27 Nov 2009

EBPP | Electronic Statements | eMarketing | Webmaster

I am a "webmaster" by day job. But I usually tell people I am in digital marketing and explain further if they are interested.

"I am responsible for striata.com (EBPP (Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment), Electronic Statements, Utility Billing, eBilling etc. and eMarketing) - I look after technical website aspects (uptime, content management etc) and Search Engine Optimization (attracting valuable business traffic and generating valid leads through search engines)".

Striata is a software development company that was born in South Africa and has expanded into the US, UK, Hong Kong and Australia - The global scope is awesome and being on the web side of things gives me exposure to all sorts of international aspects of the business, it's very exciting.

What I really enjoy about Striata is the far reaching relevance of their product offerings. Efficiency is delivered in terms of cost cutting and going green - What business or organisation would not benefit from this value proposition at the best of times, never mind in our current economic (and global climate change) crisis? Striata is at the cutting edge of business that is synonymous with information technology. Hubspot recently published an article on "digital natives" which made me think of the Striata work force, I learn from the sharp people here every day! But back to what they do...

Striata assists organizations to cut high volume paper communications and costs through electronic communications to facilitate paper suppression, paperless adoption and decreased carbon footprint.

In addition to this , Striata offers eMarketing, as a stand alone service or in conjunction with electronic document delivery. Conventional 'bill stuffers' evolve into paperless 'transpromo' marketing.

View a Striata eBilling Sample.

More Links:
Disclaimer: The above content (and the rest of my blog) represents my own personal views and opinions and does not necessarily reflect the views of Striata Communication Solutions.

16 Jun 2009

Komodo Edit is SLOW! but you can speed it up...

Update: I now user Notepad++ for development. It is much lighter and faster than Komodo.

I use ActiveState Komodo edit for most of my coding work under windows - It's not mind blowingly awesome, but it is free and it's pleasant to use for most text based files. My only gripe is that it is fairly heavy and can take an unreasonably long time to start up.

Fortunately though, it is easy enough to 'thin it out' to your requirements, using the simple add-ons interface. Simply click the 'Tools' menu, followed by the 'Add-ons' drop down in Komodo Edit and you will be presented with the ''Add-ons/Extensions/Plugins" Dialogue.

From here you can disable any extensions/plugins for languages that you don't need, restart Komodo Edit and you should notice a significantly faster load time (depending on how much you disable) - Alternatively you can prolong your startup time even further by installing any of the numerous additional Add-ons.

26 May 2009

Google Chrome versus Mozilla Firefox?

I am not concerned with Chrome’s market share - It’s silly to use a browser just because ‘everyone else does’ and it’s silly to swear loyalty to a specific browser when there is nothing forcing you to use just one. I actually quite like Google Chrome, not because it is ‘better’ than Firefox, but because it is different to Firefox.

My initial exposure to Chrome was curiosity driven, I installed it to just ‘check it out’ like most people and my first impression was ‘nice… But I can’t use this, it doesn’t support all of the Firefox plugins that I need’.

First impressions last, and it’s true that Chrome doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that Firefox does in the form of plugin support for just about anything and everything… But what Chrome does offer you instead, is stream lined speed and efficiency without any “bolt-ons” to hold it back.

I stumbled across the hidden joys of Chrome by accident during routine browser compatibility testing. My workstation has limited resources to be straight, and I think this is why Chrome has really come into its own for me – I won’t try and convince you that Chrome actually loads websites faster than other browsers (in spite of it’s boasted Javascript performance). But there is no denying that it starts up really fast and is less demanding on system resources, which contributes to a more pleasant work environment for me on a rather average workstation.

I don’t have access to Firefox extensions all the time any more but If I do need something extra like Firebug then I simply fire up Firefox and no one gets hurt. I don’t think it has to be a case of either Firefox or Chrome and if Google does introduce plugins and customization for Chrome, to try and make it more like Firefox, then it may well lose it’s appealing speed and efficiency – The very characteristics that differentiate Chrome and stop me from chucking it on the ‘just another browser’ pile. So, Google have carved themselves an interesting niche on this one. For efficient every day browsing, I find Chrome hard to beat.

