assorted ramblings of the flashman...


Marketing: The Big Sneeze

Our Marketing Manager at work is on maternity leave right now, so I’ve been handling a bit of the marketing while she is away. I came across a very interesting SlideShare presentation this morning that has some great information about how BrandYourself got from an idea in a dorm room with no marketing budget and no resources to 9 full-time employees with 150,000 customers. They hit a tipping point in which they gained 60,000 users in 60 hours.

It was a very timely presentation as I have been reading a really great book by Seth Godin entitled, Unleasing the Ideavirus. It really helped reinforce what I have been reading and gave me some new thoughts on how to proceed with some new ideas.

If you are looking for some ideas on how to get your message out there check out the slide presentation from BrandYourself and the book by Seth Godin at the link above.

Boat Trailer Blues

Yesterday my family and I went to the Dickson Dam Reservoir for Keilan’s second birthday party. We’d purchased an old boat from my brother last year, but it needed a little engine work. We finally had it fixed and were excited to try it out. The only thing that sat heavy like a lump in my stomach was the thought of the dreaded boat launch and backing up the trailer with a whole bunch of people waiting on me and watching.

I have very little experience backing up with a trailer and I knew I should have practised more. We got to the lake and I was happy to see that there was almost no one there. I thought to myself, “This might not be so bad.” With no one waiting on me, I can take my time. We got the boat prepped to launch, and by that time there were a couple vehicles in line to launch their boats. We got in line and by the time it was my turn, there must have been ten vehicles behind me. The lump in my stomach became a lead brick.

I started to panic a little bit inside. I tried to back up the trailer too quickly and it did not go well. After my third attempt, someone in line behind me came up and asked if I needed some help. I said, “That would be great,” and he patiently came alongside me and walked me through backing the trailer down the launch.

I decided right then that I was not going to pull that boat out of the water until after every last trailer was gone from the parking lot. That way I’d have lots of time and no pressure.

We had a great day at the beach with a couple other families. My plan of waiting until everyone else left was coming along nicely until the thunderstorm started to build in the West. The thought of five kids on the beach or sitting in their seats in the van during a thunderstorm while I waited on all the other boats to leave wasn’t a good one. I waited as long as I could, but the wind and the waves came up quickly and we finally had to get the car in line to pull the boat out of the water.

Backing the empty trailer down was even worse. I tried to go slower this time, but I couldn’t see the trailer out the back window. Again, I knew I should have practised in an empty parking lot before we went out. After a number of failed attempts, another person from the line behind us came and helped me get the trailer down the ramp.

I’ve learned my lesson. Never again until I practice, practice, practice!

Trust Guard and X-Cart: A Sweet Combination

I’ve been working with X-Cart shopping cart software for just over 6 years now and I still have to say that it’s my favorite cart package. Although it took a little time to learn the ins and outs of it at first, with the full source code available, the customization options are pretty much endless, limited only by your skill with php or your budget to have mods built for you by a developer.

Over the years, I’ve tried many add-ons to the base cart software to try and improve conversion rates including more than one trust logo. A trust logo is supposed to make the customer more at ease letting them know that you’ve taken steps to ensure that their credit card information is secure. That being said, you’d think that one trust logo is as good as another. I can now say definitively that this is not the case.

All trust logos are not created equal. I came across Trust Guard in the X-Cart user forums a number of months ago. They made a claim to increase your conversion rate or get double your money back. This was quite a bold offer and they had a 60 day free trial, so I thought I’d take them up on it and try them out. I was not disappointed.

Our site’s conversion rate increased by 20% within a very short time of implementing the Trust Guard seal within X-Cart. As an added bonus, their PCI scanning service is very thorough and provides a report in quite a nice format.

All in all, the addition of the Trust Guard seal to our X-Cart store was money well invested. Trust Guard and X-Cart really is a sweet combination!

3D Acceleration in VMware with Intel Graphics

Though Gentoo Linux is my main operating system, there are still a handful of Windows apps that I need to run in my day-to-day business operations. I’ve been using VMware Workstation to take care of these for quite some time. Over the years VMware has really matured and I’ve generally been quite happy with it. I’ve been able to do almost anything I needed to in Windows on VMware as opposed to Windows on a physical workstation.

