I’m continuing my series of hi-res videos of the MODx content management system, this time I’m stepping through how you can easily take existing HTML and CSS layouts and adapt them for use with MODx. For my example, I take Eric Meyer’s “Complex Spiral” demo and within a few minutes, I have it adapted for use with my site.
It’s an exciting time to be writing about this platform: the first book about MODx was published by Packt Publishing, and we anticipate the release of their “2.0” version (dubbed “Revolution”) later this year.
A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.
I include the image below as a quick reference for the placeholder tags used by MODx. Refer to the wiki page for a more complete list.
Summary: Creating a Custom MODx Template
Replace appropriate areas of your HTML with MODx placeholders. Refer to the image above or to the wiki page so you know which placeholders are available.
Login to the MODx Manager, create a new template in Resources→Manage Resources→Templates. Be sure to save it and give it a good name.
Edit a page and choose to use the new template, and save the page! In other words, you need to tell your MODx documents to use your new template.
Part two of this video shows how to add Chunks and Snippets to your template for more dynamic functionality.
I was going to write an article detailing how to unlock your iPhone 3G, but the process is commonplace now… videos on YouTube and blog instructions abound. I don’t have the guts to try it on my phone — I just don’t have time. Furthermore, I have seen the quirky behavior of my friends’ phones after unlocking them, and well… I’d rather not deal with that stuff. Some of the bad behavior that I’m aware of directly from friends includes the following:
Potential Problems with Unlocked iPhones
Phone does not ring unless it is active (i.e. you’re in an application or viewing apps on its “Desktop”). This is REALLY annoying if you’re hypothetically being held against your will in a foreign country and REALLY need to call your friend’s iPhone so she can translate for you.
Random loss or corruption of contact data (e.g. all names disappear from address book or showing only numbers)
No access to the 3G network (which can effectively kill some of the more useful apps like Google Maps, any Location Services, Safari, etc.)
Bricked phones with an Incorrect SIM message stuck on the screen
After some quick searches, I found horror stories of people who actually had to buy new phones after unsuccessfully attempting to unlock their phones. Ouch!
There are commercial software packages available for the task that theoretically are more reliable. At least you’d have someone to call for help after Apple gives you the finger (I mean “the finger” as in the rigid digit pointing towards the notice in the store that says “Don’t hack the phone”).
Ultimately, I thought it would be more interesting to put the question to the readers: do you think it’s worth it to unlock your iPhone? What are the benefits? The savings? What things can’t you do with an unlocked phone? Did anything break? What are your stories?
You’ve got movies, and you want to watch them… you just want to watch them on your iPhone or on your iPod. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem… you simply go to Google, search for some kind of tutorial for ripping the DVDs, and then you’ll be on your way… but you didn’t anticipate the stench-filled sewers you would have to crawl through to attain your goal. You didn’t think you’d have to stoop this low to complete your journey. No, I’m not talking about digital rights management… I’m talking about the fact that someone made a tutorial that showed how to rip a DVD… using the putrid footage of Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill.
Comment by Brian: Yes, that is our very own TipsFor.us author Everett playing the role of Quentin Tarentino just for this post. Wow.
Some friends of mine have tried to convince me that Kill Bill wasn’t that bad, but *obviously* their minds have been corroded by Hollywood mediocrity. You can watch the original South Park episode I spoofed above, but I’m warning you: Matt and Trey made a horrible omission when they only took down M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay and neglected to reign in the sadistic wanker Tarentino. (Thanks to Nick Broomfield and JG Ballard for including Kill Bill in their lists of the worst movies of all time.)
Required Software (and Hardware)
Okay, on to the main event. There are several ways to skin this cat, and there are a lot of how-tos out there, but I wanted to at least mention some of the pitfalls you might encounter for our take on this topic. The instructions here are valid for Mac and Windows computers, but I’ve got more details about the Mac side of things.
You need to 1) crack the copy protection (i.e. rip the DVD), then you need to 2) transcode it into a format that your iPhone or iPod can read. The latter task is the one that is more problematic — the success rate of the transcoding software varies greatly in my experience, so you may have to try out a few methods to get this to work.
Handbrake — this is a multi-threaded video transcoder that you can use to encode (not rip) DVDs on your Mac, Windows, or Linux machine. Just keep in mind that it does not strip copy protection, so you’ll have to use some other software for that task when necessary (e.g. Fairmount or Mac the Ripper).
iPhone or iPod — uh, you’re clear on the concept of this article, right? You can stop reading the serious stuff and go watch that South Park episode if you don’t actually have a device to transfer the file to.
