Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Free Software Downloads

In the past couple of weeks, SofwareLode, a shareware downloads site has been growing in popularity. More and more pages are being pulled out of the supplemental index and the number of page views per day is now into the thousands.

There are a number of reasons for the increase in traffic.

  • Being a shareware directory, SoftwareLode naturally builds links over time as authors link either to the homepage or to the details page for their software packages.
  • As well as an increasing number of links, better internal linking has also helped. Each software details page now links to up to 10 related programs, i.e. programs with the same keywords. Getting more, relevant links to the program details pages helps pull pages out of the supplemental index.
  • Better linking from the homepage into the rest of the site spreads the homepage PR around more efficiently. The homepage now lists top selections in a number of categories. The details pages for the top selections then link to related programs and so improve the rank of lots of the inner pages.
Breaking away from the usual software downloads site categories also seems to be showing some benefit. The antivirus software and free dvd software pages seems to be attracting a decent amount of traffic these days.

As SoftwareLode was launched only 7 months old, I'm pretty pleased with its performance and hopeful of further increases in traffic in the months ahead.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

ADO.Net, DataAdapters & DataSets: What are they?

ADO.Net is Microsoft's .Net interface to databases. Traditionally, to work with databases like Access, SQL Server and the like, you needed to know a fair bit about SQL. With ADO.Net you still need to know SQL commands but some pretty near classes are provided that allow you to hive off the SQL stuff and work with a much easier set of objects when adding, deleting or updating items in a database.

The two major classes described in this post are the DataAdapter and DataSet classes. It wasn't until I'd actually coded some example that the ease of use of these classes became clear to me. I'll expand on the classes in later posts and give some code examples but for now I'm just going to give an overview of their purpose. This picture gives an idea of how the classes interact to allow you (the programmer/ user) to work with a database.

The four items in the picture are:-

The Database

This is something like an Access or SQL Server database. ADO.Net provides classes to handle many different types of database. All the classes inherit from a set of base classes so to a degree you can hide the details of the specific database type from your code.

The DataAdapter

The DataAdapter class is the SQL workhorse. There are a number of different DataAdapter classes for different databases, e.g. OldDataAdapter for working with an Access database. It's the DataAdapter class that does all the work - reading, inserting, deleting and updating - in interacting with the database. All you have to do is build the SQL commands for the DataAdapter to do the work and then let it get on with it's job.

The DataSet

The DataSet is the class you interact with when manipulating data values in the database. The data within a table in the actual database can be thought of as a collection of rows, with each row containing a number of named field values. The DataSet mirrors this view of the database. The DataSet is a collection of DataRow objects, with each DataRow begin a Dictionary of the values in the row where the dictionary keys are the field names.

How do the classes interact?

To work with the data, you configure a DataAdapter instance with the SQL commands to read data, insert, update and delete data in the database. You then ask the DataAdapter to fill a DataSet. You can then change values in rows in the DataSet, add new rows or delete rows. When you've made the changes, you ask the DataSet to get the DataAdapter to reflect your changes into the actual database.

In my next post, I'll give some code examples using the DataSet and DataAdapter classes.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Error reading setup initialization file: InstallShield Problem

Yesterday I had a support mail from a user who was unable to install on Windows Vista Home Premium. I was rather worried about the report since we'd just release SliQ 1.5.1 the evening before and I always get a bit nervous when we make a new software release.

The error the user was getting was "Error reading setup initialization file". Googling for info I found information saying that the error was sometimes reported if the InstallShield package had been corrupted. I tried downloading the lastest installer from SliQTools and tested it successfully on Vista and XP machines here in the office so I knew the live release wasn't corrupt. More research on Google indicated that the problem sometimes occurred if the installer took a long time to download -it was taking over 20 minutes on the user's Vista machine. Luckily the user was very technically aware and was very helpful in trying out different things.

I asked the user to download the installer to a Windows XP machine. This time the download took only 5 minutes over the same office broadband connection as with the Vista machine. The installation ran perfectly. The user then copied the installer on a flash drive and installed correctly on the original Vista machine. That evening the user download and installed correctly on his home Vista machine.

I find it hard to believe but the finger is pointing at the installer package being corrupted during the download process. There's not a lot I can do about people's broadband connection but I may have to think up some strategies for reducing the size of the download.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Getting out of the supplemental index

Back in late summer I reevaluated the linking strategy between my websites. Up until then I'd used my main site to feed link juice into my newer sites - softwarelode and so on. I decided this was a bad thing to keep on doing, since my original intention was to feed link juice back into my main money-earning site and not do things the other way around.

It was interesting though to see how well sites like softwarelode responded to getting a few links from my main site. Basically within 3 weeks softwarelode started getting a few hundred visitors a day even though it was a new site. Predictably, when I removed the links the visitor numbers began to fall but at a much slower pace than the visitor numbers grew in the first place. Rather than the 3 weeks or so for the visitor numbers to peak, it took 2 to 3 months for the visitor numbers to fall away. During those 3 months, Google did some mini toolbar PageRank exports and some of the inner pages of softwarelode started showing PRs of 2 or 3. By early December though all pages apart from the homepage were showing PR N/A and visitor numbers were 20% of the peak.

As the visitors fell away, more of the softwarelode pages were falling into Google's supplemental index. When a page is in the supplemental index it's not going to turn up in SERPS execept for very specific/ obscure search phrases. The supplemental index is purgatory for web pages. I had a look around the web to see what advice I could find. As to be expected the advice was that old chestnut - build backlinks. So, before Christmas I did a spurt of backlink building and I'm pleased to say that since the New Year visitors are returning to softwarelode and the Adsense income is beginning to climb again. Since yesterday (5th Jan), an extra 350 pages are marked as being in the main index. I know of similar sites to softwarelode with about 2500 pages in the main index that make a decent amount of Adsense income (few hundred dollars a month) so hopefully I'm on target to making softwarelode an earning website by the middle of 2009.