4th of July, 2015
I have sure been very busy on this site the past week which is not just because of now having all pages in UTF-8 format to also to remove VAT from this site. That not only meant removing VAT mention from all pages but also to rebuild my Order Forms to be VAT free.
I did not stop there though when I included another desired Order Form upgrade resulting in the largest Order Form upgrade since this Order Form was created. That change means buyers no longer select the destination region (United Kingdom, Europe, World Zone 1 & World Zone 2) when instead you now select your country and it works out from that the correct postal band.
I can say that took me an entire day to do when after locating a list of all countries on this planet I soon noticed certain obmissions like Greenland and Bermuda. So I had to merge this with my old countries list of everywhere the Royal Mail can deliver to adjusted for any historical changes over the past 15 years.
I have not done this change in past years due to two reasons where the first reason is never wanting to exclude anywhere like even now with my very detailed countries list there are some obmissions like Antarctica. The second reason is that long gone browsers could not print the Order Form correctly with drop down menus. I will soon see how a modern print test goes but in any case receiving orders through the post is now rare compared to online payment.
I should point out that the Euro and US Dollar Order Forms are currently offline but should be back online before the end of today when only the Pounds version is code ready. Once those two Order Forms are online then that is step two of three complete where the third and final step is to update site information, links, then to review item prices.
24th of June, 2015
I am currently updating this site to support the UTF-8 character set when so long ISO 8859-1 when you are now obsolete in this modern world. This change is not just to be able to do this "你需要到店更改善经济" but to fix a PHP conflict.
What I mean is that back in February PHP 5.6 killed this site's Order Form making PayPal payments impossible. I took the easy option then to roll the server back to PHP 5.3, before 5.4, intending a later fix when research then wrote off all easy fixes. So only now have I located the root problem, namely PHP defaulted to UTF-8 from 5.4 onwards.
That UTF-8 change did not kill my ordering system though when that honour went to PHP 5.6 breaking its fundermental rule by modifying HTML code outside the < ?php and ? > tags. That should never happen which makes me wonder if they will fix this in the next PHP 5.7 release.
I did consider the easy option to switch the core of PHP from UTF-8 back to ISO 8859 but after a little reading up I admit UTF-8 is the future and ISO 8859 had to go. What I mean is that the Internet involves many languages where UTF-8 with up to 4 bytes per character handle all of these varied languages.
Since most of this site code was wrote back when PHP 2.x was the latest version then this poses an interesting upgrade to scrape off the rust and get this site working with a whole new character set. I have already fixed the ordering system to work under PHP 5.6 and UTF-8 but I can say I have really seen some voodoo code magic that defies explanation requiring extra code to work around it. I have a bit more work to do there when the generated email needs to be fully HTML for UTF-8 or to simply dump extended characters back to ANSI.
One other thing to add is that since I have recently had a lot of SQL database experience on another project then maybe during 2016 I will give this site a total rebuild with a database focus and an easier shopping basket system.
Anyway now to upload this first main HTML file in UTF-8 and to see what virtually bursts into flames.
10th of August, 2013
I have just completed another long overdue task when customers who place an order will now receive a copy of that order sent to their email address.
This feature should really have been added years ago when my number 2 worker made the first version of my automatic order forms. Indeed back then when he said we would get a copy of their order by email then I did ask him if the customer would also get a copy. His reply was that could not be done when the system only supported one email address.
I already knew that was not true when if the system could send one email then obviously the process could be repeated to send more but at the time it was his project and an important site upgrade. Back then many customers still paid by post in cash and cheques meaning it was not very important. So only general contact details were requested should a problem crop up.
So in how many ways was my number 2 worker wrong? Well the exact same email could be sent to the customer simply by adding another address in the To field but they could also be linked in using the Cc and Bcc fields. I picked the option to send a complete second email though when these two need different formatting. This also meant enforcing that customers enter a valid email address along with some extra code to ensure valid.
