Top 5 Must Have WordPress Plugins

If you are starting or already are maintaining a WordPress blog, you must have these plugins mentioned here.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of plugins by now.  But eye-candy isn’t going to make your blog popular.  You need the right tools.

If I was the distro manager for WordPress,  I would include all five of them in the off-the-shelf installation of the blog. If you are familiar with how to add plugins on WordPress, then do not sleep until you get all five of these up and running.    The process for adding plugins is very simple, and I’ll add some information on that at the bottom of this post.  But first, here’s the five must have plugins for your blog:  (drum roll please….)

1. Akismet
Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. You need a WordPress.com API key to use it.   I can’t tell you how much grief this has saved me.  There are the occasional false positives, but honestly, who wants to run a blog these days without some kind of spam filter?   Get it now and make your life easier.

2. All in One SEO Pack
Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog.  Unless you are writing a blog exclusively for your family and friends, you will need all the SEO (search engine optimization) help you can get.  This is the most-downloaded plugin in the WordPress planet.  That means even if it doesn’t really help, if you don’t have it, everyone else does.

3. Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin will generate a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by Ask.com, Google, Microsoft Bing, and YAHOO.  This is another no-brainer.  Let the search engines see your blogs in real time.

4. ShareThis
Let your visitors share a post/page with others. Supports e-mail and posting to social bookmarking sites.   There are several competing services that offer this, but these guys do it well, and it’s super simple to include in your blog.  They are soon becoming the ubiquitous social bookmark tag on the internet.  Your readers will start using it instantly, and that means qualified viral traffic.  What could be better?

5. WordPress.com Stats

We have Google Analytics running on our blogs too, and that’s great.  But WordPress knows the blog business. They have the exact stats you need and want to see on a regular basis.  You will need an API key for this app, which you can pick at WordPress.org (you can use the same key as for the Askimet spam filter above).

Review on how to add plugins

Go to your admin panel, and click on the plugins tab on the left side after “Appearance”.  Search for the plugins  mentioned above, and have WordPress install them automatically.  The process should run without a hitch.  If you do run into problems, they usually stem from security on the plugins folder (wp-content/plugins).  The plugins page does a good job of walking you through the process, so I will leave that to the experts.

WordPress 2.8 Bug – Visual Editor is Missing Menu

WordPress 2.8 Bug

For those of you who have upgraded your blog to version 2.8 of WordPress, which was released last week, there is a bug that is being reported in the forums.  The visual editor WYSIWYG menu is lost.  Users are reporting this problem in Firefox 3 and in IE8.  I have experienced the problem in Firefox only.  The best fix that has worked for me is to clear your cache.

Fix – Clear your cache

In Firefox, go to Tools – Clear Private Data, and check the box for “Cache”.

Ubuntu Server – Configure and Run Multiple Websites on One Server

Here’s a simple tutorial to get many websites running on one ubuntu server
Let’s say you have root access to your own server and want to run many websites on it. If you have Ubuntu Server running with Apache, I will show you in a few easy steps how to configure and run as many websites on your server as the load can handle.

Follow these simple instructions and your additional websites will up and running immediately.

Pre-Install Checks
1. You should have Ubuntu Server 8.04 (or later) running.  You can check your Ubuntu server version by typing this in a terminal prompt   cat  /etc/lsb-release
You should see:
DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=8.04
DISTRIB_CODENAME=hardy
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION=”Ubuntu 8.04.1″

2. You should have apache2 running. The easiest way to check is from your terminal prompt type
cd /etc/apache2
if you are now in the /etc/apache2 directory, then we can assume it’s on your server.

Simple Steps to run multiple websites
First, prepare the directories on your server to point the new domain you want to add.
I usually do something like this:
/var/www/docs/ is the base
domain-name.com/ is the domain
public for files that are accessible to apache and the world
private for files that are accessible to apache only (like crons, included header files, etc…)
log for a place to log the entries and errors
backup for a place to save files

For example, if you are adding abc.com, you would create the following using terminal
cd /var/www/docs
mkdir abc.com
cd abc.com
mkdir public private log backup

Next, let’s go to apache and tell it we are ready to add more domains to the configuration.

