How to Design a Community Garden

It’s only been two weeks since we moved in, but I’ve already been put in charge of designing community gardens at our co-op. I have a 7k Canadian peso budget and a copy of sketchup at my disposal.

After a few iterations, I have this.

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I’ve designed the different sized beds to appeal to different levels of competence. Gardeners just starting out can take a 4×4, and experienced gardeners who grow a lot can spread out into a 12×4. In addition, the 12x4s can be split in half to accommodate more gardeners.

Culinary herbs grow in the tall planter behind the bench.  Any resident of the co-op can take herbs from here. Its psychological ulterior motive is to trick residents into signing up for plot of their own.

Image

The Solar Audit

I came up with a method to design for the sun. In food gardening, sun hours is critical. Without sun, you can’t grow anything with calories in it.

Every hour on the hour, I took pictures of the area. Here it is at 11 AM.

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And here it is at 2 PM.

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By counting hours of sunlight in various places, I know what can grow where. I only put beds in the areas with a minimum of four hours.

Unfortunately, that’s still very little sunlight to work with. With the four and a half hours of sun we get on this part of the property. We can grow Broccoli, Peas, Beets and anything that’s a leaf – kale, salad and other rabbit food.

In my opinion, most people want a garden to grow tomatoes. And for tomatoes, six hours is bare minimum, and really you need eight for adequate results.

Here’s a chart Mother Earth News came up with that lists a number of low light plants that would still work here.

Crop Shade Notes Growing Tips
Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
Chard If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day; if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough. Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens.
Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You’ll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well. The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant.
Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they’ll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you’ll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.

 

Getting Free Meat and Lard from the Safeway Butcher

I talked to all the “butchers” in my neighborhood and finally found one who will give me the pork and beef fat they cut off. Turns out the only butcher that cuts actual meat apart is Safeway. The other places are what I call “meat retailers,” they just buy pre-cut meat from the real butchers and sell it out of their refrigerated display racks.

Now this stuff is solid gold, but no one knows it, so butchers usually throw it out. I think butchers are thrilled to see someone care about it so they’ve always given it to me free. Of course I always go in with the attitude that I am happy to pay for it, and gratitude when they don’t charge me. (The “meat retailers” can order it in for 3$ a pound. Forget it!)

This is the beef fat I got from one visit yesterday, it’s over 8 pounds and will render into about a half gallon of lard. Technically it’s called “tallow” if made from beef fat, but it’s very similar. I use this for cooking to replace butter or cooking oil and my wife makes soap out of it. Rendering lard/tallow instructions here.

beef fat on the scale

As an added bonus, butchers can’t possibly get all the meat bits off the fat, so I always end up with a bunch of meat that i carefully separate from the fat. Here is all the meat left over from a much smaller batch of fat I picked up last week. I can usually salvage enough meat for one meal for two adults with a little left over.

free meat cut from beef fat

How to check Hard Drive Health

Recently I got a donated external hard drive from my brother – he knows I like to take apart old electronics. He thought the drive was dead, but as it turned out, only the electronics that interfaced between the hard drive and USB port were disfunctional. The hard drive itself booted up great once I attached it to the old hard drive USB board I featured in an older post.

testing old hard drive WD

So the hard drive works great now, but I know this hard drive was bought around 2007, so it’s already really old. If I wanted to use it for backup, I wanted to make sure it had plenty of life left.

The first and easiest thing to check is the brand name. This one is from Western Digital.

old hard drive brand and specifications on sticker

They tend to be a middle-of-the-road manufacturer, and I’ve had really good luck with them. (Seagate hard drives on the other hand, seem to ALWAYS fail eventually.) Here’s a great chart from Lifehacker on the various failure rates of different hard drive brands that EXACTLY mirrors my own experience with seagate.

hard-drive-failures

Digging Deeper into your Drive Stats

To really see what’s going on with your drive, install the free trial of a utility called HD Tune. Once it’s fired up, click the “drive health” tab. You should get a screen that looks like this:

testing drive health

The first interesting thing to note is the “odometer” on the drive. This is how many hours the drive has spend spinning. The higher the number, the shorter its remaining lifespan. Anything under 8000 means it has lots of life left (unless it’s a Seagate.) This drive has 21,000 hours on it, so it’s more likely to be on its way out.

hard drive mileage

Signs of Impending Doom

There are two entries in this table that show us the drive is getting ready for a catastrophic failure. Pending Sectors, and to a lesser degree, Reallocated Sectors.

reallocated sectors and pending sectors mean drive is failing

Ideally you want these both to be zero.  If Reallocated sectors is above zero but never continues to rise, it might be ok.

In the case of this drive, we have a very high hours count, and over 500 bad sectors. It’s not looking like a good candidate for keeping backups on. It’s a shame to not use 320gb of a still-functioning hard drive, but it can still be used for installing programs on, just not for keeping any vital data.

Dehydrator math: Pineapples

For today’s issue of dehydrating math, I did not count the weight of the core, skin or green leafy top. At least where I live, pineapples are not sold by weight but rather priced per unit. I paid 4$ Canadian for this one.

pinapple fresh

Like before, I weighed the pineapple before and after dehydrating.

pineapple with water

I accidentally set the scale to pounds, but it’s easy enough to convert to grams, 787 of them.

The pineapple filled up my entire 4-tray dehydrator to 100% capacity exactly.

pineapple dehydrated no waterDried out, the pineapple is shockingly light – 123 grams, a tiny 15% of initial fruit weight. It would be even smaller, like 8% if we also counted the rind, core and leafy green hat.

component of pineapple

Even though I intentionally did not weigh the full pineapple, I am beginning to wish I had so this data would be even more useful. Next time I promise!

 

How long will my lead acid battery last before I have to charge it again?

Someone posted this question in the Vandwellers subreddit. Here was my answer with 2 very simple formulas.

lead acid deep cycle battery

If you multiply together your amps per hour and your volts in your battery, you can find how many watts per hour are inside your battery. Let’s use this battery as an example.

35 (amp hours of this battery, unit AH in the above link) x 12 (volts of this battery) gives you 420 watt hours (wH). 2 of those batteries like you have, will give you 840 watt hours.

    35 x 12 x 2 = 840 watt hours

“Watt hours” just means that you can run 1 device that uses 840 watts, for a single hour. Or you can use 420 watts for 2 hours. Or 210 watts for 4 hours, and so on.

So lets say you are running only a 40 watt laptop. All you have to do is divide 40 into 840 to find out how many hours your laptop will last on your lead acid batteries.

    840 / 40 = 21 hours

Obviously now your deep cycle batteries are stone cold dead, which you might not want to do, but with a deep cycle battery it will not be as bad for it as it would be if you had a standard lead-acid battery.

In the example of your laptop, you will also lose some of your power in the conversion process from DC to AC and back to DC again, probably around 20% total, bringing your total run time to roughly 16.8 hours. So it’s a good idea to be conservative when estimating operating time. Every time I convert DC to AC or AC to DC, I estimate 10% power loss in the conversion process. This power loss turns into heat which is why your AC/DC converters get hot.

DEHYDRATOR MATH: Bananas

finished-dried-bananas

In this series I discuss yield in weight of dried goods vs fresh, and effective cost per pound.

Yield of Dehydrated Bananas

banana-yield-chart

Based on my real world measurements, 1 pound (454 grams) of fresh bananas purchased in the grocery store should yield 2.6 ounces (75 grams) of dried bananas.

Expressed as a percent, your bananas will shrink to 16.6% of their original size. Expressed as a fraction, 1/6.

Note that I include the peel in all of these calculations, for the simple reason that you pay for the peel at the grocery store.

Peels have a number of uses I won’t discuss at length here. They can be left on the bananas for longer and their sugars with leach into the bananas, and they can be composted.

Methodology

Four bananas were used for this measurement. Bananas were weighed three times.

Once with peels,

original-bananas-weight

Once without peels,peeled-bananas-weight

And once after drying was concluded. Bananas were dried for 15 hours and had chewy, leathery texture.

dehydrated-bananas-weight

Your final dried weight will vary slightly based on level of ripeness and final dryness.

Effective Cost of Dried Bananas

Since dried bananas are shrunk into 1/6 of their original weight, finding the effective cost of dried bananas is as simple as multiplying the price of bananas at your local grocery store by 6.

For example, if bananas cost 69 cents per pound, your effective cost of dried bananas is $4.14 per pound. You can compare this cost with the cost of dried bananas at your local supermarket.

Note: Your true cost will be slightly higher based on the wattage of your dehydrator. Lets say I dried exactly 2 pounds of bananas for 15 hours using my 500 watt dehydrator. That means I used in total 7.5 amp hours at 8 cents per amp hour for a total electricity cost of 60 cents, or 30 cents per pound. This figure can be cut in half by drying 4 pounds instead of 2, by the way.

fresh-bananas-in-dehydrator

How to Wax Canvas

Originally Posted on xraylove.com, a now defunct domain.

How to Wax Canvas

by Chris Franks

Waxed Canvas

Waxing canvas, or any fabric for that matter, adds an element of water and weather resistance to that fabric.  It also changes the behavior of that fabric, making it slightly stiffer, and will darken the fabric.  Waxed fabrics have been used in many different fields, including sailing, sports, manufacturing, military and camping.  Serving purposes ranging from transportation (sails on sailing vessels), clothing, shelter and many other utilitarian functions which require a waterproof fabric, waxed fabrics are far from being replaced by “space-age” materials.

Waxed cotton canvas is one of the more popular waxed fabrics still in use today.  Canvas is a tough, plain woven fabric with a degree of water resistance by itself.  The fibers of canvas swell and expand when wet, like the wooden hull of a boat, and close the gaps between fibers, making the construction less permeable to water.  Waxing it further improves its water resistance, making it (depending on the use and construction) waterproof.

Waxed Canvas is:

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Arguably less environmentally destructive
  • Versatile
  • Tough

I would also say that it is more resource-able than many other materials sharing similar characteristics.

Waxing Recipe

A quick browse around the net will turn up a few recipes for waxing canvas.  Many of them start off by saying “rub the block of wax onto the fabric,” which is pure non-sense.  Then, they end up saying that what you should do is go get some waterproofing solution that has god-knows-what from your hardware store.  This is bogus.

Some smart New Zealanders give some good points and recipes for waxing canvas.  Most recommend a mixture of beeswax, paraffin wax, linseed oil and turpentine.  Most big industry producers like to keep their proprietary blends a-hush, but most are paraffin based, with, I imagine, some crazy blend of thinners, chemicals, solvents and weird shit.

You can make very natural and safe waxed canvas on your own from very simple ingredients and materials.

Here’s what the different elements of a waxed canvas recipe are, what purpose they serve, what ingredients will satisfy the element, and how you can use them.

Water Proofer

  • Waxes – wax is the main waterproofing element in making a waxed fabric.  Using a recipe high in wax will produce a more waterproof, more stiff and “dry” waxed fabric.
    • Beeswax – comes from bees.  You can source this inexpensively direct from honey companies and beekeepers($).  Go local!  It can also be found at Hobby Lobby($$), Ace Hardware($$$), and online($).
  • Paraffin wax – a bi-product of petroleum.  FOOD GRADE, though.  It is commonly used in the canning process, and can be found in most local grocery stores($$), hobby lobby($), and online($).
  • Oil – adding oil to your mixture can help your mixture permeate into your fabric if you’re not using a serious heat source to meld the mixture with the fabric.  It will still have a high level of waterproof-ness, but it will make a more “wet” waxed fabric.
    • Linseed Oil – you can find this at a local hardware store.  This is, so far, the only recommended oil I can find. It’s usage goes way back to early sailing days, too.  If you use it, combine it with your melted wax.

Thinner – NOT NECESSARY

  • Turpentine – Depending on your method of emulsion into the fabric, you might try using a thinner to aid in your recipe’s permeability.  WARNING: THIS WILL MAKE YOUR FABRIC FLAMMABLE!!!!  Please be aware, if you choose to use turpentine to thin your mixture, this will increase your fabric’s flammability.  Take into consideration what you will be using your waxed canvas for, and if you will be around fire.  Waxed canvas has the one-up on most space-age materials in that it is less flammable, so using a thinner, in essence, removes this trait.

My Recommended Recipe

Go for a straight blend of wax, and nothing else.  I use:

  • 50% Beeswax, 50% Paraffin Wax in my recipe.

Application

Applying the wax finish to the fabric is accomplished by HEAT! (And a paint brush)

My recipe is optimized for usage with a modern electric clothes dryer for the heat source for emulsion into the fabric.  This produces an evenly distributed, fully emulsified dry wax canvas.  It looks totally pro, and its what I use in my XRAY LOVE creations.  It will leave a wax residue in the dryer, though, so I would recommend picking up a free or cheap dryer to dedicate to this usage.  After trying the hair dryer method and solar method, I found out (by accident) that a clothes dryer works perfectly for an ALL WAX mixture to produce a dry handed waxed canvas.

If you are using oil and/or a thinner, you’re on your own at this point, but I can make a few recommendations:

  • The more wax you use, the more waterproof your fabric will be.
  • Oil and/or thinner mixtures need less heat to emulsify the mixture into the fabric.
  • Be CAREFUL with your heat sources.  Don’t catch your shit on fire.  (Your mixture, or your fabric!)
  • A common hair dryer or heat gun will suffice as an emulsifying heat source (this is what you use to “set” your mixture into the fibers of the fabric once you’ve painted it on).  These methods don’t do a totally great job, as the mixture’s distribution across the fabric is not very even.  But, if your just doing a small amount, or want to experiment, this is not a bad alternative to ruining a dryer.  I wouldn’t recommend putting a fabric with thinner into a clothes dryer.  I have also used a common household oven, but this is slightly dangerous.  This works better than the hair dryer or heat gun, but not as good as a dedicated clothes dryer.  If you try this method, put the waxed canvas on a baking sheet or pan that completely contains it!

What follows is my method for making and applying the mixture to the fabric.  Keep in mind that this method involves the use of a common household clothes dryer, and that it will leave a residue in the dryer (so try to get one just for this for cheap or free!)  The measurements are for 1 yard of canvas fabric, and can be easily computed for larger batches and more yardages.

You’ll need:

  • 1 yard of Canvas (or other fabric)
  • 5-6 ounces of beeswax
  • 5-6 ounces of paraffin wax
  • a double boiler, or a pot to melt wax in that you don’t mind ruining
  • a stove or fire to cook on
  • a paintbrush or a sponge roller
  • a drop cloth
  • a clothes dryer (will leave residue) or other heat source to emulsify wax mixture into fabric

Steps:

  • Melt the waxes together in your pot or double boiler on LOW HEAT!
  • Spread your canvas out.  If you don’t want wax on the surface below your canvas, spread a drop cloth of some sort underneath your fabric to catch wax bleeding through.
  • When your waxes have melted together, carefully transport your melting pot to your canvas.
  • Paint or roll (works best!) the wax onto the canvas with your paintbrush.  It doesn’t have to be or look perfect, but it does need to be completely and fairly evenly covered.  It’s OK if the wax starts to cool and show up white when you paint it on, as long as it will spread.
  • Throw the fabric in the clothes dryer for 45 minutes to an hour on high heat.  WILL LEAVE RESIDUE IN DRYER, but WILL PRODUCE SUPER PRO WAXED CANVAS! – or use (in order of highest danger and performance) an oven, heat gun or hair dryer.

Mega Special Afterthoughts

You can wax more than just canvas.  I’ve even waxed thin broadcloth that yields significant water-resistant results.  If you have some fabric you want to try waxing, throw it in the dryer with the wax canvas.  It will catch some of the melt-off residue, and will give you another waxed fabric in the process.

Applications?  For instance, a friend of mine dumpstered a ton of oversized (40+) blue jeans.  He tore them apart, tacked them together and made a tipi.  But, it wasn’t waterproof.  If I would have known then what I know now, I would have known that all that denim could be easily waterproofed by the waxing process.

Just think of the implications…there are mountains of fabric out there being thrown out, recycled or resold for super cheap.  Waxing could waterproof those mountains, and transform them into shelters like super quick, man.  Let’s do it Felix!

Finding Free Campsites, Swimming, Boating, Cabins and other outdoor activities in BC

British Columbia has dozens of provincial parks, but many of them are turning into rather expensive places to recreate. 20$ for a night of camping far exceeds what I spend in rent per day, and here I have internet and a dishwasher. To me, the only acceptable price for a night of camping is 0$.

I’ve found a great rule of thumb for finding places where freedom is still intact.

The root of the “camping price inflation” problem can be seen on many of the BC parks listings on the BC provincial parks website.

Here I’ve included a random BC park’s page. Can you spot what’s jacking up the entry prices?

bc-parks-privatization

Who the hell is Kaloya Contracting Ltd.? Sounds suspiciously like a private, for-profit corporation charging for access to public land.

bc-parks-privatization-problem

The fact is, Kaloya Contracting is not the only company taking over management of public lands, there are at least a dozen I’ve seen so far.

Management means Money

Almost without exception, when you see “This park proudly operated by,” you will be paying cash out the nose for most available amenities. This particular park is one of the “light offenders” charging an exorbitant 18$/night for camping but at least they don’t seem to charge for entry if you just want to paddle or hike on the lake.

Now fortunately for canadians who love a bit more freedom from being nickle and dimed into greater and greater debt, there are still several parks without the scourge of one of the private/public “partnerships.”

I discover these free options by looking at a map for provincial parks, then cross referencing with the BC parks listing.

Exploring for Free Provincial Parks

Here’s a section of the Comox Valley I pulled up in google maps, with 2 provincial parks on the beach.

prov-parks-near-comox-valley

This is my favorite example to use, because you’ve got 2 provincial parks practically next door to each other, but one is “managed” by a private company and one is not.

kitty-coleman-and-miracle-beach

First look at Kitty Coleman, you will find there is no mention of fees whatsoever for camping, or anything else for that matter. That even includes group camping, which is usually charged for even at “province run” provincial parks.

Kitty Coleman Beach Park Listing (no fees at all as of May 2015)

Then there’s the exorbitant fees for absolutely everything next door, even a 50$ charge for group picnicking.

Miracle Beach Provincial Park Listing (group camping, 100$+ per night, group picknicking 50$, camping 33$/night.)

And this is why, at least for me, the hunt for a good park to visit begins with making sure the park is not managed by some for-profit entity. I don’t know about you, but when I leave the city, it’s to get away from the commercialization of absolutely everything, rather than exchange one collector of rent for another.

The Downside of Free?

This post wouldn’t be complete without a fair assessment of what you don’t get at a a free park.

First of all, the most popular parks are the ones that get “managed” because the managing company thinks they will attract enough “customers” so they can operate them profitably. So it’s the lesser-known, further out, or small parks that don’t get swallowed by business interests and remain gratis.

Secondly, these managing companies want to tailor to a middle-class crowd with expensive middle-class tastes. Those tastes include flush toilets, shower facilities, electricity, RV hookups, maybe even on-duty lifeguards. All those services cost money so don’t be surprised when they siphon that money from you.

[Download] OpenStreetMaps OSM Key/Legend (PDF)

I’ve been using my new smartphone primarily as a hand-held GPS unit. My favorite GPS application by far is the excellent OruxMaps. It costs nothing, is ad-free (I’m fairly sure) and extremely feature-full while still maintaining lightning-speed performance.