This at least solves a couple of problems when buyers can now see who they ordered from which also should avoid those disputes after only 1 or 2 days because they had not received order confirmation. In all a tale from the former optional to the modern expected.
9th of August, 2013
Some good news for today is that paying for your orders in BitCoins (BTC) is now live and 100% functional. This took me longer than expected due to both my busy life and wondering why a business should need a payment gateway provider when as seen here you don't need one.
Adding this feature took me most of the day and where I killed the entire ordering system a few times but soon fixed the error minutes later. The final mistake was in wondering why the USD version was using the wrong rate. A calculation fault was soon excluded, followed by excluding a read fault of the live rate, which left me only one possibility that I soon confirmed... namely the USD order form told the system it was EUR. That bug I fixed where a final check on my calculator highlighted perfection.
Well ordering in EUR or USD and paying in BitCoins is certainly as accurate as you can get in the currency sense. Both EUR and USD rates are read live from Yahoo Finance where then MTGox provides easy conversion from GBP, EUR and USD into BTC using a live rate. These calculations are done in integers to avoid known floating point issues where the final BTC value is displayed down to 6 digits.
Now I will wait and see if anyone actually uses it when over 90% of my customers are simply PayPal junkies.
The only other things to say is that I am currently restocking on the MACRO+ which is a more pleasing event these days when these are one item now rare on the market. Sure enough though some will be here during the next week.
I have a few minor BitCoin changes to do, mostly in terms of writing details, but fully working that system now is. Give it a try.
26th of July, 2013
As you can see for yourself I have now fixed the translation system when thanks to Google this site can now appear in any one of 71 different languages via the 'Select Language' option just below the main menu on the left.
This change did not go as first planned when after spending the morning plugging 71 languages into my normal translation system I found the results to not be as hoped. It was only when I searched into adjusting the Google Translate options did I discover that Google already made a plug-in widget that worked very much like my decade old version but was made to be even better.
So just by adding two small sections of code into each main site page then here we are with Google doing a great job. I have also removed the translation flags on the Welcome page when they are now redundent when say if Google detects a foreign visitor then it will automatically ask if they want to translate the page into their local language.
I would ideally prefer to add a second translation service to allow visitors a choice but that is now not easy to achieve. I am for now just happy to allow Google to maintain their own service as languages are added or removed.
Well that had to be done when Yahoo closed down Altavista recently which also meant the closure of Altavista's Babblefish service. Yahoo have not done them right for years and have more gutted a former rival.
As to yesterday's news then the best place to see the automatic currency rate updates are actually on my order forms when there you will see the rate used down to 4 decimal places meaning a new rate on every page reload. Such small changes are unlikely to affect your order total within the hour though.
More work due tomorrow where next up I really want to get BitCoin payments working.
25th of July, 2013
Earlier this month I moved my website to new hosting when my old hosting provider Cixx6 went out of business. I did not notice this to begin with when my website was still working fine but the email server was out, followed by the control panel, followed by the host company.
This marks the end of trying free hosting for me along with my previous idea of why pay for hosting when you can get it free? Free does indeed work but there are increased limits and additional problems because free can also attract low-life abusers.
So I am now on paid hosting with One where email is now restored and where I am very happy to see an smtp mail server for sending mail when neither my ISP nor my old host provided one.
Currently I am working on site improvements where the first of these is that for the first time ever all EUR and USD prices are being updated LIVE from Yahoo Finance. That means prices can change slightly as you browse once and then return later. Fully accurate market rate prices they indeed are though.
Gutting the core of my website to achieve this made me a little nervous stripping out all financial functions and putting them in the PHP file. There was no chance of a part test when linked code meant all or nothing. I was lucky or precise though when the change worked so perfectly first attempt that I even had to manually check the rates to confirm live updates.
By the time you read this I will have also updated the Order Forms that use internal calculations to avoid user modifications. That means the whole ordering process is as currency accurate as you can get.
The reason I undertook that task is because I am due to add BitCoin payment support where the rate there is just dramatic to ever stand a chance on crude weekly manual updates. So that GBP/EUR/USD to BTC rate will also be live updated.
