Development – gHacks Technology News http://www.ghacks.net The independent technology news blog Sun, 26 Mar 2017 19:51:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 Optimize your images with Google’s Guetzli compression algorithm http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/25/optimize-images-google-guetzli/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/25/optimize-images-google-guetzli/#comments Sat, 25 Mar 2017 18:57:12 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131596 The following guide walks you through the steps of optimizing jpeg images using Google's new Guetzli compression algorithm. Google unveiled Guetzli some time ago, a JPEG encoder that promises up to 35% smaller file sizes than achievable with current methods. A 35% reduction would result in Ghacks saving hundreds of Megabytes of storage space, and […]

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The following guide walks you through the steps of optimizing jpeg images using Google's new Guetzli compression algorithm.

Google unveiled Guetzli some time ago, a JPEG encoder that promises up to 35% smaller file sizes than achievable with current methods.

A 35% reduction would result in Ghacks saving hundreds of Megabytes of storage space, and a lot of bandwidth thanks to optimization. Google promises that Guetzli optimized images don't sacrifice quality for size.

One example: you have 1000 jpg images on your website. Each image has a size of 100 Kiloybte. If Guetzli manages to decrease the file size by 25%, you'd reduce the size of the images by 25,000 Kilobyte, or 25 Megabytes.

If these images get downloaded 10,000 times per month, you'd save 250,000 Kilobyte, or 250 Megabyte of traffic. Also, downloads would be faster on the user side of things.

Optimize your images with Google's Guetzli compression algorithm

running guetzli file optimizer

While you can head over to GitHub to grab your own personal version of the algorithm, and build it from source on Windows, POSIX or Mac OS X, it is probably not something that most webmasters are familiar enough with.

FileOptimizer is one of the programs that ships with Guetzli support already. The program is a universal file optimizer that you can download from the software's SourceForge page.

The program is simple. Drag and drop images, or other files, to the interface, select Optimize > Optimize All Files from the menu, and wait until the process completes.

You can drop folders on the interface, to have all files that FileOptimizer supports added to the queue automatically.

Guetzli is not one of the decoders that is used by default as it is not lossless. To enable Guetzli support in FileOptimizer, do the following:

  1. Open the fileoptimizer.ini file. You find it in the main user folder, e.g. C:\users\martin\fileoptimizer.ini
  2. Locate the parameter JPEGAllowLossy, and set it to true. This is done by replacing false in the line with true, so that the beginning of the line reads JPEGAllowLossy=true
  3. Restart FileOptimizer if it is running already.

guetzli optimize images

Once you have made the change, Guetzli is used as one of the algorithms to reduce the file size of jpg images loaded into the program interface.

Initial runs on some old Ghacks folders resulted in a reduction of about 15-20% on average. This is not bad, especially since I could not detect any quality deterioration on the optimized images.

One downside to this is that it takes some time to run Guetzli on images. How long depends on the size of the image, but it gets slow when the image hits 100 Kilobyte, and really slow (a minute or more) if it is crosses the 1 Megabyte limit. Still, it is probably worth it for webmasters. Best probably if you have a spare PC, or can keep your PC on over night to run the compression jobs then.

Now You: Do you optimize your images?

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Run color blindness tests on your websites http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/02/run-color-blindness-tests-on-your-websites/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/02/run-color-blindness-tests-on-your-websites/#comments Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:29:30 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130547 Color blindness affects a large percentage of the population. Studies have shown that up to 8% of males and 0.5% of females of Northern European heritage are affected by red-green color blindness for instance. The ability to distinguish between colors gets worse with age as well. As a webmaster, you may want to make sure […]

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Color blindness affects a large percentage of the population. Studies have shown that up to 8% of males and 0.5% of females of Northern European heritage are affected by red-green color blindness for instance. The ability to distinguish between colors gets worse with age as well.

As a webmaster, you may want to make sure that your site is accessible to visitors with color blindness, or difficulties distinguishing certain color patterns.

This gives those users a better experience on your site, and may prevent part of them from insta-closing the site when they run into accessibility issues.

Color blindness browser extensions

Probably the best way of checking your websites quickly when it comes to accessibility for color blind visitors is to use a browser extension. Some sites and services may require more than that, but the extensions should be fine for the majority of webmasters out there.

RGBlind for Firefox or Chrome

rgblind color blindness extension

RGBlind is a simple extension. It adds an icon to the main Firefox (or Chrome) toolbar on installation that you can click on to switch between two color blindness simulation modes.

You may switch to test Protanopia or Deuteranopia, and will notice that the color scheme of the site you are on changes immediately once you make a selection. The difference between the two forms is that in protanopia, the red retinal photoreceptors are missing, whereas in deuteranopia, it is the green photoreceptors that are missing.

Basically, what the test does is simulate color blindness, so that you can see how a color blind person would see the website.

Dalton for Chrome

dalton for chrome

Dalton for Chrome adds tests for eight different types of color blindness to the browser. Simple navigate to the website that you want to check for accesibility, click on the extension icon, and select one of the available types (Achromatomaly, Achromatopsia, Tritanomaly, Tritanopia, Deuteranomaly, Deuteranopia, Protanomaly, Protanopia)

The extension pains the colors of the site accordingly, so that you can verify what works, and what does not.

You need to click on each type separately to test them all. An option to rotate through all types automatically would be useful, but is not provided.

Colorblinding for Chrome

colorblinding

Another browser extension for Google Chrome that you may use to test a site#s accessibility for the color blind.

It works almost identical to Dalton above: click on the icon, select one of the available types, and watch as the site's color scheme gets modified accordingly by the extension. Supports the same eight types as Dalton.

Closing Words

Colorblind test extensions for Firefox and Chrome are helpful to webmasters and designers, as it allows them to test a site's or design's accessibility. The extensions are easy to use, and it should not take longer than a couple of minutes to run initial tests to find out how well, or not, the site displays for visitors affected by the various types of color blindness.

Now You: are you color blind? Are there many sites out there that don't show up correctly for you?

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Speed up WordPress editing with shortcuts http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/21/speed-up-wordpress-editing-with-shortcuts/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/21/speed-up-wordpress-editing-with-shortcuts/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:01:48 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130669 A large part of the Internet is powered by the content management system WordPress. While some call it a blogging platform, WordPress is more than that thanks to its extensibility. There are plugins that turn WordPress into a full featured eCommerce store, plugins that make it an art gallery, and plugins that create community sites […]

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A large part of the Internet is powered by the content management system WordPress. While some call it a blogging platform, WordPress is more than that thanks to its extensibility.

There are plugins that turn WordPress into a full featured eCommerce store, plugins that make it an art gallery, and plugins that create community sites with forums and more.

This site runs on WordPress and the default editor that ships with WordPress is used to publish articles on it.

WordPress supports formatting options, and many of the supported ones are listed in toolbars on top of the editing pane.

While you can use the mouse to select items from the toolbar, it is not the fastest option. This may not matter that much if you post in a low frequency, but if you post several articles or more per day, it adds up quickly.

WordPress editing shortcuts

wordpress editor

The editor supports plenty of shortcuts. You can check out all of them on the WordPress Codex website.

Below is a selection of those shortcuts that I use when writing articles on this site and others. The selection depends largely on what formatting options you make use of in your articles.

  1. Ctrl-B -- Bolds the selected text.
  2. Alt-Shift-M -- Insert an image.
  3. Alt-Shift-A -- Insert link.
  4. Alt-Shift-C -- Align center
  5. Alt-Shift-D -- Strike-through selected text.
  6. Alt-Shift-Q -- Add a quote.
  7. Alt-Shift-1 to Alt-Shift-6 -- Add Heading 1 to 6.

The following shortcuts don't require modifier keys such as Ctrl, Shift or Alt. Simply write the shortcut followed and hit the Return-key when you are done to add the formatting. Text obviously refers to text that you add after the shortcut.

  1. ##Text -- Heading 2
  2. ###Text -- Heading 3
  3. >Text -- Blockquote
  4. * -- Start an unordered list
  5. 1. -- Start an ordered list

Please note that shortcuts work only in the visual editor, and not the text editor. This is true for shortcuts with modifier keys, and those without.

The text editor offers the advantage that you can add HTML to it directly. So, if you want something to display in bold, you'd simply use the strong HTML tag for that.

It may take some time to get used to these shortcuts. Especially the use of shortcuts with Ctrl as the modifier, and a bunch of shortcuts with Alt-Shift as the modifier may be confusing at first.

Shortcuts for comments

comment moderation keyboards wordpress

WordPress supports special keyboard shortcuts for comment moderation. The shortcuts are not enabled by default, and you need to enable them for specific users on the user's profile page.

So, select Users and then open the profile of the user that you want to enable the option for. If it is your account, simply select the your profile option from the context menu.

Check the keyboard shortcuts box on the page, and don't forget to scroll down to click on the update profile option.

Once done, an arsenal of shortcuts become available:

  • Use the j and k keys to navigate to the first, next or previous comment.
  • Press a to approve the selected comment.
  • Press d to delete the comment that is selected.
  • Press z to restore the comment that was deleted previously.
  • Press s to mark the comment as spam.
  • Press q to quick edit it.
  • Press x to check the checkbox of the current comment, or Shift-X to toggle the checkboxes.

There are also bulk actions available.

  • Shift-A, Shift-S and Shift-D approve, mark as spam, or delete all checked comments.

Closing Words

Keyboard shortcuts can speed up WordPress editing or comment moderation significantly. While it takes some time getting accustomed to the shortcuts, you may want to start with some that offer the biggest return, and go from there.

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WordPress: block anonymous Rest API access http://www.ghacks.net/2016/12/27/wordpress-block-anonymous-rest-api-access-information-leak/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/12/27/wordpress-block-anonymous-rest-api-access-information-leak/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 05:23:28 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=127663 The most recent version of WordPress ships with new REST API capabilities which plugins, apps, services, or the WordPress core can utilize. The WordPress development team pushes new features to WordPress all the time. Many of those features improve the functionality of WordPress significantly. Every now and then though, features get added that are problematic […]

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The most recent version of WordPress ships with new REST API capabilities which plugins, apps, services, or the WordPress core can utilize.

The WordPress development team pushes new features to WordPress all the time. Many of those features improve the functionality of WordPress significantly.

Every now and then though, features get added that are problematic from an admin or user point of view.  The main issue with the bulk of these changes is that they cannot be disabled easily. I have disabled Emojis and XML-RPC here on this site for instance.

The new REST API functionality for instance may be used by anyone to list all user accounts of the WordPress installation.

This in itself is not enough to gain access, but once you know more about a site, you could run brute force attacks against the site, try to guess passwords, or use social engineering to get access to the site.

To be fair, the new API does not expose anything to the public that is not available already somewhere else on the site.

List all user accounts

wordpress enumerate users

To list all user accounts on a site that runs WordPress 4.7 (or newer presumably), all you have to do is append /wp-json/wp/v2/users to its domain name.

You could set a filter previously in WordPress to block access to the information. This filter appears to have been removed in version 4.7.

The only option you have to block the information from being revealed to anyone, is to install a plugin that protects the site from that.

WordPress: Block anonymous REST API access

block rest api wordpress

A rather simple, but effective plugin is Disable REST API. All it does is return a "not unauthorized" message to anonymous requests to display REST API data.

The plugin returns an error message for any request that is not made by a logged in user of the particular site.

There is also Wordfence, a plugin that adds security options and protection to WordPress sites.

Closing Words

The data that the REST API makes available to anonymous requests is available elsewhere on the public part of WordPress already. The main gain that attackers get from it is that it lists the data in a nice format that saves them time, as they don't have to crawl various parts of the site anymore to retrieve the information. (via Born City)

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DuckDuckGo’s plan to become the programmer’s search engine http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/09/duckduckgo-programmers-search-engine/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/09/duckduckgo-programmers-search-engine/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 14:49:05 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=124717 The search engine DuckDuckGo is working on improving results for programming related search queries using its instant answers feature. If you are a programmer, especially when you are just starting out, you probably search for information and code examples regularly. Even if you learn using one of those "getting started" books, chance is high that […]

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The search engine DuckDuckGo is working on improving results for programming related search queries using its instant answers feature.

If you are a programmer, especially when you are just starting out, you probably search for information and code examples regularly.

Even if you learn using one of those "getting started" books, chance is high that questions remain unanswered.

Search is one option to get answers. There are others obviously, for instance to join a community like Stadck Overflow to get answers for questions that you may have.

Still, sometimes it is just a simple thing that you require an answer for. Maybe you want to know more about the syntax of a property or command, or a basic example to better understand how you'd use something in your own code.

DuckDuckgo Programmer's Search Engine

duckduckgo programming

DuckDuckGo's Instant Answers feature is not new. It provides you with direct answers on the search results page. While those may not always be sufficient to answer all questions you may have, they sometimes are sufficient. This means that you won't have to click on sites listed in the results in hope of finding the answer you are looking for listed on them.

The search engine company started a new project to become the best search engine for programmers a couple of months ago.

The main idea is to use Instant Answers to provide programmers with direct answers for search queries.

The teams concentrate on the fix languages JavaScript, CSS, Python, Perl and Swift currently with all partially supported already.

If you search for CSS Font or CSS Transition on DuckDuckGo for instance, you will get examples and information right at the top of the results. There is a "show more" link usually that you need to click on to display all information.

While some functions and properties are supported already, others are not. It is a hit and miss currently but support will get better over time.

Links are provided that lead to the Internet resource the information was taken from. These resources often offer more extensive information, and you may want to open them if the instant answer leaves questions unanswered.

Instant answers cannot answer all questions that you may have about a supported programming language. They do answer basic questions though, especially about the syntax and that is sometimes all that is required.

It seems likely that DuckDuckGo will add more programming languages to its instant answers feature once it completes integrating current ones.

Now You: If you have programming related questions: what do you do or where do you go?

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Refresh multiple browsers with a hotkey http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/08/refresh-multiple-browsers-with-a-hotkey/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/09/08/refresh-multiple-browsers-with-a-hotkey/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 11:04:21 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=124691 Browser Refresh is a free program for Microsoft Windows devices that allows you to quickly refresh multiple web browsers with a single keystroke. Please note that refresh refers to loading open web pages anew, and not resetting the browser. Refresh is used in that context as well, but Refresh Browsers is only for reloading open […]

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Browser Refresh is a free program for Microsoft Windows devices that allows you to quickly refresh multiple web browsers with a single keystroke.

Please note that refresh refers to loading open web pages anew, and not resetting the browser. Refresh is used in that context as well, but Refresh Browsers is only for reloading open web pages.

The question may come up why you would need a program like that. The main idea behind it is to make it easier for developers to create or modify web pages locally.

Most developers test web pages in multiple browsers, and if they develop them locally, they may need to refresh the content displayed on a page regularly to take into account changes they made since the last loading of the page.

