SEOlogs Webmaster Tools
May 28th, 2006
SEOlogs webmaster tools is an excellent collection of online tools which are very useful for tracking the success of your sites and also for evaluating sites that are being sold.
The Backlinks Analyzer Tool is the best one I’ve seen anywhere, I’ve been stunned with some of the backlinks it managed to dig up.
The Fake Pagerank Detection tool is the first tool to run when someone is selling a website with a PR. I was amazed and somewhat horrified with the amount of unscrupulous webmasters out there, trying to make a quick buck from new sites and inflating their PR. So, this tool quickly eliminates the bad guys.
The Keyword Difficulty Check Tool is another great little tool from SEOlogs. Enter a keyword and see how much you’ll have to work to get good rankings. It’s so simple yet very powerful as it saves a lot of time while exploring new niches.
There are many other very useful tools over at SEOlogs.com, so if you have a website go check them out, you’ll need them sooner or later.
Tags: Pagerank, Keywords, Backlinks, Seologs
May 28th, 2006
Due to certain circumstances, during the past few months I’ve been dedicating a lot of my free time to the money making side of web development. Instead of developing software I focused on developing new websites, marketing them, finding good domains and smaller established websites and investing in them for the future. This whole “business” is a huge time consumer, at times quite chaotic and disorganized, but has so far been rewarding and satisfying. So, since I miss posting here, in the following months I will write about some of the interesting stuff that I’m finding and experiencing in this new area I’m exploring. I’ll touch the various webmaster tools I’m now using on a daily basis. This could be interesting, since most of the good tools in this niche are not free (they are quite pricey actually) and it is not easy to find unbiased reviews on the web. I’ll probably also touch the whole domain business area with some newbie views and opinions.
Tags: Webmaster, Webmaster Tools
Find and Run Robot - A Small, Powerful and Smart Launcher
April 19th, 2006
Find and Run Robot (FARR) is an excellent application and document launcher, a real pearl for keyboard and productivity freaks. This free software tool enables you to launch applications and open documents by simply typing their partial names into a small dialog which can be opened with a single keystroke. The program comes preconfigured to scan the contents of your Start menu and My Documents folder, but it can be configured to scan any folders of your choice.
In a nutshell, these are FARR’s main features:
- Fully keyboard based
- Smart. You just define the folders you want to be scanned, there is no need to manually setup keywords as with most other launchers.
- Adaptive. It learns from your behaviour, the keywords you use the most get a higher score and appear higher in the list.
- Incremental search, just start typing and the results start appearing, ready for you to select them.
- Built-in and user definable aliases. You can use them for grouping files, performing web searches, etc.
- Fast and small with little resource usage. Doesn’t touch your registry.
- Unobtrusive and stays out of your way until you need it.
Tags: Productivity, Application Launcher, Keyboard
January 15th, 2006
I’m always somewhat late in discovering new cool music sites. This is probably a sign of aging . Anyway, I discovered Last.fm a few days ago and it left me speechless, it’s what I was waiting for for a long time. Although the main idea is similar to Pandora’s (find out the music that you might like based on what you already like), Last.fm wraps this into a cool social aspect. It is based on a little cool app, the “Audioscrobbler” which sends information about the songs you’re listening in your player to Last.fm. This enables them to provide excellent statistics, like “The most popular Offspring’s song is Self Esteem” or “People who listen to Molotov also listen to Control Machete or Cafe Tacuba”. Now, this is really useful info since it is based on real user stats and it is just plain cool and it also really works - I discovered a few new excellent bands and found some fantastic songs of artists I already know, all in just couple of hours.
A weak point is that Audioscrobbler can’t run on my Creative Zen Nano (apparently they don’t support Creative at all) which is where I listen 90% of my music, so my stats are based only on the stuff I listen on my PC, which is not very accurate.
Last.fm also follows Web 2 trends, providing groups, tags, APIs and RSS feeds for many things such as the lately played tunes, top played artists (check my sidebar), and so on. The API and RSS are still in the works, so they are not yet perfect (the top artists are refreshed once a week). Oh, and it can stream a personalized radio station specially for you, based on the songs you listen to.
In brief, this is one of the coolest and most useful sites I’ve seen in a long time.
