&ot Information Gift: February 2007 Archives

February 25, 2007

Xenu is your Friend

There are several tools that I reach for when testing sites. The first is almost always Tilman Hausherr's Xenu's Link Sleuth™. Xenu's Link Sleuth™ is a free Windows app that quickly and flexibly crawls your site for missing objects and generates easy to digest reports you can use to identify bad or stale links.

I often run Xenu on a new or potential client's site to get an idea of how large the site may be and what shape it's in; this helps us better understand the level of effort required to meet the client's needs, and gives us a head start when an RFP is short on detail.

Xenu can check for orphan files on ftp-accessible site roots. This feature can be a great help in cleaning up old, crufty sites, but care should be taken to avoid deleting files that are actually in use but invisible to Xenu's scan; such files might be Javascript controlled roll-over states, plug-in/degradation content, etc. Some sites also host standalone rich mail, newsletter, or podcast content that may generate false positive in Orphan reports.

Speaking of reports, you get three: available in the application itself, exported as tab-delimited format, or in html format.

When viewed in the application, you can sort columns; sorting by error type allows you to quickly identify your problem areas. Tab-delimited exports are useful when you want to isolate sections in a spreadsheet. The html report lets you view your broken links ordered by link or page, separately lists redirected and ftp url, orphan files and presents useful stats on scanned site content.

Plentiful options include limiting scans to certain areas of a site, scan depth, external links checking and even combining multiple sites into one report. Additions to Xenu's .ini file can track Javascript links, often used in dhtml content and for opening sized pop-up windows.

Xenu usage is fairly self-explanatory, but should you need a little help, a nice third party manual by Frank Visser is available, as is a Yahoo users group for Xenu devotees.

Xenu's Link Sleuth™ is eminently useful, straightforward, wickedly fast, and free; a combination that can't be beat and I could hardly recommend it more.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 2:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2007

+ Addressing

If you have an email account that supports plus addressing, it's trivial to create and manage unique email addresses that can be used for test purposes. Instead of asking your administrator to create multiple test accounts or aliases, simply format your address like so:

...and so on. Neat trick this, however, there are a couple things to be aware of.

While plus sending works with many mail transfer agents, Exchange users are presently out of luck due to a proprietary use of the plus symbol, and will have to use alternate accounts. One easy approach is to create a free Gmail account, which has just come out of beta and is now available to everyone. Webmail accounts like Gmail are also generally accessible from behind corporate firewalls.

Once you have an account that works with plus addressing, you may find that the application you are testing refuses email addresses containing the "+" symbol. Ask your developer to allow the "+" symbol in their validation code -- afaict, there are no security issues with doing so, and not allowing the character may actually result in blocking potential users.

I first came across this tip as a way to manage your exposure to spam. The idea is to use plus addressing whenever supplying your email address to sites or services of unknown integrity. If you use the site/service name as the second half of your plus address, and if that address then becomes overrun with spam, you can filter the account to your trash folder and know who to blame.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 6:19 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

February 17, 2007

Meet MacNikto Again

MacNikto icon I've just posted MacNikto 1.01 on the MacNikto site.

The impetus for the release was this week's update of Nikto 1.36 [Changes]. While I was at it, I added a minor usability tweak to make the Auto-save checkbox self-select when a report save location is set. Usability is all about saving the user unnecessary steps, right?

Posted by Lewis Francis at 9:49 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

February 4, 2007

IE6 + IE7 Virtual Love

IE 7's market share is growing quickly, still, developers will continue to need to test layouts and DHTML on IE 6 for some time to come. Sadly, there is no reliable way to run both IE 6 and IE 7 on the same OS. Multiple machines, or multiple virtual machines, is the only way to ensure a real-life testing environment.

Obviously, buying multiple machines or OS licenses incur costs. In recognition of this, Microsoft released a free VPC virtual machine containing a pre-activated WinXPSP2 w/IE 6 for your testing pleasure. Microsoft already offers Virtual PC for Windows for free, and is investigating releasing similar VPC images for older IE versions.

NOTE: The free image will time bomb on April 1st(!); presumably Microsoft will release a new image around then with a new time bomb date.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 6:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)