Author Archives: Michael Gorman

Redirects

We all know the pain of clicking on a link and getting the dreaded “404 Error: Page Not Found”. It usually happens when someone links to someone else’s webpage and then that page is renamed or deleted. The Web is an ever-evolving source of tons of information, so we shouldn’t keep old pages around just to make sure this never happens. But what do you do when you do rename or delete a page? How do you update all those old links?

The answer is: you don’t have to! That’s right – through the magic of web server configuration, we can seamlessly hijack requests for nonexistent pages and send visitors to the new location!

Here, try it out. After you click on this link to the old Office of Student Activities website (http://www.iwu.edu/studact/), take a look at the URL bar in your browser. You’ve been seamlessly redirected to the new page!

But wait – there’s more!

Let’s say you’re making a poster or a mailing, and you want to link to a really awesome YouTube video. You wouldn’t expect readers to manually type in a URL like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FWUp2HCxr8, would you? Of course not! So, what do you do?

Here’s the solution:

  1. Copy and paste the old or complicated URL into an email.
  2. Figure out what you want the simpler new URL to be (and make sure it doesn’t already exist). It has to begin with iwu.edu.
  3. Send me an email!

As soon as I see your email, I’ll add it to the server configuration and you’ll be all set!

Some other examples of redirects we already have in place:

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or comment on this blog post.

Browser Shares

As a web developer, I am keenly aware of many quirks of various web browsers. Many people don’t realize this, but different browsers often display the same content differently. These days, one of the biggest problems holding back cool new features in HTML5 and CSS3 (the latest and greatest in web development) from being widely adopted is the fact that too many people are using outdated browsers that don’t understand that new code.

Once a month, I compile statistics on which browsers have how much usage on the Illinois Wesleyan website. This information comes in handy when I’m developing new apps on php.iwu.edu or writing new code for the site as a whole. I was very encouraged by some of the statistics for December. Notably:

  • Chrome (my personal favorite) is now handling 25.26% of pageviews. Safari (on Mac OS) is at 23.17%. Firefox rounds out the top three, with 20.89%.
  • Old versions of Internet Explorer are declining significantly, while newer versions are rising in popularity. In the month of December, IE9 and IE10 represented 10.50% and 0.30% of pageviews, respectively. IE8 decreased from 8.83% in November to 7.87% in December. The two worst enemies of web developers, IE7 and IE6, are now at 1.36% and 0.04% (!), respectively, and both are on a steady downward trajectory.
  • Mobile browsing continues to increase in popularity, with iOS at 8.67% (up from 6.99% in November) and Android Browser at 1.52% in December.

These numbers are all encouraging to me, and they should be for you, too, as a web content provider. The fact that 88.79% of visitors all run on advanced, standards-compliant browsers means you don’t need to do too much cross-browser testing when rolling out innovative features, and when you do, chances are, everything will work as expected.

IE8, 9, and 10 all do relatively well with new CSS3 and HTML5 features, so checking compatibility in IE8 tends to suffice for me; IE9 and IE10 tend to be somewhere between IE8 and Chrome when it comes to compatibility. Most of the time, if it works in IE8, it’ll work in newer versions, too.

And as for IE6 and IE7 users, well, these statistics are showing me, month after month, that the time I spend fixing things for them is becoming less and less justified. Big changes will still be reviewed in IE7 (for now), but, frankly, I’m not even sure I’ll need to keep a copy of IE6 around for testing much longer. And that makes me incredibly happy.


There are no (ITS-related) reasons for keeping older versions of Internet Explorer around anymore. If you’re one of the people running an outdated version, you can upgrade on your own or contact Help@Ames (x3900) for assistance.

Photo Galleries Made Easy

As the saying goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” While IWU’s Web Services team adamantly opposes skinning any cats in the process of making a website, we’re excited to give you a new way to create photo galleries for your websites. We’ve been testing it out with the Office of Communications for a few months now, and today we’re releasing it for all of our OmniUpdate users across campus.

The basic idea is this:

  1. Upload your photos to Flickr (which many of you have already been doing)
  2. Create a page in OmniUpdate
  3. Voila!

Simple, right? Okay, let’s go through these steps in more detail.

First, you’ll need a Flickr account. If your department already has one, great! If not, we’ll give you access to the main Illinois Wesleyan Flickr account on a case-by-case basis. Just ask Rick Lindquist or Ann Aubry for credentials.