Oruxmaps

OruxMaps can read just about any map format, but the best one I’ve found is OpenStreetMaps – or OpenAndroMaps when we’re talking about Android smartphones. These maps are extremely detailed, you can see in the picture above it even shows the footprints of individual houses.

One major frustration for me was not have a map legend that shows what the various icons mean. A lot of them I can safely assume, such as the blue P meaning Parking, but what does this icon mean?

Screenshot_2015-05-18-13-33-02

There was never any map key provided with OpenAndroMaps, but they do have a wiki page that can -sort of- be used as a map key, but it has waaaay too much information on it, as it’s written for map developers and has about triple the number of entries as corresponding icons.

So what I’ve done here is taken that wiki page and cut out all the extra stuff not needed for the “end user” and turned it into a PDF that can be read right on your smartphone.

Downloads

Creating and Testing the Poor Man’s Go Pro

I’ve modified a cheap smart phone into a combination GPS mapping system plus video camera that can be mounted on any sort of tube, such as bike handlebars. The design is derivative of my Mason Jar tripod from a couple years ago. 

poor-man-go-pro

poor-man-go-pro-back-view

go-pro-velcro-strap-for-safety

My original design only used 3 headbands – the 1 purple headband and 2 brown headbands pictured. Once I took the device on the road however, the plastic clip came through very loud on the microphone while filming. You’ll find the video footage of the creation process below. Jump to 4:50 to see how loud the setup is without the extra rubber bands holding it in.

Joomla Permalinks: Setting Article URLs

Unlike in WordPress, setting a custom url in Joomla is very cumbersome and non-intuitive. I’m running Joomla 2.5 but this may work in all versions of Joomla.

Step 1: New Article

Publish an article as you normally would. You can specify an “alias” but I’m not sure this actually translates to what your permalink will end up being.
category

Step 2: Add New Menu Item

Joomla relies heavily on its “menu” system. As a matter of fact, when describing Joomla to other people, I describe it as a “menu-based” CMS. Unlike WordPress which I think more of as an “article-based” CMS. For further contrast, Drupal is a “user-based” CMS.

Click “Add New Menu Item”

joomla permalinks menu

I don’t actually display the “Cusco Info” menu anywhere, I use it only to set permalinks for articles. Hidden menus like this are a side-effect of this menu-based CMS.

Step 3: Set Menu Item Type to “Single Article”

Since you are setting the URL for an article, set this menu item type to “Single Article.”

permalinks-2

permalinks-3

Step 4: Select the Article you wish to Permalink

In the previous step you told Joomla that you want to set a URL. Now you need to tell it which article you want to set a URL for.

permalinks-4

A table of all your articles will pop up.

To find your most recent article, click twice on the “Date” column to order all your articles starting with the most recent.

Click the Article you wish to set a URL for.

permalinks-5

Step 5: New Article

Now that we’ve told Joomla which article to permalink, we need to set the text of the link itself.

Fill in both the Menu Title and Alias boxes.

The Alias will end up being your URL, so make sure to not include any spaces or capital letters.

permalinks-6

Once you are done, click Save and Close.

permalinks-7

Step 6: Test your New URL

Navigate to YOURSITE.COM/new-url. As far as I know there is no easy way within Joomla to quickly navigate to this page. If the menu you added to is live, you can find your menu item there.

permalinks-8

Next Step: Setting a Joomla Permalink more than 1 layer deep

The above techniques work great on a simple site without categories. But on a more complicated site you will want to nest URLs to keep things organized. These are a few examples of a fictional food site where nested URLs would be appropriate.

  • foodsite.com/fruit/apple
  • foodsite.com/fruit/pear
  • foodsite.com/meat/chicken
  • foodsite.com/meat/porkchop

Nested URLs in Joomla – Step 1: Menu Items

As with setting single depth permalinks, nested permalinks are set in the Menu panel. Click the menu where you set your previous permalink. Do not click “add new menu item” this time, since you are editing an existing menu item.

Nested URLs in Joomla – Step 2: Find Permalink to Nest

Notice below you can see our parent permalink (cusco-guide) and child permalink (cusco-airport).

reorder-permalink-1

We want to nest our child permalink (cusco-airport) inside the parent (cusco-guide) so that our new permalink for cusco airport will look like this: Limaeasy.com/cusco-guide/cusco-airport

We do this by specifying a “parent” item within the child menu item.

Click the child menu item to edit it.

Nested URLs in Joomla – Step 3: Set Parent Item

Click the drop-down menu beside Parent Item, then click the appropriate parent item.

reorder-permalink-2

reorder-permalink-3

And click “save and close”

permalinks-7

 

Nested URLs in Joomla – Step 4: Test

Navigate to your new nested URL as you did before. If you did everything correctly, your parent URL should be appended between your site URL and child URL.reorder-permalink-5

 

Escaping the Traffic Doldrums with an Upgraded Hosting Account

I noticed something was wrong when I clicked around on my site and noticed a lot of “Error 500 – internal server error” messages. Traffic had been pretty steady for the past few months, but as I later found out, my WordPress installation was gradually becoming more and more complex, using more server resources with every upgrade. So the humble little 8$ a month plan I’ve been using since 2012 was no longer enough to serve all the pageviews necessary for a site that over 100,000 people visit each month.

My host had subtly discouraged me in the past from upgrading to their “enterprise” plan, noting that tests comparing server response time between the basic and enterprise plans had not been done. I really appreciate how honest they were about that, but had I upgraded then I would have likely captured much more traffic in the months between then and now.

I never thought upgrading my hosting account would make such a terrific difference. This is what my Google Analytics account looks like for the period between last August and today, Feb 15 2015.

traffic-pattern-after-server-upgrade

I hit a record for most visitors in a single hour the very next day. It was partly coincidence, but without the extra resources my traffic stats would probably have remained unchanged from the previous day, since they seem to have been maxed out as it was. My site traffic over the month and a half since has been up an average of about 50%.

The hosting account I switched to was “enterprise basic” from my host, StableHost. It costs 20$/mo instead of 8$/mo and gives me 8x the processing power. Processor power is extremely important for a PHP-based site, which includes WordPress, Joomla or Drupal CMS based websites. However, a web host will rarely advertise their processor power, instead focusing on irrelevant shit like “1000 email addresses!” Or “Unlimited file transfer!”

Asus Slate EP121 Motherboard and Internals

Recently one of the fans started buzzing loudly in my EEE PC EP121 Slate, a giant 12 inch tablet computer running a full install of windows 7 on its 64-gigabyte solid state drive.

To “fix” it, I had to open up the computer to get at the internals. I accomplished this with a butter knife and extreme caution so as not to break any of the delicate little clasps holding the 2 halves together.

It’s become tradition now for me to take high resolution pictures of the insides of computers I fix and post them here.

Click image for full resolution file.

ep121-internals-motherboard-1024

Out of the 2 fans, only one was buzzing. It’s the right-side one pictured above. You can order replacement fans from Ali Express for around 20$ which I plan to do, but in the meantime I’ve simply disconnected the fan from the board. The computer runs silently again, but it only has 1/2 of its cooling power now so I carefully monitor the internal temperature to make sure it doesn’t exceed ~80 degrees C. I use a great utility called HWmonitor to monitor the temperatures of every internal component with a sensor.

Disconnecting the fan is easy, just pull the tiny little white connector near the fan out. I’ve placed a green arrow beside the one I pulled out.

fan-controller-ep121

A 1-fan EP121 still runs perfectly fine for most activities. But processor-intensive tasks should be attempted with great caution! You can watch a youtube video but not in high definition as this will create more heat than a single fan can properly deal with. Excel, Word and ordinary internet browsing are all perfectly safe as they require very little processor power. It’s still best to replace your bad fan as soon as possible so you don’t risk damaging more components with the extra heat.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Flipping Furniture on Craigslist

I’ve archived this tutorial first posted to the /diy/ forum on 4chan, which deletes threads after a few days. Credit goes to the original anonymous author. I’ve edited it heavily for clarity.

flipping furniture on craigslist

This is a project that has consumed the last year for me. My best month I pulled in$3.5k and spent just 5 hours a week since A lot of the business is now done by employees.

To start, my method requires you own a vehicle of some kind. If you don’t have one, then save borrow or hustle the money needed to get a cheap but reliable car or better yet, a truck to start this out with.

Why I Started Flipping Furniture.

Here’s what happened. My wife gave birth to a darling baby girl. I was laid off about 6 months before she was born, and I knew I had to get my ass in gear and make some money.

Then we ran the numbers on child care. Oh boy. For decent child care we’re talking about $24-30k a year, with long waiting lists. You can find it cheaper but it’s always hit or miss with the locals/independents.

I spent a couple months just getting used to being “primary caretaker,” which I think sounds manlier than “Mr Mom.” Then I set out to find something I could do while taking care of the baby.

Financially we didn’t have a ton of breathing room, so my rules were:

  • Up front investment had to be $50 or less.
  • Could not take money out of the checking account to pay expenses for this at any time.

Here’s the step-by-step process that worked for me. This is how I went from having $50 in my pocket and a small truck to a 10’x30′ storage unit full of product and an expanding business with semi-regular workers, clients and  a website + web campaign.

Finding Treasure at Garage Sales

First I searched craigslist for garage sales. Depending on where you live there will be more or less, I live in Colorado and there are plenty during the summer months, and enough during the winter months but in winter they are “weather dependent.”

Take your $50 and look for big pieces of furniture, particularly dressers. Make sure they are in good condition. Dressers made of wood sell faster than anything else in my experience. Avoid couches unless you have storage space and are willing to wait and learn and lose some money in the process; tastes in couches vary and I had no fashion sense so I swung and missed on a lot of these.

Avoid painted pieces of furniture. The paint jobs tend to be atrocious, and even good ones reduce the market significantly. Just about everyone is okay with a wood dresser, and if you’re looking for a used one the finish isn’t that big a deal. In any event, “cherry dresser” attracts a lot more people than “horribly painted blue dresser” (I learned this the hard way too, don’t learn it the hard way.)

Don’t buy stuff with the finish flaking off, thinking you’ll refinish it yourself. Unless you already do that for fun, you won’t, and it costs money to learn if you don’t know how to do it already. You WILL fuck anything up you do it the first time and possibly the 2nd and 3rd time too, so keep that in mind.

So, you have to be a bit picky. Stuff has to be in good condition and above all cheap. At first I never bought anything for more than $10, preferably $5 or so, but I relaxed that to $25 after I learned the ropes a little.

The big thing is you need fast turnaround, shoot for less than 1 week. and BIG markup. I aimed for 10x+, but this was pure cushion; again, you are going to SUCK at guessing what something will sell for, even if you do a little research beforehand. That “It’ll probably sell for $50 if I pay $5 for it” leaves you breathing room so if you literally think it’s worth twice as much as it is, you’re still looking at a 500% markup.

Making a Sale

Okay, so if you’ve been following along you’ve now grabbed yourself a couple dressers and they’re sitting in the back of your truck. You’ve spent $20-30, less than $50 even with gas. Grab a tarp (if you don’t already own one factor that into your expense) and unfurl it over your stuff in case of rain, snow or whatever. You don’t have storage space so this is where your stuff will live until your profits can pay for some warehousing.

Now, take nice individual pictures of these pieces. A great time to do that is right when you buy them. People who do garage sales usually have neither the time nor proficiency to take decent pics of their shit, but you do.

Now go right back on CL or the equivalent site for your area and put those dressers (or other piece of furniture) up for that 5-10x markup. Look around at dressers for sale and compare.

Gaining a Competitive Advantage

Now, here’s the important part. In your ad offer FREE DELIVERY. Caps or not; I’ve measured, it really doesn’t add or subtract from how much inquiry you get.

People will begin to call, possibly wanting to look before they buy. Others will want higher res pictures; provide them. This is a huge selling point for you; people who don’t have a bunch of spare time, or people who don’t have a truck, will be your main customers. Your stuff will sell if you chose wisely and were conservative (I probably get 1-2 things every 5-8 garage sales I visited when I was at this stage.)

Start Expanding

Repeat my garage sale-craigslist-delivery method for a couple weeks and you’ll have enough money to buy a budget storage unit for a month. Go forth and do it. I recommend you start with a 10×10 or so, roomy enough to maneuver without being super expensive. I paid around $100/mo for my first unit.

A goal  to shoot for is to fill and empty your 10×10 storage unit every week. If you can achieve a 100% weekly turnover, you should be making between $500-1000 per week after expenses. In reality this is a rare achievement, especially when you first start; so don’t make any calculations where your month is dependent on you batting a thousand. But with a clear goal like this in mind you will automatically perform better than if you just play it by ear.

When Something Doesn’t Sell

Sometimes you will end up needing to dispose of a lemon. The problem with a lemon is not the money you sink into it; $5-15 is not a huge deal. What IS a huge deal is your VERY limited space. Always remember that it’s easier to dump a slow-moving $10 piece of furniture than buy additional space to store more shit.

Branching out to More Furniture Categories

At this point you can expand into other pieces of furniture. Expect to lose money at first when doing this, so keep that to a minority and/or when you find a stupid-good deal.

Dining tables with chairs are a good money-maker, but you need to get a feel for the size; you’re not servicing big timers with lots of room, so smaller tables are often best.

Chairs are another hit and miss one; I once got a nice, gently used leather computer chair for 5 bucks and sold it for $75 with delivery, so after expenses I earned $55 profit for a couple hours of work. Other chairs just sit there FOREVER. You have to be patient and experimental with these.

Desks like work desks or computer desks are another good place to expand to, but again you need a feel. Cheap, flimsy looking shit won’t sell, or won’t sell quickly, or won’t sell for a profit that makes it worthwhile.

Improving your Hauling Capacity

Now with greater warehouse capacity your next step is make sure you have a tow package on your truck/SUV and buy a trailer. 6×12′ is a good size.

Again, CL is your friend, along with patience. I have a standard 6×12′ that normally goes for $1600 or so. Someone was selling it, barely used. Guy did a lot of work on homes for a real estate investor who disappeared and never paid him. Go figure. He was asking $1200, I said $800 tonight, he said okay. You WILL get a lot of nos, and perhaps some verbal abuse for these lowball offers. Don’t let it get to you. It never hurts to ask.

A trailer expands your options significantly. You can schedule multiple deliveries in the same day and load it all up in the morning. I even use mine to deliver large office orders of multiple desks or cubicles.

Building a Crew

Crews with moving experience can be worth their weight in gold, too, once you have enough storage and product and can schedule everything for one day.

Let’s say you have 5 desks and 3 dressers for the day and you just don’t want to fuck with it. You can hire two guys with moving experience; they will know how to pack the shit, where to put blankets to avoid scratching. This is worth it, I had no idea what I was doing and pissed off some clients this way once.

Now instead of a grunt sweating all day you are just driving the truck and directing your workers; it also allows you to keep working with clients as they work, answer your phone, post ads, etc. Heavily consider this.

For wages, pay above market. I pay $15/hr for my workers; this means you will get a lot of interest in your ads, and people want to make a good impression on you so they will work harder. Don’t go for the false economy of a low wage. You will get people who don’t care and who will slack off the second you aren’t watching them, which is important because you might have to leave them on site and deal with something else.

About the Infinity Invader Mountain Bike

This is a hard bike to find any data on so I’m cataloguing everything I’ve been able to find out about this bike here.

Infinity Invader 2008

The Infinity Invader is a budget full suspension Costco bike. As far as I can tell, it is only sold in Canadian Costcos. According to their website the “Innovative” company is based in Vancouver BC. My burgundy model was on shelves in the year 2008 for between 200$ and 300$. A photo in a Red Flag thread from that year shows several models of Infinity bikes for sale, including this one.

infinity-invader-bicycle-crest

I got my Invader in 2011 at a small town thrift store for 100$. Frankly, I overpaid by about 70$. The components are mostly bottom of the barrel, although a few are decent mid-range quality, such as the pedals and the brifters (brakes+shifters).

An Uncommonly Bad Drivetrain

The Infinity’s drivetrain puts the “train” in trainwreck. The bottom bracket on my model has about a centimeter of play in it, which chains into a rear derailleur that is capable of bending back on itself in a way that I have never seen before or since. The only way I’ve found of making the derailleur perform acceptably is to permanently affix it onto the lowest gear with a length of cabling and never, ever shift. The Infinity Invader works much better as a 3-speed than it ever did as a 21-speed.

Fixed rear derailleur infinity invader

Saddle and Seat Post

The seat does its job fine, but the seatpost it rests on is made really poorly. Gradually the clamping bit that holds the post to the saddle will loosen itself, even when you set it at the singular angle it’s happy performing at.

velo-plush-seat-infinity-invader

What Kind of “Invasion” is This?

After owning this terrible bike for 3 years now, I mostly advise you to stay away from this one.

But honestly, I’ve had a ton of fun with it! Bikes are amazing in that even the worst bike is ten times better than no bike at all. My Invader is the ultimate beater, so I never have to worry about keeping its paint job nice or bailing and sending it into a mud puddle. Since it’s a 3-speed, I would never take it long distances but it still tears up the local trails at Mt Tzouhalem like a banshee. Some of the funnest MTB runs of my life have been on this POS.

Primarily I use the bike as a “farm bike.” Small trips through the bumpy muddy ground on our 3-acre parcel seem to be what this bike is made for. When something snaps on the bike, it’s always a short distance back to the toolbox for a quick jerry rig to coax yet another 5 miles out of it.

Multiple Destinations on a Map – My BatchGeo Review

My love for maps began in the very early 90’s with the movie The Phantom Tollbooth. All those amazing places and regions sparked my 6 year old mind and gave me a lifelong love for abstractions of the landscape.

Tollbooth-map

My mapping story started up again a few years back when I was put in charge of a compost logistics company. I had to plot 10 ever-changing pickup routes weekly. I tried a lot of different free mapping tools online and the best by far for my purposes was BatchGeo. It’s an extraordinarily powerful mapping application that turns an excel spreadsheet into a detailed map.

customer-map

In this example, you can see that each region has its own color. In any given week, only a fraction (about 1/3) of each region actually gets a pickup. So a single day’s map looks like the following example. Each week I would manually mark the drop-off location with an X in MSpaint.

lyndenmap

The only criticism I had of BatchGeo at the time (these maps were made in January 2012) is that the letter system only brought the total possible number of labeled markers in a given category up to 26. You can get around this by  splitting a larger route in half, but that would have been very inconvenient for the pickup person. It would have been nice if the indexing system would have switched to numerals after 26. Fortunately for our unique purposes we very rarely needed more than 26 separate plots in any given map category.

Update: BatchGeo got in touch with me to inform me that my wish for a higher indexing was granted about a year ago! Now markers in a category can go all the way up to 99.

Over the 18 months of running this company, BatchGeo probably saved me over 100 hours of mapping time vs the old method the manager previous to me used, the gmaps app within google documents, now called “Google Drive.”

