Unpalitable Cookies

For some time I have been dreading the task of making my website compliant with the new EU legislation on cookies, but as the end of the 12 month period compliance period approaches, I have finally taken a look at what I needed to do.

I do believe that the legislation is badly thought out, is almost un-enforcable and would fail to achieve its intention even if it was enforceable, but I want to comply rather than risk owning the random web site that is used as a test case.

I used cookies to allow visitors to indicate which version of my site they wanted (US or UK; mobile or desktop) and then to automatically return to that version on their next visit. This is not a privacy issue as I don’t record the information anywhere, but it is no longer legal unless I ask the user for permission to store the cookie. To request a users permission without making the site look silly and without annoying the user was going to take more time than I have to spare for this task, so the simple solution was to stop using these cookies.

But I have also used Google adwords extensively on the site. And adwords uses cookies. I don’t even have a mechanism whereby I can stop those cookies being saved or accessed. So I need to remove adwords.

My earning from adwords have been miniscule, so this is not a financial issue, but simply removing adwords would leave a lot of blank bits in my web site.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, so I’ve decided what to do. This WordPress blog only uses cookies that are permitted, though if I had allowed comments on my posts, that would be a different matter. I am going to drop my original site and promote my blog to take its’ place. I will then republish the information that was on my original site as a series of blog posts over a period of time.

I thought my original site was clever, and it was my baby so I am attached to it; but it was rather overcomplicated for the purpose and for the number of visitors it received. Maybe the ICO has done me a favour.

Where has my hard disk space gone?

It always happens eventually. I’ve had my latest laptop for about a year, and the other day I got that dreaded message that my hard drive was almost full. I’ve used various tools in the past to analyse where the space has gone, but the latest one I have found beats them all by a mile.

WinDirStat is a free Windows disk analysis tool. You tell it which drive(s) to analyse and it quickly gets to work, eventually producing a three pane output of results.

Pane 1 (top left of the screen) is a list of your top level directories ordered with the largest first (though you can change the sort order if somthing else is more useful to you). Clicking the [+] beside an entry opens up the next level down, again ordered by size. This is a great way to find the biggest directories on your hard drive. It’s amazing how many big directories you can simply remove all together. You can delete directly from this pane, either deleting to the Recycling bin or deleting permanently.

Pane 2 (top right of the screen) lists file types and the amount of space occupied by each type. Again, this is ordered by space occupied and you can change the sort order. So now I know that 17% of my hard drive is filled with Outlook data files. I’m not going to simply remove those files, but that lets me know that there is scope to save significant space if I can go into Outlook and purge some old emails.

The third pane (at the bottom of the screen) is a graphical representation of the hard drive. Each file is represented by a rectangle. The larger the file, the larger the rectangle (though I don’t know if the smallest files are ignored or aggregated into a rectangle together). The rectangles are colour coded by file type. Clicking on a rectangle opens the entry in the first pane, so that you can see the details of the file; Clicking on a directory or file in the first pane highlights it on the third pane.

Great tool, great UI. Did exactly what I needed. Highly recommended.

A final thought, it’s almost worth getting just to see the Pacman style progress bars as it chomps its way through your hard drive, analysing what is where!

Jerusalem

There are many differing political and religious views on Jerusalem, but most agree on one thing – it is a special and significant place. A team including Jews, Arabs, Christians and Muslims have been working on a 3D Imax movie which focuses on Jerusalem.

My only disappointment is that we’ll have to wait another couple of years for the release.  In the meantime, I suggest that you watch the trailer below; it’s best in full screen.


Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

May Jerusalem be at peace, and may you find peace in your heart,

David

Slow file opening on Windows XP

For years I have suffered from having to wait for a long time (sometimes several minutes) when opening Word and Excel files on my Windows system.  It isn’t always slow, but when it is, it is really slow.

Recently, I found the cause of the problem and the solution.  So, if you suffer from the same problem, read on.

