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Broken Links

Companies and organisations do not pay enough attention to broken links on their site and that completely befuddles me. I will do a broken link check on random sites now and again to see if they really pay attention to these important issues, once site I visited today had hundreds of issues, I would find that personally frightening prospect to deal with.

What is a Broken Link?

Simply it is a hyperlink within your website that will no longer go to the place where you want it to go, it can be an internal or external page.  If a company is managing their website properly there should be a limited amount of these happening but unfortunately they do happen.  External links might break more often as you don’t have any control over another resource.

A broken link causes an Error 404, a list of all the http status codes can be found in many places across the web such as this one. It is very important that you set up a templated page for all your Error 404’s to be redirected to, this is usually called 404.html or can be set up differently in content management systems.  An Error 404 page will generally include useful information to easily direct to the content they are trying to find, however, you should never rely on this and must check your broken links regularly. Search online for inspiration, 404 pages can be an art form all of its own.

Broken Links Can Be Harmful, Why?

If you go to a website and a link is not working, redirects you to a 404 page, it is the most annoying thing if you are looking for information quickly.  For example:

  1. Link doesn’t work, redirected to 404 page.
  2. Try to figure out from the 404 page how to search for content you are looking for.
  3. Search for the content and then have to sift through the results to find the correct information.

By this point a user will be fed up and go elsewhere.  In other words your site will loose visitors/clients/customers and that could equate to LOST INCOME – yes, hopefully you are now scared enough to do some broken link checking.

It can harm search engine optimisation.  When Google tries to index your site it will be stopped in its track and won’t be able to go any further, meaning your site is only partially searchable by those going to search engines.

How to Deal with Broken Links?

Personally I will run a broken link checker across the site at least once a week but this depends on the size of your site.  If your content changes frequently, several times a day then you need to be a judge how often is right for your company.

So you have found broken links and now what do you do to them.  On the basic level:

  1. Has the page that the link goes to come down, if so why, maybe it needs to be reinstated.
  2. A devolved editor may have updated the content without considering the impact to other pages. It could be the case you need to find out who the subject matter expert is and check/approve new wording/linkage.
  3. Fix the broken link and of course TEST TEST TEST.  Never launch to a live site unless you have ensured the updated page/link works.

Some broken links can be very easy to deal with but others might require some research and communication with colleagues.

External broken links can be a little bit more complex.  Many a time I have linked to someone else’s profile on an organisations website, well, people leave and move on to pastures new, so a broken link occurs. That organisation will not tell you of the page coming down, you find out via a broken links report.  So, again, depending on the content on your site you may have to do some research, update the page via the content owner/subject matter expert, test and make live. You may wish to create a workflow for approving modified content in your organisation as certain people need to sign off and manage pages specific to their needs.

One option for fixing a broken link is to place a redirect, and there are different types that you may use. Go to moz.com for some practical guidance on using these.

Broken Link Tools

There are a number of tools to perform broken links testing page by page or across an entire site.  Many tools will also check for broken images.  The following are two to consider but I recommend doing your own research for software that meets your needs.

I personally use Integrity, its a one time charge, the software isn’t fancy looking but it is fantastic for my needs – I need practical not pretty.

Good luck with your Broken Links checking!

By | August 8th, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

New Domain and Spam

I recently bought a new domain from my provider and experienced something I never have before…a ton of spam.

It was interesting that within minutes of purchasing the new domain I started to receive messages, such as:

  • I can design your website
  • I can create the graphics
  • I am the only person who can drive up SEO
  • Your domain is expiring and must renew now
  • I have a business venture you must give me thousands of dollars for
  • Learn how to win over the women the Donald Trump style (yes, really)

I have quite a lot of domains and never had any experience like this. I only have one domain that is locked out from people seeing my details and I bought that within the last year.  I hear that many users of the Avada WordPress theme also get a lot of hacking attempts and spam as well.  I have heard of several issues in the past week where those who have installed a new WordPress program were hacked within 30 minutes.

Well, it got me to review the security on my website and put in more safeguards. One of the tools which I have never heard of, because I must have been on another planet, is Wordfence.  Initial installation and scans appear to have worked well so just have to see how that goes.  On some other sites I have create for clients, who have many people registering and logging in for forums and blog responses, I have put in a separate program.

