Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lockout for Halo 3

Straight from Bungie.net :

Last week we revealed the second map from the Legendary Map pack (due April 15th), Avalanche. That map is a reimagination of Halo: Combat Evolved map Sidewinder. This week, we're showing the final map from the Legendary Map Pack, Blackout. As its name suggests, Blackout is a remake of the Halo 2 classic Lockout, a cold series of interconnected platforms and walkways. Where Avalanche was retuned, reworked and massaged into something both familiar and unfamiliar, Blackout is a remake in a pretty strict sense of the word.

Producer Allen Murray, Designer Dan Miller and artists Paul Russel and Blake Low answered a handful of questions about Blackout. But who are we kidding, you just want to see the screenshots anyway (keep checking the Gallery as the hi-res versions will be there shortly).


What did each of you do on Blackout?

Allen Murray: I am the Producer for all of the Halo 3 DLC, which means I helped plan which maps were going to be made, when we’d ship them and who was working on them and generally kept them on track. So I was one of the guys early on who said we need to remake Lockout and then managed the process to make it happen. I didn’t actually ‘make’ any of it, but Luke is taking pity on me and included me in the interview process. Thanks, Luke. Also, if any of you have any issues with other DLC maps, you can talk to me directly. My email address is frankie@bungie.com.

Paul Russel: I was the primary environment artist for blackout from concept to completion. I also invented the grommet.


Dan Miller
: Designing odds and ends, I kept stewardship over the level and fixed bugs. There wasn't really a whole lot to do design-wise after the weapons and gametypes were placed. We tried to keep it as close to Halo 2 as possible and let the community Forge it up how they wish.

Blake Low: I was responsible for adding all the little details to the level that made the area seem functional. Things like power boxes, wires, pipes and more.

What’s the fictional setting for Blackout this time? Its predecessor, Lockout, was set on a Forerunner installation.

PR: The setting is a UNSC Antarctic weather station with the completely arbitrary and stupid number z/41, it means nothing. Until the fans write some fictional significance into it and we eventually have to reverse engineer it into our canon. Thanks a lot, fans.

Venezuela is very nice this time of year.

BL: Its predecessor, Lockout, was set on a Forerunner installation. This time around we thought it would be cool to see what a human version of this same map would look like. So we created the fiction of it being a human weather station in the middle of frozen nowhere.


AM
: It’s a UNSC research station set in the Arctic, and I am pretty sure that this is also where all of the R&D on military grade Otter Pop rations took place. Early on I thought it was going to be an oil derrick, but that changed over time. We have some cool racks of glacier core samples, Doppler radar and other pieces of research gear strewn about, which makes for a nice touch – and when you look up to see them make sure you notice the beautiful Aurora Borealis in the sky. There were other, more outlandish settings done in the concept phase, but we’ll keep those secret as you never know when we’ll dig into that bag and pull it out for a future project.

How was the setting for Blackout determined?

PR: Since I got lumped with the 'Forerunner Guy' label and sixty percent of the environments I've built have been Forerunner, I've made a bold pronouncement to never do Forerunner again. That's why it's a human weather station. I wish there were a more interesting story than that.

AM: From my perspective the determination was an organic process based on the direction that Paul just started taking it. He had a really solid idea and it was easy for the other artists to understand it and help make it awesome. We also set the time to be the middle of the night, so it’s dark, but the full moon and ambient light from the facility make the map visible enough that it plays just like Lockout. And that took a lot of tweaking – there were weeks when the map was just too damn dark to do anything, or too light that everything looked washed out and you lost the cool midnight setting. In the end Paul and his cohorts found a really great balance to the aesthetic.

In addition to the aesthetic changes, how has the map changed functionally? It’s a strict port, but there are differences, detail them:

PR: There's equipment now, which changes the dynamic quite a bit, I hear. The original model was a chaotic mess to work in, so I rebuilt it from scratch, keeping only the buildings, which I also promptly gutted and rebuilt. As a result it's probably completely different and you'll all hate it, me and Bungie as a result. Mission accomplished.

Kidding, you'll love it. The kids love Lockout, it's bigger than the Beatles, but with more grenades.

DM: Mainly equipment. We tried our best to keep the weapon layout, gametypes and spawns as accurate as we could to Halo 2. There are a couple of jumps that are easier in this version, but that wasn't by design- they just kind of fell out of how we made this level.

AM: Most of the jumps, even the crazy ones from Halo 2, are there. However a few are tweaked or removed and there is one spot that was altered that makes it less easy to lock down a specific quadrant of the map. Also, the small platforms next to the air vent are at slightly different elevations.

What’s changed between Halo 2 and Halo 3 that affected the remake process?


PR
: Equipment, field of view tweaks, higher resolution, widescreen, Forge and I, Paul Freakin' Russel, am the primary artist. El Dios bendice Venezuela!

DM: I would guess the main change would be that jumping has changed and it made certain jumps easier to make. I wonder if the Assault Rifle's influence also changed how the level plays vs the smg. I think the level plays a little more mid-range because of the Assault rifle.

AM: The general pacing in MP changed between Halo 2 and 3, and the sandbox changed drastically, so that affects all remakes, but for Blackout specifically we wanted to keep things as close as possible to what was built in Halo 2. That means that the biggest changes come from actually gameplay as the way weapons and equipment interact on the map make a game on Blackout so much more different than a Halo 2 game on Lockout.

How is equipment placed on Blackout?

DM: We've decided to go with a 'less is more' attitude with Blackout after some playing around with a bunch of different placements, we've settled on one regenerator, one bubble shield and one power drain.

AM: With such verticality to the map and the narrows spaces, the Bubble Shield is terribly effective for just shutting down certain lines of sight. It’s also fun to toss a Power Drain onto the helipad while everyone is fighting in the middle and just clean up.

What gametypes work best on Blackout?

PR: I don't know. I loathe playing video games.

DM: I enjoy assault, KOTH and team slayer on Blackout.

BL: King of the hill in the red room of death :)

AM: For me, this is just a straight up Slayer map, FFA or Team. The objective games are fun, but this is all about short to mid-range combat and the Assault Rifle is perfect as a starting weapon on this map.

What’s some stuff we don’t know about Blackout’s creation? What was the toughest part to “get right?”


PR
: This is the first time I believe we've tried a full-blown nighttime multiplayer map. Originally I wanted it to take place on the back of a giant llama. I'm still bitter about this.

Maintaining some of the little things that expert players liked to exploit. Those are all gone, now, your pets are dead, go home and cry.

Kidding, we did our best to keep it all in.

I have to go now; I have a busy schedule as I am also the President of Venezuela. Vaya con queso!

BL: Making an environment look cold and unbearable is always a challenge.

AM: We almost didn’t do it because we already have Guardian, which was similar and ‘inspired by’ Lockout. But when I started up the DLC project we gathered a ton of data from the community, looked at the most played maps on Live and did some very unscientific polls on Bungie.Net and other community websites and Lockout was leaps and bounds ahead of every other map in terms of games played and the public demand. It also fits a need in our overall map portfolio to help round out the small maps that are available in Halo 3 and was a great artistic exercise.

The toughest part of making it was trying to be as faithful to the original as possible while also accommodating the inherent gameplay changes between Halo 2 and 3. The second toughest was getting Paul and the gang to fix their bugs on time and making sure lightmaps weren’t screwed all of the time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Call of Duty glitch contest - Win cash!!!

Se7ensins.com is hosting a video contest which has been extended to all games for CASH!!!!

Here are the current entries:

Scar:

Ht117:

dragonz2444:


Venomous Fire (me):


David5534:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

XboxFocus.com

http://www.xboxfocus.com/

This site has great gaming news, great articles, and a nice forum, go check it out!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

FREE PANCAKES!!!!

National Pancake Day is February 12th. Starts from 7am to 10pm. IHOP is giving away a short stack of buttermilk pancakes for free! All they ask is for a small donation to Children's miracle Network or other charities.

For more details visit here: IHOP National Pancake Day - February 12, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Standing up for your rights as an employee

Indeed, the employer has ownership of capital, stocks and other important assets of a business, but without the employees, these capital, stocks and assets would not be turned into new consumer goods or products.

Unless an employer is handling a relatively small business, wherein he or she also has a share in the important aspects of the production or services, it is the employees who has a major contributing factor in doubling, even multiplying the capital and turn it into profits.

Thus, the employee has an inherent right to demand the implementation of particular legal protections from his/her employer. These rights may depend on the capacity of the employer, the state that governs the workplace and the employee's profession in the business.


