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My experiments with Google Custom Search in a WordPress site

Google custom search“WordPress search sucks” – this you have heard a zillion times. And there are umpteen tutorials on the web about the procedure to set up Google custom search for your WordPress-powered blog/site. Most of them are well-written but some are obsolete since Google has been modifying and updating the custom search engine progressively. Things like iframe etc., are passé. The latest and by far the best tutorial is by DevPress written by Patrick Daly. But I have differed slightly from the procedure enumerated in the tutorial and tried out a few modifications myself which I wish to discuss in this article.

On Google Custom Search

As a preamble let me state that Google Custom Search Engine can be used not only to search one of your sites, but you can add any number of sites you own (or otherwise) and have the results appear on your site. You can even get the custom search the whole web too. The service is offered free by Google by serving ads. The ad-free offering is for $100 per annum. But the “Google Site Search” is altogether a different service meant for businesses looking to create a highly customized and Google hosted site search solution for a structured fee plan. The difference between these two are enumerated on this web page.

The search parameter question

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HTML5 Audio and Video players for WordPress

HTML5I have been embedding many MP3 songs in my WordPress blogs using the ultra-reliable “WP-Audio Player” plugin. But when I looked at one such blog with a podcast on the iPad no audio player could be seen. Reason: no flash in iPad and the audio player uses Shockwave Flash player.

That opened my eyes. My audio embeds lose eyeballs (rather, eardrums) because of the Flash and I don’t like it a bit. Now I have to do something about it. The alternative is not difficult to spot. Yes, it is the newfound darling of the geekosphere – “HTML5“.

MP3-jPlayer Plugin for HTML5 Audio which will work in iPad

Then I zeroed in on a WordPress plugin which embeds a HTML5 jQuery plugin. In case of an old browser devoid of HTML5 support, the player falls back on Flash seamlessly. It is the “Mp3-jPlayer“. It is a veritable darling. You can embed a single file or a playlist; either from your own server or from an URL. It also supports short codes. A comprehensive option page as well as detailed help is built in. You can customize the player either on the options page or write your own CSS rules. You can embed a player in its own line or make it inline with the text flow. It has sidebar widget too.
I have embedded a sample audio here for your appreciation:

      1. Vande Matharam is the National Song of India. But may Indians feel it should have been the de jure National Anthem of the country.

More HTML5 v ideo and Audio players

Well, that is not the only plugin to embed a HTML5 player. I found a couple of others too which help embed a video or an audio. Read on » »

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Linux is everywhere!

LinuxLet us celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Linux, the ubiquitous open source operating system. Watch the video showing the the history of Linux – how Linux disrupted a market and has begun to change the world. And how it touches you at every turn in your day-to-day life.

Change over to Linux today and be a part of this great movement!

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Google going full steam ahead on cloud offerings!

Google cloudGoogle has now added support for 12 new file formats in the Google Docs Viewer, in addition to Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations as well as PDF files.

The new dozen are:

  1. Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
  3. Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  4. Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
  5. Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
  6. Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
  7. Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  8. PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  9. TrueType (.TTF)
  10. XML Paper Specification (.XPS)

Read more on Gmail Blog.

If you get any of these files as attachments, you can see a “View” prompt for opening them in Google Docs Viewer.

In addition, Google is also offering “Cloud Connect Plugin” for Microsoft Office suite. With this you can seamlessly share, backup and collaborate MS Office documents through Google Docs.

The following are the nifty things that you can do with the Google Cloud Connect:

  • Simultaneous editing for Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, no document or paragraph locking
  • Google Docs sharing URLs for each Microsoft Office file
  • Revision history for Microsoft Office files, stored in Google Docs
  • Offline editing with smart synchronization of offline changes
  • No Microsoft Office upgrade or SharePoint® deployment required

More information on this gizmo together with elaborate video tutorials can be seen at the Google Apps page.

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Paypal is unreliable for Indians

Extreme panic has set in amongst Indians who regularly transact on line using Paypal. By aggressive marketing and ubiquitous presence, Paypal has attracted several users to its fold and it has reached a state of being the default payment method preferred by almost all Indians. “Donate using Paypal” had been a staple badge on many a blog that offer free services.