Tags: Last.fm, Pandora, Live 365
15 Essential Tools - “The Broobles Pack”
January 7th, 2006
Google today announced the Google Pack. It’s what Google calls “a free collection of essential software”. Although most of the software on the list is not really essential, the idea of a Google Updater isn’t that bad (reminds me of cygwin), and it might even get useful if they start allowing new applications to be added to the list.
Anyway, here is a list of desktop (Windows) applications seen as “essential” from my point of view. Note that not all of them are free, but they are well worth the price, and the free ones are well worth a donation. I will list only the tools that I use on a daily basis, more or less they run all the time. I will cover other excellent apps in another post. Apart from rich feature sets, these apps perform extremely well. I spend a lot of time in front of computers so power and speed is what I need.
1. Total Commander is the ultimate file manager, it is the most essential tool in my collection. Listing it’s features would be worthless, they are numerous. Whatever you think a file manager should have, TC has it and it does it superbly. Using it since 1996.
2. Opera is my browser of choice. In the old days Opera was the only browser that performed normally on low end boxes and it outperforms others even now when I run lean and mean machines. Firefox *is* cool and flexible, but it just doesn’t beat the speed, flexibility, user-friendliness and innovativeness of Opera. Using it since 1997.
3. PSPad is a superb free editor. Apart from using various IDEs throughout the day, I need a fast and powerful general purpose text editor and PSPad is the perfect one for anything apart from really huge files (>500MB) for which I use UltraEdit. PSPad is smart, easy and powerful.
4. KeyNote is the application I use to store all kinds of data, references, code snippets, RFCs, ideas, etc. Anything I need to store for future reference goes here.
5. Agenda At Once. OK, I know you never heard of this one, but it is the most useful PIM around. I was shopping for a descent PIM for over a year, tried every one of them and finally settled with this one. I’ve been using it for half a year now and it still amazes me how easy and intuitive it is. If you need a fast and flexible personal organizer, just get this one.
6. Great News. Although I’ve been using it for just a couple of months, it does reside on my desktops constantly, so I have to list it. GreatNews is a really superb RSS reader, a faster alternative for my previous favourite RSS Bandit.
is my email checker, a great little app that monitors my Fastmail
account (needless to say, all the mail that’s sent to me via various domains and services ends up at Fastmail).
8. Putty is my SSH window to the Unix world around. Whether it is the boxes on the LAN, my web accounts or a console view to IMAP servers, there’s always a few Putty windows open on my desktops.
9. AVG has been my anti virus software since 2002.
10. Outpost Firewall is the thick wall around my home network, protecting me since 2001.
11. Copernic Desktop Search is my desktop search engine of choice. Something just didn’t feel right with Google’s and Yahoo’s products.
12. SyncBackSE is the backup tool I use. It is the little hard worker which ensures that my data is properly synchronized and backed up.
13. Any Password is what I use for managing my passwords. To be honest, I haven’t tried others, but this one works nice for me.
14. Yankee Clipper III is my clipboard manager.
15. And the last app on this list, but not the least important one, is DigiGuide, my TV Guide
As I mentioned, these are the essential tools I use on a daily basis. Other excellent software I use often will be covered in another post.
Tags: Google Pack, Total Commander, Opera, PSPad, Outpost Firewall, Copernic, Putty, GreatNews, SyncBack
Furl vs. Spurl
December 27th, 2005
I recently made the transition from Furl to Spurl for storing online content. In case you’re new to these services, they are social bookmark managers that, apart from simply bookmarking (like del.icio.us), store full page contents on their servers, allowing for quick searches in the future. Like all other social bookmark managers they allow you to share your bookmarks and provide all sorts of RSS feeds, although they are not as flexible as del.icio.us is in this area.
Both Furl and Spurl perform their job well in the basic areas of online bookmarking with content saving:
- Cross browser compatibility. Both services have bookmarklets for adding pages which are supported across a wide variety of browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc).
- Keep a snapshot of the webpage even if the page is no longer available online.
- Search through your archive (all the content you’ve ever saved).
- Search by keywords (tags).
- Search by category.
- Search through other peoples archives (public content only).
- Share bookmarks with other users.
- Provide “Recommended Links” based on the content you bookmarked.
Furl advantages over Spurl:
- Furl allows you to export your archive. This includes the content of all the bookmarked pages (in a zip file). Spurl only allows you to export the bookmarks without the content.
- Furl has an option to set the default status of items to “private”. With Spurl, you have to explicitly set the item as private when bookmarking it.
