Category Archives: Webmaster

Where have I been?

It has been almost 2 months since my last post. There were a lot of things happening during that period. Mostly involved my main website, mount-kinabalu-borneo.com.

It started with my text-link-ads php script which was not parsed properly on my static html website, which was then penalized by Google. For about a month, mount-kinabalu-borneo.com was invisible from Google search engine. It hurts, but I learn a lot from it. I am not sure why it happened, but I believe that my webhosting server did someting which leads to broken php scripts on the website, which invloved all other php scripts to run the website properly.

Because of that, I forced myself to look into upgrading the website engine. Old mount-kinabalu-borneo.com was created from scratch, using WYSIWYG HTML generator, Kompozer/N|vu. All pages of the website were static. It means that I have to hand code every pages if I want to make any changes. I am not good at using CSS by the way.

After researching for few open source content management system (CMS), I end up with modx, because it is the only cms that could give me friendly URLs for each and every generated page. They have a very good website structure, similar like the old mount-kinabalu-borneo.com, and their templates were also easy to understand. WordPress and Drupal were high on the list, but was not a good candidate, as I cannot get friendly URL for their static pages with a .html at the end. I need that .html suffixes on the URL because it will be the same structure with my old website. I just don’t want the backlinks from other websites broken with a new URL structure.

During this period of time, the website got hacked. Some script kiddies managed to get through my servers and installed a virus, which leads to injection of an iframe script on each and every page of the website. Apparently the script that they injected linked my website to a website in China which spreads malicious software. Again, it hurts my website even more as Google now blocked my website with a warning!!!

Although I recovered my first page appearance on Google search engine result page, visitors cannot acces my website because Google put a warning before they enter it!

Anyway, after running an antivirus software on my server (mind you that I hosted my website on a LINUX server), they found PHP.Shell script that is malicious. It seems that the virus will not run on the server, but will run on any Windows PC which access my website, as they will automatically download themselves silently!

I also updated my modx backend engine, from 0.9.6.3 to 1.0.0.0, as I have a very high suspicion that old modx version have some secuity flaws. Only after the upgrade, the iframe script on the website is gone.

During those period of time, I emailed Exabytes (my hosting) few times, in which they could not help much. I also emailed Google few times to plead and appeal, as to not penalize my website anymore, and get it out from their sandbox.

Glad to share with you that today morning, when I got into my clinic, everything is back to normal.

Morale of the story : ALWAYS update your website and blog. Security is a very BIG issue on outdated website and blog.

Happy fasting for Muslim and never stop blogging!

Reader’s mail: My advice on a site like mount-kinabalu-borneo.com

I received an email from one of our readers. A.M. from India emailed me on how to proceed on creating a website like mount-kinabalu-borneo.com. I felt very honored to answer his questions, as I think there are numerous people around the net that could answer him better than I am…

Dear Dr Ruhaizad Daud

I happened to bump into your site after one of my friends trekked to Mt Kinabalu and I looked it up on Google.

The reason why I am writing to you is to get some advice from you. I am a keen trekker from India. In our Himalayas and elsewhere my friends and I are always trekking and climbing.

This passion is slowly forming into an idea that we can use our experience to build a website for some of the treks that we have done. We notice that getting information is difficult and getting them in one place is next to impossible. However, we have a lot of information about the various locations that we have trekked in, and we would like to make a website for at least one such location. And then see if we can carry it forward to other locations. We found your website really well made with links and information in the right places.

As an experienced person, can you give us some ideas or advice on how to go about creating the website or what not to do? We have already taken a domain name for one such trek. We were lucky and we got a dot com domain for the exact name of the trek.

I also realise that it takes quite a bit of money to make and develop websites. Apart from donations, is there any way we can earn some money to maintain the website?

Regards
A. M.
Bangalore, India

And this was my answer, (the exact email)…

Hi A,
Thank you for your nice email. I am glad that you asked me about how to start a website like mine, although there are a lot of other places that you can ask for.

Anyway, I love to share with you my personal experiences. You are where I was 3 years ago, few times after trekking Kinabalu, I found out that information on climbing the majestic mountain of Borneo were scattered around the net. There were no specific website that could teach a novice climber on how to go about climbing Kinabalu, from A to Z.

