27th of February, 2004
Just before my cable modem link to the Internet went down last weekend, then I was soon to start that big rewrite of my on-line order processing code in order to have PHP recalculate these order totals. However, since I needed Internet access to be able to test my new code as I developed it, which at the time was not possible, then the work that I did on my Order Forms was instead for some easier code.
And as it just happens that code wrote last weekend I put on-line today, pending a couple of bug fixes, which means that you can now see this for yourself.
This in all is yet another one of those ideas that I had long ago, where only now during my "spring clean" am I recalling all these good ideas that were not implemented at the time, often due to simply being too busy.
Anyway, what this is about is that long ago people doing transfers direct to my Bank Accounts, used to be quite a popular method, but then of course my on-line payment options soon took over. And for a long time I felt that this older payment option should be given equal standing to my more modern methods, which is why paying me by Bank Transfer is now one of those payment buttons on my Order Forms.
No doubt these newer services aimed at on-line payment handling will still be more popular, but paying me by a bank transfer method like CHAPS or IBAN can still be an easy, quick and cheap method.
For example. With my bank accounts here in the UK I could add myself as a payee, where whenever I wanted to send money between my different bank accounts, then I could just select that payee, input the amount to be sent, then click on the confirm button to send this payment on it's way. Most of all, that is usually done for free, depending on where the money is sent to, where since this transfer only takes a day or two, then so is it fairly fast as well.
And so by using this new on-line payment method, then so can my customer's now pay for their orders, in all three currencies I should point out, without the need to hassle me for my banking details. Naturally, customers still need to inform me when they have sent me a payment transfer, when your bank usually does not do so.
That of course means that I check my bank account each day waiting for this payment to arrive, instead of simply not checking for days.
Apart from those new payment options, then I also cleaned up this text a bit. As after I converted the text from HTML control to PHP control, then all the text was put into Italic. That has now been corrected, when the Italic font is now only used on paragraphs that I consider suitable.
The reason why I remembered to upload this new work today, was because one of my very recent customers sent me some Postal Orders made out to my real name, instead of my usually correct business name of "Cardman". And that left me thinking that until now I have not yet uploaded that new Ordering Information page either, which is the other newly updated page now on-line.
This Postal Order issue is all about that the Royal Mail has now closed the Post Office right behind my house, which made me change where I now pay these Postal Orders in to. Considering the fact that this was an important change, then just three weeks following the closure of this very Post Office is not bad going, but of course I had the whole page to update.
And that was certainly a page long in need of an update, when the information contained on it is now correct. You can of course see this for yourself, should you wish to read my boring ordering details.
Since writing that new page last weekend, then I have since discovered that there is in fact a closer Post Office than the more convenient main Post Office in the town center. As about a mile in the other direction is a tiny little Post Office now so over ran with customers that they are already planning emergency expansion.
In other words they closed the larger Post Office right behind my house in order to use the cheaper unsuitable one a mile away, when of course any Post Office that used to be able to handle my daily dispatches of two full sacks of mail and several additional carrier bags certainly was not bad.
The other thing that has been bugging me recently is that the Royal Mail has sent me a bright red book titled "Postal Address Book", which is mostly all about Post Codes. Not at all useful to me, when I use their on-line system to find out Post Codes, not to mention that I dispatch to areas other than Kent.
However, what caught my attention is that this is also a business listing, where sure enough on page O-33 is the name "Cardman" followed by my address and a highlighted Postal Code. And I see that I am squeezed in between "Cardium Shellfish" and "Cardonnette Associates".
As these are just business names that the Royal Mail have picked up during their own business dealings, when this is certainly not a guide to find out what each of these named companies actually does. In fact the Royal Mail has never really asked what my company does, not that they should care either way, but one of their mail sorting staff did wonder what "Cardman" was actually about, but that was only casual wondering.
And so this publication has totally no use to me at all, beyond the game of "Can you remember the post code of the address that you used to live at years ago?".
What I suspect that such a publication is useful for is for some other companies to conduct unsolicited advertising using it, or more correctly the free electronic version, when advertising certain products to all those companies is bound to have large gains. So I will now look forwards to being spammed a lot more than I already am.
Even those companies who I do use are bad enough, where take one company for example. As they like to send me their 300 odd page thick Spring product catalogue, where the only problem here is that during the Spring season they like to send me this Spring catalogue like 20 times, slightly modified each time and with my very own Special Offer on the front.
And to top it off there is hardly a day that does not go by without one of their additional small magazines turning up, when these ones certainly number in the hundreds. I have a few companies like that, where odd thing is that as I order from them through the Net, then I never really read their magazines anyway.
