Etomite on php 5.6

This post is on the geeky end of the scale a bit, but might be handy for someone out there in the interwebs.

Back in the mid 00’s I was a big fan of a CMS called Etomite that begat MODX which I still use for some projects. You can read about the death of Etomite and the rise of MODX on wikipedia.

Anyway, I used etomite for an earlier blog site at www.ohmark.co.nz which is the name of an electronics development company I ran from about 1996 till 2004, ish.

When I sold the rights to the then-current products and designs the new owner wasn’t crazy enough to take on the meaningless company name and oddly spent domain so I kept it for my blog.

That blog was used to record progress on a couple of microcontroller projects I was working on at the time and got enough traffic that it was worthwhile putting google ads on the site.

As I was earning one or two cents a week in advertising revenue from the site I kept it online until May last year when I rolled my web servers over to Debian 8 which included PHP 5.6.x.

Unfortunately PHP 5.6 was a bridge to far for Etomite and my efforts were rewarded with a dreaded deprecation error which are quite often journey to no-where to unravel.

Depreated

Deprecated mysql library error in Etomite

I was already running the last version of Etomite released, Version 1.1, and as it was the only site out of a few dozen on that box that did not survive the operating system upgrade I went for the cop-out option and put up a cop-out home page and forgot about it.

cop-out

Cop-out offline message that lasted over a year.

Skip forward to this weekend and I decided to re-visit it as I’m back on the blogging kick again and I still get the odd email about broken links to one of the projects on the site for a CNC stepper motor controller design I posted to some forums.

Long story short, here’s how I fixed up my Etomite install so you can get your crusty old Etomite site working again as well and revel in the y2k feeling of the admin interface.

To silence the error handling, add a new line at the top of index.php:

<?php
error_reporting(E_ALL ^ E_DEPRECATED);
etc...

Then pop down to the executeParser() function and line 605 or there about’s and comment out the handler and reporting calls.

  function executeParser() {
    //error_reporting(0);
    //set_error_handler(array($this,"phpError"));

You should also comment out any other calls to error_reporting in index.php.  I had four of them but I think they were from my original half-hearted attempt to fix the deprecation error in 2015 but they may have been original.

Lastly put an ‘@’ in front of the deprecated mysql_connect statement on line 1323 or just after given you’ve added a new line at the top.

Change:

    if(@!$this->rs = mysql_connect($this->dbConfig['host'], $this->dbConfig['user'], $this->dbConfig['pass'])) {

to be:

    if(@!$this->rs = @mysql_connect($this->dbConfig['host'], $this->dbConfig['user'], $this->dbConfig['pass'])) {

And your Etomite will rise from the ashes, sorta, ish.

Now that you’ve got Etomite running again, shift the website to something else before you go much further.  There are some common open-source components in Etomite that have had long published exploits which could bite you in the proverbial bum if you leave it online.

At the very least make the entire site read-only to protect against the TinyMCE injection issues which surfaced after Etomite last received an update.  I’ve made mine read-only and have an IDS monitoring for file system changes but it is not what I’d call a ‘trusted’ site on the server and I’ll probably chroot it as well.

There was an attempt for a couple of years to get Etomite moving forwards called etofork on github but it seems to have died and if you want a similar CMS toolset MODX is the way to go now, or if your site was a blog you could go where everyone else seems to have and use WordPress.

For my part I’ll probably move the content to this site, as maintaining two blogs is kinda silly, but given my on-again, off-again blogging style that might have to wait another year or so. 🙂

Icom IC706MKIIg self-oscillation problems

The Icom IC-706 in all it’s versions is one of the best know amateur transceivers of the last 20 years. Originally released in 1995 with the last in the line being the IC-706MKIIg which last rolled off the production line in 2009.

I managed to pick up a MKIIg a while ago in excellent condition which appeared to be fully functional as Icom intended it apart from problems with the microphone I posted a short note about a while ago.

After I fixed the microphone issue I made a few good DX contacts on 20 and 12m. I was getting a good impression of the shack-in-a-box and was looking forward to taking it out for portable VHF contesting which is what I bought it for.

