Top 5 MusicReviewZone.com Articles From March


April 8th, 2008

Every month from now on I am going to post the best articles from MusicReviewZone.com so that all the technology folks out there can take some time out from their relentless prototype, test, prototype lives and let some music into their brains.

The site is now 3 months old and got its first subscriber today! Yeh!

So here we have it – the Top 5 articles from MusicReviewZone.com for March :

  1. Gene Simmons Tells It Like It Is
  2. Winehouse’s Dad Plays Guilt Game
  3. Uh-Oh! Pete Doherty Is To Make An Anti-Drug Documentary…
  4. Hells Angels Couldn’t Kill Mick Jagger…
  5. Richie Sambora Arrested

Now this may seem like shameless plugging of an asset I own – and well – it is, but if I can’t support my own sites – then who else will?

MusicReviewZone.com is starting to have some Sitematch ads from Google being served – which is a good indication that the music market is a good one to get into. With the ongoing revolution in the industry at the moment, there will be an increasing need to advertise new albums, singles and downloadable material by bands needing to get a foothold and fan base away from the cosy arms of the record companies.

Most current music magazines and newpaper websites report the news. Straight – with no angles or personality. A more opinioned piece is what Music Review Zone offers.

Have you dropped by? What do you think?

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Working full time and creating an online business…


March 19th, 2008
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Are you one of the people who is trying desperately to outgrow your corporate shackles and run your own business? Are you trying to do this by doing both at the same time?

If so – then you are just like me. If you are in this situation – you’ll find that it is extremely difficult to get enough time to do all the things you want or need to do between getting home from work and getting into bed – exhausted.

How do you manage your time? How do you manage your friends, family and significant other?

Starting a business is as difficult as you make it and having a full time job while developing a business on the side is possibly one of the most difficult ways you can approach it. Your own situation essentially dictates the choices you have. I personnally have been saving to get married for a long time (getting married is expensive these days ;-) ) and therefore have no option but to continue working a full-time job.

I cannot leave my job cold turkey and wait for the business to start generating enough revenue to cover day to day costs as people want to eat when they arrive at your wedding reception and the hotel doesnt do credit.

Other situations you could be facing include :

  • children (they gotta eat)
  • mortgage payments
  • car payments
  • anything else that requires money

These are the sorts of things that require a full time steady income.

Are you in this situation? If so – please take the time to explain how you manage to invest enough time in your fledgling upstart…

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MusicReviewZone.com – Something Fresh and New


March 17th, 2008
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MusicReviewZone.comI silently launched MusicReviewZone.com in January 2008 and have been nuturing it for the past few months. While working on the design of the site and a plugin for featured content, I pushed the site live with the default WordPress theme in order for the search engines to pick it up.

Not long past before people started dropping in. I was surprised. The traffic has been steadily increasing month on month and I have really started to begin marketing it. When I say marketing – I don’t mean with money. More so with time. Although the more time it takes to do this the more I appreciate the statement “Time is money”. Spending time on sites like technorati, digg, reddit, entrecard and stumbleupon to build a profile is quite exhausting and I am beginning to understand why people take shortcuts and cheat the system a little. Thats a whole other story.

I completed the template and plugin at the start of February and have many ideas to take the site forward. Creating news articles and album reviews is really the easy part of the site. It is also the most time consuming.

So the crossroads is met. Do I just continue creating content and wait for the community to grow or do I scale back some of the content creation to focus on the monetisation aspects of the site for when the traffic comes.

Ultimately I want to do the latter but I cannot afford for the sites content to suffer – which leaves me with only one option. Outsource the content creation. This is something I am not fond of. I don’t like the idea of having to pay someone for something that is so simple and even then – will they create content that is passionate and targeted?

If I had my way I’d give up my full time job to concentrate on this but payments for a roof over my head, my car and the urges I have to eat tend to prevent going from well paid to nothing.

What to do? What to do?