While you may do so manually using the shortcuts F5 or Ctrl-F5, you'd have to run the operation in all browsers you test a page in. The difference between F5 and Ctrl-F5 is that the first may load site content from cache, while the latter forces a reload from the server the site is hosted on bypassing the cache.

Browser Refresh

browser refresh

Browser Refresh sits silently in the system tray area on start. The program does display a quick start guide on first start which explains its functionality. You may open the guide at any time from the system tray icon as well.

The menu displays a couple of options; all related to the program's refresh functionality. First of all, it works right out of the box. You may use the shortcut Ctrl-D to refresh the active tab, or Alt-D to force refresh it in all supported browsers.

The application supports Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Yandex browser currently. There is unfortunately no option to add other browsers to the list of supported browsers.

You may use the system tray menu of Browser Refresh to change the hotkeys, and to select specific browsers from the list of supported browsers that you want refreshed.

The only other option provided is to select whether you want the program to focus the browser automatically when you hit the refresh shortcut.

If you hit refresh while supported browsers are not open, you get a prompt that enables you to open the browsers with a specific file which you may select then.

This may be handy after system boot to get started right away. Browser Refresh supports command line parameters that you may use to perform a soft or hard reset. The developer of the program showcases his own Sublime Text configuration which uses the editors Build System functionality.

Closing Words

Browser Refresh is a useful program for web developers who create and edit web pages in a local test environment. The program's greatest strength is that it can refresh multiple browsers at once which may improve the time it takes to test new versions of a page or application in select browsers.

Browser Refresh is compatible with all versions of Microsoft Windows starting with Windows XP. The program requires the Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0 or higher.

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Microsoft Desktop App Converter Guide http://www.ghacks.net/2016/08/22/microsoft-desktop-app-converter-guide/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/08/22/microsoft-desktop-app-converter-guide/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:44:21 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=124331 Microsoft showcased its Desktop App Converter program some time ago to highlight how easy it is to convert some desktop programs to Universal Apps format. The main idea behind the tool was to make it easier for developers to turn legacy desktop programs for Windows into Store apps. Programs turned into apps this way would […]

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Microsoft showcased its Desktop App Converter program some time ago to highlight how easy it is to convert some desktop programs to Universal Apps format.

The main idea behind the tool was to make it easier for developers to turn legacy desktop programs for Windows into Store apps.

Programs turned into apps this way would benefit from Store-exclusive features such as security sandboxing. Developers may furthermore benefit from extra exposure on Windows Store.

The Desktop App Converter that Microsoft released some time ago is still only available as a preview. The program is being worked on, and updates are released regularly that introduce new features or fix issues.

Microsoft Desktop App Converter

microsoft desktop app converter

You may only install and run the Desktop App Converter if your computer meets the following requirements:

  1. Windows 10 Anniversary Update installed on Enterprise or Pro edition.
  2. 64-bit processor.
  3. Supports hardware-assisted virtualization and Second Level Address Translation (SLAT). Most modern cpus should support those.
  4. You may only convert installer files and not portable programs.
  5. Converted apps may only be deployed to 64-bit Windows devices.

Desktop App Converter Setup

setup

First thing you need to do is download a couple of files to your system as you require them to install the Desktop App Converter on the computer. Please note that one of the files is a Windows base image that has a size of 3.3 Gigabyte.

Visit the official Microsoft download page for the Desktop App Converter. Click on the download button, and select DesktopAppConverter.zip and one of the base images. The Base Images are based on different versions of Windows. Version 14939 is the Anniversary Update version. You need to select the base image that matches your Windows version.

There is a doc file as well that you may want to download as it offers information on the tool.

Also, download the Windows Software Development Kit for Windows 10 from here. I have downloaded the Windows Standalone SDK for Windows 10, but there are others.

Extract the DesktopAppConverter.zip file once it is downloaded. I suggest you move the downloaded BaseImage file to the same directory as it makes it a bit easier during setup.

To start the setup, do the following:

  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type cmd.exe, hold down Shift and Ctrl, and hit enter. This opens an elevated command prompt.
  2. Type powershell.
  3. I suggest you use the cd command to go to the DesktopAppConverter directory, e.g. cd c:\DesktopAppConverter.
  4. Run the command: Set-ExecutionPolicy bypass
  5. Run the command: DesktopAppConverter.ps1 -Setup -BaseImage BaseImage-14939.wim -Verbose

Setup runs automatically from that point onward. Please note that you need to restart the PC before you can start converting programs into apps.

Windows will update during reboot, and open a PowerShell command prompt automatically when the desktop loads. Setup is then completed, and you may start using the program to convert programs to apps.

Using the Desktop App Converter

The app converter may converter legacy Win32 programs or Microsoft .NET Framework 4.61 programs to the UWP format.

Run the command get-help .\DesktopAppConverter.ps1 -detailed to get detailed information about the parameters and options that the converter supports.

To convert a program, run the following command:

.\DesktopAppConverter.ps1 -Installer C:\Installer\MyApp.exe -InstallerArguments "/S" -Destination C:\Output\MyApp -PackageName "MyApp" -Publisher "CN=publishername" -Version 0.0.0.1 -MakeAppx -Verbose

You need to adjust the command, for instance to match the program path and name of the program you want converted, the name, publisher and version. Please note that version seems to reject too short or too long versions. The compiler will throw an error if you use 0.8 or 1 in the command. Use four digits, that works, so that version 0.8 shows as 0.8.0.0 in the command.

You may get other error messages, but the messages usually point you in the right direction so that you know what went wrong.

If the command is accepted, the following happens:

  1. Checks are performed to make sure the environment meets all requirements.
  2. Checks are performed on the selected installer.
  3. The output directory is created if it does not exist.
  4. The Conversion environment is set up.
  5. The installer is run inside an isolated environment.

The result

The Desktop App Converter tool creates an .appx package which is the UWP version of the program. You can run the following command on an elevated PowerShell command prompt window to test the new app before signing it:

Add-AppxPackage -Path PATHTOAppxManifest.xml -Register

Replace PATHTOAppxManifest.xml with the path to the manifest file. You find it in the same directory as the .appx package.

You may then run the app like any other using the Start Menu. Check out this guide for signing information, and issues.

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HTTPS Checker: scan your web page for HTTPS issues http://www.ghacks.net/2016/03/17/https-checker-scan-your-web-page-for-https-issues/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/03/17/https-checker-scan-your-web-page-for-https-issues/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 15:11:53 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=120057 HTTPS Checker is a free program for Windows that provides you with the means to scan all pages of a website for HTTPS related issues. Rolling out HTTPS on an established site has become a lot easier in recent time. While that is the case, it still very important to make sure that the implementation […]

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HTTPS Checker is a free program for Windows that provides you with the means to scan all pages of a website for HTTPS related issues.

Rolling out HTTPS on an established site has become a lot easier in recent time. While that is the case, it still very important to make sure that the implementation does not cause any issues such as duplicate content, mixed content warnings or certificate validation issues as it can backfire if that is the case.

HTTPS Checker limits the crawls per run to 250 but you may increase that limit and add functionality to it by upgrading your subscription to one of the paid plans.

Free is however a good start when it comes to checking a website initially, and it is often the case that pages share common characteristics and issues which can then be fixed once for all pages so that a scan of all pages of a site may not be necessary at all.

HTTPS Checker

https checker

The program asks for a simple registration on first start and prompts you for a url that you want to scan afterwards.

Simply enter the url in the form and wait for the scan to complete. You can limit the number of issues in the advanced options and will notice that other options, such as changing the user agent are restricted to paid accounts.

The scan may take a while to complete depending on the account level, Internet connection, site that is scanned and advanced parameters you have set before the scan.

HTTPS Checker reveals the following "global" information about the scanned pages:

  • Active mixed content.
  • Passive mixed content.
  • Insecure redirects.
  • Insecure canonical links.
  • Insecure links to the same domain.
  • Insecure social links.
  • Insecure sitemap links
  • SSL certificate validation.
  • If the strict transport security header is used.
  • If the HTTP site redirects to HTTPS.
  • When the SSL certificate expires.

When you scroll down you find information about each page or element on the site and its issues.

https checker results

There you find listed the issue found, and the code on the page that caused it. Some items may be easy to fix, for instance by switching from using a protocol, e.g. http://www.ghacks.net/, to a protocol-relative notation, e.g //www.ghacks.net/ while others may prove to be difficult to resolve.

The program does not provide you with tips on resolving the issues encountered during a scan apart from linking to guides that may assist you in that task.

You may want to re-run the scan after fixing some of the issues to make sure they are resolved. While you are limited to 250 pages per scan if you are using a free account, you don't seem to be limited in the number of scans you can run.

Closing Words

HTTPS Checker is a useful program for webmasters who are in the process of adding HTTPS to their site, or have done so in the past already. A scan reveals potential issues that are sometimes easy to overlook, especially when it comes to large sites with thousands of pages.

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Hide elements on a page in Chrome, Firefox and Edge temporarily http://www.ghacks.net/2016/03/01/how-to-hide-elements-on-a-page-in-chrome-temporarily/ http://www.ghacks.net/2016/03/01/how-to-hide-elements-on-a-page-in-chrome-temporarily/#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2016 07:44:03 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=119587 Some web pages annoy the hell out of me with page elements they display to me when I'm opening them in a web browser. Maybe it is this silly "we use cookies" notification that every site under the sun seems to use these days, an on-top prompt to sign up for the newsletter, an ad […]

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Some web pages annoy the hell out of me with page elements they display to me when I'm opening them in a web browser.

Maybe it is this silly "we use cookies" notification that every site under the sun seems to use these days, an on-top prompt to sign up for the newsletter, an ad that overlays content because of bad programming, or something else that is distracting or keeping me from accessing the content.

My reaction depends on a number of factors including how much I want to access the content, the annoyance that is displayed, and if it is a site that I visit regularly.

If the content is not essential, I leave it usually and never come back unless I can access it with a simple click on a close icon or button. If the content is important, say for a new article that I'm writing or has information that no other site offers, then I will find a way around the issue usually.

Tip: When it comes to text content, I try to locate a print option on the page first as it loads a page with a clear focus on content and nothing else. It may even merge multi-page articles into one. Reader modes, or extensions, may be another option.

Hide elements in Chrome, Firefox and Edge temporarily

content blocked

This does not work for all content and sites unfortunately. Chrome, Firefox and Edge, and browsers based on their code, ship with Developer Tools that you can make use of to remove any page element temporarily on a site.

This is a good option for sites or pages that you know you will never visit again after the current visit. If you visit a site regularly, browser extensions that remove elements permanently may be the better option instead.

Google Chrome and most Chromium based browsers

Here is what you need to do in Google Chrome and browsers that share the codebase to remove elements on a page temporarily:

Step 1. While on the page, tap on the F12 key to open the browser's Developer Tools

chrome dev tools

Step 2. Use the Inspector to highlight an item on the page that you want to remove from it. This is done by activating the Inspector, and using your mouse to pick the element you want gone. Click on that element to have Chrome jump to the position of it in the source code.

chrome inspector

Step 3. Adjust the position in the code if necessary. Sometimes, parent elements may need to be selected to remove all of the element from the page. If you don't know HTML, simply use trial and error until you get it right by moving up one element at a time (usually div elements).

adjust code position

Step 4. Remove the element by right-clicking on the line of code in the Developer Tools area, and selecting "hide element" or "delete element" from the context menu.

hide delete element

You need to use trial and error again, or your judgement, to find which works better on the site. Note that you may remove the underlying content as well if you remove a page element depending on how the site is set up.

Firefox and Firefox-based browsers

Step 1. Press F12 to open the Developer Tools of the web browser. The page that you want to remove elements on needs to be active.

firefox developer tools

Step 2. Activate the "element picker" and use the mouse to select the item on the page that you want to remove from it.

firefox element picker

Step 3. Right-click on the element in the source and select "delete node" from the context menu to remove it.

delete node

Microsoft Edge

Step 1. Press F12 to open the Developer Tools in Microsoft Edge while the page that you want to modify elements on is active in the browser.

microsoft edge developer

Step 2. Activate the "select element" feature of the browser, move the mouse over the element you want to delete, and click on it to jump to it in the source code.

edge select element

Step 3. Right-click on the element in the code, and select "delete element", or press the Del-key directly, to remove it from the page.

edge delete element

 

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Microsoft releases free Windows Apps programming course http://www.ghacks.net/2015/10/01/microsoft-releases-free-windows-apps-programming-course/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/10/01/microsoft-releases-free-windows-apps-programming-course/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 10:05:58 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=116366 Microsoft's Windows 10 development for absolute beginners course hast just been published by the company to its Channel 9 website. The course is specifically designed for developers with little programming experience. While it is for absolute beginners, core concepts in C# are required according to Microsoft. The company recommends its free C# for Absolute Beginners […]

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Microsoft's Windows 10 development for absolute beginners course hast just been published by the company to its Channel 9 website.

The course is specifically designed for developers with little programming experience. While it is for absolute beginners, core concepts in C# are required according to Microsoft.

The company recommends its free C# for Absolute Beginners course to users who have no C# programming experience. It is highly suggested to start with the C# course to learn core concepts of the language if you have never worked with it before.

The 80 lessons of the Windows 10 development course walk users through the app creation process on the Universal Windows Platform beginning with basics such as what XAML is to the creation of several Windows apps throughout the course.

Universal apps will run on all devices running or supporting Windows 10 including PCs, phones, tablets but also Microsoft's Xbox or HoloLens.

windows apps development course

The course is divided into two major parts. The first teaches basic skills to create apps for Windows while the second the creation of four applications and advanced concepts such as using APIs or submitting apps to Windows Store.

The four applications that you will create during the course are:

  1. A soundboard application to play sounds when users tap on tiles.
  2. A weather application making external API calls.
  3. An album cover match game which accesses folders on the operating system.
  4. A hero explorer app using Marvel's programmatic API.

While each lesson consists mostly of leaning back, exercises are added to challenge students to improve problem solving skills and improve familiarity with the development environment and the concepts taught in the course.

As far as requirements are concerned, users need to have access to Windows 10 to create apps for the platform and use Visual Studio 2015 as the development environment (the free Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition is recommended specifically in the course).

The source code for all lessons of the course have been uploaded to Github.

Developers who have previous experience may want to check out the Developer's Guide to Windows 10 instead which is faster paced than the beginner's course.

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Atom 1.0 Text Editor for coders by GitHub is out http://www.ghacks.net/2015/06/26/atom-1-0-text-editor-for-coders-by-github-is-out/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/06/26/atom-1-0-text-editor-for-coders-by-github-is-out/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 07:32:59 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=114511 I reviewed a third-party build of the text editor Atom for Windows back in 2014 and concluded that it was an excellent option for programmers thanks to the impressive set of features it shipped with. Today, Atom 1.0 has been released and with it an official version of the editor for the Windows operating system […]

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I reviewed a third-party build of the text editor Atom for Windows back in 2014 and concluded that it was an excellent option for programmers thanks to the impressive set of features it shipped with.

