Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Oct14

ThemeForest Disables Deposit Hack

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how to deposit a specific amount into your ThemeForest account so you didn’t forfeit monies that weren’t spent.  An Envato employee and I exchanged a couple comments and it appears that they’ve disabled the hack.

ThemeForest Deposit Hack Shutdown

ThemeForest Deposit Hack Shutdown

I must give them credit for at least modifying the pre-set amounts on the deposit page – now they’re in increments of $10 instead of $20.  Sadly, the lowest amount still starts at $20 and doesn’t really keep you from wasting, say, $8 on that $12 theme you want to purchase.  Keep in mind though, allegedly, if you email customer service they’ll extend your forfeit period beyond the stated one year.

I ran through the hack for a several different amounts but it appears everything is down.  Looks like a little validations before submitting to PayPal goes a long way.

In my comments I noted that I’d probably be back when I need another theme…I’m going to go ahead and retract that until this process is fixed.

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Oct04

ThemeForest.net Review and Custom Deposit Amount Hack

A couple weeks ago TechCrunch covered a story about a company by the name of Envato launching a service that would allow users to buy and sell website templates - ThemeForest.  I think it’s actually been around for a while but that’s the first coverage I saw (I later found something from early September – linked above).  When I initially looked it was mostly WordPress themes but when I checked the other day there seems to be more generic web templates.

I’m always in the market for great WordPress themes.  I’ve changed the theme for this blog a couple times and each time I find something I don’t care for.  I started looking for themes on ThemeForest and found a WordPress theme that I thought would work well for the site (I’ve since purchased it but I haven’t finished customizing it yet – expect a rollout in a week or two).   I also found a generic website template that I wanted to buy.

In order to purchase templates you have to deposit money into your ThemeForest account…you can’t pay for each transaction individually after you find your design.  No ‘shopping cart’ functionality but they do allow you to bookmark themes you like.  I think that’s a mistake from a usability standpoint but if people want the theme bad enough, they’ll succomb to the poor process design.

So I start the process to deposit money and find that I can only give them money in multiples of $20.  Slightly confused/turned-off by yet another usability problem I contact customer service and ask if there is another way to make this happen.  I get a response a few hours later (great turn around by the way, seriously, I was impressed) tell me that their system can only handle the amounts displayed but that “although your money does expire after a year it can easily be renewed by emailing Support, so in actual fact you can keep the remaining credit in the account indefinatly.”

That’s great except for the fact that I may never use that money.  I ask if they offered refunds after a year but was shot down on that as well.  I mean it’s only $5 (my combined total was going to be $35) but why should I give you a free $5 because you have a poor design.

Frustrated, I set out to find a way around this but told myself I’d dedicate no more than 15 minutes to the effort.  I know PayPal can handle any amounts you throw at them so I figure I would explore bypassing their absurd “checks”.  Luckily, I know enough about web development and form submissions that I figure I would try a couple elementary hacks.  After locating the script on their server they submit to before sending to PayPal I locate the variable names and amount format and proceed to deposit exactly $35.  Here’s a shot of my deposit history for all you doubters…details on the hack are below the image.

ThemeForest.net Deposit Amount Hack

Hack Details

1) Locate the themes you want to purchase and calculate your total

2) Translate your total into a 4-character non-currency format.  For example, my $35.00 deposit was translated to an amount of “3500

3) Login to your ThemeForest.net account

4) Once logged in, enter the following URL in your browsers address bar and change XXXX to your amount determined in step 2: http://themeforest.net/accounts/confirm_deposit/?amount=XXXX.  For example, the URL for my $35.00 transaction was “http://themeforest.net/accounts/confirm_deposit/?amount=3500″

5) Once redirected to the PayPal website, confirm that your user id is referenced in the description and that the amount is right.  Your user id should be within the red rectangle on the image below

Confirm User ID

6) Once you complete the PayPal transaction you’ll be redirected back to your ThemeForest account where you can purchase your templates

NOTE: Use this hack at your own risk.  I don’t claim to be huge in the blogosphere but once the hack is public it’s possible ThemeForest will close the loop-hole.  I make no claims or warranties that the hack will work as described and can not be held liable for any losses you may incur.  Also, I did not ‘hack’ into their system to prepare this.  ’Hack’ in this context means ‘manual work around’ and all I did to determine how to accomplish this was review the HTML source sent to my browser by their server.