So what happens to most of these unwelcomed magazines is that the only time I open them is seconds before discarding them into the paper recycling bin. Even the Sky Magazine I only open half of the time, where that is just usually to see how much they are increasing my subscription fee by.
Anyway, the whole on-line Order Form system has been updated once more, where the Ordering Details page has just been updated as well. I did consider turning this Ordering Details page over to the CSS stylesheet as well first, but due to CSS issues I wish to investigate CSS fully first in order to make sure that I am creating these pages correctly, before transferring over the whole site.
Still, lets play the game of guess the only other page using the CSS stylesheet on this site beyond my Welcome page, where the answer to that quick quiz is my Foreign Currency Converter page. As that one I decided to transfer over to CSS control when I decided to update all the currency rates once again.
The only problem was with the Netscape browser once again, which again cannot place semi-graphical items in the correct location, where this time it was the bullets in my bullet list that appeared half-way across the menu. And since unlike on the Welcome page I could not correct this faulty placement, then that is why my bullet list is now without it's bullets.
From what I have seen so far, then I am having a few doubts about using this popular stylesheet, when popular browser compatibility of it appears to be rubbish. Netscape has terrible graphical problem, which makes me even wonder how my photos will turn out, where MIE has a far too greater spacing between it's paragraphs than it should.
Compare the text on my Welcome page between the Netscape and Microsoft browsers to see what I mean, when according the this old stylesheet standard they should be looking the same, where it is only Opera that gets it all correct.
Maybe I should compile all these problems that I have already encountered into a single page for Netscape to see how terrible their browser's support of CSS is. And it is Microsoft's terrible support of the CSS menu system that is the reason why I decided not to use the CSS default menu system in the first place.
Oh well. If Microsoft and Netscape could not even get HTML correct, which is what I discovered when I created my Order Forms, then making the CSS standard bug free would be impossible, but then Opera seems to do well enough.
Anyway, I am still working on these CAS Interface 2 devices, which I hope to have on-line either this weekend, or the start of next week. Where there is still plenty more to do with those huge site improvements, which could well make this site look very different before the end of it.
25th of February, 2004
Before I begin today, then I would like to point out to my former ELVIS customers the new version 1.51 of TJ's MultiProg software, which you can download here.
As it seems that this very useful extra program for this model has had some large recent advancements, when this new version is the first software for several years now that can support all that ELVIS can do within the one package. As after the MP6 software was released, then the MP7 and MP8 beta versions had their own problems supporting all the modern card types, which is why TJ's software became very useful in the first place.
However, this latest development means that this software is now worthy of being the official ELVIS software, when it indeed supports all that my ELVIS model can do. Hopefully, this means that the manufacturer of this model will now ship this software with his dispatches, but we will have to see about that.
Anyway, if you are using the MP6, MP7 or MP8 software, then there is no longer any reason to not upgrade to the better MultiProg software by TJ, when this software indeed well shows how powerful and flexible my ELVIS model is.
I can also report that the manufacturer now makes a USB version of ELVIS, where this palm sized model looks extremely different to this serial model, but sure enough it is just as powerful as the original. And as I have already been lucky enough to play with a freebie version from this manufacturer, then sure enough one day soon I will support this USB version.
I guess this also means that the existing serial version will one day be on the way out, but I will certainly still support it until people no longer use their, one day to be obsolete, serial ports.
Moving on, then over the last couple of days I have been playing with my new CAS Interface 2 devices, which to remind you I will be selling on this site in just a few days time. As I have just been finding out all that it can do, like with restoring the bootloader on a couple of Magic CAMs who's former owners have been using the wrong firmware, then turning a couple of my (test) Magic CAMs into Matrix Reloaded CAMs.
And yes you will soon be able to do that and more, but first I will have to write my very detailed step by step instructions for it.
Yesterday I also got in my USB 2.0 cables that I will be giving away free with this model, where these 2 meter long high speed USB cables are very nice, where I am sure to sell them on their own as well. And of course 2 meters is a very long length for a USB cable, but I thought that the extra length would be useful, which is why I obtained this longer length.
Anyway, since these CAS Interface 2 devices can do quite a bit, then I will now go find out what that exactly is.
23rd of February, 2004
I can say that my next batch of the FUN2 and FUN6 cards arrived today, which due to "the curse of Cardman" arrived one week later than recently expected.
