Opacity in Internet Explorer

This is an ancient problem: older versions of IE do not support the opacity CSS property. Instead, IE8 uses -ms-filter and IE prior 8 uses filter. Also, in IE, one has to be cautious about the positioning of the element the opacity properties apply to: the element has to be positioned for the filter to work properly. Another trick is to use zoom. 
Let’s wrap this up in the css snippet below:

#page {
  opacity: 0.5;
/* IE7 and less */
#page {
  filter: alpha(opacity=50);
  position: relative;
  zoom: 1;
/* IE8 specific */
#page {
  -ms-filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(opacity=50);
  position: relative;
  zoom: 1;

It is a pain but it works.

But what I found is that if you try to set these properties dynamically, through jQuery for instance, they are less obedient.

For filter and -ms-filter to be set through jQuery, the element has to be positioned through css and NOT by jQuery.

So one would need something like this:

/* IE less than 9 */
#page {
  position: relative;
  zoom: 1;
  $('#page').css('opacity' , ".5")
}else {
  $('#page').css('filter' , 'alpha(opacity=50)');
  $('#page').css('-ms-filter' , 'progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(opacity=50)');

This is empirical knowledge though. I don’t know why is it like this.


Facebook Feeds

I added a Lifestreaming plugin to my blog recently and as I was entering the feed urls of the various Web 2.0 sites I am participating, I stumbled upon the Facebook problem.
Since its last change, the old mini-feed feed has disappeared, so one has to reassemble it by its components.
I was particularly interested in the Noted Feed, the Links feed and the Status feed.


Well, the notes is the facebook blogging.

Although I rarely use it, it can occassionaly contain some thoughts that are posted nowhere else.

By clicking to the notes tab in your profile (hoping you have added the tab to your profile), you get on the right side a column which, at the lower part has the notes feed. Like this:

The structure of the url is as follows:


The Links feed is essentialy the feed of all the sharing activity in facebook, so it is a must to include in a lifestream. Working as with notes we can find it at a similar place.
The structure of the url is as follows:

Last, the Status feed is the most important one, especially if no cross posting is taking place on your Facebook Wall, as it comprises of all the original thoughts and situations you share in Facebook.
But where is this feed located?
As much I have searched I could not find it.

So after discussing this in twitter, from the responses I realized that the structure of the statuses feed url must be the same with other two feed.

First guess: replace notes.php with status.php and … voila, it works!

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Tethering through a Nokia N95 phone

I am ‘locked’ up today in my mother’s house, which, quite unsurprisingly, does not have internet access.  One option is to steal my way to the net through a neighbors’ open wifi. Not without some odd problems though: I can open my Gmail in https, send and receive mail as normal, I can browse pages in https (where supported), I can use a twitter desktop client, I can use twitter through (you guessed) https, but every other simple web page request through http fails!

But problems can make one creative! Having encountered the same situation before, this time I came prepared. I had preset my MacBook Air and N95 for tethering and I could surf the web with no restrictions. Well, almost, as  my data plan  isn’t for heavy use  (it’s just a quarter of a Gb per month) .

How ?

You’ll need a USB cable.
Connect Phone to Mac and select PC Suite on the phone.
Make setting as the pictures below
See the full gallery on posterous

One can achieve the same without a  USB cable (through Bluetooth) but I did not try it, as bluetooth drains phone batter all to quickly.

The above settings are specific for my provider, but you can get an idea how it would work with yours. A tip: do not confuse the APN (Access point name, with the connection name on your phone). Open your connection (the one you use to connect to the internet) and see the APN name there.
Leave a comment if you have tried this on a different provider.


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Who reads your tweets or why short is beatiful

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I own various blogs. Most of them I channel to twitterfeed to generate notifications on twitter about new posts. I prefer twitterfeed to blog  add ons as it is a generic solution independent of  blog platform. It can be slow sometimes, but, then, who is in a hurry? I do not run news related blogs that sprint to catch the publicity moment.

Today I tried to add a new blog to twitterfeed and this way I noticed that twitterfeed now supports various shortening services, my favorite one included: urlborg.

When I post a link to twitter  I try to use urlborg as much as I can because it provides me with valeuable statistics: how many times my links are clicked.

Without this piece of information I would be practically twitter blind. Unlike blogs, in twitter you only have two measures to testify whether  people pay the slightest attention to what you say:

  • Replies and Directs
  • Clicks on links

The latter would be impossible without the use of a url shortening service that provides stats. And that is precisely what urlborg does for me.

And, now, by employing it in twitterfeed, I can have also stats for the autogenerated links for my blogposts.

I have to say here, that checking the referrers to my blog and the time spent on my blogs, I have observed that people coming from twitter stay the longest. Why is that I do not know, but it is something I cannot ignore.
One could argue that I could derive the  information about twitter originated visitors from other sources too, like Google Analytics.

True, but too many clicks away.

Besides, there is another valuable piece of information in the urlborg stats, that would be lost otherwise: the comparison between links of my posts and all other links. Do the first  carry less value (as they comprise a kind of self promotion) and how much less? This is what I am about to find out. I will keep you … posted 🙂

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Media Manager for WordPress

From time to time, I like to write a kind of how-to or tip post, usually a result of tweaking the tools and services that I use. Here is a little one for wordpress.

