Sunday, 25 May 2008

Phoenix Landing

In less than 24 hours from the time I post this blog entry, NASA's Phoenix Lander will attempt to land on Mars. I've posted a forum thread with the details and my opinion of why this is the best type of reality TV going. I strongly recommend tuning in to NASA TV and watching this - it's gripping drama that you don't get to see very often.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Secret British UFO Documents

More than 1,000 pages of previously secret UFO documents have been released by Britain’s National Archives. The files, in PDF format, include documented UFO sightings and investigations from 1978 to 2002. See them all here.

Cases include:
- A man on a fishing trip claims to have taken a tour of an alien spaceship.
- A man tried to set up a meeting between the government and his extraterrestrial acquaintance (called Algar).
- Air traffic controllers watched a UFO land on their airport's runway, then disappear.
- Three police officers in Woking saw a white light descending on the Horsell area.

Nick Pope, investigator of UFO sightings at the Ministry of Defence, said: "Most of the UFO sightings here are probably misidentifications of aircraft lights and meteors, but some are more difficult to explain, and include UFOs seen by police officers and pilots, and cases where UFOs have been tracked on radar."

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

QuickBird Satellite Images

Some of you will have seen a recent news story about New Zealand government agencies signing a deal to acquire satellite images from the US DigitalGlobe QuickBird satellite. While this is great for those agencies, I'm sorry to say it won't have any real impact on the satellite photos we provide at Our images are all courtesy of Google Maps, and the QuickBird deal does not involve Google.

Of course there may be some side-effects down the track, for example, if people can get better images elsewhere then Google might feel some pressure to react. I hope so - the more competition in this area the better.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Reducing Maintenance Tasks

Routine maintenance tasks are a necessary burden for all of us in the webmaster game. When developing new projects, it's worth planning ahead to reduce the amount of time these tasks will take. In this post I'll look at installing new scripts vs choosing third-party solutions (for any type of dynamic content on your website).

If you read the "Which blog software should I use?" threads on any webmaster forum, you'll see that most people are recommending Wordpress. That's because it's probably the best blog software. You'll notice that I use instead - an inferior solution it would seem. However there's a good reason.

As each of my projects has become more successful I've realised that those little routine maintenance tasks begin adding up. For example, every new script I install on a website needs to be updated periodically. For the first few years this wasn't much of a hassle, but now that I have dozens of scripts, updating them is becoming a regular annoyance. That's why I went with - because I'll never have to worry about security patches, plugins or anything else.

If you're ever considering installing a new script, make sure you think about how much time will be involved keeping it updated. You can usually get a good idea by viewing the script's changelog (version history). Check out the support forum (if there is one available) and see how much drama other people have encountered in previous updates. And of course, you might like to consider using a solution hosted by a third party (like to eliminate those little maintenace tasks altogether. IMO it's often worth some sacrifice in features to have a no-hassle solution.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

New Project Management Tools

I've recently finished upgrading the forum software at, and as part of the process I've reorganized and expanded the MC Media Player support forums. There are now separate forums for each version of the player, but more importantly I've added a project management tool to the forum. I hope this will enable me to keep track of bugs and feature requests much more efficiently.

I've added a number of known issues to the project manager but I'm nowhere near finished. My plan is to spend a week working on the media player during May, during which I'll take care of a number of outstanding tasks, including adding the remaining issues. I have a further three weeks allocated to the player in June, so unless anything changes I should be able to get back to development work then.

At least that's the plan, but most of you know that my plans are subject to change. If you'd like to keep tabs on me, I'm trying out a new calendar to organise the time I allocate to my website projects. You can see the calendar at