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Bittorrent: Protect yourself! Article # 633 

First, and foremost, this article assumes you’re familiar with bit-torrent, and are familiar with bit-torrent clients. OK, I’ll cover a client in my article, which I use called Transmission. To read up on this software and learn more about its features, see the links below.

Choosing A Bit-torrent Client

If you are a Ubuntu or Mac user, I suggest using Transmission. It’s the best client I’ve come to know, and it’s easy to use, and it works really well. Nuff said. Download it, install it, and by default it will handle your torrent file when you click on it, asking you where you want to store your file(s), and what you want to do with the file once it’s yours. Slick as snot, and easy as pie.

If your a Windows user, (first, I feel sorry for you that you took the blue pill) simply Google “Bit-torrent Client for Windows”. Find a client, and read up on it’s features and reviews. I apologize for not giving you more information for Windows users, but I don’t use Windows, so my input would be mute.

Now I have a client, what do I use it for?

Transmission is the client that downloads the contents of a torrent, or seeds the contents to other clients looking to download from the sources. Anything from movies, music, software, images, documents, books and more can be shared through the bit-torrent client. You have virtually anything your need/want at your fingertips, if you know where to find it.

Before you wreck your ship…

Probably the greatest thing about using bit-torrent is the wide variety of files available on the internet. Probably the worst thing about using bit-torrent is the wide variety of viruses available on the internet as well.

As so much as it is open to currently download movies, music, software and all the other fun love out there, it’s also a breeding ground for hackers, worms, viruses, spammers, and ANTI-torrent companies hire vast teams of lawyers and investigators for the sole purpose of looking to find where and WHO are using bit-torrent to download copyrighted materials.
Here’s an entry from goarticles.com regarding bit-torrents and the dangers:

Them damned hackers…

First off, many ‘rogue’ torrent sites are hosting ads from less legitimate advertising networks which tend to be used by “shady” sites such as gambling and pornography websites.
These ads are highly likely to contain “malware”, which is software (including, but not limited to viruses and worms) designed to cause damage. Malware is written these days to make money by infecting computers, and so shady sites often do this as a cheap way to make money, and they apparently don’t care whether they cause harm!
So many torrent sites are capable of infecting a computer simply by you visiting it, especially if you’re not protecting yourself with good Internet security software and by avoiding using the Internet Explorer web browser.

Beyond the potential risk of simply visiting a torrent site, many of the files a person might try to download from those sites are themselves infected with dangerous malware.
It’s well known that Apple’s Mac computers as well as the wide variety of Linux computers, including but not limited to Ubuntu, Gentoo, Red Hat, et al;  tend to have far fewer threats than Windows computers do, but the biggest threats for Macs that I recall from the last few years have all come from downloading illegal copyrighted material from sites like these.
And it’s a far bigger problem for Microsoft Windows computers! One study I’ve heard of says that as much as 47% of all “zero-day malware” (one of the most dangerous kinds) is distributed through BitTorrent!

Lastly, beyond the potential threats to your computer posed by torrent sites and other file trading sites, there’s a very real risk to your wallet.

Them damned lawyers…

The recording industry, including the film and music industries have been very aggressively pursuing people who do illegal file sharing and are happy to sue you for a lot of money if they catch you. And believe me, they can afford better lawyers than you or I!

Internet Service Providers will often shut down your Internet connection if they detect you’ve been sharing files illegally, so there’s that risk too.

Go remotely young man…

If you choose to download using bittorrent, do it from a remote source, not your home or work. Like a cyber cafe or another free WiFi zone, or public WiFi access point that doesn’t have your name and address tied to it. Watchers can’t find you if you download remotely, it will only send information of the place you downloaded from, making it very tough for them to pinpoint your activities.

Protect thy ports, young man..deny them their bread!

Peer Guardian is perhaps the most popular IP blocking software tool on the web. Peer Guardian is primarily used by the Peer2Peer sharing community to block the RIAA, MPAA and other organizations from tracking a sharer’s IP address and online activity. In addition to blocking IP addresses, Peer Guardian also can block ad ware, spyware, government IP’s and educational IP’s. Peer Guardian is open source and originally developed by Phoenix Labs. The latest version is Peer Guardian 3, however since Peer Guardian 3 is only supported on MS Windows Vista, Peer Guardian 2 continues to be the most popular version.
Using PeerGuardian makes good sense. Damned good sense. Really, I’m not just promoting the software, I’m telling you it’s just the right thing to do. Like wearing a condom when having sex. No-brain er, right? Yet, the teen pregnancy rates are.. Oh, sorry that’s a tangent, and we’re not here for tangents, are we?

Anyhow, PeerGuardian is available for all OS’s, Mac, Linux, Windows… Just be sure to download the correct OS version for your machine.

Don’t take MY word for it, read on for yourself about the PeerGuardian Reviews
With that said, here’s some other great places to find those juicy movie torrents:

Transmission for Windows/Mac/Linux

Download Transmission

Torrents for Movies

http://yify-torrents.com/home – Great collection of quality 1080p movies with a good peer base for nice, fast, juicy downloads.

