How I built my new site

If you’re reading this, you’ll have realised that townoflilesville has a new home – new hosting and a new address. I have to say that buying web hosting was a very good decision – things work here! No longer shall I be forced to compromise on features because ITS don’t have the mod_rewrite module installed! No longer shall I be inundated with spam because Akismet doesn’t quite work! No longer shall I have to wait 2 weeks for support emails to be answered! (Don’t get me wrong, I support the ITS, and I even like them, but free hosting isn’t their main priority). I have been very happy with my current service – Orion Hosting. The support I have been getting is really impressive.So, how did I do it? Well, firstly, CSS layouts are really not my strong point. They get me frustrated and confused, which is why I’m glad I found layoutgala. It’s a collection of 40 fully validating CSS layouts, in percentage, fixed and fluid designs, and it does all the hard work for you, and a reasonable amount of intelligence is required to tweak them to dimensions which work for you.

Having got the template downloaded, I separated the content and the css, and opened the css file in CSSEdit. This is a truly wonderful piece of software – one of the only pieces of shareware I’ve bought, and it’s indispensable for writing and debugging valid CSS. Version 2 adds a live preview window among other things, and I’m really not sure how I lived without it.

When I had the layout sorted, it was time to fire up Textmate. Everybody loves Textmate, and for good reason – I never knew writing HTMl could be so rewarding. First I used dummy text to create the look and feel of the site I wanted, then I used Brett’s WordPress Theme bundle to effortlessly add template tags. At this stage my computer is a bit old and slow to be hosting a wordpress installation locally, so I just uploaded the whole site and told no-one it existed while I tweaked.

So I’d got a wordpress theme working quite happily – but now I wanted photos, books and ma.gnolia links. Implementing the Flickr badge was quite easy, thanks to Elliot Swan’s Custom Flickr Badge API Documentation, the ma.gnolia links were much more straightforward once I’d found the linkroll output html, and the Librarything widget was more of a challenge, but I got there in the end. I also customised my own feed icon for the bottom right hand corner – I didn’t think orange would ‘go’.

So there you have it. A wordpress-themed site, built from scratch, with all the extras seamlessly integrated. It’s my first try at all this, and I’m actually really quite proud of it, especially since it almost-validates (The one error is due to putting the flickr badge in twice – I can’t work out how to fix that one). The CSS validates fine, but I defy anyone to write invalid CSS if they have CSSEdit installed. Finally, I’m tracking everything with mint, which is fun but addictive, especially with the dashboard widget!

Let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

The buy to let market in Anson County

mountain-lake-properties-nc14You can now choose from a wide range of buy to let mortgage deals, including fixed rate, discounted, tracker and flexible schemes. With latest figures telling us that the rental market is booming, it is a great time to speak to a broker who specializes in the buy to let market.

Investing in residential property to rent out in Lilesville can be very lucrative, especially over the last few years where properties have appreciated in value year on year. So if you are looking for an investment plan to buy a house and let it out we can help with your mortgage in seconds.

a-beautiful-house

In the late 90s only a handful of lenders started offering special buy to let mortgages. Now with the market having increased significantly over the last few years most mainstream lenders cater for this market. Buy to let investors can now choose from a vast selection of products but with the offerings varying so much and different lenders requiring different criteria it is wise to talk with a mortgage lender that is a specialist in this field. Not only will theyt give you advise on the best deals around at present but will help guide you through the whole buy to let process.

Requirements for a Buy to Let Mortgage

Generally you will be required to have at least a 15% deposit. The rental that you will be charging for the property will normally need to be at least 125-130% of your mortgage repayments. This is put in place to protect you too since there may be periods when your property will not be let ‘void periods’, either because you have no tenants or perhaps need a few weeks to redecorate before new tenants arrive.

Some lenders have limits to the amount lent on a buy to let property, some are lower than you may think so do check.

How many buy to let properties can I have?

