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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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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!
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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.
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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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More about .html extension to WordPress pages

htmlI discussed about adding a “.html” suffix to the permalinks of pages also through a plugin in the previous post. I wish to point out that mere addition of .html ending doesn’t enhance search engine ranking since WordPress uses canonical URLs by default. Hence no special SEO joy!

Another interesting fact worth remembering is that visitors looking at the posts and pages with .html suffix may get a feeling that they are static .html pages. But they are not! They are still generated dynamically. The cosmetic suffix is only a facade (sexing up, sort of!) made possible by the mod_rewrite module of the web server.

Here is an unintended twist to the facility of adding .html ending to the pages. supposing you use a static front page for your site and a page name of “Blog” to display the list of posts. Then http://yousite.com/ will show your static front page and http://yoursite.com/blog/ will list your blog posts. Fine. But if you use the “.html” ending for pages plugin, the blog page will have an URL as “http://yoursite.com/blog.html”. This is also fine. Now you have more posts necessitating pagination of entries and you navigate to the next page of posts showing another set of older entries. The URL will become “http://yoursite.com/blog.html/page/2”. This is not fine! Agree?

So think about this weird URL before rushing to add the vaunted .html to pages!

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Nifty permalinks

The default URI of a blog post in WordPress ends like this “/?p=#” which is neither aesthetic nor liked by the search engine bots. So WordPress gives you an option, rather a bunch of options to sex up the URI to look like any web page either in the virtual folder format showing the name of the post/page with a trailing slash, or with any kind of suffix of your choice viz: .html, .php etc. This function is achieved by employing the “mod-rewrite” module (URL rewriting engine) of Apache web server. You can find details about this functionality at this Codex page. if you have any difficulty in following the instructions given on that page, please post a comment. I will try to elucidate further.

In this web site, I have chosen .html suffix for the blog posts. But that doesn’t work with “Pages”. But there is help around for extending this mod to pages also. Introsites has developed a plugin which does the job neatly. With that plugin in action, when you choose .html suffix as permalink, it applies to both posts and pages.

You can get the plugin from this web page.

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Advantages of self-hosted WordPress blog

bloggerBlogger.com owned by Google, ushered in a “push-button publishing” revolution on the World Wide Web. This web-based tool enabled just anyone with a computer and internet connection, to have his words published on the internet without any knowledge of the technologies involved. Rather, just like writing something in a word processor. You type out what pops up in your mind, add pictures, press “Publish” and Bingo! Your Blog is published.

This watershed development gave a fillip to other players too to provided a similar “hosted solution” for blogging. And WordPress.com service was born. Right now it holds the second place in this arena, next only to Blogger. As of May 2009, over 6 million blogs are hosted with WordPress.com.

But both Blogger and WordPress.com fall under a “cloud” category, wherein your blog and the engine that drives it are hosted somewhere by someone and you only use that service, within the limitations of the allowed framework. That means nothing is under your control. The service provider may whimsically throw your blog out, lock, stock and barrel if he doesn’t like your face. And you can’t change any parameter. You have to live with what the landlord permits you to use!

And between these two major players, blogger.com is better since it allows you more elbow room to modify and customize. For deeper insight into this comparison, read this analysis in Pulsed’s “Blogger vs WordPress.com comparison Chart”.

But right here I am trying to bring into focus certain salient features of a self-hosted WordPress blog as against hosted solutions like WordPress.com.

WordPressAs of now there are over 9 million self-hosted WordPress blogs/sites existing in the blogosphere. That bears testimony to the popularity of a blogging software which is totally free and easy to use and more importantly you enjoy full freedom to customize, modify and enhance its features infinitely at will in a few easy steps. That makes it unique in the blogging ecosystem!

Here is a list of features of WordPress hosted by you:

  1. Complete control over look, feel, features and tools
  2. You own your content. It is in tact with you. Nobody can usurp it from under your feet
  3. You design it (or get it designed to your taste). You are not constrained by the limited offering of your service provider.
  4. There are about 7000 plugins and 650 themes – all free – which help you in customizing and enhancing the features of your blog
  5. WordPress enables you to make a regular web site sans the bloggish feel. It also functions as a CMS without being an overkill
  6. WordPress issues out a standards-compliant code and mark up
  7. It is compatible with different types of browsers and clients like handhelds, iPhone etc
  8. It is amenable to making e-commerce web sites with all requisite toolkits. Many professional sites employ WordPress for their mission critical applications and web services. You an find a snapshot of a few in the showcase.
  9. WordPress incorporates Internationalization (i18n) and Localization (l10n) techniques thus enabling fully configured non-English international websites in almost all known languages of the world.
  10. WordPress provides enormous elbow room for freelance developers to make a living out of providing support, developing themes and plugins and customized web hosting

Please come again. I’ll try to improve this list adding elements to the list as they turn up on my mind!

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