26 September 2008 - 5:01pmSubversion and other things

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It’s been a long time.  I’ll try to give updates on as many things as I can think of in no particular order:

Wedding:

Nothing much new here.  Joelle and I continue to brainstorm about miscellaneous pieces of the wedding, but we haven’t made any concrete plans in quite some time.  Keep an eye out on our wedding blog for updates as they come.

Subversion:

Tonight I decided to tackle the task of installing and configuring Subversion with Apache and WebSVN.  I would have liked to do it using the Apache installation on my Windows computer, but alas, Windows sucks (I would never pay money for it).  As a second option, I turned to an Ubuntu virtual machine created using VirtualBox (which I can run all the time thanks to my recently upgraded 4GB of RAM).  Installation of Subversion is really easy, it’s the following configuration of Apache and WebSVN that was the tough part.  I used a combination of this guide, this guide and finally found this template for WebSVN that looks excellent.  I now have a working Subversion repository where I can store any projects I decide to work on (something anyone working on a development project should probably be doing).

Work:

Work’s been alright lately.  I’ve had some interesting tasks involving VB scripts to look at (one was an Excel macro that I wrote, one was updating a script that queries Active Directory).  I’ve also been working on some documentation here and there.

School:

I looked at classes for next semester today.  My tentative course load looks like this:

  • CS 444 – Operating Systems
  • CS 445 – Compiler Design
  • COMM 444 – Unix Web Administration
  • CS 464 – Game Development (?)
  • EC 350 – Microeconomics (?)

I’m not completely sure about the last two yet.  CS 464 may not actually be offered since it’s pending approval right now and I don’t really know if I want to take Microeconomics or not.  I’ll probably end up doing at least one, if not both, of them.

That’s about all I can come up with at this point.  Hopefully I’ll start posting more often again.

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24 July 2008 - 9:19amWP-SpamFree at last

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For the last few weeks I’ve been getting 15-25 spam comments per day on my blog.  I have had Akismet installed since the beginning, but I was getting tired of having to clear the queue on a daily basis. I went looking for a better option and found the WP-SpamFree plugin. WP-SpamFree uses some complicated JavaScript and who knows what else to make it very difficult for a spambot to post a comment (I haven’t looked at the source and the description of how it works was very vague). As I understand it, the plugin can’t possibly block a real human from posting, since the logic used only affects bots (because of this, all spam comments are just deleted, there’s no queue to sift through). Since this is a “front-end” spam blocker, you have to deactivate any other “front-end” spam blockers, such as captchas, but you can leave “back-end” spam blockers, such as Akismet, active (though the plugin’s author says it won’t be necessary). So far, the plugin has blocked about 10 spam comments and nothing has slipped through to Akismet.

In addition to WP-SpamFree, I also installed WP Super Cache and AJAXed WordPress. WP Super Cache adds caching functionality to WordPress to reduce the load on the server when pages are requested (by creating static HTML pages to serve up instead). So far it’s working quite well. AJAXed WordPress adds some awesome AJAX to WordPress if you have the time to modify your theme to accomodate it (there’s only like two things active out of the box, the rest require theme modification). I haven’t had time to play with it yet, but there’s a lot of potential.

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23 July 2008 - 3:34pmSweet!

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I was looking at my site’s stats on my Google Analytics account today and I noticed three referrals from a URL I’d never heard of before. Drilling deeper into the report revealed that the referring URL was the “plugins.php” page of this person’s blog. Still not understanding what was going on, I went to this person’s blog and poked around a little and then it hit me… the author of http://burkeism.com/blog is using my Google Calendar Feed Parser plugin! Woo!

What a good feeling it was to see someone actually employing my code on their own website. If you are a Google Calendar Feed Parser user, please leave a comment and let me know. And, if you’re the author of burkeism.com, leave me a comment and let me know how it’s worked for you. And, if you’re a user and you really like my plugin, link to it on your blog so others can find it too!

Edit: Further perusal of my Analytics reports revealed more users of my plugin! I’m psyched. In addition to these referrals from other blog’s “plugins.php” (which are a result of someone clicking on my name in their WP admin panel), I’ve also had 150 referrals from the WordPress Plugins site and my plugin has been downloaded 93 times. Also, a simple search for my plugin (or any derivative thereof, including “google calendar feed”) on Google gets you to my plugin from the first page of results (a search for the exact title “Google Calendar Feed Parser” yields the number one result!).

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, General

21 July 2008 - 11:14amValidation

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Today I decided to run my homepage through the W3C’s Validator. I found a couple errors (ampersands in URLs that needed to be converted to entity references and also some bugs in the way WordPress formats a post with misplaced <p> tags). I fixed them quick and then added the provided badge thing to my sidebar.

