Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Web Traffic Analysis

While Google Analytics are great for traffic analysis, they show you a particular version of reality. Google tracks using javascript & attempts to track unique visits, which isn’t 100% reliable, but still gives a good idea about real world traffic through your site.

At the other extreme are your web server log files which, if switched on, will contain an entry for every URL request made to your site. This gives a more complete picture of what the server has actually been doing.

Looking at the raw logs isn’t much use, however, being just massive lists of dates, times & URLs. Something is needed to process these and provide an overview. My boss just sent me a link to an old favourite of his that I’ve not used before: Analog is a simple, free log analysis tool that understand IIS log files, for example, out of the box.

It’s simple to get going. Full instructions are in the how-tos, which are also included in the download, but you basically download, unzip & fiddle a couple of settings in a configuration file. The exe then processes the raw logs and burps out an html report file with images.

There might be more sophisticated tools available, but this one’s so easy it’s a good one to begin with.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Making Notes

I used to use notepad or notepad++ to take simple notes, but a few months back I converted to Microsoft OneNote. This is part of the Office suite, was included on my Surface RT and has a free store app version for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phones. It has a simple tabs & pages interface and automatically syncs across my devices via Skydrive.

To Do

You can also mark a paragraph as being a to-do item which gives it a simple tickbox. So Onenote has also become my default to-do list tool, although I use Trello for projects. Ctrl+1 will cycle the current paragraph through the 3 states: tick box unticked; tick box ticked; no tick box.


I often grab screen shots when making notes. I don’t usually want the whole screen, just the relevant part. These will paste into Onenote OK and the desktop version will let me grab a clip via Insert > Screen Clipping, but I often need to grab a clip from a dev box which I haven’t installed Onenote onto.

The old-school route is to use the Print Screen (PrtScn) key found on a standard keyboard. This places a copy of the screen into the clipboard where it can then be pasted into something like Paint, cropped and then saved as a file. Alt+PrtScn will just grab the active window instead.

Windows 7 included a tool called Snip which fits in the middle here. It lets you grab a screen area and then copy it to the clipboard, save it to file or email it. This is ideal to take a clip from a machine without installing anything else.

It’s missing from Windows Server 2012 by default though. You can get it back by activating the feature through PowerShell, for example. Run PowerShell with Administrator rights.

Install-WindowsFeature Desktop-Experience

This required a reboot of the server afterwards in this case. You can use the following to list the features and sub-features and see which are installed:


Windows 8 seems to contain the snip tool still, at least it has on the builds I’ve seen. You can also press Windows Key + PrtScr in Windows 8 to take a screenshot and drop it directly into your Pictures > Screenshots folder as *.png files.


Something I only recently noticed is that OneNote will spot simple maths as you type it and put in the answer for you. I just happened to type the monthly cost of SharePoint Online and multiply by 12. I typed the equals sign and pressed space and OneNote filled in the answer, including the pound sign (it omitted the trailing zero though, so not quite perfect):

£7.80 * 12 = £93.6