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Sep26

Managing Subscription Content [How To]

Wow – once again, it’s been longer between posts than I had ever planned.  Everytime I feel like I’m about to turn the corner something else comes up and turns life back into a ridiculous time-crunch.  Anyways…

I consider myself an early adopter.  I’m currently using Google Chrome (the newest web browser), I’ve been using web-based email for years (I own Outlook and it’s not even setup), I blog, I have a Twitter account, I’ve had Facebook since it was first launched at my school and I read almost all my news online (I’m a fan of Google Reader).  Those are the best examples I could come up with…it’s been a long week.  Bare with me.  But sometimes, it’s nice to have a copy in hand and get your eyes off the computer screen.  With my travel schedule (around 120-140 segments a year) sometimes it just isn’t efficient to turn on the PC and use Google Reader offline with Gears.

The biggest problem I have with my magazine subscriptions is managing the content for reference later.  One of the best features (in my humble opinion) of Google Reader is the ability to tag and ‘Star’ posts.  I currently have 222 starred posts organized under 252 tags…I read a lot.  But, I can’t really do that with an article in a magazine can I?!?  It would be a little inefficient to award an article a gold star (think back to elementary school people) but have to look through each page to find it.

Here are a couple things I do to keep this information at my fingertips:

Summary Emails 

I send summary emails to myself for each issue if there is something worth remembering.  For example, I just finished reading the October issue of Money.  I sent myself an email with the subject “Money Magazine – October 2008″ and included key words such as “retirement locations”, “Roth Advantages”, “Social Security Taxation Formula”, etc.

I have a general tag (SUBSCRIPTIONS) that I apply to each of these emails for easy location later and if an issue is particularly heavy on something I may assign it additional tags.  For example, Money tends to have issues packed with retirement information.  So, at times, I label a whole issue with the ‘RETIREMENT’ tag.

The tags are great but it’s inefficient to create a tag for every possible key word.  By entering meaningful words in the body of the email I can search for them later with GMails built in search functionality and figure out which issue(s) I need to pull for additional information.

Scanned Articles

Sometimes an article just jumps out at me as amazing or there’s just one article from an issue that I’m interested in saving for later.  In this case I’ll scan the article and send it to myself as an image.  Nothing too fancy here folks, my $150 All-in-One handles the workload nicely.  Attach the image, label it ‘subscriptions’, add some key words and an appropriate subject and I’m sure to find it later.  For articles that fall into this category, I often star the conversation as well just to make it that much easier to find.

This allows me to trash the issue (there’s only so much space for storing subscriptions these days) but retain the information.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve pulled up previously read articles for quotes or references. 

The only real downside I’m facing right now is that I have to search twice.  With as much as I read, I can’t always remember where exactly I read something…I have to search.  In order to get the proper results I have to search Google Reader/sort through tags and search GMail.

It’s cumbersome at times, but I’ve found it to be a great way to manage print information so that it’s easy to find when you need it.  Hope this helps!

 

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Aug15

Create PDFs on the cheap [Google Docs]

Acrobat PDF creator is one of those applications I think should be free.  In some cases, PDF documents are the only way to distribute documents easily.  There is the fact that not everyone uses the same productivity suite.  There is also the new format change for Office 2007 which makes reading ‘new’ documents on an ‘old’ XP machine difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, Adobe needs to keep the lights on, but they have a whole suite of products to keep them afloat.  Not to mention they have premium Acrobat tools (more than just creating a simple PDF) and the Adobe Interactive Forms suite to keep Acrobat alive and kicking.  Adobe Interactive Forms allow businesses to develop forms that mimic an existing layout that communicate with their backend ERP systems.  This allows the business to implement technology changes with minimal impact to field workers.

I thought I’d share my online PDF creator approach that also fits with my slow transition to an online-only productivity suite.

To get your documents as PDFs follow these few steps:

1) Login to Google Docs and upload your existing document – they cover Word and Powerpoint

Upload File to Google Docs

2) Click on the document to enter ‘change mode’

3) Navigate to File -> Download file as -> PDF and save when prompted

Download file as PDF

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