Here are several examples of basic employees' rights:

- right to be protected from discrimination because of race, nationality, skin color, origin, gender, religious beliefs, pregnancy, age, and disability (in some cases, also involves, marital status and sexual orientation)

- right to work in a place free of harassment

- right to receive minimum wages, overtime payment for work exceeding 40 hours in a week or eight hours in a day.

- right to humane conditions at work and safe and secure workplace

- right to avail leave in case of sickness or to care for a loved one's serious illness or after the birth or adoption of a child

These are among the basic employee rights that must be implemented in every workplace, whether big or small, labor-intensive or not.

However if you think that one or more of these legal rights are being violated by your employer, then you must learn to assert these rights. Not standing up to resolve conditions, which trample your rights as workers, would easily make an employer be more confident in implementing other policies violating employee rights and unfair labor practices.

Here are several ways in handling a conflict to assert your employees' rights with your employer.

• Talking with your employer – having an intelligent and reasonable discussion with your employer can be a big step in resolving the wrongs you think are occurring. Companies usually would want to stay on the boundaries of the law and as much as possible, avoid any legal complications.

Tips on presenting your concerns:

- Research and know your rights in the workplace. This will help you in presenting your agenda with your employer, confidently and clearly.

- It helps to stick to the significant facts of the matter and not stray on trivial issues. Before the set meeting, write down the problems you are encountering and the recommendations you think is effective in order to resolve them.

Let someone look up your lists in order to offer more objective and concrete overview of the things you have listed.

- Do not divulge on emotional outbursts and unfounded accusations since it would not help you in getting your agenda across

- Make sure to come up with certain agreements on the next events to happen regarding the case you presented.

• Following up your initial discussion – check out the progress of your initial agreements during the first meeting and set up another meeting as soon as possible to discuss them.

• Documenting the problem – if talking it out with the employer or representative did not help to resolve your problems or concerns, and your employment status seem to be deteriorating then start documenting your case.

Collate important things that you think would help your claims.

• Do not forget deadlines of legal nature – be sure to know the deadlines of legal actions that is connected with your particular case. Once you have filed a claim or lawsuit, remember all the important dates and deadlines by constantly keeping in touch with your employment lawyer and / or paralegal advocate.


Know more about your employee rights and benefits through the LA employment lawyers of Los Angeles Lawyers website.

Age discrimination: what to do

Employment discrimination based on age is a reality in the workplace. Hence, workers and employees with the age of 40 and above are protected against discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The law says that an employer may not fire, refuse to hire, and treat you differently than other employees because of your age.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to the following:
• Workers and applicants aged 40 and over

• The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

• This includes local and state governments and the federal government. It also includes employment agencies and labor unions.

• It excludes independent contractors or elected officials. It does not usually cover police and fire workers, certain federal employees in air traffic control or law enforcement, or certain highly paid executives. While persons in these positions could be retired on a mandatory basis, they cannot be denied a promotion or training base on age.

• There are exceptions to the ADEA when age is a necessary part of a job. For example, an employer can hire a young person to play the role of a 12-year-old in a play. Most states have anti-age discrimination laws that apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees.

Here are some of the instances where age discrimination is committed:

• The employer wanted a younger-looking person to do the job so you were not hired.
• You were not allowed to take training courses and got a low mark on the evaluation.
• You were fired to give way to other younger workers or applicants who are paid less.
• The employer gave you an undeserved evaluation and used this record to justify firing or demoting you.
• The employer turned down your promotion, and instead hired someone who is younger


What to Do

If you feel like you are being discriminated in your workplace, talk to your employer immediately to see if you can resolve the matter. Otherwise, if the situation goes out of hand, you will have to file a case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to seek redress.

To file a charge, you will have to abide by the strict time requirements of the agency. You must file your charge within 180 days after the alleged act of discrimination. You have to gather evidence yourself and file them personally. Litigation will also take a great deal of time, money and effort.

Who Can Help You

For better results, an employment lawyer specializing in age discrimination cases can help you address the issue. His skills, knowledge, and experience in his area of law practice can give you a better chance of seeking justice that you deserved.



Know more information about what to do in case of age discrimination with the help of an age discrimination attorney

How to ease out after being fired

If you think you have been fired illegally from work, you may file a wrongful termination claim against your former employers. To do this, you may have to hire a lawyer who has the skills and resources to pursue your claim.

When does termination become “wrongful”?

In legal terms, wrongful termination happens when an employer fires an employee for illegal reasons, which include:

• In violation of federal and state anti-discrimination law
• As a form of sexual harassment
• In violation of oral and written employment agreements
• In violation of labor laws, including collective bargaining laws
• In retaliation for the employee’s having filed a complaint against his employer

These violations entail statutory penalties and could result in the payment of damages to you based on computed lost wages and other expenses. Some violations may also result in punitive damages against the company.

How to Improve Your Position

Recovering from the loss of a job is difficult. The following steps may help you improve your position after being fired:

• Do not think negatively or badly about your employer.
• Consult an employment lawyer for advice and representation.
• Review your employment contract and the provisions of the agreement.
• Know the reasons and causes of your termination.
• Request to view your personal file.
• Try to request and negotiate for severance package.
• Confirm agreements of your termination and severance in writing.
• Turn-over company property and follow post-employment procedures.

If you decide to negotiate for a severance package, instead of pursuing legal claims, the following advice may help and further relieve you of burden:

• Receive the news of your termination calmly.
• Take time to think about the offer from your employer.
• Confirm the employer’s terms in writing.
• Negotiate for the continued dental and medical coverage while you are receiving your severance pay.
• Try to stay on the payroll as long as long as possible.
• Ensure that the severance package is not contingent on new employment.


Legal Help

An employer is not required to give severance package to a dismissed employee unless expressed in the employment contract or the employees’ manual. However, an employee may negotiate a severance package in exchange for a promise to waive legal claims against his employer.

In this case, you will need the help of an attorney who can explain your options and which option to take. An employment lawyer who specializes in wrongful termination cases can help you fight for your right to severance pay, damages, or unemployment compensation. His skills and experience will increase your chances of compensation for your illegal termination.

Become more informed about how to react after a wrongful termination with the help of wrongful termination attorneys

Steps to Filing a minimum wage claim

All employers are required by state and federal laws to provide the minimum wage to its workers and employees. If an employer would not comply, an employee may file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner’s office) or file a lawsuit in court against the employer to recover for lost wages.

If the claim is made, the government representative will do the following tasks:

• Meet with the employer
• Access the payroll records
• Talk with the employees
• Assess any possible violations

Enforcement and Sanctions

Under the law, the Department of Labor will require the employer to compensate the worker for back pay. The department also has the power to:

• Fine employers who do not comply with the law
• Prosecute non-complying employers
• Make erring employers pay attorney’s fees
• Make employers pay “liquidated damages”

Many states have their own wage collection statutes that provide for back wages, attorney’s fees, and statutory damages. These laws vary significantly from state to state.
These are the steps to take to obtain your minimum wage claim:

1. Submit claim to the labor commissioner’s office - After your claim is completed and filed, a Deputy Labor Commissioner will determine, based upon the circumstances of the claim and information presented how best to proceed. Initial action taken regarding the claim can be referral to a conference or hearing, or dismissal of the claim.

2. Conference - The purpose of the conference is to determine the validity of the claim, and to see if the claim can be resolved without a hearing. If the claim is not resolved at the conference, the next step usually is to refer the matter to a hearing or dismiss it for lack of evidence.

3. Decision - After the hearing, an order, decision, or award (ODA) of the Labor commissioner will be served on both parties.

Either party may appeal the ODA to a civil court of competent jurisdiction. The court will set the matter for trial, with each party having the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses. The evidence and testimony presented at the Labor Commissioner’s hearing will not be the basis for the court’s decision. In the case of an appeal by the employer, DLSE may represent an employee who is financially unable to afford counsel in the court proceeding.

In pursuing a minimum wage claim, it is best to have the services of an employment lawyer who specializes in minimum wage claims. His skills and experience in handling cases in his area of specialization would improve your chances of success.


Get to know more about filing claims for minimum wage with the help of employment attorney services claims.

What to do after being fired

If you have been fired from your job for no apparent reason, a wrongful termination attorney might be able to help you get your claims. An attorney can help you assess the situation and decide which options to take. You can take either a severance package or a wrongful termination claim, depending on your situation.

If taking a severance package is your choice, here are a few tips before getting into the negotiations:

• Stay calm after your termination

• Think over offers from your employer

• Confirm about your employer’s terms in writing

• Insist on being terminated, not resigned

• Keep on the payroll as long as possible

• Negotiate for continued medical coverage despite receiving severance pay

• Ensure that severance package is not contingent on new employment

An employer has no obligation to give severance package to employees. However, if you are in a position to negotiate for a severance package, try asking for other benefits like:

• Health insurance benefits

• Unemployment compensation

• Outplacement services

• Reference

Here are important negotiating points in order to obtain a better severance package:

• Request for a lump sum payment of your severance, not in installments

• Avoid accepting the employer’s first offer and negotiate further.