The only issue I have with these programs is the speed to which WordPress runs and the amount of memory it utilises.  WordPress gets very upset if you install too many plugins plus bells and whistles.  It’s worth checking how much memory these plugins take up and review if this will be go over any limitation your hosting company has set.  If you are using WordPress for a blog or for a hobby I suspect you are going to be ok but more sophisticated websites will need to be planned out from a server perspective.

So, hopefully, after installing all this security my site will still be online tomorrow!!

By | July 31st, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part Three Purdys

One of the toughest things to find in the US is good quality chocolate and returning to Canada means I have access to higher quality products.

US “off-the-supermarket-shelf” chocolate tastes like chemicals, I suspect this is because of the vast distances it has to travel in its distribution chain and the weather conditions it has to endure, oh and of course maximises profit for the company vs producing quality products.  I was part of the “Boycott Hershey’s” campaign because the company banned UK produced Cadbury’s entering the country where it had the rights to produce its own version of the product in the US, which was inferior – I felt that all the good chocolate was disappearing from the US.

PurdysOne company I missed, and pleased to return to now we are back in Canada, is Purdys.  The company was founded in 1907 with its headquarters in Vancouver but has recently been expanding to other parts of the country, more details about its history here. They are celebrating their 110th anniversary this year.

Purdys reminds me a little bit of Thornton’s in the UK, a chain focused on quality but also selling very unique products.  For example, Purdys produces a range of Chinese New Year orientated goods that we would buy up and send to all our friends overseas. These products have become a tradition and if they stopped doing them there would probably be an outcry.  But Purdys is very clever at judging what the market wants and producing fun products, similar to the Canadian Mint who have a wild imagination in producing unique items you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world.

What does Purdys mean to me? Well, the products remind me of Belgian chocolate, the same quality and taste I would expect by walking into a chocolatier in Bruge or Brussels – not forgetting that every other shop either sells beer or chocolate over there so its very competitive.  Also, Purdys reminds me of how chocolate used to be before it became mass market, do a taste test of Purdys vs Hershey’s and you can tell there is a world of difference, no comparison really.  Also, going into a Purdys store is like visiting to your local pub, or coffee shop, often the people who work in them live locally, at least the ones I have been in, and it feels community based – I hope the company are able to keep that feel/branding and should be in their strategic plan/goals.  What an amazing job it would be to work in one of those stores, Purdys is not the tax man, and chocolate will always put smiles on people’s faces.

My favourite item in Purdys? Milk Chocolate Coffee Cremes.  They remind me of a similar product I would buy once a week in London as a treat in the late 1970s.  Can’t remember the name of the store now but it was off Piccadilly Circus. Its funny how taste brings back memories.  If you haven’t been to Purdys yet give them a try.

By | July 18th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part Two Old Dutch

This is part two of reviewing iconic Canadian companies I have missed since being out of the country for almost three years.

Next on my list is Old Dutch who produce a range of crisps, or chips as North American’s like to call them. Our go-to chips in the US were Utz Snacks but here its Old Dutch.  I don’t eat a lot of crisps but these are actually pretty good for a treat now and again, for me.

Looking into the background of the company I thought they were exclusively Canadian since I have never seen their products anywhere else but the also have a mid-western market in the United States.  More information on their history can be found on this Wikidpedia page.

We found small packets of Tomato Ketchup flavour of Old Dutch which is what I am reviewing here.

Old Dutch KetchupReview Date: 14 July 2017
Purchase Price: CDN $1.00 (two for a dollar in Dollorama)
Quantity: 40g each packet

Note I normally have their plain flavoured crisps which are awesome but these were a little different.

Characteristics and feedback:

  • Light
  • Soft crunch
  • Not filling and didn’t bloat me
  • A little bit more salt than I care for, I prefer sodium free which is always near impossible to find in North America (yes, I have boring tastes)
  • The tomato ketchup flavour was completely over-powering, it was like a huge mega-bomb of nuclear proportions going off in your mouth.  It was so much I could only eat 1/4 of the bag, which is only 10g.  The husband tried them too and agreed the flavour was “intense”.  Having said that I suspect this will please the majority rather than the minority like me.
  • We gave the 2nd bag away to a friend, actually taking to our friends in the US to see how they like them.

I will of course continue to buy the plain flavour but unlikely the tomato ketchup one.

Old Dutch on Social Media:

By | July 17th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part One Chapmans

For the three years we were away from Canada I missed certain products that you cannot obtain anywhere else or are is very hard to find.  One of those products was Chapman’s.

