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Rob's Site Blog - January 2008

I'm Trialling Amazon Contextual Ads - Anything's Got To Be Better Than Adsense Referals... 28/01/08

We all know that when it comes to delivering well targetted contextuals ads you can't beat Google's Adsense programme, heck it's all over this site! I've always had some "dead space" on the left hand side of the screen below the "share this page" links - but how can I monetise it?

I've tried Google's Firefox referals, but in a month with about 25,000 visitors I made $1 from those ads. Rubbish. I know the best answer, if I want to use Amazon associate links would be to hand-pick products from their site, but I've got 400 pages here and I haven't got the time. Amazon now offer contextual affiliate links - so I'm going to trial them for a month. Here's a couple of before and after pics:

Firefox referal

I am aware that having these "noisy" Amazon.co.uk product boxes cheapens the site - but as long as they deliver on-topic stuff to my visitors they should have a better click-thru rate than my old Firefox ads. Hell, even if its a little bit related I'll be happy.

I'll run this experiment for one month, then report back. At the moment I average about 50 items sold a month from Amazon.co.uk (from direct product links), small change I know, but I'm excited to see what these contextual ads might deliver now they're on my more important, busier pages. Maybe they'll pay for that Mac laptop I've always wanted!

Grasping Defeat From The Jaws of Victory, Or Are Things That Don't Go Quite Right Still Worth Using? - 27/01/08

So, I've now got my new Garmin etrex, and was planning on how I would make a nice video of it helping me to find a Geocache, and guess what, after a five mile walk I didn't find any!

I've now got a dilemma. I've got this video footage (and sore feet) but it isn't of me finding anything, so do I use it? Does this non-happening add any value to the website for my visitors? Does it matter?

In the end I just couldn't bear not using the footage, so it's in, and you can see it on my 0 for 3 Geocaching day.

What do you think?

My eTrex Is On It's Way! - 23/01/08

Garmin etrex HI know it's the bottom of the range Garmin hand-held GPS Sat Nav, but I've been wanting to buy a Garmin eTrex H for ages, and after the thumbs up from the Wife I ordered one from Amazon with some left over Gift Vouchers.

The etrex H is s a non-mapping handheld, but it is tough and waterproof, with a high sensitivity reciever and a 17 hour battery life. I want to get me and the familly out Geocaching more, and I'm worried that the trusty Nuvi 200 could get damaged along the way if we keep risking it on the trail.

As soon as I've used it for a few days I'll post a video and a review in the Hiking GPS section of the site. I can't wait!

Stop Knocking The Macbook Air! - 22/01/08

Macbook airNow I know I may have not been an Apple flag waver in my Psion vs Macbook Air Article, but all this knocking of the pretty little notebook in Podcasts and Blogs is starting to annoy me.

Everyone seems to be saying the same criticisms. "It doesn't have a disc drive. It doesn't have enough ports. You can't change the battery. It's too expensive."

Those who say "Look what you could buy for the same money" miss the point entirely. This little PC isn't a laptop or desktop replacement. It's a Sub-Compact Notebook, and a very powerful one at that. The whole point is that it doesn't have a drive and lots of ports. It's meant to be as small and light as possible, just like the old Psion 7.

I have my money on the AirBook doing very well once people have seen one up close, held it, picked it up and compared it to their clunky current laptops. Just ask yourself these questions:

"Have you used the disc drive on your Laptop in the last month?"
"Have you changed the battery in your laptop in the last month?"

If you can answer "no" to those two questions, and have the £1200 to buy one, you should go down to your nearest Apple Shop and give one a whirl. You might surprise yourself.

You Say Potatoe I Say Potarto - Nothing Divides Like A Common Language (And Will Lose You Money) - 22/01/08

If you take a look at the last image in my updated Using Google Trends article, you'll see that I've unfortunately missed the boat on a common term used to describe the electronic gadget that attracts so many visitors to this website.

Us Brits call those litte devices "Sat Nav". But they don't call it that over the pond in the Colonies or even in the rest of the Empire, let alone those Continental types. They refer to it as "GPS". Now I wasn't aware of this when I first started wring my reviews, guides and articles, and I always wondered why few Americans visited the site. Now I know. I was using the wrong language!

A good tool for checking different words used for the same thing (between the US and UK at least) is Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Compare the different section headings, but the real juice is in the customer reviews. Note what actual users call their purchases, do a check on trends, and you won't go far wrong. (Unlike me, who now has to review all his titles, descriptions and anchor text. I will NOT be changing URL's).

At Last! A Solution For Better Looking Web Videos - 21/01/08

I've struggled to make decent looking web videos ever since I started using my Vivitar mini digital video camera. To save on website bandwidth I always host my vids with Youtube or Google Video - but the combination of a budget camera, slow old pc, and my ineptitude with Windows Movie Maker, most of my efforts were unwatchable.

However since I've got my new Fujifilm S5700, which also takes video, I've got a new technique that seems to be producing acceptable results (that don't take forever) even on my old PC. Using a Tripod I set my camera to film the subject against a white background. The camera is set to it's maximum video resolution - 640 x 480, so I get 18 minutes of footage from a 1gb sd card. After capturing what I need (in one shot...) I then transfer the vid to my PC and open up the file in Audacity.

Audacity, coupled with the div-x codec, adds a nice little logo to the bottom of the screen and compresses the scene ready for upoading to Google Video if it's over 10 minutes, via their desktop uploader. So what's the difference? Check out these two videos to see the difference.

I like the second, and I have to say that Audacity is several times faster than Windows Moviemaker when compressing the video file, and Audacity has never crashed on me unlike the Windows programme. I lose the titles and fades, but overall I think it is an improvement until I can get a better, faster PC.

Better Late Than Never?? My Site Blog Finally Starts! - 20/01/08

Oh yes, we're diving headlong into web 2.0 here (ok, maybe it's web 1.5. ALRIGHT! Web 0.5!) Almost 2 years after the launch of this site I've finally got round to adding a Blog of sorts, so you can look forward to (oh dear) regular (probably not) updates on what's happening on this site, and other cool things in internet land, gadget world and the technosphere. (I just made that last one up - patent pending.)

Why now? I guess it's because since I got my Ipod Nano and got adicted to Podcasts I've become more inclined to read Blogs, so why not have one of my own? Before I thought most Blogs a waste of time. They seemed to be articles about articles about something else that somebody else had written - it was really hard to find original info about the stuff I'm interested in on Blogs.

"Normal" websites and forums appealed to me more, if I wanted some info about something that's where I'd go. That's still the case, but now I've read some proper Blogs (mostly related to Podcasts I listen to) I see them in a warmer light. Blogs by their nature add a personal touch to your website, Podcast or forum. (Hopefully) you, the reader will get to know me better as a person and what I'm all about and how that relates to this website. (Ahhh.... Bleurch!)

Anyway, I'm Rob, 35, familly man from England with 4 kids who's hobbies and interests include some of subjects you'll find on this site. Other things covered in this site I've come across in my professional career, some have been dead-ends, haven't been completed, or like most of the headings are works in progress.

You've probably noticed that technically this isn't a usual Blog. I'm not using Wordpress or any other type of Blogging software - just static html pages. I'm losing the ability to have fancy tags and layouts, but I gain in terms of seo stability and url conformity. We'll see if that works. I'll be adding more advanced features like rss feeds (and maybe a Podcast!) as we go along.

Well, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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