• Try to negotiate for a four week’s severance

• If you have relocated, try to obtain relocation allowance.

• Discuss accrued overtime, sick leave and vacation pay.

• If you were fired without notice, ask for two additional week salary for the lack of notice.

• If payments are due, insist that you be paid immediately, and do not waive expected benefits.

Other benefits may also be available to you as a former employee.

You may inquire about the following benefits:

• Bonus – If you are entitled to receive a bonus at the end of the year, ask for it now. If the employer refuses to pay, insist that your termination has deprived you of the chance to receive it.

• Pension and Profit-Sharing Benefits – Be aware of all plans, funds and programs that may have been established in your behalf. Ask about the details of these benefits. Ask your lawyer about your benefit rights if you have just been fired before the vesting of a pension or stock options.

After you have negotiated for your severance package and you feel satisfied with your other options and benefits, you can now decide on whether to accept the company’s final offer or ask your lawyer to obtain additional compensation.

Legal Issues

There are legal issues involved if you have been terminated. Is your termination lawful or illegal? What are the possible causes of your termination? What are the conditions you signed before being employed? Are you still eligible to receive certain benefits? What are the options available to you now?

If you believe you have been unjustly terminated from your job, it is best to take up the matter with a lawyer. An employment lawyer who has the skills and experience in handling wrongful termination cases can improve your chances of getting the rightful claim after unjustly losing a job.



For more information about things to do in case of wrongful termination, consult with wrongful termination attorneys services

What is disability?

People with disability enjoy protection from discrimination at work under the Americans with Disability Act. This federal law applies to companies who employ fifteen or more people for a minimum period of at least 20 weeks.

Under its provisions, employers cannot discriminate against qualified persons with disability in:

• Hiring
• Application process
• Promotion
• Pay and benefits
• Discharge and termination
• Other conditions of employment

People with disability are also entitled to the following rights:

• Medical examinations and inquiries

Employers may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may only be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions.

A job offer may be conditioned based on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job related and consistent with the employer's business needs.

• Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Employees and applicants currently into the illegal use of drugs are not covered by the ADA when an employer acts because of such use.

Employers may hold illegal drug users and alcoholics to the same performance standards as other employees.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or giving statements in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADA.

Legal Definition of Disability

Disability as defined by ADA applies to persons who are thought to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activity including walking, talking, seeing, and learning.

A person with disability enjoys certain reasonable work accommodations which every employer should imposed and comply with. Some of these accommodations are:

• Restructuring of work to allow a disable worker to perform his job
• Giving the employee additional medical leave
• Assigning the employee to a vacant or light-duty position
• Installing special equipment to help disabled employee
• Changing or modifying work schedule to accommodate the employee
• Providing the employee with an interpreter or a qualified reader
• Making existing facilities readily accessible or usable by disabled persons

To encourage the practice of helping people with disability, the government offers federal tax discount or tax incentives to both employer and the disabled employee. This step is also done to promote the accessibility of public accommodations.

Legal Remedy Against disability discrimination

If you believe you have been discriminated about because of your disability, you can have your lawyer file a discrimination suit against the offending party at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As a legal requirement, the discrimination charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. You have only 300 days within which you can the charge based on state or local law.

To help you pursue your case against an individual or an employer, it necessary to hire the services of an employment lawyer who specializes in disability discrimination cases. His skills and experience can help you win your case against disability discrimination at the work place.


For more information about how a Disability law firm can help you, seek out Attorney Services

Lawyers and Lawsuits

Sooner or later you will need the services of a lawyer and/or may be involved with a lawsuit. When that happens you need to understand more about the legal process, types of lawyers and legal jurisdiction to ensure that you obtain the best legal representation available. There are many different types of lawyers just like there are many different types of doctors. Legal matters can be serious and having the right type of lawyer can greatly influence the results that you obtain.

Some lawyers are general practitioners, and can handle routine and non-specialized legal matters. Other lawyers are more specialized and may work in only one or a handful of areas. A specialist has a deeper level of knowledge of the legal statues and case law within their area of specialty. You will usually pay a higher per hour fee to a specialized lawyer, but their expertise will often increase their efficiency and effectiveness. Whether you need a specialist will depend upon you facts and circumstances.

Legal Jurisdiction

In order to practice law, a lawyer needs to pass the bar exam and meet other state licensing requirements. Most lawyers are licensed to practice law in 1 or 2 states. This means that you will need to find a lawyer that is licensed in the state that has jurisdiction over you legal issue. This may or may not be an issue depending upon the law firm that you normally use. Small lawyers are usually licensed in 1 or 2 states. Larger law firms, who have partners licensed in multiple states or nationally may be able to practice law in any state. This is one advantage of using a large law firm. They usually have different departments specializing in different areas of law and have jurisdiction in more states. This means that one law firm can manage all of your legal issues.

Laws and legal rights are determined by the legal rules and regulations as well prior state legal cases. Since the rules and case history varies from state to state, your legal rights can vary significantly depending upon which state has jurisdiction. State licensing requirements ensure that you obtain proper legal counsel based upon the laws of that particular state. A lawyer licensed in New Jersey, may be very effective in his state but completely ineffective to represent you under California law. Legal jurisdiction rules are designed to safe-guard the interests of the consumer and also increase efficiency in the court system.

Types of Law

You only need to look at the yellow page ads to realize that there are numerous types of lawyers and areas of law. In non-routine legal matters, you will want to use a specialized lawyer to ensure that you obtain the highest quality of legal advice. Below are some common types of specialized lawyers:

1) mesothelioma lawyers;
2) divorce lawyers;
3) motor vehicle accident lawyers;
4) immigration lawyers;
5) family lawyers;
6) accident and personal injury lawyers;
7) asbestos lawyers;
8) business and corporate lawyers;
9) bankruptcy lawyers; and
10) employment lawyers.

Upon reviewing the list, it’s obvious that these areas of law are all very different. Divorce law and immigration law are two completely different fields and knowledge of one area will be useless to the other. If you were getting a divorce you would not want an immigration lawyer to represent you. Before hiring any attorney, make sure you know their areas of speciality and their background. Unfortunately, some general lawyers may not admit that they are not the best person to represent your interests in a particular matter.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How to tell its over - For women

Yes ladies, it’s that time of year. Your loser guys are scrambling around turning in their lose change, squeezing their friends for cash, and opening new credit cards, all in an attempt to buy some flowers and a few dollar store items to pass off as serviceable Valentine’s Day gifts. Don’t worry, after that nag-fest you gave him last year for the hand picked flowers and dollar-menu yogurt parfaits he’s bound to do better this year. Don’t expect too much though. After all, this is the guy who reused the “sorry about your loss” card with some words crossed out for your mother’s 50th birthday. So give this list a quick run-through, and decide if it’s even worth putting stock into your man anymore. Maybe it’s better to cut your losses and run…





5) He invites your mother over for dinner.

Three months ago she was a total bitch, now she’s “sweet” and a “good-listener.” Maybe he has just turned it around, maybe he is becoming a better man, or maybe it has something to do with the tummy tuck and boob job your mom had after divorcing your dad. Sure, you love your mom, and you love the fact that he doesn’t complain about her coming over anymore. But it’s not so cool having mom over when she’s in the hot tub with your fiancée… while you were at work. Don’t worry, mom would never do anything to hurt you; although there was your prom date that she kept complementing for having a nice inseam.


4) He claims he got gyped at the drugstore.


Stranger things have happened right? Who are you to argue with this man, he loves you! When he says his 36-pack of Trojan Ultra Ribbed was mispackaged to have 23 condoms you shouldn’t judge him. A good girlfriend wouldn’t ask why his cell phone was off earlier, why he’s had a late lunch at the office three times this week, or why his ex blushed when you bumped into her last week. Of course not! Forget the fact that you’ve never used this brand of condoms, lie down and enjoy his 3 minutes of gyrations. You don’t deserve much better anyways- besides, you’ve been sleeping with his best friend for 3 months.


3) You have to ask him for sex.

Wow! Houston we have a problem! Since when does a woman have to ask for sex? Statistically speaking, men think about sex more than… well to compare it to anything else would honestly be an injustice to the amount of times we think about it every day. Let’s just say it’s a hell of a lot. So why is it that you have to ask him? Well, I could recap all of point number 4, or I could just say that your friend who called you last week lonely because she hadn’t been with a guy in 7 weeks isn’t so lonely anymore. Oh wait- your boyfriend didn’t give you that message? That is so weird!