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Amazon Are Overcharging For The Xbox 360…


March 17th, 2008
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I spotted an amazing deal on Amazon the other day (see the image below). After announcements that the xbox 360 had just undergone a price drop, I thought I’d check out what they current retail for. I was shocked when I noticed that Amazon is charging £50 MORE that the RRP – and trying to make it look like a good deal.

I am sure this is a typo – but I thought it was funny. Normally these typo’s reflect a lower price than what it should be and are fantastic deals. This one aims to rip you off. It’d be interesting to find out if anyone actually purchased the 360 at £249.99 and if they did – would Amazon refund the difference after discovering they were overcharging.

I know they would be quick to cancel a deal where they were undercharging.  :-)

Amazon

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The Economics Of Google Adsense…


March 14th, 2008
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The current financial market situation is putting people out of their homes and jobs at an alarming rate. America plunging head first into a recession has obvious ramifications not just for its own economical situation but also for most other countries around the world that trade with it.

When the gold standard, a measurment of a country’s currency, was abandoned around 1931-33 money has been printed on the promise of redemption by the government producing it. The value of the currency then depends heavily on the financial market conditions between countries.

As America has lead the rest of the world up the garden path like bleeting sheep, following their shepard, most currencies and economies are harshly affected by how the master is run. The value of the dollar has plummeted dramatically over the last 6-12 months. This means that countries selling lots to America have to up their prices in order to keep their profit margins. These price increases then feed into America and the customers have to pay more for their goods. Alas inflation goes up.

I could talk about China and how they aim to prevent this by artificially forcing their currency to be a specific price to in effect export their inflation to other countries – but that is beyond the scope of the post.

Adsense

So what does all this mean? For American’s using Google Adsense as a revenue stream – not an awful lot. A dollar is a dollar. To members of other countries with different currencies – this is not so much of a good thing. The value of Google Ads decreases dramatically when the dollar is low against the reflective currency.

I am in the UK and therefore pay for things in Pounds Sterling(GBP). The current conversion rate of dollars to GBP is :

    1 Dollar    =   0.495420 pounds

So if I make Adsenses $100 dollar a month payout threshold I will effective only get £49.5356. So – less than half.

So my point is – at what point do non-american web publishers decide that using any service that pays in USD’s is no longer good business?

Do Americans think that they would be able to play the currency game by going with EURO (€) paying european advertisers as the conversion back to dollars reflects a higher return?

Sure – I can hoard my adsense checks in the hope that the dollar picks up sometime soon, but who can really afford to do this?

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Ubuntu 7:10 Gutsy and Belkin USB Wireless Networking


March 11th, 2008

What a week.

I have been setting up a new development environment in the office and the one thing that is sure to always get me frustrated is properly configuring a wireless network adaptor on a linux system.

Windows XP, Mac OS X – no problems. Plug the device into the USB port and its already being configured for you. Linux on the other hand decides that it might have a working driver and automatically sets it up for you. What it doesnt seem to have is any intelligence to determine that the driver it just installed is of absolutely no use whatsoever.

But it doesnt stop there. The driver actually does let you do some things i.e Scan for Wireless networks. What it doesnt let you do is actually connect to any. Thanks for the 5 hours wasted finding this one out, Ubuntu.

So as help to anyone interested or just as a mental note I thought it pertinent to post about it.

Here is how I got it working:

Wireless USB : Belkin F5D9050B with chipset RT2671F

Ubuntu ver: Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 Server (i.e everything will be done from the command line – but Desktop users can just open a terminal and do exactly the same).

* I will make the assumption that you don’t have any internet access on the box.

First Things First

  1. Download the following rt73 driver on another machine and transfer it to a pen drive or CD or heaven forbid – a floppy disk.
  2. Next transfer the driver to your ubuntu machine. Put it in your home directory (/home/smcn for me).
  3. Untar (read: unzip) the file :
    • sudo tar -xvzf rt73-cvs-daily.tar.gz
  4. Change into the directory of the untarred driver :
    • /home/smcn/rt73-cvs-2008030817/Module

Now we are ready to get into the good stuff.