Then I was reading this article by Jeff Atwood on his blog, “Coding Horror,” in which he mentions that Google’s homepage has 63 validation errors. I think I did it once before, but just for kicks I decided to run Google through the validator to see how it’s doing these days. Check it out for yourself.

Now, considering the fact that Google employs some of the smartest people in the world, why on earth can they not manage to include a DOCTYPE at the beginning of their page?

Moving past that issue and manually selecting a DOCTYPE from the dropdown yields far less than satisfying results. What could you possibly be doing on such a simple page that you end up with 180 errors? Get one of your geniuses to fix them real quick. By the looks of the errors it would only take about an hour or so. I’ll even do it for you.

Does anyone else think that’s ridiculous?

2 Comments | Categories: COSI, General

14 July 2008 - 8:04pmMobile Posting

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Today I set myself up with the ability to post to my blog from my cell phone (without paying for a data plan). I know this isn’t really anything new, but the thought hadn’t ever really occurred to me before, so I was excited about it. Using the Postie Plugin for WordPress, I configured my blog to post e-mails from my cell phone to a particular e-mail address. I can send SMS or MMS messages (I pay for unlimited within-Verizon SMS/MMS and that comes with 500 outside-Verizon SMS/MMS) and anything that’s attached (like a picture) will be posted inline. Postie has a lot of cool features, including the ability to cut off the Verizon-supplied message that appears at the end of whatever text I sent. This functionality (among many other things) is not available in the core WordPress installation, so if you’re looking to post via e-mail or SMS, Postie is the way to go (also, posting a picture attached to an e-mail or MMS message is broken in version 2.5 of WordPress… hopefully to be fixed in 2.6).

So, expect to see random postings of things I find entertaining while I’m out and about. They’ll be categorized under “Mobile” for easy reference.

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8 July 2008 - 2:03pmUpdate

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Hello all. Updates follow, categorized for easy digestion:

Wedding Plans: Not much progress on this front lately. We did purchase some paper the other day to use for making “save the date” cards (a task we need to get started on). Other than that, there isn’t much to do at this point. We’re going to look at the guest list some more to see who’s missing and how many we have (we’re trying desperately to keep the numbers down so we don’t end up spending a fortune). We were in the paper the other day! Our engagement announcement appeared in Saturday’s edition of the Press & Sun Bulletin. Check out our wedding website for a link to the announcement online.

Google Calendar Feed Parser: As many of you know, I wrote my first WordPress plugin recently and I’m happy to report good news. My plugin has had 50 downloads so far with 9 being the most downloads in one day! I’ve also had some comments on the plugin’s post on this blog. Check out that post or its page on the WordPress Plugins site.

Future Plugin: My second plugin will come in the form of a directory application that can be integrated into a WordPress blog. This idea stems from a directory app I’ve been working on for my church. I recently set up a WordPress blog as the main site for the church and rather than have a separate login for the directory, I decided the directory would function better as a plugin to WordPress, thus allowing a user to access both the blog and the directory without logging in twice (creating a plugin is the only way I know of to accomplish this). Look for more information in the coming weeks.

New computer: I’m in the beginning stages of building a new computer for my parents/sister. Our Dell has held up over the years, but it’s just too old to handle Windows Vista (our new Dell laptop came with Vista and because we needed to be able to use the printer attached to the desktop computer from the new laptop, an upgrade to Vista was the logical solution). Now, no one uses that computer because it takes so long to do anything on. So after some researching online, I’ve come up with what I think will be the final specs and we’re going to purchase a few pieces at a time over the coming weeks.

New phone: I recently purchased a Samsung SCH-i760 off of eBay for a hefty price. This was a long-awaited upgrade from my Motorola v325i and I have to say I’m very pleased so far. I really like having a full keyboard and the touchscreen is excellent as well. Joelle likes it because it has Solitaire and Tetris (which I have to say are quite nice).

Work: Work is alright. I’ve had an opportunity to do more of the web development work that I was supposed to have been doing all along. When I get to work on that, I like my job a lot more. Somewhere around the beginning of August I’m being reassigned to a new department: the operations center. This department monitors web application availibility, network traffic, server availibility, etc. for the entire site and many of the remote sites. I’m looking forward to it.

I think that’s about it for right now, stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks.

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21 June 2008 - 9:49pmMy First WordPress Plugin

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I just wrote my first WordPress Plugin! You probably just saw my post about it… I decided to do a formal post to document the plugin (which I can use for the plugin’s URL on the WP Plugin site) and then post afterwards to announce it to the masses.