Torrents for TV Shows

EZTV – TV Torrents Online EZTV – TV Torrents Online – Huge archive of TV shows, with current listings and older series. Good speeds, and great search capability.


Craigslist Deceptions and dangers Article # 625 

Recently, I’ve posted a couple items for sale on the ‘dangerous’ craigslist.org website. Namely, a riding mower and a chandelier that we replaced in the living room.

The advertisement clearly displays the specifications, and images of the mower, as well as the technical attributes, and price. It also displays in clear instructions that cash is only accepted, but PayPal and Visa/Master card are welcome. Seems simple enough, right?

Just a day or so after posting the advertisement, I began to receive e-mails regarding the advertisement, seemed innocent and genuine enough that simply read:

Is this item still for sale?

A valid, and un-obtrusive question from a seemingly reliable gmail.com email author, with a real name and seemingly un-alarming and somewhat personable human being. So, no reason to suspect anything.

I replied to the email:

Yes, this is still for sale.

Just MINUTES (if not seconds) after I sent my reply, (which is most likely a BOT which sent the email originally) I received a reply from the same author which sent it, and thus my suspicious self discovered the true nature of their contacting me.

Thanks for responding,  i would like you to remove the advert 
from the list cos i want to make the purchase asap and i dont mind
adding extra $20 to delete the ads from the list..Please let me
know if a certified check is ok.?  After the payment clears, my
shipper will come and pick it up at your location.  I would
have loved to come and take a look but I can't. My shipper will
though. If you can get back to me with your details I'll get the
check sent out asap. 

Need your full name and address, and your cellphone number, the
description of the item and the actual amount you want to
sell..

Thanks

Ok, so what part of the advertisement is this person missing here? CASH, Visa/MasterCard and Paypal are clearly printed on the advertisement as accepted payment.

Also, I became really suspicious of the last request for all my personal information, which tipped me off that this is a deceitful attempt to obtain my info for a grab at my identity!

So, I visited craigslist scam listings and you should to by going to their website: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

After I edited my ad, I placed a SCAM alert notice in the body of the advertisement, warning potential scam artists that I would pursue their identities, and pass it along to the authorities for charges if I discovered that they were trying to deceive me. The emails from the scammers abruptly stopped, and I have since sold all my items to real people interested in buying what I wanted to sell, and met some really nice folks in the process.

Morale of the story: Be careful when dealing with emails and people who appear to be something they are not!



Pianobar: No-ads Pandora client Article # 521 

Pianobar is a a free/open-source, console-based replacement for Pandora’s flash player.

For Ubuntu OS and many linux users, it provides you with all the same features and functions as the web based Pandora client, but with some really nice differences, and simple controls – and NO COMMERCIALS. Sorry Windows users, you’re SOL.

There is a version of pianobar for Mac OS X, and you can learn about it here.

Most of the features Pandora’s flash client has are implemented in the Pianobar terminal client. This means you can create, delete and rename stations.

Adding and removing artists or songs to/from a station is also possible through the easy to navigate menu options. Music tracks can be rated, temporarily banned and moved to another station. Sending the artist and song title information to last.fm (“scrobbling”) is possible with the eventcmd interface, which you can learn more about in another article. For now, let’s simply get it installed, and playing for you so you too can begin enjoying music while you read my other articles here on musiccityguru.com

NOTE: Users outside the United States can listen to Pandora through a proxy. Keep in mind that you are violating Pandora’s terms of use if you do so.

Downloading pianobar (and installing it)

To obtain pianobar, the best and most effective way is to add the Pianobar deb repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list file – this provides you with an easy way to maintain Pianobar when changes or updates occur.  Open a terminal window and edit your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

$ sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.lst

Add the lines shown below anywhere in the file (I added mine at the bottom).

#pianobar distribution
deb http://ubuntu.mirror.cambrium.nl/ubuntu/ oneiric main universe

Save the file, and simply update your apt-get:

$ sudo apt-get update -f

Once your update has completed, just use apt-get to install it, and you’re ready to begin using pianobar (in simple mode):

$ sudo apt-get install pianobar

If all goes well, you’ll be smiling. But, you’re not done yet, if you’re any kind of a nerd like me. You see, pianobar reads a configuration file for username and password information that it needs to log in to your Pandora account. If you don’t have a Pandora account, now is a good time to create one. Otherwise, proceed as shown below to setup the configuration file. To run your newly installed pianobar, and login, just activate it from the terminal window:

$ pianobar

You will be prompted for your (Pandora) username (email address) and password which is your Pandora account login and password. I don’t like having to provide this EVERY time I run pianobar, so being the lazy slob that I am, I worked up the configuration file to perform all the actions for me. I run it, it logs me in and begins playing a pre-configured channel I like to listen to. WHAT GREAT FUN!

