Grocery Store Floor Plan Fail

My local Publix grocery store has been remodeling for a few weeks. In general, I don’t care for the reorganization. That’s because I’m a list shopper, and not a browser. I am looking for specific things and I like them to stay in the same place.

But that wasn’t the fail I noticed. In reorganization the store they moved the grocery carts indoors. Now that isn’t a bad idea. I don’t particularly care for a wet cart when it’s raining. But there was another problem.

publix_floor_plan_failDo you see the problem?

It could be the extra walk for people entering the store. Considering that I park across the lot in order to get extra steps for exercise, that problem wouldn’t bother me, but folks with disabilities might find that a little difficult.

But as I exited the store I noticed something else. People leaving the store bumped into those getting carts. It was a chorus of “sorry,” “excuse me,” and so forth.

Methinks someone didn’t take adequate thought in design here …

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WordPress Multisite, Multiple Root Domains, htaccess

Sometimes those who know how things like a .htaccess file works fail to mention really simple things. So I’m going to mention this one.

I have a site with multiple domain names that I want to consolidate. Thus I’m creating a single site, but because of numerous existing links, I want the domain names to all point to the same site. Eventually we’ll use only one–that’s what consolidation is about!

Thus I was trying to add a wildcard redirection for two domain names (, to the new domain name I had my multisite working, and then I added a couple of redirects via cpanel.

Not so much with the working.

So I looked at the .htaccess file. The redirects are added after the existing WordPress code. Simply moving the redirection above the domain redirects above the WordPress code makes everything work perfectly. This is logical. So logical, in fact, that I should have thought of it before I hit cpanel, and I’m no great Apache expert.

But I didn’t think of it, and it occurs to me that someone else might also fail to think of it. Thus this post.

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Reminder: Install Only What You Want

I’m just calling attention to this again, because I so frequently find all kinds of utilities on people’s machines. They don’t know what they are and don’t use them. They come from add-ons to installations.

I wrote about this just under a year ago, in a post titled Security and Performance Tip: Installing Software.

The key message is this: Read all those boxes that come up when you install software. If something is checked, read it, and uncheck it if you don’t want whatever is being offered.

Your computer will perform better!

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Converting 13 Digit ISBNs to 10 (And Vice Versa)

The formulas for this, which will work in LibreOffice (or OpenOffice) Calc, are to be found at User Offline: How to write a spreadsheet formula for ISBN-10 to ISBN-13 and ASIN. Considering that post is dated in 2008, I thought it worthwhile to add another link.

I wanted to do this, but to ISBNs with the dashes included. The resulting code is (13 to 10 digit):



This code removes the 978 prefix. For the full ISBN you need the check digit, which is done thus:


I am either an unkind or a lazy person, and thus did not format them prettily as did the source author. Also, you’d need to modify his code for the reverse conversion.

This is copied from my spreadsheet, in which I used column N for the check digit, and was converting a column of 13 digit ISBNs that were in column H.

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Spam FAIL of the Day

Today I deleted a spam comment from this blog. That is not very memorable. What was different was that the first line stuck with me.

This is a very funny blog! I loved the way you …

One of the techniques of comment spammers is to include generically congratulatory text on the grounds the bloggers want encouragement. But considering this is a technical blog, where I post notes that are used mostly to pass to my customers … well, humor is not my goal!

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How to Spot Phishing E-mails

I’m frequently asked how to do this, and the simple answer is that if an e-mail isn’t from someone you know or someone you do business with, don’t open it. Further, if the e-mail doesn’t seem in character for that person or business, don’t open it. If you’d be suspicious of the content if your received it in regular mail or were told it by a stranger on the street, don’t open it. For those with the patience I provide some more detailed ideas.

Now I can just refer them to 10 tips for spotting a phishing e-mail on TechRepublic. It was 10 for 10 things that I would agree with.

The key, for better or worse, is taking the time to observe and think before you open an e-mail attachment or allow the e-mail to display external content. (Oh, did I mention always having your e-mail client block external content until you know you want the e-mail?) The reason I say “for better or worse” is that many busy people simply won’t take the time to check these things carefully.

For my contract clients, help is only a phone call away if you’re in doubt. If you want that e-mail badly enough, call me and I’ll look at it. But I’d suggest that generally if you’re suspicious enough to call me it would be best to delete it.

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Powerline Ethernet: D-Link PowerLine AV+ Mini Adapter Starter Kit

I recently reorganized the way we connect our home and my office, which is across the yard. “Across the yard” became about 100 feet further than it had been, and it looked inconvenient to connect this via a cable.

So I didn’t.

I have tried a couple of power line ethernet adapters for clients and have had good success with them. I was concerned in this case because we’re in two separate buildings and there is about 150 feet of underground power cable that separates the two. In addition, there would be another 50-60 feet between the transformer¬† and the breaker for both buildings, which would matter (if I understand correctly) if I happened to plug into outlets on the opposite phase.

