Blog of an Open Mind

Open Minded Thinking from the Open Minded Solutions team…

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Jenson Button to drive for Mclaren in 2010

October 26th, 2009 · No Comments

I bloody wish 😉 Well if this story has any weight we could well be seeing the brit dream team in the McLaren team next year which would be quite frank, wee inducingly exciting…

Britain’s top driver joined by, erm, Britain’s new top driver driving Britain’s top team car…

Oh God, think I might have to lie down…

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Oooh lookey, a new category!

October 26th, 2009 · No Comments

Yep I have taken up a sport. This one doesn’t involve me running around, going underwater or wasting excessive amounts of energy though.

I’ve joined Lasswade Archery club up here in Edinburgh to occupy my mind two nights a week and to shoot long pointy sticks at inanimate objects. I last did archery when I was about 18 which was, erm, a long time ago, so I though I would give it another crack and honestly forgotten how much bloody good fun it is!

A real buzz when you get one in the gold and don’t actually kill anyone 😉

I’ve spent a few squid with the guys at Archery World getting me bits and bobs so once I get it all together I might even post some scores…

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It’s geeky but still very cool…

September 29th, 2009 · No Comments

Now being the geek that I am, unashamedly so as well I might add, I was looking around for an application for my HTC touch that would tell me how far I was walking when I took Bert the staffie out.

She who must be obeyed looked doubtful the other day when I reckoned I was walking about 20 miles per week so I needed proof dammit!

Anyway I came across this rather natty application called TrackMyRun which has been developed by a chap who runs quicker than I walk to log his training schedule.

It’s in Alpha/Beta at the moment but works really well on Windows Mobile 6 although I did have to upgrade the .NET Compact framework from 2.0 to 3.5 to get the beast started.

Basically it will use GPS to track your walk/run/drive/aeroplane/whatever journey, calculate the distance travelled, average speed, calories burnt etc and will also give you a rather cool map of your route using Google maps as the base.

A nice find I thought and ideal for anyone who enjoys anything more exertion than sitting on a chair reading blogs 😉

→ No CommentsTags: General · Tinterweb stuff

Domains and where to purchase…

September 18th, 2009 · No Comments

A subject I see coming up quite a bit on business forums is never buy domains from the same company as your host. Now for the “kiddie” hosts who answer support tickets when they get home from school this may be true but for other business like ourselves this doesn’t hold water..

You know just as a test I have just been to Godaddy to make a trial purchase of a .com and what a faff on it is!

The checkout is very confusing and they do an almighty job of trying to add additional extras onto you.

When you finally get to the end, the price comes in at £6.59 for a one year .com registration. Obviously there is no VAT as they are a US company but this price will fluctuate with the exchange rate so you will not know how much it’s going to cost you to renew.

Now ours are registered through eNom which is the second largest registrar in the world for £7.99/year which ex-vat (if you’re vat registered) is £6.94 so 35p difference and you register with a UK company that actually have a good customer service record

In addition they charge for transfers in, we don’t…

I know domains are one of those point and forget things but what about when something goes wrong such as the domain not being renewed or worse still, being hijacked; which has happened to GoDaddy customers in the past.

Turning to 123reg for UK domains, they proudly state domains are £2.99 per year and don’t obviously advertise the facts that the price is subject to VAT and is also a two year registration. So a full registration would cost £6.88 inc vat whereas we are £7.98 a whopping £1.10 over two years more expensive

They, as we are, are members of Nominet so they get charged exactly the same for UK domains as we do. Interestingly their .com is £9.99 + vat

So onto protection…

Lets say we go bust today. There is more chance of me giving birth to twin headed alligators but I digress..

For all non-uk domains, eNom would be able to step in and allow you to manage the domain, move to another provide just by contacting them. Their response time is about 4 hours which for a multi-national is unheard of.

For UK domains, Nominet would be able to update the IPS tag in about ten minutes after a phone call allowing you again to move the domain.

Protection all round…

So to summarise, for the sake of a few pence per year you are going to a multi-national company, both of whom do not have a crystal customer service record and there is absolutely no risk whatsoever from buying from the “little guy” as long as you have done your research.

Domain name registration

→ No CommentsTags: Rants · Tinterweb stuff

Renaults Briatore out over race fix charge

September 16th, 2009 · No Comments

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8258987.stm

I’m not actually that surprised to be honest. Piquet jnr. was never going to make such a massive allegation if he had no evidence of race fixing and now that Briatore and Pat Symonds have quit it just confirms the race was a stitch up.

They simply would not have quit before the hearing if there was no truth in the allegations.

Personally as a Formula one nutjob I hope they kick Alonso out as well but keep the team in, or at least those who were innocent.

For Alonso to say he knew nothing about this is utter rubbish and he deserves to be banned from next season. It won’t happen though as the FIA is a toothless tiger. All this shows is that F1 has again been dragged through the mud which is a real shame…

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Installing PHP on IIS6

September 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

OK I’m replicating this article on our blog here as it is the only guide I have come across that works flawlessly every time.