The next big task to be done is to move automatic language conversions to Google Translate when Altavista Babblefish is no more. I will also look around to see what other services can extend the options.
Beyond that there are only minor changes to do including removing NoChex payments when none of my customers use them any more. There is also old stock to remove, new stock to add, where I even managed to find a half box of GOLD cards.
To finish up then after my previous news my seasonal events are working again which you will discover at Halloween, Xmas, New Year and Easter. Maybe one day I will add more days like Saint Patrick's Day for my Irish neighbours.
9th of February, 2012
Well the past week has certainly been interesting trying to swap my website to new hosting after my old hosting provider went out of business. I am currently stuck between two hosting providers and this page you see could well be from the first hosting provider where the second has yet to establish me an account.
This first provider of Cixx6 turned out to be a much harder nut to crack than I have expected. The good part was that the hosting was established so quickly that I could not even upload my site in time before the domain switch came into affect. The bad news was that shortly after my website was uploaded their whole server died on me as the system fell apart in a multitude of errors. I can only imagine that was some worm virus to tie up server resources to breaking point.
What is even worse is that my innocent website got blamed for this server assault and before the day was over my zero day old hosting had been suspended. This may not have been direct blame but more about the server seeing my site as compromised and marking it as bad along with everything else on the server.
I tried to protest with no success when since I have wrote every single part of this website myself then am I completely sure that there is no bad code here. Things have finally reached an end because I assume they found the real cause making my site the innocent bystander simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now that my domain is back online then I have had to fix an unrelated problem. On the 1st in about 60 seconds before Hell broke out I noticed that my page calculation functions were not working. This same problem continued when hosting was restored making this a very unusual issue when my website has been on various hostings for years with no such code malfunction.
The odd part of all this is that this code had no operational problems on my last host and it could well have no such problems on my second host once established. In light of developments I will keep both hostings operational to provide backup or maybe even split my cardman.com and cardman.co.uk domains again.
1st of February, 2012
One thing I can certainly tell you is that I have grown to not like Januarys. This may be an odd thing to say in light of January always being my best sales month but right here on this very News page you can find prime examples of why this is.
Like back in January 2001 we have the huge ELVIS card programmer demand combined with the delivery company losing a very expensive series of boxes as large as your fridge freezer. Not the most happy time trying to get these in as quickly as possible to meet the huge demand only to have to tell hundreds of buyers that a delivery company major loss has just add on a 2 week supply delay.
Then let us jump forwards to January 2009 when the fiancial crisis had serious struck the UK. Again is is not nice returning from a long holiday keen to get orders sorted out and dispatched only to find out that key European wholesales now feared my GBP currency that was crashing by the day. Negotiating other currencies and passing all their no risk steps added on 2 or 3 weeks to my usual fast restocking. Even eBay hated me that time when of course they do not forgive a well pre-warned holiday, combinded with a little over selling, following by a Global Crisis seriously delaying restocking.
Now at last we come this year and people not doing what they should be doing.
This begins with Citibank who find it humerous to have one of my transactions trigger their over zealous banking security. They found it funny to not only block my debit card, to prevent other normal transactions, but also to deny online account statements and even inter-account transfers.
So they completely lock up all my funds and "why?" is a good question. "A suspecious Western Union transfer on December 27" they reply. I am like "Are you kidding me?" when after all I have been doing WU sends almost every week going back to 2007. How can a WU send possibly be suspecious when I did 3 more sends that very week?
I don't even have that answer now but in any case sending them copies of my WU sends combined with a scan of my passport data page was what it took to fix it. Anyway Citibank not even allowing me to spend even 1p for over 2 weeks caused me more than a few problems and extra charges.
One aspect of this account lock-up is that I could not recredit my franking machine which actually likes available bank funds to work. I did manage for the first week but the second week became a problem. So what happens now that my bank works again? My first recredit attempt is met with "ACCOUNT HELD - CONTACT HELPDESK" and am like "What the Hell?" when I could place no possible reason to explain this. They had always got their money and I had always got my franking machine recredit.
