Theme Companion CSS Override Plugin

WordPress rel="nofollow" on Blogroll Links?
WordPress Plugins

We recently set up a WordPress site for the New House Basketball Club in Sittingbourne and we used a theme from iThemes as the basis for the design. Quite a bit of CSS had to be changed to get it exactly how we wanted it so we used the Theme Companion plugin for WordPress to override the bits of CSS that we wanted to alter.
Normally we’d use a Child Theme instead of this plugin, but for themes that don’t support Child Themes, Theme Companion can be quite useful.

On the basketball club site, we had to make alterations like increasing the height of the header and logo area and ‘push down’ the top horizontal menu to compensate for the new height. Here is a sample of what we used to acheive this in the Theme Companion editor: Continue reading “Theme Companion CSS Override Plugin”

rel=nofollow on selected Blogroll links

WordPress rel="nofollow" on Blogroll Links?

I’ve been looking out for something like this for a while now. WordPress by default has a number of (not very useful IMO) relationships or ‘rel’ checkboxes you can select for various link relationships but rel=”nofollow” is not one of them.

All the plugins I looked at put the “nofollow” attribute on ALL links – you can’t select which ones you want.

Turns out you can easily add this option with a few lines of code. Without further ado, here’s where I got the idea and code from for this blog: How To Add “nofollow” To Certain Blogroll Links In WordPress 3.x

Thanks Trainman1405 for the info!

Parent Password for Home Access Laptop

Home Access from Becta Grant
Home Access Grant

At our Kent laptop repair shop, we recently did a complete system recovery on an Acer Extensa 5235 that had a dead hard drive.

This was one of the ‘Home Acess’ computers provided by Becta the now closed government funded grant scheme to help low-income families own a computer.

The client had neglected to make her recovery DVDs whiled the system was up and running.
Usually if we don’t have the recovery DVDs or CDs we can install an OEM version of Windows using the product key on the Windows sticker attached to the laptop, resulting in a nice clean Windows install without all the crap that the manufacturers install alongside Windows. However, the Home Access laptop in our care didn’t have a product key on the sticker.

The license sticker reads: “Windows 7 Pro Natl. Academic Only OA” with a few tracking numbers and bar codes on it. Not very useful for installing Windows!

Luckily we had created a set of 3 recovery DVDs on an identical model that had come in months ago – just in case!

So Windows installed – no problem there, but… When it was time to log into Windows, we were presented with two preconfigured user accounts – Learner and Parent. Learner had no password and was a ‘Limited Account’ which basically means we couldn’t install anything or even update Windows using that account. Parent was a password protected administrator account but we had no password since the client had misplaced the original documentation provided by Comet. Continue reading “Parent Password for Home Access Laptop”

Stupid Laptop Designs

Laptop Repairs
Laptop Repairs

Updated November 20th 2011

Some laptops are designed to be relatively easy to open and repair but others are the absolute pits.

Because we do see a lot of different brands and models it’s not easy to remember which are the ones that are going to need some extra time and expertise to disassemble and repair.

We thought the best thing is to make a note of them here where we can refer to them later and also possibly help other people who are looking for confirmation for: “Yes, you really do need to disassemble the WHOLE laptop to get to the bit you want” sort of thing.

Here I’m going to start on a list of laptops and netbooks that need to be put in the ‘Ridiculously difficult to open and repair for no good reason’ category.
We shall be adding to the list as we come across more stupidly designed models. Continue reading “Stupid Laptop Designs”

Avast + Malwarebytes = ❤

Avast & Malwarebytes
Avast & Malwarebytes

Avast Free Antivirus is a very capable tool which I recommend to my clients.
I know many like AVG as their free antivirus solution but I find the more recent versions of AVG to be very resource hungry. If you stick it on a machine with a single core CPU, it’s like installing the software equivalent of a lead weight.  Avast 6 is still lightweight enough to make just a small impact on performance.

Malwarebytes is the tool to use if you want to clean up a nasty malware infection on your PC. It’s recommended by experts on all the malware help forums. Best of all, you can clean up your system for free! I was so impressed with the detection and removal capabilities of Malwarebytes that I decided I should buy the full version for our in-house PCs. The full version adds real-time detection and malware site blocking capabilities. (We’ve since become resellers of Malwarebytes!)

At the moment I use Avast (free) Antivirus and the full version of Malwarebytes on my main workshop PC. They compliment each other beautifully but they can get in each other’s way if you don’t set them up right. Here’s how to do it… Continue reading “Avast + Malwarebytes = ❤”

Windows 7 won’t Log Off or Shut Down

Windows 7 Shutting Down
Shutting down......still shutting down....

After spending ages disabling things like sound card, LAN, Avast Internet Security, Malwarebytes and everything in MSCONFIG, we still couldn’t get the Packard Bell iMedia desktop to log off or shut down. This was a machine running Windows 7 perfectly for the last six months.

Apparently MSCONFIG cannot disable all third-party services because there were still quite a few running on reboot.

