Super fast broadband nationwide by 2015

You may have heard in the news today that the government is trying to get everyone in the UK (including rural areas) access to super fast broadband in the next five years.

Obviously, this will be of great benefit to the online world as such, and will enable a great degree of rich website content (with video streaming, faster downloads, etc.), also paving the way for increasingly popular technologies like TV on demand, and interactive contents.

For those who have been using broadband for a while (I’ve personally had broadband for 10 years, and was one of the first 1,500 BT Broadband customers!), almost no-one would go back to dial-up now.

I was fortunate to meet a very senior person within the telecommunications industry a few months ago, who helped explain to me how this could be achieved, (as I was puzzled over the knowledge that broadband quality decreases significantly, depending on your copper cable distance from the phone exchange.  similarly, it wouldn’t be affordable to run fibre optic cable many km to just one house in a remote valley).

As you may know, from 2012 analogue tv is being switched off entirely (many parts of the UK are already digital), and when this happens, the digital signal will actually become stronger (because the analogue signal, interferes with the broadcasting of the digital signals, from the same arial).

Because the analogue signal uses up quite a large portion of frequencies for TV (ie like your FM radio broadcasts on a range of frequencies), when the digital switch happens, because digital can be broadcast on a smaller isolated frequency, it opens up a lot of spare frequency space.  Which can be reused.

In the more rural areas, you might also already be aware of satellite phones (that enable two way communication with satellites, virtually anywhere in the world).. well this same type of technology will also enable very fast broadband speeds in rural homes (and is capable of speeds much greater than we can can currently get via cables at the moment in the UK).

All this means that my dream of living in a remote sustainable farmhouse in the valleys of North Wales, whilst maintaining my website design and development on-line, will soon be a real possibility! 🙂

Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer – Adwords row

Some of you may haven heard in the news today about the Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer row, over the use of the search term ‘Interflora‘:

This screen clipping was taken a few moments ago, and as you can see, in the ‘sponsored adwords’ listing, both Interflora, M&S, and ASDA are all bidding on the search term ‘Interflora’, in the ‘Pay Per Click’ ‘sponsored links’.

Firstly, from the people I’ve already spoken to today, there is some misunderstanding between paid listings, and natural listings:

  • Natural listings are the search results that appear with a white background, on every search results page.  Whereas sponsored listings are paid for advertising links (which may or may not take you to the product or service you’ve searched for).
  • Natural Search listings can be improved through having a great website, and naturally working on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  This are the most valuable placements to have, as many users will prefer to click on the natural links, rather than the paid links.
  • The PayPerClick (PPC) advertised listings, as seen in the above example (with the faintly shaded background) are the search results which either appear above, or to the top right of every search page. 
  • With PayPerClick, Companies can thus pay Google (which is part of the reason the stock value of Google is so high) to appear high on this listing.. the more you offer to pay Google for each person who clicks on your link, the higher in the rankings you will appear.

The minimum bid is 1p (or in reality it’s more like 2p), but there is no upper limit I’m aware of (you just need to work out the value to yourself of someone clicking through..

  • If you have a product that sells for £10, and you make £1 profit on each item: if 10% of the visitors to your website purchased one item, then the value to you of each click would be 10p (so you’d need to set your bid to a lower value to ensure you can still cover your costs, unless of course this £10 product is a ‘loss leader’ to help get customers to buy other products too).
  • However, if your product sold for £10,000, with a £2,000 profit margin, and 10% of the visitors who visited your site from your chosen search term, then the average value of each click would be £200, so the amount you bid on each click could of course be much higher.

This is the reason why companies cold call many businesses, and guarantee you ‘first page on Google’.. this is easy, if you pay enough for the relevant search term, you can appear as high as you like for those search terms.

However, the interesting thing about this case is that Marks and Spencer are using a worldwide registered trade-mark as a means to promote their own competitive services (even though the trademark phrase itself doesn’t appear in the advert, nor on the associated page with it).

I know that Red Letter Days used to be very clear to their resellers, that as part of the agreement to resell Red Letter Day vouchers, the resellers were not allowed to bid on the search terms directly related to their brand (ie ‘Red Letter Days’).  However, in this case, M-and-S have not entered into such an agreement, as they are attempting to sell their own competitive product/service instead.

So it’s understandable for the case to now reach the high court.  Trademark and Copyright rows are rarely simple.
By my understanding, you are typically only allowed to quote someone else’s trademark; with their permission, if you are a licensed reseller of their product (ie Starbucks coffee), or for a news feature or similar.