So what did NeoPost say when I contacted them? It seems they are moving away from the Royal Mail and want to establish their own recredit accounts. I find this a bit suspecious when they still have to pay the Royal Mail but in any case the new paperwork leaves today and franking should be operational again next week.
Then we come to the third problem when I could not update my website to state this issue. It seems that my former hosting provider 10KHost has ceased operation when the company they use to do the hosting JollyHost has ceased trading and even selling their domain name!
I only joined them in November, a start-up company, and by late January they were dead. I allowed 10KHost two days to sort something out but lack of reply means that I have now moved to Cixxy6. All functions should hopefully be restored by the end to today.
Anyway you can now see why January likes to give me problems.
Beyond that then other news is that I have plenty of MACRO+ now on the way here to restock on this item and outstanding orders will depart depending on what comes first. Either to recredit my franking machine or on the next trip to the Post Office. We may recall that the Post Ofiice right behind my house closed a few years ago (I bet a January...) and now it requires a long trip to the main Post Office in town which tends of happen once a week.
At least we are now in peaceful February but I know from long experience sales drop around the 14th, flatline for the following week, before a slow rise to normal sales at the start of March. That is the common point when the 6 weeks of high January sales truly ends.
19th of January, 2012
SOPA/PIPA Blackout day is over and life goes on.
In all that went very successfully and proved to be the largest ever protest ever done on the Internet. It is hard to say how many domains took part but between 6000 to 7000 is a good estimate.
I will cover the biggest sites first when at number #1 on the Alexa List is Google who blacked out their usual logo and conducted a big protest campaign. FaceBook at number #2 took no official position despite Mark Zuckerberg's personal anti-SOPA messages but this was not a bad thing when their usual user forum was filled with Google and Wikipedia protests. Wikipedia at number #6 was the other big protestor blacking out every English language page in a huge campaign making millions more people aware. Even Amazon at #9 got involved through a minor frontpage link but it was hardly top story. Then WordPress at #18 was the final huge website protestor here.
Moving on the somewhat smaller but still huge websites then Tumblr #39 was blacked out, CraigsList #48 played a big part, right behind them at #49 is Flickr who joined in, Imgur at #78 censored all their fun photos for the day, Vimeo at #111 was another, then Reddit at #114 blacked out their website, even Mozilla (FireFox) at #137 blacked out.
If you want to see many more sites like 4Chan, Wired, Miro and EFF then best you look here.
As to the results of todays largest ever anti-censorship Internet blackout then Rep. Lee Terry, from Nebraska was the first to fold and remove his name from supporting these bills. Senator Marco Rubio, from Florida then announced that he is removing his name as a co-sponsor of PIPA and is urging Senator Harry Reid not to go ahead with the plan to bring the bill to the floor. Later Senator John Boozman has did the same as Marco Rubio, as have Senators Orrin Hatch and Roy Blunt. Then later on Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Holden withdrew his co-sponsorship of SOPA. Last on my count was Senator James Inhofe who is no longer a supporter. Plenty of non-sponsors in both the House and the Senate have spoken out today to say they don't support the bills either but no list yet.
From what I heard the usual robust system of voters contacting their representative overloaded and collapsed in many areas between yesterday and today. Little surprise seeing all these websites were encouraging millions of people to phone up and protest.
My UK Trader website would have helped little but the wonderful part about SOPA and PIPA is that people well know when Congress starts passing laws that can put their little patch of creation on the line. Before today the monster had already been trapped in the basement and today was all about finishing it off.
Not to forget that if they want to try to censor away the freedom and innovation of the Internet that we enjoy then they will have many millions of people to answer to. PIPA is due for a debate and vote in Congress between the 23rd and 24th and then SOPA may try to strike back in early February.
16th of January, 2012
This is just a heads-up that my domains will be joining over 6,000 other websites in the 12 hour SOPA/PIPA blackout on the 18th. These two bills going through US Congress are a major threat to the freedom and innovation of the Internet and they have the potential to shut down many established websites that we already love and which depend on user upload.