Full credit goes to the author for the original article which can be found here:

http://blog.tjitjing.com/index.php/2006/05/php5-with-iis6-on-windows-server-2003.html

PHP5 with IIS6 on Windows Server 2003 in five easy steps

I thought installing PHP would be as easy as just using the install program. Well it wasn’t… But by learning from my mistakes it can be almost that easy.

Just follow these five easy steps on how to install and configure PHP 5 on a Windows Server 2003 running IIS – after trying the manual and several guides and tutorials found on the net (of which some were very long and very complicated and some were short and easy but partially incorrect) this is what it all came down to. Enjoy.

This is tested on PHP 5.0.4, IIS6 on Windows Server 2003 SP1. Be aware that IIS is not automatically installed with all editions of Windows Server 2003, this guide assumes that IIS 6 and Windows Server 2003 is already up and running on your server.

1. Download PHP at http://www.php.net/downloads.php. Make sure you dowload the “zip package”, the installer package won’t work.

2. Extract the downloaded zip file to a directory of choice on your harddrive. The rest of this guide will assume you are using C:\PHP

3. Add C:\PHP to your path. From the Start menu, right click My Computer and select Properties. From the Advanced tab click the Environment Variables button. Under System Variable find Path and click Edit. At the end of what is already present in Variable Value add a semicolon (;) and then C:\PHP.

4. Configure IIS. Open the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager from Administrative Tools (found directly in the Start menu or in the Control Panel)

a) Web Service Extension. Click down to the Web Service Extension folder. Right click the folder and select Add New Web Service Extension. Set Extension Name to .PHP and add C:\PHP\PHP5ISAPI.DLL to Required Files . Check Set Extension Status To Allowed.

b) Web Sites. Click down to Web Sites. Right click the folder and select Properties. From the Home Directory tab click the Configuration button. Click Add to add an Application Extension. Enter C:\PHP\PHP5ISAPI.DLL as Executable and PHP as Extension. Leave the rest as default and click Ok.

5. All set! To test your PHP installation simply create text a file with the php extension, eg. test.php. Add the following three lines of text to it and then save it to your web site directory, eg. C:\INETPUB\WWWROOT. Then use your browser to read the file, eg. http://localhost/test.php

< ?php phpinfo(); ?>

Other things you might want to consider:

– Some tutorials state that you need to restart the World Wide Web Publishing Service after having installed and configured php. I haven’t needed to (ie everything worked fine without restarting the service) but if you do it is found under Services in the Control Panel.

– As you start using PHP, in the not too distant future you will probably need to make some changes to php.ini. PHP works fine without the php.ini file but you really should have one and it should be in your Windows directory. Copy C:\PHP\PHP.INI-RECOMMENDED to C:\WINDOWS\PHP.INI

– If you are going to use MySQL you will need to make sure to uncomment the line “extension=php_mysql.dll” in php.ini and copy C:\PHP\LIBMYSQL.DLL to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 (Simply setting the PATH won’t work as this is apparently hard coded in PHP5). If you don’t follow these steps you will get an error message similar to this: “Call to undefined function mysql_connect”

– Read the manual at http://www.php.net/manual/en/install.windows.php

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Unlimited and unmetered hosting, what’s the difference?

July 28th, 2009 · No Comments

Simple, one exists and one doesn’t…

Every day I come across web hosting companies who offer unlimited bandwidth and/or disk space and to this day I have never found one of these unlimited hosts that doesn’t have a fair usage clause in their terms of service but before we look at this situation, we really need to define these two words:

Definition of Unlimited

1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

Source: dictionary.com

Definition of Unmetered

Not metered, not charged on a meter (as Internet bandwidth).

Source: wikipedia.org

The key thing to point out here is that unlimited means with restrictions of any kind whereas unmetered is simply a value that is not measured.

Now, if a host is offering unlimited bandwidth but has a clause in their fair usage terms that says something like “we reserve the right to suspend your site if you have an impact on other users” then it is not unlimited as it is restricted. Hence it is a lie, an untruth, a porkie…

But if a host says it is unmetered bandwidth then they are saying that they don’t actually measure the bandwidth you use.

From a geek point of view, the technical difference is that all servers are connected to the outside world via a network card attached to a router. These cards are only physically capable of carrying a certain amount of bandwidth as they are limited in the speed of transfer.

For example, if you have a 100MBit card, there is a limit to the amount of bandwidth the card can carry. You can, if the connection is unmetered, max out the capacity of that card each day, every day as you have reached the limit that it can handle.

As for disk space, the only companies that can offer “true” unlimited space are the Googles and Amazons of this world. Between these megaliths, they actually own the capacity to offer this level of storage. That why when you see “bobs best hosting” offering unlimited bandwidth/storage for 2p per year you should run away, quickly…

These hosts are basically overselling their servers. Overselling is simply where they will load as many accounts onto a server in the assumption that not everyone will use the available resources. They will also boot off users who use too much under their fair usage clauses…

So in conclusion, view the word unlimited with caution. Unmetered might not sound as sexy but at least it’s the truth…

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Go Limited or stay sole trader?

