Wednesday, 9 October 2013

LightNEasy – the best easy to use CMS

I have been using LightNEasy for several years now and have found it a delight after the complexity of CMSs like Joomla, Drupal or Xoops.  I have found very little that I want to do but can’t, although I have had to patch in some other applications, for example a calendar system, from time to time.

Setting up LighNEasy is simple and straightforward it comes with a load of templates which can be used straightaway, or designing your own template is very easy.  I have to admit that I use Kompozer (an opensource Dreamweaver look-a-like) to fine tune the style sheets, but getting a basic design from scratch or converting an old design is really quite simple.

The other thing I find about LightNEasy is that it performs well, it is quicker to load pages than Wordpress, which is probably the next best thing to LightNEasy.

So now we come to the current drawbacks. Fernando Baptista, the builder of LightNEasy has done a fantastic job of building the system, but he has been let down by his hosting suppliers so that the main site has gone down a couple of times for extended periods.  Fernando is very busy in his day job and he is doing a complete rewrite of the system to bring it up to date with modern standards and technologies, so he is not getting time to rebuild the site after the last downtime.  At the time of writing the site is now very basic and the online manual is still out of action.

Because I rely on the manual I made a copy of it nearly two years ago along with a copy of the main site and I have put them both up on my servers until Fernando is able to reinstate the main sites.  You can find these at .

Furthermore if you want a site set up and hosted for you we can do this for you, just go to to make contact.

Best wishes


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Linux is much easier now

It is quite a while since I set up  Linux box and in those days there was quite a bit of fiddling about to do so I concluded that Linux was really for geeks.

However the other day I had a client come in with broken laptop.  The disk was partially crashed so, theoretically, I just needed to ghost the disk and put a new one in.  However the disk was too far gone to get a ghost, but I did get all her documents.  Next step was to reload the system onto a new disk, but she had no system disks, and it being a version of Vista that I didn't have a copy of I was unable to do that.  In discussion she said that she only ever used IE, Word and Outlook and had no desire to do anything else.  The evidence was that she allso used it for her photos.  Although the laptop was old she didn't want to buy a new one, especially as she had just laid out for one for her son.  Perhaps she could borrow that from time to time.

So I had a look at Linux distrobutions and found a site which had a few easy questions which led me to a choice between Suse and Fedora.  I tried Suse, or openSuse which is the free one.  Suse is backed up by Novell who produce professional versions for enterprise so it seemed a reasonable choice.

After burning the iso file to a DVD it loaded into the laptop and worked straight away.  In the set up we needed to set two passwords, and once running we had to enter the wireless password and then set the email client up.  Once that was done she had Email through Kontact (called the Personal Information Manager), Webbrowsing through Firefox, word processing through Libre Office and several different ways to handle her photos.  It looks similar to Vista (because microsoft copied a load of features from the Linux desktop, KDE), and although the behaviour is a little different as you don't need to double click so often, the whole system is an easy transisition for someone who is not computer literate.

OpenSuse comes with a stack of other things as well as those mentioned above, for example the Gimp is included.  The Gimp is an image manipulation program which is pretty well as good as photoshop. Libre Office appears to be a badged version of Open Office, so there is pretty well everything a normal office worker will need.  We have yet to set her printer up but there is a whole suite of HP printer programs included.

The laptop is a Compaq and HP have worked a lot with the Linux community so with an HP laptop and printer we were on a safe bet switching to Linux.  I tried with an Acer machine and that worked straight away apart from the network.  Putting a separate network card into an expansion slot resolved that immediately, but I very quickly found a solution on-line for the inbuilt lan adaptor.  Connecting my network attached Xerox printers was no great problem either as both printers came with linux drivers on the CDs.  the reason I had a spare Acer is that it was one I picked up cheap because it kept freezing under Windows, no such problems under Linux.

I have now started loading other software onto my Acer and, of course, this takes it out of the non geek zone.  however the support from the community forum has been great.  I now have Kompozer loaded and a substitute for one of my favourite programms, Astrogrep.  There is no Astrogrep for Linux, but someone has built a product called SearchMonkey which can be compiled onto Linux (not for the faint hearted!).  I will continue to test this Linux distro as I quite fancy switching to it in the future.

I suspect that Fedora would have been just as good as openSuse, I just happenned to try Suse first.  OpenSuse can be found at and Fedora can be found at

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Alternative Vote ticks all the boxes.

I first met the Alternative Vote system at College many years ago, and my instant reaction was “Why don’t we use that for Parliament?” It immediately struck me as the fairest and simplest way to elect one person to represent a constituency.