Today, Atom 1.0 has been released and with it an official version of the editor for the Windows operating system that you can download from the project website.

The editor is quite large in size when you compare it to most plain text editors such as Notepad++ but also to dedicated editors for programmer such as Sublime Text. The download size is a little bit over 70 Megabyte, more than 10x the size of Sublime Text.

A welcome guide is displayed on start featuring a "getting to know" section that allows you that explains core concepts such as creating projects, installing packages or switching themes.

atom io welcome

While it is not enough to learn all the ins and outs of the editor, it is a good starting point to get to know major features of it.

The Atom editor supports packages which work just like plugins in other editors. You may install packages straight from the editor to extend its functionality or change what it is offering out of the box.

For instance, you may install a package that improves the display of select programming languages in the editor, add support for languages not supported by default, or snippets that improve how you work with certain languages in Atom.

Atom can open individual files that you want to work on but also folders which it handles as projects. If you do open a folder in Atom you will get a list of all files in a tree view in a sidebar interface so that you can switch easily between project files.

Another strong selling point is that you can customize the look and feel of the editor extensively. You use CSS for that which allows you to customize nearly any part of the editor to your liking. While you do need to know CSS for that for obvious reasons, you may install themes or packages instead which offer modifications created by other users of the editor.

The Keybindings tab in the settings displays all existing keyboards the editor makes available to you. A search is provided on the page to find keybindings fast and while you cannot edit them right on the page, you may edit them using your keymap file by following instructions posted on the page and in the file. There you can also add new keybindings to Atom in case they don't exist yet.

Attention: Atom uses Google Analytics by default for gathering usage information. If you don't want that, you may disable the integration in the following way: Open the settings and there the package manager, search for metrics and click on disable when the metrics package is displayed under core packages. Information about which information are submitted are provided on this page.

Atom is open source and available for a variety of operating systems including Windows, OS X and various Linux flavors.

A good starting point to get acquainted with the editor is the official documentation that covers everything there is to know about the editor.

Closing Words

Atom offers impressive customization options and powerful features which you can extend easily thanks to an active community that is producing and maintaining packages, themes and other add-ons for the editor, and how you integrate those into the editor.

Now You: Which editor are you using currently?

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Google may strip content off your site to make it faster on mobile devices http://www.ghacks.net/2015/06/06/google-may-strip-content-off-your-site-to-make-it-faster-on-mobile-devices/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/06/06/google-may-strip-content-off-your-site-to-make-it-faster-on-mobile-devices/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 07:52:38 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=114133 Google Inc. runs a field test in Indonesia currently in which the company redirects mobile search users who are using slow Internet connections to a transcoded version of the original page that has been automatically optimized for fast access. Live is not easy if you are a webmaster. Not only do you have to keep […]

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Google Inc. runs a field test in Indonesia currently in which the company redirects mobile search users who are using slow Internet connections to a transcoded version of the original page that has been automatically optimized for fast access.

Live is not easy if you are a webmaster. Not only do you have to keep up with the ever changing world of SEO and marketing, you also have to ensure that your sites display and function properly in all (modern) browsers.

This in itself is an issue even if you don't take script- and ad-blockers into account that may modify what a site's functionality fundamentally as well.

Google launched an update recently -- dubbed Mobilegeddon -- in which it rewarded mobile-friendly websites in search results. While it is still not clear how big of a deal it was on average, it is clear that Google is focusing on trying to improve the user experience for mobile users.

The new low bandwidth transcoder that the company is testing in Indonesia currently adds another piece to the puzzle.

The core idea is the following: if a page on a website loads too slow, it is turned into a mobile friendly version automatically by Google.

That mobile friendly version may have content removed from it. According to Google, experiments show that transcoded sites load up to four times faster.

Webmasters on the other hand may find this problematic for a couple of reasons. First, Google may remove content from the site that webmasters may consider essential.

Ads may be removed, scripts that power functionality but also menu items or sidebar widgets. Since there is no option to define what is being removed, core elements may be removed from websites when they are transcoded.

Check transcoded versions of web pages

transcoded version

If you want to check out how a web page looks like in transcoded form, you can do it in one of the following ways:

  1. If you are using a mobile device, point your browser to http://icl.googleusercontent.com/?lite_url=[your_website_URL] and replace [your_website_URL] with the actual url you want to test.
  2. If you are using a desktop browse, enable Chrome device mode emulator first and point the browser to http://icl.googleusercontent.com/?lite_url=[your_website_URL] afterwards replacing [your_website_URL] with the correct url you want to test.

To enable device mode emulator in Chrome, open the Developer Tools with a tap on F12. Once done, use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-M while the developer tools are open to enable Device Mode in Chrome. Load the url afterwards to test it in the browser.

Webmasters may run a side by side test on WebPageTest as well to witness first hand how the original page loading time compares to the loading time of the transcoded page.

page transcoding

The company released a YouTube video highlighting the difference between unoptimized and optimized pages:

Pros and Cons

Transcoded web pages load faster than regular ones. According to Google, up to four times as fast which is a huge improvement especially for Internet users on (very) slow connections.

Google notes furthermore that it noted a 50% increase in traffic to those pages because of the speed improvement, and that the total size of a page dropped on average by 80%.

The main downsides from a webmaster perspective are that core functionality may be removed during the transcoding process. In addition, the site may not look like it is supposed to, and revenue may decrease because some or even all advertising scripts may not be shown on the transcoded page.

Only a handful of ad networks are currently supported including Google's own Adsense and DoubleClick for Publishers.

Opt Out

If you don't want pages to be transcoded, you can opt-out of it by adding a header to your site. The header "Cache-Control: no-transform" tells Google that the page should not be transcoded. 

Google notes that it may label the opt-out in its search results though by indicating to users that these pages may take longer to load and may use more data.

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Caddy is a 3MB web server for your home computer http://www.ghacks.net/2015/04/29/caddy-is-a-3mb-web-server-for-your-home-computer/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/04/29/caddy-is-a-3mb-web-server-for-your-home-computer/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 17:46:05 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=113157 Caddy is a powerful web server for home computers that takes less than a minute to setup and requires no deeper knowledge of webmaster or administrative services and technologies. If you want to run a local web server you have plenty of options to do so but it is likely that none is as comfortable […]

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Caddy is a powerful web server for home computers that takes less than a minute to setup and requires no deeper knowledge of webmaster or administrative services and technologies.

If you want to run a local web server you have plenty of options to do so but it is likely that none is as comfortable to set up as Caddy.

The program is offered as a 3 Megabyte portable version for Windows -- other operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux are supported as well -- which you just need to extract and run to start the server. Please note that you can compile Caddy from source as well if you prefer it.

Caddy Web Server

The basic version of Caddy is sufficient for running static HTML websites locally which you can then access on the same computer and depending on security policies and applications also in the same computer network or Internet.

Why would you need a program like it? There are plenty of use-cases for it. Maybe you want to make files available on the Internet from a trusted location that only you can access. Think, a bookmarks file for example or a reference HTML page that you use at work.

caddy local web server

Just point your browser to localhost:2015 after installation to get started. You will get a 404 not found error since there is no index.html or index.htm file in the Caddy directory by default.

Place an index file in the directory to have it loaded automatically or other HTML files to load them manually or through the use of links.

Access to static HTML pages may be all that you require depending on your needs, but Caddy's functionality does not end there.

If you check out the features listing on the Caddy Server homepage or the user guide, you will notice that Caddy supports more than just static web pages.

For instance, you may serve multiple websites from a single Caddy installation if you want using a so-called Caddyfile which is a configuration file for the server.

There is also support for PHP but that works only in conjunction with a FastCGI server that you need to set up on your system as well.

Other features of interest include support for IPv6 environments, support for gzip compression, HTTP/2 and TLS 1.2 support, and WebSockets support.

A good starting point to find out more about several of the advanced features that Caddy supports is the user guide linked above.

It may be easier however to use a full solution like Wampserver, XAMPP or QuickPHP Web Server that ships with everything right out of the box (everything meaning PHP and MySQL among other things that you need to run advanced dynamic scripts and services such as WordPress).

For static HTML pages and sites however, it is an excellent solution that is dead easy to set up and use.

Plus, it is fully portable which means that you can carry it around wherever you go to start your own web server from any supported operating system.

Caddy 0.82

With Caddy 0.82 released a year after writing this review, it is time to look at the changes introduced in the meantime to the web server.

One of the biggest changes is its automatic use of HTTPS using the free Lets Encrypt initiative. What this means is that your web server will support HTTPS when set up provided that certain criteria are met (such as the host is not localhost or an IP address).

Caddy suports IPv6, multiple sites run on the same server using virtualhosts, rewrites and redirects, WebSockets, and many, many other things that it did not when it was first released in 2015.

In addition, Caddy is now also available for FreeBSD and OpenBSD, as well as Linux ARM which you may use to run the web server on Android devices.

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Book Review: The Beginner’s Guide to Android Game Development http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/14/book-review-the-beginners-guide-to-android-game-development/ http://www.ghacks.net/2015/01/14/book-review-the-beginners-guide-to-android-game-development/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:03:22 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=109042 The Beginner's Guide to Android Game Development by James Cho is a complete Android game development course for beginners who have little or no programming experience. Whenever I read a statement like that, I'm concerned that a book is too shallow or increases the pace suddenly so that beginners won't be able to follow unless […]

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The Beginner's Guide to Android Game Development by James Cho is a complete Android game development course for beginners who have little or no programming experience.

Whenever I read a statement like that, I'm concerned that a book is too shallow or increases the pace suddenly so that beginners won't be able to follow unless they spend lots of time to fill in the blanks or concepts that are not explained.

This book is different but more about that later. The book covers Java and Android game development and while the basics of Java are covered by it, it is not a full Java nor Android tutorial but concentrates on the essentials for Java and Android game programming.

While that is the focus, the concepts that you learn can be used to create Java and Android apps as well.

Eclipse is used throughout the book for development which is the only issue that I have with the book as Android Studio would be more appropriate since Google focuses on that as the core development environment for Android.

That does not mean that you will run into issues or anything, only that you may have to make the switch to Android Studio eventually and that it would have made sense to start with Android Studio to avoid that.

The Beginner's Guide to Android Game Development

android game development

Contents

  • The fundamentals of Programming
  • Beginning Java
  • Java Game Development - Laying the Foundations (game framework)
  • Keeping it simple (first game)
  • The next Level (second game, improvements)
  • Android Game Development - Beginning Android Development
  • The Android Game Framework
  • Building the Game
  • Releasing your Game
  • Continuing the Journey

The first three chapters walk you through Java basics. It covers lots of ground including data types, loops, creating your first program, objects, classes, working with the Java API before it explains advanced concepts such as interfaces, getter and setter methods or inheritance.

You get a good understanding of these core concepts even though you will have to seek out additional information for some topics such as polymorphism. This extra knowledge or better understanding is not necessary however to follow the book.

What is provided is exactly what you need to create your first game in Java. Additional concepts are provided throughout the book when they are used.

The next three chapters cover game development in Java. You create a framework in the first that is used by the two game that you create in the two following chapters. That's right, you create two games in those chapters that you can play on your system and even distribute to others.

The author explains the purpose of every class, method, variable, and line of code so that it is very easy to follow.

You may want to look up certain constructs online though to get a better understanding of them. For instance, you may want to know more about certain imports made in classes to get a better understanding of what they do and what you can use them for.

This is again not something that you need but it may help you in the long run as it improves your understanding of those classes and the methods they offer.

The next three chapters are all about Android game programming. The first chapter introduces you to the concept of development for Android. It explains core Android concepts that are different from Java, activities for example.

A game framework for Android is created in the next chapter that serves a similar purpose as the Java game framework that you have created in chapter 4 of the book.

Chapter 9 finally walks you through the steps of creating your first Android game.

The book is not finished at this point though. Chapter 10 offers useful information on publishing the game on Google Play and updating it while chapter 11 looks beyond and provides suggestions on what you may want to do next.

What I like most about the book is that the explanations make sense. I never had the feeling that something important was skipped by the author or that code was used that was not explained properly or at all before.

It means that you can use this book, and this book only, and still understand every single line of code.

The book is for beginners, but can also be useful for Java programmers who would like to start with Android or programmers who never touched Java. I would not recommend skipping the Java game development chapters as core concepts, active rendering, general design of a game and its classes, the game loop or game animation are explained in those chapters which you should know about.

The author has a talent for making complex topics more accessible which is why I can recommend the book wholeheartedly to beginners (including absolute beginners with zero programming experience) and others who like to start with Android or Java game development.

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Look up all Reddit submissions of a domain http://www.ghacks.net/2014/12/29/look-up-all-reddit-submissions-of-a-domain/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/12/29/look-up-all-reddit-submissions-of-a-domain/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 16:28:51 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=108409 I monitor several groups on Reddit that are of interest to me personally. What I like about Reddit is that you get tips and links posted by thousands of users who share interests with you. As a webmaster, Reddit is also important when a page on your website or your main domain name gets submitted […]

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I monitor several groups on Reddit that are of interest to me personally. What I like about Reddit is that you get tips and links posted by thousands of users who share interests with you.

As a webmaster, Reddit is also important when a page on your website or your main domain name gets submitted to the site.

Not only do you get a quality reference to your site, you may also get additional comments and remarks about it that may help you improve the article or make you step in to reply to a comment on the site.

I stumbled upon an interesting feature on Reddit recently that I did not know about until now: the ability to look up all submissions of a domain on the site.

There are two options available to display these pages on Reddit:

  1. Load http://www.reddit.com/domain/example.com directly in your browser of choice. Make sure you replace example.com with the domain name you are interested in.
  2. Use the site:example.com search parameter

Note that the results pages differ somewhat. The first displays the domain's results like any other group that you open on the site. This includes the usual hot, new, rising and related tabs at the top.

reddit domain results

You can use the site:parameter either directly by entering it in a search form on Reddit or by loading the address http://www.reddit.com/search?q=site%3Aexample.com directly.

The site parameter on the other hand displays a different layout. It starts with the groups pages of the site have been posted in and displays the results as regular search results.

You can still change the sorting, for instance by displaying newest results first or hot results.

One benefit of using search is that you can use additional search parameters, for instance to display all posts made to a group on Reddit or by excluding posts that you have made.

reddit site search

The information can be useful for webmasters, authors and site owners as it can provide feedback on content posted to a domain.

It can also be used to find out if a page has been submitted already to Reddit so that you can avoid posting it a second time to the site.

