Category Archives: Software Testing & Debugging

Building a Custom WordPress Navigation Menu Plugin

This is a semi-advanced WordPress tutorial so you should have a little bit of existing knowledge of WordPress if you want to be able to understand the concepts involved. I will try to make it as easy to follow as possible none-the-less.

We are just going to dive right in a create a new Plugin. I'll be calling the plugin Jafty-Nav, you can follow suit if you wish to keep things simple or give it your own name if you feel comfortable making such changes.

Create a New Plugin

<?php
/**
* Plugin Name: Jafty Top Nav Plugin
* Plugin URI: http://jafty.com/blog/?p=9813
* Description: A Plugin that adds a custom top navigation menu to WordPress.
* Version: 1.0
* Author: Ian L. of Jafty.com
* Author URI: http://jafty.com
* License: GPL2
*/

Register a New Menu Location with WordPress

Add this PHP code to your plugin file you created above:

<?php
add_action('after_setup_theme', 'register_jafty_menu');
function register_jafty_menu(){
  register_nav_menu('jafty-top-nav', __('Primary Jafty Menu', 'jafty-top-nav-plugin'));
}
?>

Now that is actually enough to create a simple plugin. The plugin will add a menu location to wp-admin and that's it, but we'll build on it after we install it. So go ahead and install the plugin by putting it into a folder named "jafty-top-nav-plugin" and naming the file "index.php". Then upload to your WordPress plugins directory. Activate the Jafty Top Nav Plugin then go to your admin and click on "Appearance/Menus" then select the "Manage Locations" tab and you'll see the new menu location your plugin as added to the admin like in the image below.

menuLOC

Placing a new top nav in your theme

The next task is to edit your current WordPress theme to work with the Jafty Top Nav Plugin. You'll need to create a new header file and edit your page, post and/or home page templates to contain your new top navigation menu. Here is how:

  1. Go into your current theme's folder and download a copy of the header.php file to your desktop and rename it header-jafty.php.
  2. open header-jafty.php in notepad and find the section that looks something like this:<nav id="site-navigation" class="main-navigation" role="navigation">
    <button class="menu-toggle" aria-controls="primary-menu" aria-expanded="false"><?php esc_html_e( 'Primary Menu', 'outer-gain-dev' ); ?></button>
    <?php wp_nav_menu( array( 'theme_location' => 'menu-1', 'menu_id' => 'primary-menu' ) ); ?>
    </nav>
  3. Inside the code within the Nav tag in your header-jafty.php file, change the theme_location value to 'jafty-top-nav' and save the file.
  4. Now upload your header-jafty.php file to your active theme's folder.
  5. Next you'll want to add the new header to your template files, Some templates you might want to do this too are front-page.php, single.php, page.php and any custom page templates in your theme or child theme you might have. The process is very similar for adding the new header to any of the files, so I'll just demonstrate on the home page template file, front-page.php. Open the template file in your notepad and near the top of the code you should see something like this:
    get_header();
    or you may have something like this instead:
    get_template_part('templates/header.php');
    Regardless which you have, replace the line with:
    get_header('jafty');
    and that will call your new header.jafty.php template into the page template so your customized header will be shown.
  6. Save and upload your altered template file and repeat for all necessary page and post templates until you have your new top nav menu at the top of all desired pages and/or posts throughout your entire WordPress site.

Now that we have more control of it, let's customize that ugly top nav!

Customizing the WP Navigation Menu

It's time to get down and dirty with some real-world customization of the top navigation menu in WordPress. We are not just doing some simple CSS changes here, we are talking about a complete rewrite of the navigation system. This is why I went with a plugin for this. Now I had to find what WordPress core functions I could use to alter the menu completely. My goal is to make a menu similar to the one at Stripe.com, which is not a WordPress site by the way. I just love the dynamic drop downs that fade in and out and their use of icons in the sub-menu items. I'll get to how I duplicated all of that later on, first we need to know how to rebuild the entire menu structure because the stripe.com style menu is nothing like a standard WordPress menu. Here's what I figured out:

 

First we need to be able to retrieve our custom navigation links from the WordPress backend. Remember earlier we created a menu location? Well, we need to retrieve the menu assigned to that particular location in WordPress. Therefore the first thing we want to do is make sure there is a menu assigned to the "Primary Jafty Menu". You could pick one from the drop down, but we want to make a new one that is sure to have both main menu items and sub menu items so we can adequately test our menu when it's complete. Therefore we locate the "Primary Jafty Menu" and click the link to the right of it that reads "Use New Menu" as I've circled in red in the below image:

menuLOC2

When creating the new Primary Jafty Menu, give it a name of "Jafty 1". It's best to do everything exactly as I have done just to be sure you don't have any conflicts. You can always change names and such after you have a completed working plugin. When creating the menu, make sure to add at least 2 main menu items with at least 2 sub menu items each so we can test the drop down effects. Here is an image of the one I made for testing. If you don't have enough pages or posts to make that many links, don't worry, just use two real links for the main menu items and click on "custom links" and create outside links for all of your sub menu items as I have done in the below image:

menustructure

In the above image, "site settings" and "Hello world!" represent our two main menu items and the sub links rest below them indented to show their sub-link status. Notice I have "Primary Jafty Menu" checked under "Menu Setings" too. Once you have your menu, be sure you save it. Now we can return to developing our plugin!

