Uservoice and Harvest online tools

Everything’s going to end up being a website. HTML was a little old fashioned, DIV, P, H1, SPAN etc are great, but were getting misused and abused.

Then HTML5 arrived and brought back up in the shape of HEADER, ARTICLE, VIDEO and CANVAS.

CSS stepped up to destroy the abuse of PNGs and Javascript is taking over from back end servers, and taking over back end servers directly with things like Node, as well as just getting better for front end stuff – JSON.parse() and JSON.stringify() are amazing.

So with websites getting better and more capable, it makes sense that people will stop using desktop software as much.

2 websites I’ve been using a lot recently, which are wonderful and make my life much easier are UserVoice.com and Harvestapp.com.

Both of these utilities are lovely examples of websites, showing great design and usability, as well as being incredibly useful.

They both have a free trial, and Uservoice has a free tier, but to get the most out of them you’ll probably want to upgrade to at least the bottom tier.

They both handle multiple users so if you work in teams you can divvy the bugs up in Uservoice and keep track of the different members of the team in Harvest.

Here’s a bit more info on each tool.

Uservoice

Uservoice allows you to set up a feedback and support ticket site, so you can keep track of bug reports and feature suggestions for your site. Users can add them and they get logged in a neat control panel for you to look at, reply to, add notes to and send responses back to your users.

You can get email notifications, users can get in touch via the website, a Javascript widget on your site, or using an email address, which you can mask to something like support@yoursite.com.

It makes it much easier to keep track of bugs, problems, feature requests and also gives you a nice way of receiving feedback from your users.

http://www.uservoice.com/

Harvest

Harvest makes it very easy to keep track of hours when working on multiple jobs. You can categorize your tasks by projects and clients, add hourly rates and expenses, and use all this info to generate estimates and invoices, which can be turned into PDFs and sent to your clients and contacts stored in your profile.

I’ve been using it constantly for the last 2 weeks, I can’t see how I managed before it. Well actually I didn’t, I really struggled to keep track of what I was working on but not any more!

http://www.getharvest.com/

CSS after/content

I learnt some mega useful CSS today, which I feel like I should have known already.

I found this out from a Treehouse video, talking about print styles sheets. Treehouse is an excellent website full of useful and well produced video tutorials covering a wide range of development, design and computing topics, including Graphic Design, HTML, iOS Coding, Ruby and lots, lots more.

The particular video I was watching was about best practices in print style sheets for websites. Using the combination of the :after psuedo-element and content property, you can get your stylesheet to show the full URL of a link when printing out a document.

So taking the following link, which will just appear like this: Best site ever


Best site ever

… you can then apply CSS like the following to produce this:


a:after {
content: "
" attr(href);
}

Best site ever

http://skeater.co.uk

There’s also the “before” psuedo-element, which obviously does similar things to after.

THE ORIGINAL SKEATERMEDIA!

Seriously, I thought this was long gone!

http://www.geocities.ws/skeatermedia/

I was googling “skeatermedia” and “skeater” to see which one did better for me, and that old geocities site came up!

It’s mad. Also it has a picture of my 15 year old bottom on their. Does that make it porn?

Good times. I haven’t read through it all, it may be very offensive in places. If it is, please, do let me know.

Railo and MySQL column alias

This seems like a very odd situation, but Railo has stopped supporting column aliases by default – well it’s the JDBC database driver I think… I’m not too good at all this back end java/database stuff.

But basically it all worked fine, now I’ve upgraded Railo, and things like this will throw an error.

SELECT col1 AS colOne FROM table

I don’t see why, this is such a common thing to do… Anyway, some one else has had the exact same problem not that long ago, and Google very kindly found me their blog post so I could fix it.

You just have to set “Alias Handling” to “true” for your datasources in the Railo Server Administrator. Then every thing works fine again.

I think the point of it is something to do with being able to grab the true column name and get hold of better metadata, but at the moment that’s no use to me!

I really hope Adobe don’t start doing this with Coldfusion!

Credit has to go to Anuj Gakhar for this fix: http://www.anujgakhar.com/2012/01/11/railo-mysql-and-column-aliases/

Cassetteboy

Front man Tom Riley, of famous band http://tomriley.net, gave me the gift of cassetteboy today. Well he at least pointed out his website to me after we watched one of his videos at lunch.

Cassetteboy (who is actually 2 people I believe) have made some albums, which I’ve not listened to, but have been played on Adam and Joe’s BBC 6 Music show, but they’ve also made some very funny mash-up style videos of various TV shows, in a Chris Morris/Armando Ianucci/Time Trumpet kind of way.