Anyway, it’s called Google Calendar Feed Parser and it does basically what the title implies. You give it the URL for a Google Calendar feed and it parses and displays the feed for use in a sidebar to show upcoming events on your calendar. There are still a lot of improvements that I’d like to work into it, but version 0.1 has some pretty solid core functionality and should work well in any WordPress theme.

Try it out on your blog and let me know what you think. I’m excited about it and I plan to continue working on adding functionality so suggestions are very welcome.

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21 June 2008 - 9:40pmGoogle Calendar Feed Parser

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Update: Version 0.2 was released today (4/19/2009) which allows configuration of a timezone offset that can be customized to force start and end times from the XML feed to be displayed in the desired timezone (see documentation of the option below).

Update: I’ve added a screenshot of the plugin in action on a blog I administer.  You can view it here.

Google Calendar Feed Parser is a WordPress Plugin designed to facilitate incorporating a Google Calendar XML feed into your WordPress blog.  I wrote this plugin after being unable to find an existing plugin to provide similar functionality.  I intend to keep this plugin up to date, compatible with the most recent releases of WordPress, as they occur.  If you have suggestions, comments, advice, etc. or you would like to help me develop the plugin, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.  Any help is appreciated (especially since this is my first WordPress Plugin).  Please let me know if you have any timezone related issues, I had some odd problems getting the times to appear properly.

To install Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Download the zip archive and extract it to the wp-content/plugins directory.
  2. Go to the “Plugins” page in the WordPress Admin interface and click the “Activate” link for the Google Calendar Feed Parser.

To configure Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Go to the “Settings” page in the WordPress Admin interface and click the link for the “Google Calendar” page.
  2. Set the URL for the calendar feed and other settings as desired (see below for full explanation of all options).

Options:

  1. Feed URL: This is the URL of the feed you wish to incorporate in your blog.  It should be of the form:

    http://www.google.com/calendar/feeds/userID/public/full?param=value&param=value…

    • For a listing of available parameters, see the Google Calendar API documentation. I found the following query string to provide desirable results:

      ?orderby=starttime&sortorder=ascending&futureevents=true&singleevents=true

    • Note that the max-results parameter should not be specified here as it will be handled by the setting below.
  2. Static URL: Use this option if you want to have each event link to a single URL (e.g. have each event link to a page where you’ve embedded your Google Calendar).  If you leave this set to “No”, the plugin will use the link provided by the feed for each individual event.
  3. Max Results: Use this to set the maximum number of events to retrieve and display from the calendar.  If left blank, the plugin’s default is 4.
  4. Timezone Offset: Change this value only if you are having issues with times from the feed displaying correctly. The value supplied in this field is a number of seconds added directly to both the start time and the end time for each event. The default for this value, if left blank, is 7200 seconds. Note: In a future release of the plugin, this option will be replaced with a more comprehensive timezone customization feature.

To Use Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Include a call to the function gcal_parse_feed() at the spot where you want the feed to appear.  I use the feed in my sidebar but you could use the feed wherever you want.
  2. Include style rules in your template’s stylesheet to customize the look of the feed.  A single event outputted from the plugin would be of the form:

    <div id=”events”> <div class=”event”> <h3><a href=”http://some-link-here”>Event Title</a></h3> <p id=”event_time”>July 12, 2009 from 9:00pm to 10:00pm</p> </div> …more events here… </div>

Donations:

If you like this plugin, please consider donating.


Changelog:

Version 0.1 (first):

  • Ability to set feed URL.
  • Choice of whether to use event URL from feed or static URL for each event.
  • Ability to set max-results parameter.

Future Functionality:

  • Ability to customize query string from the Admin interface in WordPress.

90 Comments | Categories: COSI, General, Technology

12 June 2008 - 10:13amFirefox 3 Release Date Announced

The release date for Firefox 3 has been announced. On June 17th, Firefox 3 will be released to the masses. Download pledges on spreadfirefox.com have reached 1,095,440 as of 10:10 this morning. To pledge your download and help Mozilla set a world record, click the link on the right and sign up for notification emails.

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6 June 2008 - 9:03pmMy résumé

I finished the online version of my résumé today. To view the complete version (with contact information) you’ll have to answer a simple question about me. If you don’t know the answer and you think you should, email me and I’ll decide. Anyway, if you notice any glaring spelling errors please let me know via a comment or an email or something.

Other than that I’ve been working on my church’s website a little lately. As soon as I work out some server issues and get some content up, I’ll post a link here for you to check it out.

1 Comment | Categories: General, Life