Category Archives: Software

Content Management Systems (CMS)

If you’ve been around the web block a few times and know a thing or two about putting up a web site, you’ve probably heard something about Content Management Systems (CMS). They can be real time-savers, and the basic premise is this: you forgo all the hand coding that you’ve been doing to keep your site going and you plug into the “already-invented-wheel” to get rolling.

CMS’s usually require a database (often MySQL) and a server side scripting language (often PHP). It’s a powerful combo: you can create templates that control how the content looks then add all the content you want. The templates go beyond the style sheets, they incorporate the html used by the pages that reference the CSS, and they can also include things like Javascript for controlling menus or fixed footers. Usually the templates rely on a placeholder that indicates where the content should be added.

There are a LOT of CMS’s out there, and it seems like every corporate code-monkey gets pegged to code a new CMS for in-house work at some point or another. http://opensourcecms.com/ provides a nice way to try out different CMS’s to get a feel for what they’re like. The site is a bit awkwardly laid-out, but you can get a long list of CMS’s on the left by opening the “portal” items under the “CMS Demo Menu” section.

One long weekend, I tried out a number of these… my choice? MODx — it’s free and it made a lot of sense to me. Still in beta, not a huge user base, but easy to work with (IMHO). But don’t take my word for it… you should evaluate what you need to do with your CMS. If it’s a quick and dirty blog you need, WordPress is hard to beat.

One big contender that costs about $100 is Expression Engine — it comes highly rated from people I work with who are in the know.

Here’s a list of the ones that have gotten the most air-play in my line of work (coding):

  1. Drupal — often recommended for people building “static” type sites with lots of fixed pages. Has a pretty good user base, but again, I disliked the boxy layout approach and the whacko documentation
  2. Joomla — made by most of the same people who made Mambo. Boxy layouts and weird vocabulary.
  3. MODx — My personal favorite. Nice AJAX back-end and easy compartmentalization between front-end and back-end contributions. It’s really easy to take an existing static site and drop in CMS functionality using MODx. It’s also bloody simple to add your own custom PHP scripts. MODx is a leader when it comes to an SEO friendly site.
  4. WordPress — quick and dirty, great for blogs, huge user base… but no so good if you have specific needs and the template system isn’t the easiest and adding custom PHP scripts can be painful

Here’s an intro video I made about MODx:

MyBloop.com – Unlimited Storage and Bandwidth (Online Storage Series)

Now and then an online storage provider comes along and offers features so unrealistic (for free) that one wonders how on earth that company will survive. Nine times out of ten, they do not, and their domain names soon join the endless wasteland of spam parking.

Along comes MyBloop, a free online service that offers supposedly unlimited file storage. According to their FAQ, there are absolutely no limits on storage, bandwidth, or the number of files you can store. Eat your heart out, XDrive.

Let’s take a look at some of MyBloop’s features:

  • Unlimited Storage
  • File upload limit – one gigabyte
  • Multiple file uploading and downloading
  • Nothing required to install
  • File organization – create your own folder hierarchy
  • Ability to delete, rename, and mark files as private
  • Ability to stream certain file types (MP3, FLV, WMA, WMV)
  • File sharing, searching, social networking, and more!
  • All for FREE

Uploading

MyBloop currently offers two ways to upload files – either through their web-based interface or via their open-source Blooploader utility. Uploaded files are limited to one gigabyte, though supposedly this limit will be removed if you purchase one of their upcoming Pro accounts.

I’ve stuck to the Flash interface, which is really slick.

Even within the web interface, you can queue multiple files for upload. You can also select to send each file to a specified directory.

All uploaded files are shared publicly by default. However, you may opt to make a file private either upon upload or at any other point by editing its attributes from within the file manager. Note: I found that I was only able to change sharing attributes through their older HTML interface. Since the MyBloop team is still developing features, perhaps this is an issue they will address soon. Or maybe I just missed something! 🙂

Downloading

MyBloop also aims to be one of the premiere sources for finding shared content on the Web. To that extent, they have implemented searching and social networking within the site. You don’t even have to be a member of MyBloop to search their stockpile of amassed content. Try it now: go to the MyBloop homepage and search for whatever you like. Downloading, streaming, and linking are all encouraged, even for non-members. Which brings me to my next point….