Unfortunately it wasn’t 100% as intended though as a fault which was addressed in a service bulletin from Icom back in 2002 appeared. Long story short the final amplifier goes into self oscillation when transmitting in any mode on 15 or 17m.

The rig transmits correctly into a dummy load or perfectly matched antenna but if the wind is slightly up hill the visible effect is that SWR pops up to infinity because the final amplifier is generating a carrier somewhere out of band.

A quick google revealed the Service bulletin along with a bunch of forum posts about successes and failures in fixing the issue.

The recommend repair from Icom involves improving the earthing of the PLL and filter boards.

The factory earthing is some wee spring contacts that touch the aluminium chassis in various places and the screw-down points for each of the circuit boards. These springs slacken with time I imagine and some received a new spring ‘MP6’ on the filter board as part of the service bulletin.

My example had the ‘new’ spring on the filter board but another one on the rear side of the PCB was visibly not making a good contact at all. On the filter board I replaced both the ‘new’ contact (MP6) and the obviously faulty one (MP4) with solid copper wire links to chassis. With the filter board out I also re-tinned all of the mount points and cleaned the surface of the ‘posts’ they screwed down to.

On the PLL board one of the spring clips came away from the board due to a dry joint when I tried to re-tension it but otherwise the contacts appeared to be sound and I stuck the whole thing back together with great expectations.

Unfortunately my great expectation turned to greater disappointment as I could still not transmit on 15 or 17m into my Hexbeam which is by all accounts a good match on both of those bands. Oddly enough I could now key up if the lid was off the case so I had at least changed the fault, but not fixed it at all.

Clearly there is something critical in the RF deck that does not like stray RF back into the first IF / mixer section of the rig on those bands.

About now we’ll go for the ‘long story short’ option. I took the rig apart a few more times, added more earthing and generally tried random things and did actually manage to have one QSO on 15m with a JA station with the lid off but a fix based around the service bulletin was not even in the ballpark for my example.

That matches up with some very frustrated forum posts I found which starting to cause me some concern as I only really bought the rig to prove or disprove it’s performance on 2m SSB during a contest and selling the rig on fairly quickly was part of my grand plan for not filling my small shack with rigs I don’t use very often if it wasn’t up to the job on VHF.

Somewhere along the way I’d emailed a local ham who does some repair work asking about the problem and we’d had a bit of a conversation about the problem during which he suggested a ferrite choke between the mixer/modulator board and the filter to stop the feedback in it’s tracks.

I’d run out of things I could earth and it’s one of those suggestions that makes so much sense you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. Many thanks to Tony, ZL3HAM for pointing me in the right direction as without him I’d be pondering what to do with an all-band rig that didn’t work on two very useful HF bands.

I validated the idea by un-plugging the coax between the filter and mixer board and transmitting on 15 and 17 into the hexbeam at full power and it worked fine. Listening on another rig the modulation sounded fine and aside from the rig being effectively stone deaf it worked.

That started a hunt through my junk boxes and misc cables for a suitable donor ferrite that I could get one turn of the annoyingly rigid internal coax through and still get the lid closed. The one that finally presented itself came from the power lead on an LDG tuner that could quite happily survive with a much larger one and I set about threading the coax through the proverbial needle.

The thin grey coax they use in rigs between boards is interesting in that it is quite rigid for it’s size and has crimped connectors I’d have no show of replacing if I chopped it off so I had to gingerly trim the ‘wings’ of the crimp to fit through the hole in the middle of my little metal oxide donut.

Once through the first time getting one turn on the thing and still reach the connector on the board while allowing the lid to shut was a long painful process which would not have been much harder if I tried to do it wearing leather welding gloves.

The effort paid off though and I can now key up on 15 and 17m into truly lousy antennas and the rig folds back the power as it should but remains steadfastly on the set VFO frequency.

Hopefully someone else will find this article useful when they find their rig doesn’t respond to the ICOM prescribed fix. I understand in a lot of cases the earthing fix does work and that should be your first port of call. It was the combination of earthing and the ferrite that fixed mine.

