Archive | PHP

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor? Hardly. A server-side languages for producing web pages, simply. Build it up into complex object-oriented frameworks. The workhorse for dozens of content management systems, blogging systems and web sites. Can build rich client apps, too.

Please stay on the line, as calls are answered in the order in which they are received

Astute fans may have noticed the site seems to be having a little trouble. Yup. The site became non-responsive the morning of 20-Nov-2014, and the usual actions had little effect. There were few clues in the logs nor diagnostics easily pulled from the software. To get up and running quickly, I did the famous “WordPress 5 minute Install” and restored the essential configuration. I’ll be restoring the usual theme, fonts, plugins and assets (pictures, links, videos, etc.) from backups as time allows.

Thank you for your understanding.

CDN Syncing!

Magnifying glass

Detective Work

So, I rolled up the sleeves and dug into the web server logs and the code of the CDN synchronizing tool. I found the GitHub site where the code came from, forked the code and created a branch with a couple of different attempts at fixing it. On my third attempt, seem to have a working hourly sync run using the WordPress pseudo-cron functionality. I’ll bundle up my changes and offer a pull request to the upstream developers so they can have the changes as well.

0

Blog optimization update: WordPress, CDN, Speed, Caching, Accessibility

Keep Calm and Clear Cache

Keep Calm

I’ve continued to do some research on optimizing the blog responsiveness, and I’m pleased with the results. Anecdotal tests this morning, with no local caching, showed a 2 second load time with a 1.2 second DOMLoaded event. That’s pretty good. Here are a few notes on things I’ve been working on:

  • Google’s PageSpeed Tools offered some helpful insights.
  • Minifying some of the text assets – HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – is working well, though I’d like to be more easily able to toggle this for debuggng.
  • Using the Rackspace CloudFiles caching with WordPress lacks a good automated tool on the WordPress side to keep the cache synced with changes. I’ve been using the SuperCache plugin for local speedups, and it supports a variety of CDNs. The CDN-Sync-Tool plugin is no longer available on the WordPress.org site, and several forks on GitHub all seem to be out of date. It’s unclear, so far, where the problem is. The WP cron jobs are failing. Whether that’s an internal configuration problem, or unsupported calls to an old API, I haven’t worked out yet. Next time I try this, I’ll look at some deeper pilot testing for CDNs with better WordPress support.
  • Inspired by “Why Bother with Accessibilty” by Laura Kalbag, part of the excellent 24ways series, I did some initial accessibility testing. The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool tests your site for accessibility, an essential feature these days. Accessibility makes your site more understandable and easier to navigate for all users. Disabilities aren’t someone else’s problems; they are a state we will all pass through at one stage or another.There are a few glitches in my templates that I will work to rectify. A larger problem s the observation that my style choices have lead to a rather low-contrast site.

Notes from Seacoast WordPress Developers Group, 4-Dec-2013

Seven people attended the December meeting of the Seacoast WordPress Developers group, held at the AlphaLoft coworking space in Portsmouth, NH. The main topic was “Best Business Practices,” which was a great topic but, as always, the conversations and netwokring and recommendations that went on around the main topic were also very helpful and informative. Among those tidbits:

  • The Ewww image optimizer can reduce the size of images and speed webpage loading with minimal quality change.
  • Matt Mullenweg delivers an annual “State of the Word” speech with lots of interesting insights.
  • Open question: What topics would YOU like to learn about? The group is about YOU. How can we get YOU to attend?
  • Which SEO are people familiar with? WordPress SEO by Yoast was the most popular mentioned
  • Question on speeding sites, and a recommendation for the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

On to the main topic: “Best Business Practices” can easily degenerate into a “Client Horror Stories” session. Kudos to organizer Amanda Giles for keeping a tight rein on the discussions and getting us to focus on covering as much as possible. Andy provided a redacted proposal he had written up for a client and we reviewed and discussed it. There was a lot of good back and forth. Andy had some very insightful item in his proposal that made it clear what the client would see at each phase, what items were optional or deferred to a later project phase, and how client decisions could affect the outcome in terms of schedule and cost. This was a great launching point for a lot of discussion on terms, contracts (my stance: pay a lawyer for a few hours to draft a good contract!), how to handle open-ended items like design reviews and never-ending revisions, terms for stock photos and graphics, and so forth. The discussion was very worthwhile and everyone felt they had their questions answered and learned a few new things. What more can you ask for a meeting?

Our next two meetings are scheduled for TUESDAY (not the normal meeting night) January 7th and Wednesday, February 5th. Please consider joining the Meetup group to keep up on the details on upcoming meetings.