There was a voice inside my head, suggesting that I should do something to promote Kinabalu better on the net, and at the same time, monetize the website so that it can pay itself without having me to pay for the webhosting.

Honestly speaking, I learn how to and how NOT to create website from Ken Evoy’s SiteSell website creation system, SBI. Although I don’t use their services as it was a bit expensive to me during those days (I am a cheapskate), I found that their free ebooks are resourceful. Read very carefully the C-T-P-M system. It has helped me a lot…

I downloaded almost all their free ebooks, learn a little bit of HTML using Kompozer (it’s a what you see is what you get HTML generator) and learn the hard way of website creation and management (FTP, PHP, advertising, etc). Yes, I learned the hard way, as I like to keep the cost as minimal as possible. Although I spent more time learning how to make a presence on the net, it was really an exciting journey.

In the other han, if you can afford it, I suggest that you take their SBI system. It will shortened your learning curve, and could spend more time concentrating on creating a good website content. I highly recommend it.

Monetizing the website will only comes second, after you have created the best information website that you could ever create. I monetize with Google Adsense and it has become the primary income generator for the website. Google never fails to pay me every month for the past 2+ years. Affiliate is the other way of monetizing your website.

I suggest that you create a blog for your insider’s update, any upcoming issues and promotion, as it will become like an update thread for the website. The blog can be a good compliment for your website, but it will need updates from your own perspective.

Here are the links to the tools that I used:
1. SBI! http://buildit.sitesell.com/mountkin1.html (my affiliate link)
2. Kompozer, WYSIWYG HTML generator http://kompozer.net
3. Blogging platform http://wordpress.org

WordPress For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))

Good luck on your quest on the website. Drop me an email if you need any more help.

Warmest Regards,
Ruhaizad

Nuffnang and Advertlets – are they any good?

Advertlets Nuffnang

I came across those two websites while trying to expand my capabilities of my blog to generate some side income. I found Adverlets first – while surfing Redesign Malaysia website. The deal from Advertlets sounds very appealing – with “RM15k for the first 300 blogger”, it will definitely opens some Malaysian bloggers eye. I did register myself as one of the bloggers, although I don’t do it whole heartedly. Just trying to dip my toes in the water.

The registration went smoothly, and I did emailed Josh Lim directly about that RM15k that he offers. He replied within 2 days and ask me to send him a story about Advertlets before I post it on my blog. Then, I went to put on the necessary script on my blog sidebar. After the installation, I notice my WordPress backend behave strangely. It seems that when I click “Save and Continue Editing”, the Post Preview page will show like this:

Advertlets bugs?

It showed “Wrong Code for Wrong Domain”. I think it was a bug, but I don’t mind it to behave like that. I just wonder what happen when a novice blogger saw this. They might freak out.

The next bug (I think?) is that the script does not compatible with some of my WordPress Theme. The post that I wrote published itself automatically, although I just click on “Save and Continue Editing” and not the “Publish” button. However, it does not behave that way with my current theme.

The other thing that make me skeptics about Advertlets was that “Poll” version of advertisement to attract new bloggers and advertisers. I don’t know about Advertlets result, but I don’t have a good conversion/click through rate when I put my own “Poll” on my blog. Why don’t they put the classic banner type of ads instead?

Next is Nuffnang. What’s with the name? Sounds really creative for blogger-advertiser network. Maybe they follow what Google does. It took me sometime to convince myself that this is one of this blogger-advertiser network. I found Nuffnang later on after seeing some of their banner ads. I must say they have a “clickable” appealing banner ads.

So far, I did not found any technical problem with Nuffnang – yet. The banner ads that they provide suits nicely to my sidebar. The only comment is that it took ages to load. I wonder how long for the banner will load on TmNut dial-up.

Anyway, I took the chances to put both the ads on the sidebar, above and below, like the one you see —>. Lets run an experiment for exactly 1 month. Let us see the result which one of those ads give a higher conversion/click through rate.

For the brains behind both of the platform – Advertlets and Nuffnang – I would suggest that you set up a forum site for bloggers of your network. Sometimes we need direct interaction and communication rather than just blogging (like how do you deal with bugs?).