Ripping DVDs to iTunes: The Simple Process using Handbrake
Handbrake essentially converts the format of the DVD into something that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read. Handbrake doesn’t circumvent any copy protection though! It’s not a ripper!
Put a DVD into your computer. If the DVD player launches, quit it.
Launch the Handbrake application. Be sure that you’ve installed it in the Applications directory… Handbrake can get squirrely if you install it elsewhere.
Open the DVD. From within Handbrake, select the entire DVD (not just the VIDEO_TS or the AUDIO_TS folders… select the entire volume).
Select a File Destination. Where do you want to save the resulting file? It can be large, so choose a drive that has adequate space.
Choose the correct output Preset. If you don’t see the presets drawer, you can hide/show it from the “Window” menu (or press Apple-T). Notice that there are only 3 relevant presets: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPod High-Rez, iPod Low-Rez. Consider your hardware, and choose.
Click Start. Encoding can take a while… if it doesn’t, you may have a problem. If Handbrake says it’s finished after about 2 seconds, then you have to move onto a more complicated solution. Skip ahead to the next section.
Add the File to iTunes. After you’ve got a playable file, add it to iTunes in your normal way… double-click it or drag the file onto the iTunes icon.
Sync your iPhone or iPod. Depending on your settings, your device may sync everything in your library, or you may have to manually sync the playlist containing the movie. As long as you’ve encoded the DVD on your hard disk in an encoding iTunes can read, then you should be able to transfer it to your iPhone or iPod.
Ripping DVDs to iTunes: Circumventing Copy Protection
* My reading of US Copyright law is that you are permitted to make a backup copy of your DVDs… but I’m not a lawyer.
Sometimes Handbrake gets sassy and you get a flippant message saying Put down that cocktail… Your Handbrake encode is done! It should take a few minutes to encode a DVD… something didn’t work if it’s magically “done” in about 2 seconds. Another possibility is that Handbrake just crashes repeatedly. Either way, it’s not fun. (I only had this problem while attempting the encode on OS 10.4). Check out this related article:
Well… the problem may be that many DVDs have copy protection that Handbrake does not circumvent. It’s not a ripper, remember? It’s an encoder only.
Before you give up on Handbrake, try the process on a Mac running OS 10.5. My strong suspicion is that something in the PPC/older version of Handbrake was causing problems.
If Handbrake is having trouble because of the copy protection, you need to first strip the DVD (or the disk image) of its copy protection. You can do this using several programs such as Mac the Ripper — there are some instructions here, but the solution described there is no longer free. Below is a brief description of how to use Fairmount on OS X — this will strip the copy protection, but you’ll still need something like Handbrake to handle the transcoding. Windows has lots of ways to strip the copy protection as well, such as DVD43.
Use Fairmount (or similar) to decrypt the DVD. This can happen pretty fast… it doesn’t actually import anything, it just decodes it. You’ll see that the DVD icon changes to a standard disk image icon.
Copy the VIDEO_TS files to your hard drive. Now you only need to encode the video files into a format that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read — Handbrake is designed for this transcoding operation (I hope it’s not giving you grief). Instead of transcoding the DVD, you’ll transcode the VIDEO_TS folder that’s now on your hard drive.
The REALLY Simple Process: Buying and Renting DVDs from iTunes
This probably wasn’t why you came to this article, but consider this option: Go to the iTunes Store and just buy the stupid DVD. I know it sucks to pay for it twice, but you can spend a lot of time trying to make this work and at some point, it’s just not worth your time. Downloading is perfectly Ok. You’re not accepting defeat, you’re merely choosing your battles wisely. You can even rent movies on iTunes now. Nice.
If you are interested, there are other software packages that are perhaps less prone to error than Handbrake, you just have to pay for them. Here’s a list of some commercial alternatives.
$19.95 – iPodRip — you get 100 tracks for free with the trial download. Runs on Windows and OS X.
I’m planning on doing some international travel soon, and I’ve been wondering whether or not I should take my iPhone with me. I had a lot of questions about how international travel works with my trusty phone, and ultimately, in my case, I concluded it was just too expensive to travel with my iPhone. Read on to learn what I found out.