What happened here is that my cable modem link went down for days, not long following my last news update. I had to place two orders that day, where at least I did manage to order my new PowerColor ATI Radeon 9600XT graphics card about a minute before my cable connection went down.
To remind you, then my previous AGP graphics card for this computer was killed by a nearby lightning strike, where following this power fluctuation my graphics card that did not previously need replacing produced lots of unnatural lines. And following my other upgrades of this computer, then I decided to replace this card with my even older ET6000 PCI graphics card.
That older card could only handle true colour resolution in 800 x 600 mode, where as that mode is just too small, then I have been using the larger 1024 x 768 graphics mode with 16 bit colour for a long time.
Since I use a 19" monitor here, then following the arrival of my new graphics card on Monday, then my display resolution is now back up to the usual 1600 x 1200 graphics mode 32 bit colour running at 85 Hz. And so it is nice to finally see the correct colours once more, but this new PowerColor ATI Radeon 9600XT card does not seem much faster than my previous GeForce (the original) DDR AGPx1 graphics card.
Anyway, back to this card ordering delay, then I was just checking my very recent order when my cable modem went down. And after a cable modem reset, then sure enough my cable link had achieved the worst level of cable fault. The three levels are getting a receive lock, getting a send lock, then getting an on-line lock.
And what happened here is that my cable modem was cycling for days trying to get a basic receive lock and was constantly failing, where this would have meant that my local cable system was completely down. No one would be getting their cable TV in other words, when there was no signal being sent down the cable.
During these days of failure they did fix it once, but unfortunately I was not around for those few hours before it failed again. Anyway, as these things go, then this card order was finally placed early Wednesday morning.
The second problem was that I did ask my wholesaler to confirm when this order was dispatched and when it would be received, but unfortunately they did not do so. And since no one was available Friday morning, then that is why it only arrived today on the second delivery attempt.
As to some good news, then at least I can confirm that today will leave every outstanding order, even those just received today, except for a couple of orders with "issues" of course. This point I can also say that I have just about recovered from the January rush, where I should hopefully not need restocking on this Funcard range for a while more yet, but that depends on the popularity of FUN4 sales during the last few days of this Special Offer.
The final stock news is somewhat more interesting, when within days from now I should be selling the CAS Interface 2. And for those that don't know, then this device is most useful for changing one type Sidsa based CAM into another type of Sidsa based CAM. Like the option of changing the Magic Module CI CAM into a Matrix Reloaded CAM, or the other way around.
Not to forget being able to restore the bootloader on those CAMs where their owners have been playing with the wrong firmware.
Adding this new item to this site is going to take a few days beyond the usual photo and description, when this item direct from the manufacturer comes with only the main programmer and an interface cable and card. That means that it lacks the USB 2.0 cable to connect it to your PC, suitable instructions, programming software, drivers and the new CAM bootloaders.
I will certainly be able to provide most if not all of these items, but this will take a few days to sort out.
For a while now I have been hearing from people wondering how on earth to get this thing to do what it claims, where from this delivery I can now see why. And so these few extra days will be for myself to provide all that is needed, including some clear step by step instructions on how to use it.
I have been waiting for a while now for these CAM reprogramming devices to achieve a suitable degree of advancement, when sure enough with all the required items this new model works very well. No need for it to be next to your receiver, when this model comes with it's own CI connection, where this latest model can also handle many more CAM types.
Anyway, since all remaining orders leave today, then customers will receive them over the next couple of days.
12th of February, 2004
Well I changed my mind over doing the large PHP upgrade of my Order Forms next, when from my Welcome page you can see what has been changed.
To details this exactly, then the whole formatting of the Welcome page has been changed from using my usual formatting using tables to using the CSS stylesheet. That is more the way on how pages should be correctly created, where in the future all other pages on this site will follow suit.
The use of this method certainly produces cleaner code, even if the file size is not any smaller, but as I had hoped my page design could remain the same, even if I have upgraded it a bit.
Now, the biggest difference is use of the san-serif font, which was the default when I switched to CSS, where as it looks better than this very text, then I decided to keep it. And one day in the future all my pages will be using this font.
Next up is that as you can see the flags at the top of the page have been moved, where I did consider this option before, but I discarded it due to this option throwing my menus on different pages out of sync. So I have changed my mind over this flag placement, where I can shift the other menus down later on if needed.
Also concerning the flags, then the language name is displayed in the Alt field in that language, which you can see by holding the mouse pointer over these flags in MIE. Netscape on the other hand likes to display nothing and Opera the link address.
