Serve on King Day

On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday hundreds volunteered a day of service to honor his message and memory. How did you serve on this day? Grassroots.org provides a free service to non-profit organizations to obtain free valuable technologies and resources to increase their efficiency and productivity. Web and graphic designers can volunteer design services to assist these non-profits.

Designers can browse through an extensive list of organization-created web design applications to learn more about each nonprofit and their website needs and goals. When you find one that as they say on their site “strikes your fancy” then you contact them directly.

If you are still looking for an opportunity to share your skills through some sort of community service, please check them out. I volunteer for a project at least once or twice a year depending on the complexity of the projects I take on.

This is also a great way for new designers  to not only fill their portfolio but to do something that fills their heart at the same time. Volunteer today!

http://volunteer.grassroots.org/

I'm a proud member of grassroots.org

Can you really make money with affiliate programs?

I’ve been in this business for over a decade and one thing that has stayed consistent is the opportunities for web publishers to make money with affiliate programs. Just about every website you go to nowadays has some sort of affiliate/reseller/partnership program.

But can you really make money? And is the amount of money you might bring in really worth it? Well I intend to find out. Starting at the beginning of 2011 I’m going to perform an experiment with affiliate program opportunities to assess just how someone can make a living on their income from affiliate programs, like the author of ‘How to Make Money With Affiliate Programs’ published on the 2createawebsite.com website.

From the research I’ve done so far, the key to really making money is coming up with a good affiliate plan. You can’t just sign-up for every affiliate program you see and place links all over your site all “willy-nilly”. There has to be a strategy.

I like the affiliate strategy documented on WhyDoWeWork.com website. It emphases the following tactics:

  • Browsing through many possibilities – There are so many affiliate programs out there as I indicated earlier that it could make your head swim. Find the ones that either is the focus of your blog or website, or perhaps you are a subject matter expert in.
  • Create a landing page – I like this one! Most of us simply place the banner or link that the website provides and we’re done. We don’t put much effort into. But as web designers and developers we have a unique opportunity to give more focus to these affiliate products or services. This also gives you an change to enhance the SEO to this page, thus increasing your traffic.
  • Capture emails for future sales – I never thought about this one. Just because your promoting someone else’s product these are still your customers. Keep them up-to-date with new services, products and/or information.

Now so far if this sounds like a full-time job…well yeah I agree. But if it pays full-time money then it will definitely be worth it.

As I move forward into my Internet experiment I’ll keep my readers informed of my progress and any tips I pick up as I go. If you’re like me, you make recommendation all the time to your clients about products and services, why not get paid for it.

Here are some more resources you might find interesting about making money with affiliate programs, and stay up-to-date with my future posts related to my affiliate venture by subscribing to my RSS feed.

Use our calculators to help improve your site revenue

Share your experience or tips about making money with affiliate programs with us.

Web Designers Success Guide: how to profit from freelance web design (FREE e-book)

Download  of “Web Designers Success Guide: how to profit from freelance web design” by Kevin Airgrid.

Description of the ebook from their site:

Web Designer’s Success Guide is the definitive guide to starting your own freelance Web design business. The author, Kevin Airgid, grossed over $100,000 USD a year developing sites for various national level clients. In this book he gives designers step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the following:

  • Transition from full-time to self-employment
  • Freelance on the side to make additional income
  • Find new clients and keep them coming back for more
  • Market your freelance business
  • Manage your projects professionally
  • Price your services appropriately

Book Website: http://www.airgid.com/book/

Call a Function or Subroutine with its string name using the Invoke method

Found this tidbit of information that has proven to make my scripts more efficient and figured I’d share.

While the CallByName() function, which allows you to call a function or subroutine using the subroutine or function name stored as a string value, still works in VB. NET, you do have another option. You can use the Invoke() method of the MethodInfo class. This class is a member of the System.Reflection namespace and it provides access to a method′s metadata. Consider the following subroutine:

Public Sub CallMe(ByVal arg1 As _
String, ByVal arg2 As String)
   'do something
End Sub

To call this subroutine using the Invoke method, you can use code similar to the following:

Dim SubName As String = "CallMe"
Dim arguments() As String = _
   {"Hello ", "world."}
Dim PageType As Type = Me.GetType()
Dim MyMethod As System. _
   Reflection.MethodInfo = _
   PageType.GetMethod(SubName)
MyMethod.Invoke(Me, arguments)

The GetMethod() method obtains information about the CallMe() function and the Invoke() method calls it using the argument list. This is an excellent tool to help you streamline your code if you have several different functions, but you won′t know which one to call until runtime. For example, if you have a new edit and delete routine for updating database records, instead of using an If..Then or Case statement to call the right method, just link the name of each method to the user′s requested action.