Type in your terminal cd /etc/apache2
open the file (I use vi) vi apache2.conf
Look for

# Include the virtual host configurations:
Include /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/
NameVirtualHost *:80

If it isn’t there, add it. Then save the file. (always make a backup before making changes to any server file)

Next, let’s go to the existing website configuration directory and add our new domain
Type in the terminal cd /etc/apache2/sites-available
You’ll probably see a file default or 000-default
Note: The default configuration on apache is what tells the server where to look for index.html each time someone types in the ip address of your server, or the domain name you have already configured. It also tells apache where to log each server event. After you’ve added other domains, you may want to revisit the default file and decide which domain traffic should go to in the event the ip address is entered, and not the domain name itself.

Next, let’s prepare another file to tell apache there’s another domain to look for aside from the default.
Copy the default file to a new file with the name of the additional website(s) you want to run on this server. For example, let’s say you want to have abc.com on this server. you would type this command cp default abc.com

Next, edit the file you’ve just created to point to the directory on your server where you’d like to manage the files for that domain.
My apache config files look like this:


#
ServerAdmin webmaster@abc.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/docs/abc.com/public
ServerName abc.com
ServerAlias www.abc.com

Options FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride None


Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
AllowOverride None
Order allow,deny
allow from all


RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
ErrorDocument 404 /index.php

ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /usr/lib/cgi-bin/

AllowOverride None
Options +ExecCGI -MultiViews +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch
Order allow,deny
Allow from all

ErrorLog /var/www/docs/abc.com/log/error.log
LogLevel warn
CustomLog /var/www/docs/abc.com/log/access.log combined
ServerSignature On
Alias /doc/ “/usr/share/doc/”

Options Indexes MultiViews FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride None
Order deny,allow
Deny from all
Allow from 127.0.0.0/255.0.0.0 ::1/128

You will want to edit the file to meet your own needs. I copied mine here as an example. It would be better for you to edit the new file you’ve copied from your default.

Take care to enter the exact directory names of your new domain and make sure nothing is misspelled. Apache is not forgiving at all. When you try to reload apache, if one directory name is missing, the entire apache server will crash until you fix the offending entry.

Once you are sure the configuration file is accurate, save it and let’s move on.
From terminal, type in cd /etc/apache2
Next, type in a2ensite abc.com (the name of your domain instead of abc)
a2ensite is the command that creates a symlink for apache from sites-available to sites-enabled and tells apache you’re ready to accept traffic for this domain
Assuming you typed everything correctly, you should get a message back
Site abc.com installed; run /etc/init.d/apache2 reload to enable.
Then, simply reload apache
If you get
* Reloading web server config apache2 [ OK ]
Then you should be up and running with your new web domain
Put a sample file in your new domain’s public directory.
For example, open a new file index.html vi /var/www/docs/abc.com/public/index.html
edit it with a message like You got to the new domain 🙂
Save the file, then test by typing in your new domain in a web browser and seeing if that message appears.

To add more domains, simply start at the top of this page again.

We have tried to make this primer as straightforward as possible. As with anything, there is always a deeper level of understanding and things you can configure. First, we got the domains up, next we can tackle other issues like security, ports, etc… which will be discussed in future posts.

We hope you have found this useful, please add your comments and suggestions on how to improve the steps provided here.

Ping Your Blog – The Essential Free Traffic Tool.

Every time you post a new story to your blog you should have a ritual of actions you take to ‘guerrilla market’ your blog.  Without letting the world know you exist, it is nearly impossible to grow your reading population.

Your post-blog ritual may include, Twitter, Digg, Propeller, & StumbleUpon.  You should also be automatically updating these feed “pings”.  How do they work?  Essentially, your blog software (let’s assume WordPress for this posting) automtically send a XML link to your new post to the URL addresses you include in your ping list.

From your WordPress admin panel, click on the settings on the bottom left, the click on the “Writing” tab.  Scroll down on the page and you’ll see a box called “Update Services.”  WordPress by default pings pingomatic. Pingomatic is a broadcast service that automatically then forwards your ping to a number of other ping sites.  We have included here a list of ping services that are not notified by pingomatic.