Apart from improving the general text on this page, then I have now completed another one of my long term desires, which is that the word BOOKMARKING in the left menu column on this new page, can now be clicked on to bookmark my Welcome page.
After adding support for both Microsoft and Netscape's browsers, then I decided to give my whole page a test using Opera. And I see that this third place browser has greatly improved since the last time that I used it, where sure enough all my site pages were compatible right away.
Then I discovered that Opera could also be made to tell the truth and reveal it's true identify when first asked, which made me move the Opera identification line from with the MIE checking section to before MIE is checked for. After all Opera will still say Opera in the userAgent field if it is lying or not, where of course this was all a problem in the first place, when Opera despite such false identification does not support MIE's favourites menu.
The biggest browser fault that I came across during this format change was in Netscape, when to begin with the red border at the top of this page went all the way up into the flags. As removing the border also put the imagine into the flags as well, then it was quite clear that Netscape expected text to follow or it would mess up the correct placement.
To solve this problem was a little tricky, when having text first was very undesirable, where after a little experimentation I discovered that I could move Netscape's next write location to the correct position without anything at all appearing or moving my red borders down on either of the other two browsers.
The way that I done that was to first of all write a full stop at the top of this page, where under CSS I removed all border options, then set the text size to a very small 10%. I also set the text colour to white, but this was not needed, when the full stop was just too small to be displayed.
And so in all three browers the location is moved to the top of the content section, where all find that there is really nothing to do here and so move on to the next section to write. So it seems that I will have to leave this in long term in order to fix Netscape's display bug.
The only other thing that I had to adjust was Netscape's fault in displaying the PayPal payment button to the left instead of the correct central location. That I soon fixed, but due to these browsers displaying a different amount of spacing following a form, then the PayPal button had to be relegated to the base of this section in order to keep everything as it should be.
Now the only two things that I have to complete on this page first of all involves reading the CSS manual in order to make sure that my first use code is as it should be. Still, since it looks perfect, then the only other thing that I may change is to move my larger than normal site addresses from using HTML formatting to using CSS formatting.
Finally, there has been one other large site change that you are unlikely to notice. And what this exactly is concerns the fact that my old news pages are now stored in their own sub-folder, which is something that became easily possible due to my previous menu code change.
What I mean is that the buttons on these pages now need to call pages in the root folder, which means changing about my new menu code a bit so that any menu call with a value greater than 500 is now used to indicate a sub-folder group of buttons is needed.
That is sure to prove useful in any future sub-folders as well, but I wanted to do this change for a long time in other to clean this large group of not so important files out of the main directory.
Apart from that you can now check out my table free newly formatted Welcome page, which thankfully still looks very much like the old version. And hopefully now I can get around to that large PHP change without any further distractions.
Except the one issue of course, when now it is time to order those FUN2 and FUN6 cards, which should be here on either Saturday or Monday.
11th of February, 2004
As you can see my new menu system is now on-line, where as mentioned late yesterday this menu is now animated in a way that is now obvious to see. This change was not as bad as I expected, when creating the new Magenta coloured buttons only took about 30 minutes to complete.
In order minimise the data handling within this menu creation loop, then all pages and the buttons for those pages must have the same name. That is how it ideally should have been anyway, but due to forgetting the exact name between creating the page and the button, then there were a few glitches in need of ironing out.
For example my Logger/Emulator page is called loggers.html, but the button for this page was called logger.gif. And so to make these the same I had to add the missing "s" to this image file name, where this menu loop just has to stick .html and .gif on at the appropriate section.
There were about four buttons in need of renaming in all, but there was one page that was renamed as well, when the old forminfo.html page is now called oform.html. This I prefer when stating with an "o" it is now stored next to my Order Form pages.
In case you were wondering about the new Magenta colour, then I did give Blue a try at first, but this I considered too dark compared to the Black text. Next up I tried Cyan, a much lighter shade of Blue, but this I considered too bland to use.
And so the third choice was Magenta, which has a suitable brightness and shade.
Best of all is that even with this one menu, then such site visitors can still get around my site.
There are still two issues that I will have to check on and see if these cause any problems, when during this change I removed both the Alt name and the pre-stated image sizes. That was done simply to reduce the text volume being used, but I am not sure if there will be any issues involved here.
Since it looks good to me in both MIE and NN, then that is why I have it as it currently is.
The other problem is that within this new code is a function designed to load in all those Magenta buttons before they are needed, but if this is working as it should I cannot yet say. I will save you the technical details this time and simply say that there may or may not be a string formatting issue, which may prevent this procedure from working as it should.