I don’t do as much mapping anymore, but I recently revisited BatchGeo to create this North Shore Thrift Store Tour map of all the thrift stores in North Vancouver. Annoyingly, all the roads are white, the same color as the background. As you can see it’s difficult to tell which road leads where, which is very important in the very chaotic mountainous, suburban road network of North Vancouver.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour

The only way to actually see the roads clearly is to use the “terrain” view, but this has the severe disadvantage of being much more wasteful on printer ink if you wanted to print this out. Which I always do with BatchGeo maps.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour-sattelite

I’m sure this isn’t BatchGeo’s fault, as they simply use Google Map’s API to create their maps and probably have very little control over the styling. However I imagine they could quite easily add on another of Google Maps’ lesser known layers to make the map more revealing. Here is the same area using Google Maps’ ARCgis and OSM layer views, respectively. These maps are not default on Google Maps, but you can access them using TrailForks.com, an outstanding mountain biking trail mapping site. Both are incredible views, one even has outlines of every individual building.

 

ARCgis layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.arcgis-map-northvancouver

OSM layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.

osm-map-northvancouver

Despite not meeting just a couple of my power-user wants and needs, for most situations I can comfortably recommend BatchGeo. I’ve never needed to use their paid service, as their free service has always met my needs perfectly.

Use BatchGeo for free at www.batchgeo.com.

Update: After seeing my review BatchGeo made a small change to their road styling to put some grey outlines on the smaller streets, making roads more visible. Here’s the Thrift Tour map again with the new road styling.

thrift-tour-map

 

Speed up your Computer by running Old Software

love using old programs. In most cases, old software was built to work on older, slower hardware. That means it runs smoothly and lightning quick on newer hardware. Using new software in most cases means using the most bloated and slow version of that software.

This problem came to a head recently for me when my iTunes upgraded itself. The newest iTunes is an ugly monstrosity that constantly changes the view panels around. The newest sub-version froze up for about 5 seconds every time I wanted to scroll up or down.

So I backdated to iTunes 10.5, which I got from one of my favorite websites OldVersion.com. I would have gone back even further but my iPhone (running a legacy version of ios, 5.1.1) needed at least iTunes 10.5.

itunes10-5

And holy shit is it fast and wonderful to use. Compared to iTunes 11 which I’ve been stupidly using for the last 5 months it is ten times better. Here’s a short list of why.

  • Much more information dense, the new itunes has way more wasteful negative space everywhere which requires the panels to switch around all over the place.
  • Podcasts don’t automatically unsubscribe themselves when
  • Podcasts display ALL old episodes instead of just the last 20 or so.
  • NO delays or stutters or freezes, ever.
  • Syncing just one playlist actually works again. In iTunes 11 when you want to sync just a few episodes,  it tries to update ALL the episodes in that podcast. What the frack, seriously.
  • The program is lighter on RAM and CPU. This makes sense since the it was built to run on computers from 2011.
  • Navigation makes sense again. Everything is in the left sidebar, unlike iTunes 11 which has navigation all over the place for no reason. Look at this screenshot of iTunes 11 and try to find “podcasts.”
    redesigned_player_albumviewThat’s right it’s nowhere to be seen. “Podcasts” is actually in the drop down menu under Music. The podcast interface in iTunes 11 is shit, and if you breathe wrong, iTunes will kick you back into the Music section. Ugh

But this isn’t really a post about iTunes, it’s a post about using older software in general. These are just a few examples of extremely bloated software that you should try to use the old version of if possible.

  • Anything made by Adobe (use Sumatra instead of Adobe for your PDF reader.)
  • Anything in the Microsoft Office suite, in most cases.
  • Windows. My tablet updated from 8.0 to 8.1 without my consent and 8.1 is HORRIBLE. Keystrokes now have a 2 second delay which is totally unacceptable for 2014. Win 7 is the best, some people are still joyfully using Windows XP.
  • Skype. This software only gets worse as time goes on.
  • uTorrent. Newer versions are heavy with ads and slow.
  • Azureus. That’s the bittorrent client for Macintosh.
  • Firefox and Opera, probably. They are bloated pieces of shit nowadays. Chrome is still pretty lightweight and fast, because Google actually values speed above almost all else and has from the very beginning.
    google-search-in-2001

Links:

http://www.oldapps.com/ old programs for windows and Mac OS

http://findoldapps.com/ old apps for iOS

Fully Amphibious Human Powered Transport

I’d like to someday have a bike+canoe setup and do some island hopping around Vancouver Island. My idea is to go fully human powered over both land and sea. Wicycle.com sells ultra-compact trailers that can pull a canoe or kayak of any size. Here’s an example of an Old Town canoe being pulled along by mountain bike.

pulling-a-canoo

Then once it’s time for a water crossing, you can break the bike down and pack it into the canoe. One Old Town canoe is big enough for 2 bikes plus some cargo.

bikes_in_canoe_4

Set up Mail Forwarding in cPanel

This 2 minute task will make an email address containing your website’s URL that you can stick on a business card or write on a whiteboard.

But since you’re not creating a new email account, just forwarding mail to an existing one, you don’t have to log in to a bunch of different accounts.

In this short tutorial we will

  1. Log into cPanel
  2. Use the “Forwarding” panel to permanently forward email from a new email address to an existing email address.

Continue reading

Advice for Extended Truck Camping

From a 4chan thread about living in your pickup truck.

living-in-pickup-truck

  • It gets cold. Real cold. Insulate your truck bed and camper shell as well as you can. Get a really good mattress to lay on.
  • You will want to install privacy curtains in your shell. You can do without for a few days but you will need some privacy. Velcro and cheap cloth will work.
  • You will want a way to heat up food and make a cup of coffee. Eating out all the time will destroy any savings you are achieving by living in a truck. I recommend a propane stove because butane doesn’t work well below 32F and white gas is too messy in an enclosed environment.
  • You will probably want a weapon. There’s no telling who is going to come rattle the door handles of your truck in the middle of the night. Being armed with something more effective than strong language is advised.
  • You will need a mailing address. There are a few options for this, but you will need to have one. Maybe you can receive mail at work. Maybe you have a friend in the area willing to receive your mail. Maybe you need a PO Box.
  • You will want electricity. Not much, but you will want it. You can wire a deep-cycle marine battery into your trucks’ 12V charging system and then run an inverter to power a laptop, or charge a cell phone, or power a reading light.
  • You will want a lockbox or safe. Burglary from automobiles is very common compared to home burglary. You don’t want to be worried about your valuables any time you’re away from your truck. A strongbox can be bolted to your truck bed and will give you a semi-safe place to store cash, IDs, passport, weapon, camera, etc.
  • You will need of a reliable way to dispose of waste. Have a plan for disposing of garbage, 3am piss, and emergency shit or vomit. Somewhere secluded. Your boss won’t want you tossing piss bottles in the company dumpster. A 5-gallon bucket makes a good trash can and can double as an emergency shit bucket.
  • You will want at least minor water storage and disposal. Cooking, sponge baths, dish washing… all require a little water. Expect to use 1 gallon per day. I used a 6 gallon “Jerry can” for my primary storage and then had some 1L canteens I used for my daily washing. I topped it off every 3 or 4 days with plain old tap water.
  • Disposing of used water involved another 5 gallon bucket. I’d dump waste water in it until it was nearly full then dispose of it somewhere out of sight – an alley or the roadside at night.
  • Last but not least you need to have SEVERAL parking locations mapped out. Staying in the same spot for night after night is a great way to find yourself talking to the cops. 4 or 5 good private parking spots should be considered the minimum. Wal-Mart is generally very accommodating to overnights in their parking lot, so that’s a good back up. You won’t want a bunch of HOA type neighborhood watch people talking about your truck and jotting down your licence plate. Stick to blue-collar neighborhoods, or park along fencelines where you’re not within easy view of anyone’s house. I live in a low-rent area. It’s safe but it’s not prim and proper. There’s a guy who lives out of his van 3 doors down. He’s nice to everyone. Doesn’t put anyone on edge. Nice guy, just down on his luck. No one cares. But if he tried to set up shop in a richer area he’d be fucked.

Don’t Burn your House Down! Here’s how to not suffer a disaster with your Electric Heater.

I love electrical heat, but it’s dangerous. Electric heaters burn down more houses than anything else. Be sure you understand the electrical needs of your heater and the electrical system in your home before using them for an extended period of time, like an entire winter.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never plug more than one in at a time, the typical electric heater will pull almost 15 amps, and the typical older home in canada only has circuits that go up to 15 amps. If your wiring is 15 amp like mine is, you should dedicate 1 entire circuit to the heater, don’t plug in anything else on that circuit, not even a light bulb. You can test circuits by flipping one breaker and plugging something into various outlets. Outlets that don’t work are on the chosen circuit. Outlets that do work are on another circuit.

Never use an extension cord with a space heater unless you know what you are doing. If you must use extension, make sure you use the shortest possible and the highest gauge possible (lower numbers are thicker.) I use a 6 foot, 16 gauge extension cord for our heater. I would not go any smaller. You can get higher gauge extension cords at Home Depot, that’s where we got ours. The “contractor’s” stuff is usually a good gauge because it’s meant for power tools which are max 15 amps, the same power draw of a heater.

You can always test whether your heater is drawing a dangerous amount of power.  Run your heater on your chosen circuit for a few minutes, then unplug the cord from the wall and feel the plug. A little bit warm is ok but if it’s hot you need to either reduce draw or buy a thicker extension cord. A electrical heater fire starts in the walls which is why they go out of control fast – you can’t get at the fire to put them out.

Heat the Smallest Space Possible

The proper way to keep warm is to heat as small of a space as possible. I live in 206 ft^2 RV but I still close up the cab, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the overcab sleeping area when I run the heater. So I’m only heating about 120 ft^2 which means it gets warm in here and it gets warm fast. Don’t try to heat 900 ft^2 with electrical heat, that’s a good way to increase your risk of fires and to make yourself broke. One electrical heater going all out will cost 16 cents an hour (assuming you are in Ontario) which is 115$ a month just for one single heater. To keep a 900 ft^2 home warm you probably need 3, which will run you almost 400$ in electricity, not counting everything else you run – dryer, computer, oven, etc.

Try to heat up a room in the “heart” of your house rather than the periphery. The fewer windows the better. If you must have windows, pick a room on the south side rather than the north so at least you can heat partially with the sun.

Embedding a Video into a Joomla Article

This is an in-depth tutorial article about embedding a youtube video into a Joomla article. Topics covered are:

  1. Hunting down the hard-to-find Youtube embed code.
  2. Logging into Joomla and finding the right article
  3. Using Joomla Code View to insert the Youtube embed code.
  4. Verifying that the code was inserted correctly.
  5. Centering a youtube iframe
  6. Saving a Joomla article.
  7. Clearing a Joomla cache properly so as to see your changes immediately.
    Continue reading

Spring and Summer Search Boom and Bust

This is sort of a tradition now, a twice yearly look back at that most effortless river of traffic, organic search.

Last time I checked it was Feb 21. The traffic growth rate was high and uninterrupted. This time we’re introducing a bit more ambiguity.

period-2-traffic-growth

As you will note, search traffic growth took off during the summer of 2014, and tapered off toward the end of summer.

These were Period 2‘s statistics.

week of aug 18: 3115
week of feb 9: 6223
growth amount: 3108
growth per week: 124

And now, Period 3:

Week of aug 18: 3115
Week of Sep 28: 7904
Growth amount (34 weeks): 4789
Growth per week: 140

What’s up with Summer?

My most popular article by an enormous margin this summer was a summer-time only topic about keeping cool during hot days. It’s not terribly surprising to see traffic dropping off, although I’d hate for this drastic trend to continue!

But it won’t. Here is the same chart with traffic from just that summertime article overlayed in orange. Search traffic from the “keeping cool” article has disappeared almost completely, from its high of over 6,100 per week, down to last week’s 391.

trafic growth overlayed summertime

I’ve always been surprised that my sites never get that consistent weekly shape that most sites do. Maybe instead I’ll have a consistent seasonal shape.

 

Spoke Wrench Keyring

I ride my bikes hard which result in wheels that go out of true sometimes. If you’re miles from home, an out of true wheel can stop you cold in your tracks. If you have caliper brakes the wheel won’t be able to turn anymore against the brake pads. Having a spoke wrench on you at all times will allow you to bend the wheel back into true on the fly.

I have the Avenir wrenches that only work for one size of spoke each. I accidentally discovered that they dual function as a key ring for your house keys and bike lock keys! It also means you’re less likely to lose your spoke wrench, and more likely to have it on you when you actually need it!

spoke-wrench-keyring-hanging

RSI / Tendonitis Home Remedies that Have Actually Worked

wrist brace

Someone I know suffered from RSI for 10 years in both of his arms. The last 5 of those years he was working 80+ hours a week programming and building his startup company.

He tried every conceivable specialist, therapy, product and device, spending in total over $30,000 during those dark years. Throughout that period he dealt with constant pain, numbness and tingling, in addition to inflammation in his elbows, wrists, shoulders, and upper back.

It would take many pages to list everything he tried, but the following methods are what actually worked for him and moved him towards being 99% pain free and typing happily all day now.

He did NOT want to undergo surgery or cortisone injections and in the end he succeeded in avoiding these high risk “solutions” to his problem.

Supplements for RSI

My friend took a capsule of each of these these daily on an empty stomach, depending on his level of pain. He still takes them occasionally for when he doesn’t sleep well or has intense work days that cause some RSI pain to return.

It’s quite interesting to read the reviews on the Amazon listings above. My friend was not the only one to have excellent results as a result of taking these supplements, many others had similar experiences.

Risks of taking supplements are extremely low but be sure to read carefully and understand warning labels.

Ergonomics for RSI

ergonomic workstation for rsi tendonitis

My friend has made the following ergonomic equipment a part of his daily life. Since he spends so much time at the computer as a programmer, he needs equipment that will put the minimum amount of strain possible on his body.

He reports that he’s tried many keyboard/mouse combos and hasn’t found anything close to as good.

Food for RSI

Ginger tea appears to halt inflammation. You can use a small cube of ginger steeped in hot water, there’s no need to buy ginger tea in tea bags. I like my ginger tea with lemon or the herb lemon balm.

Health / Body

  • Massage therapy helps a bit, but it’s very expensive. If your healthcare covers a few sessions, why not. My friend only takes ~2 massages per year now, he used to have them one or two times per week.
  • Cold / hot arm baths can reduce inflammation. Fill two plastic tubs with hot water and ice water, and submerge your arms for 30 seconds at a time in each tub, finishing with the cold water.
  • Doing gentle stretches held for 30+ seconds each helps.
  • Good, deep sleep was the #1 most surprising and effective “therapy”. He started using ohropax wax earplugs and an eye mask, as well as the “f.lux” software on his PC to get a full 8 hours or more of sleep. This helps more than any supplement or massage therapy session.

Books for RSI

mind-body-prescription

The Mindbody Prescription

My friend read this book to the very end and did all the exercises. Within 10 days he no longer felt pain in his arms and was well enough to cancel his weekly massage therapies. To this day  he is feeling fantastic. After good sleep, this was the second most surprising thing about curing RSI.

The guy who started google docs fixed his RSI using the same techniques.

Credits

The above advice was originally sent in a private email conversation between my friend, myself and my brother. It was published here with permission. My friend is still going strong after curing his RSI, he writes about music and art at submetallic.com. 

“wrist brace” photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/liewcf/

Services I Would Pay For

My short list of services I would personally pay some of my delicious money for. All of these jobs can be done from anywhere in the world and on your own schedule.

  • I’d pay for good writing. To the point articles that are scannable and laced with pictures. Ability to write on any subject is huge.
  • If you can drive traffic to a website I’d pay for that – I would happily pay 5$ for every 1,000 visitors. Much more if they are the right kind of traffic.
  • If you can build a Facebook or Twitter account I’d pay you to do that for me. It took me ages to get 1000 likes on Facebook because I hate Facebook and suck at it. Some jerks have 500,000 likes on Facebook and that’s a cash cow I tell you what.
  • If you can get links to my site on other people’s websites, well that’s an extremely marketable skill and I’d pay for that too, as would a lot of other people.

“Obadobadope” Complete Blog Archive

The Personal Finance Blog Obadobadope went offline in 2010. It’s a treasure trove of unique thinking about investing, capitalism and consumption.

obadobadope title

I’ve archived it here so that people can read it again in an easy format, all on one page. I used php curl() to scrape these texts from the internet archive at archive.org.

Archive Notes

  • The following 330 kb of text is hosted by me, but all images are hosted by Archive.org. That means their servers do the real heavy lifting, so if you feel like donating to keep this archive alive, aim your generosity at archive.org.
  • I’ve removed links within the archived content since they don’t really work anyway. If this archive gets popular I’ll consider bringing links back and working to fix them all.
  • To make navigation easier, I’ve added a table of contents.
  • Unlike an active blog which starts with the most recent post and works backwards, I’ve structured this archive to begin at the very first post and proceed forward in time.
  • This archive contains 53,000 words, about the size of an average mystery novel.

Disclaimer

The following content is hosted here for informational purposes. I don’t own this content nor do I derive any monetary benefit from it. If the content’s author wishes this archive to be removed, he may get in touch with me via my contact page and I will remove it promptly.

Continue reading

Buying Websites as an Investment Vehicle

I joined a Mr Money Mustache Meetup group. MMMMeetup I’ve cleverly called it. On the hike we completed last weekend, I spoke at length about building, buying and selling websites.

lynn-creek-canyon

The investors among the group perked up when I mentioned that websites trade at a P/E ratio of 2. That’s a deal an order of magnitude better than stocks or houses, which trade at ratios of between 20 and 30.

I realise there’s a good reason that websites trade at such a high discount rate; they’re inherently much riskier than owning land, labor or capital. These are some of the risk factors I’ve identified in a conversation with one of the MMMMeetup members. 

Things that go Wrong with a Website

  • A site with traffic based entirely on search might be using shady practices to get search ranking. A google algorithm change can wipe out search traffic. This can be a death sentence for a site, which is why vetting beforehand is so important.
  • Server can get hacked and will require repair. Repair can take hours to days to fix fully. This happens fairly frequently with WordPress installs.
  • A static site might start to slowly lose relevancy and will need fresh content to remain competitive in its space.
  • A competitor site might be launched, taking a portion of your traffic.
  • A site relying on time-sensitive information will become out of date (news sites, science&technology, health fads) and will need to be updated
  • New browsing technology may require a site rebuild. The best example of this is the smartphone trend toward sites that work on any size screen. A more recent example is the move to SHTML as a more important ranking factor.
Not every sudden change is negative.
  • A direct sale advertiser wants to place sponsored posts or custom ads, doubling your revenue for one or more months but requiring an account manager.
  • Your site explodes in popularity and requires a server move and/or content delivery system.
  • A new affiliate program needs to be integrated site-wide

Where to Buy Websites

I’ve identified these 3 marketplaces as the best at this time.
  • Flippa.com – This is the biggest website exchange as far as I know. Lots of cheap sites but there’s a lot of “pump and dump” type sites for sale – buyer beware and know how to do your due diligence on a site before buying.
  • EmpireFlippers.com I don’t know that much about it but a colleague of mine says its the only one she trusts. I think this was built around a book or something.
  • Quiet Light Brokerage – premium sites, usually costing $1 million and up. Well vetted by the brokerage beforehand, and you have to sign an NDA to get on their list. Not that many sites come through this pipeline.
Craigslist has sites for sale too, although it’s not a great fit because Craigs is local focused. I’ve only ever seen one decent site for sale on craigslist.

