Archive for the ‘How To and What Is’ Category

6 Google Shortcuts to Save You Time

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Google can do more than just help you search websites. So if you can use it to save time, why not? Here are six shortcuts (aka Advanced Operators) to start you off:

1. Weather

If you want to know weather conditions for a particular city, type the word weather before the city name or zip code. For instance:

Weather San Francisco, or Weather Melbourne

2. Basic Calculator

Sometimes it is just quicker to type your query into Google than to pull out your calculator, or bring up calculator software. Use these for simple sums:

Addition: + e.g. 17 + 7

Subtraction: - e.g. 23 – 17

Division: / e.g. 23 / 17

Multiplication: * e.g. 23 * 17

Percent: % of e.g. 17% of 23

3. Measurements and Conversions

All measurements and conversions can be calculated by using the word in between various units. For instance:

Currency: – AUD, USD, EURO, GBP: e.g. 43AUD in USD

Mass – kg, lb, gram or g, tons: e.g. 25kg in lb

Numbering Systems - hex, binary, decimal, roman: e.g. LVII in decimal

Volume – gallons, liters or l, teaspoons, pints: e.g. 2 liters in pints

Time – seconds, minutes, days, years, fortnights, decades, centuries: e.g. 1 year in seconds

4. Package Tracking

Instead of going to Fedex, UPS, or USPS, you can now track your package directly through Google. Type the provider first; reference number second and Google will give you the link for your package: For instance:

Fedex 171717171717

5. Booking Flights

By typing in the departing city, followed by the arriving city, Google will offer up a choice of dates and services. For instance:

Melbourne Sydney, or, San Francisco New York.

6. Status of flights

You want to know if a flight is delayed or on time? Just type the airline name or code and a flight number to see the status of a particular flight. For instance:

Qantas 271 or United 77

For more detailed information about advanced operators, check out the Google Guide

How To Display Ads In Your WordPress Sidebar

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Update: We have published a WordPress plugin named Simple Image Link which provides a simple way to add an ad on your sidebar.  You may want to check this out.

A lot of new bloggers want to include advertising on their site, but find the idea of adding an advertisement to their sidebar daunting. If your blog runs on WordPress software, it’s a simple matter of using your text widgets to show ads. In this post, we’ll show you how.

There are a number of WordPress themes readily available that support ads, and make managing them relatively easy and pain free (at least that’s what they say). But, no doubt, you have already invested time choosing and customizing/tweaking your current theme.

Rather than change designs now, a simple approach is to use the standard WordPress Text Widget to show image ads. Once you have had experience with displaying ads, you can then decide whether it is worth changing your theme to accommodate the ads.

What is an ad?

When you sign up for ads, typically via an affiliate program, you will be provided with a username and password which will allow you to login and select the ads you wish to run on your blog.

Nearly all affiliate programs will provide the HTML code that you need to add to your blog. All you will need to do is to copy this HTML code to the clipboard and then paste it into a text widget.

If we walk through an example, you’ll see it really is that simple.

For an image based ad, the HTML will be of the form:

<a href=”…”><img src=”…” /></a>


<a href=”…”>…</a>

Is the link which takes your reader to the Web site of the product/service being advertised.

and <img src=”…” />

Is the reference to the image to be displayed, which is taken from the affiliate program’s Web site. You will not need to upload any images to your blog.

I read Raymond Chen’s blog The Old New Thing. Now Raymond has written a book based on his blog, aptly called The Old New Thing, and has an image of the book on his blog, which is linked the book’s details on Amazon.

I will use this as an example, for which the HTML code is:

<a href=” tag=tholneth-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325& creativeASIN=0321440307″><img border=”0″ src=” 0321440307.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_V33963393_.jpg” /></a>

NOTE: A few extra spaces have been added to the URL values so that they wrap nicely within this post – just so you know.

The URL has two parts. Everything up to the question mark i.e. – is the link to the book’s details on Amazon; everything after the question mark are name/value pairs which contain Raymond’s affiliate information and how to display the information about the book.

The URL to the book’s details is: tag=tholneth-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325& creativeASIN=0321440307

The URL to the image is: 0321440307.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_V33963393_.jpg

How to put an image ad into a text widget

The simplest thing to do is to display one ad per text widget.

Within the Design – Widgets section of your WordPress Dashboard, add a new Text Widget.

  • Do not enter a title for the Text Widget (the single line edit box at the top).
  • Enter the ad’s HTML code into the main edit box of the text widget.

Saving the changes, will show the following within your blog:

To center the image within the text widget

To center the image within the text widget all you need do is, within Design – Theme Editor section of your WordPress Dashboard, add the following to your theme’s style sheet.

.textwidget { text-align: center; }

The text widget will now appear with the image centered.

One disadvantage of this approach is that all text widgets will be centered. So if you are using text widgets to display something other than ads which you do not need centered, then you will need to differentiate text widgets which display ads from those which don’t display ads.