- You can rate the pages you furl. This is a nice thing to have when browsing through your archive (you can sort by ratings).
- Cleaner interface. I think Furl is easier to use for non-techies (my wife uses it).
Spurl advantages over Furl:
- del.icio.us integration. When you add a bookmark to Spurl, it automatically gets added to your del.icio.us account (optional).
- Spurl offers an API. This is very important for the future of the service.
- Spurl offers a cool sidebar panel for IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari. This makes searching and browsing Spurl much quicker and easier.
- You can create subcategories.
Feature wise, it is quite a close match. I decided to move to Spurl due to delicious integration, the sidebar panel and the fact that since LookSmart acquired Furl over a year ago, there has been almost no improvements made to the service. Spurl feels much more open and the people behind it appear to be more dedicated to their idea than Furl guys and that’s the type of service I give my trust to.
A note on the move itself. I exported all the bookmarks from Furl and imported them into Spurl. The import took around a day (this is a security not a performance issue) and all the pages were correctly indexed. The bad thing is that my furl tags have been lost in this transition. I wish these services started using a better format for import/export which would contain some meta data.
Another player in this area is Yahoo’s MyWeb, but I’ve dismissed it since it is not elegant to use and lacks openness and some essential stuff such as categories. No, tags are not enough!
Tags: Furl, Spurl, MyWeb, del.icio.us
Moving from RSS Bandit to GreatNews
December 26th, 2005
I’ve been a great fan of RSS Bandit during the last year, but a few issues made me look for a replacement. While RSS Bandit remains a fantastic reader (synchronization is the best one out there) and one I’ll be watching closely for further releases, here are the things that I couldn’t live with:
- Performance got really, really bad. I’m subscribed to ~200 feeds, and even though I regularly purge items on high volume feeds, RSS Bandit is now taking forever to startup (load the feeds).
- Feeds get mixed up. Basically, items appear all over the place. This happens intermitently but is still very annoying when it does.
- The built in browser is extremelly slow and I got tired of having to open each web page in Opera.
- The built in browser does not support full screen view.
- New releases are not made as often as needed to keep the userbase satisfied (bug fixes, new features)
So, I had a thorough look at other RSS readers and after trying the latest versions of many of them, I settled with GreatNews. After a couple of weeks of using it in parallel with RSS Bandit, I’ve been using it exclusively for the past month. Here are the key differentiators about GreatNews:
- Really, really fast. It is backed up by a sqlite database and doesn’t use .Net
- It’s developer is putting a lot of effort into the usability of the application. Reading feeds with just clicking the Space key is a pleasure (and minimizes risks of RSI). Keyboard navigation is well thought out and works well.
- Although the built in browser is based on IE, it is fast. It also has full screen browsing.
- Out of the box support for del.icio.us and Furl. Adding other social services (such as Spurl) is a 5 second process.
- Development is very active and forum support is first class. New features are being added on a weekly basis.
- Runs on a USB drive, making synchronization a no-brainer (it does synchronize with Bloglines, but this is quite slow).
- Supports labeling. You define your own labels (RSS Bandit only supports predefined labels).
The things I miss:
Tags: RSS Bandit, GreatNews, RSS Reader
MailFeed - Read Email in Your Aggregator
December 26th, 2005
Even though RSS has picked up greatly during the past year, there is a great amount of sites that still provide email newsletters only. While going through my email, I am usually not in the “news” mode, so my news folder is full of unread mail. In order to deal with this I moved all of my newsletter subscriptions over to MailFeed, so I can scan them fastly in my RSS reader when my mind is open to all sorts of news.
MailFeed is a new service (beta of course), perfect for subscribing to newsletters or email notifications and reading them in your RSS reader. All emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org are available via RSS on http://mailfeed.org/rss2/something which you can subscribe to from any aggregator. Note that some web aggregators, such as Bloglines, offer a similar feature, but you can access these only from that specific aggregator (or a reader that can sync with them). Even better, MailFeed does not require you to register at all and you can use as many email addresses as you want, which allows you to simulate plus addressing found in regular email services.
The fact that you don’t have to subscribe to MailFeed leads to some privacy issues and you should be aware of them before starting to use the service.
