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Custom Forms with Google Forms

google_formsThe major issue with Contact forms (or any forms, honestly), is the entire system around it.
Even for WordPress, most proper solutions are either paid solutions, or a combination of 2 different plugins.
For example, Contact Form 7 which is one of the most popular contact form plugins for WordPress, sends your responses via E-Mail.
But what if you want to get responses on your admin panel? For that – you’ll have to get another plugin on top of Contact Form 7, like Flamingo, to save your responses to the Database.
What if I told you that there’s another way?

Not only that, what if there was a safe way to add contact forms inside Static Webpages as well (no backend required)?
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Domango – a lightweight domain search tool

domango
Today I’ve stumbled upon a super lightweight domain search tool called Domango.

Domango automatically searches multiple TLDs for you, and is as straightforward as Google when it comes to usage:

So far this is pretty basic, you get to see if the domain is available, and you’re able to register it on Namecheap (which is one of my favorite domain registrars anyways).
The real interesting stuff happen when you stumble upon a domain that’s already taken:
First of all, you can immediately see the domain’s Pagerank & Value (in USD I think, would be good to have a currency sign there).
You also get a direct “Make Offer” & “Whois” links.
The “Whois” opens up as a Modal window, which is nice to have.

I must admit, the website is perfect for a quick domain lookup without distractions (lately most domain searching tools are too full of extra services), here’s my list of suggested improvements:

  • Reduce the “Loading” time, this might be limited by the API, but this is crucial – the website is already very lightweight, but the loading is too long at times.
  • Format the Value, I’d like to see something like “$1,000″ instead of 1000.87
  • Whois is good, but it’ll be better if we could parse it into something easier to read (bold fields, maybe partial detail showing with an extra button of “Show More”)
  • I’d switch the Online column with Available – because I’m searching for domains, a positive for me would be if the domain is available, not if it’s taken.
  • Pagerank is nice, would be good if there was a bit more info about the domain (like Alexa ranking?).
  • There are a lot of empty values in case only 1 domain is taken (no Pagerank for empty domains), it might be a good idea to split the taken domains and the available domains into 2 tables, to avoid too many empty cells.

All in all, a great little idea, would definitely like to see it as a Chrome Extension or something similar.

 

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Posted in Technology

How I got hacked in 10 hours on Google Cloud Platform

google_cloud_platformThis is a long article, covering my entire journey in the Google Cloud Platform, choosing the right tool for my websites (mostly blogs), configuring the entire thing, and crashing in despair.
Trials and tribulations, sweat, tears, and the surprising defeat (for now…), I hope you’ll enjoy it.

 

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AdBlock Block

adblock-icon-512Today I’ve stumbled upon an article on Medium (which is getting to be an extremely popular platform), about bypassing AdBlock.

The idea is pretty simple, using PHP (or any other programming language actually) one can generate a base64 string of the image file:

$url = 'image.png';
$result = file_get_contents($url);
echo '<img src="data:image/jpeg;base64," . base64_encode($url) . '/>';

The article also shows how to load the images via JavaScript instead of directly with HTML, but while testing it didn’t seem that AdBlock detected those ads either way.
In fact, the entire thing can be done via JS, if one creates a canvas, loads the image, and grabs the URL (complete solution here).
This is an interesting idea, and I’ve seen this before in the form of using eval(base64_decode()) to hide copyright lines for plugins/scripts (sometimes for viruses ;) ).

The major issue I see with it, is that most websites are using 3rd party services (Adsense, Chitika, Bidvertiser), in which case there’s not much they can do.
Another problem would be that most of what made AdBlock so successful was the community help with updating the Filter Lists / Rules for every popular website known to man.

Even if there’s a potential way of hiding your ads, it’s very tricky to do it in such a way that would dynamically change their location on the page, as well as have dynamic selectors (because AdBlock blocks using CSS-like selectors), to avoid the AdBlock community from blocking your base64 ads.

Another option I’ve seen for fighting AdBlock is blocking the user completely until they disable their plugin.
I find that a bit too aggressive, not to mention at the end of the day it’s a cat and mouse game: there’s already a Hide My AdBlocker plugin, or my favorite: Anti Anti AdBlock.
What about AdBlockUnBlockBlock ? Catchy, I know.

There’s a balance that needs to be achieved between people who don’t want to see the internet filled with Ads, and bloggers who want to make a living writing.

AdBlock Usage Statistics

So what are the numbers? It’s difficult to say, the only solid report I’ve seen about this is from 2012 (not THAT old):

  • 9.26% – Overall ad-blocked impressions in the US & Europe
  • 17.79% – Overall ad-blocked impressions on Tech websites (makes sense – savvy users)
  • 22.5% – Average Ad-Blocking rates in Austria, number one in the world (Germany 19.44%, USA 8.72% & UK 7.61%)
  • 17.81% – Average Ad-Blocking rates with Firefox, number one browser (Chrome 10.06% and surprisingly Safari 11.3%)
  • 29.04% – Average Ad-Blocking rates on Linux (shocking.. 9.25% on Windows)

The full report can be found here

I’m just thankful I don’t have to make my living only by blogging, it’s not easy.

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Why Pinterest is an asset for Web Developers

pinterest_thumbnail
Back in 2012, I signed up for a website called Pinterest.

It was a very visual website that seemed to be full of mostly Jewelry and Clothing,
so immediately I started wondering if there’s something, anything, that might interest me on one of those pins.

I tried to search for “Web Development”, curious to see some graphs, charts, or perhaps cheat sheets about an interesting new web framework I might not yet be aware of.
Sadly, that didn’t work out, all I got was a bunch of irrelevant pictures (even some pics of shirts with a spider web on them). I assumed it wasn’t the search’s fault – the site simply lacked the content that I was looking for.

Whatever the reason was, I can now honestly say that in 2014, about 2 years after my first experimenting, the search on Pinterest is AWESOME.

This is what you currently get when searching for Web Development on Pinterest:

pinterest

As you can probably see, LOADS of amazing graphs, charts, and basically exactly what I was expecting to get on a Pinterest search!
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The new Inbox by Gmail

google-inbox-gmail-logo-icon
Recently I’ve received an invite to Inbox, Google’s new email interface that will likely replace Gmail in the future.
The new Inbox also comes as an App, and is currently invite only.

The service is a mix of things that have been introduced to Gmail recently.
Here are some highlights:

 

Inbox Zero is the goal

done_snooze

The new inbox lets you mark things as

  • Pin – for important things, similar to Stars
  • Snooze – clear them from your inbox until a date in the future (Tomorrow, Next Week, etc.), this is a very cool feature and helps users to actually address important email, so they won’t be forgotten in the abyss of low-priority.
  • Done – similar to Archive

To me it seems that the Inbox is more like a To-Do list, where you make sure you don’t miss anything.

Design revamped for Tablets/Mobile

image00
Even on the desktop, Inbox looks like a tablet app, this is of course part of the Material design concept coming with Android 5.0 (Lollipop).

Tabs are called Bundles
image02

Bundles help you group your emails into groups (Purchases, Travel, Promos, etc.).
This is very similar to the feature that was introduced to Gmail not long ago called Tabs.
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