Select from the list below the services that match the content of your blog or just shamelessly add them all to your “Update Services” box! (Cut and paste the URLS, not the comments in parentheses)

http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping     (Technorati is included in Pingomatic, but they recommend you ping them directly – you should also “claim” your blog on technorati.com)
http://rpc.twingly.com/
http://wasalive.com/ping/
http://www.blogsdominicanos.com/ping/ (Spanish Blog Tracker)
http://www.blogshares.com/rpc.php (The Fantasy blog stockmarket)

Must Have Free Windows Software

Free Must Have Windows Tools
You’ve just brought home a new computer and now you want to enable it with all the best software that’s available (mostly for free). (Let’s also assume that you didn’t take my advice to forget Windows and install Linux Ubuntu).

Here are some of the best applications you should have on your Windows Desktop.
What’s more, they are all free!

Windows does come with a wide array of useful utilities, and programs, especially the Windows Media Player, however, to make the most of your pc you’re going to want to pick up these goodies. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on software, you should know that almost everything you need is available alternatively in open source, and for free (and sometimes better than their commercial counterpart). Here’s some essential free software you should download to make the best of your pc using Microsoft Windows XP or Vista.

Graphics Tools
Irfan View – is an image viewer, editor, and multimedia player all rolled up into a simple to use application. It always amazes me just how useful and powerful this program can be, and all for free. The author has also included dozens of plug-ins to add to the power of this software. I use Irfan as my default JPEG browser, screenshot manipulation, and to play flash games that I’ve downloaded. Irfan is also the quickest way to make a slideshow of a directory of photos.
You can also perform TIFF and Raw image manipulation directly from your DSLR camera’s output files.
Download Here

Gimp – Free Alternative to Adobe Photoshop
Gimp – is a real open source alternative to Adobe’s Photoshop. Unless you are insistent on forking over $700 for a graphics program, you really owe it to yourself to give Gimp a shot. Gimp stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”, and was developed as a collaborative effort by some really smart dudes who understand graphics. If you’ve used Photoshop before, most of the functionality of Gimp will be familiar to you from the get-go. There are also hundreds of pages of documentation online for those who have specific application needs. In fact, the help documentation download is much bigger than the program itself. Gimp is offered in several platforms, including Windows, and Linux.
Download Here

Compusa (Systemax, Inc.)

Email Tools
Mozilla Thunderbird – There are many free email programs out there, and Thunderbird is relatively new in the field. It’s sister application, Firefox, took the browsing world by storm a few years ago. Thunderbird got a big boost On the heels of Firefox’s popularity. What makes Thunderbird so special? The same thing that does so for Firefox, open source plug-ins and extensions. There are a wealth of third-party tools that can be added to Thunderbird to enhance your emailing experience (more on that later). Installation is painless and can even import your old Outlook emails and contact files.

Internet Browsers
Mozilla Firefox – The best proof that open source works and can be better than commercial alternatives. If you haven’t heard by now of the virtues of Firefox, then let me be the first to welcome you to planet earth. Now on version 3, the Firefox browser has so many add-on features and cool extensions that it’s hard to imagine needing or using anything else.

Google Chrome
Google released in late 2008 its own free Beta version of the a new browser, Google Chrome, with plug-in capability. It’s been met with lukewarm reception thusfar. Asside from theexpected integration with other Google features and applications, it does purport to change the way browsers work. Technically speaking, each tab in Firefox or IE is dependent onthe stability of all other open tabs. If one tab crashes in Firefox or IE, you’ll need to restart your browser. In Firefox 3, they have added some crash protection in that you can reopen your recent tabs from the last browser session or to restore from a previous session. Google has taken the concept a step further, by revolutionizing browsing technology. They have seperated the processes of each tab to run into separate memory spaces such that if one application or tab crashes, the other tabs can continue running.

Many users make the argument for the Opera Browser as an alternative to all the aforementioned. They claim it to be the fastest browser of all.