June 25th, 2009 · No Comments

Excellent thread I found today on the benefits of both Limited companies and sole traders. I see so many people jumping in head first into forming a company without first considering the implications…

→ No CommentsTags: Business

EKM Powershop and PCI compliance.

June 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

Recently news surfaced that one of our main competitors, EKM powershop, have had to dramatically change the way their software works as it was revealed during a PCI audit that some store owners had been storing sensitive credit card information within their store database and then not removing the data after it had been processed via an offline terminal.

Now for quite some time Visa and Mastercard have been pushing the regulatory standards behind PCI compliance for the simple reason it is there to protect cardholder data from fraud and misuse.  In addition, it has been the case for a long while that storing the full card details including the CV2 code for longer than is necessary to complete the transaction was a practice to be avoided at all costs.

The net result of the EKM powershop audit was that their own proprietary gatway allowed store owners to obtain card details and then process the transaction offline through a terminal. They also advised customers to immediately delete card details after they had been processed.

Now there are two separate issues at play here…

Firstly the very fact that the software allowed card details to be stored in the first place is not a great practice to follow.  EKM powershop are not alone in this scenario as there are a number of eCommerce software packages out there which allow store owners to do this.  The crux of the matter is that the practice renders the software users in possible breach of PCI guidelines.

Secondly EKM powershop had to act swiftly to remove this gateway as it had transpired that certain customers were not removing card details after they had been processed.  This is in breach of the PCI guidelines and these merchants were leaving themselves open to fines and possible withdrawal of their merchant service.

Personally I feel that the store owners have been cut a raw deal here. The fact that the software allowed them to store card information in the first place simply should not have been available as an option.  Granted that the merchants were putting themselves in the firing line by not deleting the card details but software vendors such as EKM powershop and ourselves have a responsibility to their users that the software does the job required without raising possible security issues. There has obviously been a failure here…

For the record, our eCommerce software does not nor ever will store any kind of card information within its database or files.  This is simply to protect the cardholder and the store owner from this type of situation. With all this in mind I am willing to make the following offer to any EKM powershop store owner affected by this issue.,..

If you are considering changing to an alternative software provider I am willing to offer a 20% discount on our license fees and design services plus import as much data as possible from your current EKM powershop store.

If anyone wishes to take up this offer I will need clear tangible evidence that you are an EKM powershop store owner. For more information or to claim the discount voucher, please contact us through our support help desk

I don’t normally do this with competitors but on this occasion I personally feel the situation is quite shocking and a lot of people have been let down for a variety of reasons hence the offer of support…

Phil Williams
MD – Open Mind Commerce

→ No CommentsTags: Business · Tinterweb stuff

Hosting Technical Support Position – Tentative Applications Required

May 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

Open Minded Solutions Limited are currently in negotiations with a leading UK merchant account & payment gateway provider to supply our eCommerce software to their merchants. At this stage it is anticipated that negotiations will be complete by late June.

Now a new partnership of this size does bring a new set of challenges to an existing, thriving business such as ourselves and a primary area of those challenges is exceeding customer expectations through an unrivalled level of customer support to new and existing clients.

We are therefore seeking tentative applications for a new position that will be based in our Edinburgh office.

The Position
The ideal candidate for this new and exciting position will be an individual who is passionate about providing an extreme level of support to clients in a manner that would exceed expectations. From a technical perspective they will also have:

  • A strong working knowledge of Windows and Linux web hosting platforms
  • Experience with troubleshooting and resolving network related issues, DNS, FTP, IIS and Apache platforms
  • Experience of the technicalities of domain name registration and transfers, SSL certificate provisioning and PCI compliance testing.
  • A background of providing superb customer service in an environment containing a mixture of businesses from small SMEs through to multi-million pound corporate clients
  • A working knowledge of various server side scripting languages such as ColdFusion MX, PHP, ASP and .NET
  • Although a wide programming knowledge is beneficial, the ideal candidate will have a strong background in developing and maintaining ColdFusion MX applications
  • Be based in Edinburgh or the surrounding area as they will be required to work from our offices based in Edinburgh South.

The Benefits
Aside from working with an established and rapidly growing company, the chosen candidate can expect:

  • An excellent starting salary based on background and experience
  • Performance related bonus scheme (after qualifying period)
  • Profit sharing scheme (after qualifying period)
  • Sick pay and holiday entitlement
  • A very friendly and exciting working environment
  • Joining the company at ground level but with unlimited opportunity to grow all the way through to director level

At this stage the position is tentative but should negotiations be successful it is anticipated the position will be available from late July 2009.

So does this sound like you? If so please forward a detailed CV of your background and experience to Phil Williams at contact <at> openmindedsolutions.co.uk and we will contact you in due course.

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