Git users can download the latest installation version available here: https://github.com/PromyLOPh/pianobar.git

git clone https://github.com/PromyLOPh/pianobar.git
To install on Ubuntu >= 12.04

	sudo apt-get install
			libao-dev
			libmad0-dev
			libfaad-dev
			libgnutls-dev
			libjson0-dev
			libgcrypt11-dev
	make
	sudo make install

Be sure all of the above packages are installed, if you have to, install them one at a time.

I had to then move the exec file to /usr/bin

sudo cp pianobar /usr/bin
sudo chown root. /usr/bin/pianobar

Install Scrobbler-helper for LastFm

Visit http://askubuntu.com/questions/17482/how-do-i-set-up-last-fm-scrobbling-with-pianobar for more instructions on installing and configuring Scrobbler-helper for LastFm.

# sudo perl -MCPAN -e 'install Audio::Scrobbler'

Follow the prompts to complete installing the Audio:Scrobbler program which will provide the vehicle to send your song playing to Last.FM account.

Configuring pianobar (the cool stuff)

Download PianoBar Config File – Download a sample config file for your pianobar.

When it starts up, Pianobar always looks for a file named config in the ~/.config/pianobar directory and reads it’s contents for additional information at runtime. So, create that directory from your home directory and create the config file:

$ mkdir ~/config/pianobar
$ cd pianobar
$ gedit config

Just load the file into your editor of choice (gedit/vim) , make your edits and uncomment out lines, change the parameters for user and password to your Pandora account.

For now, I would comment out the event_command= line unless you know what your doing and want to perform scrobbling to a music site like last.fm (sorry, it’s beyond the scope of this article) When your finished, just save your changes, and set the config file to be readable by all:

$ chmod 0777 config

Then run it from the command line and you’ll get a screen similar to this: (versions may vary depending on when you’re reading this and the latest version available in the repository).

Then, sit back and let this little great app keep your toes tappin and your mind flowing at your UBUNTU powered (FREE) computer!

 

Addendum

When Pandora changes their protocol, which I have found they do, an update to the pianobar repository is usually quick to follow, so you might have to perform a few things to get it working when you get an error.

You’ll want to visit GitHub for the latest version here.

It took me a while to finally get things working with this new version because of the major changes in pianobar, and hope to do it again on my home machines.

Installing libgnutls-dev

Pianobar changed the way they communicate with Pandora, and thus, the following package had to be installed before I could get it working again:

sudo apt-get install libgnutls-dev

Then, I downloaded the very latest version of pianobar:

https://github.com/PromyLOPh/pianobar/zipball/2012.01.10

Now enjoying pianobar again, until next time Pandora changes their protocol…

Update for Pianobar

Pianobar has changed thier tls_fingerprint info, so if your pianobar config fails to work because of the “TLS handshake error” – add this line to you config file:

tls_fingerprint = 2D0AFDAFA16F4B5C0A43F3CB1D4752F9535507C0

5 Php Functions For Code Life Article # 498 

Web development doesn’t have to be a difficult position, if you have a toolbox of sorts, which can help you with the ‘heavy lifting’ of applications and provide easier tasks that get repetitive.

I want to share my tools with you, in the hopes that they may also lend a hand in the workings of your applications or website developments.

What Percentage is that of that thing?

What percent of this is that? This is an interesting little function that provides me with percentiles when I need to know the percentage of X value based on a total value. What percentage of X is Y? Boink! Answer is always correct, and I never have to touch the calculator.

function percent($num_amount, $num_total) {
    $count1 = $num_amount / $num_total;
    $count2 = $count1 * 100;
    $count = number_format($count2, 0);
return $count ."%";
}

echo percent(200, 1000);

Sanitizing form inputs for fun and profit

Today’s internet is a volatile environment where anything can happen, and without warning, usually does. It’s become common practice to protect your website and it’s server from being compromised by the ‘hackers’ who seek to find security holes in any system. To prevent such acts of senseless defacing and breach of security systems, it’s always a real good idea to protect your assets whenever you allow input from the dirty internet and it’s an even better idea to sanitize your data before storing it on your website’s database or file structure.

class Validator {
public $_filterArgs;

function removeTags($fieldName,
     $encodeAmp = false,
     $preserveQuotes = false,
     $encodeLow = false,
     $stripLow = false,
     $stripHigh = true) {

  $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['filter'] = FILTER_SANITIZE_STRING;
  $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] = FILTER_REQUIRE_ARRAY;

if($encodeAmp) {
     $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_ENCODE_AMP;
   }		

  if($preserveQuotes){
       $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_NO_ENCODE_QUOTES;
  }
  if($encodeLow) {
      $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_ENCODE_LOW;
  }
  if($encodeHigh) {
    $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_ENCODE_HIGH; 
  }
  if($stripLow) {
    $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_STRIP_LOW;
  }
  if($stripHigh) {
     $this->_filterArgs[$fieldName]['flags'] |= FILTER_FLAG_STRIP_HIGH;
  }
 }
}

This function, saved in a class file, (call it validator.class.php) will greatly reduce the amount of ‘filth’ that could find it’s way into your forms, and basically strip off any unwanted ‘gunk’ that a malicious attacker might wish to inject into your website’s system. This is only one of many gunk-removing functions available for protecting your website from the myriad of attacks that lurk in the dark corners of the internet.