Office Tools (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Presentation)

Open Office – What a great world we live in.  You thought you were going to pay hundreds of dollars for all the office tools you had on your old computer.  In comes Open Office, one of the biggest open source projet ever.  If you need a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation tool, database, and drawing tool, this is the software you need. Sun Microsystems and others have collaborated to make the strongest argument why not to buy Microsoft’s Office. Each of the components are excellent alternatives, and they even inlcude seamless conversion tools so you can open Excel, Word, and Powerpoint documents in Open Office without a hitch.
TigerDirect

Programming & Development
Notepad ++ This open source text editor does everything Notepad doesn’t. It’s also highly extensible with many available plug ins. Any programmer would surely enjoy the clean interface and color coding appropriate for easy code checking and bug fixes. I’ve been using this editor myself on PHP projects and it definitely saves time.

Core FTP Lite – If you need to transfer files securely from your computer to a server that requires secured connections (SFTP) then this free utility is a lifesaver. It has all the basic features you’d ever need.

Media Players (Video, Audio)

VLC – This open source media tool does it all. You can play just about every audio and video media file type imagineable. Likewise, you can play and even record broadcast streams, capture audio, video, devices, and more. I hooked up a video cassette player to my computer and use VLC’s video capture tool to watch old-time cassettes. What’s more, you can now save streams as they are being captured. For example, you can plug in the stream address of a live TV program, and record the captured stream to a WMV file for later viewing.You can even set up a timer to schedule when to ‘record’ streams. This is a fantastic tool. Download Here

iTunes – Apple claims that iTunes is “The world’s best digital music jukebox. Download music, TV shows, movies, and more.” Well, truth be told, most of the point of iTunes is to get you to buy media from the Apple website. iTunes is actually a very well integrated media player that connects your iPod with your PC. Still, I have found the organization of content and especially the podcast selection, to be among the best media sites out there.

WinAmp is actually a media player smorgasbord with an identity crisis. It’s been around longer than most of the competion, (years before iTunes, for example), and yet its niche has been relegated to the geek community. They have partnered with AOL, Shoutcast, and others. They have added incredible plug-in capabilities, and they have the best damn skinning software available. Why don’t they get the credit they deserve? My guess is that they spent so much energy on being perceived as an ‘un-cola’ that the cola drinkers are weary.  Still, their integration with Shoutcast for hundreds of CD Quality music stations, and with AOL videos, is truly awesome. WinAmp is definitely worth a try.

CD Burner XP – Simple and easy CD & DVD burning. The open source community got it right with this handy tool. Why install the sloppy, heavy, and prying commercial burning programs when you have such a simple and easy free alternative? The program installs within seconds and you are up and running.

There are advanced features too, such as burning ISO copies, burning mp3 to CD and more.

Audacity – This free audio editor and recorder is really awesome. When you want to make a recording, this is the tool to use. It’s actually a bit advanced for most users, but with a little practice you’ll be cranking out professional-style recordings. I used it a while back to copy old cassette tape recordings by connecting my tape player to my pc’s inline jack. WIthin minutes I was producing pro-sounding replicas of recordings made in the 1970s. Karaoke anyone?

Windows Utilities

AUS Logics Disk Defragmenter – The real secret to keeping a healthy and fast Windows computer is to frequently defragment your disk. This free program does it faster than Window’s own tool. This is a must-download for any new Windows computer.

Glarysoft Registry Repair Want to keep your Windows registry clean and running fast? Experts say that WIndows wastes time reading thru old links and bloated program listings inyour registry that are no longer valid. Fortunately, Glarysoft’s tool is free!

Anti-Virus Tools
Everyone (using Windows) needs an anti-virus tool. Don’t try to go without!

Symantec,  Kaspersky, Nod32, AVG, and McAffee usually offer free trial versions that usually expire in 1-3 months and then encourage you to stay as their (paying) customers.
$30 off on specially-priced ESET Antivirus, 2008 Consumer Digest “Best Buy”

MP3 Audio from Youtube Videos

Review: Download MP3 Audio from Youtube

Website review – YouTube Tracks – download mp3 audio from video clips

Ever wanted to grab the audio from a Youtube clip? Are there live versions of songs that you can’t get anywhere else? We’ve discovered this nifty utility that allows you to simply input the URL of the Youtube clip and with seconds you will be downloading the audio of that clip as a CD-Quality MP3 audio file.