2) You are at a nice restaurant, and it’s not a holiday, no one has died, and he hasn’t forgotten a birthday.

This guy is guilty as sin! Don’t think for a second this man is ready to get married, this isn’t one of “those” dinners. He probably ran your mother over with your car, got drunk and called your boss, or possibly threw your cat out your apartment window. Don’t panic though, just order the most overly expensive things you can before you explain to him it’s over, but not before you tell the waiter that drinks at the bar are on him while he’s busy in the restroom. Sure, you’ll feel bad if he gets down on one knee in a little bit, but at least you’ll have a funny story to tell your girlfriends next weekend at the singles bar.



1) He says anal feels more “right” for him…

Hey, some guys just love anal; there is nothing wrong with that. But when your man tells you that normal sex is “weird for him,” you should probably re-evaluate the past few months. Maybe it was believable that he was just taking pictures to track his progress for his workouts when you found him in his underwear with Vance. You never expected to find him half naked with another man when you surprised him at home during your lunch break, and come to think of it, is it really believable that Billy needed to play racquetball until 4 a.m. last week? While role-playing was your idea, you most likely had a different idea than his suggestions of wrestlers that fall in love, football players in full pads, or his latest favorite, Skipper and Gilligan.

So there you have it, five sure signs that your relationship is going down the tubes. No one ever said ending this thing was going to be easy, but have some dignity ladies. He may say hurtful things, he may even punch a hole in the wall, but all things said and done you’ve come out on top. Valentine's Day is approaching and you can be the first girl getting hit on by guys who were similarly broken up with by other woman who read this article! It’s the cycle of life, except all that weird shit about plants, animals, and photosynthesis. With any luck this guy won’t use your razor to shave his back hair, wear socks to bed, or sleep with your mom. Even if he does, you can always pull out this list and remind yourself that the grass is always greener on the other side.

How to spoof an xbox 360 drive

Source: http://www.se7ensins.com/forums/hardware-customizations/82304-replace-spoof-xbox-360-dvd-drive.html

Introduction
I just recently had a few 360 dvdrom drives that had died and I needed to learn how to spoof the firmware, drive keys etc etc onto the new replacement drives that I had purchased so here's a tutorial i worked on.

For the tutorial i will be replacing a broken Hitachi 0047 drive with a Hitachi 0046 drive and updating the firmware, keys and spoofing it to match the original drive. You can use this tutorial as a base for replacing/spoofing just about any drive. I hope this helps you all out and explains in more detail to help you not brick your drives.

Required Items
- Original/Broken 360 DVD Drive -OR- Firmware backup (Hitachi)
- Replacement 360 DVD Drive (Hitachi or Samsung)
- Slax (Hitachi 78 and above only)
- Firmware Toolbox 4.5

Let's get started

1. Original/Broken 360 DVD Drive:

Please Note:
If you already have a backup of the original/broken Xbox 360 Drive firmware please proceed to Step 2.

1.1. Connect the "Original/Broken Hitachi DVD drive" to your pc via SATA connection.

1.2. Place the dvdrom drive into MODE B with SLAX or the CrossWire Trick (Hitachi 78 and above only support SLAX Method).

Please Note:
Once you have the drive in MODE B you will notice it will take 3 presses on the eject buton to close the drive.

1.3. With the Original/Broken drive now in MODE B restart your PC and make sure that the new drive has been identified by Windows. Once the new hardware has been found and installed it will be shown in the my computer/explorer area on your pc as a additional dvd-rom drive.

1.4. Insert a DVD Movie or an XBOX/XBOX 360 game into the "Original/Broken Hitachi DVD drive". Even if the laser is nearly dead it may read a dvd-r movie just fine so try it.

1.5. Open Firmware Toolbox 4.5

1.6. Choose 'Tools -> Direct Drive Dump (GDR ONLY)

1.7 On the next screen choose 'RAW DUMP' and save the file as "original.bin". If you have problems with 'RAW DUMP' try 'CLASSIC DUMP'.

eg. c:/xbox360/hitachi0047/606HG324277-may2006/original.bin

Make sure you can identify the backup firmware in future by placing it in a directory that matches the serial number which is located on the sticker of the dvdrom drive. This will make it much easier to identify in the future.

2. Replacement Xbox 360 DVD Drive

2.1. Connect the "Replacement Hitachi DVD drive" to your pc via SATA connection.

2.2. Place the dvdrom drive into MODE B with SLAX or the CrossWire Trick (Hitachi 78 and above only support SLAX Method).

Please Note:
Once you have the drive in MODE B you will notice it will take 3 presses on the eject buton to close the drive.

2.3. With the replacement drive now in MODE B restart your PC and make sure that the new drive has been identified by Windows. Once the new hardware has been found and installed it will be shown in the my computer/explorer area on your pc as a additional dvd-rom drive.

2.4. Insert a DVD Movie or an XBOX/XBOX 360 game into the "Replacement Hitachi DVD drive".

2.5. Open Firmware Toolbox 4.5

2.6. Choose 'Tools -> Direct Drive Dump (GDR ONLY)

2.7 On the next screen choose 'RAW DUMP' and save the file as "original.bin". If you have problems with 'RAW DUMP' try 'CLASSIC DUMP'.

eg. c:/xbox360/hitachi0046/606HG324240-may2006/original.bin

Make sure you can identify the backup firmware in future by placing it in a directory that matches the serial number which is located on the sticker of the dvdrom drive. This will make it much easier to identify in the future.

2.8 When the firmware is backed up it will ask you if you want to open it. Choose "yes".

2.9. Now select "Tools->Spoof Firmware" from the Firmware Toolbox 4.5 menus.

2.10. Choose the version that you would like the fw to report back as. Leave all other options as they are.

Please note:
- Spoofing a drive as itself has the effect of UNSPOOFING it

2.11. Now Click "APPLY SPOOF"

2.12. Choose "Tools->Smart Hack Patcher", a window warning will appear, choose OK.

2.13. Choose the output file name, we suggest calling it "final.bin" and save it at the same location as the original. The ruleset option should be automatically selected for you so leave it alone.

eg. c:/xbox360/hitachi0046/606HG324240-may2006/final.bin

2.14 Push the "Generate File" button, if everything goes fine the file will be generated almost instantly

2.15 Once the file has been generated it will ask you if you want to open it. Choose "Yes".

2.16 The Main Window will show the generated file (final.bin). You will notice that the spoofed information is shown in bold.

3. Original/Broken Firmware Key
3.1. Open the old original/broken dvd drive firmware which you backed up in step 1. Choose the Browse for file button "..." to load the original/broken dvdrive firmware.

3.2 With the old broken dvd drive firmware now loaded you will notice the "Key Information @" area in the center of the 360 Firmware Toolbox application.

3.3 Highlight the entire key and copy it by right clicking your mouse and selecting copy or press Ctrl + C so we can paste it into our new replacement drive.

3.4. Open the replacement dvd drive firmware named "final.bin" which you created in step 2. Choose the Browse for file button "..." to load the firmware.

3.5 Paste the Key into the "Key Information

3.6. Click on "Replace Key" and it will update the firmware with the new key you have just pasted.

4. Check Firmware Differences
4.1. Before flashing the drive i always suggest re-opening the old firmware from step 1. Then open the final.bin firmware you just created in step 3 and make sure keys and other information match just to be safe.

If your happy that your keys etc match then move onto flashing the drive.

5. Flashing the Replacement Drive
5.1. Choose "Tools->Direct Drive Flash->Differential Flash Patch".

5.2. Make sure the Hitachi drive you want to flash is selected

5.3. Click the "Read Drive and Detect Differences" button, after a few seconds the sectors list below the button should be populated.

5.4. It will now ask you if you would like to keep the keys from the drive.. Choose 'No'.

5.5. Click the "Start Flashing" button and choose the flash mode.. I suggest using the 0047 flasher for 47 drives etc etc..

5.6. After a few seconds the flashing is complete.

How to update your Xbox dashboard

Source: http://www.se7ensins.com/forums/softmod/5484-microsoft-dashboard-details-softmodding.html

To make your job easier the Softmod Installer, it is recommended that you use the latest version of Xbox Dashboard which is available (1.00.5960.01). This is how you would check your Xbox’s Dashboard version.

1) Click on the Settings button on your Xbox Dash, press A.


2) Scroll down to the System Info at the bottom of the next menu, press A.


The System Info screen will give you all the information you need to know about your Xbox console including your kernel version and dashboard version.

3) In the system info it will display your Dashboard versions This is a screenshot of something similar to what you will want to see.