Considerations for Vetting a Website

  • Start with using SEMrush. Its stats are much more useful than compete.com or alexa, which are popular but I wouldn’t bother with at all. This gives an indication of a website’s potential for passive income through search engines. Although the subject matter of the site will have a huge effect on its income potential – finance related sites for example can push credit cards and startup business sites can push hosting services, which both pay a positively massive commission.
  • Check the website with mozrank, open site explorer and Google Pagerank. What you’re looking for are high quality links and a decent track record. 
  • Also look into their demographics. I have 2 popular sites, one which caters to males in their 20s and another primarily used by men and women over the age of 55. The site for 20 year olds hardly pays its server expenses, the 55+ site performs amazingly.

About the Schwinn Moab 3 Mountain Bike

According to BikePedia, the Moab 3 was manufactured between 1998 and 2002. I know this is a model 1998 because that was the only year they were colored green and black.It’s a relatively early mountain bike, built in 1998 by Schwinn and outfitted with pretty decent components. It was sold in bike shops just before the turn of the millennia for between 700$ and 800$. I purchased the one pictured recently off Craigslist.

schwinn-1998-moab3-email

A Feather Light Aluminum Frame

I actually ended up buying this bike because of its weight. The 7005 Aluminum frame is so light you can hoist it above your head with just one hand. I’ve never held such a light mountain bike – and if comments online are any indication (they often aren’t) the 7005 aluminum is extremely strong and durable despite its floaty lightness. In fact the frame is such a lightweight that I’ve had trouble climbing steep loose gravel slopes with it.

7005-aluminum frame

Handlebar Flexibility

This may indicate how inexperienced with bicycles I am, but I haven’t seen this style of handlebar before. My friend calls them “bullhorns” and the Schwinn catalog calls them “handlebar extensions.” I like them, I just hope they don’t take a core sample out of me if I crash and bail someday.

bike-cockpit

The extenders can be rotated to suit the rider, in this picture they’re pointing forwards but I’ve since turned them backwards so I can use them to “casually cruise” when I’m on pavement.

stem

Price of a Schwinn Moab 3

Bicycle Blue Book values a 16-year old Moab 3 at between $120 and $200, depending on condition. Prices will vary significantly based on your local used bike market, a bike like this might go for more at a shop. I got mine for 90$ US because the drivetrain and gearing needed some work. The problems weren’t as bad as I thought and I fixed them up without having to buy any new parts.

If you’re selling a Schwinn Moab 3 on craigslist make sure you take excellent  photos and provide a detailed description with links to Bicycle Blue Book and Bikepedia.

Additional Comments on this Bike From a Forum Thread

I asked about this bike on a bike forum and am archiving some of the more interesting discussion points here, as the original thread is not online anymore.

Looks okay, just replace those AWFUL tires.

 

Your tires they look to be in ok shape to me. They are old but if they aren’t dry rotted or anything I’d just keep using them for awhile. I’d go wider when you do get new tires but the rear frames on those older bikes are usually fairly tight. You can probably get a 2.1 or 2.2 on the front though. There are so many brand and styles it is really hard to recommend a specific tire.

 

That’s a 98 Schwinn Moab 3. And it has CURVED seatstays, indicating that it was not manufactured for bottom barrel department stores.

It’s one of the few late model “real Schwinns” manufactured with the name and distributed to specialty bike shops. New it would be more comparable to a mid-line Diamondback.

There IS a difference between the two tiers of Schwinn from the late 90s, and on into today.

One of the defining features of the high quality ones in the late 90s was that they had curved seatstays like back in the Chicago Schwinn era.

Now there WAS a Schwinn MTB that was basically a Moab made by Pacific Cycle that DIDN’T have the curved stays, and THAT ONE was shit. 

Nowadays it’s not as easy to tell. at least not just by the frame.

 

It’s a 90s platform and you are going to get 90s performance out of it . That means you are going to get department store quality. But some of these department stores bikes already have new tires and brake discs. You ever heard of a brake disc? A must have for MTBs since they can handle any surface without a problem.

 

Its a good frame with Shimano STX components on it. That’s barely a notch under the kind of performance you get from modern Deore. An upgraded Ritchey seatpost. An upgraded Kore stem. And it’s got a 90s RockShox which I ain’t mad at, at all. The rims are probably double-walled given the rest of the components.

Test Ride of a Stromer E-Bike

Yesterday I tried an E-bike for the first time. It was an absolute pleasure and I’ve been thinking about my ride ever since.

Stromer-ebike-vancouver2

How an E-bike Works

An E-bike works by sensing the amount of power you put on the pedals and supplying an extra boost to that power via an electric motor on the rear axle. The Stromer E-bike I tried will magnify your own pedal power up to 300%. It’s a complex computerized system that results in a seamlessly intuitive ride for the cyclist.

Riding an E-bike is exactly like riding an ordinary bike except that you feel like a superhero when just a bit of pressure is magnified several times to rocket you up the same hills that you would struggle up on an ordinary bike.

The Stromer E-bike

The E-bike will charge its high-capacity Lithium Ion battery in about 3 hours. On a full charge it will propel you forward 100 kilometers, or 60 miles. That’s well within most commutes, which is where I see bikes like this winning their largest user base.

At 52 pounds, it’s heavy but just light enough to be carried up a small flight of stairs. For a standard-bike comparison, my brother’s steel frame mountain bike weighs about the same.

raleigh-m40

The guys demoing the Stromer told me that its design looks “the most like an ordinary bike” of all the other E-bike designs out there. I have to agree that that it looks very much like an ordinary bike, other than the significantly thicker down tube housing the battery and the hefty rear axle where the engine lives.stromer_battery-277x300

 

The Stromer’s motor can be set to one of several drive modes. Eco is the mode that provides the minimum assistance, adding just 50% to your pedal power. Early on in my journey I set it to offer the maximum assistance, 300%. I would have gone higher if I could have – the extra power is addicting.  I know that if I used Stromer as my main bike, I would quickly lose strength in my legs because the 300% assistance is offers makes biking so wonderfully effortless, especially up hills.

My E-Bike Journey

After surrendering my government-issued ID as collateral and signing away my rights to sue Stromer if I had an accident, I started on up the hill with my head protected by the biggest helmet they had. The test track began at the Stromer tent at the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver and went “up the hill.” My plan was to take the bike 1 or 2 blocks up but the ride was such an otherworldly experience that I went all the way up the hill and was disappointed when it came to an end.

e-bike-journey

I most noticed the motor’s power when accelerating from a stop sign. One easy pedal rocketed me forward through the intersection with such velocity that my body shifted backwards on my seat. I easily maintained a speed of 28 kph, completing a journey that google says should take a bike 11 minutes in 4 minutes or less. The kids I passed near the top could tell something was off, staring at me as I raced past them going up rather than down.

Stromer E-bike Conclusions

Riding the Stromer was an unforgettable experience even though that experience only lasted 15 minutes.

So will I be buying an E-bike? Short answer: no. This bike absolutely shines for commuters and I work from home therefor don’t commute. But I live up a mountain, and if I did work downtown, the Stromer E-bike would be an absolute no-brainer.

But there’s also the ever-present threat of bike theft which has yet to be taken seriously in Vancouver, one of the worst cities for bike thefts in the world. The bikes I ride now are 5th and 6th bikes I’ve owned in this city; all my previous bicycles had their locks cut and disappeared into the shady underground where hundreds of Vancouver bikes go every year. At 4000$, a stolen Stromer is a serious blow to most people’s finances, and I don’t think you can insure yourself against bike theft.

With that said, merely the option of an e-bike has changed my outlook on working downtown. Next time I see a job come up that I think I’d enjoy, I would hesitate less to extend my candidacy for it simply based on the option to commute by Stromer alone.

Links:

Stromer E-bike Website

Personal Finance Podcasts

Most personal finance podcasts stay within the rosy realms of established norms and mainstream opinions. The ones that veer off into less explored waters are more interesting, and what I’m listing here.

These are the 4 podcasts that really stand out for me. If there’s a podcast you think this list is missing, mention it in the comments.

Keeping an RV Cool without Air Conditioning

Living full or part time in an RV can save a small fortune over expensive rent costs in the big city. The RV is the unsung hero of the tiny house movement, pre dating it by the better part of a century.

But unlike tiny timber houses, an RV’s most crippling weakness is its R value. In the summer, it heats up like a solar oven.

Now the easy solution is to flip on the AC and let it run, at great expense, all day. But the far more satisfying solution is to use the natural position of the sun and the shade to constantly pump in cool air by way of a cheap fan. A diagram illustrates how to set this up.


rv cooling in the summer no air conditioning

  1. Close and shade all windows facing the sun, then open a window on the shaded side.
  2. Place the fan so it blows air in. I prop mine on a bucket to ge t it at the right height.
  3. Open a roof hatch to give the air somewhere to escape.

You’ll want to move the fan and redo the windows once during the day as the sun moves from one side of the RV to the other.

Other Tricks to Reduce Heat Gain

If possible, do your cooking outside. I use a crock pot and a bread machine which can both be plugged into the exterior outlet and set on a table.

Your cab might have curtains you can draw to block it off. The cab is full of glass, making it the hottest place in summer and the coldest in winter.  In summer, keep the driver’s and passenger side windows open a bit so it doesn’t get over 100 degrees in there.

Radeon 7750 for Litecoin / Dogecoin / Scrypt / Cryptocurrency Mining

Some notes on using a 7750 for Dogecoin mining. Should be relevant for any Scrypt-based coin such as the popular Litecoin. I’m using cgminer 3.7.2 which is an old version, but the most recent version of cgminer to support scrypt based mining.

msi-7750-radeon-graphics-card

I found that I needed to set my fan speed to 100%. The 7700 series seems to desire much cooler temps than other cards. Mine is happiest at around 63 degrees Celcius. Above 65 seems to hot for it and it produces too many HW errors. Other cards I’m using are fine at around 75C.

I find it very hard to eliminate HW errors entirely. I think they’re bad because too many affects the quality of your hashing and can eventually damage your card. I can find very little information on acceptable HW error rates, but one guy says he shoots for below 1% of your A and R added together. Update: A reader sent in his settings, which hash slightly faster than my own setup but have no hardware errors at all. 

Let’s do the math quick. 7888 (accepted hashes) plus 128 (rejects) = 8016. Divide by HW errors (12) to get 0.15% Well below 1% so I called it good enough.

cgminer-radeon-7750

But if you bump intensity ( the “I” figure) up from 14 to 15, HW errors start to multiply like soldiers after the war. This is a low-intensity card, which is why no one buys it specifically for mining. But if you happen to already have one lying around it makes a great casual miner when you’re not using it.

Here are my batch file settings for minimal HW errors for zero hardware errors. Text in light blue needs to be replaced by your own figures. When I want to be able to use my desktop and watch youtube videos I set gpu-engine to 870. This setup should hash at a stable 166 kh/s. Thanks to Paul for sending in these new settings which are better than the ones I was using.

POWERCFG -REQUESTSOVERRIDE PROCESS cgminer.exe Display System
cgminer –scrypt –gpu-engine 935 -I 11 –thread-concurrency 2560 –gpu-memclock 1200 -w 256 -g 2 -o stratum+tcp://MINING-URL -u WORKER -p PASSWORD –failover-only -o stratum+tcp://MINING-URL  -u WORKER -p PASSWORD
PAUSE

Link to specs and more

advice about this card.

The cheapest cell phone plan in Canada

Since moving to Canada in 2006 I’ve struggled to find a good deal on a cell plan. I started with Fido, which got bought by a big 3 – then switched to Koodo later on – which also got bought by a big 3.

That seems to be a big problem in Canada. A small upstart cell provider will come along with decent prices and decent service, before promptly being absorbed into a giant communications conglomerate hungry for more “shareholder value.”

Consistently the cheapest plans have been from a hardly known carrier that continues to fly under the radar year after year. 7-11 speak-out wireless.

With speak-out, the time you buy doesn’t expire after a month like it does with all other pay-as-you-go providers. Top up once, and you’ve guaranteed yourself that phone number for a year. It’s the perfect plan for casual phone users such as myself who only use a cell phone for travel and emergencies. At all other times I use either a landline or VOIP.

With a minimum time purchase of 25$ it only costs $2.08 per month to keep your account open. The next best option Virgin Mobile costs 15$/month with its minimum top-up or $8.33/mo for it’s 100$/365 day topup.

old-school-phonephone-back

You can use any SIM-capable phone with their pay-as-you go plans costing 25 cents a minute for the most basic plan. This is the cheapo phone my brother got when he started using SpeakOut. As an independent contractor he needs to have a cell phone at all times. He claims it only needs to be charged once a month.

7-11 is slowly updating their geriatric plans with data packages that beat all others I’ve seen in their pricing. But the best idea in Canada is always to avoid using data as much as possible anyway.

SpeakOut is a no-frills, no-bullshit and no-advertising alternative to the worst cell phone landscape in the world.

Canada Cell Plan Links

Speakout 7 11

SpeakOut has the best cell phone plan for someone who sees a cell phone as a necessary evil and would rather use it as little as possible. At 25 cents a minute flat rate, their per-minute billing is far superior to the more common 35 – 45 cents a minute rates of other providers.

Virgin Mobile

I used Virgin for a few years when I thought it was the best option for me. They have an unpublished promotion where they double your topup credit after a number of months with no activity. Works well for me  because I only travel once or twice a year for conferences which is when I turn my phone on.

Wind Mobile

Wind is probably the best carrier if you live in a major city and only call people in that same city. Unlimited local calls for 20$/month but it suffers from the same outrageously priced addon bullshit that makes the bigger carriers so unappealing. 8$ extra for a bunch of basic features that should be free and are free with prepaid plans.

For The Others, Consider their Advertising Budgets

It’s a good idea to realise that the big 3 cell phone carriers spend obscene volumes of money on advertising. You have to consider that just like it does for any product or service, advertising drives the price up. When you agree that you will pay Rogers 80$ or more per month for the next 2 years, you are crowdfunding their TV ads. So for a better deal, look to companies that don’t advertise or only advertise minimally.

Anatomy of a Traffic Surge from Various Social Networks

I’ll be analyzing referral traffic patterns for the three large social networks I get most of my traffic from: Facebook, Reddit and Pinterest. I don’t have much  traffic from Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, or BuzzFeed so you’ll have to look elsewhere to find those traffic patterns.

All graphs used cover the same exact time scale, Sep 1 2013 to Feb 24 2014.

Facebook Traffic Anatomy

My Facebook referrals deliver a massive amount of traffic which tapers off to to a small traffic trickle after a day or two. It’s hard to see on this graph, but the slow period after my spike of 10,000 visitors at the end of 2013 is about 100 visitors a day. That’s a decay of around 99%.

facebook-same-time-period

Graph represents ~10% of total traffic for this time period.

Reddit Traffic

reddit-same-time-period

 

Graph represents ~2.5% of total traffic from this time period.

Reddit traffic seems to decay at about the same rate and amount. Both Facebook and Reddit feature similarly time-sensitive news feeds which is why their traffic patterns are so similar. But Pinterest works a little bit differently…

Why I Love Pinterest

Pinterest delivers a surge of traffic that stays put which is why I’ve been focusing more and more on promoting there.

pinterest-traffic-patterns

Graph represents ~19% of total traffic for this time period.

Unlike the other social networks above, Pinterest isn’t time sensitive. A post on Pinterest propagates from user to user, so every time it gets “pinned” it’s published fresh to each new pinner’s network. Rather than taking a couple days, decay takes months and at least for me, has leveled off to a full 25% of its initial traffic spike. That’s 25 times better for long-term traffic than either Facebook or Reddit.

Cryptocurrency/Litecoin/Dogecoin Mining Business Plan

I like what Linus Media Group does. I’m not talking about the content they create, which is high quality and very useful by way, but how they run their offices.

They rent a big house out in Langley which they stuff full of computer and camera equipment which they use when it’s time to get some work done. Linus actually uses the kitchen for many of videos, although the recipes he’s teaching the audience have names like “budget gaming build” rather than “beef bourguignon.”

linus-tech-guy

Photo Credit: Linus Media Group and NCIX Tech Tips

But I’ve never had a compelling reason to rent office space myself – until now.

This new crypocurrency stuff allows me to stuff an office full of workers – virtual workers – whom I could manage remotely. I wouldn’t have to be physically present there unless I wanted to be. This office/house project makes a lot of sense for us right now because heavy equipment is about to turn piddlingly small bachelor pad into a 0BR 0Bath literal hole in the ground.

But is it feasible? I have no idea yet. But I’m going to find out right now with the power of spreadsheets!

Dogecoin Mining Earnings per Day

I’ve got about 2 weeks of data now on our new 700 k/h mining rig, which I can scale to find out what my equipment needs would be to pay for the office space + electricity. Meet Milky the Miner, creator of data points.

milky-the-miner

Now for the Data Dump

Based on a dogecoin value of $1.2 USD per 1000 Ð.

crate-stats

 

doge-chart

What Does it All Mean?

In summary, for every 1000 kh/s in processing power, crypto mining is earning around$3.42 a day, or 102$/month.

Breaking Even on a Crypto Apartment

The first task is to earn enough from the space and electricity a mining rig requires to pay for the apartment.

Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in burnaby runs $950/mo which would require around 9 mh/s (9216 kh/s). Based on current energy consumption of “Milky” (400 watts: 700 kh), a rig this size would conservatively demand around 5.5 kilowatts, which in this region costs $356/mo. So you need another 4 mh/s or so to pay for that for a total of 13 mh/s just to pay for the space.

Now we’re up to 13 mh/s for our very conservative rent paying mining array. We could actually shave 10% right off the top just for currency conversion and another 30% if we use the average price of Ð rather than the period low of $1.2/1000. This is a worst case scenario build with tons of margin for volatility.

Cost of a Rent-Paying Mining Build

Over on /r/scryptminingrigs are some great sample builds with detailed cost analysis. This is currently the largest, a sample build for 4000$ that hashes a hair over 7k mh/s. We would need two of these. $8,000 all-in and we can almost guarantee a rig that can pay for the space it lives in. But your living space better be damn secure.

A Sample Crypto Apartment

This 2 bedroom apartment sits near the highway in Burnaby. According to padmapper, 2 it’s 0% more expensive than the typical 2 bedroom apartment in the area.

It would be very important to check how well the circuits in a place like this would handle the large power draw. However that dryer itself would need about 4500 watts which almost brings us to our power needs on its own. I’m not sure if they make adapters for those high amp outlets though.

kitchen

bedroomPictures from Kijiji Listing

DIY Wine Notes

I make my own wine because it saves me a lot of money. Canada has some of the highest liquor prices in the world, and the provinces I live on the border of – Alberta/Saskachewan – have the highest liquor prices in canada. I think the bare bones absolute cheapest bottle of wine is about 12$ – that’s for a 750 ml bottle. By my calculations my homemade wine costs about 1/10 of that price.

These are my batch-by-batch notes based on the tutorial I wrote at http://fivegallonideas.com/1-minute-wine-recipe/ . I believe my tutorial is the best online for beginners because it’s exceedingly simple, and requires an investment of less than 5$ in winemaking equipment.

Batch 1 – “Too Much Sugar!”

Batch started May 27, 2013

Some people like sweet wine – this batch tastes a lot like a port wine. A bit too sweet for my palate.