Here’s how it works:
1. Visit Youtube Tracks and input the URL address of the video clip that you want to save the audio to MP3.

2. Select hi or low quality (default is HQ quality)

3. Click on the Red Download MP3 button

That’s it! Now wait for the confirmation window to save the mp3 file to your hard drive as an mp3 audio file.

Disclaimer – Tech Exposures is not affiliated with the website mentioned in this article and we do not make claims about the legality of using this tool.

Linux – Save Youtube, Myspace Videos To Desktop. No Software Needed

I’m using Ubuntu, but this method should work on every Linux distribution.

Copy Youtube, Myspace, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Megafile, MegaVideo Videos to Your Desktop
When you watch a video on Youtube and other popular video file sharing sites, Adobe’s Flash Player is temporarily storing the file in your /tmp directory. Once you leave the page or close the tab on your browser, the file is erased and is irretrievable.

Steps to copy file to your desktop
1. Let the video load on your web browser. You can do this for multiple videos on separate tabs at the same time. The progress bar shows you when the file is completely buffered (e.g. saved to your hard drive).
2. Do not close the browser or leave the pages where the videos are buffered!
3. Find the temporary file
From a terminal window, change to your /tmp directory

cd /tmp

3. List all the files in order of last updated.

ls -tlh

The Flash file(s) that you currently have open in your browser will be listed. They usually start with FLA****
Look for the biggest filesize(s) and you’ll clearly see the video file(s) you are looking for.
4. Copy the the files to your desktop (or anywhere else on your drive). Remember to give them a .flv extension for easier playback of the files.

cp tempfilename ~/Desktop/MyFavoriteTVShow1.flv

Use our other Linux tips to then copy these FLV files to your iPod, Sansa, Creative and other portable mp4 players. Linux is the best, enjoy!

Please share your methods and experiences here.

Recover Corrupted Digital Camera Photos – No Software Needed

Digital Camera Photos Corrupted or Unreadable
We’ve all dreaded it. You take hundreds of photos with your digital camera at your daughter’s birthday party or a friend’s wedding, and when you plug in the Compact Flash, or SD card into your reader, and to your dismay the photos are missing or unreadable due to corruption. A friend of mine lost all of his wedding photos since his high-priced wedding photographer corrupted the only CF card that he used to shoot the event. (The photographer should have been shot for only using one card, but that’s a different subject)… He tossed the card after unsuccessfully trying to recover the files. With the technique described below, perhaps he could have saved the images on that card. You do not have to download software to do this procedure.

Don’t throw out that digital card, help is on the way!
With these simple steps you can retrieve all the images from your card. The file images are there, without getting too technical, the problem is usually with the file system on the card, not the image files themselves.

Why did it happen?
Many times the corruption is caused by your digital camera being able to process information faster than the card. The buffer fills up, you as a photo enthusiast keep taking more photos, and then the card misses some info needed to store a file in the packets coming. Usually, the photo taken when the corruption happened will be lost, but all the other files can be retrieved using the steps described here.

How to restore the card in these easy steps

The next time your SD or CF card corrupts (yes, there will be a next time, it happens…), remember not to panic. The key is to recover the corrupted files before trying to write to the card again. Do not take any more photos, do not try to delete photos. First, use the method below to retrieve the corrupted images.  The steps listed below work in Windows XP.  I’m sure they will work in Vista (but I don’t use Vista :), and I’ve had success in Linux as well.

Step 1 Pop the card into a card-reader and attach to your computer.  Find that drive on Windows Explorer, put the right mouse over it and click on Properties

Step 2 Make sure you are looking at the drive letter of the card and not your hard drive (not C:).  Click on the Tools tab, and then click on the “Check Now” under the error-checking section.

