eHow Earnings Tracker Version 1.1.1 Available

Version 1.1.1 of the eHow Earnings Tracker is available on the downloads page. Only one change in this version:

* Fixed a bug where sorting columns on days that articles were deleted would cause “Change from previous day” field to continually increase.

Using FTP to Manage Files on Your Web Host

When you have your own domain, one of the things that you inevitably need to deal with is managing the files on it. At some point you are going to need to upload, download, rename, or delete something. Unfortunately, the web based tools (such as cpanel) provided by web hosts are generally clunky and annoying to use. Fortunately, there is a better way and that way is FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

One way to use FTP is to install an FTP client, but an easier way is to just use Windows Explorer.  Start by opening Windows Explorer (you can use Window key + E as a shortcut).  In the address bar, type “ftp://[your domain logon ID]@[your domain name]” and hit enter.  For example, if my domain logon id was “user”, I would type “”.  Note that if you just type “ftp://[your domain name]” then you will wind up in the publicly accessible FTP directory on your domain, which is generally not what you want.

ftp1Using FTP with Windows Explorer in Vista

After hitting enter, you will be prompted for your password.  Type in your password and hit enter or click the “Log On” button.

ftp log onLog On Dialog Box

Once you’ve logged in successfully, you’ll be able to access the files on your domain the same way as you would files on your local hard drive:

ftp successMuch Better – Using Windows Explorer to Manage Files on Your Domain

Fisher-Price Kid Tough Portable DVD Player – Great, in Theory

The Fisher-Price Kid Tough Portable DVD Player is a great concept – an easy to operate portable DVD player designed to handle being dropped. Sounds like a perfect way for young kids to watch their favorite DVDs.

My family has two of these, one of each color, and our kids love them (my two year old refers to hers as “my pink TV”). The DVD players look and feel sturdy and the buttons are all large and easy to press. At two and four years old, my kids can easily hold the players in their laps and they have no problems operating the controls. My four year old can open the player and swap the DVD out for another one without a hitch.

There’s just one problem – neither one of them work any more. Both units were manufactured in September of 2008. The blue one was put into use just after that, and the pink one started getting use back in the spring. Both players have been treated very well, the kids tend to sit in one place with them and about the only physical action the players have seen is the opening of the lid to swap DVDs. I’m not even sure that either one has ever been dropped. The volume control on the blue player won’t work at all (and of course, it’s stuck on off) and the pink player just flat out doesn’t work at all. Very disappointing considering what they were designed for and how expensive they were.

I need to call Fisher-Price and find out if they can do anything for me, but the product has been discontinued so I may be out of luck.

eHow Earnings Tracker Version 1.1.0 Available

Version 1.1.0 of the eHow Earnings Tracker is available on the downloads page.  Changes are as follows:

* Changed error message “This is not an eHow Earnings page!” to “The eHow Earnings Tracker must be run from your Article Library (the ‘Articles’ tab under ‘My Profile’)”
* Added “Update Earnings using Yesterday’s Date” menu option.  This is useful if you didn’t get a chance to run the Tracker yesterday but you know that the earnings haven’t yet updated today.
* Added “Average of X per day” for both earnings and views.  Note that this average is over the selected date range.

Software Spotlight : Notepad++

Looking for a free text editor on Windows that doesn’t suck?  Look no further than Notepad++.  Notepad++ is a fantastic light-weight text editor that I’ve been using for a few years now.  It’s very easy to use and has syntax highlighting for nearly 50 languages.  I use it to edit any text that doesn’t need to be compiled by Visual Studio :D .  It also integrates into Windows Explorer so you can open files with Notepad++ via the context menu.

Finally, Notepad++ has a plugin architecture so if it doesn’t already have something you need, odds are that someone wrote a plugin to do it. You can find a list of Notepad++ plugins here.

notepad++Using Notepad++ to develop the eHow Earnings Tracker

eHow Earnings Tracker Version 1.0.2 Available

Version 1.0.2 of the eHow Earnings Tracker is available on the downloads page. There’s only one change in this version:

* “Change from previous day” values now take deleted articles into account so there are no longer negative changes.

Learning C# and WPF

A while back, I decided that I was going to use C# and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to implement any Windows desktop applications that I write.  I had some exposure to both technologies at my last job and want to learn more of them.  I liked what I saw of the C# language and I think that WPF is a fantastic platform for developing user interfaces.

When coming up to speed on new programming technologies, I really prefer using books to get started rather than searching online.  Books are great for a couple of reasons:

1) A solid chunk of information in one spot rather than having to piece together bits scattered all over the internet. A book is also usually presented in a logical order with the early chapters being basic fundamentals and subsequent chapters building on that.

