New Look! New Features!

If you’re visiting my blog for the first time this year, you probably noticed a few changes in its appearance. Sometimes a site changes its appearance simply to provide a different look—to enhance its aesthetic appeal. It’s true that I had used the previous design for a number of years, but that’s not the reason for the changes you see today. These changes come as the result of input from the people who read my blog and took the time to comment on it.

The biggest change is one that you can’t readily see until you access my blog from a smartphone. My site now works well with devices of all sizes so that you can gain access to the information my blog provides from any location using any device. It took me a while to find a theme that I thought would preserve most of the look and feel of the original blog, but allow for this added functionality. Even though the feel is a little different, the addition of this feature is important to enough readers that I really want it to work well.

As part of making my blog easier to use, I also went for a cleaner look. The new format should work in a wider range of settings, even in bright sunlight (as well as anything works in bright sunlight). The larger type should also make it easier for people with special visual needs to see. I tested the new setup out on a number of monitors and find that it scales better than the old design too.

Part of the update also affects my web site. I wanted to provide better consistency between the two locations. Some viewers said it was a bit disconcerting to use one layout on the web site and another on the blog. My original intent had been to provide the best layout for each setting, but this method of configuring the two locations didn’t work nearly as well as I thought it would.

Of course, I always want your input because this site is specifically designed to meet your needs. I want the readers of my books to get maximum benefit from them, which means having a blog that actually meets those needs. If you see what you like or want to express concerns about issues you don’t like, please feel free to contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. As always, your input is essential to the success of my books, my blog, and my other endeavors!

During the upcoming months I do plan to make additional changes. The blog has gotten a bit unwieldy, so I plan to remove some existing content to make room for new information. I’ll also be adding more linkage between my web site and the blog so that the two work better together. Your patience during this time of transition is greatly appreciated!

 

Sending e-Mail My Way

The e-mail was emphatic and I felt bad that I had missed the original missive, but the original had no subject line and I’m leery of opening e-mail without a subject line—it could contain anything. When you send me e-mail, please be sure that it contains a subject. I need to know at the outset that you have a question about one of my books—that the e-mail is legitimate. Otherwise, it ends up in my Junk Mail folder and won’t ever see the light of day. Adding a subject doesn’t take much time and helps me organize my responses to readers. I still receive upwards of 65 e-mails every day and I answer each of them. Having a subject helps me work more efficiently and also makes it possible for me to provide you with better responses.

While we’re on the topic of e-mail, I do encourage you to write me about any book-specific issue that you encounter. It’s always my goal to provide you with the best possible reading experience. I’ll always take your e-mail seriously, answer it as fully as is possible, and provide the fastest response that I can. All this said, I won’t answer e-mails that are outside the boundaries of good social communication. For example, I won’t answer these sorts of e-mails:

  • Please don’t ask me for free consulting. I do provide paid consulting services and will provide you with a bid for consulting services should you require them.
  • Keep any e-mail you send book- or blog-specific. Yes, I’ve had some interesting off-topic conversations, but for the most part, I much prefer to provide a service to people who have purchased my books or read posts in this blog.
  • No, I won’t do your homework for you. Your homework is for your benefit, not mine.
  • I’ll ignore any e-mail that calls my parentage into question or uses inappropriate language. Yes, I understand that you’re essentially anonymous, but courtesy is for everyone, even people online.
  • I don’t perform free code reviews. If you need a code review and would like to hire me, we can discuss my rates.

I truly do try to provide a valuable service through my books, my e-mail correspondence, and this blog. All that I’m asking is that you treat these resources with the respect they deserve. Please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com if you have any questions.

 

Comments and CAPTCHA

In my Using CAPTCHA for Comments post, I described the need to use CAPTCHA to help keep spam under control. Using CAPTCHA has dramatically reduced the amount of spam the blog is receiving and provides a nicer environment everyone. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need CAPTCHA, but the spammers have other ideas. So, this is one of those situations where everyone has to pay for the misdeeds of the few and I truly am sorry I had to implement this solution.

Of course, anti-spam solutions are only good if they actually do the job. This solution does keep the spam under control and many readers have written to tell me that it works better than the CAPTCHA solutions used on other sites. I want things to be easy and workable for everyone. This solution also seems to be doing a better job of keeping the spammers at bay than other solutions I’ve tried, so it’s both easy and effective—a rare combination.