What I like most about Chrome:
  • Superb startup time
  • Minimalist design (in that simple and beautiful Google way)
  • "Ctrl+B" hides/shows the bookmark bar
  • Full screen support has been introduced in Chrome 2.0 (F11)
  • Removable tabs are an awesome feature (especially with dual monitors)
  • New tabs offer you “Most visited”, “Recent bookmarks” and “Recently closed tabs”
  • Search directly from the address bar
  • Linux and Mac flavours are now available (Chromium)
  • Efficiency - it’s just so quick and easy to get to where you want to go
I know that Chrome presents its own issues like Google privacy concerns and rendering issues I have noticed particularly when check boxes are concerned. But no browser renders every page on the net perfectly. The world’s most imperfect browser has the highest market share and Microsoft’s IE6 was voted the “the eighth worst tech product of all time” by PC world in 2006. By contrast, Chrome is a fair browser offering already and I'm sure that Google will continue to polish all the blemishes out and make it even more shiny.

I don't know how significant an impact Chrome is going to have on the browser market, but it’s superbly efficient and I like it. Give it a try – you might find it a pleasantly relaxing browsing experience.

Update: I am most impressed with the speed of the new Firefox 3.5. I am probably going to start using Firefox more again where I can enjoy custom extensions as well as speed :) I love good, solid competition!!! Now if only Firefox could get detatchable tabs...

30 Jan 2009

Cannot connect to SMTP server

Not being able to send mail using your outgoing mail server of choice is frustrating! Particularly when you consider that the problem is probably a result of your *ISP deciding what is best for you. Whether you are connecting from home, work, school, university, college or a WIFI hot spot at an airport or coffee shop, you are at the mercy of their firewall policies which may prevent you from establishing certain connections, such as to your outgoing mail server. They do this to try and prevent spamming from their networks, despite it being a rather antiquated method. No matter, there are several ways to get mail out and if at first you cannot connect, try one of these other options:

*Please note that in this article I have used the term 'ISP' in a very broad sense, referring to the entity that is providing your Internet connectivity at the time you would like to send your mail, not your personal or home Internet service provider in all cases.

1. Send mail through your *ISP's outgoing mail server on port 25 (default)
This is the simplest solution. Your ISP SMTP server details will be something like mail.isp.com or smtp.isp.com on the standard port 25. These settings should be readily available on your ISP's website or from tech support.

This solution may be perfect for your home desktop PC that is always connected to your ISP's local network, however you may find this sort of setup irritating when used on a laptop as your ISP may block incoming connections from outside networks on port 25. i.e. You may be able to send mail provided you are sending mail through your home connection, but then not be able to send mail from a coffee shop access point.

2. Send mail through a different port
If you cannot contact a mail server on port 25, then you can also try port 465 or port 587. A quick way to check if these ports are open on your connections' firewall is to use telnet from the command line. Select, 'Start', 'Run', and type 'cmd'. This will open a command line window. Now type 'telnet smtp.isp.com 465' where smtp.isp.com is your mail server and 465 is the port. Yahoo! accepts outgoing mail connections on port 465 (SSL) so we'll use it as an example.

If the port is not being blocked by your providers firewall you should be presented with a blank screen and blinking cursor

Alternatively, if the port is blocked or you make a spelling error (smtp.mail.yahoo.co.zz) in the server address you will receive the following error

Gmail accepts outgoing mail connections on port 587 (TLS).

You should see feedback similar to the following if you telnet into the Gmail server successfully.

Port 587 and 465 connections provide secure connections and you will need to authenticate if you want to send mail through one of these ports. i.e. You will require a valid account with a user name and password for the server you are using - Gmail, or Yahoo! mail etc...

But, a successful telnet connection indicates that you can alter your outgoing mail settings to send mail through the corresponding port.