Chapman’s makes a huge range of products including Yogurt and Sorbet but I am reviewing their French Vanilla.  They are supposed to be the largest ice cream manufacturers in Canada.  Among its inventory of products are also gluten and peanut free ranges.  It sounds as though their standards are pretty high and I feel this is reflected in their products (and price).  French Vanilla is my favourite in their line so you know its going to be positive review.

Review Date: 15 July 2017
Purchase Price: CDN $7.99
Quantity: 2 Litres

Chapman's Ice CreamI am not a big eater of ice cream, and I only usually eat Vanilla, but Chapman’s is one of those brands that seems to be above the rest which my taste buds go into an orgy of excitement, and I am a pretty fussy/particular eater.

Characteristics of Chapman’s:

  • Creamy
  • Not too sweet
  • A light ice cream rather than dense, don’t have to use muscle to dig it out
  • Great after-taste profile
  • Not too filling, doesn’t weigh you down or make you bloated
  • Probably not for lactose intolerant clients, I do have some after-effects now and again
  • I wouldn’t want to put anything on it like chocolate chips or sauce as the product stands on its own pretty well

I tried not to look at the nutritional information on the back but decided I would be brave for this review. One serving is 1/2 cup total 160 calories and 1% sodium.  Oh, I can live with that.

I would unlikely have Chapman’s in my freezer all the time otherwise I would just keep stuffing myself with it which wouldn’t be good for my figure at all.  However, it is a great treat now and again, especially when it goes on sale as the price is beyond what I would normally pay for this type of product.

Follow Chapman’s on social media:

By | July 15th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments

Why Leave The US for Canada?

We haven’t been asked this question a lot probably because the answer is pretty obvious especially if you have been living in the US for the past two years.

Its mainly for these reasons:

  1. Healthcare. It is, quite frankly, in a pretty dire state. Health outcomes are basically linked to wealth and how much you can afford. Private companies generally have control and prices are just beyond affordable unless you are on medicaid, medicare or your employer is generous with benefits. “Obamacare” was good for America with certain things, like not discriminating against pre-existing conditions and some preventative care. However, it is still way over the top expensive with costs running into $7,000 to $10,000 a year per person. Also, healthcare companies administration is completely broken which means a huge and constant overhead dealing with problems all the time.
  2. Politics. This has been totally depressing for the past 18 months and feel as though I was living in a very unstable environment not knowing in which direction the country will go. This instability is not good for business, finance, health care, jobs, environment, discrimination, to name but a few. I noticed a rise in hate against immigrants which I am one, I was not appreciated for the diversity of skills I might bring but as another person to hate.

There are a bunch of other reasons why we left but I think pretty much the two major ones are health care and politics.

Canada is not perfect but at least it is recognizing its problems and is keen to address them. I also feel welcome here, people are non-judgemental, health care is much more accessible, and its a stable environment that I can do business in. I think its pretty poignant that we returned a couple of days before its 150th birthday, very uplifting for me all around.

Yes, Canada is home.  I am now back home.

By | July 3rd, 2017|Canada, USA|0 Comments

Snickers Crisper Review

Snickers CrisperI bought Snickers Crisper randomly in the supermarket for review purposes.  I wasn’t sure whether it was a special edition for the Easter season but notice its been on the market before, at least as far back as 2015.

The product contains two small bars of candy, look about about 1 inch square, maybe just over.  Each of those squares is about 1 or 2 bites then its gone.

Taste

I didn’t really care for it that much, maybe its because I’m not a big fan of any chocolate bar with peanuts in it, however here are my observations:

  1. There is a strong taste of peanut, not peanut butter, but of a nut I could not identify.
  2. I didn’t taste the chocolate that much, hardly at all.
  3. Inside it looked like rice krispies, but they were harder.
  4. The texture is kind of chewy but much lighter than something like nougat.

My skin felt bad after eating one of them, like the bar was zit inducing.  I also had a slightly bad stomach too.  Time for some Alka Seltzer maybe.

Value for Money

The store where I got this from cost $1.29 each, however, they did have a two for one deal on, I made most of their offer of course.  At $1.29 each bar I would say the customer is being ripped off, it is very expensive for what the chocolate bar is.

Chocolate in the US appears to be much more expensive than the UK.  A regular Snickers in the UK costs about 60p, about 75 cents, and in the US the cheapest I can find it locally is $1.49.

