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Is Your Website Accessibility Compliant?

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The extended December 31 2014 deadline for Australian website accessibility compliance is fast approaching (WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard). This is a mandatory requirement on all websites owned and/or operated by the Australian government departments and agencies under any domain. This includes external (public-facing or private) and internal (closed community) sites. Therefore, conformance is required for all internet, intranet and extranet sites. Have you taken the necessary steps?

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$3.1m Parliament House website a year late

A “major breach” of Australia’s Parliament House computer network partly contributed to a $600,000 cost blowout and 12-month delay in constructing the newly designed parliament website which is due to launch to the public this Friday evening.

The figure and breach was revealed in senate estimates yesterday by parliamentary librarian Roxanne Missingham and President of the Senate John Hogg, who reported that the total cost of the new aph.gov.au site, which was meant to go live February 2011, had so far come to about $3.1 million.

The cost blowout and delayed launch follows a botched IT upgrade deployed in December, which brought the parliament site down for 3 days, and attacks on the website by the loose-knit hacking collective Anonymous over Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s internet filtering policy.

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The new site – which people inside parliament have had access to since the middle of January this year – replaces the current one which has been in place for 12 years, according to Missingham, and will offer “significant new functionality”.

Such functionality will allow members of the public to track bills through parliament, be alerted when their local senator or member gives a speech in parliament, and allow for information on it to be found more easily, she said.

But costs to get the new website up and running had blown out due to the “complexity of various aspects” such as “delays from undertaking security”, Missingham revealed when questioned by Labor senator John Faulkner in senate estimates.

“In September we put in additional funding of $153,750 to upgrade the platform, complete system testing, do the security testing, and rework content and data,” she said. “Additional funding was also allocated in May. That funding was $461,300.”

She said there were a number of issues in “regression testing” that were found and that “reworking of aspects of the website” due to business requirement changes also contributed to the delay and cost blowout. Three rounds of security analysis on the website were also done to “make sure that it will not be hacked”.

“I think you could say that the delays and the additional costs were as a result of increased complexity of the solution that we needed, increased security testing and an increase in the work that was done compared with what we had anticipated when we initiated the project,” Missingham said.

President of the Senate, John Hogg, said part of the delay and need for additional money to be spent on the new website was caused by “a major breach of the security of the system externally from [Parliament House]”.

“That occurred in December 2010,” he said, and put “additional costs on IT right throughout [parliament]”.

The major breach, which Hogg said was “well and truly beyond” parliament’s control, was a “security intrusion into the system from an external source, and not just on one occasion but on a number of occasions”.

“That caused grave concern about people’s privacy with the information they have here and people’s ability to access information into the system.”

He said for some reason that he did not understand, it seemed that there were “a group of people out there who try to interfere in people’s systems, not just here but in the corporate world as well, by hacking into the systems”. It was something he said he was “constantly raising with people from other parliaments” both when they visited Australia and when an Australian delegation was visiting them, “to see what attempts they are making to block unwarranted access to their information”.

Senator Faulkner appeared unimpressed by the cost blowout and delay in launching the website, asking Hogg how “another balls-up” could be avoided. Hogg said he hoped that delays would not occur into the future by overcoming “security aspects” now.

Top Five Sites for Source Code Hosting

Code sharing and hosting platforms, which enable designers and developers to share (and reuse_ code with team members or the wider web community, have exploded in use the past several years – hat tip to the cloud. Let’s take a look at some popular source code hosting sites. Did we miss one? Let us know – share your comments!    

Github.com

   

Google Code Hosting

 

Sourceforge.net

   

Codeplex

   

Bitbucket

 

Google Service to Increase Page Speeds by 60 Percent


A new hosted service from Google will analyze the performance of your website’s pages and rewrite the code to make them load faster for users. Page Speed Service fetches content from your servers, rewrites your pages by applying Web performance best practices and serves them to end users via Google’s servers. To what extent your website’s performance can be improved depends on a variety of factors such as the content on your pages, browser, geographic location of access, bandwidth, etc. Google predicts that most pages will see increases of between 25 and 60 percent. Page Speed Service is currently being offered for free to a limited set of website owners. Visit the site to learn more and to gain early access to the service by filling out an application. Eventually, says Google, the service will be open to the public and competitively priced, and those details will be forthcoming.  

A Truth About Web Hosting

Have you ever seen advertisements that consistently tout huge server space and endless add-on domains for only $9.95 a month? It may seem too good to be true, even after you closely read the hosting agreement and they seem to be offering everything they say. How can some web hosting plans be so cheap and yet offer so much? More than likely, there are reasons behind these seemingly unbelievable deals. Here are some possibilities you may want to consider when selecting a discounted Web hosting company. – They are hosting hundreds or even thousands of domains on the same server. – They throttle your bandwidth to your site during peak hours. – They are located in a third-world country. – They are using very old servers. – They experience a lot of downtime due to poor Web server maintenance. – They may not have 24-hour telephone support. – They lack proper server backups in case of server failure. – They host spammers on the server, which can get IP addresses banned from sending email to those using blocking programs to protect against servers that send spam. Therefore, your emails may not get through. Also consider these results of a poor Web hosting: If your website loads slowly during peak hours, many dial up users will hit the back button and go elsewhere for their purchases. How much do lost sales due to slow load time cost your business? If your website goes down for a day and there is no one to call, how much does a day of lost sales cost your business? If your discount server lost your site completely, do you have a current database backup of all customers and their orders? How easily can you reload your website and the database if that happened? Needless to say, saving a little money on Web hosting may not be worth the repercussions. One easy way to check the load time of two different hosting companies is to download a test 100 Megabyte file several times on each sever to measure the difference in download time. To better amplify the test you may want to try it with a dial up connection.