404’s and sitemaps

Just did a bit of a tweak to my site to address something that I always thought sucked, but never really looked into: 404s.

404s traditionally are ugly, and unhelpful. They say “can’t find what you’re looking for” and that’s about it. With the advances since PHP and CMS’s have come about, this doesn’t have to be the case. So, I’ve replaced my previously stock, and ugly, 404 page with the wonderful 404 info from Yoast, as well as implemented an HTML sitemap as per his other post here. The only other thing I did was modify the 404 page a bit so that if someone tries to look for a file on my site that’s a PNG, GIF, JPG, JS, etc, they get a basic “file not found”. This code came from here.

It’s all pretty boring, but I think it’ll make the user experience of my site a bit more friendly. And it’s more inline with Google’s current thoughts about 404 pages.

Toro Ultra Blower Vac (51599)

Unfortunately, my neighbors have several large Douglas Fir trees that extend out over my driveway and thoroughly cover my driveway in needles every few weeks. Since I’ve bought the house, my fix for this was to borrow a pressure washer from someone, and wash the needles/moss off every 6-10 months. This took the better part of a day, but resulted in a pretty clean, yet more damaged, driveway (the driveway is original to the house (1978) and started out as a rather rough texture even then). One thing pressure washing DID do was remove the moss that grows on my driveway since it’s such a rough texture, and the aforementioned Douglas Fir’s keep it from getting much direct sunlight. But all and all, pressure washing to remove needles is a bit overkill. Enter, the leaf blower.

I’ll start by saying my wife was skeptical that a blower would be able to take care of the needles. But having read the Consumer Reports article on the blower vac, I was pretty confident it would work. After bringing it home, I fired it up and was immediately rewarded with needles, fir cones, twigs, and small rocks flying everywhere. I blew all the needles and everything off the driveway in less than 15 minutes, and in the end, I wasn’t covered in dirt and water. While it didn’t do anything to rid the driveway of moss, it did make the moss much more visible, and will probably aid in removal via pressure washing later (since I won’t have to deal with the fir needles as well as the moss).

I’ve since blown off the driveway again (a week later), and this time it went by very fast (5 minutes). I figure once a month will take about 10 minutes, and I should be able to greatly reduce the amount of needles tracked into my garage by the car, and into the house by people.

I haven’t tested the leaf vacuum aspect yet, but if it works half as well as the blower, I’ll be quite happy.

Rating: ★★★★¾ 

Cuecat

CuecatToday I went to a local used technology shop (Next Step Recycling) and in the front case, they had a “Cuecat” for $3. Knowing that they work in Delicious Library, I snatched it up (along with a few other things), and headed home. After plugging it into a computer, and attempting a scan, I got a load of gibberish (not a recognizable barcode). A bit of googling later, I found this. Figuring that someone wouldn’t bother posting something like this to the net if it was wrong, I went ahead and took a small screwdriver to the pin indicated, and sheared it off the side of the chip. Total mod time was about 2 minutes, and most of that was finding a small/thin enough flathead blade to shear off the pin.

After putting it back together, I gave it a try, and viola, it gives a real barcode now. You might wonder why I purchased something like this? It’s mainly the size and the fact it works in DL2 (and on the iPad with a USB Camera Connection Kit adapter).

So how does it work as a barcode scanner? So-so. It sometimes takes multiple passes to get the code to read, but given it’s size, and cost, it’s well worth it. Previous to this, I carried around one of these any time I wanted to help someone with an inventory of their media library. It’s about 2-3x as big, and has it’s own issues.

For more info, albeit more geeky, and may/may not apply to your particular Cuecat (should you find one), see here, here (includes sample output before modification), and here.