Summary

For the price and quality of product I would rather use that money on a small business chocolatier, Snickers Crisper tasted very mass market produced.  My score 2/10.  I won’t buy it again and the second bar I will probably give away.

I noticed that Mars are using Tumblr as its platform for Snickers products, that is quite interesting, especially as that CMS can be fairly slow on some older computers.

The last time I had a Snickers was when it was called Marathon bar in the UK.  I only had it a couple of times as it really wasn’t my thing. Here is an old advert from for Marathon from the UK:

By | April 18th, 2017|Food, USA|0 Comments

Favourite Productivity Tools

I have some favourite productivity tools that are must-have’s for my work.  There are some that I use all the time, and others which I come back to every now and again.  Following is my list, in no particular order:

SuiteCRM Community Edition

I use a CRM (Contact Relationship Management system) to keep track of my clients (accounts), contact details, my general to-do’s, bugs, projects and so on.  I use it all the time, several times a day.

I tried to use ZohoCRM which is an awesome tool but full hosting is with that company and have to pay extra for uploading documents.  I used SugarCRM which was ok but the user interface was just awful unless you pay for the full version to be able to put a skin on it.  Then I found SuiteCRM which is amazing, its based on SugarCRM, fantastic skin, can host it on my own provider, and of course free.  Couldn’t do without it and I probably don’t use it to its full potential.

Hours Tracker

I submit timesheets to clients I have service level agreements with so they can see what and when I have been working on, and if necessary associate it with an invoice.  Hours Tracker is a very simple app for both iOS and Android to a) set up clients, b) set a rate for each, c) clock in and out of each work item, and d) include a summary of action completed.  This can then be exported into a number of formats, I put it into a csv file while I can email myself from the app.

Some people might want more but this app suits me perfectly.  I use it in an iPad.

OmniGraffle

This is a diagramming tool, like Visio but for Mac, that I use for processes, swim lanes, website wireframes, and so on.  This is an application I use a lot not only at the start of a project but also in documenting a piece of work for my clients which, for me, is one of the most important things about delivering to them (you never know when I might drop dead).

I paid for the basic version which is $99, might see a lot but it was worth every penny.

TouchDraw

Like OmniGraffle this is another diagramming tool and I use it for similar things like swim lanes and website wireframes.  This is an app which I have on my iPad, I wanted a tool which I could brainstorm “on the go” such as on a bus.  This tool is idea for that.  You can export from the app in a number of formats, it is also a very powerful with many features.

At $8.99 it is worth every penny and have received free updates for quite some time now.

Netvibes

I have been using this application for years, it is a “Start Page” for your browser and I have set it up as my home page.  For me it acts as an RSS reader and also has a lot of mini modules/applications within it which can be installed and organized by tabs.  So, on my main tab I have feeds of news sites, a bookmark manager, and weather apps.  Other tabs include feeds from technology blogs or magazines, from the sites I manage and so on.  The basic version features are more than enough for me and I don’t know what I would do without this tool.  There are alternatives, such as start.me, but none compare for the features I need with Netvibes.

Trello

This is a project/team based task manager.  It is great for a small team unless you want to the paid version for larger teams, its also more “visual” which some project members like.  I have only used it for small groups.  I don’t use it that often as it misses out some important elements for me, which is the power of a full CRM with Accounts and Contacts, plus associating/uploading documents.  It is good for an “on-the-fly” app.

FogBugz

This is another application I don’t use that often but on larger projects its great for managing bugs prior to launch.  There is a free version for a very small team but can be fairly expensive for larger teams.  I have seen a lot of agencies use the tool which is where I got the recommendation from, I don’t think its for a small concern/business like mine.

iProjectViewer

I don’t know many people who actually use Microsoft Project anymore but I can’t buy a license since I only have Apple software.  So I did get this app called iProjectViewer which is a great tool to be able to view .mpp files.  Very handy every now and again.

The other “free” alternative for a Mac desktop is OpenProj which I have used for years.  Not even sure if they are updating it anymore if it works on the latest version of Microsoft Project.

Dropbox

I have Dropbox installed on every computer and device.  I don’t use it that much, just mainly to switch data from app to app to desktop in tools that don’t offer any other Cloud based service.  It is efficient, the user interface in the apps is pretty nice, and is totally suited to my needs.