Some relevant links:

The original Service Bulletin Courtesy of W1MJ:
http://w1mj.com/radio/IcomBulletin928.pdf
W1JM’s comments on the issue:
http://w1mj.com/radio/IC706MKIIG.htm
AD5X’s comments on the same issue:
http://www.ad5x.com/images/Presentations/IC706InstabilityRevA.pdf

Footnote: I actually wrote this article in 2014, but never got around to posting it to my blog. The rig did good service for a year or so before I sold it on as I had too many in the shack.

Two years and another revamp

Has it really been two years?  Early in June 2014 I posted about the Nineties wanting their website back and since that re-vamp I’ve only posted one other item to the blog.  Talk about slack.

So now I find myself in August 2016 and re-building the blog again. This time a shift to WordPress along with a cleaner visually light weight template.

I considered scrapping all the old content as some of it was just link-bait for some SEO experiments.  There were even some very dodgy affiliate marketing links in a couple of posts from when I worked at Xtend-Life doing e-commerce work and I was trying to figure out in indexing / SEO impact of overt affiliate links.

After a bit of head-scratching I decided to pull across all the old content kicking and screaming although the link structure has changed and comments are lost so the value is probably marginal. I may even 301 some pages if I find a lot of traffic to some pages, but I’m doubting it. 🙂

On a personal front I’ve had a bit of a change of career in 2016 so I’ve got more time for experimenting and hobbies so I hope to be able to post a bit more regularly than once every two years on the blog but We’ll have to wait and see on that count. I said that a couple of times in older posts and it never really happens.

On the blog topic front I’m back into the R/C model aircraft club scene again again after a break of 15 odd years so there’s another random topic or the mix, just in case you were not already confused enough about my target audience!

IC-706 Audio weirdness – Check for One Big Punch

I picked up a 2nd hand Icom IC-706MKIIG to add to my eclectic collection of gear earlier in the week. The rig is excellent condition and aside from a loose wire on the molex power lead there were no visible problems which one of the best known Icom boxes of tricks there is.

I re-crimped the power cable and plugged into a dummy load and tested transmit on all bands at lower power and all was well until I got to 2m and the audio was horrible. Really harsh with a pulsing buzzing/grinding noise in the background. Worse than that, going back down the bands the fault was apparent on all bands.

After trying a few random things I found the fault was intermittent so I swapped the microphone for another Icom compatible job and the audio returned to the normal smooth Icom defaults, better than when the microphone was working as it happens so into the back of the microphone I dived.

one big punch

One Big Punch board in IC706 hand microphone

Once the back was whipped off the microphone I found a poorly installed ‘One BIG Punch’ W4RT speech processor stuck inside which had a loose earth connection making all the noise if you held it just so.

I’d never heard of the product before but I yanked it out on the basis that Icom probably knew what they were doing. Only difficulty there was having to replace the .33uf SMD capacitor which was removed during the installation of the module.

As luck would have it the W4RT module had a donor capacitor and the repair was complete after some tweezer and squinting at small components soldering action.

Once plugged back into the 706 and tested locally into the dummy load everything seemed to be in order so I connected up to the antenna and promptly worked VP8AIB/100 in the Falklands and BX3AH in Taiwan on 20m SSB barefoot so I’m picking the One BIG Punch wasn’t really needed.

I don’t understand why folks mess with the audio to get ‘more punch’ but in the process make themselves sound like they’re talking through a toilet roll with corks shoved up their nose. Is this really helpful?

The Nineties have been calling

For the last three or four years, possibly more there’s been this niggling little noise in my head every time I looked at my own blog.

It’s not that it’s the most important site I look after, and I really only set it up to test ideas and post the occasional rant but it turns out the 1990’s were indeed calling, asking for the website back.

So here we are, in 2014 and I’ve finally embraced HTML5 and CSS3 for my own site two years after the big ‘5’ became a candidate recommendation of the W3C, and in the year it is set to become the recommended standard for websites across the board.