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How to test quick changes to web pages before making them http://www.ghacks.net/2014/08/12/how-to-test-quick-changes-to-web-pages-before-applying-them/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/08/12/how-to-test-quick-changes-to-web-pages-before-applying-them/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:37:16 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=105814 Most developers use a local development environment that replicates the live website. They use it to test any change made to the website before it is pushed to the live server. This can be an update, for instance a new version of WordPress, the installation of a new script or feature, or a change to […]

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Most developers use a local development environment that replicates the live website. They use it to test any change made to the website before it is pushed to the live server.

This can be an update, for instance a new version of WordPress, the installation of a new script or feature, or a change to a site's layout or design.

It makes sense to test these things locally first as site visitors may otherwise be exposed to them, bad if a change has not the desired result or renders functionality useless on the site.

You may not have access to the local development environment at all times, or don't use one at all, that's when Development Tools that ship with browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer come in handy as you can use them to test changes on the live side without modifying a single file for all users.

In fact, you can use it to modify any site you come across on the Internet not only your own. Note though that the changes are of temporary nature only which means that they are gone as soon as the page gets reloaded or the browser closed.

Developer Tools

The tools work all in the same fashion and I'm demonstrating how you use them to make quick changes in Chromium.

You can star them with a tap on F12 most of the time. The interface opens at the bottom of the screen automatically. Depending on the browser you are using, you may see the HTML and CSS code or other information.

The inspector tool is one of the most useful tools that you have access to. It allows you to select any element on a web page, the page title, an image, text or media, to focus on it.

In Chromium, the HTML code is displayed that is powering it as well as all CSS styles. To modify it, simply change the HMTL code or the CSS style information.

Instead of modifying existing information, you can also add new code to the page to test it and see if it works fine or requires refinement.

modify website developer tools

Here is a basic example highlighting a simple modification:

  1. Visit the Windows News website.
  2. Hit F12 to open the Developer Tools in the browser.
  3. Select the Inspector element. In Chrome, that is the leftmost icon in the "elements network sources" bar.
  4. Once selected, click on the page title Windows News.
  5. Chromium jumps to the right location in the HTML and displays all CSS styles affecting the page title.
  6. To change the HTML code, simply modify it by clicking in it. You can change the page title for instance, or replace it with an image to see how it looks.
  7. Styles on the other hand let you modify how the title is displayed. You can modify the color of it or its size, change its alignment, or modify other parameters such as border and margin values.

Conclusion

Developer Tools offer a quick way to test changes without applying them right away to a website. While you cannot use the tools to test updates or new plugins, you can use them to test any code or style modifications to make sure they are right before modifying the files on the web server.

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Find out if websites get loaded from cache and how to force reloads http://www.ghacks.net/2014/08/11/find-out-if-websites-get-loaded-from-cache-and-how-to-force-reloads/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/08/11/find-out-if-websites-get-loaded-from-cache-and-how-to-force-reloads/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:10:08 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=105764 When you visit a website in a modern web browser for the first time, contents get loaded from a web server to the local computer. While some resources may be loaded from cache already, for instance if you visited another page on the same host or if the same third-party host was used on websites […]

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When you visit a website in a modern web browser for the first time, contents get loaded from a web server to the local computer.

While some resources may be loaded from cache already, for instance if you visited another page on the same host or if the same third-party host was used on websites that you visited previously.

Most of the time though, contents get loaded from a web server.

When you visit that same website later on, and later can mean the next second, on that day or even other days, some or even all contents may get loaded from cache instead of the server.

That's often not a problem and will speed up the rendering of the site as some resources do not need to be fetched from the Internet.

Sometimes however contents may not be updated because of this. This can be extremely frustrating, for instance if the website of your local newspaper displays yesterday's news, if a forum thread does not show any new replies, or if an auction site does not show new listings.

Find out if resources are loaded from cache

Depending on which browser you use, it may be easy or not so easy to determine which resources have been cached. Chromium-based browsers display (from cache) if the network tool of the Developer Tools are open.

Just hit F12 to display the tools, switch to network, and reload the page.

from cache

Firefox does not display the information natively. You can install the Firebug add-on to add cache related information to the browser.

Here you select the Net tab, click on an element and then on cache to display caching related information.

firefox cache

Microsoft's Internet Explorer does not display information about cached resources in the Developer Tools directly. You can however check for the response header and if it is 304, the resource has not been modified since the last visit and thus loaded from cache.

This is not a 100% surefire way of telling if a resource has been cached though, as 200 may also be returned sometimes for cached entries.

Another option that you have is to check the cache directory on the hard drive (or memory) to find out about cached entries. Firefox users can load about:cache to find out about the cache locations and even browse the cache using the browser.

Depending on the size of the cache, it may load rather slowly though and it is highly suggested to use a local file explorer instead.

Chrome users can load chrome://cache/ instead which lists cached entries directly when loaded in the browser.

Last but not least, Windows users can also run a selection of Nirsoft tools to display the browser cache on their system.

Forcing reloads

The easiest way to force a reload is to hit the Ctrl-F5 shortcut when that page is open. This bypasses the cache and requests all files from the server.

This is different from hitting F5 only which will also refresh the page. Doing so will check if new versions of cached resources are available and if they are load them from the server. If there is no new version, the cached version will be loaded instead.

While this works well individually, you sometimes may want to disable caching completely. This can be done using Developer Tools again.

  • Chrome: Hit F12 to display the developer interface again and switch to network. Here you need to select the disable cache option to avoid that resources get cached for as long as the interface is open.
  • Firefox: Press F12 and select the settings icon in the main toolbar. Here you need to enable "disable cache (when toolbox is open)" under advanced settings.
  • Internet Explorer: Press F12 to open the Developer Tools. Switch to network and activate the "always refresh from the server" option with a click next to the record icon in the main toolbar.

Last but not least, it is also possible to delete the disk cache completely or partially to force the browser to load all contents from the Internet.

Conclusion

Caching works well most of the time. Sometimes however you may run into issues where websites don't display fresh contents even though you are fairly certain that contents are available.

Using the methods above you can find out if that is the case and force the browser to refresh the case.

Have another method? Post it in the comments below.

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How to change the WordPress excerpt length http://www.ghacks.net/2014/04/14/change-wordpress-excerpt-length/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/04/14/change-wordpress-excerpt-length/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:22:13 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=101832 WordPress creates a lot of pages on a website and the majority of them are created by pulling information from single articles that you create. There is the homepage that lists the most recent articles, categories and tags that sort them into different groups, date pages that sort them by date, and several other pages […]

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WordPress creates a lot of pages on a website and the majority of them are created by pulling information from single articles that you create.

There is the homepage that lists the most recent articles, categories and tags that sort them into different groups, date pages that sort them by date, and several other pages some of which are optional such as comment pages.

Most of these pages have in common that they display excerpts of articles. An excerpt uses 55 words of the beginning of articles by default which you can change by adding a custom excerpt to an article, or by modifying the length of the excerpt.

This guide explains to you how to change the excerpt length on a WordPress site.

Before we start, it may be a good idea to explain the reason behind changing the length of text snippets on WordPress.

Sometimes, you may want to display longer excerpts to make the main body of the site fit the sidebar. At other times, you may have modified the number of excerpts on a page, and want to reduce the overall length of those pages by reducing the word count of excerpts.

The screenshot below shows two excerpts on the Ghacks frontpage.

wordpress excerpts

It is thankfully pretty easy to modify the excerpt length, and while you can use plugins such as Easy Custom Auto Excerpt for this, it takes just a couple lines of code to modify the length manually instead.

Note that the mentioned plugin offers additional functionality that includes selecting the alignment of text or selecting on which pages excerpts are displayed on the blog.

Manual way

functions.php code

1. Open your WordPress theme's functions.php file. You find that file in the themes folder usually, it if does not exist, create it.

2. Scroll all the way done until you find ?>

3. Paste the following lines of code to change the excerpt length of the WordPress site. This changes the excerpt length to 65 words. Modify the value as you see fit.

function custom_excerpt_length( $length ) {
return 65;
}
add_filter( 'excerpt_length', 'custom_excerpt_length', 999 );

4.  If you also want to modify the [.....] that WordPress adds after the excerpt to indicate that there is more, add the following line of code to the same functions.php file and modify the [.....] value here.

function new_excerpt_more( $more ) {
return '[.....]';
}
add_filter('excerpt_more', 'new_excerpt_more');

5. Save the file and reload your website. If you are using a caching plugin, make sure you clear the cache before you do so as you may not see the changes otherwise immediately.

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Get a Website, Social Media and Competitor Analysis with Quicksprout http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/28/get-website-social-media-competitor-analysis-quicksprout/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/28/get-website-social-media-competitor-analysis-quicksprout/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:19:05 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=101175 As a webmaster, you always need to be on the lookout for things to improve on your sites. This is less the case if you are just maintaining a private website, but if your business runs on it, or if websites generate all the money that you earn, then you better make sure that there […]

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As a webmaster, you always need to be on the lookout for things to improve on your sites.

This is less the case if you are just maintaining a private website, but if your business runs on it, or if websites generate all the money that you earn, then you better make sure that there are not any areas of improvements left.

The reason here is that improvements often lead to better search engine visibility or user experience, which both can have a tremendous impact on traffic and revenue generation.

Quicksprout is a free tool that you can use to analyze your website in three distinct areas.

  • Website analysis
  • Social Media analysis
  • Competitor analysis

The good thing about it is that you only need to type the domain that you want to check once to gain all those information. Well, if you want to analyze how competitors fare against your site's metrics, then you also need to enter those domain names.

Once you have entered a domain name results are computed right away.

Website Analyzer

website analyzer

The Website Analyzer checks several important site metrics including a SEO score, a Speed score, and how it looks on various device types.

The SEO Score grades the site from A to F using various metrics such as site errors or warnings for that. All errors or warnings are listed by the service so that you can correct them.

Errors can hint at serious issues such as duplicate title tags, missing meta descriptions or other formatting errors.

Warnings on the other hand have less of an impact. They usually include title tags that are too long or too short, warnings about too many links on a site, or the use of dynamic urls.

The Speed Score works in a similar fashion. It is based on the site's load time, page size and number of requests, and provides you with additional recommendations on how to improve the loading time of the site.

These suggestions are divided into high, medium and low priority recommendations. A high priority recommendation may suggest to minify CSS or JavaScript files, or to combine scripts to improve page loading time.

Other suggestions may include enabling gzip compression, configuring ETags, or putting scripts to the bottom to avoid that they block the loading or rendering of additional page components.

The service seems to use Yahoo Slow for that.

The Screenshots analysis displays a screenshot of the web page and how much of its contents are displayed above the fold on desktop, tablet and phone devices.

Social Media Analysis

social media analysis

The Social Media Analysis highlights the page shares per network, the total media shares, and the pages of the website with the most shares.

This can be interesting to discover which pages get shared the most for example.

Competitor Analysis

competitor analysis

The Competitor Analysis finally allows you to compare the website against three other domains. All domains are processed by Quicksprout and ranked according to their overall score.

What is interesting is that you get a detailed analysis as well. You can compare page loading times for example, compare the number of warnings or back links, the social shares, or the top key phrases on those sites.

Verdict

Quicksprout is a useful tool for webmasters who want a quick analysis of their web page in regards to search engine optimization, page loading performance, and social media impact.

It can also be useful to compare the site against competing sites to find out why competitors rank better, or find out what you need to improve to level the playing field.

Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader.

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How to move comments in WordPress http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/04/move-comments-wordpress/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/04/move-comments-wordpress/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:06:04 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=100002 I'm currently going through all aged posts here on Ghacks Technology News to update them whenever possible, or remove them from the blog if it does not make sense to do so. This is for instance the case for posts about giveaways on third-party websites. Since the giveaway is long over, it does not really […]

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I'm currently going through all aged posts here on Ghacks Technology News to update them whenever possible, or remove them from the blog if it does not make sense to do so.

This is for instance the case for posts about giveaways on third-party websites. Since the giveaway is long over, it does not really make sense to keep the post up, as it does not offer anything of value anymore.

I have also started to merge posts, for instance all Windows XP Service Pack 3 posts into a single article. I did not want to lose comments though on several of those posts, as they offered valuable contributions to the article.

WordPress, that is the blogging platform that I'm using, does not offer options to move comments or merge posts. While it is possible to fire up a MySQL editor such as phpMyAdmin to change the post ID of each comment , so that it is linked to another post, it is not very comfortable to do so.

The core reason for that is that browsing MySQL tables is not fun even in an editor, and that there is also risk involved in editing the table directly.

There are not many WordPress plugins on the other hand that allow you to move comments to another post. I tried a few, and the one that was working best for me was WordPress Move Comments.

The plugin has not been updated since December 2012 but it works just fine in the latest version of the platform.

Here is how it works.

wordpress move comments

The extension adds a new module to the edit comment page which you can use to change the comments post ID. All you need to do is change the post or page ID of the comment, and click on the update link afterwards to make it a comment of another post or page.

Here you can also change the comment author or the comment parent ID, but that is better to be left alone most of the time.

You may run into two issues while using the plugin.

First, you need to look up the ID of the new post that you want to move the comment to. Sounds complicated, but isn't really. When you hover the mouse over the Edit link of the post in the posts listing, you see the ID listed in the address.

post id

Just replace the original ID with the new one to move the comment to the new page.

The second issue is that the plugin does not support bulk moving. If a post has 50, 100 or even more comments, you will have to click on the edit link (quick edit or regular edit, both work) next to each comment individually to move it.

While that is inconvenient, it is not as bad as it sounds, especially since it is a one-time operation only.

Verdict

WordPress Move Comments provides you with the means to move comments from one post or page on your blog to another. This can be useful not only when you are merging posts or deleting old ones, but also when a comment is placed on the wrong page by a user.

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Blog Maintenance: what I do when I have nothing to write about http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/18/blog-maintenance-nothing-write/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/18/blog-maintenance-nothing-write/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 08:43:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=98687 If you are running a blog or website for a long time, you will encounter days or even weeks where there is little to write about. There are plenty reasons why this can happen. Maybe nothing happened in that week that was of interest to you, maybe you overlooked it, ran out of ideas, or […]

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If you are running a blog or website for a long time, you will encounter days or even weeks where there is little to write about.

There are plenty reasons why this can happen. Maybe nothing happened in that week that was of interest to you, maybe you overlooked it, ran out of ideas, or experience writer's block.

The situation can be frustrating, especially if you earn a living from writing.

Over the years, I have started to develop habits to stay productive in situations where I cannot publish new articles on sites that I run.

Blog Maintenance

The one thing that works best for me in this situation is to run maintenance related tasks on the blog. Lets find out what I mean by that.