Office365

These days just buying software and installing it on your computer is a thing of the past.  Like myself I want to be able to access my documents “on-the-go” where ever I am in the world and take my applications with me to amend them.  So Office365, or the Home version of it, where you can upload your documents into the Cloud (OneDrive) and amend them on the go with applications like Word and Excel that you can install on your iPad or other device is important.  Sharing documents is also an important feature for me which this tool provides.  Outlook.com links in with my online calendar so people can check out my availability times to book meetings via Timebridge.  I am not keen on OneNote which is very slow and clunky on an iPad but ok on my desktop, so I would like to see some improvements with that – I migrated away from Evernote due to the change of their price structure but don’t really miss it.

With all its tools Office365 is a bargain for me.

By | April 17th, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

Milka Oreo Chocolate Bar

My latest food review is the Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar by Milka who is owned by Mondelez International.

I believe this a new product on the market and has had some air time with adverts.  It was part of Mondelez’s strategy to put more products into the American market following its failed bid to buy Hershey’s who own the Cadbury brand here.  Actually I did search out for the product specifically and regular supermarkets did not appear to sell it, at least here in Denver, I found it in a Gas Station shop in the middle of nowhere Nevada.

Milka Oreo Chocolate Bar

I am not a fan of Oreo cookies, to me they taste like a mouth full of chalk so my expectations of this bar was low.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  There were little pieces of Oreo cookie surrounded by chocolate in bite size chunks in one bar.

The chocolate surrounding the Oreo’s took away the taste from the cookie and would never know that they are actually in there.  This masking of the flavour made it taste pretty good and quite enjoyed them.  The chocolate is much better than the something like a regular Hershey’s bar, much more milky and didn’t taste like chemicals, however, it wasn’t as good as British or Belgian chocolate.

The size of the bar is pretty small and didn’t fill me up, which meets my needs.

Would I buy it again?  Probably not.  I am not really tempted by mass market American chocolate and would rather save my money to try small business produced products.  It was interesting to try though.

By | April 15th, 2017|Food, USA|0 Comments

Healthcare Trump Gong Show

The healthcare gong show in the United States continues with the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act fails in the House of Representatives.

The Republicans have been gagging to replace “Obamacare” for years but have failed to deliver a plan until recently.  When the American Health Care Act was introduced it came under heavy criticism based on many things such as millions of people loosing coverage, coverage that seniors could not afford, the defunding of Planned Parenthood providing essential healthcare for women and much more.  Paul Ryan and Donald Trump failed to go through any sane process to put the bill together, they didn’t get any feedback or include many medical institutions involved in its creation.  Basically, it was never going to work because of the reasons above plus not thinking of patients first but the profits companies would receive through insurance expansion beyond State lines.  Also, their main aim was to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and hell with everything else.

There are a lot of advantages that the bill failed however many other disadvantages too.  The ACA is a nightmare for many, high premiums, people cannot afford cost of treatment or medications, many people still uninsured, healthcare providers pulling out of the market not only limiting choice but also putting those left under increased pressure.  Service levels under my provider Kaiser Permanente are completely abysmal, one of the worst in the world I’ve experienced, and will continue as more people go to them as one of the few ACA providers left in Colorado.

Trump has said he blames the Democrats for the bills failure due to their lack of support, however, the bill was unworkable from the beginning so its not their fault.  Trump goes on to say he would be open to suggestions from the Democrats but I think thats rubbish as the Republicans will never listen to the opposition.

This is what I strongly suggest the healthcare system in the US deliver:

  1. a public/private system;
  2. ensure insurance companies have MUCH less of a say in our health (they don’t care about people, they care about profit – its their job NOT to pay up);
  3. take wealth discrimination/class based system out of health;
  4. ensure that homophobic/racist doctors cannot practice;
  5. stop doctors profiting from pharmaceutical companies;
  6. stop hospitals refusing patients based on religion (the US is not the Middle East);
  7. stop pharmaceuticals from advertising (we need their money to go into R&D);
  8. put a cap on obscene salaries large healthcare companies can make – that $ should be invested into our care;
  9. punish doctors who over prescribe/over treat patients
  10. most importantly I want both Democrats and GOP to sort themselves out and delivery a system for ALL, its blooming 2017 already and the US is one of the most backward countries in delivering fair healthcare to its citizens.
By | March 24th, 2017|Health, USA|0 Comments