Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Better Google Sites Design–The Notched Page

I am not a web designer. Lest that be unclear, let me call it out.

I am not a web designer

But, I can imitate, and I can figure things out. Except programmable thermostats. Baffling.

It’s no secret that Google Sites themes are uniformly mediocre. I went searching for tutorials on how to do better, and found some help—not much—and a company, Kirksville Web Design, who specializes in them. This was a pretty big help, because I got to look at actual sites that I knew could be done in GS. I could either pay them for templates, or figure it out.

This isn’t a tutorial on how to use Google Sites, nor on how to create web images. I’m assuming you know enough about both. (I use Inkscape to create a lot of my graphics.)

Now, if you want a really professional site, hire a professional designer like Kirksville. But if you want a decent looking site, here are instructions for creating a simple, better design. The reference web site—again, designed by Kirksville—is Aim for ‘A’. The basic layout features a notched design.

Notched Site Design Layout

That’s not so attractive, but the final site I created is.


Initial Setup

Create a Google Site (GS) with a blank template and the Blank Slate theme. You’ll get a pretty ugly page.


Edit the page and add some text.


Now we’re ready to edit the Site Layout

Site Layout

  1. Only activate Header and Horizontal Navigation (deactivate Sidebar). Set Site Width to Custom 1000px (press Enter in this text box to save the setting).
  2. Click the Header to edit, and set height to 130px. This is what gives the upper notched effect. Less height increases the notch.
  3. Click the Close button. This gives us a centered site.


Now, choose Manage Site.

Manage Site

In the General page,

  1. Uncheck Show Site Name at Top of Pages
  2. Click Configure Search. Uncheck “Enable Search.” This gets rid of the search box.
  3. Under Mobile: Check Automatically Adjust Site to Mobile Phones
  4. Save

Now open the Themes, Colors, and Fonts page. For the header and footer, you’ll need the following. I used png files, but you could use jpg or gif as desired.

  • A single-color image 1px wide by 200px high, named header-background.png. I chose color #646464.
  • A single-color image 1px wide by 100px high, named footer-background.png.I chose color #646464.
  • A header/logo image 1000px wide by 130px high, named header.png. I made the image’s background color #646464 to match the header color. A more advanced (and better) technique is to surround the logo/text with a transparent box only as big as needed, to save download size.

Make these changes.

  1. Entire Page
    1. Background color: #c8c8c8.
    2. Image: header-background.png. Repeating horizontally fills the space without downloading a large file.
    3. Wrapper: footer-background.png. Note Vertical Position is “bottom.”
  2. Site header
    1. Background Image: header.png. No repetition. (see More about Headers, below).
  3. Content area
    1. Background color: white
  4. Save.

Et voila!


There’s clearly more that should be done to make this attractive, but this gives you a good start.

More About Headers

The Hudson CMA web site has a centered logo. I didn’t use a 130x1000 image for this. Instead, I surrounded the logo in a transparent box to give the margins I wanted. Then, instead of adding the logo using Manage Site > Themes, I added it using Site Layout > Header.


One isn’t necessarily better than the other, though they can lead to differences in how the horizontal menu is placed. More on that in another post.


Google Sites: Build Your Own Theme

Summit Stuff: Designing Google Sites

GSites Gallery   Great inspiration

Google Sites Web Design  A site maintained by Kirksville

Site Template  If you want to buy templates

Kirksville Web Design

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Removing Unremovable Bluetooth Device: FAIL!

This is a “notes” post, no nice graphics and probably typos. If it helps you—or you sympathize—then it was worth posting.

In June of 2013 I bought an Acer Aspire R7-571. It looked great, and worked pretty well except for two things: the spacebar didn’t always respond, and the wireless seemed slow and flaky.

I shipped it in for repair on the spacebar, which was successful. For some reason, I didn’t ask about the WiFi. About six months later, I gave it to my wife and bought a Lenovo IdeaPad U530 Touch. Which also had WiFi problems. Those got straightened out, eventually, by using Intel drivers. But it took about a year.

Recently, I had to do a bare metal restore of the R7. After the restore, the WiFi problem was strongly evident: flaky performance and seemingly throttled speeds at 5GHz. After some research, I decided to replace the adaptor with a dual band Intel 7260 + Bluetooth. The replacement took about twenty minutes, and the WiFi came right up.

But no Bluetooth. Apparently (more research), the R7’s hardware doesn’t work equally with all wireless cards, which I frankly find bizarre and absurd. But, there was nothing for it except to put the old card back in and plan on selling the machine when I could (with full disclosure to prospective buyers, of course). I really should have removed the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse before starting any of this….

After the card was reinstalled, I could see the keyboard/mouse listed in Bluetooth, but the hardware wouldn’t respond. I tried deleting them. No good. I tried repairing. The “new” devices wouldn’t show. I tried deleting three different ways (see below). No good. What follows is the rest of the story (sorry, Paul Harvey).

Here are the symptoms. Some people refer to these as “ghosted” devices.

Searched file system for “sculpt”, took about 30 minutes. nothing found.

Searched registry, nothing found.

Being held in memory? Even after removing from registry and uninstalling driver?

In the following steps, unless indicated, neither mouse nor keyboard were on.

  1. Closed all bluetooth-related apps.
  2. Deleted registry entries.
  3. Uninstalled Broadcom bluetooth software. (Nothing to do if using native drivers?)
  4. Restart as directed.
  5. Checked for “sculpt” in registry and files.
  6. Items appeared in registry. Deleted keys and uninstalled Bluetooth USB module driver from Device Manager.
  7. Reboot.
  8. Research “sculpt”. Nothing in registry or file system.
  9. Found “missing” bluetooth in Devce Manager, tried updating driver, nothing.
  10. Ran Windows Update to see if standard drivers would appear. No updates.
  11. Installed Bluetooth drivers. Devices showed up in Device Manager again! How???
  12. OK, uninstall BT software and drivers again, and this time delete the WIDCOMM folder in Program Files.
  13. Search for WIDCOMM in registry and files. Delete all occurrences (where appropriate). Clear Recycle Bin.
  14. Restart.
  15. Set the devmgr_show_nonpresent_device=1 environment variable. Nothing new in Device Manager.
  16. Reinstall Bluetooth software.
  17. And, there they are again! Seems impossible. But, fine, restart.
  18. Tried an earlier BT driver version.
  19. Enabled Administrator user and logged in as that user. Same results.

Tried lots of other suggestions from various sites. None worked. I can’t believe this, but I’m going to have to do a clean reset/reinstallation.

What I can’t fathom is where the device information is being stored. The display names have to come from somewhere, and if they aren’t in the registry or file system, where else can they be? Nowhere is the right answer, but apparently the incorrect one.

You win, Acer. You’ve succeeded in guaranteeing I won’t buy another item from you. I said this once before, and then you lulled me with your siren song. But no more. The wax is firmly in my ears.