Short hand ‘if’ statements, save time and space

Decisions happen all the time in PHP and when you need to make a quick YES/NO decision, having a one-line snippet of code takes all the work out of building the ‘gate’ which can end up saving you TONS of time and space in your code.

Example standard decision:

if($answer == "no") {
   $response = "You answered no.";
}else{
   $response = "OK. You answered Yes." ;
}

Four lines of code to check what the answer was and provide an response based on that answer. Now, let’s shorten it to a single line with a shorthand ‘if’ statement.

echo ($answer == "no" ? "You answered no." : "OK. You answered Yes.");

Now, this is a very basic example, but you can clearly see how this single line of code does the work of the 4-line block of code. Works faster, and takes up less space in your code file. Less filling, and tastes great..

How Long Ago Was That?

If you’ve ever needed to know how long ago something was compared to the current time, this little function kicks butt and does it quite nicely in an efficient little function.

echo TimeAgoEN($timestamp);

function convert_datetime($str) { 
  list($date, $time) = explode(' ', $str);    
  list($year, $month, $day) = explode('-', $date);    
  list($hour, $minute, $second) = explode(':', $time);         
  $timestamp = mktime($hour, $minute, $second, $month, $day, $year);         
  return $timestamp;      
} 

function TimeAgoEN($timestamp){       
    $now = time();    
    $then = convert_datetime($timestamp);    
    $difference = $now-$then;          

     $units = array( 'second' => 1,        
                            'minute' => 60,        
                             'hour' => 3600,        
                             'day' => 86400,        
                             'week' => 604800,        
                              'month' => 2630880,        
                               'year' => 31570560,        
                              'decade' => 315705600,    
                            );         

      foreach($units as $key => $val)  {      
           if($difference >= $val) {          
               $results = floor($difference/$val);                    
               if($results == '1') {
                    $ending = "";
                } else {
                    $ending = "s";
                }          

            $outcome = $results." ".$key.$ending." ago";      
        }    
      }         
    return $outcome; 
}

Convert A Birthdate To An Age

Rather than tell me the date of birth, sometimes we just need to ask “How old are you”? This handy function performs the calculations and returns the age value. Very nice little function, that can be adapted for several things.

function convert_birth_date_to_age($birth_date) {
     $today = gmdate("Y-m-d");
     $bday_arr = explode("-", $birth_date);    
     $today_arr = explode("-", $today);          

if( ($today_arr[1]<$bday_arr[1]) ||
    ($today_arr[1]==$bday_arr[1] && $today_arr[2]<$bday_arr[2])) {        
$var = -1;    
}          

return $today_arr[0]-$bday_arr[0]+$var; 

}

Serialize your data – complex information for a complex world

If you’ve ever needed to store complex variable in a database or a file, you’re probably aware that PHP can do amazing things to simplify performing this task. Using the serialize function, we can convert arrays, or complex data for use in files and databases.

// a complex array
$myvar = array(
	'hello',
	42,
	array(1,'two'),
	'apple'
);

// convert to a string
$string = serialize($myvar);

echo $string;
/* prints
a:4:{i:0;s:5:"hello";i:1;i:42;i:2;a:2:{i:0;i:1;i:1;s:3:"two";}i:3;s:5:"apple";}
*/

// you can reproduce the original variable
$newvar = unserialize($string);

print_r($newvar);
/* prints
Array
(
    [0] => hello
    [1] => 42
    [2] => Array
        (
            [0] => 1
            [1] => two
        )

    [3] => apple
)
*/

In PHP 5.2 and later, we can perform this same form of serialization with jason_encode() functions, which is preferred now because javascript also supports this and we have an easier solution for it. Now you can use the json_encode() andjson_decode() functions as well:

// a complex array
$myvar = array(
'hello',
42,
array(1,'two'),
'apple'
);

// convert to a string
$string = json_encode($myvar);

echo $string;
/* prints
["hello",42,[1,"two"],"apple"]
*/

// you can reproduce the original variable
$newvar = json_decode($string);

print_r($newvar);
/* prints
Array
(
[0] => hello
[1] => 42
[2] => Array
(
[0] => 1
[1] => two
)
 [3] => apple
)
*/

Hopefully, these examples will help make your life easier, and improve your ability to write effective and improved applications.

Got more functions? Want to share them? Drop it to us on our contact page.

 


Wacom Bamboo and Ubuntu 10.10 Article # 452 

The Wacom Bamboo Pen is an excellent product, which comes with it’s own level of ‘learning curve’ and takes some getting used to while learning it’s capabilities. Surprisingly easy to install in and environment, the Bamboo worked well with my Ubuntu laptop and my working Desktop Pc.