The section highlighted in red shows you what your Dashboard version is. If the Xbox is not showing this version, then you will need to update it.

How to Update your Dash
1. Find a game, anything from Halo 2 until now, and put it in.
2. Make sure your Xbox is not linked to your network (remove your network cable from the back of the Xbox if you have one)
3. When the main menu loads, scroll down to XBOX LIVE, click it.
4. This will take you to your MS dash and update it for you.

Written by Nknave for the SID 4.0 Manual and modifed by AzzidReign

How to Softmod with Krayzie's Ndure Installer 1.1.1

source: http://www.se7ensins.com/forums/softmod/20179-softmod-krayzie-s-ndure-installer-1-1-1-a.html

Learn how to softmod your Xbox using Krazyies Softmod Installer. This softmod installer allows you to access LIVE and create new gamertags while keeping your Xbox softmodded.

How to Softmod Your Xbox With Krayzie Ndure Installer
Written by AzzidReign

Requirements:

Newest Microsoft Dashboard: Click Here for more details and possible update procedures. You can aquire the newest Microsoft Dashboard by either going on Xbox Live and getting the updates or getting the Halo 2 Expansion disc and installing the update.

Action Replay:

Buy it HERE!


Must own 1 of these 3 games:


Xbox LIVE! Gamertag: Must have a gamertag on your Xbox before you softmod. If you do not, you will have to use the Extras folder that comes with the installer. View tutorial here

Krayzie's Softmod Installer Files:
Splinter Cell NTSC
Splinter Cell Pal
007 - AUF
Mech Assault 1
Having troubles downloading from Rapidshare.com? Check out this tutorial: http://www.se7ensins.com/forums/misc...apidshare.html

NOTE: When you are done downloading, make sure to unrar/unpack the files. NEVER UNPACK THE UDATA WHEN YOU SEE IT.


Getting your gamesaves on your Memory Unit (MU)
1. Install the software that came with your Action Replay (will be referred as AR from now on). If you are confused at what this means, a disc comes with AR, put that in and install it.

2. Plug in your AR USB adapter into your USB port on your computer. Make sure your memory card is in the adapter now.

3. Bring up the AR program. It should look like this (the pictures below show SID installer but it's the same concept, it just won't say SID for the file):


4. Navigate to your Krayzie Ndure Installer folder and in that folder, go to the save folder (for Splinter Cell, there is 2 saves folders) and drag the udata (remember to drag BOTH udata's for SC if thats the game you are using) to the Memory Card (MC) slot on your AR software. It should look like this:


5. Once you have both files on your MC, remove it from the AR adapter and bring it over to your Xbox. Plug it into your controller and boot up your Xbox without a game in the drive.

6. Transfer the files onto your hard drive (hdd). To do this go to the "Memory" screen from the main standard MS Dashboard. When you get into the memory menu, click on the memory card (by pressing left on the D-Pad) and select it by pressing A. When you get into your memory card and find the file, you might have to press the right button on your D-Pad to select the file and then choose copy. Do this for BOTH files or else the installation will not work/start.


Krayzie Softmod 1.1 Tutorial
IMPORTANT!!!!

The 007 version needs to be loaded a certain way in order to get the save working otherwise it will just boot to a black
screen. When you get to the load game screen DONT'T select load game but start a new one. Then when you reached the actual
game (after the cutscene), hit the start button and select quit game, Then go back to the load game screen and this time
select "load game".

Step 1: Now that the files have been transfered to the Xbox, put the game in that you are going to use to softmod with (Splinter Cell, Mechassault, 007:AUF). Each game is different when it comes to how to load linux. Here's the break down:

Splinter Cell: Go to Start Game, click LINUX, and you wont see any check points, but still press A for the Check Points twice. Then the installer should load up. Pics of the process:


Mechassault: Go to Campaign, click Run Linux and that should load the installer. Mechassualt is known to be harder to get the installer loading since it requires a certain edition. Please be sure that when you have 'Run Linux' highlighted, the files description is as follows:
Controls: Normal
Difficulty: Regular
Current Level: Going Down Hard
If that does not show up, then you will have to get a different version or get Splinter Cell or 007.
Pics of the process:


007: Go to Load Mission, then select the Xbox Hard Disk option and that should load the installer. Pics of the process:


NOTE: If it loads a black/blank screen, this means that your MU (memory unit) is corrupting the files. People have been able to fix this by using a different MU to transfer the gamesaves.

Step 2: Click 1st Backup EEPROM
-- Click Yes or OK for the next 2 windows then a new screen will come up and click BACKUP EEPROM

Step 3: I suggest going to SETTINGS at the bottom, get your IP and FTP to your Xbox (view this tutorial to FTP). Once you are in your Xbox, navigate to your EEPROM backup and transfer it to your computer.

Step 4: OPTIONAL: If you don’t have FTP access, then click COPY EEPROM TO MU. This will back up your EEPROM to your memory card (MU = MEMORY UNIT).

Step 5: Click Basic Installation

Step 6: PERSONAL PREFERENCE: I suggest using UNLEASHX (UX) for this step since its more user friendly for beginners. Once you become more advanced, I suggest moving over to EvolutionX (EvoX) since you can customize it more.

Step 7: After choosing one of the dashboards stated above, you will get a message asking to PROCEED. Please, if you didn’t verify your current MS Dashboard BEFORE you started this softmod process, please restart your Xbox and check to see what your dashboard is. If you know for sure its MS 5960, the proceed.

Step 8: It’s going to go through screens, read them to know what is going on and keep proceeding. All that’s going on is the installer is checking to make sure it can move it without running into errors. Once everything is present, it will begin softmodding your Xbox.

Step 9: Once it is done modifying your Xbox, you will get a message saying to turn off your Xbox or press OK. Press OK. Once it is shut off, press the EJECT button to get your game out.

Step 10: You will get a screen that says PRESS A. Press it. Read the message that comes up and click ok.

Step 11: Once it is done making the Shadow C, you will be a completion message. Read each message that comes up after you click OK.

Your Xbox will then restart and you now have a MODIFIED XBOX! Congrats!


Update to Krayzies 1.1.1
Krayzie Ndure Installer 1.1.1 Update <---DOWNLOAD
Unpack that file after you've downloaded it.

Getting The Files Ready
1. In your Krayzie 1.1 folder, you should find an EXTRAS folder. Open it up.
2. Open your Krayzie 1.1.1 update folder.
3. Choose the game you used (SC = Splinter Cell, MA = Mech Assault, 007 = 007 AUF)
4. Copy the contents from your 1.1.1 folder to the EXTRAS folder and overwrite the config.xml. Make sure it overwrites it. If it doesn't, delete the config.xml in the EXTRAS and then transfer over the config.xml from the 1.1.1 folder.
5. FTP to your Extras folder in E:\Apps\
Time to UPGRADE!
1. Go back to your Xbox and restart it.
2. Go to APPS in your modded dashboard and go to Krayzie Extras. All passcodes are button sequence: AYBX
3. Click Update to 1.1.1


Get On Xbox LIVE! (2 ways: coldboot and dual boot)
First, make sure that you have your network settings setup right. Usually people are on an automatic IP, so change your IP setting to DHCP (aka automatic IP). You can find this setting in your MODDED DASH, go to settings, and look for a network setting, in there you will see a setting for your IP.

There are 2 ways for you to get on Xbox LIVE! The first and highly recommended way is to cold boot:

1. Put your game disc in the Drive.
2. Turn your Xbox off
3. Press the power button to turn your Xbox on while the game is still in the drive

This should make it so you do not boot to your modified bios therefore allowing you to get on Xbox LIVE!

The second way is to set up a dual boot system. Do not do this if you are wanting to do the part of the tutorial to enable yourself to create gamertags.

Dual Boot (XBL Compatible)
1. Reload your linux installer (go back into your game to load it)
2. Select Multiboot
3. Choose ‘Dual Retail’.
Now, when you want to go on Live, press the Eject (larger) button. When the dash loads, check to see if the LED is green. If it’s green, you are good to go. Put the game in and you can now play on live.


Create Xbox LIVE! gamertags
1. Go to Apps
2. Go to Krayzie Extras
3. Go to Dual Boot
4. Choose Dual Boot LiveDash

Now when you hit your EJECT button to turn your Xbox on, that should lead you to your Live dash which should give you the option to create new gamertags.

Please click the "Thanks" button and "+rep" if this tutorial helped you out.

Other Useful Tutorials/Links:
How to FTP
FTP to your Halo 2 Maps
How to Mod Halo 2 for Beginners
How to Burn Games
Emulator Downloads
Emulator AutoInstaller

©AzzidReign at http://www.se7ensins.com/

Website Customization: What can we do?