In my 2.84 liter jug of grape juice, I added 3 full cups of sugar. The juice started at 8% potential alcohol – then I measure after each cup of sugar that I added. 1 cup, 11%. Another cup, 13%. A third cup, 15%. Perfect. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Although my yeast is rated at being able to ferment up to 18% alcohol, in this wine it topped out at about 13%. I added enough sugar at the beginning of the batch for 15% alcohol. This means that the final 2% potential alcohol didn’t ferment out, making the wine pretty sweet. I think the final 2% will eventually ferment but it may take up to 6 months. I’ll probably finish off this wine before then – Brittany says this sweet wine will probably taste good with soda water.

I took the airlock out a few days ago, and it’s still fermenting very slowly so I unscrew the cap to let the excess CO2 out every few days. The risk of it blowing up is pretty much nothing, my vessel is strong plastic that expands if it has too much air inside. My brother used to make apple juice wine inside its own bottle similarly to my tutorial without an airlock and he never had a problem. He just had to make sure to release the CO2 every day.

Since this is my first batch I don’t have any extra containers to “rack” my wine into, so I think I’ll just let it sit on the yeast until I’m done drinking it.

I worried very little about sanitation with this wine, and have absolutely no off-flavors. I’ll be a little more careful in the future when I’m reusing a washed bottle rather than brewing juice in a sterilized environment.

Batch capped on June 23, 2013. Would have capped sooner, but I was away most of June.

Batch 2 – “Try for a Dry”

Batch started June 29, 2013

This time I added the exact amount of sugar that was able to ferment out last time. Two cups of sugar brought me to the 13% potential that matched the 13% brew I made with my yeast last time. I also dumped out less grape juice for myself this time because I didn’t really see any problem with “krausen” in my last batch. Maybe krausen is more of a beer problem and less of a wine problem. Krausen is gross, I’m happy to not see it in my wine. Means less fussing.

KrausenIt’s bubbling happily and should ferment out in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully my yeasties will eat all the sugars and I can end up with a wine that’s dry as a bone.

I think in the future I’ll try experimenting with adding super concentrated grape juice to my regular grape juice. I think it’s a pretty good deal over at the brew store and will certainly make the wine both taste better and taste better sooner. Because the more white sugar you’re using to brew, the longer you have to let your wine site before its taste matures.

July 7 2013 – I’ve started slowly drinking Batch 1. It gets better every day, but is still too sweet and slightly astringent, just like all immature wines. Brittany and I both agree that right now it’s 2 stars out of 5 – so I’ve started calling it double star which sounds really upscale 🙂

July 9 2013 – I measured the sugar content of Batch 2 today for the first time. Out of an initial 13% potential alcohol, 12% has already fermented out, leaving just 1% left to ferment. It’s been bubbling for 10 days, and it’s just about done. I tasted it and expected something horrendous, but it’s surprisingly drinkable for a wine that’s not even done brewing yet. I noticed more of a haze in this wine, and am not sure if it’s a pectin haze or a haze of the still-active yeast. Either way, this haze will settle in time. Here’s batch 1 and 2 side-by-side – you can see how cloudy batch 2 is (the one on the left) compared to batch 1 on the right.

2-batches-wine

When I measure with my hydrometer, I normally just dump the wine I used to measure right back into the fermentation vessel. This goes directly against agreed upon best practices because most homebrewers are extremely picky about sanitation – but I’m happier pushing the limits to eliminate fussing wherever possible. If I ever run into problems doing it this way, I’ll be fully transparent about it here on this journal.

Batch capped on July 14 2013 @ 0.5% potential alcohol remaining.

July18 2013 – If anything, this wine’s fermentation has sped up since I capped it 4 days ago. I release the co2 every day or 2 and quite a bit of stored air escapes each time – making the bottle settle visibly. I’ve started drinking it, and let me tell you. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s dry as a bone, just the way I like it, barely a hint of sweetness at all. I can no longer really taste the saccharin taste of the common Concord grape in it either.

Fermentation may have sped up due to the wine now being stored in a dark place. A veteran winemaker commented on the main 1-minute wine article to inform me that would happen, and it seems to be happening now.

I’m willing to bet that this wine will ferment into negative territory, which isn’t uncommon for wine to do. I can’t wait!

I would like to present my batch 2 wine next to another dry red in a blind taste test. I am quite confident that it would be hard to tell apart from a moderately priced red wine from the liquor store.  I would consider this the greatest of victories for the 1 minute wine recipe.

Batch 3 – “Batch 2, episode 2”

Batch started July 18 2013

I’m really happy with batch 2, and will probably make lots of identical brothers for it to hang out with. I enjoy drinking drier wines more than sweeter ones, so I will probably only brew another Batch 1 if Brittany want a sweeter red wine once in a while.

I didn’t bother measuring this one with the hydrometer because I already know that it will measure 13% potential alcohol, give or take a hair I am sure.

Batch 5 or 6 – The Public Batch

I stopped making wine for a few months because we had 30 bottles of wedding wine to work through. Now it’s all gone and I’ve entered back into the swing of things.

We filmed this batch on our new Canon T2i and published it to youtube. I used 2 cups of sugar just like I did with batches 2 and 3 and gave it to my camera operator as a gift. After 3 weeks, he reported it tasting way too sweet. His house is an old drafty thing which I suspect slowed fermentation down to a crawl.

Batch 7 – How small can we go?

I did something different with this one. To prove you can use any juice to make wine, I started a batch of peach-mango wine. And at 1.89 liters, it’s approximately half the size of the red grape wines I was making before. I hypothesized that a carboy half the size would make fermentation much slower by a factor of 4.

To make a success even less likely, I only added enough sugar to bring the potential alcohol to 11%.peach-mango-wine_1It took a little bit longer, but fermented out beautifully. It took about 3 weeks instead of 2 so my guess of it taking 8 weeks was thankfully dead wrong.

Now about a month old, it’s clarified nicely which indicates nearly universal yeast hibernation.

wine-glass-peachThe taste is top-notch. I suspect partly because of how sparing I was with the white sugar.

Batch Complete Feb 21 2014

I’ve also got another 1.89 liter bottle of white grape/pear I’m starting today.

Fall and Winter Search Traffic Growth

I’ve been looking forward to following up on my Summertime search traffic growth from last August. Today I’ll be focusing mostly on site “B” because the others have been left to their own devices, as I don’t really write on them anymore.

Here’s a refresher of the old graph. Each data point is one week’s organic search traffic.

graph1

week of may 5: 2169
week of aug 18: 3115
growth amount: 946
growth per week: 59

And this is the chart with all the weeks since tacked on. Highlighted in yellow is the summertime period already covered in the previous graph.

site-b-fall-and-winter-growth

Remember, I’m throwing out the last datapoint which represents an incomplete week.

week of aug 18: 3115
week of feb 9: 6223
growth amount: 3108!
growth per week: 124

Growth rate in search has been blistering, more than doubling since last summer. Interesting to note that it’s mostly been plateaus, punctuated by huge boosts every couple of months. It’s been growing steadily since last December, probably due to some algorithm changes that happen to have worked in my favor.

 

Website Speed

The article Why Your Search Rankings Are Dropping (and 7 Ways to Fix It) reminded me how important website speed is. Thanks Tim for linking that! I won’t link to the article because it employs the greatest numbers of “neo-popups” that I have ever seen and I’m disgusted by it.

For website speed, I used W3 total cache for a long time, but it hasn’t worked well for me since I switched to multisite. For multi site I’ve been really happy with WP super cache which isn’t as powerful but is very easy to set up.

This was my site before I added any caching utility to it, tested with the excellent Pingdom speed test. I trust it much more than testing in my own browser, because I’ve got the entire site cached already. I can even test from a server in the state of Texas, where the bulk of my readers happen to be.

I think the correct interpretation of this test is that my main content loads quickly (score of 87/100) but my page size is way too big, loading ancillary content far too slowly (slower than 85% of tested websites.)

website-test-beforeLess than 5 minutes later, after a one-click WP Super Cache install and a 1-click test to make sure it’s working, here’s my latest speed test.

I had to manually add the settings to my htaccess because I locked that file down pretty securely after a recent server hack. I didn’t bother posting about it because I don’t want this site to turn into a  battered fileserver’s support group.

The new page is almost a full megabyte smaller, loads in a fraction of the time, and is now in the top 20 percentile rather than the bottom. My performance grade has actually shrunk, so perhaps it’s a completely worthless metric.

fgi-test-pingdom-after

Testing with this great tool is free! Go to http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ to test your own site and see how your numbers stack up to mine.

Link to free caching plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/

Writing Blogs for a Living

I blog for a living. Not for other people but exclusively for myself. I wrote my ass off for 8 months earning very little to build up enough of a content base to supply me with income to live off. It’s a significant barrier to get through which I think is why many prefer freelancing.

keyboard

I shove words into the ether constantly. I used to write more than one article a day but I’m now down to around 2 a week. Yesterday I wrote half a dozen real shitty ones on DollarEater.com. My best writing always starts shitty and then is endlessly edited. I find editing skills are far more important than writing skills.

I’m interested in hiring a writer to help out but have yet to find one that meets my criteria. I need someone who doesn’t need management, writes in the same style as I do, comes up with high quality original pictures to accompany posts, and will work for cheap enough that I can earn a profit from their articles. The perfect writer probably doesn’t exist so I shall continue to slog through myself.

The Writing Process

Most professional writers use a process called “freewriting” where they shove as much shit on a page as they can in a set amount of time, then wait for a day or longer, then brutally edit what they’ve produced. It’s like assembly lining your creative process. I wrote a guestpost on freewriting on BlogSexier. I’m hoping to read Steven King’s “On Writing” which talks about this plus other techniques.

Writing and Search Engine Optimization

Excellent writing is the most powerful tool – maybe the only tool – that SEO has left. I don’t seek out SEO education anymore. The important stuff seems to trickle through in the podcasts I follow – marketing over coffee & smart passive income. Much is learned first hand from my own experience running a bunch of different sites which is why I take any “pro advice” I hear with a grain.

I learned mainstream SEO when I worked an intern for 6 weeks at an online job board in 2010. It was a much different time. My job was just spamming press releases everywhere and it worked great. It was boring work and each day ran into the next. This way feels a lot better and it actually works a lot better long term.

I don’t employ anyone for my SEO because for me, SEO means words + pictures and see above for my problems with that. It can also mean social media which I mostly don’t like to do, and videos which are a lot of work but are totally worth it.

Cover picture related: it’s the 15$ logitech I’m typing on.

The Name Change

I’m sure my 0 or 1 readers can’t wait to learn why I’ve changed the name of this site from “just scraping by” to “indie personal finance.”

Just scraping by was exactly my financial position when I started this blog. My expenses exactly matched my income, and it always took plenty of effort to even get that far.

Since then  the internet pendulum has swung once again to provide me the final boost in traffic I needed to earn comfortably in excess of my survival number.

So “scraping by” isn’t strictly true anymore. I’ve got some elbow room now which is reason to celebrate by sprucing up my favorite place to write about my ideas and experiments in living cheaply, residual income and alternative finance. If you’re an RSS reader, you might have to update your RSS to the new address: http://indiepf.com/feed/

Mining Cryptocurrency / Dogecoin Setup Guide and FAQ

I’ve been spending my spare desktop computer cycles mining for the latest hot commodity, DogeCoin. I’m lucky that the graphics card I already have is a pretty good miner already, the 7750 from MSI. Pushing only about 80% as hard as I could, I’m getting a steady 150 kh/s, building my fortune at a rate of about 1000 coins every 24 hours. The going rate for a grand of Ð? About $1.30. Sure that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a sizable chunk of my daily rent cost of $8.33, which includes the electricity that powers the miner.

Building New Skills

I didn’t expect that when I started mining for Ð that I would start assembling BAT files, using the windows console POWERCFG utility, tweaking processor core temps and fan speeds, or managing python libraries and scripts. I’ve learned more about computers in the last 24 hours than I have over the past 12 months and I’ve had a blast doing it.

Is It Risky?

DogeCoin doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which is for the best, considering that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and DogeCoin are still a massive unknown. If you take it too seriously, you might invest a lot of your time and money into something that ends up evaporating like fog on a sunny day. Keep it light and keep your expectations low, and you’ll be better off no matter what happens.

How Do I Get Started?

You need a few things to start mining.

  • A computer. Any computer will do but newer, better ones mine far better.
  • A Doge Wallet. This holds your coins. I use the desktop version 1.5 because it’s more secure than an online wallet.
  • Membership in a mining pool. This is free and anonymous and you can get set up in a couple of minutes. I use rapidhash. Once you are logged in you will need to create a worker for your mining utility to “log in” to.
  • A mining utility. This is by far the most complicated part of your setup. If you have a good graphics card based on AMD you will want to use cgminer 3.7.2 (not the newer versions). If you have a geforce graphics card you will need to use cudaminer. If your graphics card is deficient or non existent, you can use cpuminer instead but your mining speed is almost always faster with a graphics card than with a CPU. There’s a full list of graphics cards along with recommended utilities at litecoin.info.

Mining is done in a little terminal screen and set up using essentially an MS dos prompt. Fortunately the mining pool I recommended RapidHash makes a windows BAT file for you that sets everything up automatically.

cgminer

Can I Still Use my Computer While Mining?

I did this entire article while my graphics card plugged away full tilt mining DogeCoin. I was also running a Dwarf Fortress at its full complement of FPS.

Since the best mining method does not use the CPU, only graphic intensive tasks that use the graphics card are affected. That includes photoshop, youtube videos, and video games. Even the animated gif I used up above is much choppier than usual while mining.

Will Mining Hurt my Graphics Card?

It sure will if you let it get too hot. This rules out mining with most laptops because their airflow is so limited that they can’t handle the heat. Most miners try to keep their graphics card temperatures at 80°C but I like to keep it at a much more conservative 65°C. I find the best way to keep the card cool is by manually setting the fan control higher. Usually you will have to install the specialty software your graphics came with to adjust your fan controls.

Building a Dedicated Doge Miner

I found this useful tutorial on building a 500 kh/s rig for 300$. Considering I’m happy to pay 1$ per kh/s, this is a pretty good deal. US prices.

Source for video clip

Hacked again and what I’m doing about it

I probably start 5 new sites a year and only kill off 1 or 2. Over time it adds up to an unbelievable bulk of outdated 3rd party plugins, useless WordPress themes, and way too many instances of Hello Fucking Dolly. 

The digital landfills my servers are slowly becoming attract a vermin more irritating than my cat – automated hack bots. At least I assume they’re automated because I’d rather be the victim of an excel spreadsheet than a brilliant Russian hacker out for my blood personally.

It’s like cleaning up oil spills in an ocean that constantly grows bigger and more populated  with leaky tankers.

So I’m draining the ocean. From now on every wordpress install will sit within the warm and cozy confines of a wordpress multisite install. So instead of remembering to update 20 different installs at once, something I’ve to this day not done, one click will update everybody. One wordfence scan, one plugin install, and one Dolly witchhunt.

Yeah I know I should have done this 8 major updates ago but I’m a slow learner ok? And I’m even slower at taking action. I still haven’t bought salt and we’ve been out for almost a month.

Next the good news. For the first time in years, the spammy payday loan links haven’t returned to my main site’s header.php file. Whatever I did last time seems to have plugged the last of my security holes. I guess there’s no better time to turn that one into many.

Fixing iPod 4th Generation Headphone Jack (one-ear working)

I balled a tiny piece of tin foil up and shoved it in there. It’s working for now but once I’m feeling looser with money I’ll buy this replacement piece from Ebay which I can install myself easily. You know it’s an authentic chinese reverse engineer when it looks like it was photographed on the set of a horror movie. I just hope the part works better than the vendor’s camera.

The iPod was my graduation present in 2005 and has been fixed many times already. It’s lasted so long because everything in these 2004-era pods is replaceable. The battery, hard drive, and headphone jack all plug into the board with a click.

ipod-4th-generation

It’s getting harder to find parts for these, maybe I better stock up…

Replacing the Wireless Internet Chip in a Laptop/Notebook

Usually the problem isn’t the chip, in fact I’ve only seen it once in years of internet connectivity problems. You should replace the wireless chip only after you’ve exhausted all your other options. Those include and are not limited to:

  • Rebooting your computer
  • Rebooting your router
  • Rebooting your modem
  • Rebooting your wireless device in your control panel
  • Doing that ipconfig /renew and /release thing
  • Calling your ISP if the internet on all your computers is broken
  • Uninstalling Hamachi, which for some reason screws internet up. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry about it.
  • Reinstalling your wireless device drivers (often called WLAN) from your computer manufacturer
  • Asking someone who knows more about technology than you, but bake them cookies or buy them beers first.

Tried everything in the list above? Ok good. Time to replace your wireless chip. It’s about one square inch and looks exactly like this:

wifi-chip

The above chip is faulty. The only thing useful it’s done in the last 2 months is pose for this picture.

I replaced it with one that Brittany has spilled coffee all over yet works great. Here it is nestled in its new home.

wifi-chip-computerWireless chips are really easy to replace. It’s getting to them that proves the challenge. On this computer I had to take the entire bottom off. To find out how I just looked for my approximate model number on youtube. Approximate because this laptop has a thousand iterations, all identical under the hood.

I recall having an old Inspiron 1000 which had an easy access compartment for the wireless chip, much like how most laptops manufactured today have holes which let you get your fingerprints all over their ram and hard drives. But most modern laptops need to be taken apart to replace this component.

Observe 2 things about the above picture.

1. Notice it’s held in with a screw. To remove the old card, remove the screw and both leads. The entire unit will pop up from a flat 0 degree angle to a grippable 30 degree angle. Installing the new card is a matter of slotting it in, pushing it flush with the board, and reinstalling the screw.

2. See those grey and black wires coming from the chip? They have the worst name in all consumer electronics. U.FL Mini PCIBe very careful with them! Most U.FL plugs are only designed to handle 1 or 2 installs in their lifetime and due to their tiny size they can break very easily, especially when being reinstalled on a wireless card. I’ve broken one already by forcing it to hard and was thankfully was able to fix it again with a tiny sewing needle. But you might not be so lucky. Make sure you don’t get the order of them mixed up, although this is likely to be impossible as one is shorter.

Where to Find The Wireless Card

Well it’ll be in your computer, we know that much. Probably on your motherboard. My desktop computer actually has a slot for one of these wireless cards which is why I happened to have one lying around. Why it had coffee is another story. An expensive mistake kind of story.

Circled in orangered is where I found this card on this laptop. Visit my Sony PCG series post to see these computer guts in ultra high resolution.

sony-vaio-PCG-series-motherboardWhich Replacement Wireless Chip Should I Buy?

I don’t think it matters as long as it’s more-or-less as old as your laptop. In the above computer I replaced a non-bluetooth chip with a combination wifi/bluetooth one and it worked fine.

The newest generation of wifi technology is the N standard which is about 6 years old so everything during that time frame should play nicely together.

Although our faulty chip was an Intel, the good chip that survived the coffee was also Intel so I’m going to recommend Intel. I’d go with this one because it’s cheap, rated nearly 5 stars, and is the best selling wifi chip on Amazon.

Where did the ad backgrounds go Google?

Now this is quite interesting. Notice anything missing?where did the ad background goThe background behind the ads, formerly a pale gold, is completely gone. Interesting that this coincides with the biggest shopping holiday of the year.

It seems like they have been lightening the background for a while. Lately I’ve been squinting at the adblock section at an extreme angle to see it. I tried it today and saw only white.