Update articles

Over 15,000 articles have been published on Ghacks Technology News over the years. Articles need updates for a variety of reasons:

  1. The service or program reviewed is no longer available. This is a problem as visitors who stumble upon the article won't get what they came for, as links may no longer be working.
  2. A review or article needs to be updated because it is out of date or insufficient. This can be something basic, like an interface change in Firefox that invalidates guides that explain how you do things in the browser. A prime example is the Firefox menu button that Mozilla will remove in Firefox 29. Guides stating that you should click on the Firefox menu button will be out of date when Firefox 29 gets released, as there won't be such a button anymore.
  3. Grammar or spelling corrections. Some articles need to be updated in this regard. This is especially true for earlier works here on the site.
  4. Articles that do not offer useful information. A Microsoft USB Flash Drive giveaway may have been relevant back in 2008, but it is no longer today. The same is true for news that are of little interested today, such as the release of Firefox 5.0.1 or the acquisition of a company back in 2007.

I try to improve articles, add relevant content to them most of the time. If a program is no longer available, I try to locate a copy of it and either host it here on Ghacks, or link to a download portal where it is still offered.

I may also rewrite part of the article, correct other issues, or add new contents to it to improve it further.

I do move articles to the trash sometimes, usually when they do not have anything of value to offer anymore.

The reading of old articles may lead to new article ideas as well.

Fix broken links

broken links

I run the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress that scans all links -- those set by authors of the site and users -- to make sure they are all valid.

For some time, the plugin would add so much load to the server that it lagged and one could not really open any web pages on it.

I discovered a fix recently for it that resolved the issue. Just uncheck the "Run continuously while the Dashboard is open" option under Advanced in the plugin settings.

I try to fix links first whenever possible. This often leads to me finding articles that are in dire need of updating. As far as links are concerned, I try to find an alternative for article links, and if that is not possible, I update the article to let readers know about that and post a link to an alternative if available.

Emails

gmail old compose

I try to respond to all emails that I receive in time, but that is not possible at all times. Whenever I find the time, I try to reduce the email queue.

I value user emails more than emails from marketers and companies -- usually -- and assign higher priorities to them so that they do get answered first.

Still, I have to catch up with emails waiting for replies in my inbox, and blog maintenance time is a great time to do so.

Closing Words

I have not included any "regular" tasks, as I tend to do those whenever I notice them. This includes updating the blog software or plugins, making sure the RSS feed is working, that all forms work, that the commenting system works, dealing with spam comments and comment moderation, and so on.

Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader.

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Here is why Neowin.net is down right now http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/02/neowin-net-right-now/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/02/neowin-net-right-now/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 07:46:50 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=98210 Neowin.net is one of our partner websites, and it came as a surprise yesterday that the site went down completely. I first thought that this was just a fluke and tried connecting again in a different browser, but that did not work out as well. After some digging I found out that neowin.net was indeed […]

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neowin-net-webpage-not-available

Neowin.net is one of our partner websites, and it came as a surprise yesterday that the site went down completely. I first thought that this was just a fluke and tried connecting again in a different browser, but that did not work out as well.

After some digging I found out that neowin.net was indeed down and not responding at all. It was clear that this was not a software issue, as error messages would have been different in this case.

It appeared as if the domain had been pulled, which could mean a couple of things. It could mean that the site had been hacked for instance, that the domain expired and was snagged by a third-party, or that the site was on the move to a new server.

A quick DNS look-up on the other hand resulted in the following:

Retrieving DNS records for neowin.net...

DNS servers
ns1.badwhoisshutdown.com [69.25.27.170]
ns2.badwhoisshutdown.com [69.25.27.173]
Query for DNS records for neowin.net failed: Timed out

It was clear that the nameservers had been changed, and if the name of the domain is any indication as to what happened, it seems that incorrect data led to the pulling of the domain.

I mentioned earlier here on Ghacks that new ICANN regulations make it mandatory that so-called whois information are accurate for the domains that you own.

If they are not, and you are reported by someone, your domain will be pulled from the Internet until the issue is fixed.

This apparently happened to Neowin according to site administrator Steven P.

I've contacted ICANN through the support ticket to get it reinstated but I don't have any idea how long that process takes. It was due to one of the many email addresses that are tied to our account/domains not working. Although the email addresses on the public WHOIS do work and are valid. Just one of those things..

The issue has been fixed by now, and things should start to return to normal again in the next 24 hour period. For the time being, it is possible to access the site using the neow.in address instead.

If you are a webmaster or domain owner, you need to make sure that all Whois related information, as well as account related information, are accurate. You may run into the same domain pulling troubles as Neowin if you do not.

It is especially important that all email addresses and phone numbers connected to accounts are accurate, as this seems to be the core reason why domains may get pulled for inaccurate information.

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How to add featured images to existing WordPress posts automatically http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/01/add-featured-images-existing-wordpress-posts-automatically/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/02/01/add-featured-images-existing-wordpress-posts-automatically/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 14:16:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=98200 Every now and then I'm running page speed analysis tools such as Google Page Speed or Yahoo's Yslow on the sites that I administrate to make sure that the sites load as fast as possible. I spotted one issue recently that prolonged the loading time of index pages on Ghacks Technology News. The site is […]

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Every now and then I'm running page speed analysis tools such as Google Page Speed or Yahoo's Yslow on the sites that I administrate to make sure that the sites load as fast as possible.

I spotted one issue recently that prolonged the loading time of index pages on Ghacks Technology News. The site is running a modified version of the Canvas theme, which displays thumbnail images on index pages such as the blog's homepage.

While that adds a visual component to the blog, it also increases the loading time of said pages more than necessary.

The reason? If no featured image is set, the first image added to the post itself will be taken as the thumbnail image. The problem here is that the original size of the image was used as the thumbnail image, instead of the separately created thumbnail image.

So, instead of having a size of 10 Kilobytes or less, some images had a size of 150 Kilobytes and more. Not good.

wordpress featured image

I realized quickly that I had to set a feature image for each post that had none to make WordPress use the smaller thumbnail image for index pages instead of the original image.

The problem that I ran into now was that I had no desire to go through all 15k posts that were published over the years here on the site to set a featured image.

After some digging around I found the WordPress add-on Easy Add Thumbnail. It takes care of the following two situations:

  • It will automatically set a featured image for new posts that you create, so that you do not have to do so manually anymore. That is, unless you want to select a different featured image for a post.
  • For existing posts, featured images are set dynamically on first page load on the front end. As soon as users load a page where thumbnail images are shown, featured images are set for those posts. This is a one-time operation only, as featured images are saved the usual way by the plugin.

The plugin uses WordPress' standard functions to set featured images. This is identical to setting featured images manually on the site, and only works if at least one image is attached to a post.

Verdict

If you are in the same situation and have not set featured posts yet on your site, or switched to a theme recently that supports featured posts, then you may want to give Easy Add Thumbnail a try, as it resolves the issue elegantly for you.

Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader.

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WordPress SEO Premium 1.0 plugin review http://www.ghacks.net/2014/01/29/wordpress-seo-premium-1-0-plugin-review/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/01/29/wordpress-seo-premium-1-0-plugin-review/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:19:38 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=98134 Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin is a well designed plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs that takes care of several SEO related settings and preferences. It enables you to define how permalinks should look like, how titles and other meta information are displayed, allows for the creation of XML sitemaps, supports breadcrumbs, and can be used to […]

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Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin is a well designed plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs that takes care of several SEO related settings and preferences.

It enables you to define how permalinks should look like, how titles and other meta information are displayed, allows for the creation of XML sitemaps, supports breadcrumbs, and can be used to add information to the RSS feed.

Yoast released the first public version of his SEO Premium plugin for WordPress. It is available for $89 for a one site license, and discounted when you want to use it on multiple sites you own.

The plugin itself is more or less Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin with features added to it. For now, it is limited to two features, but more are promised to come later on.

When you purchase a license you get one year free upgrades with it, as well as support for the plugin, something that you do not get when you install the free version only.

Redirect Manager

redirects yoast wordpress seo premium

The first new feature is the redirect manager. It enables you to quickly create site redirects in the backend of your blog. What sets this apart from comparable solutions such as the free Redirection plugin is the fact that you can have the plugin handle the redirects, or create redirect files instead that you can integrated into htaccess files or server configuration files.

Google Webmaster Tools integration

yoast wordpress seo webmaster tools

More interesting than that, at least for me, is the option to authorize the plugin to access Google Webmaster Tools information.

For now, this means the ability to retrieve crawl errors, such as 404 not found pages, from Webmaster Tools and display them on the site directly.

That's not all however, you can also create redirects here directly, which means that you will no longer have to switch between the WordPress admin dashboard, Google Webmaster Tools and the site's frontend to do so.

Update

If you run the regular WordPress SEO plugin, you need to deactivate it first before you install the WordPress SEO Premium plugin.

It works like the free version until you verify the license key that you have received after you have bought it.

Criticism

The plugin has a bright future, if Yoast and team continue to work on it. The initial version lacks a couple of features that I'd like to see implemented as soon as possible.

Probably the most glaring issue is the fact that there is no indication whether you have created a redirect for a page already when you open the Webmaster Tools section.

Not a problem if you have ten or so errors, but for my site, more than 4000 were listed. I cannot possibly fix them all in one day, and since I assume that the listing is updated regularly when new data becomes available, it is easy to lose orientation.

So, either remove the pages that were already fixed from the listing, add an option to filter out those pages, or add a visual indicator to the listing so that you know what you have fixed and what not.

In addition, all crawling errors are currently mixed together. You find urls here that are restricted by robots.txt, 404 errors, 403 errors, and basically all other errors that may be displayed in Webmaster Tools.

An option to filter the listing by error type would be useful.

And while we are at it, how about displaying the hits each page gets so that you can concentrate on fixing the most glaring issues first.

What else? I'd like to see some automation as well for issues that occur often. Say, to scan the listing for obvious errors, for instance image urls that contain parameters afterwards, such as blabla.jpgjr?test.

There is no option to import redirects from other plugins, such as Redirection currently. This is however on the to-do list, and it will be interesting to see how well this works out. It is definitely a welcome change, as I'm currently running two redirection plugins on the site.

Another thing that is kinda weird is that the notification of success or failure -- that is in regards to creating a new redirect -- is always displayed at the top. If you have added a redirect to a page listed below the fold, you won't see the return message. While you still see the position change and revert, that is not enough to know if a redirect was added successfully or not.

Verdict

Yoast's WordPress SEO Premium plugin introduces a handy feature. It is not as comfortable yet as it could be, but I'm pretty certain that improvements will be made in the near future.

It has its uses for now, especially if you do not want to switch between Webmaster Tools and your site when fixing broken pages and other crawl errors, but it is not as comfortable as it could be.

Considering that you do get one year support with the purchase, it is definitely worth the money right away.

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Attention domain owners: don’t ignore “validate contact info” emails anymore http://www.ghacks.net/2014/01/22/attention-domain-owners-dont-ignore-validate-contact-info-emails-anymore/ http://www.ghacks.net/2014/01/22/attention-domain-owners-dont-ignore-validate-contact-info-emails-anymore/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 11:43:38 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=97986 Every year or so it seems, I'm receiving quite a few emails from various domain registrars asking me to verify that the contact information of my domains are correct. Contact information link a person or company, or proxy, to a domain name. These information may change over time, for instance when a site gets sold, […]

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contact-information-errors-domain

Every year or so it seems, I'm receiving quite a few emails from various domain registrars asking me to verify that the contact information of my domains are correct.

Contact information link a person or company, or proxy, to a domain name. These information may change over time, for instance when a site gets sold, the owner moves, or if the phone number changes.

Some owners add fake contact information to domain names, while others use proxy services to hide their identity on the Internet and avoid being linked to that particular domain name.

Up until now, there has been no repercussion if you did not verify the information. You could still be reported to your registrar and depending on how things are handled by the company, may have lost access to the domain until things got sorted out.

The ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)  2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement changes that.

Whois Accuracy Program Specification specifies what is required of domain owners once the agreement has been executed by their registrars, and what will happen if owners do not comply in time.

Except as provided in Section 3 below, within fifteen (15) calendar days after receiving any changes to contact information in Whois or the corresponding customer account contact information related to any Registered Name sponsored by Registrar (whether or not Registrar was previously required to perform the validation and verification requirements set forth in this Specification in respect of such Registered Name), Registrar will validate and, to the extent required by Section 1, verify the changed fields in the manner specified in Section 1 above.

Section 1 details that all fields must be filled out correctly, and that both email and phone numbers are to be verified. This means basically that if the selected phone number or email address fails to verify, that the domain will be shut down by the registrar until that issue is fixed.

This kicks in the moment information change, for instance after the sale of a domain name, but also when they appear for the first time after registration.

Registrars will have to verify and validate the information within 15 calendar days after changes have been made to contact information

If Registrar does not receive an affirmative response from the Registered Name Holder providing the required verification, Registrar shall either verify the applicable contact information manually or suspend the registration, until such time as Registrar has verified the applicable contact information.

Registrars may use automated systems for validation, for instance by sending out confirmation emails or SMS, or manual validation, for instance by phone calls. If those fail, the registration of the domain will be suspended until the contact information can be verified and validated.

This means that domain owners will have to pay attention to verification emails that they receive from their registrars. It is no longer possible to simply ignore those, as access to the domain may be lost in the process for as long as it takes to validate the information.

Tip: you may also want to check your registrar's domain management page where all of your domains are listed. You may find some where "pending verification" or "validation" is listed as the status. Make sure you correct any issues here to avoid further problems.

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WordPress: distraction-free writing http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/31/wordpress-distraction-free-writing/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/31/wordpress-distraction-free-writing/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 10:20:26 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=97433 The default WordPress writing environment is not well suited for writing at all, in my opinion. You get a sidebar on the left, modules on the right, and a toolbar on top that displays items that you may never use in your life. In addition, you also have modules below the text area. While this […]

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wordpress distraction-free editor

The default WordPress writing environment is not well suited for writing at all, in my opinion. You get a sidebar on the left, modules on the right, and a toolbar on top that displays items that you may never use in your life. In addition, you also have modules below the text area.

While this may work well for you, one of the first things that I do when I set up a new WordPress blog is to modify the editing layout.

I use Screen Options to remove any module that I do not use, so that less appear on the screen. This not only improves loading times, but also lets me use a one column mode instead to increase the width of the text editor.

But those cosmetic changes only go so far. The left sidebar for example remains, and while you can collapse it, it is likely that you will need to display its menu items in full again at one point in time, and switching between those two modes is not really something that I would call efficient.

The toolbar items too cannot be modified in any way. Even items that you may never use, like different text aligns, undo, or the text color changer are displayed there at all times.

If you want a true distracting-free writing environment for your WordPress blogs, you need to install a plugin to make that happen.

Just Writing is such a plugin.Nothing changes by default when you install it. You need to open your user profile first to configure the plugin before it becomes active.

It ships with a couple of quick options that you can switch between, but also with an option to fully customize how the editing interface looks like.

just writing distraction free wordpress

The custom option is the most interesting one in my opinion, as you can handpick the editing tools that you need, and hide all the others.