Nowadays, in this trendy world, people get very uptight when they do not look entirely presentable. This would also be the case in web designing.

Every individual would definitely want their website to look good, if not, to the best they can. Here are a few things we could look out for when wanting to create a professional looking webpage.

Color Schemes and Themes.

When designing, always choose matching colors. An example of a matching color would be to have a dark background, with visible words and designs. With the dark theme, try not to mix too many bright colors into the design. What we should NEVER do, is to mix two very different colors, such as purple and yellow. Now, of course, it would depend on the purpose of the website, but those two colors are too striking for one who wants it to look more professional.

Themes must always suit the company or rather, the organization / etc. If the website was made to cater for a food company, it would be wise to stick to that particular category, rather than to revert to a different theme, such as machinery.

Fonts should be used in regard to the formality of the website. A simple sans-serif font would suffice in most cases. Exceptional cases such as design and art groups might want to use fanciful designs and fonts. Of course, that’s only if you know what you’re doing.

Finally, we must always try to think of our visitors, see the way they see. The resolutions and file sizes of the pictures must not be too large in terms of size. This is to allow maximum compatibility and cater our visitor’s needs.

So, planning is something we should always do, before attempting something.

The Key to Better Websites - Design

Introduction

Importance of the latter :

Design, design, design. To put the wonders of a good design into perspective, imagine a when we are purchasing a T-Shirt. First of all, what do we look at? The design of the T-Shirt, of course. Well most people do, other than the material factor. But let’s assume the all other factors are constant, wouldn’t the design or looks, become the key aspect then?

2 ) Design

Putting oneself in another individual’s shoes, as usual. Here are another two situations.

Situation A : A website with good design and breathtaking graphics. (Good color schemes with matching theme), pictures. (Optimum resolutions and relevant) and proper fonts and word sizes.

Situation B : A website inversely equipped with hideous graphics and pictures in terms of resolution, quality and relevancy. (Red pictures with a bright green background) Fonts used were not matching albeit too fanciful. (Too small, artsy font-types)

Situation A, visitors that enter the website are immediately awestruck by the design and artwork. The well placed pictures and designs will somewhat symbolizes the positive nature of the company/website. As we know, most people DO judge by impression.

As for Situation B, the shabby environment due to severe lack of creativity and badly taken pictures wouldn’t exactly help in attracting visitors. Fonts that were hard to be read, let alone comprehended, and mismatching themes in terms of color, isn’t exactly welcoming, is it?

Analysis: Now, the main idea here is to always plan your websites, try to get other individuals for feedback and perspectives. Each mindset might differ, but at least you will get room for improvement. Don’t get me wrong, even a plain website with proper design would generate plenty of positive implications, but the key idea here is to at least maintain an impressionable website.

The Key to Better Websites - Navigation

Introduction

Importance of the latter :

One of the primary implications of a well-organized / good website, is to keep your visitors in the website. A website is definitely created for a purpose, unless intended for personal use, which is the minority. For example, a portfolio website would want to be visited and it’s content viewed. For companies and internet businesses, your website certainly aims to provide product information, to make sales, or somewhat similar. However, most individuals undoubtly prefer visually captivating designs, so on and so forth. It is undeniable that this causes no harm, but one must put himself/herself in other people’s shoes, as to understand how a visitor to the website might think, do and react.

1 ) Navigation

As I said, a web designer has to learn how to think the way your visitors think.

Situation A : Website with good navigation ( 2-3 hyperlinks to target page ), well planned in terms of placement, and design.

Situation B : Website with poor navigation ( takes forever for the visitor to reach his/her target page ), hard-to-read navigation fonts and poor placement of the navigation buttons/bar.

In Situation A, a visitor will always want to be able to access his/her target page. For example, the individual comes across your website, and is interested in the product sold, but wants to find more information. He/she finds the navigation with no trouble, and enters the particular product information page.

As for Situation B, a visitor stumbles into the website, and would also like to find out more information about the product. Unfortunately, due to bad placement and fanciful font-types, the visitor takes forever, or even fails to find the navigation bar. Even when he/she does so, links to the product information are nowhere to be found, (example : home > about > products > product image > etc…[a few more clicks] > product information ).

Analysis : In both situations, wouldn’t a website with characteristics similar to the Situation A be more rewarding ergo better?

Should I Create a Website? Do I Need One?

People always want to follow the latest thing, be it in fashion, sports, that kind of thing. Websites have become a necessity to almost everyone. Companies, businesses, individuals, even young adults have created personal websites with their respective purposes, be it for profit, or for entertainment.

What one must consider, however, before creating a website, are the factors in which must be put to thought before doing so, such as the cost, maintenance, use, web host and so forth.

Firstly, associating with the cost, we must always try to find an affordable host, not spending too much, nor too little. A cheap host does not exactly symbolize a credible reliability rating, but we must always look for value for money deals. Also, regarding the efficiency and server/web host reliability, there are many cases of web hosts not providing the service they had assured other people, some had even shut down and were nowhere to be seen. Keep this note in mind, as if you would like a long-lasting website, this would be the first thing to look for.

Next, would hiring a professional be affordable? Is it the best option? For simple websites, we could always pick up the coding, or even use programs, as it is relatively simple. However, when it comes to more complex coding, and when you want it to do a tad more than just providing information, hiring help in doing so would be the best way. Not only in terms of design, but security is also a key factor in assuring a quality website. If the website also acts as a portal for businesses, security would definitely be the issue here.

So, having considered the things to do before building a website, do we actually NEED one? If creating one would boost sales or promote positive implications to oneself, then by all means, go ahead and do what’s best. Yet again, planning is the key to success, in everything we do.

Is It Easy to Create our own Website? What is HTML?

Creating a website is not so much a feat, if we compare it to the education of other technical skills. Most people tend to give up and pack their bags as soon as they hear the word “programming” and “technical”. They think it`s too much of a hassle to actually learn a whole computer “language”. HTML, the most basic computer language in building websites, is actually pretty simple to understand, as long as we have the interest in learning new things.


What is HTML?

HTML is the acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language. For learning purposes, just think of it as a language that the computer understands. For example, as humans, we were taught different languages; i.e. HTML as a language, is mostly and specifically used to create a website. The web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, will then decipher and interpret the code or rather, language(HTML), and display it in a way we can understand it, just like in a basic webpage.


Coding.

Coding the HTML language might be a bit tough for some people, so we can actually purchase programmes, such as Macromedia Dreamweaver, or even Microsoft Frontpage. These programmes are solely created to help individuals in designing professional webpages/websites.

Furthermore, one could also gain access to online web-builders, website builders that are inbuilt and can be directly controlled from the net. There are many different and specific builders online.

Books and magazines contain guides that can help in offering tutorials and ways to put up our own websites. Even online tutorials are credible, as in the modern world, information technology is the best and most cost efficient way in retaining knowledge, especially in this particular field.

So, you could start and build one right away. If you enjoy coding, it might even become a favourable past-time.

Why you should use graphic templates

When it comes to graphics, most Internet marketers shy away from using graphic templates whether it's ebook covers, website layouts or promotional banners because they firmly believe that by using graphic templates, they are tarnishing their own business. They want to own a unique identity and hence will always find a professional graphic designer to do the job. Well, you're in for a big surprise!

When you purchase a graphic template, you will be able to customize it to an extent or even build a totally new design based on it! What's the point of using the template then, you say? Well, it serves as a source of inspiration and ideas for a totally new design. You can't derive anything from a blank canvas, right?

On top of that, you are actually saving a lot of precious time that you can otherwise spend on more important matters like developing new products or market your products. When you buy a pre-made template, you only need to edit a thing or two to give it an identity of your own, and that gives you more time and flexibility to work on other stuff.

Okay, let's say you argue that hiring a designer to do the job is equally fast. That may be true but don't forget, hiring a professional designer to do a custom design for you will cost you a lot of money. Unless you need a totally unique identity that you are aiming to establish firmly in your niche market, you don't need to get a designer to design it for you.

Not all graphic templates are suitable, so you have to be careful when choosing one. Consider quality over the price, and you're on your way to creating a positive image for your business while saving more time for more productive chores!

Why Hire A Designer?

A lot of online business owners start with no money. They have to do everything themselves -- the preparation of a product, the development of a marketing strategy, the actual building of a website to cater to their product's marketing needs. As their business expands over time, they will find that their simple "homemade" site might not be enough to cover everything, and they will have to take a day or two away to simply dedicate that to the website expansion.

Sounds familiar? Chances are, you're someone who started everything with no money too, so you're pretty skeptical when it comes to giving away your money in exchange for something that you could have done yourself. However, there is a lot more to hiring a designer than just finishing up a job that you don't want to do.

