Monthly Archives: May 2005


Friday night saw Dave turn 25, so in typical Dave style the penthouse at the Bel Air was hired and a bit of a doo was held. The night went well, Dave was drinking out of coffee percolator as there were no glasses of fitting size, everyone was blind and there was only one hole in the wall !

Today, as stage two for the birthday celebrations; we went Zorbing at the Gold Coast venue near Pimpama. Until now, I’ve only ever seen it on TV briefly and never realised just how big the damn things are. The Zorbs are constructed out of a semi flexible PVC and come in two varieties, a harness and a hydro version. Both are of equivalent size, approximately 3.5M in diametre with an inner sphere suspended in the middle through guy wires.

I went the harness path as I thought the off centre weight rolling around would be cool. It would be fair to say, I under-estimated just how much force was involved rolling down a 120m 30 degree decline grass slope! As you roll off the starting platform, your first roll is quite gentle. However, from that point onwards you are going that fast, that as your weight hits the bottom, you are bending the Zorb out of shape! Midway down our slope, it actually feels like you are physically lifting off the ground, or very close to it.

We also had quite a few people in our group try the hydro version as well. Same sort of deal, you hop inside it, they throw in about 60L of warm water to lubricate the PVC and shove you off the starting platform. They have a standing deal, that if you can ‘run’ inside the Zorb down the hill, you’ll get another ride thrown in for free. A couple tried it unsuccessfully, however John managed to make it about a third the way down, lose control and then splash, flip, tumble and roll his way to a stand still.

If you get a chance, I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot; it was a blast. I’ll hopefully have some photos to show you shortly.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Dashes Versus Underscores

Recently I broke down a fairly content heavy section of a site into smaller more succinct pages. As a by product, each page now had focused content instead of a single large page with comparatively jumbled content. Of course, this allows you to target the information on each individual page for search engine optimisation thus search engine ranking/placement.

When breaking it into smaller pages, I thought I would use a common naming convention for all of the ASP filenames, for instance faq_<some>_<meaningful>_<name>.asp. I chose an underscore (_) because I’m a fan of C-style programming languages. The underscore character is pretty common (used for private variable declarations in objects, compiler stuff, …) and I also prefer the ‘look’ of them in filenames as they seem to be ‘out of the way’.

Splitting it all went well up until the pages just weren’t being picked up by Google; however I could confirm that the site and parent page were being indexed regularly. I let it slide for a while, in case the links weren’t followed, for whatever reason, on the previous visits. On Wednesday just gone, I decided something had to have been going wrong for it to not be showing up in the various indexes properly.

After investigating all the other pages on the site, the one thing that became apparent was that none of them had underscores in the filenames. Of the pages that had filenames which might have warranted one, they were either words concatenated with no separating character or a dash was used to separate each word. This led me to check how the pages that used dashes (-) were going in the search engines. It appeared that they had no problems at all and that Google was actually utilising the filename as part of the ‘this page is relevant’ algorithm.

Cruising through some useful searches has confirmed that Google considers a dash to be a separating character in a filename. For instance, if you had a filename of faq-some-meaningful-name.asp, Google would see that as “faq some meaningful name” and utilise that when indexing the site. Conversely, an underscore is considered a plain character, which means unless the person was searching for “faq_some_meaningful_name” – that page might not show up as a by product of the filename.

The moral of the story: for the moment a dash in a filename trumps an underscore; so if you are using underscores in filenames, you might be missing out on valuable search engine ranking.

XmlHttpRequest Object

With all the press that the XmlHttpRequest object has received lately, I thought I would check out what all the fuss was for myself.

I did a little research online, as you do and scoped out what it could and couldn’t do. From here, I started trying to do anything with it that made sense. Initially, this failed as I was trying to hit an RSS feed on this site from my home machine. This might seem like a logical thing to do, however the object is restricted to opening URL’s from the same domain. In my failed example, that would have been http://localhost/. You could get around that by mirroring a remote feed onto your particular domain using your favourite server side language.

Once I established that I could instance the objects and access a URL, it was time to start interacting with the content. The first attempt involved trying to access the information returned from the open method of the XML object. However, if you’re actually accessing XML data and not randomly formed SGML, you need to hit the responseXML property to return you an object you can interact with through the DOM. After assigning responseXML to a variable, you can now interact with it through the standard DOM methods, such as getElementById() and getElementsByTagName().

With that in mind, I set about creating something semi useful – an archive page for WordPress enhanced using XmlHttpRequest that would degrade gracefully should the XmlHttpRequest object not be available. To accomplish this, I utilised the existing feeds that WordPress provides, which are accessed through<something>/feed/.

As soon as I get a little spare time, I’ll wrap it into a plugin and release it here.

Farewell HostCentral, Hello McGooHQ

My domain and hosting came up for renewal just the other day, so I took the opportunity to have a look around for a new host. I have had nothing but excellent service from HostCentral for the last three years, however with the wedding pending, saving money was more of a concern.

I ended up going with McGooHQ, who are hosted in Canberra and powered by Internode/Agile bandwidth; who just happen to be my ISP as well.

If the site is temporarily unavailable in the near future, you know why. In case you’d like to know if your name servers are returning you the new or old IP address of the server, my current one is 203.209.x.y while the new one is 150.101.x.y.

Happy DNS propogation!

[Edit]: If you are seeing this addition, you are viewing the new site!