I did some pre-purchase research for an affordable pen and tablet, to begin working with some of my hand-drawn digital skills. I found the Wacom Bamboo to be a great beginner item, under $100 and that afternoon got my Bamboo at the local Best-Buy on my way home from work.

Installing this little USB device on a Windows based computer would child’s play – insert the DVD and run installation crap, and reboot windows about 2-3 times, then plug it in and ‘shazam’. But this little geek decided he didn’t want to be ruled by the Ms, and I set out to install the Bamboo on my laptop running Ubuntu 10.10.

I figured “This will be easy, let’s just copy/paste the comands, like so.. and simply reboot the laptop like so…

Dig, dig, dig… Oh, whats’ this little blog about Wacom’s Bamboo under Ubuntu 10.10? I read everything, even the poster’s comments and it looked fairly short-and-simple.

Three simple commands in a terminal window:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:doctormo/wacom-plus
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wacom-dkms

Then, just plug in the Bamboo (usb) and run a test to see if it’s working  using the “lsusb” command:

~$ lsusb
Bus 005 Device 002: ID 056a:00d4 Wacom Co., Ltd 
Bus 005 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 002 Device 002: ID 045e:0745 Microsoft Corp. 
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0424:2514 Standard Microsystems USB 2.0 Hub
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

A smile creeped across my face, and I picked up the pen, thinking “No way.. Can’t be THAT simple, can it”.. I giggled with glee as I watched my mouse pointer follow on the screen as I hovered the pen inches above the tablet, and shrieked with joy as I began using my pen as a mouse.

Unfortunately for me, I have the hand-eye coordination of a sloth, so I knew this was going to be a steep learning curve, getting used to using this new device.

I recommend visiting this page on configuring GIMP and Inkscape to work with your Bamboo Pen (4×5), which contains useful information about configuring your tablet’s pressure sensitivity and other things.

So, for my first attempt at using a digital tablet to draw, I present a colorful artsy squiggle of lines, and other sample brushes I created in InkScape, and then toyed a but with GIMP.

Practice makes perfect, but I know I’m going to enjoy having this new device as the control is amazing, and I look forward to the creative flow that can come much easier now that my eye isn’t tied to a mouse for getting the art out of my head and onto the screen!

The Ubuntu Black Screen Of Death

Just when I didn’t think things could become more interesting – they definitely became more interesting.

I am appending this portion of my article with a bit of information that may come in handy if you should have happen to you, what I had happen to me.

It happened, but I didn’t think this was related to my recent installation of my Bamboo – but later I discovered it was, and it happened twice, actually.

Here’s what happened to me, which may happen to you, should you be in the same situation as I was (Wacom Tablet with Ubuntu 10.10)

Rebooting the computer after newly installing the Bamboo device yielded me with the Ubuntu Black Screen of Death. I was surprised at first, intrigued, and then later angry and then suddenly intrigued again to find out how quickly anyone can recover from the Ubuntu Black Screen Of Death.

The Ubuntu Black Screen Of Death is observed when your computer boots, and seems to be loading normally, but then it just stops, and your monitor remains completely blank and all hard disk activity ceases. No error messages, no nothing – just silent blackness and a dreaded feeling of death. I restarted my computer 3 times, and witnessed the same result over and over again. Despair, anguish and fear gripped me tightly, and I panicked and promptly went outside and smoked a cigarette to absorb the moment.

How To Recover From The Black Screen Of Death (After installing Wacom Bamboo Tablet).

Turn the computer on, and while the POST screen is displaying begin holding the LEFT SHIFT key. Keep holding it until you reach a screen that looks like this.

Select the line item that displays (recovery mode), which is similar in nature to booting into Windows ‘Safe’ mode.

The recovery mode provides many options for recovering your Ubuntu operating system, and are not included as a scope of this article.There are several other resources which cover this topic, but it is not the scope of this article to provide further details, sorry.

The Recovery Menu

Once in the recovery mode menu, I selected the “failsafeX” option, which provides you the resources to reset your Xserver configuration, and give Ubuntu a slap upside the head. Now, this was the trick for me, and I don’t guarentee it will work for you, because it’s all related to the new installation of my Wacom Bamboo Tablet and that’s all I will claim within this brief informative article.

Leave yourself a breadcrumb trail

The main purpose of this article was to do just that – leave myself a breadcrumb trail should I ever find myself in this situation again. It’s also to provide others with a path to recover as I did and provide information to you regarding my experiences with the Wacom Bamboo Tablet under Ubuntu 10.10.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and gained some knowledge and insight from it’s content.

 


Facebook Users We Like To Avoid Article # 431 

Here and now we all have experienced the social phenom known as Facebook, if not, you probably won’t be reading this article then, but for the sake of categorizing the social online world, I present to you my list of ‘Facebook Users We Like to Avoid‘.

LikeThe “Update Bore-aholic”

I’m waking up.” “I had tofu pancakes for breakfast.” “I’m so bored at work.” “I’m stuck in traffic, and need a drink.