Shortly before Xmas I moved my cardman.com domain away from GoDaddy as part of a Boycott due to their support of SOPA. This certainly worked when GoDaddy now do not support this bill they helped to create in exchange for immunity from this proposed law.
This Internet blackout begins at 8am EST on the 18th and lasts until 8pm EST. Do not be surprised if many of the websites you visit including Reddit, Wikipedia, Tucows, Boing Boing, Mojang, Major League Gaming, Wordpress and the entire Cheezburger network of around 1000 sites are blacked out during this time. Others currently considering the "nuclear blackout" option including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon, AOL, Mozilla, and IAC and are currently subject to much debate.
Since Internet censorship is a growing problem and harms legitimate business like DaJaz1 then hopefully the 18th will prove a day they never forget.
13th of February, 2011
I am currently updating my website's email contact service to include more modern communication methods. How it is best to contact me has been a long standing problem needing a good answer that provides focus to attention without splitting communication all over the place.
In past years email was just that and working well most of the time. Some problems could crop up but the main problem here was always spam mail that soon outranked official mail to a high degree. Changing contact addresses several times allowed me to keep up but a lacking anti-spam service on my hosting would help none.
So then I moved to webmail which did provide good spam mail control. The problem then cropped up of distributed communication when I had different accounts for different communication types and watching one caused neglect to another. The other problem was that the webmail I used lacked mail filtering which prevented incomming mail from dropping into the right mail box.
Now I am getting all these problems sorted out starting with the first goal of getting my immediate attention which is always a good goal in order to make a happy customer with a problem free order.
These days that answer is SMS but simply giving out my phone number creates obvious problems meaning that this service needs to be website controlled and formatted. Not so easy when web SMS services are hard to come by and pose many restrictions.
The ideal solution has come about due to my dealings with the Philippines. There are indeed services about that provide website perfect and reliable free SMS. All well and nice but the ideal solution comes from an email to SMS linkage. This then would go... Web SMS ---> email ---> SMS ---> My phone. The email linkage overcomes web restrictions and are easy to server generate.
So now I seek a service that can do just that to one of my UK SIMs. I hope to soon find such a service and have this up and running but at worst I can just find one for a SIM to another country. Service problems are possible but my testing has so far highlighted very reliable.
An extra bonus from adding this feature is that my website can also warn me when something happens. That would usually be order/payment receipt but my website can also say if something breaks. So in all a good method to keep me aware of developments.
The other main idea I had was to implement this page as an RSS feed. I currently have no idea how to do that but with all my computer qualifications I will soon figure it out. In past years some customers did set my news page as their home page to read my often daily rants and raves. These days my news updates may be much less when my life is now not all business but reading my latest news while on the move may be in some people's interest.
I guess after all this news today I should add that I am no longer a mobile phone hater. About 3 years ago I got my first phone (a SE K800i) and it has served me faithfully since without too much annoyance.
4th of January, 2011
Just to let you know that all prices on this website have now been updated to the new 20% VAT rate. As I see this higher VAT rate as a bad idea then I am also ready for when they want to put it down again.
This makes the third VAT rate change in the past couple of years. When my business started back in 1998 the VAT rate was 17.5% and then 10 years later they changed it to 15% for a year, then back up to 17.5%, before now up to 20%.
A bad idea in my view when this change will reduce public spending. One big difference in a recession year is that the money that goes around is a lot less. Money comes in, and money goes out, which is good for all. More money to the taxman though is less money to go around.
Beyond that then my cardman.com website is now using new hosting. My cardman.co.uk domain forwards to the cardman.com domain when using seperated hosting these days makes less sense. Then I had to do a big code update on my order forms due to a PHP version update issue.
Last of all I hope you enjoyed my website's Xmas and New Year graphics which come on and off automatically every year. Then in case you missed it the next graphical display will be for Easter which is nice but the Halloween version is best.
Finally... Have a happy 2011.