Not ALL file types are allowed for direct download (by other users). At present, music files can only be streamed, not downloaded (for legal reasons). Still, the MyBloop Player is pretty capable, including playback controls, shuffle, repeat, and volume manipulation. It even handles playlists. Here I am listening to some streaming Mozart:

Just for the record, I’ll quietly observe that lesser-known audio formats (such as OGG) are not recognized as music, and are thus available for direct download.

MyBloop aims to be a one-stop shop for all your file hosting and sharing needs. I must say, they do a pretty fine job. Since I started using their service, I’ve begun to rely on them more and more. I only hope that they withstand the test of time.

Considering that they’ve been around since 2005 (BETA), and had their initial release in 2007, I’d say they’re off to a good start. The future is still uncertain, and no one knows what features will be added (or removed) by the upcoming Pro accounts.

Interested in more about MyBloop? Check out this video. It should tell you everything you need to know in 5 minutes.

Good luck, and happy uploading!

Note: MyBloop is currently only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More countries should be granted access soon.

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Install Windows Media Player 11 on XP without WGA Headaches

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational uses only. In no way do we condone software piracy. Readers should contact Microsoft if legitimately-licensed OEM software does not properly validate.

I have a legitimate copy of Windows XP (honestly!). However, I refuse to allow any tentacle of Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to touch my machine. I’ve read far too many horror stories of WGA falsely identifying installations of Windows as invalid, and honestly, I just don’t want to deal with the potential hassle.

If you wish to install WMP 11 on your Windows XP machine, there’s an easy way to do it without requiring WGA validation. Let’s go.

This tutorial works with either WMP 9 or version 10 as a starting base.

Step 1 – Download and Install

First of all, there’s no need to download version 11 from Microsoft’s web site. All you have to do is launch your existing version of WMP (9 or 10), go to the Tools menu, and Check for Updates.

WMP will launch an update window, download a small 1 MB file, then begin downloading WMP 11.

While the file that is downloading comes with a WGA utility, fear not. We’ll bypass it when the time comes. Just sit back and wait while WMP downloads and installs.

When it finishes, it may give you a notification that the installation failed. Don’t worry. It likely installed anyway.

Step Two – Disable WGA

The next step is very important. Before you launch the new version of WMP, you must first rename the WGA tool.

  • Browse to C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player
  • Find the file called LegitLibM.dll
  • Rename it. Something like LegitLib.dll works well.

Step Three – Launch WMP 11

Alright folks, it’s time to fail WGA validation! I’m not kidding. Launch the new version of Windows Media Player and prepare to validate.

Click the Validate button, and GASP! You just failed validation! Oh no!

Again, have no fear. WGA is broken. Just click the Finish button and continue to set up your new version of WMP.

Congratulations! You now have WMP 11 installed, all without the potential headaches of dealing with WGA. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this method will always work. Microsoft may issue an update that re-activates the WGA tool, or they may change the installation procedure. For now, this method works just fine.

Please let me know if the comments if this method no longer works.

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Easily Find a Forgotten Password in Firefox, Opera, or Google Chrome

Do you occasionally forget your passwords? Sure you do, unless you use the exact same login information for every website (terrible idea!). Most browsers today feature the ability to remember passwords, and while we try to remember all of them, sometimes we need a little help.This tutorial will show you how to find saved passwords in Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome.

Firefox 3

Go to the Tools menu → then choose Options from the drop-down list. Select the Security tab → then click the Saved Passwords button.

To see your passwords, just click the Show Passwords button. That’s it! Note: In the screenshot above, I blanked the Usernames for security reasons.

Opera

Finding passwords in the Opera browser is slightly more complicated, but not impossible. Passwords in Opera are handled by the excellent Wand utility, but navigating to the Tools menu → Advanced → Wand Passwords only yields information about the sites, not the passwords themselves.

Fear not. Viewing the passwords only takes an extra step. We need to add a Power Button to Opera. Browse to this page on the Opera Wiki and click the Read Wand button. Click OK to install the button, which will show up in the Appearance menu under Buttons → My buttons.

Drag the Read Wand button wherever you like in the Opera panels. I stuck mine next to the Home button.

Now, visit a site that has a saved password. Use the Wand to fill in the login information (as usual), but click the Stop button (or just press Esc) immediately. All you have to do now is simply press the Read Wand button to display the password. Voila!

