Archive for the ‘Websites’ Category

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Monitoring bushfires

January 29, 2019

Nowhere in Australia is immune from bushfires, but some places are deemed safer than others. The block of land I live in south-western Western Australia is relatively safe (no trees near the house, lots of hardstand surrounding the house, etc.), but nearby (within one kilometre) are high-risk areas of bushland and homes on hilly land that is just covered in trees, grasses, and native plants. I have a fear of bushfires, so over summer I listen for aircraft activity beyond what’s normal (‘normal’ is maybe a couple of light aircraft a day) and check various websites etc. to assess the danger. The risk on some days is worse than on others—particularly those days with strong easterly winds and high temperatures, and if there’s been no rain for weeks. Once the wind swings around and comes from the west, I start to breathe easier as the danger to my property from that direction is much less.

Here are some of the local and national sites I use to check various conditions and situations, in case it helps others who live in Western Australia:

  • a weather site (wind speed and direction, temps)
  • the Emergency WA website (https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/) for all sort of emergency reports in the state (the zoom-in feature is great)
  • the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (dfes_wa) Twitter feed for updates and links to emergency situations (https://twitter.com/dfes_wa)
  • occasionally the MyFireWatch website (http://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/) and the Sentinel website (https://sentinel.ga.gov.au/)
  • FlightRadar24 (https://flightradar24.com; there’s an app too), which is a plane spotter’s goldmine, but which I use to identify planes and choppers going overhead (most are just standard light aircraft, the RFDS planes, and the rescue chopper), but occasionally they are firefighting aircraft.

This sort of monitoring was not possible just 20 years ago. Google Maps and the ability for services to overlay other satellite data and create instant warnings has changed the game. Technology working for good!

The image below is a screenshot I took from FlightRadar of two firefighting aircraft battling a bushfire near Collie on 20 January 2019. By clicking on the aircraft icons on the map, I get the information on the left about the aircraft and the flight paths for the past hour or so.

Flight paths of two firefighting aircraft helping put out a fire near Collie, Western Australia

Update 5 February 2019: We had a bushfire close to our place (within 5 km — too close for comfort!) and I found that the FlightRadar24 website gave me accurate, real-time information on what the firefighting aircraft (including the massive air crane, ‘Georgia Peach’ [N154AC]) were doing. The Emergency WA website was only being updated every few hours, but with FlightRadar24 I could see what sorts of resources were being deployed to control this fire. And from the flight tracking I got some questions answered, like whether ‘Georgia Peach’ could refill from the ocean (she could)—she actually refilled her 7500-gallon tank at least 10 times (it takes her about 45 seconds to do this, which is pretty amazing). In the first screenshot below, you can see ‘Georgia Peach’ heading down from Perth and taking on her first load of sea water just off Myalup. In the later screenshot, you can see that she’s made the first of many sorties to refill off Binningup. The two Dunn Aviation aircraft (yellow water bombers) can’t take on sea water, so had to return to Bunbury Airport each time to refill with their fire suppressant, adding precious time to their ability to be effective. The Rotowest chopper circled the whole time—I suspect it was the spotter aircraft guiding the others where to best deploy their loads.

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Dropbox login not working

January 18, 2019

I’m not sure why, but my Dropbox.com login wasn’t working on a particular computer. I tried several browsers, cleared the cache etc. but it just didn’t want to work. It was fine on another computer. Off to Google…

The solution was simple enough—once you know how! After you type your username and password, do NOT press Enter or click Sign In. Instead, hold down the Alt key then click the Sign In button.

For some reason that worked and I was able to log in to Dropbox on that computer.

Hope this helps someone else!

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Find the date a web page was last updated

May 3, 2018

Here’s a neat trick for finding the date the content on a web page was last updated if it’s not clear from the page itself:

  1. Open the web page in a browser window.
  2. In the address box, type Javascript:alert(document.lastModified) then press Enter.
  3. The date and time the page was last updated is displayed in a pop-up window (NOTE: The date is mm/dd/yyyy format).

NOTE: This trick DOES NOT work with content that’s generated dynamically — for that content, you’ll always get the current date and time displayed. But for a static website, you’ll get the actual date and time the content was last updated.

(This trick is courtesy of Gerri Berendzen’s presentation — ‘Is this resource reliable?’ — at the ACES conference in 2018. Thanks Gerri! And thanks also to Dave Gash who added the ‘alert’ bit to create a pop-up window and not overwrite the web page.)