Once you’re logged in to Flickr, upload the photos you want in your album. Put them all in a specific ‘Set’ (Flickr’s term for a group of photos), and make note of what name you give to that Photoset.

Next, go in to OmniUpdate and create a new page. When it asks what template you want to use for that page, instead of choosing the normal two-column or three-column, click on the “Flickr Photo Gallery” option.

On the next screen, you’ll see four options:

  • Page Title (as usual)
  • Flickr Username – If you’re using the main IWU Flickr account, enter iwuphoto. Otherwise, it’s the user name for your departmental Flickr account.
  • Flickr Album Set – The name of the Set you created earlier. For example, this one would be Photo of the Week.
  • Filename (as usual)

On the next page, you should see your photo album. You can edit everything on the page above the album just like normal, and, when you’re ready, go ahead and publish. It really is that simple!

We know there are a lot of photo galleries out there on the IWU website, but we think this one is so much better, both for visitors and for content stewards, that we anticipate this being the main way forward across the site. (It’ll also fix the aspect ratio distortion problem a few of you have seen when using the built-in OU feature.)

We also encourage you to consider moving your existing photo galleries into Flickr, as you have time, to improve the user experience. If you have any questions about this process, reach out to me, Curtis, Rick, or Ann and we’ll be happy to help!

Streaming Video

Over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year, we have been testing a streaming video service, Stretch Internet, for significant campus events and select sporting events. Overall, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback; long-distance parents love to be able to watch their students play football, soccer, baseball, etc., even when they can’t make it to the game in person. We even heard from one mother who watched the beginning of a baseball game in her car when she was running late! (Don’t worry: her husband was driving.)

We have learned a lot in this pilot year. First and foremost, it can be very difficult to do a lot of these events with a one-camera setup. When we did a track and field meet in January, we had a lot of viewers (well above our average), but even though a handful of events were happening at any given time, all we could really show was the track. Every sport presents its own challenges in terms of finding a good spot to set up.

Finding a reliable internet connection is also sometimes a hit-or-miss venture, since there isn’t always a network port right where we need one. Just yesterday, for instance, we had to scramble when, less than ten minutes before the start of President Eckley’s memorial service, the Chapel’s WiFi started to get bogged down. I ended up bringing over a 4G LTE/WiFi hotspot. (We’re very lucky Bloomington/Normal has such high-speed cell service!)

We’ve got a few more events coming up in the next few weeks. You can watch the athletic events at our GameCentral portal, and Commencement will be streamed through our CampusCentral portal.

This summer, we will be undergoing a review with our campus stakeholders, including Athletics, Alumni Relations, Student Senate, and Communications, to decide if we should continue offering the service in the future and who will provide the ongoing funding and staff. Let us know what you think about it: do you watch it regularly? Do you like the look and feel? Any and all feedback will be appreciated, as we really are evaluating every aspect of the program.

Intranet-only webpages – you can, too!

We just made it easier than ever to designate a portion of your website as “intra-only”. All you have to do is make a directory called “intra” and you’ll be good to go! If someone tries to access that directory from off-campus, they’ll see a friendly error message like this, with a link to log in through the campus proxy server.

Forbidden 403 Error

And, to think, all you have to do to take advantage of all this is just to name the directory “intra”.

Copy-and-Paste in Firefox with OmniUpdate

One of the very first pieces of feedback we’re hearing from users about the new content management system is that the copy and paste buttons in OmniUpdate’s rich text editor don’t work in Firefox, but the keyboard commands (CMD+C and CMD+V on a Mac, CTRL+C and CTRL+V on Windows) do work. This is due to a security concern on the part of the Mozilla team.

There is a workaround to enable this functionality, but it is a little complicated and is not officially supported by OmniUpdate, the Mozilla Foundation, or IWU ITS. You can read more about the Firefox plugin you’ll need to do this, AllowClipboard Helper, on OmniUpdate’s support site.

Moving Pages

Ever wanted to move a web page or file, but afraid other people have linked to it where it is now? No need to worry; if it’s on an IWU server, we can set up a redirect!

We use what’s called an HTTP 301 redirect; that’s the same technique used by those nifty URL shorteners (like bit.ly or goo.gl) to quickly and transparently point people in the right direction. It also preserves any “Google juice” the old file might have had.

When you want to move a file, it’s as easy as letting us know!