BigBear Design

Websites for Small Businesses

Installing Movable Type is a Pain In The Ass

September 26th, 2008 · web development

Whoever says installing MT is simple and easy deserves a thorough beating. You’ll be doing a few extra steps like uploading to two different locations and chmod a few files. Sure, no biggie. But after following all installation and troubleshooting steps exactly all I got were unhelpful descriptionless error messages!

It turns out that the installation guide conveniently forgot to mention three important steps *grumble grumble*:

  1. create a MySQL database and user
  2. rename mt-config.cgi-original to mt-config.cgi, then fill in the settings
  3. insert $ENV{'MT_HOME'} = '/home/userfolder/public_html/cgi-bin/mt'; in the Bootstrap.pm file

If only Wordpress natively supports multi-site management. Oh well.

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Roaming is so Farkin’ Expensive

August 29th, 2008 · Uncategorized

I was in Hong Kong for a weekend last month to do some interviews for Popular Airsoft. We figured we’ll only be there for three days so there wasn’t much urgency to buy prepaid cards while we’re there. Then last week my phone bill arrived with P800 in total roaming charges. WTF I only made one quick call and sent three text messages for the whole stay! Well, plus a few more minutes of incoming calls. The guy I went there with, who made all the calls for arrangements, racked up more than P3,000 roaming charges. Un-fckin-believable.

Lesson learned: just buy a prepaid sim. I just found out it only costs HK$68 in any 7-Eleven and should work with a spare Nokia 1100.

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Site Redesign for 2008… Finally

August 22nd, 2008 · web design

Whew, I finally got myself to finish up the much delayed redesign of my homepage. I already had an idea to change the colors to brown last January, but couldn’t find the inspiration to start it up.  Brown seems to be a more appropriate color scheme to “bear”, as black and white reminds me of “panda”.

Before:

After:

Next on the ta-da list is to make a proper portfolio page instead of direct links and to redesign this blog (and hopefully keep it updated from now on) using the really great Cutline theme.

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Interviews with 14 of the Richest Entrepreneurs

September 25th, 2006 · entrepreneurship

Forbes.com recently published an article where they asked twenty questions to 14 of the Forbes 400. On some topics they are different from one another, like how they pray and how much an MBA is worth. They do have some things in common: they eat healthy, exercise regularly, read a lot, have playtimes, and have their own share of failures.

I personally like these kind of questions, the ones that ask about seemingly irrelevant personal details. I used to buy another entrepreneur magazine every month, but the interviews were repetitive and the questions were too “mainstream”.

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Flash Is Not For Websites

September 18th, 2006 · usability, web design

We’ve heard of it countless times before, yet it is a subject that deserves to have at least one article about it in every blog in the Internet: Flash is Evil, or to be specific, Websites That Force Us To Use Flash are Evil. No matter how many Flash sites are made or how many awards these sites get, Flash will never replace HTML.

Not every visitor that goes to your website is already sold on you. Some would want to read up before they buy your product, contract your services, or subscribe to your feed. Some could’ve just stumbled upon your website and have no idea who you are. Imagine setting up the layout of your store so a customer can walk in and immediately see the merchandise so they’ll know what you’re selling. As Seth Godin nicely puts it in Big Red Fez, having Flash on your site is like “requiring your customers to put on special goggles to see your store’s merchandise”. You’ve worked hard to get people into your website, don’t give them a reason to walk out.

To be fair, Flash in websites does have its uses and it does them well. The video players for sites like YouTube and Google Videos, for example. I don’t know why some still use Windows Media Player on their sites, which barely plays anything.

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5 Things I’ve Learned to Consider Before Buying a Franchise

August 2nd, 2006 · business sense, entrepreneurship

How would you know if a certain franchise offering is right for you? Last year I’ve acquired a promising beverage franchise. One year later, it’s closed and we’re enjoying all its equipment at home. What went wrong? A lot of things, but mostly I didn’t ask the right questions to the right people in the beginning.

