Giving people Ubuntu envy

While preparing for my presentation to the staff of the Sun.Star website last week, I was a bit worried whether Ubuntu Feisty Fawn would detect and work with the office’s LCD projector.

I’m a stickler for backups. I finished my OpenOffice Impress presentation in the laptop and then converted it into a PowerPoint file. I then saved the file in my USB stick and phone’s memory card.

ubuntu presentation PRESENTING WITH UBUNTU. Demonstrating installation, maintenance, and upgrading of WordPress to Sun.Star website staff. Click on photo to enlarge.

My Ubuntu laptop runs an Apache, PHP, MySQL server for local web development and demonstration. I recreated an Apache server on my USB stick using UniformServer in case (dear God no!) I would be forced to use any of the Windows XP units of Sunnex, the department that runs the Sun.Star website.

Just in case I encountered problems, I did a web search for issues with Ubuntu and LCD projectors and then copied possible solutions for different problems. I assumed, correctly it turned out, I wouldn’t be able to access the Internet in the remote Camotes Island resort we were billeted in.

Come presentation time, I was crossing my fingers when I plugged the LCD projector cable into my laptop. I need not have worried. It worked flawlessly.

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Sun, sand, sea, and SEO

I spent two days last week in the paradise island of Camotes in Cebu for a talk on optimizing news websites for search engines and a training on using WordPress for the staff of Sunnex, the department that runs the Sun.Star website.

I’m the online editor of Sun.Star Cebu, a member of Sun.Star Network Online, and my role on the website is limited to overseeing updating of content for our paper’s website. I am not involved in the technical side of the website operations albeit I send suggestions once in a while. It might not be evident to outsiders but Sun.Star has different departments with different work cultures.

Camotes Island IT IS a testament to Camotes’ beauty that no matter how tiring and energy-sapping it was in the days leading to the seminar, we left the island wanting to come back immediately. Click on photo to enlarge.

For a long time, I’ve had a nagging suspicion that Sun.Star suffers from a Google penalty over something that is a result of a server configuration. I warned the staff about this before but did not have the evidence to back it up. I’d see it to be the case once in while when doing searches but I’ve never before had the chance to raise it to Sunnex.

Last week, I was able to confirm this while doing a search, for my presentation, to show the effect of a particular ‘negative crawling/ranking attribute.’ I don’t think I’m at a liberty to tell what this is but the solution is dead simple and the website should see substantial improvements in rankings and earnings if it’s able to fix this.

Last year, I suggested (and pissed off people who didn’t want “outsiders” to raise suggestions) a particular ad optimization tweak and made a bold prediction—that the Sun.Star website’s earnings will double if they follow my suggestion. I actually encountered resistance on that very simple ad optimization and was verbally abused. The earnings more than doubled since then. For my troubles, I’m now richer—but only in karma points in some online journalism heaven. They didn’t even have to spend for a lousy certificate or consume saliva to thank me for it.

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Winning in the Philippine Blog Awards

In 1997, someone told me I’ll never understand FTP. Last night, I won in the best technology blog category in the first-ever Philippine Blog Awards.

What difference a decade makes, huh?

The colleague who told me I won’t be able to grasp FTP probably never meant it as an insult. He was grumbling on being given the added task of sending magazine pages via FTP to the server of a Hong Kong-based company. He was right to grumble, imagine the upload speeds in 1998. I asked him what FTP was and I think he meant it to be a brush-off when he said I wouldn’t be able to understand it.

I’ve gotten more familiar with FTP, among other things, since then.

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Nice work if you can get it: Ella sings and WordPress blings

I took the plunge. This blog, as well as a host of other sites I run using WordPress, is now using the latest release of the popular open source blogging software: WordPress 2.1 “Ella,” named after the great Ella Fitzgerald, one of my favorite singers.

I did not encounter errors in the upgrading process, which took less than an hour for all the blogs I oversee. I am, to continue with the Ella theme, in the mood for “making whoopee.”

Major upgrades, like WordPress 2.1, are not to be taken lightly. I botched a major Serendipity upgrade oh so many years back (my fault) and lost at least 50 blog posts. On hindsight, though, the posts are better off in digital limbo.

WordPress update CPANEL FEATURE. Cpanel allows you to upload a packaged file (i.e. zip, tar) and then uncompress this using a point and click interface. This saved me time in uploading new WordPress files while upgrading several blogs I run. Click on image to view larger version.

Unlike security releases, which I implement as soon as I read about them, I usually take days to upgrade to a feature release. This gives me time to read about problems of others who took the plunge earlier. The major cause for worry with the latest WordPress version is the compatibility of plugins for your website blings.
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WeRoam saves the day: Updating WordPress to latest release

Internet connection has been dismal these past few days following the earthquake in Taiwan that cut submarine cables connecting parts of Asia to the Internet. The Globelines Broadband account I use at home chokes on most web sites. When I connect using it, I’d be able to load pages for the first few minutes and then the connection gets stalled again.