That is why this preload function is only called from the Welcome page at this time. If I added this to all the other pages, then that will require updating and uploading all those 76 pages again. However, I do have one idea to avoid this, when I can simply call this procedure during the menu creation instead.
Anyway, I hope that you like my new animated menu, when I always wanted to do that and just had to find the right code to do so first.
The other thing that I was wondering was if I could make a seasonal menu system as well, like with a special one for the Xmas Holiday, Easter and of course Halloween. After all there could be a lot that can be done beyond the 256 colour GIF limit, when I can change to other image formats no problem,
Maybe I should hold another competition like my previous banner one, when other people can sure create better themed images than myself. I will keep that in mind in future months, but there is no rush at this time.
Since this change could take a long time, then it could be a few days before my next News update, but then you never know, when this code change may also go quickly.
10th of February, 2004
I have now greatly improved the current on-line order processing PHP code, where at last I have figured out No2's PHP code and now know enough to make good use of it.
One problem that I had with understanding this code early on was that No2 has wrote it so that it constantly switched between PHP and HTML all the time, which caused the problem that code that worked fine in one section did not work in the other section.
By keeping all the HTML code generation within PHP I still lowed the file size despite the added formatting. And as you can see this Order Form section is now in colour. Why No2 did not add colour before I do not know, but the boring black and white is now gone.
Another problem I had understanding No2's code was his use of the <VAR> statement, which due to the poor formatting of this code were sometimes terminated in the respective </VAR> statement and sometimes was not. I don't know if that was important, but it was certainly unhelpful in understanding this code.
What I mean is that these damned <VAR> statements could begin and end anywhere, like for example starting in the PHP code section and ending in the middle of a HTML write string. Worst of all I had no idea what these PHP commands were for, where I only found that out when I removed them.
The answer to this unusual command, which I had assumed where something to do with variables to begin with, where actually used for formatting the text into Italic. As it seems that No2 when he wrote this code was not aware of the HTML command to do the same thing, which is of course the <I> and </I> statements. For example "hello world!".
Since these PHP lines are writing HTML code anyway, then that is why <I> is now being used for formatting and <VAR> has been removed. Just not the best idea to use <VAR> in that manner anyway, which was No2's crimes against my on-line order processing system.
Well when working in a new language on a new program, then it takes like three rewrites to get it working as should do. So no doubt No2 would have got there in the end had he not departed to work elsewhere about a year and a half ago.
Another section I improved were the lines that constantly asked if such and such payment option was selected, where by adding this formatting choice into an array, then so could this code section be replaced with a single line. That was my largest reduction in code size I should add.
The final issue that No2 created was to force people paying on-line to use the first line on my Order Forms, which of course should be an optional choice. As if the first line was not used, then so would No2's code error with "no items selected".
Naturally, since it is common for people to start from the top anyway, then so would this problem be rarely seen, when I certainly never noticed it. However, this problem is now fixed, when you now do not have to use the first line, when only by selecting no items will that error now be displayed.
I still have to tidy up this code and to get things perfect, but next up for this PHP code is to do a complete recalculation of your order total. That is of course ideal when the server can count correctly, while not every customer's browser can do the same.
However, before I get around to that large task, then I have been improving several other things.
The first of those is that the Euro version of my Order Forms has not one on-line payment option now, but two of them, which for this currency is close to a miracle.
I decided to add PayPal support for the Euro currency simply because I could, which is despite some cost issues in doing so. What I mean is that already PayPal's 4.5% charge is the highest that I have to pay through any payment service, where quite simply PayPal are exploiting their leading market position.
The second factor is that PayPal refuse to allow me to withdraw funds in the Euro to a Euro bank account, let alone my very own Euro bank account here in the UK. For that reason if I ever withdraw these funds, then PayPal will also slap on their own special currency conversion rate.
I can of course withdraw my US Dollar funds to a US bank account no problem, had I not been spending this money directly from my PayPal account without a major need so far. What PayPal seems to overlook is that the UK is part of the EU as well, where EU directives and regulations are aimed to help support services dealing with the Euro in EU countries not yet part of Euroland.
More directly, then many if not most UK businesses are happy to accept the Euro as a second currency, when after all doing so adds support for a major part of Europe, not to forget that we may one day even have this currency ourselves.
And so PayPal not offering UK customers (and other EU non-Euroland customers) a chance to debit their collected Euros to a Euro bank account is obviously ignoring the financial situation that exists in this part of a World.
However, despite PayPal's high charges and lack of a real Euro service, then I did have one idea on how to minimise charges using this system. As if I also spend this Euro money directly from my PayPal account, then so will there be no currency transfer charge.