Does calling US numbers while abroad incur international roaming fees?
YES. And it ain’t cheap. You’re looking at fees around $2 per minute in most countries. You can check AT&T’s site and use their widget to see how much a particular country will cost. Just in case you’re bad at math, let me give you this reality check:HOLY !@#$%^ THAT’S EXPENSIVE!!! $2/minute is $120/hour! Unless you’re a lawyer or surgeon, you’ll go out of business calling your clients while overseas!
Does calling local numbers in that foreign country incur international roaming fees?
YES. ANY calls you make in a foreign country are subject to international roaming charges. Gulp!
The rates change periodically, but here’s an idea of what you might be spending:
Cost per Min.
Cost per Min.
using AT&T World Traveler
($5.99 / month)
* Source of data: http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/international-roaming.jsp prices change.
How much does it cost to access Data with my iPhone?
About $20 per MB. If you recall from earlier articles, the iPhone has a lot of extra features that will drain your battery, but while traveling they could drain your wallet too! If you are paying international rates for data usage, YOU WILL PAY THROUGH THE NOSE!!!.
International Data Plans
You may wonder “how much data do I use?” You can see for yourself: on your iPhone, go to SettingsÂ â†’ GeneralÂ â†’ Usage. You’ll want to reset the statistics and monitor your usage for a week or so, but you may be surprised by how much data you use. I was using about 40MB in a couple weeks… if I had been traveling internationally, this would have cost me $20 per MB, or $800. Holy flaming monkey balls!
How will my Calls be Handled while I’m Traveling?
Normally. If you take your phone with you, it’ll ring like normal (but you’ll pay for answering it). If you turn it off and leave it at home, calls will go directly to voicemail.
My strong suggestion is to turn the phone off and leave it at home — it’s safer there anyway.
How can I check my iPhone’s Voicemail while Traveling?
To check your voicemail, simply call your phone, then interrupt the greeting by pressing * — the default password is your 7 digit mobile number (i.e. your number without area code), and you should set up a unique passcode for it as soon as possible. Call AT&T to have the password reset: 1-800-331-0500.
Alternatively, you can forward incoming phone calls to another phone number, e.g. to a friend or relative or to an answering service (you can’t forward calls to toll-free numbers, suspended numbers, or to international numbers). You set up forwarding by calling AT&T at 1-800-331-0500; they set up forwarding for you IMMEDIATELY; there’s no way to schedule forwarding to begin next week, for example, and the only way to stop forwarding is to call AT&T again. There is no fee for this service.
How are my Texts handled if my Phone is Off?
Normally (probably). Normally, the texts just queue up, and when you turn your phone back on, they all come streaming in, BUT THIS IS NOT GUARANTEED, and it’s even “less guaranteed” if your phone is inactive for long periods of time. In fact, texts in general are not guaranteed. Just like email, texting is an unverifiable protocol. Don’t bank on it. There is no external way to access your text messages; you must access them using your phone, so I hope you’re not expecting any important texts.
Can I get a new SIM card once I’m in a foreign country?
NO, not with an iPhone. On most phones, you can request from AT&T the “subsidy unlock code”; it releases the phone and enables it to be used in another network by another carrier with a new SIM (it unlocks the phone). For most phones, you can request this code in the United States BEFORE YOU TRAVEL. But you can’t get this code for iPhones! That’s the whole weird restriction that iPhones must be on the AT&T network, remember? The only reason you’d want to unlock a phone is if you needed to take THAT particular phone with you. For most of us travelers, we just need ANY phone, so doing this is rare.
If you decide to unlock your phone for international use, you are essentially flying off of AT&T’s radar because you start dealing with another carrier. And, to complicate matters, iPhones don’t like to be unlocked… you have to crack the phone, which is just one more complication that you’d have to deal with while traveling. Keep in mind that unlocked iPhones have quirky and unreliable behavior (e.g. they don’t always ring, the contacts disappear, etc.).
Can I take my SIM card with me and use a different phone?
YES, but this is a bad idea.. You get the worst of both worlds: you leave your nice iPhone at home, but you still pay those high roaming prices. The only valid reason I can think of for doing this is if you MUST have your phone number working at all times for a VERY important call (or maybe your company is paying your phone bill).