If you have used before an open source CMS, what you probably are missing in wordpress is the media manager functionality that the likes of  Joomla have for ages now.

Well, the truth is that you shouldn’t,  because it is there, only not too obvious.

First of all you have the Media Library under the Manage Tab in the WP Administration, but, guess what, this is only for viewing the media you have uploaded, and, despite the name of the file executed to show the library (= /wp-admin/upload.php), there is no way to upload from this screen, which I find kinda odd.

So, the only place to go when you want to upload something, is the Write tab, which displays the editor.

On top of the editor there are these little buttons that allow you to insert images, audios or videos in a post. Which is all we need, one might think, unless you want to do some mass uploading of, say, images that you might use later in a series of posts or different pages without risking  of posting things accidentally.

Paying a little attention to the URLs underneath these buttons, we see that ‘workhorse’ there is a file called  media-upload.php, residing in the wp-admin directory:


This url can take some extra parameters, the most important being the type one, e.g.


But if we use the plain url, without any arguments, in a browser address bar of another window or tab, we open the familiar upload pop up as a separate page.

Bookmark this address to have it handy. You can use it as a media manager, which is what we were looking for in the first place.

For mass uploading select the media files from your disk (Ctlr + right click for each pick), as in the picture below,  hit the button and..

one by one, the media find their way in you library.

You can’t use this separate page to insert media directly in a post though, which is a safeguard from accidental posting. It is also needless, since  you have the media buttons on top of the editor, anyway.

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WordPress.com: get more juice out of it

Let me start by stating that I love wordpress. I love it as an open source project, as a blogging platform, as a business model (.com, that is) and as a community, in general.

I started working with WordPress in September 2006. By the February of 2007, I already wanted to migrate to my own hosted installation. I run one ever since but, yet, for this blog, I chose to return back to .com.

The hosted wordpress gives a lot of flexibility. The most important  capability you have in a hosted wordpress, one not found in wordpress.com blogs,  is that you can run javascript and flash for plugins, ads, widgets, or your own hacks.
The support for plugins is critical. There are  so many of them out there, I am sure someone   can make your wildest blog dreams come true.

The downside is that you have to take care of updating and upgrading, figure out how to deal with high traffic, malevolent attacks and lots of other things that keep a sys admin awake at night.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but, certainly, one has more work to do with a hosted wordpress.

When I decided to start this blog, I wanted to avoid this extra hassle. I have my greek blog to experiment with, it works fine, I am happy with it, but that’s about it. Doubling the hours I spend for sys admin tasks, won’t make me a better blogger.

So I turned back to wordpress.com and started looking for things that can ease the restrictions that the default offering entails. Here is what I found:

a. Themes
With wordpress.com you get a limited number of themes, most of them not to my taste, but with an extra 15$ per year you can buy the CSS upgrade. Having access to the css file, allows you to play a lot with a theme’s look and feel.

It is not a trivial task, but lots of people with a little guidance may utilize the option.  Most  will find it easy enough to change fonts and colors while, with a little bit of extra effort, some borders, paddings and margins can be tackled too.

A CSS guru,  playing with positioning, dimensions, background image properties etc,  can make the theme look entirely different from  the original. To learn CSS, you can start here.

b. Media
WordPress.com gives 3Gb of storage space per blog and, given the falling prices of storage,I predict  this is going to go up. Yet, this amount of storage suffices for one to live his whole life and never  ‘consuming’ it, provided he follows a clever media storing tactic : upload images and photos to the likes of flickr, picasa or imageshack. Upload videos and sound file to any video hosting site.
While wordpress.com supports only Youtube, Google Video and DailyMotion for the time being, there is one more extremely useful  option (still beta): vodpod.
comes in two flavors: as a firefox plugin (it didn’t work with FF3 though, till the time of writing) or as a simple bookmarklet.
With the vodpod  you can insert any video in the wordpress editor.  So, if you have lots of videos of your own, first choose a video hosting site, upload the videos there, and then with vodpod embed them in your posts. Check my post with the video of Matt and you will see that it is actually coming from blip.tv.

Saving media in external sites is a good practice anyway. Avoids single point of failure. If I choose to export the blog and transfer it elsewhere, the media links will work immediately without having to move a single file.

c. Feed
Now, this is a tricky one. Most bloggers would like to have a feedburner chicklet to display their feed subscribers. Provided they have a feed ‘burned’ in feedburner, this is perfectly feasible with wordpress.com: you can copy the chicklet code in one of the text widgets provided and it will work nicely.
The problem is that, in this way, you do not actually redirect your feed to feedburner. Two feeds exist seperately: the default one, and the one constructed by feedburner, which meanr that there are two different feed urls also.
To have a unified feed would require an plugin such as  that one is not allowed to install. Remember? No plugins can be installed by users in wordpress.com blogs.

This means that your standard wordpress feed address is still there for people to use and will ‘lurk’  underneath the feed icon in the address area or a toolbar.
Those subscribed to the standard wordpress feed will not show in the feedburner chicklet.
There are no technical means to remedy this (not to my knowledge, at least) but one can apply some psychological techniques: use a feed icon of your own (same process as the chicklet above) and place it as close to the top of the page as possible. Grab the attention of the visitor. You can perfom a heatmap test to check whether your feed icon is visible enough. Use feng-gui to produce a heatmap. Here is an example of mine.

That’s about it.  Tell me whether you found it useful.

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