But Indians have got a shock of their lives last week. Their inward remittances which were actually towards goods and services delivered had been arbitrarily assumed as personal payments and reversed, to wit, sent back to the remitter.

Added to that agony, all withdrawals into the bank accounts in India had also been suddenly stopped. People who had assigned payments to firms for business transactions had been taken by surprise by this kind of bolt from the blue!

This is a sample of messages received from Paypal:

We are currently experiencing an issue processing withdrawals to Indian bank accounts. As a result, there may be some delay in withdrawals from your PayPal account to your bank account.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, and are doing all we can to resolve the issue.

But according to this entry on Macworld, “some delay” will be in the order of many months!

Wanna know how the Indians affected by this adverse development whine?

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WordPress Fatal error: Out of memory

This is a common error message thrown in when someone tries to view your WordPress-driven blog/site. This also happens while you are in the middle of doing some work on the admin interface or writing your entry and saving it.

The reason is that some activity in the back end is eating up the memory allotted by the server set up for PHP processes and/or MySQL database operation. It may be due to multiple processes trying to operate simultaneously.

Now to the remedy:
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Customization of Contact Form 7 plugin

Contact Form 7” is a very good plugin for adding a form submission facility to your viewers on WordPress powered blog. It can be on a separate “contact Us” page or an embedded form inside a post. You can have multiple instances in your blog/site.

It is very simple and easy to install and configure. In fact there is very little to be configured to make it work, except, of course if you want to customize it further to suit your requirement. This need may arise if you want to use the form for different purposes in your site.

The form script has in-built security and you can add CAPTCHA and Akismet spam filter. You can also let your viewers upload files – subject the settings that you fix.

The status of form processing is shown to the viewers on the form page through Ajax and it looks cool!
Read on » »

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Localization of WordPress themes

Egyptian HieroglyphicsWordPress theme files should have the translatable interface terms (or, “messages”) “getexted” in the theme files. This process of “Internationalization” (i18n) facilitates “Localization” (l10n) of the theme, to wit, translation of your blog interface into your own language, if it happens to be other than English, which is the default language of WordPress.

Though WordPress core files are gettexted fully and a .pot file is being generated for each version which are made available available for download, unfortunately many WordPress themes including those listed in the WordPress “Extend” repository do not have the theme files gettexted.

This becomes a big handicap for non-English users of WordPress, who are really sizable.
Read on » »

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How I tweaked the 404 page

404errorIt may be a dead link, or a mistyped link or deleted page, image or any other media.

But it is true that web servers of Word Wide Web are busy returning “File Not Found” messages all round. It is part of the ecosystem. You can’t wish it away. After all, it is perfectly human to err, and continue to err.

So what can’t be cured may be endured in a more elegant way.

WordPress has made the process of rendering a “404 Error” page from out of the active theme itself without the need for creating one and assigning its path on the .htaccess file. You can spot a 404.php file in (almost) all themes. They are just bare-bones page merely announcing to the wanderer that he has lost his path and an error has occurred.
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Web hosting options for WordPress

WordPressSo you have decided to create a WordPress-powered web site or blog!

Welcome to the friendly WordPress ecosystem!

Now let us take a look at the basic requirements to kick-start your blog (ok, site)!

  1. A domain name – which forms the name, address and identity for your web presence
  2. A web real estate where you can park your blog content media et al – they call this a “Web hosting Account”
  3. WordPress blogging package – to be downloaded fresh from http://wordpress.org/
  4. Themes and plugins as necessary from this page

I assume that you have a domain name already registered with a good and reliable domain registrar or repute.

Now the most important decision that you will have to take is selecting a good web host to park and deliver your site/blog.

First lesson you have to learn is that all web hosts are not the same, though their web sites look the same!

And hosting you blog with a professionally-managed and reliable web host is vital to ensure that your site is up all the time without conking out during most hours of the day or for weeks together. And to ensure that you do not encounter hiccups at each point by being restrictive and paranoid. I will discuss about this aspect later in this article.

How to select a good and reliable web host?

I’ll try to list out the indication of typically bad hosts to be avoided upfront.
Read on » »

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