If you’ve got another travel-ready phone, or you can buy a cheap phone from AT&T for $39.99 (e.g. Nokia 2600) that will work in most countries (but again, if you are doing this all through the “proper channels”, you’ll still be paying the hefty international roaming charges). Check to see if your phone will work in the countries you’ll be traveling to. AT&T has a handy widget to help you. head over AT&T’s site, and under the “Getting Started” section, click on the “wireless device link” and build an itinerary of countries you’ll be visiting, then choose a phone, and you’ll get a list of whether or not it’ll work in those countries. Or call 1-800-331-0500 and ask for assistance.
Leave your phone at home! Unless you’re in some really special circumstances, it’s not worth the money or risk to travel with your iPhone.
Buy a calling card once you are abroad. It’s cheap to use them to call the US… perhaps 5 or 10 cents per minute for some countries. They’re cheap!
If you NEED a phone, buy a cheap phone once you’re in the destination country. Realize that it may only work in that one country, and as soon as you cross a border, it may break or incur roaming charges. Alternatively, check AT&T’s site and find a phone that will work in the countries where you are traveling (or call 1-800-331-0500 to ask for assistance), then buy a cheap used phone before you leave the US (e.g. Craigslist) that will work in those countries and get a SIM and a calling plan once you get there. You can then use a calling card to call back to the United States.
Make sure you can check your voicemail on your iPhone using another phone! Don’t wait until you’re thousands of miles away to discover there’s a problem with accessing your voicemail remotely.
Talk with AT&T to turn off additional features of your account. Why pay for unlimited texting if you won’t be using your phone? Turn off additional “plan-perks” before you go and save some money if you can. This may only be possible if you’re traveling for a long time and/or your trip coincides nicely with your billing cycles.
Tips for Stubborn People who Must Travel with their iPhone
Get the AT&T World Traveler option. With the astronomical rates for international roaming, it’ll pay for itself with a single call.
Get an international data usage plan! Otherwise, you’ll pay about $20 per megabyte, and remember: your iPhone likes to check weather reports in Cuba and gather Tokyo stock quotes behind your back, so this gets expensive quickly.
Turn off all unnecessary services: Data Roaming “OFF”, 3G Off, Fetch New Data: Off.
Have you run into the problem of having too many RSS feeds that only SOMETIMES contain an article that you’re interested in? They publish lots of updates to your favorite sites, but you are only interested in a fraction of those stories. Don’t you wish you could scrub those results? Well, the folks over at FeedRinse.com allow you to do just that, and it’s FREE.
Grab a list of all your favorite RSS/XML feeds and paste them into the box while setting up your account.
You can filter each feed based on search terms (e.g. allow the post only if “monkey” appears in the title), OR you can create a channel and add your filters to that channel. It’s simply a matter of scope… if you want to apply global rules to each feed, you can do that, or if you want to apply specific rules across multiple feeds, add those rules to the channel.
Once you’ve set up your feeds and your channels, you can “get your rinsed feeds.”
FeedRinse makes it pretty easy to get the stuff you want. But it can be a pain because its functionality revolves around an OPML file. What’s that? Exactly. Yes, most feed reading programs support it, but if you wanted to simply subscribe to a feed, then this little file won’t help you directly. You can “Copy your reading list link” — but I had a problem with the site. I had to logout then log back in before that link worked. And even after logging out, I still couldn’t get the feed to show up natively in Safari (which has its own built-in RSS feed-reader).
A simple alternative is to use Google News…. that’s one way to generate an RSS feed based on search terms. You don’t get the benefit of being able to specify specific RSS feed URLs, but it’s much simpler, and you aren’t limited by the OPML file limitations.
Here are the quick and dirty steps:
Go to Google.com and type in a search term, e.g. “Denver”
On the results page, about 3 links down will be a section for “News results for Denver”. Click it. (alternatively, you can enter a search term in Google, then hit the “News” tab).
View the source of the News page containing the top stories for your search term. Search for “RSS”, and look for the link that looks like this:
Here’s a video of me installing the MODx content management system. In case it wasn’t clear why I was doing this series, I REALLY like MODx and I find it the easiest CMS to work with both as a PHP developer and as a front-end designer. The video is my small contribution to make it easier to install this nifty CMS, and sometimes less is more. There are already a lot of high quality resources available for anyone who wants to try out this CMS. See the references below.
A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.