Holy crap, how fascinating your posts and updates are (not). Nothing is too mundane for this type of user to broadcast every single action that happens on a whim. People, just because you have nothing better to do with your time than to broadcast your every single move with the thought that it was the next terrific thing to happen to you – try reading a book, or better yet, get a hobby that doesn’t include using anything electronic.

The “Self-Promoter”

OK, so we’ve probably all posted at least once about some achievement in our lives. Sure, maybe your friends really do want to read the fascinating article you wrote about Argentinian ant farming. But when almost every update is a link to your blog,  your lyrics listings,  or your drab art show, you sound like a bragger or a self-centered careerist, which is a real turn-off.

The “Friend” horde

The average Facebook / Twitter user has about 120 friends on the site.  The social butterflies — you know, the ones who make life-long pals on the downtown bus — might reasonably have 300 or 400. But to have over 1,000 “friends?” Unless you’re The Pope or just won the lottery,  no one has that many friends. That’s just showing off, and it shows how shallow you are to the world that you would accept anyone that requests a friend or Follower.

The Town Crier

“Michael Jackson is dead!!!” You heard it from me first!
Me, and the 213,000 gazillion other people who all saw it on CNN. These users are the reason many of us learn of breaking news not from TV or news sites but from online social networks. In their rush to trumpet the news, these people also spread rumors, half-truths and innuendo. Users such as this are why Snopes.com is doing so well.

The T.M.I. Over-do-it’er

“Chad is heading to Walgreens to buy something for my pesky hemorrhoids.”

The boundaries of privacy and decorum don’t seem to exist for these too-much-information up daters, who offer up every personal detail about their sex lives, marital troubles and bodily functions. Thanks for sharing,  time to drop you now, perhaps block you too.

The Really Bad Grammarian

“So sad about Fara Fauset but Im so gladd its friday yippeeee”.

Yes, I realize that the punctuation rules are different in the digital world. That doesn’t make it correct. No one likes a spelling-Nazi schoolmarm, but you sound like a friggin’ moron and you don’t care one tinker’s cuss what you say even if we can’t understand what you posted because you probably don’t either.  Your family always “likes” your broadcast, so you don’t get upset.

The Sympathy-Baiter

“Barbara is feeling sad today.” “Man, am I glad that’s over.” “Jim could really use some good news about now.”

Like anglers hunting for fish, these sad sacks cast out their hooks — baited with vague tales of woe — in the hopes of landing concerned responses. Genuine bad news is one thing, but these manipulative posts are just pleas for attention. You keep a box of kleenex next to your laptop, don’t you.

The Stalk-Lurker-undead-leecher

The true “Peeping Toms of Facebook”, these users are too cautious, or maybe too lazy (most likely too drunk), to update their status or write on your wall. But once in a while, you’ll be talking to them and they’ll mention something you posted, so you know they’re on your page, hiding in the shadows. It’s really a little creepy, actually, very creepy.

The “Face-Cranks”

“Jose isn’t really that impressed with those idiots who don’t realize how idiotic they are.”

These curmudgeons, like the trolls who spew hate in several blog comments, never seem to run out of things they couldn’t complain about.  Just keep spreading the love…

The Paparazzo

Have you ever visited your Facebook page to find that someone’s posted a photo of you from last weekend’s party — a photo you haven’t even seen? You’d really rather not have to explain to your wife why you were leering like a drunken hyena and French-kissing a bottle of Jagermeister at an office party. Avoid these users like the PLAGUE.

The Obscurist

“If not now then when?” “You’ll see…” “Peter is, small world.” “Dave thought he was immune, but no. No, he is not. And I don’t wish this for the world.”

I’m sorry, you’re not being mysterious — just nonsensical – now shut the hell up! Oh, wait here’s a button for that…

The Chronic Inviter

“Support my cause. Sign my petition. Play Mafia Wars with me. Which ‘Star Trek’ character are you? I sent you a heart! Here are the ‘Top 5 cars I have personally owned.’ Here are ’25 Things About Me.’ Here’s a drink. What drink are you? We’re related! I took the ‘What President Are You?’ quiz and found out I’m Millard Fillmore! What president are you? Which Smurf are you?”

You probably mean well, but stop. Just stop!  I don’t care what president I am — can’t we simply be friends?

LikeThe Chronic Zynger

This user’s profile page is just littered with broadcasts from every Zynga Game they make. Nothing but game broadcasts, and more game achievements and advertisements for joining in the ‘fun’ and playing games. Instant drop when those alerts begin creeping into my wall on my account.

Now excuse me while I go post the link to this story on my Facebook page.


5 Social Networking Tips For Success Article # 409 

Today, business success is being directly related to the online communication and formation of social networks to assist in many aspects of branding and attracting new customers as well as generating revenue from return customers.

The Importance of Establishing Your Business Online

Begin Branding your company name or products. Branding is one way to  various audiences that may interested in all the things you have to sell. Most importantly, remember that you are trying to reach people, not customers. Having established your company name or product brand on social networks (like Facebook) will already alert your fans of who you are, or who your company is, and since the many different social sites provide places comparable to info tabs, bios, buisness hours and more, it’s a snap to maintain information quickly and efficiently.