Hang on, what do you mean? Isn’t HTML5 the standard? HTML 5

Amazingly although a large number of websites use HTML5 for their rendering now and it’s been a buzzword for at least five years it’s not actually a recommended standard yet. The W3C plan indicates that will happen this year. 1

This is the reason you hear website developers bemoaning the state of browser ‘X’ and device ‘Y’ rendering their latest creations. Or at least that’s why you heard those noises if you travel in circles frequented by web developers who like new toys.

So, off I went to themeforest and bought me a shiny responsive template, chopped up the source files and slapped it down on top of MODX without too much pain considering how long I put it off.

So far the result has been pleasing although I need to re-code the blog comments bits as they look horrible and there are some nasty kludges going on in the back room to get my old content to work in the new template.

Once I’ve fixed up the last couple of visual elements I suppose I’ll have to fix the validation of the old content as well but who really does that any more?

So here is it, my first post in the new template. It remains to be seen if it injects some enthusiasm so I start posting regularly again. Only time will tell.

  1. W3C 2014 plan

Should this be forgotten?

A tale of my slightly oblique involvement in transgender employment experiences.

The recent news about the ruling in Europe around the concept of the ‘right to be forgotten’ got me to thinking it was time I did a bit of ego surfing earlier on tonight.

For those not entirely familiar ego surfing is putting your own name into Google or another search engine of your choosing if you are so inclined.

For me it’s somewhat topical I suppose as I’m currently contemplating a change in career and I’m sure some prospective clients or employers will be searching me out and finding all sorts of dregs around the internet.

I know of only four other people on the planet with my name so it’s not like I can even use the ‘Bill Smith’ defence and claim it wasn’t me who did whatever it is that the search engines find attached to my name.

As a curious segue I’m facebook friends with one of the other Chris Hellyar’s who resides in the UK. He too is employed in IT, has a beard and glasses. Small world, apparently.

Book CoverAnyway, I’m ego surfing earlier tonight and there are always lots of hits as I’ve been a netizen for a while now and although I prefer to keep my private parts that way a lot of my club activities and work life is available in bits and bytes somewhere.

Part of my working world is stock photography. You know the stuff; photos of smiling people doing happy things. Photos of books, logs, pins, ducks… Stock photography is the essential furniture which graces the virtual and print media world with images of almost anything you can think of.

I see my images popping up all over the place. Bank websites, book covers, advertising for shoes, travel, health conditions, pet food.

Some of the hits are often obscure and tonight I found one that really caught my attention a listing under my name in the search results for ‘transgender employment experiences’.

After a bit of hesitation I clicked on the link to find a fairly serious bit of literature by a Kyla Bender-Baird with one of my images on the cover no less. Google had found the copyright notice for the cover image a couple of pages into the book.

I’m not fussed to be honest and I’m happy that Kyla’s publishers honoured the copyright terms and credited the image. I do wonder what a prospective employer might thing of that in the search results though, given I have a beard and I like to think I’m a pretty manly sort of figure!

Is this the sort of search result that the complainants in the EU want to have forgotten? I do wonder.

(You can see the preview to the book on google books here. Here is the book publishers page on the book if you wound up here looking for the book!)

Responsive Design Best Practice

A wee while ago I wanted to create a new single-page landing site for one of my online properties. Just a logo, company name and contact details. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, because I’m a really cool guy and I’m down with all the latest jargon and web stuff I decided it would be a responsive website.

Not so much responsive in the sense that I’ll ever respond to inquiries from there any more than I did when there was just a logo on the website and no details you understand!

This is responsive in the sense that all the hip crowd using mobile devices to access the site will get a nice experience and not have to scroll or zoom around to see the three lines of text on the site.

Responsive design is not a new idea and I’m certainly not going to claim to know much more than someone who looks up the term on wikipedia about the dark art of CSS3 @media rules.

In fact, I’d like to encourage everyone else to stop claiming they’re experts as well!

I thought about buying a single-page website template and slapping my info on it but because that would involve parting with money for something I can do myself I decided that roll-your-own was a better plan. And it’s just one page, right?

