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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

uweb Presentation – New Date

November 20th, 2014 by Erick

We now have a new time and date for the uweb presentation on server exploits.  For a brief reminder of topic highlights, see our previous post.

The presentation will now be Tuesday, December 9 at 3:00.  For those wishing to attend the live event, we will be in Room 2605 of the General Services Complex.  The presentation will also be broadcast over TTVN on Channel 6.  (Reminder again for Mac users to see TTVN’s instructions for getting connected at

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 Area Events No Comments

Shrinking Tools for CSS Files

October 30th, 2014 by Michael

We’ve begun using the Zurb Foundation framework, which includes a 176K stylesheet of everything that you might need just in case you need it. Well, for a recent one-page site, I guess that we probably wouldn’t need very much, so I sought ways to strip out unused CSS.  How much could I shrink the 176K CSS file without breaking the page?

  • Dust-Me Selectors - a Firefox extension that reduced it to 18k, with no noticeable differences in the performance of the page. Unused code could be commented out, or removed altogether.
  • mincss - a Github project that reduced it to a responsive 10.5K, but the responsive slider stopped working.
  • unused-css – a commercial service that reduced it to 73.8k. It removed most of the code from the media queries, so the page was no longer responsive, but  the slider still worked.
  • Chrome Developer Tools – told me how many unused CSS rules I had, but doesn’t produce a cleaned version.

As you can guess, your mileage may vary. Some tools will flag redundant CSS but not unused CSS, or removes code that is only used at certain screen widths, or don’t work with LESS/SASS. But Dust-Me Selectors worked fine for me, for now.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 CSS Comments Off

Worrying About Making CSS Faster

October 27th, 2014 by Michael

In recent years, I’ve become interested in improving website performance. Chrome Developer Tools (the Network and Audits tabs) make it easier to see bottlenecks and how to fix them.

One of my goals was to use more efficient CSS.  I could have been using * and + in my CSS, but I knew the more calculations and animations the browser has to make, the slower the page will run. Web developer Ben Frain singles out “expensive” features such as box-shadows, border-radius, transparency, transforms and CSS filters as particularly troublesome.

But Frain’s experiments also show that the number of CSS selectors – the size of the CSS file - affects page performance more than the type of selector. His conclusion: “It is absolute folly to worry about the type of selector used.”

So I’m ready to stop worrying. Enter the owl selector, as named by British designer Heydon Pickering because it resembles “an owl’s vacant stare.”

* + * {
	margin-top: 1.5em;

In this case, to enforce the rule, “All elements in the flow of the document that proceed other elements must receive a top margin of one line,” Heydon uses a single line of “axiomatic CSS” that potentially saves having to write dozens of lines of CSS.

And reducing the size of the CSS file does measurably improve site performance. In my next post, I will mention some of the tools I used to do that.

Monday, October 27th, 2014 CSS Comments Off

uweb presentation postponed

October 24th, 2014 by Erick

Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict has come up which will require us to reschedule next week’s presentation by the CIS security team.  I apologize for the short notice.  We will be in touch with the presenters to find another date and will reschedule for later in the semester.  Once we have that information will announce the details.

Friday, October 24th, 2014 Uncategorized Comments Off

Job Opportunity – New Position Available

October 15th, 2014 by Erick

The Division of Marketing and Communications has an immediate opening for a Web Communications Specialist.    This person would be doing primarily user interface development, but would be involved in all areas of development and support for several university web sites and applications.

The position summary can be found at   If you are interested or know someone who might be, please take a look at this and pass it along.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 Uncategorized Comments Off

Has Your Site been Hacked?

October 13th, 2014 by Erick

Imagine you come into your office and sit down at your desk to start your day.  You log into your computer and visit your departmental website…and to your horror you see that the front page has been hijacked and it is now selling Cialis or streaming the latest pirated movie.  You have been hacked!  Would you know what to do?  That question was recently asked in two different groups that I have been in, both of which were filled with people who should have known.  Most didn’t.

Come join us at the next uWeb meeting, where the CIS security team will be talking about exploits on campus.  They will show a few examples of what has been reported on campus, some of the most common platforms that get exploited and how to prevent them, and advice on what to do if it does happen to you.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday October 28 at 3:30 rescheduled for Tuesday December 9 at 3:00  in Room 2605 of the GSC.<  The presentation will be broadcast on TTVN Channel 9 and will be recorded for later viewing on MediaMatrix..

Monday, October 13th, 2014 Miscellaneous, Web Security Comments Off

Texas A&M University System Digital Center of Excellence

October 1st, 2014 by Erick

I am part of a System-created Committee that is exploring the opportunity to provide a shared “virtual resource” for the Texas A&M University System to disseminate the best practices and specific channel strategies to:

  • Present a unified digital experience across online sites, mobile sites, social presences, and marketing campaigns in the System
  • Streamline processes for publishing content, moderating social communities, measuring campaigns, and acquiring tools
  • Create cost efficiencies

To that end, I am requesting your valuable input on your unit’s digital media needs and resources, so we can include this feedback when the Committee selects its areas of focus for 2014-2015.

Your help is needed to 1) rate the top five areas of priority that the Committee may explore in 2014-2015 and 2) help us identify the personnel, best practices, guidelines, and services that are available System-wide.

Please complete this brief online survey by October 14, 2014 so that your input can be included in the decision-making process.

Survey Link:

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off

Farewell to Rebecca

September 25th, 2014 by Erick

Rebecca Negron has been a valuable part of our team for the last two and a half years.  Sadly, today is her last day with us.  She has taken a job in Washington DC, but will always be part of the Aggie family and we wish her all the best.

This will, of course, affect some of our project timelines, so updates here might be coming a bit less frequently for a while.  We do hope to refill the position, and I will be announcing the details when/if it makes it through the approval process.


Thursday, September 25th, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off


September 15th, 2014 by Charlie

We have been using Varnish to cache our WordPress sites (such as this one and Tamutimes) for several years now. We feel that it has worked really well for our needs, adding a bit more speed to our sites to help with higher traffic days.

Varnish is highly configurable and is transparent to its backend so it doesn’t require any code modification on your web servers. The way we have configured our installation is to use RAM as the cache for our static content which can serve out requests very quickly.  In addition, it saves on requests on the backend so those requests that do get sent to it get served out a bit quicker as well. All this makes for a snappier experience on the users’ end.

Another one of the great things about this setup is that we can also cache multiple sites on different machines. This means we can just put the necessary CNAMES on the varnish server and then point them to different machines as needed. The only thing required is a restart of the Varnish service to make the change. This helps a huge amount when we are migrating sites to new machines.

Overall we’ve been very happy with Varnish. For WordPress especially it has given us a little extra peace of mind that it can help out when there will be more traffic. I really encourage anyone to look into it if you run your own web servers and see if it could help you out.

Varnish Website

Varnish on Wikipedia

Monday, September 15th, 2014 Systems Comments Off

SEO Consulting

September 11th, 2014 by Erick

The SEO research that we did this summer and which I posted to this site was never intended to be a “one and done” project.  The intent was always to offer this information, and our team’s time, to other university and system offices in a series of presentations and individual consultations.  I had been busy reworking the blog posts already online into a more focused presentation format, but a conversation yesterday showed me that I needed to announce this service sooner rather than later.

If any of you would like some help, whether it be just a simple conversation or a full-blown review of your site, please get in touch with me.  This certainly applies to any of the colleges, departments, and divisions on campus, but we are also wanting to assist the system universities and agencies as well.


Thursday, September 11th, 2014 Search Comments Off