Experiment in SEO:

Over the last couple of weeks I have been getting up to speed with a few web development frameworks that I’ve been wanting to work on: NodeJS and bootstrap. I had experimented with both of them a little over the last few years, but I never had the chance to actually work on a project, until now.

I had the idea to put together a little website to search for car key replacement batteries when my Mazda 3’s car key was starting to get a little weak. Doing a google search returned some results but nothing definitive, other than a few youtube videos on how to replace the battery. Nothing outright stated that a 2014 Mazda 3 uses a CR2025 type coin battery, so it didn’t give me the confidence that I was actually getting the right battery without confirming it with the car manual. And further more, those youtube videos didn’t give me an option to buy an actual replacement battery.

So I set out to build a new site that would both definitively tell you what kind of battery your car key needs, and give you some cheap options to purchase a replacement battery and I called it The website lets you specify your car’s year, make and model and key fob type (if there is more than one for your car) and it displays the type of replacement battery you need and provides you a list of vendors to purchase the battery from for cheap. The battery database was built by going through hundreds of car manuals (so far only Mazda and Toyota from 1999-2019 is supported) using a Python program I wrote to read the PDFs and extract the battery data. The purchasing options are pulled from Amazon’s Product Advertising API.

The site was built using NodeJS and NGINX with a LokiJS backend for fast searching and Bootstrap to provide a responsive UI. I followed Mozilla’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO to get the basics of SEO to give the site the best chance of being the top Google search result. Specifically, I’m using the following techniques:

  • ‘Meta Description’ tag in header, and all keywords in both the ‘title’ tag and at the top of the page
  • URLs for every possible battery response with the car’s year, make and model in the path. Ex:
  • sitemap.xml with a list of every possible URL so Google knows what to index
  • support SSL, with a free certificate obtained from

I’ve been waiting to see how well this works, but Google hasn’t indexed the site as of yet. This blog post is meant to both give me a way to introduce the site to anyone who is following my website, and to give Google another link to the site in the hopes that they consider this as me vouching for the site which should help its site rank. I’m hoping this little experiment works and that I can generate a few bucks off of Amazon referrals, as well as use it as an example when attempting SEO for other people. I’ll post a follow up once I have some definitive results.


Programming Language Potpourri

At one point this morning I was thinking about what subject to tackle next and I started thinking about all of the different programming languages that I’m currently, actively, writing in at the moment between all of my contract and personal projects. It was getting a little scary when I realized there were about 6 different languages that I write in on an almost daily basis at my contract job, and another 2 that I kind of hack around with at home.

Contract #1

HTML5 Apps
– Javascript using the Sencha Touch and EXTJS framework
– Java for custom native Cordova plugins on Android
– Objective-C and Swift for custom native Cordova plugins on iOS

Main Web app and Webservices
– C# for latest main application and mobile REST services
– VB for previous main application still supported by the client
– Java for a custom web service for solving routing problems using jsprit
– TSQL for database stored procedures

Contract #2
– PHP for dynamic web pages
– Javacript for the usual cool site interaction stuff

84 North Studios Projects
– Python using bottlepy for the site

And a bunch of other things using a combination of all of the languages already mentioned

That list ended up being bigger than I thought it was going to be when I first started writing this post. I had to go back and update the language count in the first paragraph a couple of times.

Listing all those out has started to worry me a bit about how well I actually know those languages. The doubt started creeping in yesterday when I stumbled on Standard JS Style and read through a couple of links. Mainly the part about not using semicolons to terminate a line. I knew they weren’t required, but I didn’t know why or in what situations you’d need to either make exceptions or handle the fact that the js interpreter might get confused (like starting a line with [ ( and some other chars). I’ve since done the requisite reading and now have the knowledge, but that just leads me to think what else don’t I know that I DON’T KNOW? I think I need to start trying to just buckle down and specialize in one or two of these areas that I use a lot and just learn all there is to know. I’m leaning towards javascript, and maybe even dumping PHP in favour of nodejs since I’ve been wanting to use it for a project lately but don’t know for what yet.