With VMware Workstation version 7 coming out not long ago, I was excited to see improved 3D graphics support. I installed the updated version on my desktop system running Nvidia graphics and things loaded up without a hitch. When it came to my laptop running an Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics adapter however, things weren’t quite so seamless. I fired up my Windows 7 virtual machine in VMware Workstation for the first time and got a disappointing message: 3D Acceleration will be disabled along with something to the effect of having a video card that didn’t fully support OpenGL.

Since one, I don’t like error messages and two, I don’t like the idea of decreased functionality in my workstations, I started out on my quest to fix this. The first stop was the VMware logs (found in the folder that contains your virtual machine). On looking through the log files, I noticed some various OpenGL extensions that were flagged as missing. One in particular stood out as it was flagged as required: mks| GLUtil_InstallExtensionLists: Missing required extension GL_EXT_texture_compression_s3tc. A little research showed that this particular extension, S3TC, is not included in Mesa as in some locales it may infringe on software patents. Most of the time, it is not required as most newer games, etc. use precompressed textures with hardware decompression. VMware however checks for this one as it is apparently a prerequisite for DirectX.

To get around this, I installed driconf which allows you to set visual and performance quality settings on OpenGL drivers. On the “Image Quality” tab in driconf, I clicked to “enable S3TC texture compression even if software support is not available.” The long and the short of it is that this will allow support for the S3TC extension to be reported to VMware even if the external third party library is not installed on your system. VMware sees this and then allows 3D acceleration to be enabled.

There is source code for the third party S3TC library available and a Gentoo ebuild for it should be hitting my overlay shortly. It will be found under dev-libs/libtxc_dxtn.

The Stormfront overlay can be added through layman and can also be found here: http://code.google.com/p/stormfront/

I’m Not 25 Anymore

I’ve been coming to a slow realization over the past year or so that I’m starting to get older. Yes, I know that birthdays are supposed to slap us in the face with this fact every year, but I haven’t really felt it that much. Maybe the effects are being amplified by the stress in my job of late and the fact that I get blessed little exercise (partly due to the stress in my job of late). One thing I know, I can’t treat my body the way I did when I was 25 and get away without paying for it.

This is all too obvious to me today as I barely seem to be able to stay awake at my desk. Thursday night, I stayed up until 1 AM working on a Flash banner ad for work. I said to myself, 5 hours sleep, I can function on that tomorrow. Unfortunately, 1 hour later, Keilan woke up colicky and at 4:17 AM I started to lose it. Good thing Christy woke up and she graciously spelled me off.

The next day was better than I expected, but after work I had to drive to Creston to pick up two of my other kids. Talk about a late night. I got into Creston around midnight and was out for 10 hours as soon as my head hit the pillow. Six hours after that I was back on the highway headed for Calgary. Sunday was fairly restful, but not enough I guess.

A good point from the Sermon on Sunday and one I saw again in the Bible story I read my kids last night brought it to realization for me: our bodies were originally designed to last forever, but we broke them when we allowed sin into the world. Wow, is that ever true. I no longer feel invincible like I used to. I’m NOT 25 anymore…

Linux Game Publishing Adds Downloadable Games Service

Linux gamers will now have another way to purchase games produced by Linux Game Publishing. Launched today was the new downloadable games service available through Linux Game Publishing resellers. So far there are 3 titles available in downloadable form with a promise of more to come shortly. Sacred: Gold Edition, X3: Reunion, and Jets’n’Guns can be purchased for download, or rented on a 1 week or a 1 month rental.

On looking at Linux Game Publishing’s reseller Web sites this morning, only Tux Games seems to have the new system implemented so far, with a note on the front page of the Stormfront Ventures Web site that the new service will be implemented soon.

There seems to be a growing trend in the retail video games marketplace toward digital distribution rather than packaged goods. It’s nice to see producers of Linux games moving in the right direction.

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