Tags: MailFeed, RSS Email
Free Site Search Engine
October 31st, 2005
I’ve been looking around for a site search engine which would allow people to find stuff on my sites. The basic features I was looking for are:
- It should not take up huge resources on my servers, however, it should be relatively fast in delivering results
- I don’t require immediate indexing of new content, a one day delay is acceptable
- It should be possible to style the results so they appear as being part of my site. My sites depend on PHP and SSI for various “add-on” content (menus, etc) and it should be possible to include these on the search result page
- A big plus is if I can host it on my servers. I don’t like depending on other services
- I could live with some ads as long as they are unobtrusive
- Easy to install and configure across my sites
- It should be possible to analyze the statistics of search terms
There are a bunch of services that provide a site search engine (just google for that term). These services spider your site once in a while and store the indexed data on their servers. The result page is displayed on their servers and free accounts are always filled with ads and have limitations in the number of indexed pages allowed. A cool thing about these services is that they usually provide a page where you can view search statistics, ie. you can easily see what terms your users are searching for. The one service that seems to lead this type of services is FreeFind.
A drawback of using these services is the pain of integrating the results into the look and feel of your sites. Even though some of them do provide templates, you have to upload a copy of the non-CSS template to their servers which doesn’t provide enough flexibility. Obviously, these don’t work with my PHP and SSI bits and pieces.
The next type of search engines I considered are the ones that you install on your servers. mnoGoSearch looks like it could do the job very well, but it requires compilation on the servers. This was unacceptable for me as I can’t do this for some of my sites.
So, I started looking for another way to integrate a search engine on my sites and Google came to the rescue. I first bumped into this script which uses the Google Web API. This works nicely, but I didn’t like the fact that they have access to my Google API key and also require a link to be placed close to the search box (I don’t mind linking, but just couldn’t get it to look nice enough).
Finally, I found a great PHP wrapper for Google API. This script comes with detailed installation instructions and is extremely easy to integrate with the look and feel of a site. As long as you have a Google API key (which is free and easy to obtain) and your site is indexed by Google, this script will work like a charm and fulfills all of my requirements.
If you would like to see what the results look like, you can check it out here.
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Bringing order into the bookmark chaos - Linkagogo, Furl and Google Search History
October 1st, 2005
Until recently I had well over 1000 bookmarks which were centrally located in my online bookmark manager (Linkagogo). I had loads of items I’ve bookmarked and never accessed again, so during the last year I’ve been using Furl, Yahoo! MyWeb and del.icio.us for storing pages and tagging content. I also relied on recently introduced search histories provided by Google and Yahoo. In the past few months the variety of places I used to store information caused a small chaos and often frustration, I was getting slower in finding the information I knew I once accessed so it was time for reorganizing the process.
Having been used all of the mentioned services, I settled for the following:
- I’m now using bookmarks only for pages which I access on a regular basis
- I continue to use Linkagogo to synchronize bookmarks across browsers
- I use Furl for storing interesting pages and tagging them with keywords
- I do most of my online searching through Google, with the search history enabled
Of course, this process is complemented with numerous RSS feeds I track through my feed reader.
I now have only around 150 bookmarks. They consists strictly of links to the sites I visit on a regular basis (such as online services, forums, my websites, etc). The hierarchy is at most 2 levels deep, is very intuitive and I’m now taking full advantage of Opera’s nicknames.
I have moved all other previously bookmarked items to Furl, which is now the core component of my web usage. I save every interesting page I stumble upon and tag it if needed. The search is fast and flexible (can search through pages’ full content, keywords only, etc). Furl allows me to export bookmarks if I ever want to switch to another service, provides means to download the complete content of “my personal web file” (that’s quite cool) and provides an RSS feed of my public links. I’ve added Furl as an Opera search item (URL=http://www.furl.net/search?enc=UTF-8&search=true&showRead=all&keyword=%s), so my saved pages are just an “f whatever” away. Yes, I love shortcuts .
In case you wonder why I didn’t go for Yahoo’s MyWeb - the main reason is that it doesn’t have the exporting flexibility of Furl. Jeremy Zawodny mentions that it does offer export through an RSS feed, but we all know that that’s not what export is.
I quite liked Yahoo’s search history, but some of the things that bothered me about it is that I would often find it turned off (hence missing some of the searches). I sometimes find it difficult to navigate through their pages and they don’t always render correctly in Opera. On the other hand, Google’s search history just works and it does so unobtrusively. I rarely search through the search history, but it is good to know that all of my searches are there in case the need arises.