So, to answer the question: Are they any good? Only time will tell…

10 reasons why you should Blog

Blog, also known as personal 21st century diary by some, is a personal website that you can write almost anything on it, without having the headache of being a webmaster thinking about a ‘website’. I hereby list 10 reasons why you should blog (although you can list more on why you should NOT blog):

  1. It is free. You can choose among hundreds of free blog provider – from Blogger to WordPress – or even this NEW blog services from my webhosting provider – iloveblog from Exabytes.
  2. You can write anything you want, when you want, how you want it to be presented and to whom do you want to blog.
  3. You don’t have to know new alien computer language. Most of the current blog providers provides a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) platform for you to write as if you are writing on MS Word (kind of idiot proof).
  4. You can make some money (if you try hard enough and know how to).
  5. Good way to ‘kill your time’ during your non-productive hours in the office.
  6. Impress your boss by mentioning about him in your blog among your collegue.
  7. Everybody is doing it right now. Why not you?
  8. Create your own community of bloggers among your friends.
  9. It’s cool. You can let the world hear your thought.
  10. You can write in your own language. Bahasa Melayu pun boleh ma… No need to worry too much on your grammar. You won’t be scolded by your English teacher for your bad English.
  11. Oh did I say 10? The last one would be: You can delete your blog anytime if you FEELS that you do not want it anymore.

Free blog is not without limitation. If you think that you want to do more on your blog (apart from your wild ramblings about your cats and dogs), I would suggest that you get yourself a dedicated webhosting services to host your blog. For me, Exabytes is currently doing the job well on hosting this blog.

Just drop me an email if you want to feature your blog in the “Blogroll” column!

How to put your WordPress RSS feed to a HTML website

I have a HTML website about climbing Mount Kinabalu. I also have a WordPress blog, (I use it as an update and news pages) which I blog almost every other day to update the reader on Kinabalu.

My intention now is trying to highlight my recent 5 entries in the blog into my website, mount-kinabalu-borneo.com, so that there will be some “freshness” of the content on the website (means that parsing the WordPress RSS feed to fit in my HTML homepage). It will also show my visitor the latest update in the blog. Google knows the website more than the blog because I have optimized my website to be rank high in Google SERP. In other way, it is also a good way to promote the blog. For the past few weeks, I have been Googling around for the perfect script to do the job: parsing the latest 5 entries of my blog on the homepage of my website using the RSS feed that WordPress have.

RSS feed parser (PHP script) in actionThere are a lot of RSS to HTML parser around, but I could not find the perfect one to do the job, until I found Suttree, which has a small PHP script that was easily manage and can do the job quite well.

However, I found out that there is some issues with the PHP script parsing my Kinabalu Blog feed. As I have installed a Feedburner plugin for my WordPress blog, it seems that the HTML page that it creates produced a lot of gibberish characters and “artifact”. It was not parsing properly.

Until I found out that there was an update on the script that could tidy up the HTML presentation of the RSS feed on your website. t3h GeeK ZonE hacked the script politely and strip it nicely, so that it has become really puny and do the job better than the previous one. Although there is still some funny characters that you can see, but it is way better than the first one. Oh, it also could not produce the date of the post. I don’t mind that.

If you would like to see the how does the script work, please feel free to go to my homepage. The PHP script parse my WordPress RSS feed and add a nice latest 5 entries of my blog in the right sidebar. Check it out!

The installation of the script was also easy. Unzip the downloaded file, edit the rss.php file, and upload the file into your root directory of your server. Call the PHP script from your HTML page by inserting [include(“rss.php”);] in the table where you like to put the fresh new content from the blog.

Good luck!

Newsletter migration from Drupal to WordPress completed

For the past few days, I was working really hard to make sure that the “new face lift” of our newsletter is running fine. I dumped my Drupal CMS through the Fantastico package on my webhost and install a new WordPress engine to take responsibility on running the newsletter. Now, I have 2 WordPress running in the same server (this blog and the newsletter). Fantastico package can only help you on installing one WordPress copy (by default) but you can install another copy – by getting your hand a bit dirty on the installation.

