Great WordPress Plugins

For those of us who are using WordPress for our blogs and personal pages, WordPress Plugins are an essential part of our website. I have over a dozen Plugins installed on my site from the mundane Hello Dolly to the absolutely you can’t live without it Akismet Spam Blocker plugin. Unfortunately, there no standards as to how plugins should behave within WordPress. So, I’ve listed several criteria as to what constitutes a great plugin.

1. It should be easy to install.

This should be a given. Uploading a plugin file or folder into the plugins directory should do the trick. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any need to insert additional code inside a theme. If code is absolutely needed to be inserted, then it shouldn’t exceed one line and preferably should be calling a function.

2. It should not break the website when a plugin is turned off.

Occasionally, there will be a need to turn off a plugin whether for testing, upgrading, or simply just removing a particular function. A great plugin should not break the website when turned off. It should not generate errors or render a website unusable. This problem is usually related to point #1 when code is inserted and it’s calling a function that’s no longer available.

3. It should validate in XHTML and CSS.

A great plugin should validate in both XHTML and CSS. Unfortunately, there are several plugins that do not follow these conventions. The plugins are causing errors if you run the W3C validation tests. A great plugin should adhere to XHTML and CSS standards.

4. Configuration should be consistent.

Occasionally, a plugin will come with a configuration page. The problem is, there is no consistent place where the configuration page is located within the Admin Panel. For example, the Akismet and WP Database Backup have their configuration pages under Manage, while other plugins have their configuration pages under Plugins or Options. The configuration pages should all be in one place.

5. Conflicts with other plugins should be avoided.

There are several plugins that do not work together. The conflict is attributable to having identical variables overstepping each other. Plugin authors should use a prefix as suggested in Codex. Finally, plugins should be tested against common and popular WordPress Plugins.

So there you have it, the five characteristics of a great WordPress Plugin.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale is a very entertaining movie. I like the new Bond, Daniel Craig. He’s got two first names which people will find easy to forget. I did initially. Finally, a Bond with some muscle and grit. This new Bond has blond hair unlike the rest. I like the opening scene, the chase in the construction area. It reminded me of Planet of the Apes. It’s a super human trying to escape from the grasp of Agent 007. What was he thinking? How could he escape? Of course, 007 got the best of him. The rest of the movie was good and entertaining. Just like the rest of the Bond series, it has beautiful women, exotic cars, bad guys and girls and of course, you can’t have a Bond movie without gadgets. From what I know, Casino Royale is the first book in Ian Fleming’s novel series. One thing I would have liked seen in this movie is if they showed how James Bond got started in the world of espionage. Other than that. I give it 4 out of 5 sweating bullets.

VoIP

VoIP stands for voice over IP or internet-based phones. There are currently 8.2 million subscribers in the US which doubled over a year ago. Vonage Holdings Corporation has the biggest number of subscribers with 1.95 million followed by Time Warner and Comcast. It may be worth looking into investing in these companies as more and more people switch over from traditional phone services to VoIP. Here’s some additional financial information.

Turning Text Into Graphics

How do you turn text into graphics? Easy. I’m using a small PHP script which converts any text into a graphic image. This article goes through the step-by-step process on how to turn your titles into graphic images in your WordPress Themes or on any HTML page that you like.

All you need is this neat and powerful little file called titles.php created by Patrick Stuart.

1. Before we get started, let’s test the script by cutting and pasting the following URL to your browser.

http://ulyssesonline.com/files/titles.php?letters=Hello World

Awesome, it works. This script passes the text “Hello World” to the titles script via the browser. As you may have noticed, by default, we are using the Boston True Type Font.

2. Now, let’s try the simple PHP script. Download the titles.php and the Boston files and place both files on your web server. Assuming the file is in the root directory, you can call the PHP file using this HTML code:

<img src=”titles.php?letters=Hello Universe”/>

3. Cool. How about using other fonts? Well, you can use hundreds of fonts that are freely available at webpublicity.com. Just download the fonts. For simplicity sake, rename the files in small caps without any spaces. Upload the fonts to your directory, then edit the titles.php file to reflect the new font. The sample code shows the Parisian True Type Font is now the default.

$font = './parisian.ttf';

4. To change font size, text margin, angle, color, background color, shadows, etc. just edit titles.php and change the following variables. Save and refresh the page.

$txt_size = 24;   // Size of Text
$x_margin = 5;   // Set Margin of x of text
$y_margin = 10;   // Set Margin of y of text
$txt_angle = 0;   // Angle of Text
$shdw_angle = 0;   // Angle of Text Shadow
$shdw_x_offset = 1;   // Horizontal Shadow offset
$shdw_y_offset = 1;   // Vertical Shadow offset
$bg_r = 255;   // Background Color Red
$bg_g = 255;   // Background Color Green
$bg_b = 255;   // Background Color Blue
$txt_r = 0;   // Text Color Red
$txt_g = 0;   // Text Color Green
$txt_b = 0;   // Text Color Blue
$shdw_r = 255;   // Text Shadow Color Red
$shdw_g = 255;   // Text Shadow Color Green
$shdw_b = 255;   // Text Shadow Color Blue

A New Look

I’ve decided to change things a little bit by changing my color scheme. It’s a far cry from the original Black-Letterhead theme, but believe it or not, it still uses the same framework. My new theme now uses a dark-red color scheme similar to the colors of the old Roman Empire. The biggest change is the use of a PHP script that converts text to graphic images. The header, page and post titles are actually graphic images generated on the fly whenever a page is requested.

Vista OS

Dean Takahashi writes in the San Jose Mercury News the complexity of the Microsoft Vista Project, the spiraling costs, the amount of labor it took to complete the project, and the product’s potential in a monopolized market. As much as 10,000 Microsoft employees have worked on the Vista project totaling to about $10 billion dollars in development labor cost alone. It’s just a drop in the bucket for Microsoft since it has money to burn.

Speaking of profits, how much money will Microsoft make from this product? An estimated 20% of businesses this year will move over to Vista, that’s roughly 76 million computers. Most of it is due to technology refresh as new computers coming in are fitted with the new Vista operating system. Microsoft expects to make $11.5 billion next year in Vista sales alone. I am sure profits will continue to trickle in the years to come due to the lack of competitors in the desktop operating systems market.

No doubt Vista will be successful. It will be around for a number of years. Maybe, Vista will be the last of its kind. It took five years to develop Vista. I can’t imagine Microsoft launching another Vista-like project in the future. In the meantime, I plan to use the Fedora desktop, a free Linux variant courtesy of Redhat. It is stable, robust and most of all, the price is right, it’s free. To me, this is the future of the desktop operating system.