There are already a lot of resources available to help people install MODx. Here is a list of what I feel are the most useful:
Write down your database name, user, and password. These are the 3 keys to the kingdom that many CMS applications depend on. If you ever forget a password or get into some sort of trouble with the app, you’ll need this information. I recommend storing it in a safe place, as discussed by one of our previous articles on KeePass
Install the Sample Web Site. Yes, if it’s your first time, you can learn a lot by looking through how the sample site works. Go ahead and break it. Demolish it. It’s really easy to install it again.
Visit the Wiki. Some people (including myself) have spent hours creating pages with details and instructions for overcoming a number of problems. The MODx Wiki lives here.
Problems Installing MODx
Nearly all the problems I’ve had in the 20 or 30 MODx installations that I’ve done have stemmed from webserver permissions. Basically, Apache needs to be able read every file and write to certain directories. MODx is very verbose about which files and directories it wants to see, so this is usually easy to fix.
The other problems I’ve run into have only been on dedicated servers that I setup. I’m not a Linux guru (well, except in those really wild fantasies where I’m on a Lear jet with scantily clad foreign courtesans), so some of these “problems” are more like “no-sh*t-Sherlock” annoyances for those with more experience, but they’ve boiled down to simply installing the correct PHP modules.
A while back I did a brief overview of the MODx content management system. Well, I was asked to do a high-resolution video so you can see what the manager interface looks like and you can get an idea of why you might want to choose the MODx content management system for your next web site.
A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.
Publish/unpublish a document by right-clicking the document:
You can set publish/unpublish dates by changing the Page Settings:
Build your own templates or use existing CSS and HTML by adding simple placeholders to the code. Just paste the HTML page into a new Template.
Where you put the [*placeholders*] is somewhat arbitrary, but the above example is how I usually put together my templates. It’s just important to remember how the substitution works. The text in the “Title” field will replace the [*pagetitle*] placeholder tag.
Here’s a graphic I made to demonstrate how the values in the editor are substituted any instances of the placeholders in the template. MODx offers the easiest templating I know of. Stay tuned for a hi-res video illustrating how you can take an existing HTML/CSS layout and turn it into a MODx template… for now, only the low-res video is available.
MODx also allows you to add custom fields to any document, but that’s a more advanced topic… stay tuned.
The requirements for MODx are quite similar to the requirements of other CMS’s.
PHP (4.4.x or above)
MySQL (4.1 or above)
Apache with mod_rewrite (used for friendly URLs)
— Document Tree. Using other CMS’s it can be difficult to locate content. “Where was that legal notice? I know the URL, but I just can’t find the content to edit it!” MODx makes it easy to find and edit your content.
— Isolation of Responsibilities. It’s very simple to isolate roles so a team can work on a site: content folks can login to the manager and edit content, front-end designers can build HTML and CSS templates that integrate EASILY into MODx without a steep learning curve, and PHP developers can write code, and each of these separate groups can work in their respective areas with very simple overlaps.
— Simple Templates. There are no special logical tags to learn for templates; PHP scripts can be saved directly in the database and called from any document. Not all CMS’s provide this kind of isolation, and no other CMS makes it as easy to use existing HTML and CSS layouts.
— Dynamic Menus. They make it easy to move content around your site, and menus will generate themselves automatically!
— Speed. All CMS’s are slower than a static site, but MODx is one of the faster CMS’s that I’ve seen using load time benchmarking.
— Small database footprint. You can get a hundred pages on your site and end up using only a few megabytes in your database. Other CMS’s use much more space in the database.
— Extendable! It is insanely simple to add existing PHP scripts to MODx.
As much as I like MODx, it may not be the best choice for your particular needs.
— 5000 page limit. The new version of MODx will support more, but if you have more than 5000 pages on your site, MODx may not be for you. There are work-arounds, however…
— Open-Source. If you are in a corporate environment and you NEED to have someone on-call for help resolving technical problems, then you should probably look for a different CMS. MODx is open-source. The forums are a great place to get help, but there is no dedicated support staff.
— Versioning. Some CMS’s offer rollback features for the content in your templates or posts (similar to giving you levels of “un-do”), but the current version (0.9.6.3) does not offer this by default. You can add this functionality, but it is not built-in; it is slated to be included in the next version of MODx
I hope that the video gives you an idea of what this content management system looks like. Hopefully you can see how you might use it for one of your own projects. Don’t forget the MODx Wiki and the MODx forums for additional resources. Stay tuned for more videos.