After downloading the WordPress package, the installation runs fine with my second copy of WordPress in a new subdirectory /news, but I did found some glitches on the .htacess issue. I get it solved in about an hour -after referring the file with my existing .htacess copy in my /blog subdirectory. After a successful installation, the migration process of the data is easy. I just “View>Page Source” of my Drupal /newsletter page, copy the necessary text and paste it on my WordPress. It is easier and you don’t have to fiddle around with database migration. Last but not least, the link URL for the existing Newsletter (/newsletter) must be change, but changing without taking a proper precaution can end your page up at 404 corner. Luckily for me, the webhosting services have a redirect service. I redirect the old /newsletter link to /news page.

Currently, the new Newsletter works fine. You can check the new link here:

http://mount-kinabalu-borneo.com/news

In my opinion, there are a lot of advantages on using WordPress compared to Drupal. For me, they are:

  1. Easier to install and upgrade.
  2. Small php scripts file.
  3. Good support team.
  4. A lot of themes.
  5. A lot of plugins, especially Adsense plugins. Although Drupal have Adsense plugin themselves, the script administration is bloated, difficult to install and configure and I don’t think it worked with my previous newsletter.
  6. Nice back end. You can distinguish the back end and the front end of the CMS. Not like Drupal, it ‘looks’ the same. Make me confuse all the time.
  7. Easier to upload images to the post.
  8. The main thing is that I got complains from the visitors saying that they could not Register themselves through Drupal to leave comments. I have no difficulty with WordPress.
  9. WordPress just ROCKS!

Want your own WordPress website and blog? I get mine from Exabytes:

My Newsletter (with Drupal back-end) broke down…

It’s just my regular update of my website. I have been seeing Fantastico update service offering me to update my Drupal from version 4.7 to 5.1. I am not that keen initially to update it, as I have a very bad experience with similar update with Drupal before. The last time I update my Drupal, I need to reconfigure almost all my templates and themes and my Adsense module is not working. It took me another 2 days to figure it out.

This morning, I felt that it’s good to update, but I still feel ambivalent. And, to my horror, my prediction is right. My Drupal broke when I click the update button. The only thing that came out from my Newsletter directory of Mount Kinabalu Borneo.com (that is run by Drupal CMS) is the content, without any theme and css styles. Worse still, I saw 2 lines of Error Message coming up on the first page of the Newsletter. What a disappointment with Drupal! It’s the thing that every webmaster do not like to see! I did not have any problem when I update/upgrade my WordPress with Fantastico.

Drupal - Not so good CMS. Not recommended…

I was really disappointed with Drupal, as this is not my first experience. I called Exabytes network for technical support and they are still trying to fix the mess up.

So, if you are looking for CMS (content management system), don’t use Drupal, especially if you are a newbie. Get WordPress instead. It’s easier to maintain and idiot proof.

For you who have been following my Mount Kinabalu Newsletter, do not worry. If I have time, I will try to migrate all the database on my Drupal to other “less-give-headache” CMS.

PHP Form Generator for webmasters – which one is the best?

I have tested 3 prominent free/open source PHP form generator for the past few months, trying to figure out which one is the best form generator for my website. I was looking for a form generator that is easy to install, very minimal script editing, can run in my local computer through XAMPP, customizable, able to send an automatic email with the form, fairly good support and updated. It took me few weeks to try all 3 and find the best solution for my Mount Kinabalu Borneo.com reservation form.

The reason why I am looking for this solution is that the traffic to the website is increasing monthly, and most of the visitors would like us to help on their trip to Mount Kinabalu. I did try with normal email, but as there is no standard format, I sometimes have to email the same person 4 times to get the information right. It delays our reservation process with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

By having a standard form for the reservation, I am creating a system that can speed up our work. It will also be fast and and easy for the visitors. As my mentor said before, “If you work with a system, the result will be more predictable”. This “form systems” has increase my daily webmastering productivity.

I have tested 3 PHP form generator:

  1. phpformgen 2.08 by Musawir Ali
  2. Form Generator PHP by SiteHelpCenter.com
  3. PHP FormMail Generator by Xue Wen Liang

Three of the above named PHP script are FREE and probably meets the criteria that I was looking for. However, after much trial and error, I found out that there is only one that suits my taste.

phpformgen 2.08 by Musawir Ali

This script is included with my Fantastico package in my webhosting account. The installation is really easy. 2 clicks and it’s done. I was impressed. However, when I tried to create my first ever form, I found out it’s quite difficult. It is difficult to customize the variables and the size of the field. I don’t think it has enough “user guide”. You really need to try more than once to get your from presentation right. After few days of trying, you can easily get frustrated as most of the time, the result that its produce is not what you’ve expected. When you’ve finished, the form will be somewhere deep inside some sub-sub-sub directory of your phpformgen. If you are not careful on typing out the url for your visitors, it can easily get them to page 404.