Ok Seriously, I’m Back For REAL This Time…

So my last post was well over a month ago, not quite fulfilling the promise of having an active blog. But life has been busy since my fiancĂ©e and I bought a house. And now between trying to find ‘stuff’ to fill it with and getting all our paperwork in order, there just hasn’t been much free time to just sit and write.

So I’ve learned over the last month that adulting is hard, but I’m getting used to it and now I’ll have one more thing to write about here. Maybe this development-leaning blog will turn into a home improvement blog at some point?


My ZazeenTV Experience

In an effort to reduce my cable tv bill to almost nothing, I decided to try out Zazeen TV’s IPTV service. They are offering their skinny basic tv package for $10/month (compared to $25/month the other cable companies are charging), and it included all of the ‘regular’ channels you’d expect to get, outside of sports and movies. The other benefit is with their basic package, you don’t have to also subscribe to their internet package, so I was able to continue using Rogers while I evaluated their service. It also meant that I could keep my free Rogers Gamecentre subscription so I wouldn’t lose out on watching hockey.

Once I subscribed, the set top box arrived in about 4 days. I plugged it in to my router and TV and powered it up. After a quick boot-up I was watching TV over my internet connection for only $10! I was pretty impressed with the technology until I started flipping between channels. Some looked and sounded great (like I was used to with Rogers) but others had visual artifacts and sounded like I was listening to a Skype call circa 2005 (like everyone was underwater).

Since most shows I’d want to watch were all streaming fine I thought I’d be able to live with it. I decided to try out the PVR functionality. It was as easy as plugging in a USB hard drive, rebooting the box and it was ready to start recording. I recorded a couple of shows, and it performed pretty much how you’d expect: recorded the show, played back normally.

In the end though, I ended up sending the box back and cancelling the service. The set top box itself was a bit flakey; it would occasionally just play static out of my speakers and would only stop if I rebooted it or it would reboot itself. This is a problem if you’re recording a show on another channel and your recording just stops because the box goes wonky. Also, the internet here can be a bit flakey as well, and while watching tv a couple of evenings it would just cut out and stop working, while my Rogers TV box kept working.

It’s those couple of things that make it seem like ZazeenTV just isn’t quite ready for heavy TV watchers. While reading through their user forums I came across a lot of posts where people referred to watching TV as something they do once in a while. So for the time being, I’m going to stick it out with over priced cable, and hope someone else starts up a reasonably priced live TV streaming service with higher quality service. Maybe something that works as an AppleTV app so I don’t need a separate box? That would be nice.


Site Update: Instagram

I just published a new update to the site: Instagram posts. In-between regular posts you should now see my Instagram posts that correspond to the date range between the blog posts that they are physically between. I implemented horizontal scrolling if there are more than a page-width’s worth of photos (either swipe with your thumb on your phone or track pad, OR click on the arrow to scroll).


Revival Of The Blog

Hi All!

It has been well over 3 years since my last post. I was doing alright with my 1 post a week rule up until the summer of 2012 when I guess I just gave up. It probably didn’t help that I started including tweets in my blog at some point. I felt like tweeting was a cheap and easy way to add content to the site, but it probably just made me lazy.

I decided recently that I needed to revive this thing, freshen up the look, and to give it some cool features to display what I can do and what I’m all about. So over the next little while, ontop of making regular posts, I’ll be adding some interactive features into this blog that you hopefully can’t find anywhere else, just to distinguish myself a little.

Other than the colour scheme change, and the jQuery type-along header, I’ve made some changes under the hood. The page was designed for mobile first, so if you inspect the source you’ll see some css media queries in there. I converted the MySQL database to MongoDB and it is hosted with mLab (formerly MongoLab). My website is hosted on a Linode virtual server (click that link to use my referral code should you decide to use them), and the website is written, as it always has been, in PHP. I’ll be re-working my editing tools in AngularJS, and I’ll probably do the same for the homepage at some point. I also implemented tagging and better permalink urls for individual blog posts based on the title (click a post title and then look at the URL to see what I mean).

Feature wise, I’m currently working on including my Instagram posts into the feed in some creative way. And I’ll be doing the same with my Twitter posts again as well.