Please note that you need to launch the distraction-free writing mode by default. The plugin does come with options to enable it by default for new posts or posts you edit though, but that may impact performance and feel kinda awkward at first due to the switching that is involved.

As far as customization is concerned, you can add or hide any button that WordPress makes available in the editor. In addition, it is possible to add separators between icon groups.

How the result can look like? Check the screenshot at the top of the article for a preview. I have removed all options that I do not make use of, so that only those that I use are displayed in the toolbar on top of the editor.

The left sidebar, bottom modules and right sidebar modules are all gone, so that all of the browser window is used for the text editor.

The one option that is missing is the ability to publish the post right from the editing window. This means that you have to go back to the regular WordPress editing interface to do so. Considering that you may want to make additional modifications to the post before you do, such as adding a category or tags, it is a solution that you may be able to live with.

Verdict

Just Writing has its uses, especially in situations where you spend a lot of time in the editing interface, or write long posts and do not need any of the noise of the regular WordPress interface as it only distracts you.

It is not that well suited for quick edits, or posts that only have a couple of hundred words tops though. (via Caschy)

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How to delete websites on Google Analytics http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/23/delete-websites-google-analytics/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/23/delete-websites-google-analytics/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 08:09:02 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=97130 Google Analytics is a service by Google for webmasters who want to track the traffic, conversions and other metrics in regards to sites that they add to the service. The service highlights where visitors come from, what they do on the site, and how they leave it again among other things. Recently, Google has started […]

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Google Analytics is a service by Google for webmasters who want to track the traffic, conversions and other metrics in regards to sites that they add to the service.

The service highlights where visitors come from, what they do on the site, and how they leave it again among other things.

Recently, Google has started to interlink some of its services together. If you are using Google Analytics, you can link the account to your Google Webmaster account to get additional information about the placement in Google's search engine. You can also link it to Adsense to reveal information about clicks and earnings right in Google Analytics.

You can add as many websites to Google Analytics as you like, and either group them together, or create individual groups for each of them.

Tip: If you ever plan to sell a property, create a group for each website that you add to the service, as it is the only way to transfer it to a new owner. If you have grouped multipled domains in a single group, you cannot just transfer one of the domains to a new owner.

Earlier this year, I sold one of the sites that I bought as an investment. I sold it for a healthy profit if you take into account that it also earned money during the two or so years that it was under my wings.

Some days ago I decided to remove it from Google Analytics, as there was no reason to keep it up any longer there. Since it was lumped together with other sites, I could not transfer the data to the new owner. We agreed that I would keep the data up for the time being so that it could be accessed by the company that bought the site.

Delete websites on Google Analytics

delete-google-analytics-account

Select View Settings

It took me a while to find out how to delete websites or projects on Google Analytics. What you need to do is the following:

  1. Open the main Google Analytics website and sign in to your account.
  2. You see a listing of all groups and websites that you have added to the service.
  3. Click on Admin in the upper right corner of the screen.
  4. Select the account that you want to manage.
  5. Google displays all properties -- aka domains -- that you have added to the account here.
  6. Select the domain that you want to remove from Google Analytics.
  7. It is now displayed under Property and View.
  8. Click on View Settings under View.
  9. Scroll all the way down until you find "Delete View" in the right bottom corner of the screen.
  10. Click on it to terminate the account.
  11. A warning is displayed: "You are about to delete the view xxx. Once deleted, view data is not recoverable. Are you sure you want to delete this view?"
  12. Click on Delete view to continue.
delete-view

Confirm deletion

The warning indicates that all data that was accumulated over the time the analytics script was running on the property will be deleted when you delete the view.

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WordPress 3.8 update comes with a new admin and default theme http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/12/wordpress-3-8-update-comes-new-admin-default-theme/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/12/wordpress-3-8-update-comes-new-admin-default-theme/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 18:47:20 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=96804 A new version of the popular blogging software WordPress has just been released, introducing a new admin dashboard theme and the brand new Twenty Fourteen frontend theme. As you may know, a new default theme is released each year which showcase what WordPress is capable of, and to implement modern design philosophies and web technologies. […]

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wordpress-grid-layout

A new version of the popular blogging software WordPress has just been released, introducing a new admin dashboard theme and the brand new Twenty Fourteen frontend theme.

As you may know, a new default theme is released each year which showcase what WordPress is capable of, and to implement modern design philosophies and web technologies.

The new Twenty Fourteen theme in particular is a responsive magazine style theme that supports two different layouts. You can display articles in grid layout mode, or as a slider on the homepage.

The theme uses a dark background and left sidebar, which may be totally different from what your previous theme uses. You may need to customize the layout and design of the Twenty Fourteen theme because of that if you want to use it on your site.

In addition, it is necessary to assign the featured tag to select posts that you want displayed on the frontend, as you end up with the regular listing of articles sorted in chronological order otherwise.

The new frontend theme is not the only change in WordPress 3.8. If you open the admin dashboard, you will also notice that its design has changed. The sidebar and top toolbar are now displayed in black with white text for example.

wordpress new admin dashboard 3.8

What is interesting about this is that you can change the default color scheme to another one by opening your user profile. Here you can select one of eight color schemes for the dashboard including the default scheme focusing on black and blue colors, but also lighter themes and others.

If you do not like black themes, try the light theme for example to change it easily in the personal options.

According to WordPress, lots of thought went into the new theme. It uses the free Open Sans font, offers cleaner styles, more spacing between elements and larger font sizes right out of the box.

The development team has introduced other changes to the release. You can now click on widgets to add them to a sidebar, make use of a better drag and drop experience or may notice interface improvements depending on your screen resolution.

You can check out all new changes on the official WordPress Codex page.

To update, either download WordPress from the official website, or use the automatic upgrade feature of the blogging software in the admin dashboard instead.

You may want to test the update first before you run it on a live system though. While I did not notice any issues while updating a dozen or so blogs, it does not necessarily mean that you won't notice any as different configurations, plug-ins and themes may cause those.

Happy updating, and let me know how you feel about the new admin dashboard and frontend theme.

Addendum: One of the interesting changes in WordPress 3.8 is a new indicator for comments in moderation. These comments are now highlighted with a colored line so that it is easier to distinguish them from regular comments.

The Activity Feed on the other hand mixes comments with recently published articles and other data.

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How to add a sticky post in WordPress http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/10/add-sticky-post-wordpress/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/12/10/add-sticky-post-wordpress/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:27:20 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=96723 If you hang out on web forums regularly, you know that most of them have capabilities to make posts sticky. What is meant by that is that these posts are always displayed at the top of the forum, and not in chronological order with the rest of the posts. This is often used in forums […]

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If you hang out on web forums regularly, you know that most of them have capabilities to make posts sticky.

What is meant by that is that these posts are always displayed at the top of the forum, and not in chronological order with the rest of the posts.

This is often used in forums to put emphasize on important posts, say a post explaining the rules of the forum, or one that has been created by an administrator or moderator that answers basic questions or provides visitors with other information.

Blogs on the other hand do not make use of sticky posts that often. Most display either the articles that have been published in chronological order, or a static frontpage instead.

If you are a WordPress administrator, you may be surprised to hear that the blogging platform supports sticky posts out of the box.

The feature is somewhat hidden though which may explain why most WordPress admins and authors have never heard about it before or discovered it by accident.

Sticky Posts in WordPress

wordpress sticky post

It is rather easy to make a particular post sticky. All you have to do is the following:

  1. Open an existing post or create a new post in the WordPress admin dashboard.
  2. Locate the Publish widget here. This is the widget that you can use to save posts as drafts and to publish them.
  3. Locate Visibility there and click on Edit.
  4. Check the "Stick this post to the front page" box and click ok.
  5. This sets the post as the sticky post on WordPress' frontpage.

What this means is that it will be displayed on top of all other posts on the WordPress front page.

There are some restrictions though. First, the theme that you are using needs to support sticky posts. Most do, but if your theme is heavily customized, it may not.

Second, you can make multiple posts sticky, so that they all are displayed on the front page of the blog.

Third, new regular posts that you publish are added beneath the sticky posts on the frontpage.

Note: WordPress displays Sticky next to each post in the posts listing in the admin dashboard. This helps you identify those posts directly and without having to look at the visibility setting of each post individually.

You can remove the sticky flag at any time again, which will remove the post from the exposed position on the frontpage and move it back to its original position in the chronological post order.

Pro Tip: Use the WordPress plugin Category Sticky Posts to make sticky posts for category pages on the blog, while Tag Sticky Posts the same for tag pages.

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WordPress 3.7 Update brings automatic updates http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/25/wordpress-3-7-update-brings-automatic-updates/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/25/wordpress-3-7-update-brings-automatic-updates/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 07:22:08 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95369 A new version of the blogging script WordPress has just been released. WordPress 3.7 is a feature and bug-fix release for self-hosted WordPress websites. So called background updates are probably the biggest feature of the new version. This adds an option to WordPress to install maintenance and security updates automatically in the background without user […]

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A new version of the blogging script WordPress has just been released. WordPress 3.7 is a feature and bug-fix release for self-hosted WordPress websites.

So called background updates are probably the biggest feature of the new version. This adds an option to WordPress to install maintenance and security updates automatically in the background without user interaction.

While most WordPress webmasters may not want to use the feature, as it can very well break a feature of the website, without them knowing about it for some time, it may make sense for sites that do not use many customizations or plugins, or sites that just sit there and are not maintained anymore.

The automatic-updates feature will only apply security or stability updates automatically, while feature releases, those from 3.7 to 3.8 for example, won't be applied automatically.

Note: The feature is enabled by default, you do need to disable it if you do not want to use it on your site. There are several options and prerequisites, but there is no switch in the WordPress admin interface to disable background updates. Read on to find out how you can disable the feature.

Disable WordPress Automatic Updates

wordpress automatic updates

background updates

To disable the automatic updates feature in WordPress, do the following:

Add the line define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true ); to your wp-config.php file which you find in the root directory of your WordPress installation.

Additional information about the new feature are available on the Make WordPress blog.

You can verify if background updates are working by opening /wp-admin/about.php

Options are available to enable the automatic updating of plugins and themes as well. Those options are disabled by default.

Other features in WordPress 3.7

The developers have improved the password strength meter in WordPress. It indicates how secure a password is so that you can make modifications to it if it is listed as weak or medium strength.

Among the changes is the inclusion of common -- weak -- data that are often used as passwords, for instance names, keyboard patterns or pop culture references.

According to the change notes, the search has been improved as well by improving the relevancy of search results. While I have not tested that yet, it is definitely a welcome change as the default WordPress search engine returned rather weak results most of the time.

You will find many minor changes in the release as well, below is a small list of those updates:

  1. Leading and trailing spaces in passwords are removed automatically when they are saved
  2. The file size of an image attachment is now shown on the image edit page.
  3. Lots of new functions, filters and classes

You can check out all changes on the WordPress Codex website.

To update to WordPress 3.7, either use the built-in update option in the WordPress dashboard, or download the new release manually from the WordPress website and deploy it via ftp / sftp manually.

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WordPress: Use Google Libraries instead of locally hosted ones http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/15/wordpress-use-google-libraries-instead-locally-hosted-ones/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/15/wordpress-use-google-libraries-instead-locally-hosted-ones/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 16:46:23 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95160 As I pointed out numerous times before: speed is important for any kind of operation on the Internet as a better loading performance will improve conversions on your websites. Mozilla managed to increase Firefox downloads by 60 million per year by shaving off 2.7 seconds of loading times on the organization's download pages. Many modern […]

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As I pointed out numerous times before: speed is important for any kind of operation on the Internet as a better loading performance will improve conversions on your websites. Mozilla managed to increase Firefox downloads by 60 million per year by shaving off 2.7 seconds of loading times on the organization's download pages.

Many modern themes and websites use JavaScript libraries and components such as jQuery, Prototype or Dojo to power part of their site's functionality.

While that is great in theory for a number of reasons, it means that users have to download those scripts when they connect to the service or website for the first time. There is one exception to the rule: if a script has not been modified and is already in the cache of the browser, it won't get downloaded again but loaded from the local browser cache.

One suggestion that developers had in recent time is to switch to remotely offered scripts instead of locally ones. And one of the prime targets for that is Google, as it is hosting numerous scripts on its fast content distribution network for anyone to use.

Google Libraries

The benefit of using hosted versions of jQuery and other scripts are the following:

  • Improved latency thanks to Google's impressive content distribution network that delivers the scripts from a location close to the user to decrease latency and speed up downloads
  • Parallel downloads thanks to being offered from another server. This is especially important if users are working with browsers that limited simultaneous downloads from web servers to 2 connections.
  • Better caching thanks to an increased likelihood that the script is already cached for users who connect to your website for the first time.

Especially the third option can speed things up for first time visitors, as the scripts do not have to be loaded at all if the user did download them on another web property previously before.

The WordPress plugin Use Google Libraries changes the location of several locally used scripts to Google hosted ones so that you and your site's visitors can benefit from this.

It is an install and forget about it plugin, as it handles everything in the background. There is no configuration to make, and you should check the effectiveness of the plugin by monitoring your website's network activity after plugin installation.

google libraries

If you are using Chrome or Firefox, hit F12 and select Network from the tabs listing in the Developer menu that opens here. Reload the web page and look at the scripts that get loaded. You should notice that some get loaded from Google servers instead of the local server.

As far as support goes, the plugin for WordPress supports the following libraries and components right now:

  • Dojo
  • jQuery
  • jQuery UI
  • MooTools
  • Prototype
  • script.aculo.us
  • swfobject

If your website is using other scripts, they may still be loaded from the local server and not from the remote server.

One additional benefit from this operation is that you will save bandwidth. Some scripts have a size of 100 Kiloybtes or larger, which you save for every new connection made. If you get 1000 new connections per day, you are saving 100.000 Kilobytes per day, or 36.500.000 Kilobytes per year.

Closing Words

To sum it up: You increase the loading performance of your websites if supported scripts are being used, and at the same time reduce how many bandwidth your website requires.

The only caveat here is that you load resources from Google, which some may see as a privacy risk that they do not want to take.

Now Read: Optimize your website's page loading time

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How to hire on Freelancer.com http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/14/hire-freelancer-com/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/14/hire-freelancer-com/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2013 08:35:55 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95129 I'm pretty well versed when it comes to the Internet, web technologies and everything that goes along with it. While that is the case, I know that I still lack in certain areas, not only because I'm lacking the skill, but also the time. Outsourcing is one of the options that I have to get […]

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I'm pretty well versed when it comes to the Internet, web technologies and everything that goes along with it. While that is the case, I know that I still lack in certain areas, not only because I'm lacking the skill, but also the time.

Outsourcing is one of the options that I have to get things done that I cannot do because of skill or time constraints. I have been using Freelancer.com for the most part for that, and would like to share my experience with the hiring process on the site, and tips on how to find the best person for the job on the site.