Although I am generally unhappy with PayPal's charges as it is, but adding PayPal support for the Euro should hopefully prove as popular as the Sterling and US Dollar versions were.
While I am on the PayPal subject, then I do have one other issue with them. As I discovered recently that when you add a bank account to their system, then so does it not allow you to specify the account name.
What it instead does is to use the name that the PayPal account is in, which for me is of course my business name of "Cardman". That is fine for the single bank account that actually uses this name, but every other bank account that I have makes use of my real name.
One reason for that is because these useful banking services do not provide business accounts, even if many customers like myself still use them for business purposes. For example my three different currency accounts at Citibank all use my real name, where also my future US Dollar account in the US will also use my real name.
The problem here is that if I change my PayPal account to use my real name, then some customer's will start to wonder "just who is that then?", when they could consider it an error to pay anyone other than "Cardman".
So it seems that the way to tackle this problem is that whenever I wish to debit funds to other than my main business bank account, is to quickly change my PayPal account name to my real name, start the debit transaction, then to quickly change the name back again.
However, maybe the best option is to make my account read both Cardman and my real name, when then my respective banks can read the appropriate half of this double name. I have no idea if that would actually work out, where of course PayPal are only happy to charge me a large fee if not.
So once again this goes to highlight what a pain in the behind PayPal is for any business, when sure enough PayPal already knows my real name and have verified it, where do they allow me to attach this name to my bank accounts? No...
The second on-line payment option for the Euro currency is the MoneyMovers service, which is a very promising one for finally moving the Euro currency about between countries. I was going to add this service before, but got stumped at their request to move my Euro funds to their Sterling bank account.
Not to mention that Citibank can only send Sterling and not Euro funds to another UK bank, or at least without charging me a high cost for doing so. Still, I have checked MoneyMovers quoted Sterling value of this Euro sum, where the less than 1% difference can be explained through simple currency fluctuations.
Since anything seems cheaper than PayPal, then so did I add the not fully tested MoneyMovers service as well. And their own payment gateway works easily enough, even if they oddly charge me a 2% charge for using it.
That is odd, when anyone doing this transfer from their account instead will save me 2%, which makes one good reason to soon point this out to them. One thing I am sure of though is that I won't add their extra service to this payment gateway option, when doing so would cost even more than PayPal.
I have yet to add a Details page for this MoneyMovers service, when currently it is pointing to the same PayPal one, but I will do that soon.
Next up is that I have now improved the Order Form Information page, which was needed to add mention of these new services, but several sections on this page has been improved as well.
I started looking at how other sites did this, but as I noticed that different sites all use this same code, then so did I borrow it in order to use it myself. I was unsure if it could work with my buttons to begin with, but as it can indeed, then that is why my future menu will be animated.
So I will upload that new menu just as soon as every page is doing this trick as well, where since I feel that I need a third menu colour is needed, beyond yellow and red, then so may that menu upgrade take slightly longer as my many menu buttons run through floodfill in paint.
Although I will then certainly upload this new menu at that point, but some time following I may rewrite this Welcome page to use a CSS stylesheet instead of my current use of abusing tables. That is mostly to see just what is possible, should I desire to rewrite all my site pages using this better option.
However, I think that it will be back on the PHP code first to get this server-based calculation system working, which is no minor task. Anyway, you can see that I have been very busy lately, which is likely to continue for a long time yet.
Today I received a Bank of Scotland £50 note, which is worth mentioning when that makes my first one like ever. Sure I have seen tons of the Bank of England version before, but since most people pay me on-line these days, then receiving cash payment is not as common as it used to be.
And of course in previous years I did not sell items expensive enough to give good odds on receiving these unusual £50 notes. This cash paid for order by the way was for 100 of my FUN4 cards, where 110 FUN4 cards left in the 17:30 postal collection today, when of course under my special offer for this month this customer gets 10 FUN4 cards for FREE.
I even had to double check to make sure that I still made a profit on these cards, where the answer to this question is that due to my extra large FUN4 purchase last week, then that answer is just about.
And in case you are wondering, then my current FUN4 stock is good for several more of these large trade orders, but if demand increases yet further, then I may need to restock near the end of this month.
Still, these FUN4 cards are no problem right now, where if you like this customer wish to have your order dispatched on the same day that it was received, then you should go for it. Cash payment is of course optional, but it is always good to recount such cash funds over breakfast.