I figured someone would have a good guide on the rules for responsive design so I put ten cents in the Google roulette machine and crafted a search for responsive design best practice.

If you search for ‘best practice responsive design’ Google says there are about 7,440,000 results which took a grand total of 0.33 seconds to dig out of the dusty corners of the web.

Without reading them I’m guessing that there are probably about 1,488,000 unique and differing opinions to be had in those results about what in fact the best practice is.

And I’m being pretty generous there, allowing for one fifth of all the results to actually be something new and interesting.

Another problem I found was a number of what I thought were reputable sites quoting other similar well respected sites that had bugs in their @media statements and simply didn’t work on the small range of devices I had to test on.

So, the quoted best practice was actually pretty poor practice if you used an iPhone 4S, or Samsung Galaxy 3 which didn’t like the overlapping @media specs defined in some CSS which I think originally came from smashing magazine but so many people quote it that I have no idea where it originated!

So; I suppose seeing as I link baited with the title, you’re wondering what my best practice advice is for responsive design? Here goes:

Get off your adjustable office chair and learn how CSS works, understand what the @media max-width, min-width and pixel-ratio actually do and test it on a good sample of devices!

When the Cloud goes bad

Before you read too much further this is a bit of a self-serving rant, bought on indirectly by the heartbleed bug published a couple of weeks ago.

I’m a fan of cloud hosted virtual Linux servers for hosting and messing about of the geeky kind.

The ability to spin up a box and play with it to your hearts content then just shut it off again for cents an hour has to be one of the greatest enablers of growth in online services since caffeine laden fizzy drinks hit the market.

I evangelised the use of cloud boxes for web hosting a while ago with some of my geeky friends, which of course rubbed off onto some of the not-so-geeky ones as well.

That’s where the cloud goes bad, right there, just at the end of that last sentence.

I even went as far as to help a couple of the not-so-geeky folks set up cloud servers and migrate their websites in a flurry of command line goodness with bash scripting that is in fact a native language for sandal wearers in many countries.

That was 2009 and skipping forward five years I now seem to have become the Linux agony aunt for a few of the converts and even some of the ones I considered to have strong bash-foo had dug a hole so deep that apt-get and yum can’t rescue them.

One whole day, almost to the minute, after CVE-2014-0160 was published and about four hours after I’d finished the initial patching of all *ix boxes for work my inbox was showing signs of the darker side of the cloud.

The questions were varied, to be fair, but all symptoms of the same underlying issue. “Is my server vulnerable?”, “My server wont update, how do I upgrade it?”, “I googled it but apt-get gives me xxxx error”.

Some of these machines had not been updated by their well meaning owners since they were spun up, in some cases over five years ago. The distribution in the case of Debian 5 now unsupported. This is my problem how?

The next morning I was due to start a three day holiday in the form of being parent helper on a school camp so I really didn’t want to be a part of someone else’s IT dilemma. For work I would keep an eye on things while away, but the other folks? Hmmm.

I replied with a pretty generic message to all of them, along the lines of ‘Patch OpenSSL, replace your SSH keys and if you’re using https get the certificate re-issued’.

So, instead of just relying on the trusty iPhone to keep up I ignored the rules for school camps and packed my netbook along with my toothbrush, socks and bug repellent. My plan being to get online tethered to the phone at least a couple of times during the break.

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. About midnight on the Wednesday I get online and there’s about forty emails waiting for my weary eyes.

Half of them unhappy replies to my apparently useless advice and the other half from more people who clearly shouldn’t run public facing servers on the internet without first putting on their overcoats.

Where I had credentials I made a half-hearted effort to get on and update OpenSSL in the wee hours between mountain biking, making hundreds of filled rolls and hut building in the rain but generally I just deffered them as my enthusiasm for cloud computing was being sorely tested. I’m not a very good agony aunt it seems.

And here’s the rant, in a nutshell:

If you don’t know how to keep a server secure and up to date you should not be running your own virtual servers online. Windows or Linux I don’t care. Just don’t do it.

If the concept of migrating applications or websites between releases of Linux Distro is foreign, or you think a public key is something used by kids to sneak into the school pool, get yourself some cheap shared hosting. Virtual servers are not for you.