What are we trying to do when we elect a member of Parliament? I believe we are trying to find the candidate who will represent the views of the highest number of constituents as possible. But what happens now? We have loads of people running for election, as well as the main parties we have the Monster Raving Loony Party, Church of the Militant Elvis, New Millennium Bean Party, and others who have no expectation of being elected (I hesitate to list UKIP, the Greens, and the BNP because of their recent successes). All they do is draw votes away from the main candidates without anyone knowing whom those voters would be comfortable having as their representative. And so most MPs get elected on a minority vote. I find that unsatisfactory in a democracy where the view of the majority should hold sway, and a majority means more than half.

Better is the way the French used to elect their president. Everyone goes to the polls and votes for the many candidates, the votes are counted and those candidates who are clearly not going to be President are thrown out and a new election held. So everyone votes again, of course most people vote for the same candidate as they did last time, but those who voted for the lesser candidates have to choose someone else, or not vote. The votes are counted and it all happens again. They could go back time after time at great expense and waste of time. In practice, nowadays the field normally gets narrowed to two candidates for the second vote because those who got enough votes to stay in but can see that they won’t win normally back off. However, here is the principle of the alternative vote.

To save money and time the AV system just asks “If the guy you put first gets thrown out whom would vote for in a second round?”, and third round, etc. Now we could of course, after each round, chuck all the voting papers back in the ballot box and count them all again, just modifying those that have first votes for the rejected candidates. That way everyone’s votes get counted the same number of times and no one gets more votes than anyone else (John Reid take note). However that would waste time because we have already counted most of them so we just write the number down again, and add on the reallocated votes by counting those.

This way in the end the person who is elected will have the support of the majority of those who have votes effective for the last round. I say that because in the old French system people who didn’t come back to vote in the latter rounds didn't get counted, I mean how can you count someone who doesn’t vote?

The arguments I hear against AV sound specious to me. John Reid’s argument that some people get more than one vote is specious, because in effect everyone's vote counts in every round – and that’s fair. Those MPs who say it is too complicated astound me because if they think the British Public can’t get their head round such a simple question as “If that person wasn’t standing whom would you vote for?” they must have a very low opinion of us. And those arguing that holding the referendum is so expensive we should vote for First Past the Post just don’t realize that the money has already been spent.

The only reason I can understand that someone might vote against AV is because they think that their team will lose out. In my opinion it is why David Cameron is against it. He says he has a gut feel that it is wrong - David, that feeling in your gut is that your feel sick at the thought of losing out. And it is generally considered that the Conservatives will lose out because of the “natural” closeness of Labour and the Lib Dems. However this is not clear, and at least one survey has shown that the Conservatives may well do better. The problem with judging the effect is that no one has done exit polls on what the second choices were, so we just don’t know.

But one thing we do know is that in a democracy the view of the majority should hold sway and AV will seek out the majority view.

And the other thing we know is that whenever a party loses out in an election it address the issues that made them less popular and adapts to provide the people with a better option next time – and that is what we want - politicians trying hard to provide the government we want.

The facts are that the AV system is simple to understand, simple to count, and delivers MPs who have to appeal to the majority of their constituents. And that ticks all the boxes for electing a single person to represent a constituency.

Best Wishes and Happy Voting


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Which way up will you fly your flag?

When William and Kate marry next weekend you can be sure that a lot of people will be waving or flying Union flags. And many will be flown upside down. Do you know which way up our national flag should be flown?

Look at the corner of the flag that is at the top next to the pole. Running into the corner are two white bands separated by a red band. The upper white band should be broader than the one below the red band, if it is narrower then the flag is upside down.  Wikipedia has a good picture here:

It is a common mistake to make particularly if you buy the flag off a street vendor. The flags sold on the streets and in souvenir shops are mostly made in China, and the Chinese don't know which way up to stick the flag on the pole. This was very evident when Prince William's father married Camila, about one third of the people on the pavements were flying upside down flags, most of them were probably bought on the day from a street vendor cashing in on the day. There will be lots of vendors selling flags for William's wedding, so don't be caught out yourself.

It's Upside Down, Sarah
There have been some classic examples in recent years of people getting this wrong. Peter Mandelson proudly signed a trade agreement with Wen Jiaboa of China in front of an upside down flag. Sarah Connelly flew one upside down as she sang Rule Britannia on the last night of the Proms in 2009. And more recently, Dr Brian Cox, in Wonders of the Universe, stuck a Union Flag on the top of a sand castle which had one side the wrong way up and the other side the right way. So if you do make a wally on yourself of the wedding day, you'll be in good company.