Why is Google doing this? Well like any for-profit blogger or website owner already knows, blending the Google ads in with the content by coloring the background white and removing the border increases click-through rates and therefore ad revenue. I assume they are lightening the color gradually in hopes it won’t get noticed by the majority of internet users.

Update: I double-checked in photoshop just to be sure and found that the background behind the ads is in fact still there! However it doesn’t seem to be perceptible to the human eye.

color-google ads

 

Update 2: It looks like these changes might be a result of a new “AD” label in searches. The “AD” label might not show up for canadians yet. Source: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2309456/Googles-Yellow-Ads-Label-Now-Showing-on-Desktop-Searches

SONY VAIO PCG Series

This is a high resolution picture of the laptop insides of a Sony Vaio PCG-61313L. As far as I can tell it looks exactly the same for all Sony Vaio models beginning with the letters “PCG”. I’ll list Sony Vaio PCG model numbers below and you can CTRL+F your model number to see if it’s in the list. Mine is actually not in the list, maybe because it’s a canadian model.

(Click for full resolution file)

sony-vaio-PCG-series-motherboard-open

(Click for full resolution file)

I opened this machine up to replace the wifi card, so click the link if you’re interested in reading about that.

Opening the Sony PCG Series

This was an easy laptop computer to open. First make sure the laptop is unplugged and the battery removed. Unscrew both expansion slots – one holds the ram and the other held the hard drive. You can leave the RAM in but take the hard drive out.

Once all screws are removed the bottom cover will come off easily. If you struggle to take it off you probably missed a screw. In my model I took out a total of exactly 19 screws of various sizes. The hard drive was only using 2 out of a total 4 screws.

PCG Series Model Numbers

This is a partial list of Sony Vaio PCG Series laptops. If your PCG series motherboard looks significantly different from the one pictured, leave a comment!

  • PCG-505F, PCG-505G, PCG-505GX
  • PCG-505FX
  • PCG-505TS, PCG-505TX, PCG-505TR
  • PCG-705C, PCG-707C
  • PCG -717C, -719C, -729C, -731, -735, -737
  • PCG-745, PCG-747
  • PCG-748
  • PCG-808, 812, 818, 838
  • PCG-C1VN Picturebook
  • PCG-C1X PictureBook
  • PCG-C1XS Picturebook
  • PCG-F150, F160, F180, F190
  • PCG-F250, F270, F280, F290
  • PCG-F340, PCG-F350, PCG-F360
  • PCG-F370, PCG-F390
  • PCG-F420, PCG-F430, PCG-F450
  • PCG-F480, PCG-F480K, PCG-F490, PCG-F490K
  • PCG-F520, F540, F540K, F560, F560K, F570
  • PCG-F580, PCG-F580K, PCG-F590, PCG-F590K
  • PCG-F610, PCG-F630
  • PCG-F640, F650, F650K, F680, F680K
  • PCG-F690, PCG-F690K
  • PCG-F801, PCG-F801A
  • PCG-FR102, FR130, FR700
  • PCG-FRV25, FRV26, FRV27, FRV28
  • PCG-FX104K, FX105K, FX108K, FX109K
  • PCG- FX120, FX140, FX150, FX170, FX190 Series
  • PCG-FX200, FX200K Series
  • PCG- FX210, FX215, FX220, FX240, FX250, FX270 Series
  • PCG-FX290/290k PIII SpeedStep
  • PCG-FX300, PCG-FX310 Series
  • PCG- FX340, FX340K, FX340P Series
  • PCG-FX370, FX390 Series
  • PCG-FX800
  • PCG-FX801, FX802, FX804, FX805
  • PCG-FX880K, FX900, FX950, FX990
  • PCG-FXA10
  • PCG-FXA32, FXA33, FXA35/D, FXA36 Series
  • PCG-FXA47, FXA48
  • PCG-FXA49
  • PCG-FXA53, FXA59, FXA63
  • PCG- GR Series
  • PCG-GRS Series
  • PCG-GRT25
  • PCG-GRT100 Series
  • PCG-GRT170 2.8GHz P4
  • PCG-GRV550
  • PCG-GRV670 & GRV680 Series
  • PCG-GRX Series 500 Models
  • PCG-GRX Series 600 & 700 Models
  • PCG-GRZ530
  • PCG-GRZ 600 Series
  • PCG K12, K13, K14, K15, K17Series
  • PCG K20, K22, K23, K24, K25, K27, K29 Series
  • PCG K33, K34, K35, K37 Series
  • PCG-K43, K44, K45, K47 Series
  • PCG-N505VE, PCG-N505VX
  • PCG-NV100, NV170, NV170P, NV190, NV190P, NV200
  • PCG-NVR23
  • PCG-R505D Series
  • PCG-R505E Series
  • PCG-R505G Series
  • PCG-R505J and PCG-R505T Series
  • PCG SR Series
  • PCG-SRX77/C
  • PCG-SRX77P/C
  • PCG-SRX 87
  • PCG-SRX87P
  • PCG-SRX99
  • PCG-TR1 Series
  • PCG-TR2 Series
  • PCG-TR3 Series
  • PCG-TR5 Series
  • PCG-V505 Series
  • PCG-VX88 Series, PCG-VX89 Series
  • PCG- XG18, XG19
  • PCG-XG28, PCG-XG28K, PCG-XG29, PCG-XG29K
  • PCG-XG38, PCG-XG39, PCG-XG39K
  • PCG-XG 500, XG500K, XG700, XG700K, XG9
  • PCG-Z1 Series
  • PCG-Z505HE, PCG-Z505HS , PCG-Z505HSK
  • PCG-Z505JE, PCG-Z505JEK
  • PCG-Z505JS, PCG-Z505JSK
  • PCG-Z505LE, PCG-Z505LEK
  • PCG-Z505LS, PCG-Z505LSK
  • PCG-Z505R, Z505RX, Z505S, Z505SX
  • PCG-Z600NE, PCG-Z600TEK

Basing Every Goal on the Survival Number

Last month earnings blasted through my “survival number” of 30$/day like a freight train. Consequently, I’ve found my motivation for working hard melt away, leaving only existential bliss behind.

But the taste of independence is too sweet to risk to days filled with nothing but naps, snacks and video games. Now that my most important milestone seems firmly in the rear-view mirror, I must plot a course to the next.

The most dependable source of traffic for me is search engine traffic. Many internet marketers, veterans of the Penguin and Panda massacres, would disagree and claim from their own experience that search traffic is the most fickle. But my tail is long and fat. Take away any one keyword and the effect on the whole would look like normal fluctuation.

In the week of June 3, 2012 – a month after I launched my site – it attracted a total of 172 visitors from searches. Over the next 63 days, this figure doubled. 147 days more and it doubled again. Search traffic doubled a total of 5 times between June 3, 2012 and today – November 11 2013.

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.

My next goal is to meet my survival number with search traffic alone. Based on some numbers and graphs which I will not share here, I’m only 1/4 of the way there. In other words, this goal will require 2 more doublings which based on past history take ~100 days each.

Of course doublings should start to slow down dramatically at some point as the internet reaches its saturation point for information about buckets.

I like this new goal because it looks so similar to the last. Maybe I will base all future earnings goal on that same 30$/day number. It’s a “mind-sized” goal that keeps every number in sharp perspective.

Google Analytics Avg Visit Duration fix

Apparently google analytics data for average visit duration is deeply, deeply flawed. But there are cool hacks and fixes to get much better data.

In essence, the incorrect duration statistic stems from users who only view one page, then leave. Even if they spent 15 minutes on the page, they are counted as a bounced user with a visit duration of 0:00. To fix the issue, your website must be set up to track clicks of the back button and closures of the user’s browser.

The author of the tutorial for counting true visit duration saw their own site jump from 4 minutes up to 14 after applying the extra code.

I haven’t applied this fix yet to any of my sites yet – but it seems like a must.

See the full tutorial on Savio.no >>

“They are Appointed”

As the blogging industry matures into adolescence, an old boys’ club emerges. A new blog has a better chance of success when  “appointed” by the existing audience wranglers.

The same is true on YouTube where top dog user vlogbrothers gave this advice to an up-and-comer about how to succeed on the video sharing website: “Start 6 years ago.”

Despite the negativity, I believe this new west is still mostly virgin territory. It’s far easier to grab the attention of 10,000 eyeballs than one human resources manager.

Changing the Work Routine

For the past few months, I’ve set myself a quota of an article a day -every day- no exceptions. Except…. Facebook Fridays. If I wanted a day off I just wrote less of an article. Sometimes, these piddling articles were only a few sentences long. Laziness was winning more and more often.

After publishing an embarrassment of an article this time last week, I knew I had to change my workflow to inject some give-a-shit into this thing I do once again.

So now I work on a post for 30 minutes a day, no exceptions except for…. you already know. It’s ok to spend more time, but probably not less. I’m still thinking that one through.

I’ve also stopped posting for now on the 2 smaller sites and am focusing only on the big site. Each hour of work spent on an article there pays much greater dividends in the short term – and I assume the long term as well. This means I’m leveraging my time more aggressively at the risk of less topic diversification.

Although in the past 6 days I only published 2 articles, they’ve been longer and higher quality – not the rush jobs that I often put out at the 6 article a week pace. Today I published the 2nd article with 20 minutes yet to spend on extra tidbits like posting to Pinterest and writing this post.

I like some of the advice Ed Dale spurts, including that showing up for at least 30 minutes every day with months or years of consistency is a much greater constructor of success than blowing your entire load working like a banshee until your brain just can’t take it any more. That’s why I started, and have so far stuck to, working a little bit every single day without exception. Except…. for 3 days when my server was hacked in June while I was speaking at a Blogging Conference and the day I got married this September 7.

The best and most unexpected result of this schedule is that I now have a keen insight to how much time I spend “working on the business” – if this counts as a business. I can even calculate how much I earned in a day against how much I worked that day, and watch my “wage” grow with great satisfaction.

Finally we can Analyze some Data for Facebook Friday!

 

It’s not as if I couldn’t have run some numbers before, but the more data I can get on the efficacy of Facebook Fridays the better.

I started this mad experiment on July 19th, according to the post I made here the day I committed to this social media plan. That’s only 9 weeks ago!!! Holy moly, it feels like so much longer than that.

At the time I had 206 subscribers on the facebook page – called likes in Facebook’s proprietary lingo. It’s growth, but it doesn’t seem too much faster than normal. Recent history would suggest that my assumption is probably wrong but I’ll run those numbers another time.

The numbers to run this time are traffic numbers. How about some charts?

Facebook.com Referral Traffic

These are ONLY the figures for traffic coming from the Facebook black box. Black box because you can’t tell which page on Facebook the visits are coming from. Each data point is 1 week.

The highlighted point is the first week of Facebook Friday. Data goes back to March or so for comparison.

facebook-frydayReal hard to tease out useful data from this isn’t it? This is the annotation that Taran left to mark that spike in early June.

SOMEONE posts SOMETHING SOMEWHERE, God only knows

Exactly. No way to tell where the traffic is coming from. I’m reasonably sure that the more recent spikes are my doing – but how to be sure?

I have no choice but to close on an unsatisfying note of ambiguity.

It’s sure nice to have Fridays off from writing for search engines though.

 

God Dammit, Hacked Again | Trojan:JS/Quidvetis.A

It’s not one of my overpopulated servers this time – thank Blog – it’s one of my clients. Fortunately they only have one website on the server so it’s less of a mess to clean up than the one prior.

I’ll call this the Trojan:JS/Quidvetis.A hack because that’s the trojan being distributed by the malicious code. I know because my windows 8 snipes it every time it tries to download.

The hack doesn’t seem to specifically target wordpress installations only, because another hack victim found it in his index.php files on a custom coded site.

This is the link to the conversation which was unhelpfully marked as a duplicate question without linking to the original inquiry! This question is from yesterday which means this might be something going around…

This guy’s site wasn’t wordpress but mine was. I found several funny named files, one in the root named after a female human, and one further down titled with a random ASCII string. My index.php files seemed  untouched but all the header.php files within my theme directories had long strings of encoded hex. Remember, if it’s in hex, it’s probably a hex 🙂

Every time I deal with a hack I get better at dealing with future hacks. So it’s both good and bad. I remember first virus I ever cleaned from a computer was called Anti-CMOS – a now vintage virus from 1995. I think it still lives on all our 3.5″ non-floppy floppy disks.

I think the best course of action is to restore from some old backups. I found and fixed a lot of code and the virus isn’t being distributed anymore but you just can’t be sure… I’ll make sure to delete any unnecessary php files, change login passwords, remove unused plugins, update shit, etc.

Another fine mess…

Making Facebook Friday a Little Bigger

Last week I hit my first post with over 1000 impressions. Hopefully I’ll hit this more regularly which will prove that Facebook Friday is working… I think.

Facebook Fridays are a nice break from the normal routine of writing, writing, writing interesting and search optimized content every day.

Now that the habit is established I think I’ll start integrating other social medias like twitter and reddit and pinterest to the regime. I signed up for Hootsuite today which I’m not entirely sure will be useful but maybe I will play around with it a little and see what I can discover from it.

First the ordinary facebook stuff.

  • Sep 13 Flood Prep
  • Sep 14 Moonshine
  • Sep 15 Vacuum Cleaner
  • Sep 16 Unstick Buckets
  • Sep 17 Moving Boxes
  • Sep 18 Bucket Dolly
  • Sep 19 Gamma Seal Lids

Then let’s post a couple things on Reddit without worrying about scheduling.

2 posts on reddit for sites in appropriate subreddit. I’ll repost something if it doesn’t go over well enough. (reddit is a huge traffic get if done properly, traffic quality has risen from poor to fair in recent years.)

And a nice crop of pictures on Pinterest while I’m at it. I tried crosslinking a Pin over to the facebook page with promises of daily updates!

No need to waste time on twitter… I have nothing clever to say 🙂

How about a nice cliche image related to increasing profits through engaging with social media?

Money-Twitter-Social-Media

Perfect.

 

2013 Canning Season Prices and Notes

I try to do canning every year to produce enough jam, salsa and other preserves to last through the part of the year where produce isn’t dirt cheap.

My favorite product from last year was plum jam – I made it without pectin by boiling for 4 hours or more. I should have boiled longer like I did for the peach jam  I also did.

So this year I’m doing plum again and pear – because pears are disgustingly cheap today.

box of pearsIMG_4215

Fruit:

  • 28 lbs pears for $20.27 ($0.72 per pound)
  • 20 lbs plums for $25.95 ($1.29 per pound)
  • 3.45 lbs green peppers ($0.69 per pound)
  • 2.61 lbs red peppers ($0.99 per pound)

Fruit Total: $51.19

Canning Supplies:

  • 24 wide mouth lids for $7.46 ($0.31 per lid)
  • 12 standard lids for $2.37 ($0.20 per lid)
  • 4 kilos sugar for $5.87

Supplies Total: $15.70

Total Cost: $66.89

With this ~50 lbs of fruit, I’m making

  • 3 batches peppery pear salsa
  • spiced pear jam with the remainder of the pears
  • plum jam

More details to come soon within the next few days. Also articles on JarSpot.com and Greenhousefarming.com related to this canning season.

Articles Planned:

  • Quickly ripening fruit in the entryway in the sun
  • Peppery Pear Salsa
  • No Pectin Plum Jam
  • No Pectin Pear Jam
  • Tattler Lids available in Canada!

Price Per Jar of Finished Products

completed-plum-jam

Plum Jam, 20 pints

  • Lids: $6.20 (20 wide)
  • Fruit: $25.95 (20 lb plum)
  • Sugar: $1.90 (1.3 kilo)
  • Heat not counted
  • Lemon juice not counted
  • Rum not counted
  • Jars & Rings are a sunk cost and not counted

Total: $34.05

Total per jar: $1.70

 

Sep 6 Facebook Friday

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted about Facebook Fridays, but they’ve been getting done.

They didn’t seem to be paying off for the first few weeks, but we’ve hit some good posts so I still haven’t abandoned the project. I will be able to procure a chart and superimpose it onto my facebook data at some point in the future, maybe in another 4 weeks.

FB Like count is sitting at 264 for the facebook page and 574 for the main URL.

Pinterest as always is doing a better job driving traffic, with a lot less work. Maybe I should just get better at Pinterest instead of wasting time with Facebook.

Schedule this week:

  • Sep 6 Shelving
  • Sep 7 Potato Farm
  • Sep 8 Handle Repair
  • Sep 9 Sauerkraut
  • Sep 10 Collapsible
  • Sep 11 Dimensions
  • Sep 12 Ashtray

Edit October 2014: I got married the day after I posted this list. Hilarious in retrospect how it passed without mention and very “me.” We’re having a kid in a few months and I expect that new adventure to merit many posts on this finance blog as I discover and try out financial parenthacks.

 

Giveaway Downloads on Every Post

It’s a strategy from a guy whose business is business. The kind of internet fauna of which there might be too much of, in the same where there are too many magic wand salesmen recruiting new magic wand salesmen who will recruit yet more magic wand salesmen.

The advice checks out though, here’s how I’ve adjusted it with my own slant of laziness.

Instead of putting a giveaway on EVERY post I’ve decided to spend the time to put these giveaways on the posts that have already proven that have 2 of the 3 following features

  • High traffic through main site
  • High search engine visibility
  • High page earnings

Spending the time to put giveaways only on the posts with a proven track record is sort of an 80/20 compromise. I figure I can get 80% of the benefit of these techniques with only 20% of the effort applied strategically.

I used the HTML code provided which was very helpful. The only coding necessary was the HTML and 1 or 2 CSS changes. In total it took 30 minutes, and will probably be much faster in the future now that it’s been done once. Building the brand new mailchimp campaign took an hour or two and should go much faster if part of the process can be template.

(from my comment on the interview podcast)

Summertime Search Traffic Growth

These are notes for summertime traffic growth for the 3 blogging sites that have so far stood the test of time. I have other sites but these 3 are the most impressive statistic-wise.

I’m planning a 4th site themed similarly to these sites soon so this data will help me plan for future growth.

This is organic search traffic only, which is a minority segment of total traffic.

Time frame is from May 5 to Aug 24 2013 and is calculated by 7-day period. That’s 16 weeks total.

Note: For each chart, first and last data points shown are not used; they are incomplete weeks.

Site 1: Site “B”

graph1

week of may 5: 2169
week of aug 18: 3115
growth amount: 946
growth per week: 59

Interesting to note that SEMrush is showing this site losing search traffic over the last 2 months. No sign of that in the actual data….

Site 2: Site “G”

graph2

week of may 5: 20
week of aug 18: 203
growth amount: 183
growth per week: 11

Site 3: Site “J”

graph3

week of may 5: 62
week of aug 18: 218
growth amount: 156
growth per week: 10

Take-away

I didn’t realise Site B was growing so quickly. It had seemed to be plateauing compared with the other 2 sites, but by running the numbers the growth seems significant. It only looks like slower growth in the charts because the week-over-week growth represented as a percentage of pre-existing traffic has actually been much lower than the smaller sites. Babies grow the fastest, but that doesn’t mean they are the strongest.