If you think the scope for a Windows firewall is a tube with mirrors at each end allowing you to peer over the wall…. Well, you get the idea.

I hereby retract all of my former enthusiasm for cloud hosted virtual Linux servers.

</rant>

One for the Petrol Heads

(Originally Posted 28th Feb 2007 to cpix.co.nz)

Covering bike speedway for the paper a couple of weeks ago, and got this cool shot.

0702117201”Close racing action in the first turn at Moore Park on Sunday as Martin Emmerson of England, Andrew Alridge of Halswell and Craig Ramsey from Hastings all jostle for position in the fourth A grade heat of the Robin Mackinnon Memorial speedway meeting at Moore park on Sunday. Andrew Aldridge was the eventual winner of the Robin Mackinnon Memorial Plate.”

These are 500CC single bangers, on tuned pipes. Tuned for power that is, not tuned for making the neighbours happy while they prune their lilies before green tea at 10 with the Smythe-Joneses.

Off the line they reach about 100km/hr before the first turn, which is only 50m on loose dirt. Not fast, but enough to make it difficult to pan the camera without looking like a silly spinning top.

Just watching the bikes get off the line is an event. Waiting as the bikes line up I’m checking settings on the camera, looking for numbers on the front of the bikes, need local riders for the paper. Checking where the safety marshals and other photographer are standing so I don’t take a portrait of their high-viz jackets instead of a bike, and wondering if I let the cat out before I left home. It all leads to rising adrenaline, and that funny tingling feeling you get when you lick a nine volt battery.

The five bikes are all lined up behind the starting gate, and tension is building, the riders scuff their boots through the loose top layer of clay. I assume to get a kick off on the ground to help with the launch, or because they play cricket as well, I’m not sure.

0702117298The arena announcers are talking about how Jim wearing number 12 has come back well this year from an ingrown toenail, and the cousin of number 17 once had a horse that was lame. It really doesn’t matter what they say, it merges in with the barp-barp blap-blap-blap of the miss-timed 5 cylinder idling orchestra like an other-worldly chatter from long lost friends you’ve never met.

The starter drops his hand, or a handkerchief, the speedway equivalent of the yellow lights on a drag tree. The five pot band leaps from oddly timed acid jazz tempo to roaring death metal faster than I can shell fresh peas, which is pretty quick I’ll have you know.

The tingle down my spine is now more of a sizzling as adrenaline and the five cups of coffee I had for breakfast leap to attention and fire off a 21 gun salute in my synapses.

1000th of a second, F/4.0 Don’t change the settings. Centre focus point on my man, Number 1, Andrew Alridge. Half press the shutter button, focus tracking.

The wild animals are left clawing at the fence for no more than a second, the fence lifts, and they burst free. Roaring and snorting towards the waiting corner, like 2 tonnes of prime beef in a Spanish village.

Don’t take any photos till the day-glow of the first safety marshal blurs past the lens. He’s standing closer to the action than me, but at least he has a red flag, the bikes will stop for him. All I could do would be to throw six grand worth of camera gear and hope it takes one of them out.

A blur of orange and plumbers butt-crack dances through the now wildly shaking viewfinder. Press the shutter button full down, get some photos. The camera fires off the images, clack clack clack.

Concentrate. Zoom back, keep some space to the left side of the frame, number one, white vest, blue leathers, centre focus point. Clack Clack Clack.

As the bikes slide past I can feel them more than see them. The view I have though the viewfinder is odd, constrained and disturbingly close to the action. The thumping, vibrating sensation in the core of my body is more real, believable. The sound of the five bikes on the first corner while they are bunched up is thunderous, and resonates off the wooden walls around the track. Clack Clack Clack.

The caffeine and hormones are messing with my nerves and and possibly my judgement, I’m sure it’s moments like these people agree to join pyramid schemes to pawn off odd products on unsuspecting friends. I think I got a good one on that pass, I’m sure they were close together this time. Finger off the shutter button.