We need to compile the driver that we just downloaded. To ensure this goes smoothly you will need to install the kernel headers. Do this with the following :
sudo aptitude install build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r`
You will probably need your Ubuntu install disk for the above.

Now to compile. Move to the directory in step 4 above and type :
sudo make
This will compile the driver using the linux (kernel) headers installed previously. When you do this you may get some output at the end which says the following :
!!! WARNING: Module file much too big (>1MB)
!!! Check your kernel settings or use 'strip'

If this happens do this :
sudo strip -S rt73.ko

Now to Install the Driver
sudo make install
Great – the driver is now installed.
As mentioned previously Ubuntu tries to install a driver to use with the adapter – but this is crap. Unfortunately Ubuntu doesn’t realize this and will continue to load the same driver when you plug your device in – so we need to get rid of it and any others that Ubuntu feels might work. Do this:
sudo ifconfig wlan0 down
sudo modprobe -r rt73usb
sudo modprobe -r rt2570
sudo modprobe -r rt2500usb
sudo modprobe -r rt2x00lib

This brings down your adaptor, if it is up, and then removes any dud drivers. We now need to blacklist these drivers from ever starting again.
sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
Now append the following to the end of this file:
blacklist rt73usb
blacklist rt2570
blacklist rt2500usb
blacklist rt2x00lib
blacklist rt2x00usb

Save the file by holding CTRL and X then hit Y and return. This saves the file.

Load and Configure the Driver
This loads the driver:
sudo modprobe -v rt73
Test to ensure the driver is loaded by :
lsmod
Under ‘usbcore’ you should see something like this :
usbcore 138760 7 usb_storage,xpad,usbhid,libusual,rt73,ohci_hcd
As you can see the rt73 driver is loaded.

Now we can configure the wireless settings and start doing what people do with networks.
sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces
At the end of the file append this :

iface wlan0 inet dhcp
pre-up ifconfig wlan0 up
pre-up iwconfig wlan0 essid your_SSID
pre-up iwpriv wlan0 set AuthMode=WPAPSK
pre-up iwpriv wlan0 set WPAPSK=your_network_encryption_key
pre-up iwpriv wlan0 set EncrypType=TKIP
auto wlan0

The above configuration is for WPA TKIP wireless encryption. You should adapt this to your level of encryption.

After saving these changes (CTRL and X followed by ‘y’ and hit return) type the following:
sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart
This will restart your network card and hopefully connect you to the network.

Phew. Thats a whole lot of post.

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Do You Time Your Posts?


February 21st, 2008

As a blogger one needs to maximize their exposure as much as possible. One way that I have found a little useful is to time my posts to the times of the work day when people get a little more “internet browsing” friendly. These are times when their minds start to drift of what is needed done at work and towards what they want to do when they get home. As I work full time at the moment I know for sure that when I get into the office in the morning I’ll do a burst of work to clear things up and then around 10:30 – 11am I do a bit of surfing.  This will happen again after lunch as well. I am sure I’m not the only one that does this.

I’ve taken my own “slacker” times and tried to shift them to the American timezone i.e +5 to 7hours (I am GMT so I need to ensure that I cover the Americans in the morning) in and attempt to gain maximum exposure. People have all sorts of ways to get their news these days, whether it be through Reddit/Digg type voting sites, or RSS aggregators, or Technorati / MyBlogLog type community sites as well as browsing their favourite URLs. You can attempt to get in front of more eyes by timing your blog posts to just the right time in the day.

This post is going out at 22:40 GMT – which will effectively mean its EOD for those in America. That means this is badly timed. I could easily set WordPress to release the post at the correct time tomorrow though – but I won’t.

Do you do this with your posts? If so – do you notice any improvement in your traffic?

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Google Adsense: I Don’t Want Those Ads!