This varies with different lenders, some will limit you to the number of properties you have in your portfolio, others have monetary limits to the portfolio but there are lenders who may allow you to expand your portfolio with no preset conditions except that each additional property makes sound business sense.

Where should I buy?

It is very important that you research your area very well before deciding to purchase a buy to let property. Speak to the local estate agents, especially those that have a letting department within their agency. Find out what the local demand is for, whether their is over supply in the area and which properties are in demand, e.g Flats for professionals or perhaps 3 bedroom house for families because the area has a good selection of schools.

Where can I get help and information?

For all potential landlords the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) is the best place to go. They have a panel of recommended buy to let lenders and their website gives some very useful information regarding the buy to let market for both landlords and tenants and the potential pitfalls you may expect when entering the buy to let market.

What additional costs may I expect?

You will need to decide whether to instruct an agent to fully manage the property or to just find the tenants and perhaps collect the rent. Letting agents charge different commissions for this and you may get a better deal if instructing one on a sole agency basis. Standard rates vary from 10-15% depending on the service you require.

You are also responsible for the upkeep and general maintenance of the property, so some savings kept aside is advisable. Buildings insurance will need to kept up on your property and you may also wish to instruct the services of an accountant or tax advisor, although many letting agents offer a tax service as an additional cost.

Russia with Love

Omega presentation to the Russian Scientific Community

We were approached recently by Professor Howard Ward to write a paper on the design and development of the Omega computer to be presented by him at a scientific conference in Russia.

According to Professor Ward, Russia has shown great interest in the now ageing Risc PC computers, so I wonder what they will make of the Omega, I would imagine they will be very impressed.

Apparently a delegation came over the the UK and they were staggered by the lack of interest shown in desktop RISC technology, so much so that one university now has a Risc PC computer laboratory.

I am not at all surprised that their scientists should be interested in RISC technology which delivers powerful efficient processors, because they have an almost direct equivalent in rocket motor design. Were their technology delivers small lightweight motors which produce a much greater thrust than equivalent western designs.

Arm in digital television

Samsung Electronics has announced that it has built a single chip system for digital TV based around a 200MHz ARM920T processor core, the chip is aimed at high definition TV and set top box markets.

This is especially good news for ARM, who are pushing hard to get its processors into ever wider consumer markets.

Recognition for ARM RISC Processor

Stephan Furber, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manchester has been elected a Fellow of The Royal Society for his contributions to electronics, including his role in the designing of the ARM RISC processor.

Over 1 billion ARM RISC cores has been shipped making it the worlds leading embedded processor design.

Stop the Static


It’s starting to pay off

This is an extract from an email we received from Christian in Germany

Hello,
I just wanted to drop a short note to congratulate you to the articles that can be found in the newsroom. STOP THE STATIC is a good thing, because after messing around with PC, and in recent times Macs, I’m getting interested in coming back to the Risc PC-platform. Compared to anything else it’s really great (I got one of the first Risc PCs here in Germany, but later left the scene because I stumbled across Linux, and the linux-arm23/32 Port wasn’t any use in those times)

IMO there’s really no need for 2GHz CPUs, 553MHz FSBs and all those crap. Lets face it: Most people do word processing and other stuff where the CPU normally doesn’t do anything. The main task a CPU in such a machine is to decode some MP3s, possibly DiVX, or to process a file for the printer.

Add some major design flaws within every desktop PC and you end up with a CPU that wastes a lot of its cycles for nothing (well, to heat up the air around it). And if one opens his/her eyes, he/she will notice that all this Megahertz-megalomania can’t be found at Workstation Developers (such as Sun Microsystems, for example). Not that they couldn’t produce such big machines…

But as always, people tend to look at the outside instead of the inside – give them big numbers they can compare with their friends, and they are lucky. This makes me angry regularly and I decided to (try to) ignore this.