Google Chrome

In the new Google Chrome browser (see review), viewing passwords is easy. Just click the Wrench icon to the right of the address bar → then choose Options from the drop-down list. Select the Minor Tweaks tab → then click Show saved passwords.

As with Firefox, just click Show Password in order to see the password for the selected site.

A quick note about security: while having your browser remember your passwords can be convenient, it is not the most secure way to store login information, as anyone who sits at your computer can potentially have access to ALL your stored passwords.

If you rely upon your browser to store this information, PLEASE be sure to password-protect your operating system login. Also consider setting a screensaver password so that no one can sit at your computer while it’s unattended and access your information.

I should also mention that Firefox has the ability to set a Master password (Tools → Options → Security) that adds another layer of security to your stored information. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use it.

Personally, instead of having my browser store my information, I rely upon the open-source KeePass password manager. In a word, KeePass rules, and I have an upcoming article on using KeePass to manage your login life.

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Google Chrome Browser – Get the Java Plug-in Working

As it stands now, Google Chrome is a pretty nice browser (see my review), but the Java plug-in doesn’t currently work. However, there’s an easy fix.

Google Chrome requires Java 6, update 10, which is currently in Beta. Please see this page in the Chrome Help Center.

If you want, you can also skip straight to the appropriate download on the Java site.

Once installed, you should have access to all the Java games and utilities that your heart desires!

Hope this helps someone.

Chrome – A Shiny New Browser from Google

Today, Google launched Chrome, their venture into the realm of web browsers. Still in BETA, Chrome promises to make the Web faster, safer, and easier. Will it, actually? Furthermore, is it worth using over IE, Opera, or the mighty Firefox? It’s far too early to tell for sure, but Chrome does have a lot of potential. Let’s take a quick look at some of its features.

Note: Chrome is currently only available for Windows XP/Vista. Mac and Linux versions are forthcoming.

User Interface

First things first, Google Chrome’s user interface takes a different approach than most browsers. Upon launch, the first thing you notice is an organization of thumbnails based on your most frequently-visited pages. Nice!

Despite the name, there’s not much to Chrome. In fact, it’s rather transparent and minimal. There are no menus, no home button (you can enable it in the Options), and only one bar (an integration of the address bar and search bar).

The bookmarks and other options are accessible (via drop-down) on the right side, next to and below the address bar.

Another surprise is that the tabs sit atop the address bar, rather than below it like most browsers. I like it, but it will take some getting used to.

Main Features

One of the highlights of Google Chrome is the ability to go Incognito. This is akin to Private Browsing in Safari – no cookies, history, or anything remains while in Incognito mode. You can easily enable it through the drop-down menu next to the address bar.

Unfortunately, it spawns an entirely new window, not just a new Incognito tab. Oh well, there’s always room for improvement. Incognito mode is intended for uses such as online banking and shopping for secret gifts, though in reality, most people will likely just use it for browsing pornography.

On to other issues – one major change is in the handling of tabs. In Chrome, each tab is an individual process, independent of the browser as a whole. What this means is that you can kill individual tabs without having a misbehaving tab crash the entire browser. Anyone who has ever visited a site that took down the full browser should jump for joy at this prospect. If it works correctly, it will be a major boon that other browsers should incorporate.

Try it now: launch Chrome, and right-click in the title bar area (very top of the browser). It should launch the Task Manager, allowing you to kill individual tabs if needed.

Importing

In case you are wondering, yes, Chrome will import your information from other browsers, such as IE and Firefox (no Opera yet). I chose the Firefox import and found all my bookmarks, history, and saved passwords readily available.

Other

Not all is well in the land of Chrome, however. Considering its BETA status, this is to be expected. For starters, I’ve had some trouble with sites that are heavily dependent on Java (such as ADrive). Some sites may have compatibility issues with Chrome as well. As an example, Amazon’s Askville doesn’t seem to care for Chrome yet.

Still, we must remember that Chrome is in its infancy. Issues like these will improve.

All-in-all, I like Google Chrome. It’s a welcome addition to the browsing world, and since it is open-source, I hope to see it positively affect its competitors. Giants such as Firefox, Opera, and IE, though they still dominate the field, could stand to learn a thing or two from the upstart Chrome.

For me, I will likely stay true to Firefox for now, but I look forward to watching Chrome mature.

Learn more about Google Chrome (including videos) at its official site.