Bonus Chart – Site “D”

Alright, here’s a bonus search volume chart for a mature site that is popular but rarely updated. This site is a loser in revenue but is kept up as an art piece. Interesting to note how stable the traffic volume is over time while fluctuating wildly week-to-week.

chart4

week of may 5: 414
week of aug 18: 363
growth amount: -51
growth per week: -3

Although it looks like this site is shrinking, the 16-week shrinkage of 51 seems to be just within the normal weekly fluctuation. To me this is a positive sign that a blog left to its own devices does not really shrink over time.

Minimum Daily Cost of a Coffee Habit

Summary: Buying high quality but cheap costco beans and drinking 1 percolator pot of coffee per day, my personal coffee habit costs $0.65 per day. I drink as much or more coffee than average, which means that no one’s coffee habit need be more expensive than mine.

percolator-coffee-pot

Hypothesis: I usually tell people that my daily pot of coffee costs 50 cents per day. That’s always been a rough guess, here I’m going to find out exactly what that cost is and how it compares to my estimate.

Methodology: I bought coffee at the Co-op for more than I usually buy it for at Costco. 326 grams were on sale for 5$ exactly. I bought the tin on July 29, and used it that day. Brittany drank about 15% of it which is usually what she drinks out of each coffee purchase. She gets coffee at work free which is why this number is not larger.

Results: The coffee lasted 5 days. I thought it would last 7 and hoped it would last 10 so reality fell pretty far short of my estimate. For this tin of coffee, cost was $1.00 per day.

However – usually I buy a lot more coffee at a time, netting me a significant discount. I buy it for around 12$ for a 1.2 kilo bag at Costco, and it’s a lot better tasting than the Co-op shit. This cheaper coffee is Kirkland brand, but is actually roasted at Starbucks so it is actually quite high quality.

Based on my 5$ 5-day coffee test, a bag of costco beans will -conservatively- stretch out to 18 days. Dividing into 12$ gives me my final coffee habit figure, 65 cents per day.

That’s 30% higher than what I’ve assumed up to this point, but it’s still a trivial amount. Based on my comprehensive bills-and-rent survival number of 26$/day, kicking my coffee habit would only save 2.5% of my total bills.

I think I’d rather keep the coffee habit.

My Dream of Getting a Real Job

That’s “dream” in the literal sense. I had this dream a few nights ago and wrote it down. I’ll keep it brief because I know that other people’s dreams are just about the least interesting type of story. So here it is, in dream italics.

I had just started working for a tech startup with a weenie of a boss. I think it was my third day on the job. Boss told me he was worried for the last two days because traffic numbers to the site had been low. I guess he expected his new traffic ninja to deliver results instantaneously as soon as my butt hit his cheap office seating. But he was happy because today traffic numbers seemed to be at a record high.

I told him different days of the week were better for visits, and that traffic growth takes time, done right it can take a lot of time.

He admitted he didn’t really understand Google Analytics that much so I told him to sit down I would teach him. Right now if you like.

Sat down to show him and he immediately dismissed himself saying, “haven’t eaten yet today.”  He invited me out to lunch. I accepted We ended up in an enormous dining hall, set up hogwarts style. At this point I realise I forgot to wear a shirt to lunch.

Weenie and I sat across from each other at the table. People in the dining hall were playing a mixer game where you have to write something down on a piece of paper.

Weenie boss is starting to distance himself from me as I talk loudly to the people around me.

I start talking to this girl and tell her that we are in a dream, because I’m not wearing a shirt and that happens in dreams.

Find a bunch of friends from high school and hit it off. Tim and I start impersonating Sean Connery singing a traditional scottish war melody while forcing our way down a crowded staircase. This is despite a sign that clearly states “No Sean Connery beyond this point.”

Nerd Finance

Ever since I learned about Nerd Fitness, I’ve wanted a Nerd Finance.

Nerd Fitness is a popular site that helps motivate 20-somethings toward health by plugging health and fitness into their Super Mario mindset. For example, the Nerd Fitness jogging regimen uses waypoints along Frodo’s epic ring journey to milestone your own daily runs. Now your running has a real tangible goal – being able to proudly proclaim, “I’ve run to Mordor!”

Today I heard the topic for the first Nerd Finance article I would write if NerdFinance.com weren’t the property of an eager for profits cyber squatter.

The Red Ring

The Red Ring is an ultra overpowered accessory in some 90’s RPG. As soon as you found and equipped the red ring, your character’s power ascended to that of a demigod. The protagonist breezed through the rest of the game effortlessly, slaying the end boss without breaking a sweat.

In finance, the red ring is your retirement nest egg. If you can aquire it early, you get to play your whole life on easy mode, living off the dividends it throws off quarterly. That’s why money saved in your 20s has exponentially more value than money saved later in life.

Increasing your Butter Mileage

Butter is my all time favorite food. Sure I use it for all the ordinary things – garlic toasts, batches of cookies – but I use this soft yellow gold for all kinds of other things too. A pad of butter to finish off steak brings it to a whole different level, for example, and starting a gravy with a huge dollop of butter and frying flour into it is a New-Orleans inspired way to make gravy that blows your socks off.

Butter is such a centerpiece to my diet that it’s the only grocery item that I check the price for at every single grocery store. To this day I can tell you that the cheapest price I’ve ever found (in Canada) is at the Safeway in North Vancouver, where it was on sale for $2.50 a pound. I bought 8 pounds that day, and if I thought it would have kept forever I would have bought 100.

My butter obsession got so severe that at one point we were burning through 2 pounds a week, which starts to become a serious expense at Canada’s ordinary 4$ or 5$ per pound prices.

That’s when I started to look into some tasty substitutions for butter in some of the recipes we make daily.

The best substitutions we’ve found so far are lard and bacon grease.

simmering-bacon

I don’t know what it is about pig fat, but a spoonful of pig fat goes so much further than a spoonful of butter. Roughly twice as far. It’s almost as if the pork fat molecules are packed denser. I find that you only need 1/2 to 1/3 of the amount in pork fat where you would normally use butter.

Bacon grease for many people will be free – assuming 2 things.

1. You already eat bacon, and

2. You’ve been throwing out the grease.

Just by saving our bacon grease in a mason jar in the fridge, we’ve easily halved our butter consumption and have only improved  the taste of our food.

I don’t use lard as often as bacon grease, because I like my grease source to have as much taste as possible. But it’s easy to find at just 1$ a pound – so in baking, lard is a significantly better deal.

Obviously you can’t sub pork fat in for everything. A butter and jam sandwich, for example, would not be improved by a transformation to a bacon grease and jam sandwich. Not for me anyway.

I’ll share the single biggest saver of butter in our household. I eat a batch of Gordon Ramsey’s scrambled eggs almost every day. What makes these things so damn tasty  is that you start with an enormous dollop of butter.

If you cut or scrimp on the butter in this recipe, it just ain’t the same. But you can substitute the 1/4 cup butter with 1/8 cup bacon grease. Instead of drying out your eggs as would happen if you just cut the butter out, the bacon grease adds much more flavor to the eggs – improving rather than diminishing them.

So if you’re not yet saving bacon grease and stocking your cupboards with lard – and I know that very few people do – start. Especially if you’re a willing butter addict like I am.

Don’t Assume Bulk Bins are Cheaper!

I was raised on that assumption – probably because it used to be true. But in an era of flagging retail profits, grocery stores are doing everything they can to increase margins – whether by hook or by crook.

My mission today was to find the best price on cashews. Prices vary widely for cashews, so it’s an item that is worth shopping around for. I found a difference of over 50% between the first cashews I found and the cashews I ended up purchasing.

I went to 2 stores and found 6 different prices on cashews. I wrote down every price as I went along.

Safeway

  • Salt & Pepper Cashews (can): $32.40/kilo. On sale for $27.80/kilo.
  • Salted Cashews (can): $25.00/kilo

Canadian Superstore

  • Bulk Bins: $22.50/kilo
  • Can: $18.20/kilo
  • Tub: $14.10/kilo

All of these cashews prices were available within the same city block. The time between finding the first can at 32$/kilo and the best priced tub at $14/kilo was only about 10 minutes.

Especially interesting is that the bulk bins were the most expensive way to purchase cashews at Canadian Superstore. Even the small name brand can of cashews in the nut aisle was cheaper by 4$ per kilogram.

canister-of-cashewsI also compared prices for another item on my shopping list, whole milk, which is a commodity item and not a luxury item. Most families buy milk weekly. Prices ranged between $5.29 and $5.99 – not very much at all.

 

“Pick a Niche then Pick a Strategy – and stick with them.”

That was the advice given by Paula from AffordAnything.com on a recent interview with the Mad FIentist, a podcast that I listen to.

She was talking about investing in real estate, but the advice applies to building any asset base where the goal is building passive income.

So for example, if you’re thinking of getting into real estate, you should commit to single family homes or you should commit to mobile home park land, or you should commit to 20-unit apartment complexesthen proceed to learn everything you can about that niche.

As for picking the method, it could be buying distresses units and reselling them after putting in a bunch of work to fix them up. Or it could be holding them and relying on that monthly rental cheque. Pick one, and learn it, backward and forward.

My niche is blogging, since I don’t have the money to pay cash for real estate, and I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to bear a six figure mortgage. My strategy is to write better than average content which attracts a more balanced traffic strata than other for profit blogs. That way I’m not overly dependent on one traffic source (Google.) I shoot for traffic sources split approximately 33% between each – referral, direct and search traffic.

For fun, here’s my Niche and Method for winning Roller Coaster Tycoon. Pick a high traffic area, build a slide, and charge 3$ per customer. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, win scenario!

7-slidesAchieved 8,000 monthly income with a 18,000 company value. That’s what – a  500% annual return?

achieved

 

Optimizing with Tim: 0% to 2.82% conversion in 3 short emails!

This is a guest post from a business friend named Tim Perry. He’s much smarter than I am. He managed to improve his conversion rate from nothing to 2.82% within 3 emails with his knowledge of conversion optimization. In this feature article he shares his exact thought process, his funnel graphs, and the fixes he made to supercharge his campaign.

To build his profile as a recording studio designer, Tim decided to expand his services globally by building an online reputation.

 

Tim was able to build his email list to 2000 subscribers by offering free blueprints for do-it-yourself sound diffusers, which are a type of acoustic panel that scatters sound. Acoustical engineers use these in music rooms, recording studios and concert halls to modify how sound behaves when it bounces around in the room.

 

He started offering acoustic consulting services by tapping into his background in audio engineering and acoustics. As his list of subscribers grew, he gained more and more opportunities to design music studios and show producers and recording engineers how to apply acoustic treatment in their rooms.

 

Tim first warmed up his list of subscribers by giving them some new free acoustic treatment blueprints. A week later, he started pitching his consultancy service, offering to enhance their room acoustics (show them how to soundproof a room and where to place acoustic panels).

I’ve been using a great free app called Streak (http://www.streak.com/) which gives you a CRM / sales funnel right in Gmail. I’ve been using it to keep track of leads and prospects, track where they are in the sales funnel, and to schedule emails that I want sent at a specific time. Following are the 3 reports Streak generated for me.

Email Pitch Test 1

This first image shows the long funnel that initially required them to enter their email before seeing the landing page. As you can see, some people indicated interest by entering their email address, but not many people actually made it to the landing page.

This test was run on 307 people not from the USA, as it was the week of July 4th and I did not want to pitch Americans during that time. And no one from that batch completed their project submission, probably because the survey required them to have a budget.

room-treatment-long-funnel-test-SEG1a-july-3-6

Email Pitch Test 2

Next, I pitched 158 Americans, sending them directly to the landing page. Unfortunately, at this point the landing page did not perform well because the CTA button still said “Submit Your Project” rather than “Get a Free Quote”. I changed it to “Get a Free Quote” after most of the people had already seen the page. The project submission conversion rate for this email was only 1/158*100 = 0.6% according to the image (actually it was 1.2%, as the next day, after I changed the CTA button, another person who did not open the email the first day, opened the email the second day and applied).

The landing page itself only has a conversion rate of 2/191*100 = 1.05%. (the funnel makes it look like it’s 0.52%, but that just means that one of the people who submitted the survey did not complete the Aweber confirmation. In fact, they did continue to converse with me and we are now discussing their project).

room-treatment-short-funnel-test-SEG1-july3-21 (verified)

Email Pitch Test 3

This is the stats for the final email I sent to 425 people, which contained a direct link to the survey and the CTA “Click Here for a Free Quote”. Of those 425 people I sent it to, 8 completed the survey and many more emailed me back, resulting in 12 new prospects on the path to becoming clients. So, the project submission conversion rate for this mini-funnel is 12/425*100 = 2.82%. I also gained a couple other prospects through individualized, targeted emails.

room-treatment-short-funnel-test-SEG1b-july-9

6 Room Treatment Pitch Seg1 #3 (36hrs)

Fixes that Turn a Lagging Campaign Around

FIX 1

(May or may not be significant)

I simplified the application process by removing the first step from the funnel all together (the part where they enter their email address and ask for more info). Instead, I sent them directly to the sales page. I originally had this first step (where they enter their email to request more info) because it was an easy way for them to express interest without having to do a full survey.

This partly worked as intended, BUT, while lots of people did enter their email address, no one actually followed through and made it to the end of the funnel! So I removed that step and instead sent people straight to the sales page.

FIX 2

This is a big one… most people who entered the sales page were not entering the survey, so I changed the call to action on a button that leads to the survey. It used to say “Submit My Project”. I changed it to “Get a Free Quote”, which the data indicates is much more enticing for people to click.

FIX 3

I changed the survey, so that entering a budget is optional, not mandatory. People were quitting the survey half way through because it required that they give their budget, and I expect that requires a lot of work for them to figure out.

FIX 4

In my final email, I removed all major point of resistance by straight up offering people a free quote and linking directly to the survey. This one email got me over a dozen interested prospects who requested quotes (prior to that, only 2 people who were good prospects).

Final Conclusions

I learned that to get lots people to act, you need to make an offer that’s irresistible 🙂 (in this case, the offer of a free quote) and streamline the application process (remove unnecessary steps that cause resistance).

I now have 17 prospects I’m filtering through and negotiating with.

I also learned that (in this case) it was more effective to convert customers through email than to rely on my sales page. Way more people completed the survey by clicking a direct link to the survey in the email, versus by clicking  a link that leads to the sales page (the goal of the sales page is to get people to complete the survey, but it does not do a great job of this). So, for high value clients, 95% of the selling is best done through building a relationship via email. The sales page important too, but it’s the icing on the cake. Right now, my sales page on its own is not very effective.

Tim is an acoustical consultant who provides music studio design services.

Replacing the Hard Drive in an External

Recently my motherboard was shorted out by a coffee spill. Computer components are cheap, but the data on a hard drive is probably priceless. I was worried that I would have to buy a drive case for my hard drive to get the data off it. But I found out that I can just tear apart my external, swap the drive out, and it’ll work.

My drive is a 500gb Seagate FreeAgent. I checked online to make sure its connector is a SATA before opening it.

external-driveSee this little green board? That’s the adapter that turns SATA into USB and powers the drive with a tiny connector.

internal-to-external-boardHard Drives, side by side. 500gb from inside the external and a 1000gb from inside the shorted out computer. The 1000gb is about 5 years newer, but hopefully they’re still compatible!

hard-drives-side-by-side

Testing the drive to make sure it’ll work before I put it all together.

hard-drive-plugged-in

 

There she is! Everything works perfectly. Note: it only shows 750gb out of a total 1000gb because i left 250gb open in case I wanted to dual boot this drive with another OS in the future.successful-test

First attempt at putting the drive back together. Ugly but still functional.

putting-back-together-wrong

So Fortunately for me, I won’t have to buy a drive cage. Total savings 20-40$

Search Growth Changes

My search engine traffic volume stopped growing on the day my server was hacked. No idea if the two are related, but looking at the chart it certainly looks suspicious.
search-graph

search-graph-lines

I had heard that there was a google Panda update around that time, but according to this Penguin&Panda calendar, that’s not correct. March 25 saw a penguin update, as well as July 18 – just a few days ago.

That July 18 Panda update actually looks like it may be a turning point but it’s probably too early to call.

search-graph-lines-jul18

 

8 Month Itchy Feet

I find that with very few exceptions I don’t stick around at a job for more than 8 or 9 months. Maybe it’s a generational quirk. My parents stuck with jobs for 5 to 10 years, and their parents even longer.

Most recently I’ve been getting sick of constantly writing articles, day after day. Not mind-block sick of it, like the way Taran gets when looking for jobs, but “what a chore” sick. To me it means the clock is winding down. In a month or two I might loathe what I do. The same kind of thing happened at Pedal to Petal. I was doing the minimum amount of work I absolutely had to keep the company running and to keep enough money coming in. The difference there is that I stuck with that gig for 18 months, a good deal longer than the mean for me.

So it’s time to start considering new projects. This most recent one was the smartest thing I could do with 8 months ever before in my life, because the system I spent that time building won’t go away. Unlike when I unplugged from the UBC system and those fat paychecks were cut off completely, this time I’ll hopefully see an ongoing benefit for years – or decades even – into the future.

Maybe this is the psychological profile of a serial entrepreneur. Build a system, replace yourself, and move on.

Not to say that I’m any good at entrepreneurship. I’m actually shockingly bad at motivating people; I think I’m too easy going. I let things slide and by no means demand the best of people. And if I never have to do a cold call or bring donuts to an office in the hopes of future clients, I will die a happy human.

Fridays are Facebook Days!

For the last few weeks I’ve been braining my brain on how to get more baseline traffic on FGI. I’ve been writing longer articles, submitting some of them to reddit again, and doing even more keyword research. For some reason ever since zend hacking day, my search traffic has stagnated. Earnings and overall traffic are still growing, but I know that without steady search traffic growth numbers, I won’t be able to grow this sapling to the size where it can shelter me.

Today I’ve decided to sacrifice one of my content days (there are currently 7 content days a week) to scheduling facebook posts over the next 7 days. I’ve already got pinterest down – it’s fun so I just post on there for every article – but I’ve hated doing facebook for a long time, so I have to force myself to do it if I’m going to do it.

So I’m going to start dedicating fridays to facebook. I’ll look forward to fridays because scheduling 7 facebook posts is actually a lot easier than researching and writing an article. I just did it and it took maybe 30 minutes, where an article can easily take 2 hours, give or take.

These are the posts I scheduled this friday. I probably won’t publish my posting schedule every week, but since I’m starting the program today I figured I would make note of it.

All posts are published using facebook’s newish “scheduling” feature, except for today’s post which was published instantly. All posts are are launched at noon, which is both when I wake up and when my website traffic has hit its daily plateau.

july 19 ash bucket
july 20 egg washer
july 21 end table
july 22 garden hose
july 23 freezer organizer
july 24 csa box
july 25 cut open 55 gal drum

The facebook page currently has 207 likes, which is significantly up over last time I checked which was when I topped 100. My website has 550 likes, but these likes are not “traffic” likes because they aren’t shared with friends (i don’t think) and they don’t subscribe a “liker” to posts in the future. I may very well change the homepage facebook button to like the facebook page instead depending on the results of this test.

7 posts, so I’ll have 7 little experiments to run against each other and see which sort of post gets the better response. Is it the picture? The blurb? Personal stories? Longer or shorter sentence? It could even be time of day for all I know. I won’t know until I test. fucking. everything.

Fridays are Facebook days!

Adsense Rich Media Changes on my site

Just a quick note about the adsense changes I made today.