February 12th, 2008

Have you ever clicked on your website/blog that has Google Adsense Ads and had your jaw hit the ground? This happened to me today when my music based blog showed gay ads served by Google Adsense. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t know that Adsense served advertisements like this.

I kept refreshing the page, hoping that the ad was a mistake – but no…. There it was again. Refresh. Same thing. Refresh again. Same.  “Damn! How do I get rid of this?” I thought.

Well – having quickly searched the net, it seemed the best way was to get the destination URL of the ad and then add it into the competitive ad filter in Google Adsense setup. One problem with this is that it can take up to 4 hours for the ad to be blocked. :-( thats pretty poor. I added the URL to the competitive filter over an hour ago now and it is still on the site. Pretty frustrating.

It is all well and good that I have blocked this ad – but the problem comes with the ads that I don’t know are out there. I am sure many other unsuitable ads are in the wild – so how do I restrict them? I cannot sit all day refreshing my webpage to weed out the bad ones only to manually add these to Googles competitve filter.

The problem is – Google does not provide any functionality to do anything like this.

I don’t even know what keywords the Adsense ad server has scanned from my website to determine that a gay ad was the most appropriate to serve.

Do you know a way around this issue?

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Are you Interested or Entrecard?


February 7th, 2008

I started using Entrecard recently to see if the traffic would increase any towards the blog. One gripe I have read many times on various sites is that the Entrecard visits to your site are purely to drop of a card and leave.

This can have a good impact on your traffic statistics as it shows a higher number of page views and unique visitors – which seems to get advertisers all excited. For me, the person interested in having valuable people drop by with their valuable opinions – this isn’t really all that great.

When I check google analytics to determine how much traffic I receive from Entrecard, two URL’s appear:

  • entrecard.com
  • ec.createlf.com

I can understand that people wanting to drop a card or those who are interested in Advertising on my website would come from entrecard.com. The other URL, as I have determined, is purely for people who want to drop their cards as quickly as possible. It’s this traffic that is useless. I can understand why the guy at createif.com has created this app, but it is “I have fallen to the dark side” kind of functionality. If the makers of Entrecard wanted their users to just drop their cards and run from every site on the network I am sure this is something that couuld easily be arranged in an automated form. I think the idea of Entrecard is to encourage networking, while also enabling the little guys to gain valuable exposure by advertising on larger blogs. As soon as it starts to be gamed, as it is now, it starts to lose its value.

As a small blog owner, I am hoping that the advertisers see something they like and that the small amount of ads I place actually get clicked on and some interested visitors hang about.

Do you have a blog and use Entrecard to promote yourself? Let me know how its going…

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WordPress Plugin Annoyances


February 7th, 2008

Creating a plugin for wordpress can be an extremely simple task, or altogether annoying.

I’ve recently been creating a plugin for “Featured” content on a new site that I’m pushing at the moment. Basically the plugin works like this :

  • Featured Posts belong to the “Featured” Category
  • Featured content can be controlled by the plugin menu in the WordPress Admin screen (updated by Editor or Administrator)
    • This is important as you dont want to have to sift through a list of 1000 posts to see which are marked as Featured or not – Even with the filter active this can be annoying
  • The Featured content can only be “Featured” if it is part of another category.
    • i.e Lets say the purpose was for books (Fiction and Non-Fiction). The Featured section might only cater for Fiction books. So the posts would be in Featured and Fiction categories. Simple.
  • The admin area can state the total amount of Featured posts.

The plugin then provides functions to the template to output the featured content.

One issue I had was using query_posts to select the posts that were not featured but in the chosen category (Fiction). The plugin function :
query_posts('category_name=Fiction&category_name=-Featured')
…just wouldnt work. I tried many variations of the query_post command along with category_name only to discover that wordpress does not facilitate anything more than basic requirements when using category_name. So, I retreat to using ‘cat’ instead. Boo! Now I have to query the database to get the ids of the categories I want to query on first. Not exactly efficient. Not to mention using more memory with additional variables to accommodate this etc.

Any other annoyances that you have encountered?

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