The intermittent connection has made me dependent these past few days on the PLDT WeRoam account temporarily assigned to my wife. WeRoam isn’t as fast as Globelines BQ (before the quake) but with it, I manage to check my mails and browse “must-visit” sites such as del.icio.us and Lifehacker. I seldom visit, let alone log into, my blog these days because of the awful connection speeds. Luckily, I managed to open my Google Reader an hour back and read JAngelo’s post about a vulnerability in WordPress, the open source script I use in this site. I promptly logged into my blog and found that version 2.0.6 has been released.

Seeing that WordPress 2.0.6 “includes an important security fix,” I quickly prepared to update blogs I run and help manage. Before last week, I wouldn’t have dared upgrading my blog using WeRoam. The signal at home is weak and my previous attempt at using WeRoam’s connection to FTP files to my server had me giving up after a few minutes, it was so slow I decided to switch to Globelines.

But today, WeRoam is fast. Not Globelines fast but fast enough for FTP uploading of files to the server. Thank God. With my blogs updated, now I can sleep.

Running a web server, WordPress on my phone

I was finally able to run an Apache, PHP, MySQL server on my Sony Ericsson K750i. I did it on my second attempt, the first was disastrous, and that’s putting it mildly, as I crashed my phone and I had to reformat its memory card, wiping out several photos I haven’t been able to save to my PC yet.

I have long wanted to set up a development web server in my K750i, which also serves as my primary USB drive.

wordpress in k750i WORDPRESS ON MY PHONE. Installing WordPress on my K750i, using Uniform Server. The phone doesn’t actually run it, its memory card is merely being used by the PC to run the server. Click on image to enlarge.

I use my shared hosting space for my WordPress-related work and experiments as well as tests on PHP/MySQL scripts that catch my interest. This setup is such a hassle. I have to FTP files to and from the server and sometimes connections can be so slow that frustration creeps in.

The files in my account have also become such a mess because I’ve tried quite a few scripts, each with its own sub-domain.

I decided I should have a “web server on a stick,” a functioning Apache, MySQL and PHP server on a thumb drive. The Sony Ericsson K750i, as with most multi-media phones, also serves as a USB mass storage drive. This makes it possible to set up an Apache server on its memory card.

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Upgrading to latest WordPress version

The WordPress team has released a new version of the popular and open source blogging software. The new version, 2.0.5, breaks the WordPress tradition of naming releases after jazz musicians. The team named the release Ronan, in honor of contributor Ryan Boren’s son, who was born earlier this month.

Matt Mullenweg said in his post in the WordPress development blog that the WordPress team suggests that “everyone upgrade as this includes security fixes” (emphasis mine). Here’s a link to the changes.

I’ve just upgraded this blog and a host of others I help maintain to the latest version. I initially thought of uploading only the changed files but later decided to upload the whole thing for good measure. If you’re interested only on the changed files, new WordPress 2.0 maintainer Mark Jaquith has compiled a list.

Better photo presentation in your website in 2 easy steps

Photos are best presented with captions or cutlines. The caption adds context to photographs and provides readers such information as the identity of the people in it, where it was taken and any other data not obvious in the photograph.

I used to publish photos with captions by creating an HTML table to contain the image and caption and then floating this within the text by giving the table a left or right alignment. Not only is the process cumbersome but many experts in web design advice against using tables for anything but tabular data.

There is a simpler way to do it.

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How to convert any web template into a WordPress theme

Among blogging applications, WordPress probably has the largest number of great-looking themes to use. Still, there are hundreds of free and even open source web templates not yet converted to work with WordPress. Knowing how to make this themes work with WordPress broadens your choice of design to use for your blog.

Converting a web template is fairly easy if you take the time to learn how to do it. I wrote this guide for someone like me a few months back — eager to use a great looking web design and yet not knowing how to start converting it to work with WordPress. If you want to view a video tutorial on how I turned this open source web design into this WordPress theme, click here for the blog post.

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Turning a web template into a WordPress theme: a video tutorial

Knowing how to turn any web template into a WordPress theme broadens your choice of designs to use for your blog. I created this video tutorial for someone like me a few months back: eager to attempt turning a great looking open source web template into a WordPress theme but not knowing how to start. If you want to read a tutorial based on the screencast, click here.

For the screencast, I turned this open source web template into this WordPress theme. The video tutorial ends with the creation of the different WordPress theme files. The part when I activated the theme, tweaked it, and fixed errors wasn’t captured as I ran out of virtual memory. I just included notes on the tweaking after the screencast below.

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