The other thing that struck me was that the code has not been updated since Jan 18, 2003. It’s really long time ago. Somebody might need to improvise the script so that it’s “idiot webmaster” friendly (like me).

The only good thing about this script is that you can store your form in a database table (MySQL). For webmaster who is familiar with MySQL, it may be an advantage as you can manage your from more systematically.

Form Generator PHP by SiteHelpCenter.com

SiteHelpCenterI don’t think this script is released under GPL licence, as I could see a lot of advertisement from the hosting website all over the places (including the form that is generated). If you are very particular with “link out” from your website, then this would not be a good choice for you. The banner can easily distract your visitors to their site. Installation is easy, but the administration configuration is difficult. You have to predefine almost all the fields and variables, and it will take a lot of your time. It has a lot of things for you to figure out, and find it a little bit “annoying”. But, I must say that the user guide that comes with the script is the best – it’s in PDF form, and not just a simple README files that the others have.

I did not even make a single form with this script.

PHP FormMail Generator by Xue Wen Liang

This is the best script among the list. And, I have been using it for the past 1 month and really impress with the results. I first discovered the script as a free web service to generate forms, Free Form Maker. I use it to generate our first Mount Kinabalu reservation form. It’s idiot proof and really easy to use You just have to fill in the fields and variables in the column that it provides, click few buttons and the form is ready.

I later found out that the mail that I received from this form did not show the sender’s email in my inbox. It showed NO_REPLY as the sender for all the mail. There are senders email in the form that they filled, but it’s not possible to send an automated reply email to the sender (because of the NO_REPLY email comes from my webhosting mail server).

This script is capabale of saving the email that your visitor sent in text form, not a database form like phpformgen. You can then easily convert the file to .csv and uplaod it in OO Calc to view it. It can then be imported to your favourite email manager.

I used it for about two weeks, until I accidently found out that the script is actually an open source software/script, and hosted in Sourceforge. I was wondering around Hotscripts when I stumble upon the script. I downloaded the script, installed it in my XAMPP localhost and start working on my new version of reservation form. By using this script, I found out that the form that it generates behave slightly different from the one that I used previously.

This version of script let the sender email appear in my inbox, and the automated reply message is functioning very well. I made a form with more than 30 fields and the scripts generates it flawlessly.

Want to see the result? Check out our Mount Kinabalu Reservation form here.

Which one do you choose? html or cms?

I am going to write this post based on my experience on creating website using static html page compared to few open source cms software that are available from my webhosting provider, Exabytes. So, we might have a different opinion, but I appreciate any feedback.

  1. With N|vu, it was really comfortable generating a website without knowing any HTML. Although I still used good old tables for the website, while other webmasters prefer to use CSS, I still can get the look that I wanted for my website. Yes, it will be an advantage if I know CSS. I just want my website to look simple with easy navigation and not bloated with scripts that will delay my page views in the web browser. Compared to CMS software that I have tried (XOOPS, Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, php-nuke, Siteframe and Geeklog), it seems more complicated. Although the installation was a breeze from the web server, but as I entered the adminstrator page – I get lost. It seems easy, but it takes me more time to learn to get use to CMS compared to HTML. But, after getting used to the available CMS, I think I like Drupal.
  2. The other plus point about plain HTML and tables in N|vu is the ability for it to be configured with Google Adsense. I just dedicate a table for the ads, cut and paste the scripts and it is done! I can actually blend the ads into my content without ay difficulties. As you know, ads that are blended properly with the content will have more clicks! It was not the same for CMS. Because it is build with php backend, I have to download different plugins and modules for each and every cms that I tried. And, to get things worse, I have to do some tweaking of the scripts and templates. Even if I manage to put the things inside, most of the time it only broke tthe settings and I could only see error message!
  3. Designs. You can design your website as you like. There are a lot of free and open source html templates available in the net. However, with CMS, most of the time you have to choose the templates that is available. To make our own design? You have to know how to write code and programming. I do not like most of the templates available. I looks cluttered.