Some readers will be questioning why I call it the "Union Flag" rather than the "Union Jack". The only time a flag can be called a jack is when it is flown on the jackstaff of a ship (the flag pole at the very front of the ship) . Only ships of the Royal Navy may fly the Union Jack, and then only in harbour, at anchor or when dressed overall for an occasion such as the Queen’s birthday. For example HMS Cumberland was flying the Union Jack in Benghazi harbour in Libya recently. Occasionally you will see a vessel flying the "Pilot Jack" which is a union flag with a white border, the best example of this is the Mersey Ferry.  It is illegal for ships other than the Royal Navy to fly the Union Flag, but they may fly the Pilot Jack.

Another a bit of flag etiquette for you is that a flag flown at half mast should not be half way down the pole.  It should be hoisted to the top and then lowered just over one flag’s height to allow for the “invisible flag of death”, which signifies death’s presence, to fly above it.  However the Flag Institute has now decreed that a flag at half mast should be flown at two thirds mast, so you'll probably never see it done properly now.

Best Wishes


Thursday, 10 February 2011

An easy CMS

I keep getting asked about the CMS I use for most of my websites at SME-Web.  It is based on LightNEasy which I find one of the easiest CMSs to use.  Developed by Fernando Baptista it comes in two main flavours, Full and Mini.  The full version uses a database, either MySQL or SQLite, both of which are common website hosting facilities.  But the Mini version doesn't use a database so it can be used on really low cost hosting.  We always use the MySQL version.

Don't expect it to do everything that Joomla or Xoops will do - the clue is in name "Light and Easy".  I am a believer in Keep It Simple Stupid  (KISS) and Fernando's CMS is right in line with this.  It has all the basic functionalities that most people need for website:  Content, Contact, Gallery, Links, Downloads and News (which can be used to blog).  Plus there are a number of plugins which extend the functionality.  And furthermore he allows iframes (he calls it "wrapper") which will allow you to embed other programs like the SuperCali event calendar.

One of the great strengths of LightNEasy is the way it uses templates for the design.  It is dead easy to take an existing design and convert it to a template for LightNEasy. There are quite a lot of templates available on the website, but you can quickly adapt any of the free templates or create your own.  When you get into detailed template design it is useful to have a tool like Dreamweaver to help with the style sheets.  But you don't need to buy one because Kompozer is quite up to the job.

But remember if you want to get on with your work its best to get someone to build the website for you.  If you come to us we can build you a LightNEasy website which you can then maintain with ease.

Best Wishes


Cropping PDF Proofs

I am currently working with The Tower Magazine having just taken over their website.  We have some great plans but I thought I would share with you two facilities we plan to use.  The first is, this is an electronic publishing website which allows us to post electronic copies of the magazine on line and put a link from the website.  if you go to  and click on the magazine cover you will see what I mean.  All this needs is a PDF file to upload, which we get from the printer as the proof document. Yudu have a range of offerings for selling stuff as well but the basic facilities are free (with a small bit of advertising).

However.....  the proof from the printer comes with all the crop and centre marks on - not quite what we want to show the readers.  And this is where another brilliant product comes in A-PDF Page Crop.  This super tool reads the pdf from the publisher, loads in a mask (they call it a rule) and then saves a new version with every page cropped to the mask.  As a monthly task this is just so easy that I raise my hat to A-PDF.  The rule that we used was created by us - having loaded the first copy we clicked on a tool to draw a crop box, easy because the printer had provided crop marks, then a tool to Apply that box to all pages then Crop and Save As... The program then asked if we wanted to save the "rule" for future use .  Well -- duh -- Yes!  This is all made easy by A-Pdf because the tool bar is labelled 1, 2, 3, 4.  4 easy steps to follow.  Next time we open the new pdf, import the rule (that bit could be easier if it remembered previous rules) then crop and save - viola!

A-PDF Page Crop has a load of other ways to define the crop, e.g. automatically crop white space but for the magazine we were working on this was just so easy.  Now while Yudu have a free service A-PDF Page Crop only has a free trial version, however the full version comes in at only US$27 - how much time do you have to save to make it worth it?

The rest of the A-PDF site is worth a walk round too, there are some real goodies there, One I like the look of is the Restrictions Remover.  How often do you get forms that you can fill in but not save?  The UK Government is great at doing that to us, so they make us fill the form in, print it, send it off, then ask us to change something -- on an unsaved form.  Maybe no longer - I thought PDF Typewriter was good but this looks like it will tick a few boxes really well.

Happy publishing and remember that if you want an affordable website call in at

Best Wishes