Check out his/their website here: http://cassetteboy.wordpress.com/
And more importantly, their/his youtube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/cassetteboy

Adobe download links, without logging in

I’m a big Adobe fan, I use a lot of their software.
But if you want to download anything, you have to log in. If you don’t have a log in, then you have to register.

Now as I like to support software manufacturers, I usually allow a few minutes faff just to download something. As long as I don’t have to do it every time.

So I wanted to download Coldfusion Builder 2. I logged into the Adobe site and found the download link. But apparently they hadn’t yet horded enough of my company information.

As I was logging in as Willshaw Media I filled in all the company information I had… mainly just that I am one person who makes websites.
I also had to fill in my address and other rubbish.

Anyway, I filled in the form, submitted it and it failed.
I’d missed out a user name. So I filled that in, submitted it and it failed.

WTF mate! That’s 2 already. Turns out on the second submission the “Tick this box to confirm some nonsense” box had become unticked.

So I ticked it again, submitted it, and if failed.

SERIOUSLY! 3 fucking times already! So I was angry. The error message just said “Please correct the following problems: an error has occoured”.

Oh. Good problem. An “error”. No shit sherlock.

I think I tried to submit the form 8 times. I persisted for so long because I’ve download Adobe software many times in the past. But I just got sick of it this time.

So I Googled “coldfusion builder direct download” and boom, I found this little gem.

http://technolux.blogspot.com/2011/02/adobe-direct-download-links-less-akamai.html

A link to download every Adobe product, no registration.
THis isn’t piracy, this is just to download the demo installers. Just the stuff Adobe give away for free anyway. You just don’t have to submit crappy forms first! Woohoo!

Also, I emailed the guy that runs that blog to say thanks and he replied back, he’s saying he’s in the process of updating the list right now, all for free. What a nice guy. Double bonus to use the site!

One quick disclaimer… I haven’t checked that there are actually links to EVERY adobe product, but there sure are alot, and they work fine!

CSS3 box-sizing! Why didn’t anyone tell me!

When something website development based annoys me, I usually just write some sort of hack or fix for it, and do that over and over again until I really get sick of it before I come up with a proper solution.

That point in time arrived today, with respect to the issue of setting a single width to all inputs and textareas in a form, and watching the browser render them all with different widths! It happens and it’s stupid.

“What in shitting crikey are you talking about?!” you may be shouting at the screen. Well I’ll show you, check dis code:

Some css setting input and text area widths, stacked using block labels


label {display:block;margin:1em}
input, textarea {
width:100%;
}

A simple form with a text input, submit button and textarea

This is a text area

I’ve added the red line in to show you, the form elements don’t line up.

This situation can only be described as a shitting bastard

In the past, I’ve just done stupid things like set the submit button to 100% and the text area to 95% and the text input to 98% or used 3 different exact pixel widths. I’ve been a moron about it but it’s got me through.

I got sick of doing that today… so I just googled the problem and almost immediately found the answer.

box-sizing

This is a new CSS3 rule, but it works on IE8+, and recent versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. It’s a good rule, and anyone using IE7 and IE6, shouldn’t be. And you’ll get wonky forms.

But good people, will see nice neat form edges! AND THAT MATTERS TO ME! Look, by changing the CSS slightly:


label {display:block;margin:1em}
input, textarea {
width:100%;
-webkit-box-sizing: border-box; /* Safari/Chrome, other WebKit */
-moz-box-sizing: border-box; /* Firefox, other Gecko */
box-sizing: border-box; /* Opera/IE 8+ */
}

Holy muntpants batman it works! Look at the lovely neat lined up inputs! Yes, the button is maybe a pixel off, but you can’t really see that without that red line there.

Ok, ok there is some vendor specific guff in there, but to be honest that might have gone by now… I stole that code from a year old blog post. Oh and it really does work on IE8.

So I’ve learnt a couple of lessons from this experience.

  1. If somethings naff, try to fix it straight away instead of hacking around it for years
  2. Read more release notes… this CSS3 property has been around for ages

So there you have it, CSS3 box-sizing. Wonderful.

You can have a play here using jsFiddle, which is a wonderful site: box-sizing test

I should also give credit to the guy’s blog post that I found this on and also the official W3C documentation on it

Chrome beats Firefox hands down

I’ve been using Chrome as my main browser for a while now, but I’ve always had to nip in and out of Firefox to use Firebug.

I don’t really like Opera’s dragon fly, some say it’s great but it’s too different for me to bother learning. The web tools in Safari and Chrome have some good features, but don’t (well didn’t) beat Firebug. And IE… Well, it’s IE. so it is just worse all round. So much worse.


Chrome has had a
pretty big update now though and they’ve added some cool features to the developer tools that make it more on a par with Firebug.