Simply fill out all the information forms that each network provides, and those keywords can help visitors find your page online. It’s also strongly suggested to remain active on each network your company maintains a presence, and stay up to date with your audiences.

Maintain Your Social Networks

It’s a common misnomer that “Build it, and they will come” is all that is needed to bring business from internet visitors. Not only is this incorrect, but it can also do more harm to your opportunities or potential customers. While it is advantagous to have links with your company’s name or product on social networking websites, it can be a real let-down for visitors to come to your ‘community’ and find nothing recent or outdated activity. Visitors require interaction, relevant data,  current information and a sign that there’s something ‘happenening’ at your page. A ‘dead’ scene will cause visitors to quickly exit from where they came from with little chance of returning. Ever.

Remember, social networking from a business standpoint isn’t just peppering your audience with advertisements about the latest ‘sale’ or ‘deal’ that your company is having.

It’s best to relate and communicate, providing an added value to your messages or posts. Create dialog by asking questions, and doing so at the end of everything you share is the one of the best ways to engage and interact with your audience, giving them an opportunity to provide feedback or gather more information.

Opinions Do Matter!

People you are interacting with through your social networks are the potential future customers, or quite possibly already are your current customers. I can’t emphasize enough the real business need to LISTEN to these people, as they may very well advocate for your company, or will be spreading negativity about your company. Either way, we all know bad news travels faster than good news – so it’s vital that you listen to what they have to say and take the time to respond promptly.

Despite what the content of your visitor’s post, you should refrain from deleting anything shared – unless of course it is something that has absolutely nothing to do with your business. Forget what is right/wrong about the feedback, respond quickly, and be prepared with a solution to make it a positive experience, and let your visitor be heard – which will provide them with validation that you are in fact, paying attention to their needs.  Let go of the ‘sell’ and drop any ‘ego’ to start talking with people, sharing with them and listening to what they are saying. It can get fun and creative and sometimes it’s not ‘all business’ – a balance between social and professional interactions and success will prevail!

Be Sincere.

Share your personalities, be real – nothing is farther from the truth and value than the statement ‘fake it until you make it’ . Doing so with your social network will be your undoing – fast. It’s easy to detect a liar, or if things just don’t ‘seem right’. Keep your site authentic while utilizing social networks to gain insight into what your ‘fans’ really want, by just asking them. Take risks or follow through with some suggestions from your fans.

Fearlessly engage these ideas with preparations for their failure, as the old cliche “it’s better to have tried, than not at all.” Your efforts will be recognized, and appreciated by your fans – and your customers.

Spend the time on your existing fan base, rather than time trying to lure new fans. If you do a ‘special offer’ – send it to your existing fan base first and let them feel special because you are treating them with favors not offered to others.

Moreover, be genuine and honest with your fan base, and you will earn their respect and build credibility among your long lasting community.

Never Say Quit.

Here’s the hard part. Dedication to your social networks doesn’t mean a lot of time and energy, but like all things requires time and energy to commit and spend at least 1-3 hours per week on your social community. Devotion is extremely important here, and taking the time can only work in your favor as long as you can work it into your day without half-measure. It’s easy to get distracted, and side-tracked into other things, but this one thing must be adhered to, to continue your relationship with your audience. If you lose track, or get busy and distracted by other things, let your audience know and provide a realistic time that you’ll re-connect and resume your interactions.

Actions Speak Louder!

Social media can be an excellent opportunity to build relationships with your audience. Establishing your presence (or your brand/company) on a variety of social networks available can be of significant importance. Your competition will be more than willing to capture the audience you leave behind by not taking action and being social! Do it, consistently and be dynamic – and have fun building relationships that can help grow your business and expose your business name to the world!


MCG Celebrates 2nd Anniversary Article # 394 

Nashville, Tennessee – Music City Guru, the world’s leading premier web development and hosting services company today announced it’s second year anniversary of operation in the middle Tennessee region, servicing over 25 customers across the United States.

CEO Scott Fleming announced the grand celebration during a private conference to commemorate the company’s birth in 2009, from it’s humble start in the small office located in Madison, TN.

“I’m very excited about the explosive expansion and growth this small company has experienced in the last year alone, growing our customer base by nearly triple it’s size.”,  the CEO Scott stated during a conversation with fellow entrepreneurials.

“We look forward to strong continued growth as our customer base continues to increase. Excellent customer service and modest pricing of our products and services keep our clients coming back for more, and provide unique niche opportunities for new businesses through good old fashioned ‘word of mouth’ viral networking.”

Music City Guru provides website design, business branding, website hosting and custom programming services as well as a wide variety of business-friendly services to small and medium businesses throughout the United States.

Extraordinary service and “Killer Talent” trademark the company’s motto to exceed customers’ expectations through expert vision and placing the customer’s needs as a focus in their strategies. Looks like a great recipe that’s paying off for this young and hungry company.