I’ve read business and legal magazines, websites, and books, and asked for advice from other businessmen, but as always there are a lot of things you learn along the way only after you’ve taken the plunge. These are the things I missed before, and kept biting me in the ass throughout the entire time of operation. If you’re considering getting a franchise, hopefully this will help you out.

  1. What Their Business Is About. If you want a franchise that sells waffles, then the franchisor should be selling waffles. If their claim to fame or come-on is “we’ve sold over 100 franchise outlets”, or they’re giving you sales-talk instead of facts, then their business is probably selling franchises and that’s not good. Chances are they can’t help you after the deal is done since they haven’t done any of the actual operations. Eventually, no one will want to buy and the company will collapse, leaving you with a dead brand. My franchisor kept getting new franchisees at blinding speed, putting up stalls everywhere in the region and limiting us existing franchisees of places we can transfer to. And yet 99% of my friends and relatives has never bought a cup of coffee from, let alone heard of, the company. The few who did buy hated it, and won’t buy again (an issue of quality control, a problem we won’t discuss today).
  2. What Other Franchisees Are Saying. Ask around to counter-check whatever details the franchisor gives you. More than once has my franchisor claimed certain branches have been generating a lot of income, as it turns out it was all hype.
  3. Total Inital Investment. While most franchisors are responsible enough to quote the total initial investment required which includes everything, we were caught unaware when our franchisor billed a hefty sum for the starting inventory! Then they started quoting how much we need to spend for other equipment, cabinets, countertops, and other food items we should sell.
  4. Recurring Costs. One huge benefit you’ll be getting from a franchise is that the franchisor buys consumables in large volumes from their suppliers. You can then buy the consumables at significantly lower prices than buying them straight from the supplier or manufacturer. In my experience however, the franchisor’s prices were 50%-100% more than the suppliers’ prices (which anyone could’ve easily called and ordered from directly)! Remember you’re required to purchase supplies only from your franchisor. Also find out who will be shouldering the repair costs of the substandard equipment they will be providing.
  5. Do I Really Need Them. It sounds a bit arrogant, but it’s true. If what they have and are doing are truly special, then I’d bite. But if I could visit a couple of expos and trade shows to find all their suppliers (as well as cheaper, higher quality suppiles and equipment), is it worth to pay a few hundred thousand for a brand no one likes?

Don’t forget issues like track record and other topics that have already been discussed in several articles from business magazines and websites.

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Create A Simple Photo Gallery With 6 Lines of Code

July 15th, 2006 · PHP, web development

A client’s website needed a simple one-page photo gallery with small thumbnails in a few categories, probably Lightbox opening the photo when clicked. While there are more powerful photo gallery apps or scripts already available, they were too large, or are already taking too long to figure out how to use with the site’s design. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a link to a PHP article from DevSource and found out about the glob() function. Here’s a slightly edited version of the article’s example:

[Read more →]

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How wide is your width?

June 30th, 2006 · usability, web design

Recent research shows that the majority of Internet users are using 1024×768 instead of 800×600. Popular sites like Lifehacker and Digg have recently made the switch. So should you also make your website “optimized for 1024×768″ viewing? Hell no.

Great work on their redesigns, but I hate the width reformat. Even though I am using 1024×768, my browser window is never maximized. As a compulsive multi-tasker I need the space for my other programs, so please don’t assume you can take up my entire screen.

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Never Change Your Number

June 10th, 2006 · business sense, entrepreneurship

Not even if it’s free. It makes no sense to network day-and-night but then they can’t reach you after a few months because another mobile phone operator offered a sim-swap with free prepaid load. Besides, you’ll just use up the ‘free’ load to text all your contacts of your new number.

It might be fine or maybe even just a slight nuisance for your friends and relatives that you change your mobile number every three months, but not for your clients. It’s a sign that you are unreliable, that you might be unreachable when they need you, or that you might be into shady activities.

So try to keep your contact information, phone numbers and even email addresses, unchanged for as long as possible. Someone you met in a bookstore or coffee shop two years ago might be calling you tomorrow for that deal you’ve been waiting for.

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