This is a nice solution as it should allow you to send mail from most networks and will save you having to change your mail settings or experience trouble every time you try and connect from a different network - a most handy configuration for mobile connectivity.

3. Send mail through a non-standard port (80 for example)
Port 80 is the port that browsers use to connect to websites, so it is a pretty sure thing this port will be open on most firewalls. This means that you should be able to send mail through port 80 under most circumstances - provided that you can actually find a mail server that accepts outgoing mail connections on port 80 of course. One example of such a mail server is Secure SMTP Server, which is unfortunately a paid service - as I am sure most outgoing mail servers with a port 80 configuration will be.

You may also find that your ISP is configured to accept outgoing mail on a non-standard port (other than 80,465 or 587). Port 2525 is sometimes used as a substitute, though this will be ISP specific and you should contact your ISP's technical support to find out.

4. Send mail using web based interfaces
By this point, you are running low on solutions and if the above options are not working for you then chances are that access to web based email sites like hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail will be blocked too.

Otherwise try to access your ISP's mail server from your browser - the address will look something like http://mail.isp.com or http://smtp.isp.com. There should be a 'log in to my account' link or something similar on your ISP's website, otherwise contact your ISP's technical support for help.

4 Jan 2009

Vodacom4me (My Vodacom) SMS from PC & mobile

Update: Free082SMS now sends SMS through the new My Vodacom portal at www.vodacom.co.za

Vodacom is the most generous mobile carrier in SA when it comes to free text messages - they allow subscribers to send up to 20 free SMS every day from the Vodacom portal website - Vodacom4me.co.za (or now the newer "My Vodacom"). However, this feature is only available from desktop computers and mobile users are directed to a stripped down version of Vodacom4me / My Vodacom that excludes free SMS.

But you can send Vodacom4me SMS from your mobile phone. Free082SMS provides A mobile interface to the Vodacom SMS website and email to Vodacom SMS so you can send free messages on the go! The site is built around a simple text based structure for optimal performance on most web enabled phones and it works great on PCs too! Send Free Vodacom SMS now!

You can also use Free082SMS to send free international SMS to Vodacom users who are roaming in other countries! Enable Vodacom SMS roaming by SMSing 'roamon' to 123 before you leave SA. You'll need to SMS 'roamoff' to 123 when you get back to reactivate cheaper local rates and regain access to advanced network features like voice, GPRS, MMS etc.

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3 Jan 2009

Sony CDX-GT270s Wiring (How to Install a Front Loader)

Recently I replaced the rather embarassing Panasonic cassette tape player in my Mercedes 190E with a new sony CDX-GT270 front loader head unit. I was concerned to find that the wire harness supplied with the sony unit did not look exactly like the Panasonic's harness and my enquiries at the electronics shop were met with an attitude of "if you have to ask you really should get someone else to install it for you". But it only required a little research (just to err on the side of caution) and I managed to get it working and save myself a little cash too.

The process was pretty simple in fact, all I needed to do was:
1. Disconnect the negative terminal of the car battery
2. Slide the Panasonic cassette player out of the console using the release keys
3. Cut the wires off the old Panasonic harness one by one and crimp them onto the matching colours on the sony harness
4. Plug the harness into the sony head unit and connect the antenna
5. Slide the sony unit into place
6. Reconnect the car battery

I can't believe I almost paid someone else to do it. You don't even need to know exactly what colour wire does what, but for the sake of being thorough - the car audio wiring standard is as follows:

white : front left (+)
white/black striped : front left (-)
grey : front right (+)
grey/black striped : front right (-)

green : back left (+)
green/black striped : back left (-)
purple : back right (+)
purple/black striped : back right (-)

black : negative / ground
blue : antenna up/down
red : igntition (+)
yellow : battery (+)
blue/white striped : AMP on/off

Useful car audio links:
Sony XR4950X Car Stereo Installation
Home and Car Audio Answers

Download Sony CDX-GT370/s CDX-GT270/s CDX-GT160/s manual
Download Sony CDX-GT370/s CDX-GT270/s CDX-GT160/s installation