Avast and Malwarebytes were then completely uninstalled but the machine still would not log off or shut down.

Process Explorer was then used to find what else was running when the machine started up in Normal Mode.

Turns out the culprit was something called Rapport from a company named Trusteer. There was no way to disable the Rapport services but once we uninstalled it all our shut down problems vanished.

Hope this helps someone else from wasting a few hours!


* Update- Another Rapport problem on an unrelated system…

Today (25th October 2011) we got a Toshiba laptop in that would consistently ‘blue screen’ (BSOD) everytime it was booted into Normal Mode. In Safe Mode it booted fine. The BSOD referenced: “A Driver has overrun a stack-based buffer

The dump files were analysed and it was found RapportEI.sys was the cause of the blue screen fault. The Safe Uninstall tool from the Trusteer Rapport website was used to uninstall Rapport because the Windows Installer would not run in Safe Mode. Consequent Normal Mode boots successful. (This system is running ESET Internet Security – not sure if this is relevant).

Photoshop – Fill with colour quickly


Back in the day I used PaintShop Pro and I was really comfortable with it. During those years I had a brief fling with Photoshop 7 which left me feeling utterly confused with her seemingly counterintuitive tools.

One of those things I seemed to do really often was fill stuff with the Paint Bucket tool. In PaintShop Pro, this seemed to work as expected and I got so used to the way it works; you just set it to 100% Tolerance to fill the whole layer or selection.

The Paint Bucket tool just doesn’t work that way in Photoshop – in fact it is very similar to the Magic Wand – it just fills with colour the same way it would make a selection. I had some retraining to do if I was going to grow up and move in with Photoshop…

I found out it’s actually quite simple to fill a layer (or selection) with colour in Photoshop – just hold down Ctrl and press Delete to fill with the Background Colour or hold down Alt and press Delete to fill with the Foreground Colour!

Cutting out the Background

Photoshop Background Removal
Cutting out the Background

Photoshop is a powerful tool and a bit like my human brain;  I know how to use only about 10% of it.

Much of this is because there are lots of tools and techniques that I don’t use often enough to remember all the steps required to achieve a certain result.

Clicking the Magic Wand and pressing delete is easy. Some images lend themselves well to the Magnetic Lasso Tool. But there are some images that end up looking like you cut them out with pinking shears no matter how good your Lasso and Magic Wand skills are.

Particularly troublesome are images where you need to cut around animal fur and human hair. The following is a dual tutorial that I found and bookmarked. Rather than using a layer mask, the author uses a colour channel and the burn tool to create a selection that really works well with the right images. Lets go!

My WordPress CMS Checklist

WordPress Checklist
WordPress Checklist

WordPress is great. I’ve tried Snippet Master, PageLime, Joomla, Drupal and various other CMS packages but for some reason I ‘clicked’ with WordPress.

One of the main challenges with creating a CMS website for a client is making the administration back-end or ‘Dashboard’ as user-friendly as possible. A lot of CMS packages overwhelm the end user with too many options and some are just not powerful enough for many websites.

WordPress started out as a Blogging platform and is still very much a blogging platform. Through the various releases of WordPress we can see where it has developed into something a more like a CMS but it is still not a back-end I’d want to hand over to 90% of my clients in it’s standard configuration.

One of the best (and worst) things about WordPress is the Widget functionality. It’s really cool how you can stick widgets here and there on ‘widget-ready’ themes but on the other hand you don’t really want to have to tell your client; “Yes you can put that special offer in the sidebar but you have to learn HTML and CSS to format it the way you want” and “Sure, if you want an image there you’ll have to type the whole path. You want it linked too? OK, just put in one of those little left-angle brackets, then type in A HREF=….”

You see what I mean. YOU know what you’re doing. YOU don’t mind inserting bits of codes into little boxes. Your client on the other hand probably won’t be very impressed with the hoops they have to jump through.
Again, Short Codes, while very handy, are still not completely ready for the end user that wants pure WYSIWYG editing…
People want to see what they are editing, not a piece of code that says your (whatever) will appear here. Continue reading “My WordPress CMS Checklist”

OpenCart | Canonical URLs


*UPDATE – We ditched OpenCart and are about to try Prestashop. This is not a reflection on OpenCart but the client needs a solution that will sync between their Amazon and Ebay shops.

We recently decided to setup an OpenCart store for one of our clients. This comes after years of using CubeCart as an off-the-shelf shopping cart solution for various other clients. For various reasons that I won’t go into here, we decided to go with OpenCart instead.

One of the things I like to do with any site is to make sure we are using Canonical URLs.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a quick description:

Canonicalization is the process of picking the best url when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages . *

For example, I like my URL to be in the format ‘’ rather than ‘ so I use Apache’s MOD REWRITE function to make it change automatically when someone types in the URL without the ‘www’.
This can be helpful for Search Engine Optimisation amongst other reasons. More info at the end of the post. Continue reading “OpenCart | Canonical URLs”