Windows opens many files, and especially ones that relate to Microsoft software using a technology known as DDE.  This allows applications to share data, but when everything doesn’t work as expected, something somewhere in the Windows system has to time out before you can open your file.

The solution, if you don’t need DDE, is to turn it off for the file types that cause you the problem.  In my case, these are .doc, .docx, .xls and .xlsx.  You will need to turn it off for each file type affected, but the method is the same in every case.

A word of warning: if you don’t know what a pathname or a parameter is, you should probably get a friend who is more confident with PCs to help you.  If you mess this up, you might struggle to get things working again.

Open file manager (or press My Documents) and select the Tools menu then Folder Options…, then press the File Types tab.

Find the relevant extension in the file type list (eg DOC for .doc files) and highlight the entry.

Folder options dialog with DOC type highlighted
Folder options dialog

Press Advanced, highlight Open,

Edit File Type dialog with Open selected
Edit File Type dialog

and press Edit… to display the Editing action for type dialog.

Editing Action for Type dialog in initial state
Editing Action for Type dialog

Uncheck the Use DDE checkbox and edit the string in the Application used to perform action: box:

  • ensure that there are quotes around the application pathname (if you fail to do this, Windows will fail to find the application if there are any spaces in the pathname, eg “Program Files”)
  • ensure that there is no /dde switch on the parameter list
  • ensure that there is a “%1” parameter (if there isn’t one, Windows will add it automatically, but it won’t put in the quotes and if you have a space in the pathname to the file you are opening, eg “My Documents”, then it will try to open multiple invalid documents which will fail)

You then need to click OK and Close as appropriate, and that’s it.  Except, you may need to redo this every time you apply a Windows update to your PC.  That’s a pain, but not as big a pain as waiting and waiting and waiting for  documents to open.

St Patrick’s Day

My daughter brought this home from playschool last year:

Once upon a time, a brave little man journeyed out into the forest to find his pot of gold.  He looked way up high and underground.  Every time he opened his searching eyes, the little man discovered something new.  His travels made him rich in experience, laughter and love.  He grew younger and younger at heart until he was the colour of spring.

Then one day it hit him: The pot of gold wasn’t a thing at all, but a way of seeing and being.

The little man knew, however, that nobody would understand this unless they experienced it for themselves.  So he hid the wisdom under a rock, under a fern, in a forest, perhaps not far from where you live.  And that is the real story behind the Leprechaun’s pot of Gold.

Happy St Patrick’s Day and every golden day in between.

Be successful now

Having plans, being ambitious, setting targets: these all have an important part in your future success. But are you so focussed on future success that you forget to be successful here and now?

If your plans and hopes for the future are making you so stressed so that you can’t sleep, or you are spending so much time on the future that you don’t enjoy the good things you have already, then you are not being successful right now.

If you spend every day of your life striving for success tomorrow without enjoying today, you will never achieve success.

Take time today to enjoy life: your family, your friends, the world around you. And when you take that time, focus on those things, and really enjoy them. Take time off from thinking about tomorrow.

Wishing a successful day, today!

Make a Start

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

It’s so easy to find good reasons for never starting something.  Of course, you don’t admit to yourself that you might never make a start, but there is always a good reason for not doing it yet.

Take this blog as an example. I set up the basic blog site about 5 months ago. But I was busy and I wanted to get everything right before I commited myself to public blog posts. I didn’t want to look silly. I didn’t want to miss out on some useful features that can be added as plugins.

But those aren’t the most important things about a blog. Provided I have the security settings correct (so that the blog doesn’t become a spam exchange) then people will visit if I have something useful to say and not because I have the latest plugin for some new fangled idea.

If I find that I can sustain a reasonable rate of postings and if people actually read them, then I can add the bells and whistles that will enhance the experience, both for me and for my readers. If there is nothing worth reading, then the additional features would be of little value anyway.  

So, if you have a worthwhile project that you have been thinking about for a while, go ahead and make a start. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. If it is good enough, start that journey and see where it leads.