But then, many trademarks/brand names have become a generic description of a product (ie ‘Tannoy’ rather than a ‘public address system’, ‘Hoover’ rather than ‘vacuum cleaner’, etc.) so in these cases, you could argue it would be ‘fair’ to associate your competitive product or service with such a name.

I look forward to seeing how the case continues.

New Xtrahair website

I’m very pleased to announce the launch of the new Xtrahair website, at www.xtrahair.co.uk.

xtrahair

As you can see, this is a very fresh looking design, with a conceptual design by our great colleague Matt.

In the process, he also wanted to update the Xtrahair logo, as seen.

The site is now also in the hands of the client, who has the facility to update each page of her website through an integrated content management system (CMS).  And of course, we’ve kept the old blog on their too (but now restyled it to fit in with the new design).

Certainly quite a significant improvement on the old design!

If you’d like us to improve your current website, or if you’d like a new one built entirely from scratch, do let us know.

New ‘written contract’ now available through our website

To help keep things clear to our clients, we’ve just added a new plain English written contract, to our website.

This was very kindly provided, under the creative commons licence, by Andy Clark of Transcending CSS.  We’ve subsequently modified his version to fit more appropriately within our own policies and procedures, but are very grateful to Andy for his excellent direction in this, and of course his inspirational book: Transcending CSS, the fine art of web design.

Many thanks Andy.

.co domain names are nearly ready for purchase

If you’re not a regular purchaser of domain names, you may have missed that .co domain names are about to go on to public release, so anyone will soon be able to buy their own .co domain name (ie www.my-new-domain.co).

.co is the new domain extension, that’s been released from Columbia.Columbian nationals have the rights to www.my-domain.com.co however, you’ll soon be able to purchase your own domain, ending in .co

There are of course many other domain extensions you can buy, such as the most famous .com, and .co.uk, as well as .net, .org, and slightly more recently .info and .biz.  This newer range of domain extensions (such as .me, .tv, .us) are related to countries that have decided to allow open purchase of their second level domain names (ie the bit, just before their country abbreviation).

There have been four phases to the launch of .co:

  1. The first round that allowed registered Columbian brands to buy their name in the first round ,
  2. The second round allowed national trademarks to buy their domain,
  3. The third round was an auction style landrush (ie customers interested in domains with a high global value, to bid against each other)
  4. And now the fourth round, where any person or company, anywhere in the world, can purchase their own domain on a first-come first-served basis, from 7pm British Summer Time (6pm GMT).
We’ve had a number of pre-purchase requests made with our domain registrars, so hopefully we may be successful in purchasing a few domains.

According to the official .co website www.cointernet.co, 87,489 domains were registered in the first 15 minutes of the domain name extension going live on the public market!

Microsoft Tag, for your mobile, on Parlour Design

You may now have seen the multicoloured triangular shaped as one of the contact numbers on our contact us page. This is part of a new free application for your mobile, called Microsoft TAG.


The idea being, you download and install the free application via your mobile, from http://gettag.mobi, and when you scan the bar code above, it will automatically offer to dial our main contact phone number to reach us at Parlour Design.


The barcode can be designed to do other things too, such as:

  • Open a URL suitable for your mobile, in your mobile internet browser.
  • Have a text automatically sent to your phone, with further information about whatever you’ve just seen
  • Open a new contact card, with the relevant company details, names, numbers, email, etc. onto your phone.
Microsoft are expecting this tag to take off in a big way.  
(other applications have already been developed to read standard bar codes from products, and then compare prices with local stores automatically, this system however should offer quite a lot more)

Official launch day was yesterday, and over a million posters have already had this kind of tag printed on them.  Mobiles are of course a part of every day life for most people now (recent research shows that a 7 year old is more likely to own a mobile than a book in the UK!).  So having a simple way for people to walk around with their mobiles, see a tag, and get the relevant information directly onto their mobiles could well be the future of things to come.
If you’ve got a ‘new generation’ phone (ie one with a built in camera, internet access, and the opportunity to install applications), then just visit http://gettag.mobi on your mobile.
To learn more about it in your normal web browser, just visit http://tag.microsoft.com


Spam is getting more selective – Annual Design Awards

Spam emails are certainly getting more selective.