0

New post testing CDN support on WordPress

DSCN1940 So, the Content Distribution Network is in place and several tests indicate it is working well — page loads are much faster, the URLs of the CDN content are re-written properly — but the next question is whether new materials will be automatically added to the CDN. The picture at the left (and yes, this is an excuse to post a cute dog picture, too) should appear with a link to the high-resolution (1.8 Mb) image. On the blog itself, that link should be of the format http://blog.tedroche.com/wp-content/uploads/2003/12/NameOfPicture.jpg, while if the picture is picked up by the CDN synchronization software, it should upload to the CDN and the URL be rewritten to http://static.blog.tedroche.com/etcetera. Let’s try it out and see what happens…

Woah. Success first time. Pretty cool.

Some details on what I’ve got set up: I’m using the Rackspace Cloud Files service as the CDN. I had worked with Rackspace before on some hosting projects, and have a friend working there, so I thought I’d try them out first. It appears that their CDN services are in an early stage and don’t have all of the features of soe of the more mature products. In particular, it appears that the blog software is reponsible for pushing any new or updated content to the CDN. By contrast, the Amazon S3 offering has an ‘origin pull’ feature that will pull content from the original source when it is first requested, and subsequently cache it.

In order to get the contents of my local blog to sync with the CDN, I added the CDN-Sync-Tool plugin. A lot of web searching seemed to indicate I could find this in the WordPress Plugins directory online, but the tool has been pulled from the directory. Apparently, it is undergoing some redevelopment. The version I found was on GitHub under https://github.com/WDGDC/CDN-Sync-Tool and installation was not more complex that downloading the ZIP and unzipping it in the plugins folder. Bear in mind that you should be comfortable with using the command line and have the skills to review the files you are installing on your machine, as there has been no review by the WordPress folks, and the code is currently under development and you may need to deal with bugs, incompatibilities and support problems. So, this isn’t the path I’d recommend for less-technical WordPress developers, and likely isn’t the path I’d recommend for a client looking to put a CDN into production use.

Note that most cache programs and their CDN features are set up in such a way that logged-in users may see a slower site, but more up-to-date, site, and that in order to test caching you’ll need to log out of your WordPress session.

 

0

Notes from Manchester WordPress Meetup, 16-Oct-2013

The Manchester WordPress Meetup met at The Farm restaurant (Elm Street, Manchester) on Wednesday October 16th. Their regular meeting night is the 2nd Monday of the month, which they’ll resume November 11th.) A smaller crowd that usual made it to the event, but it just gave us each more time to talk, get our questions answered, and quiz the speaker.

Craig Fifield (www.craigfifield.com) was the featured speaker, talking about Google Authorship. (A second speaker had an accident and was unable to make it. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!). Google Authorship is a means of tagging your written content on the web and linking it to your Google Plus profile. Craig has a lot of experience in the SEO space, as he’s worked with the web since 1995, “before SEO or Google existed.” Craig was very fired-up about the Google Authorship concept, and showed us how to to link our WordPress posts to our Google Profile. Like many Google processes, it’s a two-way operation: establish a Google Plus profile and point it to the publications you’ve written, and edit the publications and include a link that points back to your profile. While there are several WordPress plugins that claim to support this feature, Google Authorship is still a moving target, and none seem to follow the current guidance.

Craig also emphasized that it’s important to test your setup once you get it in place; it’s not enough to embed the links and assume everything works. He recommended using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool on several of the pages to ensure your author information was showing up correctly on individual articles, but not on streams of articles (front pages, archives, etc.) or places where a byline would be inappropriate (About Me or Contact pages, for example).

We had some time for announcements and Q&A as well. Meetup organizer Jonathan May will be teaching Advanced Topics in WordPress at the Nashua Adult Learning Center. Jeff (missed his last name) spoke about the Fossil Fuel Age Challenge Ecosite Competition: a nonprofit effort to promote sites with a green focus by holding a competition and promoting the ecological movement as well as a bit of self-promotion for the developers. Things are still coming together, but it looks like one WordPress site would be selected at random and the winner would get a dinner with Matt Mullenweg, while a winning Drupal site would get a dinner with Dries. It sounds like good fun, and a good chance to get soem promotion of your authoring skills. More details can be found at EcoEnlighten.com and EcoSiteCompetition.org.

Also mentioned: several upcoming meetings: GNHLUG meets at The Farm on October 22, lots of good meetups like the Web-Developers group and the Seacoast WordPress group at AlphaLoft in Portsmouth. And tickets are getting scarce for WordCamp Boston, held October 25-26-27 — get yours soon!

Thanks to Craig for presenting, Jonathan for organizing the meetup, and all for attending and participating!

0

Seacoast WordPress notes, October 2, 2013

The October meeting of the Seacoast WordPress Meetup was held on October 2, 2013, at the AlphaLoft coworking space. Thanks to owner Josh for encouraging groups to use the space!

Of course, you never get techies together when they don’t just jump into talking about what they’re up to! We had a question on using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to improve responsiveness for an international site. David talked about his experience with CloudFlare. A quick Google showed that there were a number of plugins that claim to offer some CDN functionality, and that initial offers the member had gotten might have been inflated.