2) A book has been reviewed and edited so that the information in it is almost always accurate (although sometimes a bit out of date). When you find a random article through Google you really have no idea if the information presented is accurate in any way. And even worse, the information you find is often not dated so you don’t even know if it’s recent.

Google is your best friend when trying to find an answer to a specific question, but it’s really hard to to know what questions to ask when you are unfamiliar with the topic at hand.

I’ve been using the following books to learn C#/WPF:

Professional C# 2005

I got this book a few years ago and it’s decent as an introduction to the C# language. It goes over all of the C# syntax and language features – it’s not bad, but not great either. The major downside is that it only covers version 2.0 of the language (3.0 has been out for a while, and 4.0 is on the way). There is an updated version, Professional C# 2008, which covers C# 3.0.

C# in Depth: What you need to master C# 2 and 3

I’m still working my way through this book, but so far it’s fantastic. The book focuses on detailed explanations of the advanced features that were added in C# 2.0 and 3.0. If you want to really understand of inner workings of the C# language – this book is for you. Due to the advanced topics that it covers, the book assumes that you already know the basics of C#.

WPF in Action with Visual Studio 2008

This book starts off with talking about the history of UI development, covering both Windows drawing and web UI design. It outlines the flaws in these previous approaches to UI development and explains the technical design goals of WPF. It’s interesting background information and I found it helpful to know the motivations behind the design of WPF. The rest of the book covers a set of carefully selected topics in great detail. It’s by no means a comprehensive reference for WPF, but what the book does cover it covers very well. There’s a lot of “how” and “why” explained so that you get a full understanding of each topic. The book is written with a good sense of humor so it’s very easy to read. As of this writing, it’s also the most recent WPF book published and covers .NET 3.5 SP1.

Programming WPF

This book is big (863 pages) and covers a wide range of WPF topics with a good amount of detail. Like WPF In Action, the writing style is excellent and the authors make the material relatively easy to understand. Its topic coverage is a little different than WPF In Action (with some overlap, obviously) so the two books complement each other well.

Forums Added to Site

Not that there’s much to talk about here yet, but I added some forums to the site.  Hopefully things will get a bit more interesting around here when I announce my next project…

Leapster Crisis

The Leapster 2 is a great hand held electronic game designed for preschoolers.  My 3 year old son loves his – he can operate it by himself, including changing the cartridges.  We had a bit of a crisis when the touch screen mysteriously stopped working.  Fortunately, it turned out that the touch screen just needed to be recalibrated. To recalibrate the touch screen on a Leapster 2, just use the following steps:

  1. Ensure that a cartridge is not inserted into the Leapster.
  2. Hold down the Hint button (labelled with a “?”) while powering on the Leapster. This will bring up a menu of options.
  3. Press A (“Touch Calib”) this will start the touch screen calibration process. “Starting touch calibration” will appear on the screen briefly followed by a black screen with a white cross in the upper left corner.
  4. Touch the cross that appears with the stylus pen. When you touch it, the cross will change to 4 dots and then a new cross will appear on the screen. Repeat this process for 5 crosses total – one in each corner and one in the middle.
  5. Turn the Leapster off and back on again. The touch screen should now be working again.

Installing and Running the eHow Earnings Tracker

To install the eHow Earnings Tracker, click on this link.  That will take you to the following page:


Because the add-on hasn’t yet gone through the approval process to make it public, you need to check the box next to “Let me install this experimental add-on”.  That will enable the “Add to Firefox” button:

let me install

Click on “Add to Firefox” and you will be taken to the “please donate” page:


Once again, click on the checkbox and then “Add to Firefox”.  That will take you to the end user license agreement:

license agreement

Click on “Accept and Install” and you will get the Software Installation dialog:

install dialog

Click on “Install Now” and the tracker will be installed.  After installation, you will be prompted to restart Firefox:


Click on “Restart Firefox”.  After Firefox restarts, you should see a dialog box telling you that the tracker was installed:

add on has been installed

The eHow Earnings Tracker has now been installed, so close the dialog box show above and log onto your eHow account.  Go to “My Profile” and then click on the “Articles” tab:

ehow page

Now you can run the tracker by going to Tools – eHow Earnings Tracker – Update Earnings or by right-clicking somewhere on the page:

tracker menu

You should see the screen flash a few times as the tracker navigates through your article library.  When the tracker is finished, it will open a new window with your earnings data in it:

tracker run