I'm currently half-way through the biggest project ever that I hired a company on Freelancer for -- a domain monitoring service, glad that you asked -- and will hire a freelancer with a legal background soon to create the legal documents (Terms of Service and Privacy Policy) for the site so that I won't run into any legal troubles after it goes public.

Hiring on Freelancer.com

hire freelancers

The first thing that you will realize is that there are thousands upon thousands of potential coders, sales and marketing people or account & legal freelancers on the site that offer their services to you.

That's a lot, and it can be quite overwhelming in the beginning. Your first stop should be the Find Freelancers page on the website, as it enables you to search for suitable workers based on information that you enter and require. This can be done without signing in or up.

Note: While it is possible to create a new project right away and wait for freelancers to come to you, you may want to use the find freelancers search option to find and invite suitable candidates to your projects.

Use the sidebar on the left to describe what you are looking for. You can select a category and job, pick a skill from the list of skills, narrow down results to a specific country, require exams, limit the hourly rate or user rating.

You won't be able to search for any term here though. There is no "terms of service" skill for instance, which means that you will have to pick the closest matching skill, in this example legal, to display a list of freelancers.

Each freelancer is listed with an overall rating, hourly rate, number of reviews, the top skills, and a description.

Once you have that list, it is time to evaluate individual freelancers. Since you may spend hundreds or thousands of Dollars on a project, you may want to make sure that you pick only the most suitable candidates for the job.

There is a second option that you have at your disposal to find freelancers for a project of yours. Use the search at the top to find what you are looking for, e.g. privacy policy, website creation, or business accounting.

The search results page lists -- among other things -- projects by other users of the site who mentioned your search term in the project description. While that alone is not that useful, the list of freelancers who bid on the project is.

Find the projects that are closest to yours, and look through the list of bidding freelancers and their profiles as described below.

How to pick suitable candidates

freelancer profiles

The profile page of a freelancer helps you vet that person. Here are the important steps that you should follow:

  1. Check the overall reputation as a freelancer, and make sure that the account is verified.
  2. Check the activity indicator, especially the completion rate, repeat hire rate, but also on budget and on time. If the freelancer has a low completion rate, or is never on time or budget, then you may find that the freelancer is not a suitable candidate for your project.
  3. Read user comments and reviews. Look at what work has been done, the user comment, the rating, and the money paid for that. If you find a closely-related project, it may provide you with information on how to budget your project properly so that you are not overpaying.
  4. Tip: You can click on the titles of those completed projects to find out more about them, provided they are public.
  5. Also check "work in progress" and "latest bid on".
  6. Next, open the user's portfolio, which highlights work samples. You may see website designs here, app screenshots, legal documents or articles, depending on what the freelancer is offering.
  7. Next stop, the resume of the freelancer. You may find information about education and past work here.
  8. Last but not least, check the exams & skills section.

Repeat the process for any suitable candidate on the site. I suggest you limit the results listing to freelancers that have received an average rating of at least four stars on the site.

Post a project

You do need a -- free -- account on Freelancer to post a new project. A project is a job that you want done on the site. You have two core options for that: make it a public job, so that everyone on Freelancer can apply, or make it a private one, so that only freelancers that you invite can bid on it. Public jobs may also be accessible on search engines and other sites outside of Freelancer.com.

The second option may be suitable if you do not want "the world" to know about your project. If you have the greatest application idea ever for example, you may not want to describe it in detail for the world to see.

It is possible to hire individual freelancers right away. This should only be done if you are confident that you won't find anyone with a better offer on the site.

I suggest you create a project instead and use the "invite to project" button to make sure that your favorite freelancers are informed about it.

The project name and description are the two important parts of each new project. Especially the description needs to be as thorough as possible, as it details what you want completed.

If you just write "create a website for me", you will probably not get that many bids, or bids by the wrong crowd of freelancers. If you add more detail, freelancers will be able to make better bids as they get a better understanding of how long they will work on the project and also if they are capable of completing it.

So, make sure you are as thorough as possible. If you do not want to reveal all information but require the project to be public, add to the project description that you can send the project plan or additional information to suitable candidates who ask for it.

This ensures on top of it that freelancers who contact you have read the project description.

Projects can use a fixed price or an hourly budget, and you need to select a proposed budget as well. This range is a guideline and freelancers may ask for more or less depending on the project. It may sometimes be difficult to determine the budget of a project, especially if you lack the skills to create it your own.

I set the budget for the domain monitoring project to $1500 - $3000 for instance, and ended up hiring a freelancer for more than $8000.

Once you have set up your project, you will receive offers for it. I suggest you use the "invite to project" button on freelancer pages that you have found suitable for the job so that they notice the new job offering and may add a bid for it.

It is important to communicate with bidders before you select one. Make sure they understand exactly what you require them to do, ask them if they have any questions or require further explanation, so that it is likely that the project will be done on time.

Tip: What I like to do is ask them to summarize the project. Some won't do so and that's the end of that, but those who do -- I limit this to viable candidates -- provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision. It is of utmost importance that the freelancer understands all requirements.

I usually created a detailed project file in Word and attach it to the project or mention it in the description so that interested freelancers can request it.

This sorts out all the "phony" bids that you get from companies who bid on a lot of projects all the time.

If the project is considerable large, agree to milestone payments. This releases payments based on work that has been completed.

Now Read: Track work time with PC Fare Meter

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Top tools to optimize your website’s loading time http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/13/top-x-online-tools-optimize-websites-loading-time/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/10/13/top-x-online-tools-optimize-websites-loading-time/#comments Sun, 13 Oct 2013 12:43:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=95111 Making sure that your website is as fast as it can be in regards to loading time should be one of the top priorities of every webmaster. The core reason for that faster loading times stand in direct correlation with improved conversions and other benefits. Mozilla shaved 2.7 seconds of the loading time of Firefox […]

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Making sure that your website is as fast as it can be in regards to loading time should be one of the top priorities of every webmaster. The core reason for that faster loading times stand in direct correlation with improved conversions and other benefits.

Mozilla shaved 2.7 seconds of the loading time of Firefox download pages for instance, and managed to increase downloads by 60 million per year thanks to that. A speedy website may result in an increase in newsletter signups, sales, or downloads, but also in other metrics such as a reduction in bounce rate or an increase in regular visitors.

Other studies, by Google, AOL or KissMetrics confirm that page speed is one of the most important on-page factors.

Those benefits do not even include the increased traffic that some webmasters may see if they reduce their site's load time, as search engines such as Google use the load time in their algorithm.

The following list offers resources that you can use to analyze how fast your websites load, and for suggestions on what to optimize to bring the loading time down.

Tools to measure your website's page performance

1. Google PageSpeed Insights

page speed insights

PageSpeed Insights by Google

Enter a web page url into the form and wait for the web performance results to be displayed to you. The tool does not measure loading performance, but highlights area of the page that you have entered that can be improved.

It provides you with a score for the mobile version of your site and the desktop version, and displays suggestions based on a red (measurable improvement), yellow (improvements) and green (no significant issues) colors.

While it highlights areas of improvement, it won't provide you with tools or information on how to make changes to the website to increase the score.

2. Pingdom Website Speed Test

pingdom website speed test

Website speed test by Pingdom

This free online tool runs various connection tests to display your website's performance grade, the load time, page size, and requests made. In addition to that, it also lists all files loaded in a waterfall list, provides you with grades for various performance related tests, e.g. the use of browser caching or compression, or minimizing of redirects, a page analysis that highlights load time by various factors such as content, domain or file type, and a history.

3. Web Page Test

web page test

Test a Web Page

This one is more detailed than the other two mentioned before. Not only can you select different test locations, you also get to pick the web browser you want to test your page with.

The results are displayed in tabs that include several interesting features. You can watch a filmstrip or video of the page loading, get information about the first load and a second load (to highlight changes based on caching), a performance review that offers details on how to improve various file loading times, a content breakdown, and a breakdown by domain.

4. GTmetrix

gtmetrix

GTmetrix performance report

The tool checks the selected page using Google's Page Speed tool and Yahoo's YSlow tool. Both grades are displayed and you can switch between both ratings easily on the results page.

You can click on any recommendation to display the list of files that may be optimized, and a link to a "what does it mean popup" and link to find out how you can optimize those resources.

5. Web Page Analyzer

web-page-speed-report

Web Page Analyzer

The online application runs a single connection test and displays information about objects, download times, and the individual objects that got loaded during the connection on the page of results.

What may be interesting to some is that it displays the download time based on connection rates ranging from 14.4K connections to T1 connections.

Applications

You can use local applications and scripts to test the performance of your sites. Here is a list of tools that you can install or run locally:

  1. Developer Tools of Chrome or Firefox (press F12)
  2. Firebug for Firefox
  3. Google Page Speed extension for Chrome or Firefox
  4. Multi-Mechanize Performance Test Framework
  5. Pagetest for Internet Explorer (not updated since 2010)
  6. YSlow for Chrome or Firefox

Resources

The following resource list provides you with information on how to interpret the results of web performance tests, and provide you with detailed information on how to optimize your site to improve its performance.

  1. Google Page Speed Rules offers optimization and minimizing information.
  2. Web Performance Optimization checklist.
  3. Website Performance: What To Know and What You Can Do
  4. Yahoo YSlow best practices and rules.

Closing Words

Depending on your website, it may not always be possible to get that perfect score.What you may be able to do though is shave of milliseconds or even seconds of your visitor's load times, which in turn will increase conversions and other metrics. And since this is something that you can do without depending on third-parties, it is one of the best options to improve the overall performance of your website.

Now Read: A look at Firefox's new network monitor

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WordPress 3.6.1 security update is out http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/12/wordpress-3-6-1-security-update/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/12/wordpress-3-6-1-security-update/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 22:12:56 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=94244 A new version of the popular blogging software WordPress has been released a minute ago. The update addresses several security issues in the platform that have been reported by third parties to the WordPress development team. WordPress 3.6.1 fixes three security issues according to the WordPress Codex website. The first addresses a remote code execution […]

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A new version of the popular blogging software WordPress has been released a minute ago. The update addresses several security issues in the platform that have been reported by third parties to the WordPress development team.

WordPress 3.6.1 fixes three security issues according to the WordPress Codex website. The first addresses a remote code execution that can be triggered by unsafe PHP de-serialization.  The second may prevent users with an author role from being able to create a post "written by" another user, and the third fixes insufficient input validations that could result in users being redirected to another website.

In addition to that, additional security hardening was implemented by the WordPress team. This includes updated security restrictions around file updates to mitigate cross-site scripting attacks. Writers may notice that WordPress does not allow .swf or .exe files by default anymore, and that .htm or .html files are only allowed to be uploaded if the user who uploads the files has permissions to use unfiltered HTML on the site.

wordpress 3 6 1 update

When you try to upload a blocked file type after the update you will receive the following error message during the upload process:

Sorry, this file type is not permitted for security reasons.

A solution to whitelist file extensions so that you can upload them again using WordPress has been posted here. Note that the article has not been updated since 2007, and that things may have changed since then.

Instead of editing the code manually, you may prefer to use a plugin such as Manage Upload Types which you can use for exactly the same purpose.

WordPress admins should test and then update their blogs as soon as possible to secure it from potential attacks that target the vulnerabilities patched in version 3.6.1.

It is as always suggested to create a backup of the blog first before you run the update script directly from the admin dashboard, or update the blog manually via ftp or other means of connection.

While it is unlikely that you will notice any side-effects or issues, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

I have updated five blogs so far with the new patch and all are working without any issues.

Closing Words

WordPress 3.6.1 is a security update for self-hosted WordPress blogs that fixes three vulnerabilities and hardens the security of the blog further. The core issue that writers may run into afterwards is that some file extension that they were able to upload previously are not allowed to be uploaded anymore. But that can be resolved easily by the admin of the site.

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WordPress: Why you may want to disable XML-RPC Support http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/11/wordpress-may-want-disable-xml-rpc-support/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/09/11/wordpress-may-want-disable-xml-rpc-support/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 21:03:26 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=94238 I recently bought a new website to add to my website investment portfolio, moved it to a server after some initial testing, and have been running it on that server ever since. I noticed a couple of days ago that the site was timing out on page load times. Not always, but it happened from […]

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I recently bought a new website to add to my website investment portfolio, moved it to a server after some initial testing, and have been running it on that server ever since. I noticed a couple of days ago that the site was timing out on page load times. Not always, but it happened from time to time which was cause for concern as I was not that familiar yet with the themes and plugins it used.

The site itself is powered by WordPress, and I started by going through plugin and theme settings to find a feature or setting that I could link to the time outs.

Turns out I could not. I contacted my hoster and they told me that this was caused by a spam attack that was using the XML-RPC (the RPC stands for Remote Procedure Call) feature.

XML-RPC for those who do not know about it is a remote publishing feature of WordPress. You can write your blog posts in third party software such as Windows Live Writer, Qumana or the cross-platform QTM, and publish it on the blog when you are done with it. It may also be used by pingbacks and trackbacks, as well as customized solutions.

xmlrpc

Anyway, the solution that the server provider implemented blocked any request to the xmlrpc.php file on the server to return a forbidden message.

<IfModule mod_alias.c>

RedirectMatch 403 /xmlrpc.php

</IfModule>

You can use the following code alternatively:

<Files xmlrpc.php>

Order Deny,Allow

Deny from all

</Files>

Just add this line to the end of your .htaccess file that is in your WordPress root directory to prevent access to the file. It is important that you only do so if xmlrpc is not used for anything.

You can alternatively use a filter to block it using the WordPress config file. To do so open wp-config.php and add

add_filter('xmlrpc_enabled', '__return_false');

after the following line:

require_once(ABSPATH.'wp-settings.php');

Note that doing so will not remove the line

<link rel="" href="http://www.ghacks.net/xmlrpc.php" />

from the page source code. Replace this domain name with yours to check it out.  Spammers may still use the information to send spam and pingback to your blog, and WordPress still needs to handle it. That's why it is better to have the server handle this via .htaccess.

The second .htaccess option enables you to whitelist IP addresses that you want to allow access to the file. Simply use the following code to do so:

<Files xmlrpc.php>

Order Deny,Allow

Deny from all

Allow from 987.654.321

</Files>

You can add multiple allow from lines here and need to change the bogus IP used in the example to the one that you want to whitelist.

If you want to remove the pingback line in the source code, open the theme header file and remove the line from there. While that removes the line from the source code, spammers may still use the default location of the file to use it.

You find more information about this on Click Nathan and Deluxe Blog Tips.

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Social Media Feather: a super lightweight WordPress sharing plugin http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/26/social-media-feather-super-lightweight-wordpress-sharing-plugin/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/26/social-media-feather-super-lightweight-wordpress-sharing-plugin/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 08:00:52 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=93743 I'm still working on the new Ghacks theme behind the scenes, and one of the things that I really wanted to tackle was to remove the old social media sharing plugin AddThis as it was making use of JavaScript which had to be loaded on every page load. That did not add a lot to […]

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I'm still working on the new Ghacks theme behind the scenes, and one of the things that I really wanted to tackle was to remove the old social media sharing plugin AddThis as it was making use of JavaScript which had to be loaded on every page load.