The left side of my face is blasted by fine clay dust from the passing cacophony. I stopped ducking three races ago, they remove all the stones from the track, don’t they?

0702117222At least one of the bikes is running castor oil, a shot of sickly sweet exhaust fumes, mixing with dust and sweat.

By the time the riders come back my way, seventeen seconds later, they are spread all over the place, I half-heatedly rattle off some more shots in their direction. Three more laps to go.

5 minutes till the next race. Get my next fix.

Good thing I’m not a petrol head, I could get hooked!

Authorship, Small words and little tags that do good

How’s that for a confused, or at least confusing article title?

I posted a blog article last week about some DIY stuff which wasn’t particularly noteworthy and truth be known I just wanted to post something to see if I could test a fix for the authorship tags on the site.

Back when authorship was just a toddler in the Google suite of obscure and not so obscure tags I went with some advice from somewhere to put a link with ‘rel=author’ on every blog post page to my profile page and slap a link on the profile page to my Google+ profile and I’d be done.

That worked for about, well. I’m not entirely sure it did. For exact match entire passages and phrases from my posts I’d sometimes seen my face staring back at me from the search results, but mostly nothing changed.

At work however we have a blog contributor who is consistently showing up as his miniature self smiling beside search results for his posts even though none of the requisite link tags are in place.

We have no links to his Google+ profile anywhere on the site and the only part of the authorship puzzle that’s been met is the contributor entry on his Google plus page.

I’m not going to go into any detail about how to make authorship work, there are a lot of good articles around the web on how that can be done and Google’s own help pages are as good as any now that it’s well established.

After the page was indexed fully I ran a range of different test searches which told me that authorship was working along with confirming a bunch of other odds and sods that should be common knowledge if you’re in the online marketing game.

What I found interesting though is how subtle search phrase changes changed when authorship shows up in the results or when it doesn’t. Equally I discovered some small words that made differences as well when I normally wouldn’t expect it.

So, without further delay, a pile of search results screenshots with comments for each…

130825-01First up we have a mixed up phrase from the blog post, and I’m top result. That’s mission 1 achieved, the page is indexed and we can move onto testing some other ideas out.

As a group of keywords ‘portable risks side note’ is not that stunning but you can see immediately how less than ethical SEO companies might convince a customer that a set of keywords are critical and get a rank for that combo under the guise of long-tail search. Followed quickly by the bill and a rapid exit to the nearest hills.

Long story which I can’t really post about, but I recently helped a friend with exactly that problem who’d paid handsomely for an SEO consultant to get their pages to rank well for a totally useless set of keywords.

This stuff is not rocket science but if you want to be top hit for ‘used car’ that is a whole other can of worms and requires a lot more effort as the content I’m using for these test searches is not really what happens in the real world.

An interesting thing to note about this search result is that the snippet of text is not the meta description for the page.

SEO tidbit #1 from this blog post: No matter how much time you spend crafting the description tag it may not show up in the serps these days if the search terms don’t match the description.

Oh, and the authorship worked. Who’s that attractive looking chap beside the search result?

130825-02

I did a bit of messing about with combinations of keywords and found that this one still gave second place result but dropped my authorship. Again the search phrase itself is pretty meaningless but it highlights something about Authorship.

If Google doesn’t think who wrote the article is that important to the search results you wont get the extra credibility in the search results page. That means if you’re struggling with testing the markup pay a bit more attention to what you see in Google’s structured data testing tool and what you’re content is about rather than just trying to get your photo up on what you think the page should rank for.

Note that the snippet is different again. Still nothing from the description tag. Instead this time we have a mash-up from two paragraphs highlighting where the algorithm says the keywords were found within the body of the content.

130825-03

A simple change here. Removed ‘on’ and there’s 70,000 or so more results found in the index but it doesn’t change the top few results. The fact is that small words sometimes don’t matter, despite how much your english teacher might have insisted otherwise.

Clearly if you were prepared to click a few more pages into the results you’d see a difference though, so let’s try something different.

130825-04

Same words with the ‘on’ back in the mix with a different order and we’ve dropped a couple of hundred thousand potential results even though the top three results have not changed.