Recover files from corrupted SD Card

Step 3 A dialog box like this should pop-up.  Check both boxes to detect and fix system errors on your digital card (notice the pop-up box tells you in the title what drive it will be scanning).

recover3

Step 4 Depending on the size of the Digital card this step can take a minute or longer.  After the process is complete.  Go to your Windows Explorer and make sure you can view hidden files on your drive (click on the radio button “Show hidden files and folders” as in the image.  You should be able to see a bunch of files with crazy names in that drive that you didn’t see before.  Copy these files over to a directory on your computer’s hard drive and change their names and file extension to the appropriate file type that the files were saved in on your camera.  For example, if your camera usually shoots jpg files, then copy the file names over and rename them as 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc…

recover4

You should now be able to see the photos using your usual image viewer.


Disclaimer – This technique presented here is for informational purposes only.  There are no guarantees or warranties implied on this method or any other information presented here.  It has worked for me, try at your own risk!

Free ways to convert flv video files to ipod, sansa,creative vision

How to get those website files on to your iPod.

Problem: You have a whole bunch of downloaded FLV files from Youtube, MySpace, DailyMotion, Metacafe, Veoh, etc… You want to put them on your portable video player, such as an Ipod Itouch, Nano, Creative Vision W, or SansaDisk (and many others).

There are several programs that convert FLV files to AVI for Creative, or MP4 for IPOD and Sansa. They are all based on open source algorithms and tools such as ffmpeg. These are usually command line tools best-suited for Linux Geeks.

Solution: A whole new bunch of user-friendly tools with decent GUI’s are available for free. The king of all these tools is a program aptly named “Super”, which you can download here. Super essentially embeds all the open source command line utilities and provides a simple single-page interface for you to select input and output file options.

There are a bunch of other free tools that are worth mentioning here, such as Handbrake (which only works on Mac and Linux these days) and Media Coder, but if you stick to Super, you should have all the flexibility you need for free.

If you are on Linux, you can use command-line utilities like mencoder or mplayer, which we will explain in another article.

Some things to consider when converting FLV to either AVI or MP4: It’s usually best to use the Super Video File Converter original file’s screen resolution. The Audio for non-music videos can easily perform well at 96kbs, and mp3 files are usually a bit more compact than other methods. Likewise, the video bit rate can be dropped to 240Kbps without noticing much degradation on such a small screen. The Creative packs a max 320×240 screen rate, at 240 kbps video bit rate, you’ll be in fine shape. You will want at least 25 frames per second, or the video will flicker.

Super File Converter
Super File Converter

The screen shot to the right shows the best settings for converting FLV to Ipod as an mp4 output file.  It takes a few minutes to convert the file depending on file size and speed of computer.

Note: Make sure you know to which directory the files are being outputted.  You will need to copy them to your player (import to iTunes) after completion of conversion.

The download site for Super is a bit awkward and takes a couple pages to actually find the file to download. But hey, it’s a free tool!

How to upgrade your Router into a Super-Router for Free!

We all have last year’s model routers lying around our house collecting dust. With the help of crafty open source developers, you can now bring these older devices to their full potential.

If you have a linksys or compatible broadband/wireless router, there are several free open source firmware upgrades you can use to make your router do some very advanced and neat things.

The most talked-about of the third party firmware upgrades for broadband routers is a program called Tomato. Download it here

There are other open source tools, such as Free WRT, but Tomato does the job well, and the installation process is quite simple.

How to upgrade using Tomato Formware:
1. Go to the Tomato website and download the firmware file
2. Unzip the downloaded file
3. Plug in your old router and go to your router’s firmware upgrade page. (If you don’t know how ot do this, perhaps this project isn’t right for you 🙂
4. Read the simple instructions that comes with the Tomato Router download to determine which installation file is compatible with your specific model.
5. Choose that file as described in step 4 and off you go. It may take up to 5 minutes to upgrade the firmware.

What Does the router firmware upgrade do for me?
There are a bunch of nice utilities included in Tomato that don’t come with the default software from Linksys. For example, bandwidth monitoring, QoS settings, Enhanced access restrictions, tools to help increase your P2P connections (good for Bit Torrent and the like) and some new wireless features like WDS.

Additional third party firmware upgrade sources:
http://www.freewrt.org/
http://www.openwrt.org/ (and the easier to install http://x-wrt.org/)