It’s much easier to edit styles on an element in the page, FB was always good at this and Chrome made it into an awkward and annoying hassle, but that’s been fixed.
They’ve also introduced box model highlighting on the page, that activates when you inspect an element in the DOM browser. It also shows the pixel size whilst highlighting the element. I would say this feature beats FB’s equivalent.


The Chrome toolbar also features tue Javascript debugger, like FB again, and they are almost the same in functionality but Chrome seems to just have a few more features, like “contiune to here” which FB doesn’t seem to have.


I still think the UI in Chrome is better than Firefox, it’s cleaner and easier to customize, and Firefox is slow and clunky, even without plug ins. Firefox needs lots of plugins to make it useful, Chrome has more features built in. These extra plugins in Firefox slow it down far too much, and without them it’s nomise – Firebug is one of these plugins.


Chrome Apps are nice too, although alot of them are pointless, silly and rubbish… You can get Angry Birds as a Chrome App, now that’s awesome.


Finally, to make Chrome completly amazing I did have to add a few of plugins for it. One was awesome screenshot, which is a really easy way to take screen shots of pages you’re on and save them as files or upload them to certain web services. Another one is the evernote app, which lets me “clip” web pages and text to my evernote account, and finally I installed Speed Dial 2 which replaces the Chrome Home screen.

The Chrome homescreen is pretty bad, and Google keep updating it and changing the way I’ve got ot set up. Speed Dial 2 lets you add links to your favourite web pages and apps, add a link while you’re browsing the site, rearrange the links on your home screen, change the picture for the link or let you use the view from the web page, as well as many many other things. It really is very useful.

Anyway, I’ve always loved Chrome and now I love it even more.

Those wonderful apps/plugins I was talking about are

Mmmm graze box

Long ago someone recommended I tried a Graze Box, as I like to snack a lot at my desk.

I had a look at it, and it was all nuts and rubbish, so I just kept buying lots of biscuits.

Recently, I had a look again at the site and they’ve added lots of chocolate to the menu, including some tasty flap jacks. There’s lots of other cool stuff too like herby breads with tomato dips, the component ingredients of many nice things, tasty oriental snacks, it’s all much better now.

So I’m buying one a week at the moment. I haven’t paid full price for one in a while, Graze seem to have lots of deals to make each box cheaper for me, which is pretty good.

One of those deals, is that I get a quid off a box everytime someone else signs up with the following link: http://www.graze.com/p/H1ZNPFQ.

So you should sign up, get your snacks delivered to work, feel healthy and good about it (it’s all very recyclable and green) and save me a pound a week!

They also have a pretty decent website, and they seem to have lots of jobs on offer too.

FullContact.com – The Stalkers API

So that title might be a little harsh, but let me explain why that keeps jumping into my head.

This morning I was reading about an API (which for any non techie types is just a service that returns some data to programmers) available that returns as much possible information as can be found on the internet based on a persons email address.

So if I put in mine, it just returns the Gravatar I use for the comments here. If I put in my Willshaw Media email, it gives back the Twitter account picture and username. So neither of those return much data. Also it told me I’m a female living in Arizona. So not always accurate.

But I’ve tried it with a few other email address, and some of the results are quite impressive. Depending on how you’ve set yourself up on the internet, if you’ve used the same email address and made it public, it can find twitter, facebook, lastfm, myspace profiles, associated images, homepages, your sex, full name, address, phone number etc.

It all depends on how public you’ve been, but if you’ve been a bit lax here and there, then this site pulls it all together and makes it really easy to get hold of a lot of information. So that’s why it scares me a little.

The thing is though this information is all publicly available already, and Google does a pretty good job with it’s results page of piecing together bits of information just based on a persons name. I had 6 people over for dinner the other night, and I went around the table, Googled there names and read out various bits of info on them, addresses, flat mates, previous occupants of their homes, phone numbers and job titles. The best one was a very vulgar and rude definition of a friend on UrbanDictionary.com

So I suppose it’s not really scary, yet, but the thought of services out there that just make it so free and easy to get hold of consolidated data about people and there lives seems weird to me.

But with the internet, that’s just going to become more and more prominent. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m now immersed in a world of free range information, that I can’t keep control of even if it is about me.

Anyway, it’s quite a cool service, FullContact.com, and I could see it being useful by helping to integrate the back end of a website with others, making life easier for the user by having data pre-populated and stored, so you don’t have to log in again or retype information out on every site you go to.

You can test out the service, I think your first 1000 requests are free, then you have to start paying.

The data get sent back as JSON, XML or HTML, and the HTML creates a nice little profile box with links to all the websites it’s managed to find data on.

Anyway, it’s getting bloody late and I’m probably not making much sense, so I’ll go now.