A reader mentioned yesterday that he couldn’t get the CAPTCHA I selected for the site to work. The CAPTCHA solution doesn’t want to accept the input he’s providing. What I’m trying to do at the moment is track down what is happening because I want everyone to be able to post comments as needed. If you’re having problems using the CAPTCHA on this blog, please let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

Please provide specifics on what you’re seeing to make it easier for me to hunt the problem down. If you could also let me know which OS and browser you’re using, that would be helpful. I need as much information as possible to determine whether I can fix the problem or whether I have to work with the CAPTCHA provider to fix it. I’m hoping the problem is limited to a few people and that there will be an easy fix, but I need good information to make this determination. Thanks, as always, for your help!

 

Update on Subscribing to Blog

Blog and other types of online subscriptions depend on something like RSS or Atom to tell an application, usually a browser or e-mail reader, where to find the information. My Blog supports RSS. The RSS feeds are simply a kind of document that describes content. OK, yes, they’re a little more complicated than that, but really, when you click a link for an RSS feed, you’re requesting a special kind of a document. What happens next depends on your browser and how its configured.

It’s the what happens next part that is confusing some people. My browser has a plug-in installed for Outlook. Whenever I click on an RSS link in my browser, the plug-in redirects the request to Outlook. A copy of Outlook opens (even if Outlook is already active) and the blog subscription information appears in Outlook. I actually see a little dialog box like the one shown here:

A dialog box showing how an RSS subscription looks in Outlook.
A Subscription Dialog in Outlook

All you do to create the subscription is click Yes. Of course, you might be using another e-mail application. Whether you can even subscribe to RSS feeds depends on the capabilities of your e-mail reader. However, even if your e-mail reader can handle RSS feeds, your browser needs to know about it before the e-mail reader will be activated in response to an RSS feed click. In some cases, the two applications simply aren’t talking to each other. Unfortunately, because there are so many conditions and so many software packages, there really isn’t any way I can tell you how to create a connection when there isn’t one. You need to talk with someone who can actually look at your machine.

You can still use your browser to review the feeds. Only one of my browsers (I have three installed) has a plug-in for Outlook installed. So, when I click on the Entries RSS link (see Subscribing to My New WordPress Blog (Reposted) for details) in Internet Explorer, I don’t see a copy of Outlook open. Instead, I see the following page describing the feed.

The Internet Explorer window containing the RSS feed for this site.
An RSS feed page in Internet Explorer.

The page contains a listing of all the current posts. Notice the yellow box. At the bottom of this box you see a Subscribe to this feed link. Click this link and you get a subscription to the feed in your browser, not in your e-mail reader. This means that you need to open your browser, rather than your e-mail reader, to see the latest posts, which is admittedly inconvenient. Even so, you can get a quick listing of the posts for all of your favorites sites using this approach.

I wish that there was an easy fix for this problem, but the fact is that if you’re seeing the browser, rather than your e-mail reader, when you try to subscribe to the blog, the problem is one of connectivity. All that I can provide is the document containing the description of the posts and where to find them. Please let me know if you have any additional questions about subscribing at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Subscribing to My New WordPress Blog (Reposted)

A number of people have reported that they’re no longer getting their feeds from the blog. So, I’ve reposted these instruction from June 27th to help out. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I want to be sure everyone who wants access, has access.

During the moving process from my previous blog software to WordPress, I lost all of the comments that people had offered in the past, along with all of the blog subscriptions. What this means is that anyone who subscribed earlier is no longer receiving the posts automatically to their inbox. Unfortunately, I can’t perform the task of recreating those subscriptions—you have to be the one to do it. With this in mind, follow these simple steps.

  1. Locate the Meta heading on the blog page.
  2. Click Entries RSS. You should see the RSS feature of your e-mail reader open. As an alternative, you could see a feed summary in your browser. In either case, you should see something new that tells you about the subscription process.
  3. Subscribe to the blog using your feed software. When working with an e-mail reader, this usually means answering Yes to a dialog box that opens asking whether you want to subscribe to the feed. When working with a browser, it usually means clicking a Subscribe to this Feed button. In both cases, the application creates a new entry for this site that will automatically update as I add content, so you receive the feeds automatically.

I don’t have access to every kind of application software out there, but I may be able to answer some specific questions about subscribing to the blog. Please let me know about any questions you have at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. It’s really important to me that you have a great experience with my blog, so never be shy about asking questions :).

 

Broken Blog Links

A number of readers have made me aware of a new (and not so exciting) problem with the blog move. It turns out that a lot of the links for other locations on my blog are broken. In fact, it appears most (or possibly all) of them are.

During the move, the software inadvertently added another blog to the beginning of the domain for the link and it also added a .aspx extension to the end of the link. So, instead of creating a link for http://blog.johnmuellerbooks.com/2014/05/16/death-of-windows-xp-part-3/, you get a link for http://blog.blog.johnmuellerbooks.com/2014/05/16/death-of-windows-xp-part-3.aspx instead. The temporary solution is to remove the extra blog. from the beginning of the link and the .aspx (including the periods) at the end of the link by editing the Address field of your browser.