The celebration will take place at an undisclosed location with private invitations being sent to key individuals who are a part of the company’s success and growth.  ”It’s going to be quite an elaborate event, and we hope everyone attending will have a memorable time”, commented CEO Scott Fleming. “It’s only the beginning, and we want to mark this milestone so we can look back and say ‘Remember when we first started?’.

Happy Anniversary Music City Guru!

 


Welcome webelenses.com! Article # 333 

Webelenses.com

 

 

 

Music City Guru Welcomes Webelenses.com

Webelenses is a professional camera equipment rental company located in Lebanon, Tennessee since 2006 providing photographers with quality photographic equipment and accessories with exceptional value and convenience.

Photographers rely on webelenses for a wide variety of camera accessories, including lenses which otherwise would not be available due to the high cost of purchasing them, some lenses have a price tag of over $1,000 – out of range for the noviced, or young photographer in need of a quality lens.

With a few mouse-clicks, customers can order the products they need, and have it delivered directly to their door for a rental period of their choosing. Local customers can simply drop in, and pick up the order as well.

The rental products arrive via Priority Mail (2-3 days) in a self-returning package, so when the customer is finished with the product, its as easy as applying the included self-adhesive label and dropping it in the mail. Convenience never got easier!

The website provided Music City Guru with an opportunity to create a solution where the e-commerce application needed to be modified to meet the needs of webelense’s business model, with added security in mind for their customers.

Using Authorize.net for payment processing, the secure transaction ensures customers are protected and have peace of mind knowing they’re shopping experience is in the hands of the best in the online retail business.

The website application received several design upgrades, and performance-enhancing code to streamline the processing and raise the level of customer experience to a higher standard and level of performance.

Music City Guru is proud to partner with this truly exceptional company, and we’re excited to announce the re-launch of their 2.0 website!

Visit www.webelenses.com today!

 


Is your website slacking? Article # 307 

Ever since I started building websites for businesses, personalities and other organizations, my first question to the new client is  ”What do you want your website to do for you?”

The most common response is a 50,000 foot overview of “growing” their business or raising awareness of a interest.

Several hundreds of thousands of businesses, both small and large have already embraced online advertising, providing them with a new means to receiving orders as well as attracting new customers and offering existing ones access to valuable information about their services.

Moreover, a well-designed and properly marketed web site can give you the potential to reach not only your local market, but international markets and indeed the world market. The possibilities for increased turnover and business growth are therefore tremendous!

Order NowRecent data reports show that with 100,000+ prospective clients going online each month there are now well over 1 billion potential customers around the world to whom your products or ideas can be offered. In addition, there are more disabled people using the Internet through advanced technology such as screen reading software, etc – it’s estimated that this section of the global community accounts for approx 10% of all traffic.

Most of your competitors will already have web sites, but are they effective?

The old adage ”Build it, and they will come” no longer applies to businesses who simply launch a website and sit back to expect the orders to come rolling in. The internet is a volatile marketplace, each website seeking to climb the Google ladder to get their website listed at the top, in the hopes that visitors will come to their website and buy their products or visit their store.

Today’s internet marketplace simply isn’t that simple – because even if a website gets to the top of the search engine’s listing, it still doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed a click from the visitor’s ever scanning and easily distracted eyes. Companies have dumped buckets of money into Search Engine Optimization programs, and have abandoned hope due to the lack or ROI (Return on Investment).

Ok, let’s say they DO click on your listing…

It’s time for your website to come up. According to reports from the propeller-heads who count things like statistics and web traffic, the average visitor will give your website just 3 full seconds to capture their attention before deciding whether to hit that “BACK” button or investigate further. Sadly, it’s often less than that, but I am being generous here.

If the website is outdated,  or is ladened a myriad of design issues and nothing to offer the visitor except a page full of wordy descriptions and boasting about how good the company is, then your chances of capturing anything more than a back-click is almost nil. No, it’s less than nil, but again, I’m being generous.

What’s really Important?

The importance of an interactive, engaging and purposeful website cannot be overlooked or taken for granted. It is my personal opinion (achieved through experience) that the potential customer is coming to your website, with a need to fill one or all of the following:

  1. They have a problem, and need a solution or information to solve a problem.
  2. They know what they want, and want more information to form a decision or assistance with solving a problem.
  3. They don’t know what they want, and are researching for information before they decide what they do want, or identify a solution to a possible problem.

If the website the visitor is viewing doesn’t fulfill one (or all) of these three points, (within 8 seconds) it is certain they will abandon that page, and return to where they came from and resume their search, most likely never to return.  Where do they go? Why, your competition, sadly to say.

Armed with a formula for providing an answer, and solving a need that the customer has, the website becomes more than just an online advertisement. It becomes a trusted resource that your visitor will rely on to return to again for additional information, or a resource of value.

As with many things, the trust of a customer is an earned value which must be cultivated, and honored – without it, the relationship between your company and the customer will never grow, or even worse, may cause harm to your business if they communicate negatively about their experience with your website.

“What has your website done for you lately?”