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Get POP Access in Thunderbird to Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL e-mail for Free with WebMail

Still have a Yahoo! or Hotmail e-mail account? Yeah, so do I. However, my primary e-mail account is through Gmail, and I also tend to use Thunderbird to manage my massive pile of e-mail. I love the ability to access Gmail through Thunderbird, and would like an easy way to do the same thing with my Yahoo! mail.

Of course, one could always pay for a Yahoo! Mail Plus account ($20 a year) to get POP access, but as self-proclaimed “ruler of the free world”, I’d prefer a free solution.

One answer is to use WebMail, an open-source extension that allows Mozilla Thunderbird to interface with Yahoo!, Hotmail, Lycos, Mail.com, Libero, and AOL mail. I should mention that it also includes Gmail, but since Gmail already provides free IMAP access, WebMail’s implementation is not necessary. Anyway, on to business!

This tutorial will cover installation and setup of Yahoo! Mail within Thunderbird.

Install WebMail Extensions

First things first, make sure you have Thunderbird running. Next, download the WebMail extension. Note: be sure to right-click and save the XPI file locally. Do NOT try to install it as an add-on for Firefox! From within Thunderbird, go to the Tools menu, then select Add-ons.

Click the Install button in the lower-left corner and navigate to the WebMail XPI file that you downloaded. As with the installation of all extensions, be sure to relaunch Thunderbird.

Next, go back to the WebMail site and choose a provider component to install. In my case, I selected the Yahoo! component. Whichever component you choose, install it the same way you did for the WebMail extension. Again, be sure to download the XPI to disk first.

When finished, you should have extensions installed for both WebMail and the component(s) of your choice.

Setup a New Account in Thunderbird

In Thunderbid, go to Tools → Account Settings, and then click the Add Account button on the left side. Choose Web Mail as the account type, and then enter your Name and E-mail address accordingly.

On the User Names page, be sure to include your full e-mail address. Don’t worry about the outgoing SMTP setup just yet.

Click Next/Finish until you are back to the Account Settings window.

Configure Outgoing Mail

If you already have an outgoing mail server that you prefer to use, you don’t need to bother with this section. In my case, I’m going to configure Yahoo’s server for my outgoing mail.

In the Account Settings window, select Outgoing Server (SMTP) in the lower-left corner. Choose the Webmail – localhost Outgoing Server, and click Edit.

In the window that spawns, be sure that the Server Name is set to localhost, and that the User Name includes your full e-mail address. Do not use any secure connections. You can change the Description to anything you want.

Back on the Account Settings page, select your account in the left pane, and be sure that the appropriate Outgoing Server is selected.

Test and Retest

Give it a shot. At this point you should try clicking Get Mail to see if it works. It should prompt you for your password.

If it works, congratulations! If it does not, don’t fret! There may be a few more options to try.

I cannot comment on every e-mail service, but for Yahoo!, you may need to specify the Mode. Take note of whether your Yahoo! Mail account is currently using the new AJAX-driven interface or the older Classic style. Within Thunderbird, go back to the Tools → Add-ons screen. Select the Yahoo add-on and click Options.

From here you can manipulate the Mode for your Yahoo! account. If your account has the newer interface, try choosing the BETA Website option. If your account still uses the older Classic style, select the mode for the Classic Website.

Now try clicking Get Mail again. With any luck, you should have Yahoo! e-mail in Thunderbird now!

Other Options

Depending on how much mail you have on the server, it may take a substantial amount of time for all the e-mail to arrive. If this is the case, I suggest increasing the amount of time that passes before the connection has a timeout.

To do this, go to Tools → Options → Click the Advanced tab → then click Network and Disk Space.

In the box next to Connection timeout, increase the number of seconds to an amount of your choosing.

One last thing: by default, the WebMail extension is set to leave messages on the server (unless you delete them). If you want WebMail to automatically delete messages on the server once you download them into Thunderbird, you can set this in the Account Settings window.

Simply click on Server Settings (beneath your account name), then look for the Leave messages on server option. Toggle it accordingly.

I prefer to leave my messages on the server. With supposedly unlimited space from Yahoo, it just makes sense.

There you have it – free POP access to Yahoo! Mail. With slight modifications, these instructions apply to the other e-mail providers as well. All you have to do is download and install the appropriate component.

In my humble opinion, Gmail is still the best free e-mail provider, but if you need POP access to other services, WebMail should have you covered.

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