Yes, I understand that it’s a pain and you shouldn’t have to do it. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience. New posts most definitely won’t have the problem, but I’ll have to work my way back through older posts to fix them. Just why the software designed to automate the process of moving the blog made this error is beyond me. It’s an example of helpful software that turned out to be not quite so helpful as it should have been.

I’ll work on fixing the links as time permits. This move was inconvenient for everyone and it appears that it isn’t quite over yet. I’m asking you to be patient for the time being. If you see a link that still doesn’t work after applying the fix mentioned in this blog post, please let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I really do want all of the links to work so you can access information as needed 😎 .

 

Commenting on Posts

I really enjoy hearing from my readers and that includes readers of this blog. The reason I like writing so much is that I enjoy helping others and interacting with people to find out what needs they might have. You have a number of ways in which to interact with this blog:

  • Use the Like feature to tell me you like a particular post and would like to see more on the same topic.
  • Create a public comment that tells me how you feel about a particular post or whether you have questions about it.
  • Send me a personal e-mail that I’ll answer as soon as is possible.

Of course, I also want my blog to be a place where people feel comfortable. That’s why I moderate your comments and why comments are only allowed for a month after a post. Spammers also frequent my blog and are always looking for interesting ways to get their content posted as a seemingly innocent remark (many are anything but). Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a comment will be accepted or not, so I’ve decided to post the rules so you know:

  • The comment must actually apply to one of my books, to the site in general, or to the post in specific.
  • You must use your name, not a business name or some other moniker.
  • A comment must be rated G, which means no swearing or untoward language.
  • There are no URLs or links allowed in a comment—I’ll remove any that I find.
  • A comment may not advertise anything.

I’ll continue moderating the blog posts to ensure everyone can feel comfortable here and use this blog the purpose it has always been intended to serve—a place to exchange thoughts and ideas, and as a means for supporting my books. As always, I do want to hear from you, but I also need to keep the spam under control. Thank you for your continued interest :).

 

Subscribing to My New WordPress Blog

During the moving process from my previous blog software to WordPress, I lost all of the comments that people had offered in the past, along with all of the blog subscriptions. What this means is that anyone who subscribed earlier is no longer receiving the posts automatically to their inbox. Unfortunately, I can’t perform the task of recreating those subscriptions—you have to be the one to do it. With this in mind, follow these simple steps.

  1. Locate the Meta heading on the blog page.
  2. Click Entries RSS. You should see the RSS feature of your e-mail reader open. As an alternative, you could see a feed summary in your browser. In either case, you should see something new that tells you about the subscription process.
  3. Subscribe to the blog using your feed software. When working with an e-mail reader, this usually means answering Yes to a dialog box that opens asking whether you want to subscribe to the feed. When working with a browser, it usually means clicking a Subscribe to this Feed button. In both cases, the application creates a new entry for this site that will automatically update as I add content, so you receive the feeds automatically.

I don’t have access to every kind of application software out there, but I may be able to answer some specific questions about subscribing to the blog. Please let me know about any questions you have at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. It’s really important to me that you have a great experience with my blog, so never be shy about asking questions :).

 

Up and Running!

Well, my new blog site is up and running finally! There are many things I’ll be discussing over the next several months. Before we go too far though, I’d like you to tell me your thoughts about the new software. Let me know your questions and concerns. I’ll be covering the method for subscribing to the blog tomorrow. Remember that all the old comments and subscriptions are gone—they simply didn’t make it from the old blog software. Please let me know what you think at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

What to Check When You Review My New Blog Setup

A number of people have written to ask specifically what to check when they look at the new blog setup. Here are the issues I’m most concerned about now as I get the configuration done:

 

  • Does the blog size well when you use your device? I’m especially concerned about how the blog looks in smartphones and tablets, but it has to look great on a PC too.
  • Is the text easy to read?
  • Does the blog size well when you make the text smaller or larger to meet your specific viewing needs?
  • Are the features working well? For example, when you perform a search or click on a tag to view related articles, are you seeing what you expected?
  • Do the colors work well for you? I’m especially interested in hearing about the highlighting on features like the calendar.
  • Are you seeing anything you didn’t think you’d see?


I’m also interested in your opinion about the new software. How does it improve on the experience you had with the old software? What do you miss about the old software? Does the blog seem to work faster or slower? Anything you can tell me about the content, appearance, or performance of the new software would be helpful. This the best time for me to make required tweaks. Please be sure to contact me with your concerns at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.