In this case I bought the D-Link PowerLine AV+ Mini Adapter Starter Kit, DHP-309AV, for just $49.99. Since it’s connecting into a 100 Mbps system, the 200 Mbps limit seemed acceptable. The two units are small and barely noticeable, which my wife appreciates. They do provide only one Ethernet outlet at either end, but I was planning to plug a router with wireless and four Ethernet ports on our house side.

Setup was trivial. I just plugged one adapter into an outlet in my outbuilding/office, and the other into an outlet in the house, and they lit up green. I find the description of the colors the the PowerLine status amusing:

Green – Link rate/quality is the bestAmber – Link rate/quality is better
Red – Link rate/quality is good.

I guess “light out” is the only bad option!

I did encounter that. Take the installation instructions seriously when they say not to plug this into the same outline with appliances. I plugged it into the same outlet as one of the computers, and it went right out when the computer came on. I then plugged it into another outlet and also plugged the router into the same outlet. It went immediately to red and the network performance was slow. I don’t mean we measured it a few Mbps less. I mean it crawled, with minutes to load a web page. It was effectively non-functional for the LAN. I couldn’t load a document. As soon as I plugged the router in elsewhere, an outlet just a few feet away, everything sped up.

Since then I have not noticed any speed issues, though we do see Amber on the LGL quite frequently. The only measurement I’ve taken on speed gave it around 25 Mbps, though notes on that method indicated it tended to read low. I’ll post here if I get a better speed indication.

In the practical speed test department, however, I have been remote controlling clients computers through CrossLoop without any problems or noticeable difference in perfomance. I stream movies with it, though only on the computer or portable device, and I do page layout for books on my laptop in the house while using the drive on my office computer for all files, again without any noticeable delays.

I am very happy with this adapter set, both in terms of price and performance.

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Still Getting WordPress Comments while Using Disqus?

After I started using Disqus for comments on another web site, I was still getting huge amounts of spam. None of it showed on the web site, which is good, but it was getting to be a sizable portion of the database.

After seeing several responses to different problems that produced similar keywords, I found this post: How to stop WordPress comment spam when using Disqus. It provides two solutions, one kind of a hack, and one elegant, but both perfectly workable.

I actually prefer the hack, as I believe it uses less processing time.

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Creative Cloud with Photoshop and Lightroom

While I absolutely have to have the full creative suite for my publishing work, this offer for just Photoshop and Lightroom  (plus minor goodies) should be of interest to photographs and artists who just use Photoshop. (HT: Digital Photography Review)

I’m planning to write up some notes on working with the Creative Suite, especially Photoshop from the point of view of a non-photographer who also uses open source projects like GIMP, and InDesign, from someone who has laid out books of 200+ pages using Scribus. I think the comparisons might be helpful.

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Avoiding Facebook Hacks and Fakes

Top 3 Myths about Hackers on Facebook from provides some good information, though in my experience trying to explain to people the difference between being hacked and having installed rogue software is usually futile. All they know is their computer is doing something they didn’t plan, and they want it to stop.

It’s difficult to be absolutely safe while still making use of the internet, but I have several suggestions.

  1. Don’t add any Facebook app that you don’t actually need. The vast majority are harmless, and Facebook does a quite good job of weeding out the bad ones, but it’s still quite possible to get caught by a bad one. Often people install apps or other programs because they look mildly interesting, but never really use them, then they don’t uninstall them. It’s a good idea to know what’s on your computer and remove things you know you aren’t going to use.
  2. Only add a limited number of browser add-ons, such as toolbars. I’ve gotten calls from people who say their internet has slowed to the point of uselessness, where I find that they have six or seven toolbars installed. You need one toolbar at most. I don’t even use that many.
  3. Watch your installation programs. A number of installation wizards add toolbars or additional programs, and have these checked by default. Recently I’ve observed these on installation of Adobe Flash Player and a Java update. In both cases the additional item was checked by default. Unless you know you want it, uncheck it. That means actually reading all of those messages before clicking “Next.”
  4. Know what antivirus you use. Know what its logo looks like. It’s not absolute protection, but there are fake antivirus programs, and you can often catch on to an attack early if you recognize that you are getting messages that aren’t form your antivirus.
  5. It’s tempting to delay scanning your computer. Don’t! Scan regularly.
  6. It’s tempting to delay an update to your antivirus. Don’t! Update as often as you can.
  7. And … obviously underlying points 5 & 6, make sure you do have antivirus and your firewall is turned on. There are a number of free options available, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free, Avast (free edition), and ClamAV.
  8. A link checker such as McAfee Site Advisor can prevent many infections as well.

This list is by no means complete, but following these rules would have prevented the vast majority of the infections I’ve been called on to clean up.

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