David also showed the Dynamik theme add-on to the Genesis theme that generates a set of media queries to support mobile devices.

We started off the more formal meeting with a round of introductions: Amanda, Chris, me, Jim, Laurel, Dylan, David, Andy, Tina, and Tom.

Off we go into questions and comments. One member did some troubleshooting of a plugin-laden site using P3, the plugin performance profiler. Others offered their opinions that excessive plugin use can be the source of a lot of compatibility and/or performance problems.

The main presentation of the evening was from Amanda Giles and the Canvas theme from Woo Themes. Wow! This theme can do a lot, lay out in a number of different ways, and has great administrative functions off the dashboard to make lots and lots of changes from within the interface, and not having to fork off a child theme and mess with the code directly. The Premium theme is $119 for developer version or $99 basic. Both include a year of support and upgrades. The Developer version includes PSD files for designers to customize the theme in PhotoShop. A yearly upgrade is obviously what Woo would like everyone to do (who wouldn’t?) but Amanda indicated it’s okay to stick with the version you buy in perpetuity or until they come out with a compelling feature you want.

The number of features were remarkable. Here are a few I remembered to record: easy file structure, lots of hooks, extensive admin functions, support for short codes. Amanda set up a website for attendees to follow along with the various pages of the dashboard and do a little experimenting. Obviously, the access can’t be made public to the entire internet. See www.canvas.client-look.com. We worked our way through many the Canvas options, for an hour! If you don’t have Photoshop, check out pixLR.com for an online utility that will do many of the basic functions.

Woo Themes also includes “templates” within the theme that allows more complex layouts: Magazine has a full-width slider, followed by full-width article, followed by a grid of articles. Also, a second template, Business, with a different layout.

In the header of the Woo Themes dashboard, “View Theme Documentation” takes you to the WooThemes web pages of documentation, which are extensive!

Amanda reminded us that WordCamp Boston will be happening at the NERD Center October 25-27. Well worth the effort to attend. Seacoast WordPress folks will try to get together for a birds-of-a-feather session or lunch; watch the Meetup group for details.

0

Calculate your BMI using Wolfram Alpha

Harness the power of the Wolfram Alpha computational engine to see how your height/weight ranks against the currently-accepted BMI calculations and populations:

[wolframalphawidget id=”bd2271d0eb320a2e2f27536bce47b91d” ]

Wolfram Alpha provides a WordPress plugin that allows the WordPress author to use a shortcode to place a widget in a post. There’s also (separate) support for putting a Wolfram Alpha widget inside a WordPress sidebar or widget. There’s a gallery with lots of pre-created widgets and an interface to create your own. Pretty cool.

Note that you need to specify the units (“lb” for pounds, “in” for inches, or 5′ 7.5″ for typical foot-inches height expressions) otherwise the widget seems to make some really poor choices, deciding that weight of 67 means aged 67 years.

0

Fixing shorttags in PHP source code

Short tags is a topic of some controversy in coding circles: wrapping your script in less-than, question-mark x 2, greater-than signs is easy to type and flows off the fingers but can be a source of confusion to some parsers. In PHP, it is not recommended, but there is a “shorttag” option available to override it globally or locally.

I recently was asked to edit some older PHP code and found it was littered with short tags, both the <? script goes here ?> variety and the shortcut output <?=”Print this string”?> variety, which need to be replaced by <?php script goes here ?> and <?php echo “Print this string” ?> respectively. A bit beyond my search-and-replace regex or sed skills, I found a fairly elegant solution on StackOverflow, which uses PHP to rewrite PHP:

#! /usr/bin/php
 <?php
 global $argv;
$contents = file_get_contents($argv[1]) or die;
 $tokens = token_get_all($contents);
 $tokens[] = array(0x7E0F7E0F,"",-1);
foreach($tokens as $ix => $token) {
 if(is_array($token)) {
 list($toktype, $src) = $token;
 if ($toktype == T_OPEN_TAG) {
 if (($src == "<?") && ($tokens[$ix+1][0] != T_STRING)) {
 $src = "<?php";
 if ($tokens[$ix+1][0] != T_WHITESPACE) {
 $src .= " ";
 }
 }
 }
 else if($toktype == T_OPEN_TAG_WITH_ECHO) {
 $src = "<?php echo";
 if($tokens[$ix+1][0] != T_WHITESPACE) {
 $src .= " ";
 }
 }
 print $src;
 }
 else {
 print $token;
 }
 }

It just needed a little shell wrapper to take in all the files (which I’d renamed *.php.old and archived and made a backup of) and put them out as *.php.old.new. Again, a quick rename and I was in business. I was astounded to find it ran the first time!

#! /bin/bash
FILES=./*.php.old
 for f in $FILES
 do
 echo "phpize $f >$f.new"
 ./phpize.php $f>$f.new
 done
0

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.