glac­ier and 50 days with Ama­zon Glac­ier backup.

50 days with Amazon Glacier backup

Ama­zon Glac­ier and Arq 3 com­bined allow for off-site com­puter backup solu­tion. In Novem­ber I posted about my first impres­sions back­ing up with Ama­zon Glac­ier client Arq 3 .  Nearly 2 months in it seems like a good time for an update of my con­tin­u­ing thoughts on this off-site data backup solu­tion.  You can read more about the ser­vice and my ini­tial setup of the soft­ware in my pre­vi­ous post off-site backup with Ama­zon Glac­ier .

Glac­ier is just like it sounds: S‑L-O‑W.  The process of upload­ing my ini­tial com­plete backup is still in process and has been for 50 days, almost con­tin­u­ously.  There are of course lots of fac­tors includ­ing my house­hold inter­net upload speed.  And it is a lot of data, 165GB to date accord­ing to Arq.  Although I could have sim­ply pointed Arq at my hard drive to back it all up, I chose to pick and choose what I thought was most crit­i­cal and incre­men­tally add to my backup.  Based on the time it has taken I strongly rec­om­mend this approach — get the impor­tant data backed up first!

Test­ing your backup is crit­i­cal.  I ini­ti­ated a file restora­tion of a backed up 6MB file, which Arq reported I could expect the file to be deliv­ered in 4 hrs.  The file arrived as promised within min­utes of the 4 hours.

Glac­ier being slow can­not be fairly con­sid­ered a crit­i­cism as it is adver­tised as exactly that: Glac­ier.  What Ama­zon is offer­ing is low cost data stor­age.  To date I have spent less than $10 in fees, the major­ity being upload trans­fer charges. For instance for the month of Decem­ber while pop­u­lat­ing my backup:

81.266 GB $0.81 ($0.010 per GB / month)
76,613 Requests $3.83 ($0.050 per 1,000 requests)

All-in-all I am very happy with the Arq 3 and Ama­zon Glac­ier redun­dant cat­a­strophic backup solu­tion.  I’ll con­tinue to run Time Machine as a quick access local backup.

If you missed it I encour­age you to read my first post, off-site backup with Ama­zon Glac­ier , where you will find my ini­tial impres­sions dur­ing setup and the first few days with Arq 3 . (more…)

keeping websites up-to-date

Website Updated - its like night and day

When long­time Van­cou­ver client Lori Miles of Sweet Pea Pho­tog­ra­phy called Blender to ask for some updates to her web­site, to bring it up-to-date and give her web­site a lit­tle facelift, it was prob­a­bly over­due.  Lori takes amaz­ing pho­tos and gets some high pro­file clients and media expo­sure, which needed to be show­cased. From a poten­tial clients stand­point it is impor­tant to show them what you are up to and where your work is going.  From an SEO stand­point you want your web­site to be viewed as cur­rent and deserv­ing of good results placement.

As for  the facelift Lori asked to change the web­site from it’s exist­ing ele­gant black to a crisp white.  Not as sim­ple as it sounds, but what a difference!

Sweet Pea Pho­tog­ra­phy is due from some other needed updates like tran­si­tion­ing away from Flash, but that does­n’t feel as urgent with it’s fresh new look.

visit Van­cou­ver Pho­tog­ra­pher Lori Miles, Sweet Pea Photography

update for The Emerald Coast

Emerald Coast Vancouver - Masonry and Landscaping

It’s impor­tant to keep a web­site up to date, both the con­tent and the con­struc­tion.  After adding some more pho­tos and a few new pages it was time to bring Van­cou­ver’s The Emer­ald Coast up to date with regards to web standards.

Emer­ald’s web­site was orig­i­nally based on a web­site tem­plate that fea­tured a Flash ban­ner at the time.  Com­mon prac­tice at the time to incor­po­rate some ani­ma­tion and give web­sites a lit­tle punch, Flash now was a use­abil­ity and SEO hin­drance. IPads/IPhones don’t dis­play flash items, and the con­tent is often ignored or poorly inter­preted by search engines.

Emer­ald liked the look so Blender extracted the good and reworked using mod­ern HTML design.  Next some jQuery ani­ma­tions to get back that punch and we’ll leave alone for another few years…

The Emer­ald Coast

off-site backup with Amazon Glacier

Photo via Flickr by kaet44

An off site backup of your com­puter data is VERY impor­tant.  In the case of a fire or theft there is a good pos­si­bil­ity you will lose your com­puter and any backup hard drive you keep with your com­puter.  Off site means a backup your store in a dif­fer­ent loca­tion from your computer…or ide­ally a dif­fer­ent region — hint hint Van­cou­ver clients, we are over­due for a major earthquake.

To main­tain this backup your­self you must either cre­ate one on an exter­nal hard drive and take it some­where, or use a sys­tem to main­tain a backup stored off-site updated through the inter­net.  The inter­net solu­tion is the eas­i­est once it is set up, but until recently has been pro­hib­i­tively expen­sive for a large amount of data.

Ama­zon recently intro­duced a cloud stor­age sys­tem they have branded Glac­ier.  The price is very rea­son­able, a monthly fee of 1 cent per giga­byte, about $10/terabyte. You pay based on how much you store, trans­ac­tions, and for retrieval.  An aver­age per­son could store all their data for under $10/month, a heavy user such as a pho­tog­ra­pher maybe $20 or $30.  After 2 weeks I have 10G stored at a cost of 79 cents — 9 cents for stor­age and 70 cents to put it there.

One quirk — like the name implies Glac­ier is SLOW.  To cre­ate and retrieve items from your back will take hours or days. When retriev­ing data your fees are based on your selected retrieval speed.  This ser­vice is suit­able for emer­gency backup only, not for rou­tine storage.

To use Glac­ier you will need a client or ser­vice to upload your data.  Ama­zon does not pro­vide this.

For Mac I have been test­ing Arq 3 by Haystack Soft­ware, $29.  There is a free 30 day trial so you can test it out.  Instal­la­tion and setup was pretty straight­for­ward, but tech­ni­cal.  The soft­ware helped set up a Glac­ier account. Once run­ning all I had to do was tell it which fold­ers to keep backed up.  It should mon­i­tor those and update as needed even main­tain mul­ti­ple ver­sions of files.

Some details and thoughts:

  • you pay for stor­age, access, and retrieval cal­cu­lated based on the size and num­ber of files.  Prices are rea­son­able, and you will be happy to pay the retrieval fee if ever you have to use it
  • you may have to pay your inter­net provider for more band­width depend­ing on how much is included in your inter­net pack­age — that first upload could be big
  • you will want to check and test your backup to make sure you have pro­tected what is needed and can retrieve it

More info on Ama­zon Glacier

Down­load Arq 3

UPDATE: to read how my expe­ri­ence with Ama­zon Glac­ier ans Arq 3 have been going con­tinue on to my post 50 days with Ama­zon Glac­ier backup.

(image via Flickr by kaet44)