So, the order of small words does matter. It would seem that the combinations of ‘on side’, ‘on note’ and ‘note on side’ are probably more common in content than ‘on portable’.

I’m obviously mincing my words, almost literally, to make a point here.

When in the English language you write, order important it is. Unless you’re Yoda that is.

Google have long said that well crafted content is important and phrasing that is common to your target audience is going to rank better than the best writers missive or random words on a page that used to be common in the AltaVista days.

As a total aside, if you’re interested in SEO and don’t know what I mean by AltaVista days, you missed out on a golden age for SEO consultants that allowed people to do all sorts of things that would get them kicked from the index of even the slackest engine now. Ahhhh, those were the days.

130825-05

Another shuffle of keywords and the third result has vanished down to about position six although cbsnews and I are still batting pretty well for some obscure text.

‘Notes on’ in this case is what starts the page title tag and the first H1 on the page for the result that’s popped up to number three on the hit list.

That right there is old-school SEO advice. Have relevant title tags and heading structures with text people will search for. If your page is about tomatoes having the page title ‘Shoe leather replacements for tomatoes’ and the first H1 tag the same will probably get you more search traffic for shoe leather than it will tomatoes.

130825-06

One more shuffle of keywords and this time a more correctly constructed phrase from an English point of view and it’s got four of the five words in the same order as my post so the dashing fella on the left of the search makes a sudden re-appearance.

So even though this is not an exact match to the text the algorithm calculates that the order makes better sense and is more likely to be well structured content deserves that little bit of extra attention the authorship gives.

cbsnews.com is still there but lets face it… If my site had as much link juice as a major news site I’d have Google adsense on here and be counting my sports cars parked in the garage of my French Riviera holiday home not writing this for entertainment.

The osha.gov site appearing there is interesting, but again .gov sites have credibility oozing from their TLD so nothing surprises me when I see them showing up in search results.

130825-08

Now for a little image searching using ‘testing FT-857’ seems like a pretty good image search term if you’re into amateur radio and want to find out about the FT-857.

The image is result four which is a good slot and your SEO handbook will tell you the image names are all important for such things and the alt tags. Don’t forget the alt tags.

In this case the alt tag is indeed ‘Testing on the FT-857’ and searching for exactly that will bring the image up to the top hit, not the lowly number four slot.

What about that image name? It’s actually ‘130818-171341-0001.jpg’.

Correct and contextual naming of images is a good idea but don’t forget the auxiliary tags around images. The only place FT-857 appeared before this post on my entire website is in the alt and title tags for that image.

130825-09

Better than that, this search gets me top hit for a a combination of keywords from the page and FT-857 which only appears in the alt tag for the image and the title tag for the link to the popup copy of the image.

If I’d bothered to name the image in a useful fashion I could probably rank for some useful phrases as well as that one. This is basic stuff but day in day out I see SEO advice about all sorts of other things. Getting the basics right on this is going to get me traffic for people testing FT-857 Radios with power pole connectors.

130825-10

One last screenshot to round out the observations for the evening. An image search for ‘gel FT-857’ showing a top hit for my photo. The word ‘gel’ is not in the alt tag for the image, but it is in the title attribute for the link to the popup.

If you hang plain english title tags on links to images and content you can improve their positioning for key words and phrases in the linked content or in this case can give you a ranking for a term that does not exist anywhere in the content apart from the tag.

By way of a disclaimer and for the sake of completeness: I did these searches from a New Zealand IP on www.google.co.nz, using google chrome in incognito mode to avoid search history slanting the results. Your results may vary if you’re in a different country of have substantial search history for similar terms or sites. Some of them were on my Ubuntu Desktop and the balance on a Windows 7 laptop, because I happen to be sitting in front of the telly pretending to watch something, so the fonts look slightly different in some of the screenshots.

(I did do a bit of testing from a US IP using google.com in incognito mode and got very similar results, although the serps were slightly different the observations would be the same. If you’re reading this more than a week after I wrote it the search results will probably have changed, the web is a dynamic place.)