This is probably a good start for now. I’ll do my best to keep on myself to regularly update the site, both with posts and features. I’m working on a lot of different projects at the moment, so I should have plenty of content to keep this place alive.


403 Forbidden pt2: SymLinks Don’t Work After OS X 10.8 Upgrade

Continuing with my Apache woes from 3 months ago, I recently noticed a SymLink I had in my Sites directory was giving a 403 Forbidden error when I tried to browse into it.

Assuming it was yet another thing that got reset with the upgrade, I googled ‘apache follow symlink os x’ and stumbled across this great article Mac OS X, Web Sharing / Apache, and Symlinks.

I followed the first suggestion (adding FollowSymLinks to the username.conf file), restarted apache and I’m able to browse into the SymLink now.


Does RIM *REALLY* Have A Shot At #3?


“We have a clear shot at being the No. 3 platform in the market. Carriers want other platforms. And we’re not just another open platform running on another system. We’re BlackBerry.”

I’ve been seeing this quote around the web a lot today, and it got me thinking… does RIM really have a shot at #3?

My opinion is NO. Carriers may want other platforms, but at this point do any of the smartphone users?

And, yes, having the BlackBerry brand does carry some weight, but so does the Microsoft brand… and at this point, I think Microsoft has a way better chance with their Windows 8 phones than BlackBerry does with BB10.

After trying out BB10 on my Dev Alpha device, I don’t see anything extremely compelling about the OS, other than the fact that it’s NOT BB7.


403 Forbidden: Web Sharing Stopped Working After OS X 10.8 Upgrade

Like a kid on Christmas, I was very excited to get up this morning. Not for presents mind you, but for the release of the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion upgrade.

I wasted no time buying, downloading and installing the upgrade. Everything seemed to go well and within 45 minutes the download and upgrade had completed. Everything seemed to work except for my local webserver which was returning a 403 Forbidden error when attempting to view any webpage under my http://localhost/~john/ web directory.

After some investigation and reading through countless ‘setup apache on Mac OS X’ articles, I found out that the john.conf file was missing from the /etc/apache2/users directory. For anyone who is having the same issue, follow the instructions below to restore it:

1) Open (Can be found in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder)
2) Navigate to the /etc/apache2/users directory.

Use: cd /etc/apache2/users

3) From here, I had a Guest.conf file, but no john.conf file, so I just copied the Guest.conf file and named it john.conf (note: you’ll need your admin password to copy the file)

Use: sudo cp Guest.conf username.conf

You’ll need to change the ‘username‘ part of username.conf to be the same as your username on your mac. This is also the same name as your user folder in the /Users folder at the root of your harddrive

4) Open the new .conf file you made.

Use: sudo nano username.conf (again, replace username.conf with the name of your file)

5) Change ‘Guest’ in the <Directory “…”> tag to your username
6) Press CTRL+x to Exit, and then Y to save changes.
7) Restart the apache server using the following command

Use: sudo apachectl restart

At this point, you should be able to browse your web pages that exist in your /Sites folder of your user directory.

Other webserver extensions may have been removed or disabled by the upgrade. One thing that I had to re-enable was PHP, which I was able to do by following Step 2 on this site.


How Quickly A Year Goes By

It is hard to believe that 1 year ago today I submitted the incorporation papers for 84 North Studios Inc. I want to be able to say that a lot has happened since then, but it doesn’t exactly feel that way. I fell just short of my goal to have 1 app in each major app store by year’s end… my iOS app is still in development and still has quite a bit of time to go until it’ll be ready.

However, I think this next year will be much more productive and will be filled with many more accomplishments. Over the last few months I have been feeling a lot more motivated than I was in the first couple of months since quitting my full time job last year. I think I was in a partial vacation mode, which finally wore off sometime around this April. Also, this second year is starting off with 2 web apps that are more than half-way done, so I’ve got a bit of a good head start.

My main goal for this year is to not only complete the iOS app I had hoped to finish in year 1, but also to release a console game. Microsoft has a pretty cool program for independent developers to release downloadable games on XBOX Live. And since it is part of my Windows Phone developer account, I think I’ll take advantage of the opportunity.