That did not add a lot to the load time of the website, but it did add something, and forced users to make yet another request.

I decided to look for a sharing plugin for WordPress that would not load external JavaScript to speed up the page loading time of the site.

I stumbled upon Social Media Feather after some digging around and it appeared to be exactly what I was looking for in first place. Part of the plugins descriptions contains this paragraph:

The primary goal behind the plugin is to provide very lightweight WordPress social sharing and following that doesn’t add any unnecessary burden to your site and especially on your users.

What sets WordPress Social Media Feather aside from the plethora of other social sharing and following WordPress plugins is its focus on simplicity, performance and unobtrusive impact.

In order to achieve this the plugin makes no use of JavaScript and as a consequence it’s really fast while still providing all the social media functionality you might need.

I ran tests on a local WordPress development environment and came to the conclusion that it indeed was as lightweight as the developer claimed it would be. It did not make external requests, and loaded only a couple of small social media icons on pages where it displayed the sharing options.

social media feather

plugin in action

The plugin can display sharing and following buttons on the blog. It usually makes sense to display sharing buttons on post pages, and follow buttons somewhere else to avoid confusion. The sharing functionality works nearly out of the box, but if you want to make use of follow buttons as well, you need to add the social media pages that you want followed in the settings.

Here you can also modify share links and titles for several services, change icon appearance, or add extra CSS styles to the icons.

The sharing buttons are not displayed by default, and you need to enable that either in the options, by checking the "display sharing buttons" preference, or by adding the plugin call to your WordPress theme template files directly. The plugin supports shortcodes as well that you can add to widgets or in posts directly, if you prefer that. I have used a shortcode to display the follow buttons on the right sidebar.

All functionality up to this point is free to use. The author has made available add-ons for the plugins that are not free but extend the plugins functionality. You can buy icon packs, a grey fade add-on, or a light prompt add-on which loads overlays with options to like, send or share when a user clicks on a social media icon. This will also display the number of likes a post has received then which the default button listing won't (since it is static).

Without that add-on, users are always redirected to a new tab page where they can enter a comment and click on the share button.

Verdict

The plugin is bare bones in comparison to sharing plugins or scripts that display the like count directly on the site. That comes as a price though as contents need to be loaded from various Internet sources which slows down page loading times.

Not loading scripts directly has a positive effect on privacy as well as Facebook, Google or Twitter do not get to know that you have visited a website on page load.

I have removed the big follow boxes on the sidebar as well, and replaced them with the plugin's follow icons instead.

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WordPress 3.6 released: find out what is new http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/02/wordpress-3-6-released-find-out-what-is-new/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/08/02/wordpress-3-6-released-find-out-what-is-new/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 07:31:34 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=93002 Ghacks runs on WordPress and whenever a new version comes along, I make sure I write a quick post about the major changes and improvements in that version as I know that several of the site's readers are also running WordPress blogs. WordPress 3.6 was pushed to the public yesterday after having been available as […]

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Ghacks runs on WordPress and whenever a new version comes along, I make sure I write a quick post about the major changes and improvements in that version as I know that several of the site's readers are also running WordPress blogs.

WordPress 3.6 was pushed to the public yesterday after having been available as beta and release candidate versions for a while. The WordPress team calls it an enhancement and bug-fix release so that it is less likely that you will run into any issues updating your blog to version 3.6.

The new WordPress ships with the Twenty Thirteen theme, the new default theme that is updated every year. It is not replacing the Twenty Twelve or Twenty Eleven themes though, so if you are using those you can continue doing so without any issues.

The theme uses a single column layout with the sidebar moved to the footer area of the site. Other features that it supports are font-based icons and support for all the latest theme features.

Here is a glimpse of what the theme looks like.

wordpress 3.6 twenty thirteen theme

The post revision feature has been improved in several ways. These auto-saves are quite useful in situations where you leave the editor without saving, for instance when the browser crashes or hangs, or when you just forget to do so and ignore the warning message.

I encountered numerous situations in the past where a browser freeze would remove some of the text that I had written, which is an extremely frustrating experience.

The new revisions promise to save every change and ship with a new interface that makes comparison of two revisions a breeze.

wordpress post revisions

revision comparison

If you are running a multi-author blog, then you may find the new post locking and augmented autosave features useful. This removes issues when more than one author are working on a single blog post a the same time. Each author has its own autosave stream now so that they do not collide anymore. These information are stored locally, but also remotely so that it is less likely that modifications will get lost.

Another major change is the built-in HTML5 media player that you can use to embed HTML5 audio or video contents into posts without reliance on plugins or any other third party tools or services. The developers in addition to that added oEmbed support for Rdio and Spotify which basically enables you to post an url directly to your blog which will get turned into an embed automatically. You find all sites currently supported here.

Video and audio contents can now also be previewed on the media edit screen.

Those are just some of the highlights of WordPress 3.6 Here is a quick list of other changes of note. For a full list, check out the 3.6 Codex entry on WordPress.

  • New audio and video apis to use media metadata such as ID3 tags.
  • .webm added to the MIME types list.
  • You can now sort the Media Library by author.
  • HTML5 input types now supported by comment form.
  • Set any post format as the default under Settings > Writing.
  • A whole array of new functions like wp_revisions_to_keep or wp_add_id3_tag_data.
  • A whole array of new filters.

WordPress 3.6 Video

Closing Words

The reworked post revision system and post locking system is definitely a step in the right direction as it will be useful for a lot of WordPress users. The other changes depend a lot on what you use the blog for. If you do post media contents regularly to it, you benefit from the new HTML5 media player, additional oEmbed supports, media metadata support and other features.

I have updated six blogs so far and did not run into any issues whatsoever. That does not mean that you won't, so make sure you test the update before you install it on a live system.

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A look at Firefox’s new Network Monitor http://www.ghacks.net/2013/07/04/a-look-at-firefoxs-new-network-monitor/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/07/04/a-look-at-firefoxs-new-network-monitor/#comments Thu, 04 Jul 2013 08:06:41 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=91975 Network Monitor is a new weapon in Firefox's Web Developer arsenal that recently made its way into the beta version of the browser. Beta, Aurora and Nightly versions of Firefox support the feature already with the Stable version receiving access when it is updated to Firefox 23. To start Network Monitor, use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Q […]

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Network Monitor is a new weapon in Firefox's Web Developer arsenal that recently made its way into the beta version of the browser. Beta, Aurora and Nightly versions of Firefox support the feature already with the Stable version receiving access when it is updated to Firefox 23.

To start Network Monitor, use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Q or select it by clicking on Alt and selecting Tools > Web Developer > Network from the menu that opens up.

The web developer window opens up in network view. You can keep the window independent from Firefox or use the small buttons on the right of the menu bar of it to snap it to the bottom or side of the browser window.

Note that network only works on the tab that was active when you opened it and not on other tabs.

firefox network monitor

The monitor displays all requests the browser makes when a web page is loaded in it. Each request is listed with its request method, file, domain the information are retrieved from, type of data, size, and the loading time. The colored icons at the beginning of the line display the response header, with green indicating that everything is ok. The yellow icons in the screenshot above detailed that the resources were not modified (304). Errors such as 404 not found are indicated with red icons.

You can filter for specific types of data at the bottom, for instance to display only the loading time of JavaScript code or images (landed in Firefox 24 so not in the BETA right now).

The loading time of individual elements works similar to how page load testing scripts work. You can use it to find the longest loading items on a web page. It may also help you find out if there are bottlenecks on the page, elements that block others from being loaded until they are loaded in full.

A click on a request displays information about it in a sidebar on the screen. Here you get access to all headers, cookies, parameters, the contents and timings.

  1. Headers - Displays all headers of the item. This can be very useful to check the content encoding, caching and other information to make sure it is configured correctly.
  2. Cookies - If cookies are saved by the requested item, they are listed here with their SID and token.
  3. Parameters - If parameters are added to requests, they are listed here. Great if you are debugging requests.
  4. Response - What is been requested, e.g. the HTML body or CSS stylesheet. Images are displayed here too
  5. Timings - Displays all timings including DNS resolution, connecting, sending, waiting and receiving timings.

detailed network information

Note: The network monitor will load the selected web page exactly as you would in Firefox. If you have an ad blocker installed or another extension or script that blocks or modifies requests, then you will see the effect in the tool as well. So, an ad blocker will block all ads so that you won't see ad requests listed among the requests at all.

Closing Words

The Web Developer tools are constantly being worked on by Mozilla. The addition of a Network Monitor is yet another useful tool that Firefox users have now in their arsenal.

Firebug users who are working on older machines may find this reason enough to switch to free up some RAM in the process.

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WordPress 3.5.2 update fixes security issues http://www.ghacks.net/2013/06/22/wordpress-3-5-2-update-fixes-security-issues/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/06/22/wordpress-3-5-2-update-fixes-security-issues/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 07:49:30 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=91452 Ghacks is running on WordPress and whenever the software gets updated, I not only update the blog but also write about it here on the site. The update notifications in the admin dashboard are helpful in this regard as they inform webmasters about updates directly. That's however only the case if you open the dashboard […]

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Ghacks is running on WordPress and whenever the software gets updated, I not only update the blog but also write about it here on the site. The update notifications in the admin dashboard are helpful in this regard as they inform webmasters about updates directly. That's however only the case if you open the dashboard regularly. If you update your blog once a week, you may not notice that an update is available directly but only after a couple of days.

WordPress 3.5.2 is a maintenance and security release that fixes several issues in the blogging software.  The development team suggests strongly that site admins and webmasters update their blogs immediately to the new version.

wordpress 3.5.2 update

As far as security fixes are concerned, the following have been resolved in WordPress 3.5.2.

  • Server-side request forgery attacks that could provide attackers with access to the site.
  • Contributors can no longer publish posts improperly.
  • The SWFUpload library has been updated that fixes several cross-site scripting vulnerabilities.
  • Blocking denial of service attacks against sites that use password protected posts.
  • An update to TinyMCE fixing a cross-site scripting vulnerability.
  • Multiple cross-site scripting vulnerability fixes.
  • Full path not disclosed when uploads fail.

Another 12 maintenance related issues have been fixed in the new release.  You can check them out here on the WordPress tracker.

Updates should go through without issues on most blogs. I have updated half a dozen blogs so far and none acted up weirdly after the update. All plugins, the theme and the site's functionality worked just like before.

While that has been the case, it is still recommended to make a backup of your blog before you apply the update so that you can roll it back if you run into issues.

You can apply the update directly from the admin dashboard if your blog has been configured this way, or download it from the official website instead to update the blog manually instead.

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Should you start your first blog on Tumblr or WordPress? http://www.ghacks.net/2013/05/28/should-you-start-your-first-blog-on-tumblr-or-wordpress/ http://www.ghacks.net/2013/05/28/should-you-start-your-first-blog-on-tumblr-or-wordpress/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 07:07:28 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=90162 If you are thinking about creating a blog on the Internet then you have many choices to make. One important choice is the blogging platform that you want to use as you need to make sure that it gives you all the freedom you need. Two popular choices are Tumblr and WordPress which do not […]

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If you are thinking about creating a blog on the Internet then you have many choices to make. One important choice is the blogging platform that you want to use as you need to make sure that it gives you all the freedom you need.

Two popular choices are Tumblr and WordPress which do not really look that different on first glance. There are however differences that you do need to be aware of before you start to sign up for one of the services.

Both services let you create a free blog on their websites that is hosted on a subdomain by default. What this means is that you will access your blog using an address such as yourblog.tumblr.com or yourblog.wordpress.com by default.

You can use a custom domain name instead which looks more professional, but it is not a requirement at all.

WordPress, unlike Tumblr, offers paid packages that provide you with additional features for a yearly subscription fee. This includes email or live chat support, advanced customizations, premium themes and more storage for data.

Tumblr

tumblr

While you can post textual and media contents of any length on Tumblr, it is often referred to by many as a micro-blogging site based on the average length of posts on the site. It is often used to post a single image or short amount of text.

Creating a new blog is really easy. You pick a title, select an url and decide whether you want it to be private or publicly available.

You are then taken to the dashboard where you can start to post right away.  The interface is simply and concentrates on posting and nothing else. You can however make modifications to the theme used and a couple of other features, including hacking the HTML and CSS code to customize the look and feel of your blog.

Tumblr is big when it comes to social interaction. You can follow blogs on the site and their latest posts are automatically displayed in your dashboard so that you can easily comment, like or re-blog from there. Re-blogging is very similar to re-tweeting a message on Twitter. You basically re-post a blog post on your own blog.

While this is not the best idea in terms of SEO, as it creates lots of duplicate content, it may not matter that much depending on what you want to achieve with the blog. If you are interested in social interaction then there is nothing wrong with it though.

Positive

  • Easy to set up and get started.
  • Clean interface and basic customization options.
  • Focus on social interaction between Tumblr users (re-blogging, following, liking).

Negative

  • Re-blogging may create duplicate contents.
  • No integration of a statistics service, you need to add code to your blog to do so manually.

WordPress

wordpress

WordPress is an established blogging platform that provides you with a lot of features even if you sign up for the free plan. Probably the first thing that you will notice is that it displays a lot of options in the dashboard that may overwhelm you right from the start.

It takes time to get to know the admin dashboard and the functionality it makes available. While you can hit the posts option right away to get started, you will notice that it too is not as easy to use as the Tumblr post page.

WordPress does not distinguish between different post types, e.g. text or video, but uses a single form for all different types of posts you make.

If you browse around, you will notice that some features become only available after you pay for them. The custom design option for instance costs $30 per year and enables the use of custom fonts, colors and CSS code on the blog once purchased. Without it, you are limited to a few basic customization changes that WordPress provides you with.

Positive

  • Powerful blogging platform.
  • Integration of external tools, including Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Center and Analytics software.
  • Option to add other users to the site that are allowed to post and administrate.

Negative

  • Paid upgrades for a variety of features.
  • Displays many menus in the dashboard that take time getting used to.
  • Displays ads on free blogs.

Closing Words

Both blogging platforms have a lot to offer and while WordPress is more complicated if you have never blogged before, it should not take too long to get accustomed to it. The core difference between both platforms is Tumblr's concentration on social interaction between users of the service which WordPress does not offer in this form.

If you like Twitter, then Tumblr is the logical step to go forward as it resembles the service in many ways. It is also the service of choice if you do not want ads to be displayed on your site. Keep in mind though that there is no guarantee that the Yahoo acquisition won't change that in the future.

WordPress has the advantage that it is relatively easy to migrate your hosted blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog which makes available a wider range of options, including the use of plugins.

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