I took the “text only” ad out of rotation – it’s clear that people click on rich media ads and that CPC has gone up so I think I’m happy with rich media ads. One advertiser selling foldable containers is advertising on the site, and I’ve been quite happy with that advertiser since they seem to be selling something quite useful and it’s well targeted at my readers.

It’s also still been reported as earning higher this week just as last week. I suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes so if this change hurts overall earnings I can easily put it back into rotation.

I’ve also changed the bottom ad to rich media+text – so now all 3 main ad units will accept rich media ads, whereas 2 months ago I accepted no rich media ads on the entire site.

I’ve left the mid-page ads which show up only on the most popular articles out. I plan to phase them out completely before long as those pages are now trying to display 4 ads, which is impossible and always leaves a yellow hole.

 

 

Adsense Rich Media Ads Results part 1

Well it’s been 32 days since I started the Adsense rich media ads experiment on my highest earning ad block.

I’m using data from June 6 to today, July 8. The 2 or 3 days the server was hacked will be included because both ads would have been affected the same, and earnings were very low on those days anyway so any statistical noise will affect data very little.

So here are the results.

32-day-adsense-rich-media-test

 

I’d rather not disclose exact dollar figures, but I’ve disclosed the important data for each ad unit. As you can see, they are almost identical. The key numbers to look at are RPM – or revenue per 1000 visitors for each ad type. Over the last 32 days, the revenue for text-only ads has been almost exactly the same as the revenue for rich media ads. The difference is only about 2% – and it’s actually the text ads which are earning slightly more! So it would seem at first glance that google’s advice to switch to text-and-image ads is, at least for me, bad advice.

But what about my concern that since one ad block is new and one is months old, this will distort the data? Well let’s look at just the last 1/4 segment of the data – RPM for the last 7 days.

1-week-adsense-testJust taking the last 7 days into account, we are in fact seeing a significant difference. Now instead of a -2% difference, it’s a positive 25% difference showing up in the data when comparing the two side-by-side.

It’s worth mentioning that overall CPM is lower for both ad units for the past 7 days because of enormous referral traffic from Reddit and other sites. This always lowers my CPM while doubling or tripling overall traffic – an overall boon for my statistics.

Adsense Experiment Conclusion

Sorry, but there isn’t one – at least not yet. The data seems to be displaying 2 different messages, which to me means we need to gather more data! So I’m going to leave this experiment running for at least another 30 days.

Soon – I’ll run the numbers on the banner ad I put up mid-june and see whether I should remove it, or test a different ad block.

 

This Website Need Only Make $10 a Year

Websites are amazing because they are so damn cheap to run. The real estate that this site sits on costs me about 10$ per year, that’s for my fancy domain name – www.justscrapingby.com. Sure hosting costs money too – but each additional website I put on my server doesn’t cost me any extra – so that’s a “sunk cost” to use economist’s lingo. Plus I have web clients that lease server space from me, so I break even on web hosting anyway.

I have this one website I’ve been running with my brother for 3 years – DFStories.com. It’s very popular in the Dwarf Fortress community, the site is well designed and the articles well written. But it’s not a source of revenue for me because the audience is the least likely to click an ad or buy a product of any audience. The readers for this site are highly technically competant males in their 20’s and 30’s. Even the ones who don’t have adblock installed are exceedingly unlikely to click an ad or buy anything.

However, because this site is still capable of making a piddling 22$ per year, we can keep it up forever as a service to that community. Because its internet real estate costs the same as any other website’s real estate – just 10 dollars each year.

Imagine if AFK real estate cost so little, how society would be different. If rent for a basic place to live cost just 50$ a month, for example, people would be so much freer to pursue a way of life that feels right to them – not just a high expenditure, high workload existence. Not that I think that way of existing is necessarily a bad way to live, but wouldn’t you rather have the choice? That’s why I’m an advocate for Slum Zoning – which is a term I made up because no city councillor would dare to think of it before. But we’re already seeing tent cities popping up all over America – why not zone for them?

So today I’m putting a couple of ads on this website – and I’m shooting for an ultra conservative earnings target of 10$ per year.

 

Blogging Dates!

You’ve probably read all about “cheap date ideas” – but we’ve gone full circle and are going on dates that pay us! 

blogging-date

We try to go on blogging dates every weekend. We take ours at the coffee shop but you could go anywhere with internet access. It’s fun to go out somewhere instead of doing this at home.

Sure each date costs 4$ in coffee, but we write so much on these dates that they pay for themselves in just 2 weeks – then for years after we will keep seeing benefits!

I’ve found that blogging dates are a great way to encourage ourselves to get out and write. It’s too easy at home to get tied up watching YouTube videos so we try to change up the environment and it really helps our motivation.

I use blogging dates to write my daily blog post and catch up on maintenance operations which I tend to put off. Today I spent it setting up the W3 Super Cache plugin which is something I should have done ages ago. Before I set it up my main website was performing better than only 42% of sites on the net. Afterwords, I was testing better than 99% of sites!

My fiance uses blogging dates to mass produce content for her beauty blog. She has a jobby career so she writes between 3 and 5 posts on our weekend dates and schedules them throughout the week.

I’d really like to involve more people on our weekly blogging dates – we just gotta find some people in our town who will commit to them! Maybe we can rename them to “blogging meetups” or something…

Yet Another Way to Sneak Google+ Into Everything

Google is desperate to get people using Google+. They covet that priceless metadata that right now only Facebook has, called the “Facebook Like.” Many of the end-of-year bonuses now at Google are directly tied to how much Google+ product you can push on the mostly unwilling crowds of internet users.

The latest of hundreds of attempts to get real people using Google+ is present in the brand new Adsense scorecard, which made its debut right around Adsense’s 10 year anniversary this past week.

admin-ajax
It’s actually slightly useful – lets you know opportunities you’ve missed and what you can do better. I’ve already made a couple of changes based on the scorecard, and will probably installing a site caching plugin to address page speed performance as well. Of course right there at the end, they stick “Add a Google+ Button” – as if that’s going to actually help with earnings from Adsense?

I’m sick to tears of Google+ already, and I don’t even use the program.

 

Adding a Banner Ad

 

Today I finally added a third ad to my main website.

Adsense only allows 3 ads per page, and I’ve been running just 2 on 98% of my pages for the past few months.fgi-new

I put the ad up based on another of Google Adsense’s recommendations and a recommendation from another adsense publisher who gives mostly simplistic advice, but some good stuff.

I like my old design better. I think I’ll like my new design if I get rid of the like button.

Here’s what it used to look like.

fgi-oldThis test shouldn’t interfere with my other ongoing test with rich media ads, which already shows about a 30% increase in revenues per ad view compared with text only ads. This top banner ad should affect both ad rotations exactly equally.

 

Web Server Hacked! … and fixed | $zend_framework hack

Relying solely on WordPress is getting more and more risky as it becomes more and more ubiquitous. It’s the same reason why in the early 2000’s windows became the Typhoid Mary of operating systems. Everyone was using it so it became the hacking target with the highest ROI for hackers.

My sites have been hacked before but never to this extent. Every single piece of PHP code on my second server had a long piece of encrypted code added to the beginning. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for the enormous slowdown I saw on all my websites hosted on that server.

server-hack-traffic-damage

It took me 48 hours before I realized what was going on – it was actually my hosting company that pointed out the malicious code – and another 5 or 6 hours of work to clear it all up. It would have taken much longer were it not for the excellent work by Oomta, who wrote a piece of PHP code that you can run from your website’s root that will automatically clear out your entire install.

Right Click, and save as this link to download the full code in txt format. To use the code, change it from a txt into a php by renaming the file extension, then upload to your server. Then run the script by navigating in your browser to www.YOURSITE.com/killit.php.

I had about 8 wordpress installations on this server, so I had to run the script 8 times. The hack also seemed to add 2 additional backdoor scripts within the installations which I found using the (free) WordFence security plugin, and an additional administrative user with a black name and email address. Check for both of those things as well if you have been hit with the $zend hack. There could be more nasty little things they’ve added that I haven’t found yet.

I’m hoping to keep these sites going until wordpress can release some sort of update to prevent this from happening again. I’ll be watching like a hawk.

For my rich media ad A/B testing project, I’ll just have to throw out yet more data from the last few days. Today seems to be back up to normal, but I’m throwing out data from at least the past 3 days.

 

What to Do with too much Free Time?

I find myself poking around on job boards just to see what’s out there. If the right thing comes along I apply for it.

I’ve written crazy alternative resumes before, just to gauge response. Since I’m comfortable in the blog format, that’s usually what they look like. Imagine getting sent a blog post in PDF format for a job opening. Side note, is “PDF Format” redundant? I have yet to hear back from someone who was unlucky enough to be sent one of my hipster resumes.

Too much free time is certainly a first world problem. You have to know how to keep yourself happy. That’s never been a problem for me personally, but I know certain humans who aren’t happy unless they’re working their asses off. I know a lot of people like that actually.

Buddhist monks don’t give a shit. They’ll meditate for decades at a time. Some stand in the same place so long they start to sink into the hardwood floor. Do they ever get bored? I assume not, otherwise they would just leave and do something else, wouldn’t they?

overlay-500x331

 

I find time harder to fill out here in the far-flung prairies than I did in the thriving coastal metropolis we lived in before. In Vancouver, you’d take visiting a coffee shop for granted. Here we have to plan cafe visits, it’s a once a week at most affair that requires shifting 2 tons of pickup truck down a highway far too busy for a city this size.

Fortunately even in tar sands country, the internet is always on. So that’s how I’ve been filling all this free time for these past 6 months. It’s the cheapest entertainment, education, and business incubator mankind has ever come up with – thanks Al Gore!

I read a lot of these early retirement websites like ERE and MMM – and I guess this site is just a slightly different angle on the same subject. My experience has been that you don’t need to accumulate even the lowball quarter million that EREman saved up before he quit his job – I quit my job 3 years ago with a net savings of just a few thousand, and have more today than I did then. That’s another thing I love to spend all this free time doing. Finding ways to make more money than I spend, month after month after month. It’s a fun challenge and it gets easier and easier.

So here’s my one-item list of stuff you can do with more free time:

  • Do what you like to do now, but more of it.

I’m not a gym bunny, but if you like going to the gym, you can go more often. Cyclists can go on longer bike rides, even multi-day if you care to. If you like raising kids, well then, go whole hog and join a homeschooling circle.

Hey, it’s a crappy answer I know, but I know nothing about your life and what charges up your batteries. Go on a vision quest or something.

Should I allow Adsense Image ads?

In summary – yes and no. You want to try both ad types at the same time and see which one does better over a 30 day or longer trial period. Then eliminate the underperformer. 

I’m using this post as a very extended annotation in google analytics because for some reason it only allows 160 characters. What is this, 1995?

Anyway yesterday (June 4 2013) Google asked me to allow images as well as text ads on my highest paying slot, a 336×280 at the top of a certain website about buckets.  They came to me promising up to 30% increase in weekly earnings, which is the same as a 30% increase in monthly earnings actually, if you do the math.

The unit was making about 10$ a day. For comparison, rent costs about 13$ a day, so this is a fairly important ad.

This is the 3rd or so time they’ve come to me begging me to allow those image ads. I’ve always clicked no but I figured – why the heck not – and clicked yes this time.

Day 1 of Rich Media Adsense Ads

The next day was depressing. Ad revenue for the entire site actually dropped by half.

I looked to the internet for some advice – and wouldn’t you know it I found some.

Apparently image ads used to have not such a great reputation back a few years ago, but more recent experience seems to indicate that they DO improve earnings. They may actually attract less clicks but since a single image ad may be buying out 4 smaller text ads, the payout per click can be much greater.

But the people who know better than me advised, each site is different. Which is true. Some sites get better responses to images and some text. Google’s algorithm is only as good as the average.

There’s a simple solution – test both at the same time for an extended period of time to get some hard numbers.

A/B Split Testing

I’m using 2 easy to use, free tools that any adsense site should already have set up.

  • Adsense Ad Channels
  • The ad rotation feature in my wordpress Ad Injection plugin.

Instead of just serving one ad in this spot, it’ll be a randomized test between ad A and ad B.

  • Ad unit A: text ads
  • Ad unit B: text or image ads

These will run either-or for 4 to 6 weeks, and after the end of the period we’ll see which one pays off better.

Adsense Ad Channels

I have 2 ad units that are set to serve 50/50 to each visitor. My new one is text only (same as before) and my “upgraded” old unit is now text and image ads. Both ads are the same in all other ways, including placement and size.

I’ve set up 3 ad channels. One for each of these ad units, and a third that adds the 2 together.

ad channels

Hypothesis

Based on the reports from other people who have taken Google’s suggestion to allow media ads, I expect new relevant advertisers with image ads to trickle in over the next month. This test will allow me to get those hard numbers that I can confidently go forward with. I’ll be able to calculate a percentage and see how close I came to the alleged 30% claimed. Right now I’m at -50%, so we’ve got a ways to go.

However I expect that the rich media slot will earn more than the text slot by the end of the 30 day test. But there’s no way to know without doing the test right.

Results will be posted in a separate post. If I remember.

Concerns

I have a few concerns that could muddy the data.

This new ad unit has no experience, it’s like a level 1 warrior on final fantasy. The older ad unit has been running for 6-8 months. I don’t know if the new ad unit will perform at the same level quickly enough to be a good data point. I don’t know enough about how ad units work within the Adsense system to know how quickly my level 1 ad will reach level 6-8. It could be a day, it could be another 6 months. There’s no way to know unless I can gather data from a much longer period of time.

This is the kind of problem that would eat at Taran. It’s at this point I get lazy and just let things slide. I may not have the patience for science.

Notes to Self:

Throw out data from June 5 and before. June 6 2013 and forward is good data.

How I Learned to Touch Type in Under 2 Weeks Playing World of Warcraft

I recently wrote a letter to an educator I admire who voiced the trouble he’s had learning to touch type as an adult. He still “hunts and pecks” and times in at around 30 WPM. He’s a writer, so his typing handicap is a serious hurdle for him.

I remember my dad yelling at me as a teenager for looking at the keyboard while typing. I was surprised at his reaction, since he’s actually a very relaxed man, not prone to outbursts like that whatsoever. Maybe he was overtaken by a vision of me employed scraping shit from behind horses when he saw me typing like a goon and just couldn’t handle the shame of it.

Years later, as a young adult out living on my own, I made the decision to finally learn to type right. I had tried several times, but just like quitting smoking, it was just too easy to cheat by looking at the keyboard. If you’re here hoping to learn to type, that’s probably your problem too.

So I made cheating impossible for myself. I switched keyboard layouts.

KB_United_States_Dvorak.svg

The Dvorak keyboard layout was developed to make typing more efficient and faster. It ships standard with every modern operating system.

The Obsolete Relic QWERTY

The ubiquitous QWERTY layout was literally developed to make typing as inefficient as possible. Early typists pre-QWERTY tended to jam their typewriters with their lightning-fast hands.

But no one uses typewriters anymore. QWERTY has lived on long past its best-before date on historical inertia and nothing else.

Through one day of typing, a QWERTY typist’s hands will travel 8 miles, likely far further than they will walk that day. During the same period, a Dvorak typist’s hands will only travel 1 mile. Folks with carpal tunnel or tendinitis who have switched actually find their problems clear up when switching to a Dvorak layout.

Switching my input language to Dvorak while still keeping my physical QWERTY keyboard forced me to learn to type without looking – or touch type. Switching the keys around is certainly much easier those first few days, but if your goal is learning to touch type you must resist the temptation.

Typing Bilingually

Unfortunately, you will still have to know to type on a QWERTY. Every keyboard you come in contact with away from home will be set up as QWERTY, and some mobile devices such as iPhone don’t work for touch typing due to their lack of tactic keys.

If you follow my method, you will learn to type competently on your new layout Dvorak, and will retain your ability to type on QWERTY. When looking at the screen, your brain will remember Dvorak, but while looking at the keyboard you will type in QWERTY. I know this because that’s exactly how my brain has now organized typing. I am just as fast at QWERTY as I ever was – at least when I’m looking directly at my fingers.

How I Did it in Under 2 Weeks

I accidentally rode the bullet train of learning speed by playing World of Warcraft for 2 weeks immediately upon switching to a Dvorak layout. You can actually get a 2 week free trial of this game which will be long enough to learn the keyboard layout. Or choose any other MMORPG where you are required to type quickly and semi-accurately to your team members. You can’t rely on voice chat though – you’ve got to use keyboard as your main communication mechanism!

My first day was an absolute disaster. My team mates must have thought me mentally handicapped from my awkward sentences and terrible response time.

world-of-warcraft-screenshot

Learning by Dreaming

That first evening I say awake still imagining typing behind my eyes. And I dreamed of nothing but typing all night. After that, I progressed very rapidly. I was testing at 35 WPM by the end of my WoW trial, the same speed that I was typing on QWERTY.

It’s been 4 years since I did this experiment, and I’m still touch typing on Dvorak. I type 80 WPM+, which is about as fast as I can think. It’s not going to break any records but it’s a world of difference from the hunting and pecking of my earlier years.

Blogging as a Business

Northern VoiceThis is the abstract for a speech I submitted to the Northern Voice blogging conference. It summarizes a 30 minute lecture into 500 words.

Update: My speech got approved and I delivered it during Northern Voice 2013, making it my first paid speaking gig. 

Every blogger defines success differently. Some want to spread their ideas, and others are building communities. A tiny minority of bloggers write primarily with income in mind – blogging as business.

I like to sell the idea of blogging as a business to people with my “one dollar per week” thought experiment. A well written article on a well selected topic can easily earn one dollar a week. Like a tireless little digital employee, it’ll earn that dollar a week for you year after year – for as long as the internet sticks around! If one article earns one dollar, 100 will earn 100 dollars. Once you’ve accumulated 1000 articles, you’re earning slightly more sitting on your couch than the average Canadian earns working 8 hour days.

Separating the hobbyist blogger from the business blogger stand the same things separating, for example, a professional chef from a home cook who prepares food for just their family. This article will discuss what I’ve learned to be the 3 three most important factors separating hobby bloggers from profit bloggers – market research, consistency, and monetization.

Market Research

The most important work you’ll ever do on your blog is done before you write your first post. Like in choosing a business niche in the offline world, we want to pick a market with plenty of demand, a product that we can sell or promote profitably, and without too much competition. Fortunately, we can research these three factors for our blogging business completely free in just moments.

Consistent Content

A blogger’s business is content creation, and the blogger with an income in mind must make their blog a priority by showing up regularly to create their product. How long would a bakery last, if someone didn’t show up each day at 3 AM to bake bread and greet customers? You might agree that our proverbial bakery store is doomed. Bloggers have it a bit easier, because the internet is “always open,” but the professional blogger must still show up at regular intervals to “take care of business.”

Making it Pay

Finally, a blog must have a way to turn clicks and pageviews into dollars and dimes. With herds of new people flocking online every day, bloggers have never had so many monetization opportunities. Advertising is still a big slice of total blog income, just as with traditional media like television and print. But unlike these “old media,” the advertising pie available to online publishers is GROWING at breakneck speed.

The blogging profession is still in its infancy. “Professional bloggers” are the butt of jokes and are often not taken seriously. As a result many bloggers may not take themselves seriously either. But blogging CAN be a serious business. You CAN make a living from it if you commit to it and adopt the right techniques. There’s never a better time to start building up your 1000 articles!