FUN2 and FUN6 cards are of course a different matter, when a check of my bank account today shows that these transfers from these on-line payment services made last week have not yet turned up, which means that restocking on these two card types will occur just as soon as they do.
That will certainly be soon enough, but of course even large cash payments like that received today are only minor sums compared to the cost of buying these cards by hundreds or sometimes thousands, which is why I have to collect all my funds into the one location first.
These days I of course use a frequent restocking system on these cards, instead of the old method of buying very many thousands of them at once. After all what with price and market changes, then that explains why I have thousands of SILVER cards in stock currently selling slowly.
So it is better these days to restock frequently in lower volumes in order to keep up with price and market changes, where I just need to improve my just in time restocking system, which sometimes runs in just slightly late mode these days.
Well, there ends my largest News section for a long time, where it is now back to work. You can of course now play with my greatly improved Order Forms, where you are welcome to help lower my FUN4 card stock even further.
9th of February, 2004
Well my work on improving this site continues, when I am now working on improving the PHP code that handles on-line Order Form processing.
I have hopefully now fixed one problem that has been an issue for NoChex payments for some time, which I will now quickly explain.
As to link a payment transaction up to your submitted Order Form, then this PHP code generates a totally random Order Number. This for other on-line payment services is mentioned in both my account with them and with the payment confirmation e-mails from them.
With the NoChex system however there is a problem, when no where either in my account or on the payment confirmation e-mails is this Order Number ever mentioned. So my customers usually see a Order Number: NCxxxxxxx mention during payment, but this number is never once used again.
This number is provided to the NoChex payment gateway through the ordernumber parameter, where NoChex's description of it's use describes it as...
This is an optional parameter that can be used to link an order at your web site to a NOCHEX payment.
Nice idea, but it does not actually work as described. As I discovered long ago that using this parameter fails to allow me to link payments to their orders, which is why for NoChex payments I have been using the backup method.
Why NoChex does not consider mentioning this supplied Order Number on the received payment I do not know, when after all that is what it has been supplied to them for.
I have hopefully now fixed this problem, when the currently working system will pass this Order Number through the description parameter instead. That should then have this Order Number mentioned where it should be, provided that the customer does not edit it away of course.
Currently I am just starting on improving this section of my Order Form code, when during the last few days I have been looking into a different option. What I mean is that running on one of my two sites at the moment is a working shopping basket system, complete with customer database and lots of other features.
I have been spending days checking this out and seeing what it can do, where as I have always feared the system is simply unworkable by being incompatible with my current site. What I mean is that sure I can use it to deal with orders, but by doing so I would lose a list of features far too long to run through.
For example this software is not able to generate accurate postal quotes, when it can do basic scaling and fixed rates only. Next up is that it cannot fully handle all the different VAT options, like with that customers within the EU have to pay VAT unless they are a VAT registered company.
The display aspect is also very screwed; like that it wants to shrink down my photos to a fixed size, like with 100 by 80 pixels. This of course distorts my photos when system shrunk, when I always handle this myself by scaling them down to within a fixed frame size without distorting them.
I have also seen that such a system is only designed to handle the minimal amount of text that many suppliers inflict upon their customers, when adding my own text into this system causes all the formatting basics like lines and paragraphs to be lost. Not of course to forget that you also cannot add a second photo, like with my card's wiring diagrams to each item.
There are many other faults, but in the end it is unworkable without spending months rewriting large sections of this PHP code in order to get it to do things correctly. Maybe I will spend months doing just that, or maybe I won't, but for now it is back to my original system.
One thing for sure is that this reminds me how good my current site is, when most of what is good about it would be lost by using such standard shopping basket software. Thanks, but I prefer to keep complete control over the code on my site in order to get it to do what I want.
Anyway, I am now doing what I said I would do during the last News update, where I am certainly trying hard to avoid any bugs in my new code.
Last up is that I am ordering more FUN2 and FUN6 cards sometime this week just as soon as payment transactions from these on-line services turn up. And of course during this site update there is no delay in the dispatch of orders handled by my No1 worker.
So I will add more News sometime over the next few days just as soon as some important change or addition occurs.
5th of February, 2004
One of the biggest changes is that I first of all ripped out all of the old PHP on-line order processing code and stuck it into a new file. I have never much liked this order form submitting the details to itself idea created by my old No2 worker, which is why now it does not.
Since my on-line order processing section was now working on it's own, then so did I then combine the Sterling and US Dollar versions into the one file. No Euro version yet of course, due to lack of a suitable Euro supporting service, but it is this file that will soon have a total rewrite.