You can do this by enclosing the ad’s HTML within a DIV tag as follows:

<div class=’ad’>…</div>

So the text widget now looks like this:

Within the theme’s style sheet add the following at the end:

.ad { text-align: center; }

How to include two ads per text widget

If you want to display two ads per text widget you will most likely want to center this both horizontally and vertically.

You do this by enclosing the HTML code for the two ads within the text widget as follows:

<table class=’ad’><tr><td>…</td><td>…</td></tr></table>

Replacing … with the HTML for the 2 ads required:

The ads will appear as follows:

You can force the ads to be aligned horizontally and vertically by adding the following to your theme’s style sheet:

.ad { width: 100% }
.ad tr td { text-align: center; vertical-align: middle; }

The ads will be aligned as follows:

Google and Advertising

Google’s PageRank flows from blogs and Web sites via links. This means your PageRank benefits when you receive links from sites with a higher PageRank, and sites you link to will benefit from your PageRank.

As a result, many sneaky webmasters began buying and selling links to manipulate search rankings. In an attempt to curb this practice, Google made the decision that all paid links should be disclosed.

The ads you are running are links, and since the advertisers are paying you to have the link on your blog, you must describe the ad links as “nofollow,” this tells Google to not consider the link for the purposes of calculating its PageRank. If you don’t abide by this rule, your blog will be penalized; it may even be removed from the search results.

Adding “nofollow” to ad links

The easiest way to disclose your link is by adding the text rel=”nofollow” to the link.

So the Amazon link to Raymond Chen’s book on Amazon becomes:

<a rel=”nofollow” href=”
creativeASIN=0321440307″><img border=”0″ src=”
0321440307.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_V33963393_.jpg” /></a>

You may need to add rel=”nofollow” to any HTML code you receive via affiliate programs.

Wikipedia has more information on nofollow.

Let Your Server Update Your Copyright Year

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

2008 is now 48 days old, yet there are a number of sites which still think its 2007.

To name but a few:

Rather than include the year in the site’s footer as text, which has to be manually updated, why not use the date on your server to do the work for you.

If you use PHP on your server, like every WordPress blog does, you can replace “2007″, or even “2008″ so you are ready for next year, with the following snippet:

<?php echo date('Y'); ?>

Although this does rely on server’s date and time being correct. You can ensure that your server has the correct date and time by synchronizing your server with an Internet Time Server. The National Institute of Standards and Technology provides a number of time servers through the United States. Be sure to check the status of the time servers to help you make the best choice.

Love or hate them, Microsoft provides a list of time servers available throughout the world.

For Windows users you configure the use of an Internet Time Server within the “Internet Time” tab of the “Date and Time Properties” section of the Control Panel – just make sure that you have set the correct time zone.

Rather than exclusively copyrighting the content of your Web site or blog, wouldn’t it be better to allow people to re-use the content and give a credit in return? For businesses who wants everyone to know about their products this would be the sensible approach.

BlogWell uses a Creative Commons licensing, which allows anyone to share and remix our work, provided we receive an attribution and that any such work is licensed in a similar manner (i.e. it too can be shared and remixed by others). You can see the specific license we use in the footer – check it out.

We suggest that you should review the reason why your site contains a copyright – most times this is simply due it being present in the site template or WordPress theme. to

Sunday, January 27th, 2008


Image: AODdesign

Yes it can be done.

Forget what you have read in the forums (Why can’t I redirect my blog? and Can I redirect my blog?) and don’t bother trying to get your head around the too technical product announcement (New Feature: Domains).

We have written a step by step guide on how to redirect your established blog to your own self-hosted blog on your own domain – Redirecting a Blog (PDF 739 KB).

Why do this?

We just like WordPress – that’s all.

Update: Based on the excellent comments, we have updated the original document to include a section on setting the permalink style to that used by – thank you everyone for helping us make this better.

What is RSS?

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Really simple syndication, or RSS, also known as a type of “feed” or “aggregator” is used to list frequently updated content on a Web site, in a specific format.

Originally and mostly used for blogs, RSS is now used by major news sites like Reuters, AP, NYT, WSJ, and Wired to push out their latest news.

The content of the feed can be read by using software called an RSS or Feed reader.

Feed readers display hyperlinks, and include other metadata (information about information) that helps you decide whether they want to read more, follow a link, or move on.

Wikipedia’s list of feed aggregators is fairly up-to-date. Pick one and install it on your PC; many versions are available for free – I use JetBrains Omea.

Once you have subscribed to the news/blogs you want to read, your feed reader will regularly go out to the Web and check for new content, download any new news it finds, and store it on your machine. This is useful if you want to read your news when you are offline.

The original intent of RSS is to make information come to you (via the feed reader) instead of you going out to look for it (via the Web).

More information about RSS:

RSS Tutorial

RSS 2.0 at Harvard Law

Scripting News – Dave Winer’s Blog

If you’re interested in subscribing to any of the news feeds listed above, check out:

Reuters Feeds

Associated Press Feeds

New York Times Feeds

Wall Street Journal Feeds

Wired Feeds

If you found this post useful, please consider subscribing to my feed