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New look website

March 17, 2018

I bit the bullet and revamped my website to be fully responsive, and to cut out some of the old stuff that’s no longer relevant. A few people tested it on various devices, browsers, and operating systems, with no issues (thank you!).

I must say I held my breath as I uploaded it and then deleted all the old files (yes, I have a backup!!!). But it ‘just worked’ right from the get-go, with no delay in what got displayed in the various browsers on my PC. Phew!

Same URL, new look: http://www.cybertext.com.au

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A geoblocking variation

December 30, 2017

Spotted when I tried to go to a website the other day. This takes geoblocking to a new level, though at least it very quickly tells you that they don’t sell their products outside the US/Canada! Would I even consider their products? Based on this, NO WAY!

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Finding accurate bibliographic details for a References list

February 19, 2015

References. The bane of anyone writing a document that cites information from others. Gathering all the required bibliographic data for a reference can be painful, as well as formatting it according to the ‘house’ style.

However, one way to shortcut the process is to use a (free) internet service that searches out the information for you AND formats it to your house style, or close to your house style. All you need are a few words of the title, perhaps an author name, and the name of such a service.

The instructions below show how to use the WorldCat service to grab the complete bibliographic details of items in your References list. You won’t find everything in WorldCat, although with more than 2 billion catalog records from libraries around the world, you should find many. What you won’t find on WorldCat are your internal corporate documents and perhaps some of the more specialized documents from government departments etc. But if you’re looking to confirm the bibliographic details of published books, articles etc., then WorldCat is a good starting point.

  1. Go to http://www.worldcat.org/.
  2. Optional: Click the tab of the type of item you’re searching for (e.g. Articles); the default is Everything, but narrowing your search to a type of material will give you more targeted results.
  3. Type the title, or part of the title (try to include enough keywords so that you don’t get hundreds of results to skim). If it’s an article, you can add part of the journal’s name too, if you know it.
    worldcat01
  1. Press the Enter key.
  2. Optional: On the results page, you can further refine your search by selecting options from the left sidebar or adding words to the search field (e.g. an author’s name).
  3. When you find your reference, click its title.
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  4. Confirm that it’s the item you want, then click the Cite/Export link near the top of the page.
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  1. A popup window opens allowing you to select the referencing format.
  2. Click the + sign for the formatting style you want to use. Check them all to find the one that most closely matches your house style.
    worldcat04
  3. Select the details, then copy them (Ctrl+C) to the clipboard and paste them (Ctrl+V) into your References list in your document.

Note: You can view some articles etc. listed in WorldCat in their entirety if you need to check the reference further — these are indicated by a small orange circle with a white ‘e’ inside it.

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There are other (free and paid) services available that also provide this sort of information (I’m aware of http://www.citationmachine.net/ but feel that it has more limitations in its reference formats than WorldCat). If you use any other free services, let me know and I’ll add them to this post.

[Links last checked February 2015]

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Proofread before publishing

September 22, 2014

I stayed at the lovely Sydney Hilton when I spoke at a conference held there last month. When I was checking the hotel’s website prior to my trip, I clicked a link to a spa business on (or very close to) the premises. The link is so tied into the Sydney Hilton’s website that I initially assumed it was part of the hotel’s services.

This spa business promotes itself as high-end and their prices reflect that. Their alliance with the Sydney Hilton also attests to that.

However, I didn’t try any of their spa treatments. Why? Well, cost was one reason, but the main reason was the lack of care taken with their website and its content. While there may be no correlation with the quality of their website and the quality of their services, in my mind lack of care in one equates to potential lack of care in the other.

So what was so wrong with their website? Here are a few examples (screen shots below):

  • spelling errors, typos, and duplicated words
  • sentences that didn’t make sense
  • placeholder text instead of real content
  • photos that showed dirty fingernails.

How could they have fixed this before their website went ‘live’? Well, having someone proofread every page, every heading, every caption, and check every photo would have been a good start. And if there’s no-one in-house who felt comfortable doing this, then they could have hired an editor for a couple of hours to do it for them. A small price to pay to NOT turn potential customers away.

A sample of screen shots from this website — there were many more examples I could have used as the site was littered with them.

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Typo in heading, and use of irrelevant placeholder text

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Repeated words (‘for for’), one word split in two (‘I deal’ versus ‘Ideal’), and a sentence that just doesn’t make sense

 

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Spelling errors and typos (‘form’ instead of ‘from’)

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And you promote facial treatments by people with dirty fingernails? Ewww! If this was a stock photo, get another one. Better yet, get your own photos taken by a professional photographer.