The email harvesting robots which trawl the web are now (on a strangely positive side) aligning harvested email addresses and targeting them at specific groups (ie email addresses that have not been opted in, but just collected in plain text from different websites it finds).
I’m sure my email address has now just been ‘sold’ (for a very small price no doubt), to lists claiming I’ve been opted in.

One of the hidden email addresses on the Parlour Design website (one that a typical human browser would have no reason to find), has just been invited to the ‘Annual Design Awards’, whereby for a fee, we can enter into a competition and submit our best design.
Using their special promotional code sent via email, we can also get a discount!

So if we were genuinely being invited by a human, they would have used one of the publicised email addresses on the main website.

Similarly, my belief is that if this was a genuine industry award, we wouldn’t pay to enter, but that the cost of looking through my entry would be covered by their advertising and sponsorship of the event.

I will of course be keeping clear of it.
That particular email address has now been blocked from further spam indefinitely, and the area it was used for, has now been updated to a new email address again.
I wonder how long it’ll be before this new email gets spammed again!

PayPal Virus Email – “Urgent Notice: PayPal Limited”

Just had a classic virus attachment email:

We recently have determined that different computers have logged into your account, and multiple password failures were present before the login. Therefore your account has been limited.

Please download the form attached to this email and open it in a web browser.

Once opened, you will be provided with steps to restore your access.

We appreciate your understanding as we work to ensure account safety.

Copyright © 1999-2010 PayPal, Inc. All rights reserved.

PayPal Pty Limited ABN 93 111 195 389 (AFSL 304962). Any general financial product advice provided in this site has not taken into account your objectives, financial situations or needs.

[Attached of course, is a file “Profile Update – PayPal.mht (144KB)”, and an html email, likely infected too]

So how do I know so quickly it’s not real?

  1. This is a classic threat of ‘act now or you’ll loose access to your account’, under the guise of your safety.
  2. PayPal would not send attachments via email.
  3. If there was an issue, at most, they’d ask me to visit the genuine PayPal.com website by going there directly, (ie not using a hidden link on the email) and then view something from there.
  4. PayPal would not send programs to help your computer. That’s down to Microsoft, Apple, Linux, etc.
  5. The email address this was sent to, was harvested from one of my websites, not the email address I use for PayPal.
  6. The ‘To:’ field was empty within the message body (it should have my PayPal email only)
  7. They did not use my full name, or my PayPal name in their message
  8. The message layout doesn’t even contain the normal things PayPal send (although having them, does not make it genuine either, but at least not having them flags up more warnings)

For more information about greater safety with PayPal, please view the mail PayPal website:
https://www.paypal-marketing.co.uk/safetyadvice/safetytools.htm

And of course, don’t open anything or forward on anything, that is sent to you via email, apparently for ‘security’ or ‘safety’.  Virtually 100% of the time it’s a complete fake and will do more harm than good.

Microsoft Browser Choice Screen Update for EEA Users of Windows Vista (KB976002)

Many of the browsers to the internet are using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and for most people, the default option within Windows is the one people stick with.

However, for so many web designers, they first design websites to ‘W3C accessibility standards’ for browsers like Mozilla, Safari, etc, and then they work out how to make things to display properly in Explorer (although the introduction of IE 8 has helped a little with this particular challenge for many designers).

A quick check on the last month’s 9,500 unique visitors to a couple of sites (that we’ve designed) brings up statistics over the last 28 days:

  • Between 61-75% of unique visitors to the sites are still using Internet Explorer,
  • Between 15-21% are using Mozilla/Firefox.
  • Google Chrome are averaging just 2.5-5% of unique visitors (although they are compartively ‘new’ to the market).  This significant share however, has been helped by advertising heavily on their Google Search homepage to Explorer users, as well as large billboards, etc.

This recent ‘important’ update by Microsoft however should help rebalance these statistics a little more.

Thankfully though, with all new websites designed by ourselves at Parlour Design, because of the way we make websites, they’re not only compatible across all the major browsers (even when javascript or images are turned off), but they can display on mobile phones too!

Blogger has extended it’s ftp support until the 1st May

I’m very pleased to say that Blogger has extended it’s end of support of ftp by about 5 weeks to the 1st May 2010

http://blogger-ftp.blogspot.com/2010/02/migration-deadline-extended-to-may-1.html

It’s good news on some regards (gives us extra time to sort out a viable solution for our clients, before it’s cut completely)

However, based on the increasingly slow service of publishing photos, videos, and even plain text blogs, changing to a self-hosted system like WordPress, does seem to be the most appropriate option for most of our clients.