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UK Free TV now uses friendly web addresses

I have updated UK Free TV to use modern-style web addresses, which means goodbye to ".php?" in the site web links. If this has stopped anything working for you, please tell me!

Please bear with me today.  Photograph: Clockwork web
Please bear with me today. Photograph: Clockwork web
published on UK Free TV

As this site has been active for over 12 years, I have written and re-written the software that runs the site many times over.

I have always had the objective of leaving the pages where they were before, as I know many people have bookmarked, or linked to, content on the site.

Another motivation for not changing the addresses was that it was a considerable technical challenge.   It has taken several days of work to change to the new scheme.

What are the benefits

The benefits are:

  1. The site is still running software written in PHP, but no-longer does this show on every page;
  2. The page names are more obvious: /prediction rather than prediction or /article rather than article/;
  3. The addresses show what you are looking at /transmitters/tv/Crystal_Palace for example, rather than transmitters/ngr/TQ339712;
  4. I can monitor the site using interactive tools;
  5. Having no "?" in the address allows better browser caching;
  6. When you are searching, the web address is a helpful explanation of the page's purpose;
  7. It will be easier to add or change features on the site.


What are the issues

The use of the longer web-addresses does present a few ongoing challenges.

Having tested the code extensively over the last several days, there are issues on the live site with cached data and links stored in database tables.

The only way for me to deal with these is to find as they happen on the live site.

So, if you find something isn't working as it should, please bear with me today (Friady) as I'm trying to fix them.

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Monday, 20 October 2014
Brain Stanton
9:48 AM

Could you tell me why BBC teletext as deleted ferries from its travel page.
A friend of mine who is 87 often goes to the IOM in his car he is lost now that you don't show if ferry is delayed or cancelled. I used it myself when I visit Scotland for Calmac ferries.

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Brain Stanton's 4 posts GB flag

11:10 AM

Mike Incles: You might not like the tone, but Brianist is absolutely right - using IE9 is a risk for you, as well as inconvienent.

Firstly, IE is the by far the most likely browser to be attacked on the net by hackers, etc, simply becuase its the browser that comes with a PC. Using IE is arguably more risky that using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari or any other of the huge number of browsers out there. I have to admit I have not really used IE for years, preferring Firefox (although there are some sites that will only work with IE), but whatever you do, upgrade that browser so it a newer and less vunerable version. Yours is almost 4 years old - thats a long time for hackers to find ways of messing with it!

I well understand the idea of leaving well alone if its working , which why its often wise to leave a software update for a couple of days to make sure that any glitch is ironed out first.

However, I'm sure you have your security software updates enabled, and upgrading your browser is no different - its safer, often faster, and frankly, an older browser will not allow you to get the best out of a particular web page, such as this one. I had exactly the same problem viewing this site on Saturday will on a break at work, because the PC I was using was still running IE9 as well.

Hopefully, you will upgrade, and be safer on the net.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

9:28 PM

Mike Incles

The real problem is that when software applications are created, it is all too likely that some means of unintended access are accidentally left within the code. Software testing these days does not aim to find such problems, which could be a simple case of omitting protective checks or forgetting to turn them back on before release. So what happens these days is that some nefarious people write little applications that are specifically intended to make use of those little errors and try to gain access to the internal working of your computer. If they can do that, they can leave unwanted things such as a virus or a trojan or a key logger, etc. All of which you do not want on your PC but you may not know they are there!
So there are three things you can do initially to make your computer safer and more secure from these nasty people and their odd ideas. First is to use a good Anti-Virus programme, there are many available. Some are expensive and some are free but they all vary in how effective they are. (I personally use Avast!, see AVAST 2014 | Download Free Antivirus Software for Virus Protection but there are many others).
Second is to update your system with the latest updates available from the vendor of your operating system, but I prefer to set my updates to tell me when they are available but not automatically install them - that way I get to choose what is installed and can leave out any unwanted items that are not essential. You should ensure that you update your IE9 installation. If you are using Windows 7 or later you should have IE11.
Lastly, install and use an alternative web browser. MikeB mentions some good ones. I personally use Firefox.
I am also of the generation who were taught 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', but sadly your computer is effectively 'broken' by being at risk from attack by the nasty or nefarious 'people' hiding on the internet.
Hope all that helps?

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 21 October 2014

3:47 PM

MikeB/MikeP: Thanks for the comments.

Having wished to replicate the problems I used Virtual Box to install Windows 7 and then set up IE9.

It was actually quite hard to persuade Microsoft to let me download IE9. There was huge warnings saying "install IE11".

Having got it installed, I went to bed. When I got up, the PC had downloaded IE11 itself and installed it and rebooted.

So, I can't believe the effort some people have made to stick with a buggy, browser.

I keep find myself thinking "it's called SOFTware for a reason" and muttering about the universal turning machine under my breath.

Anway, there is an IE9 workaround to the first problem (.classList) here

what is the solution to remove/add a class in pure javascript? - Stack Overflow

and the other one (getElementByID) here


Which I have popped into the javascript library used for the responsive menus.

As far as I can tell this has fixed the problem with IE9. It's inelegant and I don't like it.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts US flag

8:22 PM

I suspect you have your system set to receive and install M$ updates automatically. Which means you get *all* the updates installed even if your don't need/want them.

I would advise when try that sort of experiment, you should set your system to tell you about the updates but to not download them and hence not automatically install them. Many AV companies suggest that is better as you get to know there are updates and can select the ones you need, leaving out the unwanted ones - such as the 109 optional language packs!

I have found that works perfectly on a 'native' machine as well as in a VM. It also works fine whether you're running W7, 8, 8.1, etc.

If you try again with the 'manual' settings you can then test in IE9 - but I know you are aware of the potential risks with the older browser software.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag

9:15 PM

MikeP: I am using an MSDN installer for Windows 7, they sometimes have settings that are not part of the "normal" distribution.

I *did* specifically choose not to install updates and when I went back and checked it was set at "auto install everything". I asked someone else to check when I did it on the second image and it just ingored what I had selected. The joys of developer testing editions!

I was just trying to build a stable test-system image so I could store it and copy it back if I need to try it again. I've got lots of old Windows XP setups like that for a project I did a few years ago.

When I did it the second time I ensure I went into Windows Update and selected "never offer this update" for IE10 and IE11.

There's not much risk to the VM image, I'm never going to use if for anything other than testing. I'll delete it and use the reference image if anything happens.

I did install MSSE on the image, just to prevent the nags.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts US flag
Tuesday, 4 November 2014

2:50 PM

I have change the servers that we use on UK Free TV for the graphics.

They are all now the "new" type of instances that have SSD (solid state drives) rather than the usual spinning metal disk sort.

I have changed the code on this server to match that of the main one, so the link is a URI, rather than a URL with parameters.


This will allow the web browser to recognise the content as "static" more effectually. This should improve response times and reduce server load.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts US flag
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