What I am doing in the near future is to have all your Order Totals calculated through server-side processing, which will remove errors that can crop up through the current client-side processing. After all I already know that the server does good calculations, where soon it will be doing all these good calculations all the time.
That will also remove the unlikely possibility of people changing my Order Forms on purpose, which is something that hardly ever escapes detection.
I won't be adding a shopping basket system to this site just yet, when that contains many unknown aspects, either if I make one myself or to simply plug in one. After all I do support a vast array of different payment options, which would be tricky for any system to deal with.
This change will certainly move in that direction though, when server-side processing of orders will allow me to change the interface that submits those details. And following some major research on the technical aspects of shopping baskets, then I may well add a shopping basket interface.
Once that has been achieved, then I could well move on to adding a database. As this aspect will allow for customer and order storage details, under SSL encryption of course, which will make the ordering and tracking process go a whole lot faster.
Anyway, for now you can have a play with my new and improved automatic Order Forms, when one day in the future I will replace those with a not quite so intelligent system that allows the server to do the real work.
One important change that I have now completed is that my Standard Postage option for card only orders have now been removed. I have been wanting to do that for a couple of years, but never quite got around to it until now.
Instead my Standard Postage option will now be allowed for any order with a sub-total of less than £35 (or 60 EUR/USD) excluding postage. That means that all low cost orders can now be shipped by simple old first class mail with no extras.
That solves the two problems in the old system, when first of all other low cost items should have the option of using cheap mail as well. The other problem is that I have never liked the idea of customers sending out hundreds of pounds worth of cards with nothing more than a stamp (or franking impression) on it.
After all if these expensive orders had got lost, which thankfully has not happen so far (touch wood), then you can guess who would get the blame. That explains one other change to my Order Forms, when anyone selecting my Standard Postage option will now be clearly informed of the risks.
Since my Recorded & Insured option costs little more, then I never know why anyone desires to risk expensive orders to the hands of the Royal Mail. This option is of course still available on low cost orders, which is a useful option if you won't be in on delivery day and your order will actually fit through the letter box.
The other thing that happened today was that I took delivery of my largest batch of FUN4 cards for a long time, which will hopefully cover this very popular special offer of mine up until the end of this month. And so if you want FUN4 cards to be with you as soon as the postal system can manage, then there is no better time to place an order than now.
As to not so good news, then I have just ran out of the FUN2 cards, where also my FUN6 card stock totals in at just one. Since I have just blown my bank account on this FUN4 card order, which I considered more important, then I will have to wait for transfers from these on-line payment services to turn up early next week before ordering more.
Well as delayed orders currently stands at one, then this is not too bad as these things can go. And since I suspect that prices with my wholesaler will soon fall on the FUN6 cards, then this option could mean lower card prices.
Everything else seems good enough, which is why I am still working on improving my site.
Anyway, time to go swap in my new Order Forms and to remove the old ones.
2nd of February, 2004
Well my tax work was completed on Friday, when my VAT return was dispatched. My Income Tax return for the past year was dispatched on Thursday after many days of hard work, including restructuring the 4 expenses type columns in my accounts to the 32 columns that they require.
Sorting out hundreds of values was no easy task, but this has to yet be completed for the other years.
Following the completion of my tax work, then I have been trying to sort out that zero grams problem on my Order Forms, which for one reason or another resulted in a major restructuring of the Sterling version of my Order Form.
And so although at first looks it seems no different, but the brain behind this form has just been improved.
Still a long way to go yet in order to finish this task, but I thought that I would put what I have on-line for use now, when it is an improvement on what there was before. I have well tested this new code in order to ensure that it is bug free, but there is always a small possibility that I missed one.
Also you will notice that I have updated the currency rates once more, where this new month means that there is also a new special offer to be had. You can of course find out those details on my Special Offers page.
Since I am still very busy making this site better, including better supporting more browser types, then please still contact me using only my helpme e-mail address during this short time. After all that will be going to the computer that I am using during this site upgrade.
Things will be back to normal soon enough, where with a little luck that zero grams problem should be no more as well. Once this change is complete, then I will upgrade the Euro and US Dollar versions of this Order Form as well.
An extra note...
Well it seems that my new Special Offer is proving quite popular, when I was just printing out the new on-line orders received over this weekend, when I noticed that the orders for my FUN4 cards are already starting to flood in.
Not bad seeing that I only put this offer on-line a couple of hours ago. :-]
I have a feeling that I am going to sell a whole load of FUN4 cards this month, which is why I am already working on ordering more from my own supplier.