Visual Studio Debugging Issue

For application development for .NET, my tool of choice is MS Visual Studio. Every once in while lately I’ve run into an issue that frustrates the heck out of me. I will be coding my app, make a breakpoint where I’d like to start watching the performance of the application, and click the green debug arrow. My application will execute and not stop at my break points. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I tried even on some occasions restarting VS hoping it was just a gliche.

I learned that there is an issue or conflict with using IE8 as your debugging browser — which is what I use. It appears that if you have opened multiple instances of IE8 and you attempt to debug your project, you will more than likely encounter this issue where the VS debugger just will not stop and ignores your break points. How rude! Apparently IE8 has a feature called “Loosely-Coupled Internet Explorer” (LCIE) which results in IE running across multiple processes. Older versions of VS Debugger can get confused by this and cannot figure out how to attach to the correct process. (I guess that explains why it happens mostly in VS 2005.)

Well I might have open browsers because I’m searching for a solution or resource to assist with the project, so closing out all my instances of IE8 may not be the most convenient thing.

I found this quick fix to solve the problem. You’ll need to disable the process growth feature of LCIE.

  1. Open RegEdit
  2. Browse to HKEY_LOCALMACHINE -> SOFTWARE -> Microsoft -> Internet Explorer -> Main
  3. Right-click on Main and select to add a new DWORD value, and name it TabProcGrowth
  4. Click on TabProcGrowth and make sure the Value data is equal to 0, and click OK.

Now your VS Debugger should work just fine. Feel free … open as many instances of IE8 as your heart’s content! Happy Debugging!

Read more about LCIE – http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/beta/readiness/developers-existing.aspx#lcie

Original solution found at: http://weblogs.asp.net/abdullaabdelhaq/archive/2009/06/01/VS-Debug-Problem-with-IE8.aspx

Resetting a Form in ASP.NET

Here’s a quick and dirty way of resetting an asp.net form on your website or web application by Imran Akram on his blog. Although you could easily go through each asp.net form element and set it to an empty value and set all your select type elements to index -1, this snippet helped me when I designed a form with over 20 elements. I’ve translatted Imran’s snippet to VB.NET.

Public Sub ResetFields(ByVal pageControls As ControlCollection)
    For Each contl As Control In pageControls
        Dim strCntName As String = contl.GetType.Name
        Select Case strCntName
            Case "TextBox"
                Dim tbSource As TextBox = DirectCast(contl, TextBox)
                tbSource.Text = ""
            Case "RadioButtonList"
                Dim rblSource As RadioButtonList = DirectCast(contl, RadioButtonList)
                rblSource.SelectedIndex = -1
            Case "DropDownList"
                Dim ddlSource As DropDownList = DirectCast(contl, DropDownList)
                ddlSource.SelectedIndex = -1
            Case "CheckBox"
                Dim chkSource As CheckBox = DirectCast(contl, CheckBox)
                chkSource.Checked = False
            End Select
        ResetFields(contl.Controls)
    Next
End Sub

Here is an example of an asp.net button that calls the procedure:

Protected Sub btnReset_Click(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles btnReset.Click
     ResetFields(Page.Controls)
End Sub

How to create a PayPal button for donations

I work with many non-profit and political clients and besides providing thorough information about their cause or position of the issues on their website is to have a way for supporters to make donations. PayPal isn’t just for small organizations and businesses anymore. Its a widely accepted way for payments and donations. This tutorial will provide a step-by-step process for creating a donation button to place on your website.

First, log into your PayPal account or sign-up for a new account.

PayPal Dashboard

Click on the Profile tab under My Account.

Profile Summary

Under Selling Preferences, click the My Saved Buttons link.

My Saved Buttons

Click the Create new button link.

Create new button

From the Choose a button type, select Donations.

For Organization name/service, enter the name of your organization.

For the Donation ID (optional), enter a unique number if you’d like to track this type of donation.

Customize button appearance

Click the blue triangle next to Customize button.

Customize PayPal button

To customize the PayPal button, you can check Use smaller button, and/or  Display credit card logos. You can change the Country and language selection from the drop-down menu. You will see a previous of your button in the Your customer’s view pane.

Customize your own button

To use your own button, select Use your own button image. Enter the URL of where your image is located on the web. Currently PayPal does not allow you to upload images.

Select a currency type

Select your currency type.

Contribution Amount

In the Contribution amount, select to either allow Donors to enter their own contribution amount, or Donors contribute a fixed amount, and then you’ll enter the amounts. The later will work if you are creating a special donation button for a specific event where tickets are a specific donation amount.

Merchant account ID

Under Merchant account IDs, select either to Use my secure merchant account ID, or Use my primary email address [your email address]. If you want to keep your email address confidential, select the first one.

