New website for Stuff.co.nz

My favourite local news site Stuff.co.nz got a major overhaul yesterday.

Sticking with recent style trends, they now have more whitespace, larger and more colourful headings, flashy draggable content and they now permit limited user customisation.

Below is a side-by-side of the old and the new homepage – the most obvious change being the page height!

The underlying three-column layout remains, but is now much cleaner and easier to read in my opinion. Obviously, the new site is much longer, requiring a lot more scrolling, but overall I like the layout.

Gone are the dropdown menus from the old site (which were badly broken in the second beta of IE8), but I have mixed views on this. While I like the new horizontal menu at the top of the page, you now have to click twice and pass through an intermediate page to get to some of the subsections, eg, National News, then Education. For this, the dropdown was faster.

The inclusion of a (customisable) weather box at the top left is nice – afterall, that data comes from MetService (my employer for disclosure!). The other side of the header leads to my biggest gripe – the site search, powered by Google. Sadly, only around 50% of the results (during my tests) have dates attached – which is next to useless for searching for specific news items. Bring back the old search! Seriously.

So thus far I think the update is a good one, despite slower navigation and broken search. Final judgement however will have to be reserved until I’ve used it some more…

Christmas Decorated Websites

With only 6 sleeps until Christmas, here’s a look at some kiwi websites that have added Christmas decorations. Santa hats adorning logos seem to be popular, but some have gone a little further…

NZ Post:

Kiwibank:

The Warehouse:

Dick Smith Electronics:

Ascent Technology:

Vodafone:

Telecom:

Mitre 10:

TradeMe: (changes daily)

Stuff.co.nz:

Mighty Ape:

Yahoo!Xtra: (animated)

Hitwise:

House of Travel:

Got any others I should include?

New look blog

If you’ve visited before you might notice a little change as of tonight. Noble Notes is now sporting the “k2” theme (as used by Russ).

Besides some minor formatting and style changes (including some extra image borders) the basic layout and content still remain.

If you notice anything weird let me know and I look into it.

The new face of Facebook

Facebook have launched a new design which should be going live for everyone in the near future. If you’re not seeing it and are keen to have a look, try visiting www.new.facebook.com which should switch the site over for you. Note however, there may be some browser dependancy issues here, as trying that with a friend on IE6 today didn’t work, but for me with Firefox 3 it did.

If that doesn’t work for you, click through for a couple of screenshot comparisons…

Read more of this post

Picasa photo move complete!

Last night I finally finished moving all my photos over to Google’s Picasa Web Albums service,

http://picasaweb.google.com/noblephotos

The photo upload was actually quick via the Picasa desktop application. The time consuming part was all the link fixing for photos already embedded in this blog and other pages on my site.

Besides reasons I’ve already outlined for choosing Picasa (here and here), there are a few other reasons I moved all my photos relating to personal web hosting. In particular, I’ve decided I no longer want to put time and effort into maintaining and updating my “Gallery” install (still a most excellent, free and open source solution via gallery.menalto.com). Not only does any software you install on your own website need to be updated (eg security patches), but there’s inevitably a certain amount of effort needed to customise the look and functionality to fit your site. Personally I can’t be bothered any more, especially since my personal site is non-profit and funded 100% by me!

Furthermore, host space and bandwidth needs to be paid for – both of which Google now handles for me. Picasa Web Albums are free for anyone with a Google account (who hasn’t got one these days?!) providing 1GB of storage. By moving my photos there I now have more free disk space at noble.gen.nz, and have greatly reduced my monthly bandwidth usage from my web host. Nice. Thanks Google!

So, all my photos and albums are still available, just at a different address. And with lots more available space to fill up, I now plan on getting more of my snaps online. Watch this space…

From bad to worse

My personal website noble.gen.nz is still down and news from the hosting company is getting grimmer with each update…

Tuesday 26 February 2008 – 19:00
Last updated: Wednesday 27 February 2008 – 09:34
Work to date on restoring service for those sites that are hosted on the server Mitosis, has proved to be extremely difficult, with further unexpected issues being encountered. The restore process has had to be restarted, extending out the ETA of service restoration that we had hoped would be by close of business today. It is unlikely at this stage that the service will be able to be restored this evening. We are taking this opportunity while restoring content to virtualise the server, mitigating issues after the content restoration has been completed, and also providing some future redundancy should issues of this nature ever arise again.

We regret that we have not been able to restore service as this point in time to those customers affected by this outage, and are committed to ensuring a resolution as quickly as possible.

–update— 23:00 26 Feb
The restore process so far is going as expected with no reason to expect any issues at this stage to hamper the full restore

–update— 07:20 27 Feb
Good progress has been made overnight with the data replication, the process however has taken longer than expected. Senior technicians will soon be able to ascertain an ETA for having the remaining steps finalised before full restoration is made.

–update— 09:34 27 Feb
Because of the complexity of cpanel restoration as well as the varying size of accounts on the server to be restored a firm eta is impossible. We have dedicated a tech to the restoration of this system as well as made all resources available to him. As we are rebuilding this machine we are also virtualizing it to make restoration a much easier and faster from here on in. Again we appologize for this issue

but wait, there’s more…

Wednesday 27 February 2008 – 13:30
The issues caused by the failure of Mitosis have had far wider reaching impact than we have expected. Initially the issues were related to a hardware failure. Replacement of the parts to get the server online proceeded without any issues experienced. The issues begun when we started restore on the operating system, cPanel and customer content. Due to data being corrupt, the restore process has taken longer than expected. Once the restore was complete (this morning) testing begun to bring the server back online. The net result of the testing showed that the server had been compromised via an insecure web page. The person or person’s who have accessed the server have uploaded a number of exploits which have caused further damage to the data upon the server. At this time we are hoping for resolution toward the latter part of today. We apologize for the inconvenience at this time and ask your patience while we work through the issues. We are doing all we can to ensure that the services are resumed as quickly and securely as possible.

By my reckoning this outage is rapidly approaching 36 hours (or more). Just as well I don’t depend on the domain for business and/or income…

The one piece of praise I can give Kiwi Web Hosting is that they are keeping customers informed. Kudos for not leaving the end users in the dark (despite the fact the server is!)