When you hire a web designer to do your job for you, you are doing more than just handing over the "dirty job" to someone else. In fact, by paying a little money, you can let the designer worry about the little annoyances that always evade the main picture and only come haunting when you're halfway through the job. That way, you will be more focused and have more time to spend on your actual business strategy.

On the other hand, the designers you hire a professionals so they are good at what they do. By outsourcing your web design jobs to them, you won't have to worry when problems surface because you can always get them to fix it for you. Again, they will be able to pin point the problem and fix it faster than you probably will be able to.

Also, the work you pay for will turn out more professional than what you can achieve because the designers have been doing it longer than you have. After all, they do it for a living so they have to be good!

So, remember to not just work your business, but grow your business too!

Who Is Your Audience?

Understanding the type of people who visit your site is a very important task because you can use that information to enhance your site to suit them. As a result, you will gain more loyal returning visitors that come back again and again for more.

What is the age level and what kind of knowledge does your audience have? A layman might linger around a general site on gardening, but a professional botanist might turn his nose at the very same site. Similarly, a regular person will leave a site filled with astronomy abstracts but a well educated university graduate will find that site interesting.

Take your audience's emotional state into consideration when building your site. If a very irritated visitor searches for a solution and comes across your site, you will want to make sure you offer the solution right up front and sell or promote your product to him second. In this way, the visitor will put his trust in you for offering the solution to his problems and is more likely to buy your product when you offer it to him after that.

When you design the layout for your site, you have to take into account the characteristics of your audience. Are they old or young people? Are they looking for trends or are they just looking for information served without any icing on the cake? For example, introducing a new, exciting game with a simple, straightforward black text against white background page will definitely turn prospects away. Make sure your design suits your site's general theme.

Try to sprinkle colloquial language in your sites sparingly where you see fit and you will create a sense that your audience is on common ground with you. This in turn builds a trusting relationship between you and your audience, which will come in useful should you want to market a product to your audience.

When Is the Right Time to Redesign?

If you run a website, chances are you often wonder whether it is the right time to do a total redesign of the layout of your website. Here are some points to consider:

Are you thinking of a redesign just for the sake of it? If you answered yes to that question, it is not yet the right time to do a redesign. Remember, a design serves a specific purpose. If you are not sure whether to do an overhaul of your site, keep in mind that your current design might have a specific purpose that you might not know about. You will lose that function if you do a redesign.

On the other hand, if your website has had the same website design since 1990, perhaps it is high time to do a redesign. The last thing you would ever want to happen to your site is when visitors leave your site without taking a look at your content just because the design is old fashioned. If this is your case, here are some points to ponder before doing a redesign.

Redesigning your website is like performing plastic surgery on it. Your website loses its current identity (for the better or worse) and your regular visitors might not recognise your new design at first glance. You risk losing them just because they thought they landed on the wrong page. Hence, it is very important that you retain a characteristic feature from your old layout. Perhaps it is the logo of your site; perhaps it is the same text style for the title for your site.

To play it safe, put a poll on your site to let your visitors do the talking. If they think it is necessary for the website to have a fresh look, give it to them!

Web Design Elements You Should Avoid Having on Your Site

As a web designer, you should design your websites to give your visitors the greatest ease of use, the best impression and most important of all a welcoming experience. It doesn't matter if you had the greatest product in the whole world -- if your website is poorly done you won't be able to sell even one copy of it because visitors will be driven off your website by the lousy design.

When I'm talking about a "good design", I'm not only talking about a good graphical design. A professional web design will be able to point out that there are many components which contribute to a good website design -- accessibility design, interface or layout design, user experience design and of course the most straightforward, which is graphic design.

Hence, I have highlighted some features of the worst web designs I've come across. Hopefully, you will be able to compare that against your own site as a checklist and if anything on your site fits the criteria, you should know it's high time to take serious action!

1) Background music

Unless you are running a site which promotes a band, a CD or anything related to music, I would really advise you to stay away from putting looping background music onto your site. It might sound pleasant to you at first, but imagine if you ran a big site with hundreds of pages and everytime a visitor browses to another page on your site, the background music starts playing again. If I were your visitor, I'd just turn off my speakers or leave your site. Moreover, they just add to the visitors burden when viewing your site -- users on dial up connections will have to wait longer just to view your site as it is meant to be viewed.

2) Extra large/small text size

As I said, there is more to web design than purely graphics -- user accessibility is one big part of it too! You should design the text on your site to be legible and reasonably sized to enable your visitors to read it without straining their eyes. No matter how good the content of your website or your sales copy is, if it's illegible you won't be selling anything!

3) Popup windows

Popup windows are so blatantly used to display advertisements that in my mind, 90% of popup windows are not worth my attention so I just close them on instinct everytime each one manages to pass through my popup blocker (yes, I do have one like many users out there!) and, well, pops up on my screen. Imagine if you had a very important message to convey and you put it in a popup window that gets killed most of the time it appears on a visitor's screen. Your website loses its function immediately!

In concluding this article, let me remind you that as a webmaster your job is to make sure your website does what it's meant to do effectively. Don't let some minor mistakes stop your site from functioning optimally!

Ways To Improve Sales Through Your Website

Anyone who has been marketing online knows that the lifeblood of a business is the traffic of a site. More visitors equal more sales. However, here are some ways that you can tweak your sites with to improve sales without the need to get more visitors.

The first method is to weave in your personal touch in your sales message. Nobody wants to be sold to by a total stranger, but many people will buy what their close friends recommend to them. If you can convince your audience that you are a personal friend who has their best interest at heart, they will be convinced to buy your products. Remember to speak to an individual in your salesletter, not to your whole audience.

The second method is to publish testimonials and comments from your customers. A good idea would be to publish both good and bad comments; that way prospects will be really convinced that these testimonials are real. When prospects see testimonials on your website, they will have the confidence to buy from you because human beings follow the herd mentality; when others have bought and proven it authentic, they will jump on the bandwagon and buy too.

Use visual representations for the problems and solutions that your product offers. Not everyone will read your text copy from the head to the tail, but most people will pay attention to images on your website.

Offer quality bonuses to accompany the product. When you offer bonuses that complement your product, your prospects will feel it's a very good deal and it would be stupid to miss it. Be sure to state the monetary value of your bonuses so that people will be even more compelled to grab your good bargain.

Lastly, ask for the sale! Many people entice their prospects with the benefits of their product, sell to them with stories of how it has solved many problems, even offered killer bonuses but forget to ask for the sale. Give a clear instruction on how to buy your product (e.g. "click the button to buy now!").

The importance of good design

Your website is the hub of your online business; it is the virtual representation of your company whether your company exists physically or not. When you are doing business online, people cannot see you physically like how they could if they were dealing with an offline company. Hence, people do judge you by your covers. This is where a good design comes in.

Imagine if you are running an offline company. Would you allow your salespersons to be dressed in shabby or casual clothes when they are dealing with your customers? By making your staff wear professionally, you are telling your customers that you do care about quality. This works simply because first impressions matter.

Similarly, the same case is with your website. If your website is put together shabbily and looks like a 5 minute "quick fix", you are literally shouting to your visitors that you are not professional and you do not care for quality.

On the opposite, if you have a totally professional looking website layout, you are giving your visitors the perception that you have given meticulous attention to every detail and you care about professionalism. You are organised, focused and you really mean business.

On the other hand, you should also have anything related to your company well designed. From business cards to letterheads to promotional brochures, every little bit matters. This is because as you grow your business, these items become the face of your business. Once again, think of the "salesperson dressed shabbily" anology, and you will get my point.

Search Engine-Friendly pages

There is no point in building a website unless there are visitors coming in. A major source of traffic for most sites on the Internet is search engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Altavista and so on. Hence, by designing a search engine friendly site, you will be able to rank easily in search engines and obtain more visitors.

Major search engines use programs called crawlers or robots to index websites to list on their search result pages. They follow links to a page, reads the content of the page and record it in their own database, pulling up the listing as people search for it.

If you want to make your site indexed easily, you should avoid using frames on your website. Frames will only confuse search engine robots and they might even abandon your site because of that. Moreover, frames make it difficult for users to bookmark a specific page on your site without using long, complicated scripts.

Do not present important information in Flash movies or in images. Search engine robots can only read text on your source code so if you present important words in Flash movies and images rather than textual form, your search engine ranking will be affected dramatically.

Use meta tags accordingly on each and every page of your site so that search engine robots know at first glance what that particular page is about and whether or not to index it. By using meta tags, you are making the search engine robot's job easier so they will crawl and index your site more frequently.