Steps 2 and 3 are not required, however let’s review them. Click on Step 2.

Save your buttons

By default PayPal saves your button for later use, you can deselect this if you desire.

Click on Step 3 to view Advanced Features.

Advanced Features

You can custom different features such as return pages, additional variables to be passed through the button, and so much more. This section is for more advanced users, so for this tutorial we will just keep everything as default.

Click the Create Button button at the bottom of the screen. This opens up the button code page.

Website codeUnder the Website tab HTML code is provided to be placed directly on your website. Copy the code using the instructions provided to copy and paste the code text on your site. Because the code provided by PayPal includes a <form> tag, this code may not work for .NET pages or in other types of platforms. If you are using a WordPress widget this may not be ideal either. In these instances the Email code will serve you better.

Email code

The Email code can also be inserted in emails to create a button to send in your correspondences.

I hope this tutorial for creating PayPal donation buttons will make the process a bit easier if you a newbie to PayPal, or perhaps refer your clients to this tutorial if you are a webmaster.

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.

Generating Thumbnails for Your Videos

I was recently working on a project for a client using a WordPress template that I integrated with VideoPress. The VideoPress plug-in I added allows the client to upload her videos and display them in custom players on the website. The WordPress theme that I used displayed thumbnails of the videos and allowed visitors to click on them to be directed to the specific video post, and the thumbnails images are set by the ‘Featured Image’ in the ‘Add New Post’ form for WordPress Admin.

Ah hah! here lied the problem. Where was I suppose to get those thumbnail images? Yes as a designer I had a few tricks up my sleeve but they all included some sort of video editing software and would have been too complex for my client. I needed something simple and quick.

The videos from VideoPress are displayed as Flash, so forget about right-clicking on the video image to save as a JPEG. I tried everything, and searched the web for keywords like ‘videopress’, ‘thumbnail’, ‘generate’. All I found were a bunch of unanswered questions from users just as lost as I was and some confusing plug-ins that didn’t indicated they supported VideoPress.

Then I came across the FREE Video to Jpg Converter application. It is a very powerful little tool that simply creates video snapshots and extract frames from video files to JPG files with one mouse click. You can extract for example every hundredth video frame or frames in every 10 seconds. Any one of those images can be used as the ‘Featured Image’ for your video post. Cool beans!

Free Video to JPG Converter

Free Video to JPG Converter

My video project’s challenge was due to the source of my videos [VideoPress]. However, if your project embeds video from other video publishing sites there are plenty of resources and information available to assist you in creating thumbnails for your videos. Here are a few:

Video Thumbnails – Video Thumbnails is a simple plugin that makes it easy to automatically display video thumbnails in your template. It supports: YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, Simple Video Embedder, Vimeo Shortcode, and JR Embed.

Get img thumbnails from Vimeo videos – Using Vimeo Simple API this posts discusses the best way to get the image file to place on your website.

Generating video thumbnails for YouTube is very simple as long as you know the video-id. Use the following URLs for your thumbnail images in three different sizes:

http://img.youtube.com/vi/<insert-youtube-video-id-here>/1.jpg  http://img.youtube.com/vi/<insert-youtube-video-id-here>/2.jpg  http://img.youtube.com/vi/<insert-youtube-video-id-here>/3.jpg

Happy video blogging!

Decorating Your Website or Blog for the Holidays!

After you’ve festively decorated your home and place of business, don’t forget about showing that same holiday spirit with your electronic media.

Start off by downloading a very festive holiday wallpaper to your computer desktop(s). I tend to lean toward the more contemporary wallpapers so here are a few of my favorite resources:

Next, decorate your website or blog to show your spirit and wish your visitors a Happy Holiday. I used to work for a government agency that every Christmas, I would have a snow scene that would replace the header section. On their timekeeping application where I had branded a little man running with a giant clock in his hand, I replace it with a similar image but the little man had a santa hat on. If your website uses a photograph of your city or some other landscape, replace it with a winter scene with the same focal point — unless you live in California or somewhere else where Winter looks like Summer.

Here are a few resources to give your website that extra seasonal flair:

If your website or blog uses the WordPress or Joomla platform, try out one of these Xmas templates to replace your current design during the holiday season:

Wait, what about your social networking site, you definitely have to decorate it as well using these resources:

Perhaps you’d like to make your own holiday design. Here are some tutorials and tools for assisting you in doing so:

Don’t forget about your mobile device. Show your holiday spirit with these mobile wallpaper and themes:

Last, when you’re sending out those Christmas cards through the US Postal Service, don’t forget about sending special holiday wishes via e-mail using some of these resources:

Please SHARE with me your websites and blogs that you’ve decorated for the holiday season, or other holiday resources for web or blog designs. Perhaps you can be an inspiration to others.