There is no “description” for people comparing G4s with P3s…

Well, anyway, thanks for your ongoing efforts in developing a new RiscPC platform. And please, don’t take people serious who have negative opinions on everything. The Risc PC market isn’t the same as the PC-market. That’s definately a good thing because, just like for Apple, you get good quality that _works_. Real PnP stuff and so on. (Okay, thats the only thing I feel a little bit sorry about: That you use the PCI-Bus. The RiscPC-Bus was great, just insert the card, power the machine up and you’re fine. But I understand that hardware development today needs to look on the mainstream market. And RiscPC-Freaks will have the positive side effect to enjoy cheap hardware within their beloved environment).

BTW: I don’t think that the writing in the newsroom has a negative effect on mircrodigital in general. People see the prototype board – which means that you(r) engineer really made it! That’s really impressive! Take a look on Amiga-Boards: Many companies originally wanted to design a new one, but it took quite a long, and many companies finally stopped their projects.

Keep on going, I want to get an Omega! 🙂

It is our intention to post letters or extracts from letters so that readers can see the growing interest in our products, although I have to warn you that it’s highly unlikely that companies will allow us to use their names for obvious reasons.

The Microdigital USB Podule

For the Risc PC Etc.

It’s amazing what you find in cupboards, especially when your not looking for them. Now if I had been looking for this board it would have been a completely different story, involving a great deal of time and most probably involve some shouting punctuated by the odd swear word or two.

My argument would go something like “look I definitely put the card here so that I would know exactly where to find it, somebody always moves my things, why me”. Anyway you get the picture.

desktop_computer_clipart_-_yellow_theme-svg

We designed this card in 1999 the idea being that developers could plug the card into a RPC to develop drivers. The cards arrival was greeted with a deafening hush and to date I think we had only one enquiry about the card. However we wish the other manufacturers the best of luck with their cards.

Should you buy brand name or go with the cheaper alternative?

It’s really easy sometimes to stick with what you know and never think about alternatives, but with the economy on a downturn more of us are thinking about whether we should try cheaper alternatives to our normal brands as a way to economise. Is it really worth it though? Will the food taste as good, will the shampoo last as long or will the quality be poorer generally and if so will we really notice it.

It seems to me that some things are a pretty safe bet and yet when I’ve tried them, I’ve still found myself disappointed. Others, I’ve tried with trepidation, and been very pleased with the results and there does seem to be a fairly large amount of trial and error involved. An example of this for me was that cheaper wrapping paper seemed pretty obvious to me when I bought it – after all, you wrap the present, and someone unwraps it and then the paper is thrown in the bin, but sadly it was a false economy as the stuff was so thin you could read the title on the dvd I was trying to wrap, and so I had to use twice as much as I would have of the more expensive paper.

So how do we get it right? I’ve found that discussing things with friends helps, particularly people who I know have similar tastes and values to myself. If one of them tries something different and says yeah it’s not bad, then I think hmm maybe I’ll give it a go. If they say don’t touch it, it’s rank then I’m likely to not bother trying it.

Forums and discussion boards are useful too I think – people can talk about their choices and preferences and that helps everyone. Also I think some people feel a bit self conscious talking to friends about economising, but talking to strangers when you can use a ‘username’ and no one knows you, doesn’t feel so embarrassing.

10-minutes! My bath’s last longer!

In a recent article Ross mentioned buying cheap batteries and having them only last 10 minutes, and feeling disappointed that he’d wasted his money while trying to economise. I find myself going the other way, I buy the rechargeable batteries so that they last – well if not forever then often for longer than the product I’m putting them in anyway! – Ok, it still costs me money on my electricity bill to recharge them, but less than replacing them each time would. I’ve not sat and worked out whether I’m reeeally saving money or not, but it certainly feels like I am by doing it that way, and I also feel I can pat myself on the back because I’m being a bit greener too.

How do you do it? Have you found a way to balance the money saving advantages of the cheaper no name brands with the quality of the brand name products? Or do you think all brand names are just that – names and nothing else?