Stop using wrong HTML tags like to style your page. Use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead because they are more effective and efficient. By using CSS, you can eliminate redundant HTML tags and make your pages much lighter and faster to load.

Reducing Load Time Through Image Optimization

Even though more and more Internet users switch to broadband every year, a large portion of the web's population is still running on good old dialup connections. It is therefore unwise to count them out of the equation when you're designing your website, and a very major consideration we have to make for dialup users is the loading time of your website.

Generally, all the text on your website will be loaded in a very short time even on a dialup connection. The culprit of slow-loading sites is mainly large images on your website, and it is very important to strike a delicate balance between using just enough images to attract your users and not to bog down the overall loading time of your site.

You should also go to a greater length and optimize every image on your site to make sure it loads in the least time possible. What I really mean is to use image editing software to remove unnecessary information on your images, and thereby effectively reducing the file size of your image without affecting its appearance.

If you own Photoshop, it will be obvious to you that when you save an image as a JPEG file, a dialog box appears and lets you choose the "quality" of the JPEG image -- normally a setting of 8 to 10 is good enough as it will preserve the quality of your image while saving it at a small file size. If you do not have Photoshop, there are many free image compressors online that you can download and use to reduce your image's file size.

On the other hand, you can opt to save your images in PNG format to get the best quality at the least file size. You can also save your images in GIF format -- the image editing software clips away all the color information not used in your image, hence giving you the smallest file size possible. However, saving in GIF format will often compromise the appearance of your image, so make your choice wisely!

The Pros and Cons of a Flash Based Website

Flash-based sites have been a craze since the past few years, and as Macromedia compiles more and more great features into Flash, we can only predict there will be more and more flash sites around the Internet. However, Flash based sites have been disputed to be bloated and unnecessary. Where exactly do we draw the line? Here's a simple breakdown.

The good:

Interactivity

Flash's Actionscript opens up a vast field of possibilities. Programmers and designers have used Flash to create interactve features ranging from very lively feedback forms to attractive Flash-based games. This whole new level of interactivity will always leave visitors coming back for more.

A standardized site

With Flash, you do not have to worry about cross-browser compatibility. No more woes over how a certain css code displays differently in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. When you position your site elements in Flash, they will always appear as they are as long as the user has Flash Player installed.

Better expression through animation

In Flash, one can make use of its animating features to convey a message in a much more efficient and effective way. Flash is a lightweight option for animation because it is vector based (and hence smaller file sizes) as opposed to real "movie files" that are raster based and hence much larger in size.

The bad and the ugly:

The Flash player

People have to download the Flash player in advance before they can view Flash movies, so by using Flash your visitor range will decrease considerably because not everyone will be willing to download the Flash player just to view your site. You'll also have to put in additional work in redirecting the user to the Flash download page if he or she doesn't have the player installed.

Site optimization

If your content was presented in Flash, most search engines wouldn't be able to index your content. Hence, you will not be able to rank well in search engines and there will be less traffic heading to your site.

Loading time

Users have to wait longer than usual to load Flash content compared to regular text and images, and some visitors might just lose their patience and click the Back button. The longer your Flash takes to load, the more you risk losing visitors.

The best way to go is to use Flash only when you absolutely need the interactivity and motion that comes with it. Otherwise, use a mixture of Flash and HTML or use pure text if your site is purely to present simple textual and graphical information.

Mistakes to avoid on your web template

Website templates are very affordable and they save you a lot of effort and time when you want to create a new layout for your website. However, a lot of people make mistakes in the process of choosing and using a web template and end up with something that was unlike the image they had in mind. Here are some guidelines to help you avoid those mistakes.

The first obvious mistake you should be aware of is using a template that is very popular. If many people use the same template, your website will not appear unique at all and your credibility as a solid, different website will be tarnished. In other words, you will appear generic just like your next-door neighbours.

To whole point of using a web template is to save time and effort. You just change the title and appropriate details and you're done. The biggest mistake one makes is to customize the template beyond recognisation. While that may be good in the sense that you're creating a unique graphic, you're defying the very purpose of using a web template -- saving time and effort.

However, on the opposite side, if a template you purchase is suitable but some changes must be made to suit your site's theme, then you will have to take some time to make the changes. For example, you can find a very nice template that suits your hobby site except the original designer has put an image of stamps in the header. You can find images of garden plants and spades to replace the stamps for your gardening hobby site. However, do only make the necessary changes and don't redesign the whole template.

In some circumstances, some people simply make the wrong choice of templates. This is a very subjective issue but you have to be careful in selecting templates to suit your audience. Do not choose templates just because they are pretty, choose them because they serve your purpose.

Make it easy to buy from your site

Convincing your prospects to purchase from you is a hard job, but have you ever thought that you're making the process twice as difficult for both parties if your prospects are convinced but don't know how to buy from you? No matter how good you are at convincing your prospects, they won't buy if they find the process cumbersome.

First, you will want to check that people can find your order form easily and hassle-free. You can write a clear, concise paragraph to direct your prospects to your order form so that you can minimize the chances of them getting lost. You can also reduce the chances of losing prospects by putting a prominent link to your order page from every other page on your site.

Also, do you offer multiple payment options? Some people may feel comfortable paying via Paypal, some may only want to pay with their credit card and others might want to send a cheque. The more options you offer, the better your chances of covering your prospects' desired payment method. After all, it wouldn't make any sense to sell hard to a prospect only to find that they won't be able to pay you when they want to.

On the other hand, you will want to prove that you are a credible merchant. Is your order form secured using encryption technology? You would want to look into SSL for this. You can also offer a money back guarantee so that people will feel confident about buying from you. How about after sales support? Who do they contact when they have problems after purchasing?

Alternatively, you can add customer testimonials, your contact information, address, and so on to boost your prospects' confidence. Make them feel safe about buying something from you, a total stranger to them on the other end of the Internet.

As a conclusion, it would be very pitiful if you sold hard and sold well to a prospect and something goes wrong when he or she is ready to pay. Eliminate any chances of that to maximize your profits!

Building your mailing list with downloads

A mailing list is the lifeblood of your online business. The old adage "the money is in the list" cannot be true enough -- if you had a targeted list of prospects to contact each time you have a new product, you will be able to save a lot of effort by marketing it to your existing list of targeted prospects.

You can actually build up a targeted list of prospects that are interested in your products by offering a relevant download on your website. For example, let's take a look at a very good example -- apple.com. When you download the free iTunes and Quicktime software from their site, they will ask you to fill in an optional name and email form so that they can send you offers on songs that you can purchase via -- guess where -- iTunes!

In reality, you do not need to offer such a "heavyweight" download such as a full-feature software like iTunes. You can attract prospects equally well with some quality freebies such as a simple report, a free wallpaper, and so on. The important thing is that your download offers enough value for the prospect to be willing to give away his/her own email address to get it.

However, slapping together a simple download and putting a link on your website won't be enough to attract qualified prospects. You will have to do some homework in order for your lead-generating mechanism to work well for you.

First of all, you must place your download form prominently on your website. Preferably, dedicate a page to it and link to that page from every other page of your website. That way, there is no way your visitors cannot find the download page, and when they do, you'll get some of them converted into your prospects!

Also, you have to put a little effort into promoting your download. Explain and elaborate on the values of the download, and why your visitors should download it. You might think why would anyone want to pass on a freebie, but most of your visitors would be too lazy to take the effort to download it because most of their downloads just sit on the harddisk collecting virtual dust. It is hence important to show your visitors why they should download your freebie.

Improving the usability of you website

No matter how brilliant your website design is, if it is hard to reach the content of your site then your site is as useful as an empty shell. Here are some tips to improve the usability of your website to ensure it serves its functions optimally.

The first method is to make sure the typography of your content is suitable. If you have large blocks of text, make sure to use CSS to space out the lines accordingly. The longer a single line of text is, the greater the line-height of each line should be. Also, make sure the font size of your text is big enough to read easily. Some sites have 10-pixel-tall text in Verdana font; while that may look neat and tidy, you have to really strain your eyes to read the actual text.

Make it easy for visitors to find content that they want on your site. If you have thousands of articles on your site and a certain visitor wants to find one single article from that pile, you have to provide a feasible means to enable visitors to do that without hassle. Be it an SQL-driven database search engine or just a glossary or index of articles that you have, providing such a feature will make sure your visitors can use your site with ease.

Ensure that your site loads fast if you do not want to lose visitors. Most internet users will leave a website if it doesn't load completely within 15 seconds, so make sure the crème de la crème of your website is delivered to the visitors as soon as possible to retain their attention.

Last of all, test each and every link on your site before it goes online. There is nothing more effective in tarnishing your professional image than broken links, so be very careful about that.