That is my opinion. What’s yours?

Want a FREE WYSIWYG HTML Generator?

I am not a Linux geek. I am not a programmer. I am not even a person who have a background in computer. When I got my laptop 3 years ago, I could not help but learning a lot of new things from the internet. It was not until 6 months back when I decided to go online. And, to go online, you have to have your own website.

I started to look for a suitable piece of software that could generate a professional looking website with only a fraction of a cost. As I live in Malaysia, pirated copies of Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive and Microsoft Frontpage is easily available from any ‘pasar malam’ (night market) around KK. I bought it for only RM5 per cd. I installed in my Acer laptop without any problem. However, when I tried to use it – I felt it was very, very difficult. I don’t know about you, but it only make me quite dissappointed. I went to bookshops around KK, with the intention to get some books on ‘howto for idiot like me’, but I notice that the book is more expensive than the pirated cd!

I did some Googling again, and found few pieces of ‘website generator’, ‘website maker’, ‘HTML Generator’, ‘website creator’ and ‘webpage maker’. I found that most of the software have limitations – its either shareware (that means you have to pay for the licence, and you are in a trial period for few days) or the software is not as ‘what you expected’.

During my search, I notice a word WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML generator. It was showed on few of the software – including Nvu. I search more. I was delighted to know that it is an open source software (OSS), multi-OS compatible – it can run in Windows, Linux and Mac, it’s FREE and will not draining my laptop source because of the size. I downloaded it. For Windows it comes with binary .exe package and for my Xandros I installed it from Xandros network. I never look back since then.Oh, I realize that I have a pirated copy of Dreamweaver in my HD. As I am going to be a good Malaysian, I uninstalled it. It’s illegal. Don’t do like me. Find open source software for your software solution. You might like it.

It was not a rosy walk with Nvu initially. The installation is easy, but when I run it, I could only see a blank page. Tried with the help – but it did not help me much. I did some googling again. I finally found Chris’s website on howto for Nvu beginners. What a relieve. I followed his five days course on creating my first website. It was really easy. My initail website did not look like a website at all. I did not have a theme for it. I tried to create a website for Sabah Clinic (my clinic), but it looks really ugly. I did found some templates for Nvu, but it’s full with red dotted line (I realize that it’s only a guideline for tables on my site – later). I was happy, but still not satisfied.

I found SBI! shortly after that. With some determination in my heart, I downloaded it. After reading it for two weeks, and some ideas on what should be put in a monetizing website, I turn back to Nvu and implemented what I’ve learn from SBI!. It is a lot easier. It took me another two weeks for me to be nearly satisfied with the result. I google again. I found out another help website for Nvu from WebBriefcase. And suddenly my website is nearly complete.

[eminimall]

CSS! I realize that I need CSS. CSS is a short form for cascading stylesheet. It means that the design of the site and the content of the site is written separately. It was then read by the web browser, and you can see the result of the website with css. When I made the website, I only use the good old tables. By using tables, the design and the content of the site is written together.

I did tried to learn CSS, but the resources and information about CSS was not as good as Nvu itself. Very difficult to understand. It took my precious time concentrating on my website content. Sadly, I have to withold CSS and continue with tables. It might be primitive for some web designer, but as long as it works and it works fine, I am quite happy with it.Back to Nvu. 1 month after I create my first ever website with Nvu and SBI!, I choose Exabytes for my webhost. Why not I choose SBI! to host it? Simply because it was expensive and my Malaysian credit card could not do the transaction to Canada (where SBI! is). I nearly spend RM1250 for my website if I choose SBI!. But, with Exabytes, I only pay RM300 per year. I did save money, but I need to work hard on building my website alone as Exabytes did not give support for building a website, compared to SBI!, where they have a good support and help on building a website.

Two months after having the site, I applied for Google Adsense. The application was approved in exactly 3 days. Knowing that I use table in Nvu for my website, it was very easy for me to blend the ads inside the content. The final result – a website dedicated for Mount Kinabalu climbers, full with info that you will not get anywhere from the internet. And the rest was history…