Retrieve Menu and Sub Menu Items from WordPress Admin

It is time to develop some custom WordPress code to extract out menu items and sub-menu items from the database. Lucky for us, WordPress has some built-in core functions to assist us. Here is the code I come up with to extract all menu and sub-menu items for the "Jafty Primary Menu" from the database to display them on the front-end:

<?php
      $menuLocations = get_nav_menu_locations(); // Get nav locations
      $menuID = $menuLocations['jafty-top-nav']; //menu assigned to Jafty Primary Menu
      $theNav = wp_get_nav_menu_items($menuID);
                
                    foreach ($theNav as $navItem) {
                        //get the url for the link:
                        $navURL = $navItem->url;
                        //get the nav link text/title:
                        $navTXT = $navItem->title;
                        //Get the nav link's ID:
                        $navID = $navItem->ID;
                        //Get menu item parent(will be 0 if main link or parent ID if it's a sub link):
                        $navParent  = $navItem->menu_item_parent;
                        echo "ID: $navID, $navTXT, $navParent, $navURL<br />";
                    //echo '<li class="has-dropdown gallery" data-content="about"><a href="'.$navURL.'" title="'.$navItem->title.'">'.$navTXT.'</a></li>';
                    }
 ?>

The above code will go in out header file named header-jafty.php. Lets examine the code so you understand what it does.

The first line:

$menuLocations = get_nav_menu_locations(); // Get nav locations

as the comment says afterwards, it gets the navigation menu locations stored in WordPress. We added one of these in the beginning of the tutorial using the register_nav_menu function.

The second line reads:

$menuID = $menuLocations['jafty-top-nav']; //menu assigned to 'Primary Jafty Menu'

This line fetches the ID of the menu currently assigned to the menu location we created in the plugin file, "Primary Jafty Menu". We then use the id in the next line that reads:

$theNav = wp_get_nav_menu_items($menuID);

We now have a WordPress menu object stored in $theNav. If you do a print_r($theNav) command in PHP, you would see that the menu object holds all sorts of information about the menu we created earlier. However, we only need four key pieces of information from the menu object. We need to get:

  1. The Link URL
  2. The Link Text
  3. The Link ID
  4. The Link's Parent ID in case it is a sub-menu item.

We can get the four pieces of information we need using a foreach loop on the $theNav object like so:

     foreach ($theNav as $navItem) {
                        //get the url for the link:
                        $navURL = $navItem->url;
                        //get the nav link text/title:
                        $navTXT = $navItem->title;
                        //Get the nav link's ID:
                        $navID = $navItem->ID;
                        //Get menu item parent(will be 0 if main link or parent ID if it's a sub link):
                        $navParent  = $navItem->menu_item_parent;
                        echo "ID: $navID, $navTXT, $navParent, $navURL<br />";
                    //echo '<li class="has-dropdown gallery" data-content="about"><a href="'.$navURL.'" title="'.$navItem->title.'">'.$navTXT.'</a></li>';
                    }

We now have all the information we need about the menu items after running the above foreach loop on the menu object. We have the link text, URL, ID and Parent ID. It's important to note that the parent ID will always be 0 if the link is a main menu item and we can determine if the link is a sub-menu item if the parent ID is anything other than zero. Then we know which link to put the sub-link under by matching the sub-link's parent ID to the ID of the main link item. Pretty simply really, once you get accustomed to it.

Now we need to open our header-jafty.php file and find the line that reads something similar to:

<?php wp_nav_menu( array( 'theme_location' => 'jafty-top-nav', 'menu_id' => 'primary-menu' ) ); ?>

And replace it with the code we wrote above:

<?php
$menuLocations = get_nav_menu_locations(); // Get nav locations
$menuID = $menuLocations['jafty-top-nav']; // Get the *primary* menu ID
$theNav = wp_get_nav_menu_items($menuID);

foreach ($theNav as $navItem) {
//get the url for the link:
$navURL = $navItem->url;
//get the nav link text/title:
$navTXT = $navItem->title;
//Get the nav link's ID:
$navID = $navItem->ID;
//Get menu item parent(will be 0 if main link or parent ID if it's a sub link):
$navParent  = $navItem->menu_item_parent;
echo "ID: $navID, $navTXT, $navParent, $navURL<br />";
//echo '<li class="has-dropdown gallery" data-content="about"><a href="'.$navURL.'" title="'.$navItem->title.'">'.$navTXT.'</a></li>';
}
?>

Now save your header-jafty.php file and upload it to your active theme's folder and refresh your home page. You should see the following information printed in the header area of your site instead of a top nav now:

ID: 47, Site Settings, 0, http://dev.outergain.com/site-settings/
ID: 49, Jafty Interactive, 47, http://jafty.com
ID: 50, Jafty Blog, 47, http://jafty.com/blog
ID: 48, Hello world!, 0, http://dev.outergain.com/2016/12/30/hello-world/
ID: 51, Yahoo Search, 48, http://yahoo.com
ID: 52, Google Search, 48, http://google.com

As you can see my site returned 6 lines of text in the header, one for each of the two main menu items and one for each of the four sub-menu items in the menu I created in wp-admin. Each of the lines above contains the main ID first, followed by the link text, then the parent ID and finally the link text. I highlighted the parent IDs in blue so you can see how the two main menu items have a parent ID of zero while the other four have parent IDs equal to the two main menu items with zero for parent ID. Make sense? I hope so:-)

For all you professional WordPress plugin developers, I can probably stop there. Now you have enough to make your own custom top navigation menu for your WordPress theme. You clearly don't need to do this as a plugin, in fact, it would normally done by adding the plugin code to functions.php in the current theme instead. I am making it a plugin just as a learning exercise.

You can use the information it printed in your header to figure out how to add in the HTML and CSS for any type of custom nav you desire, or you can read on to see how I recreated the stripe.com-like top nav for one of my clients.

Make a Static Top Navigation Menu as a Demo

Before we go about coding the menu into WordPress, I like to create a static version first. I created mine based on looking at the top nav found on Stripe.com. You can click the link to see what I mean. I didn't copy it by any means, but I did use it as a model for creating a similar one with similar transition effects. In the static demo, I didn't create great detail in the drop downs. Instead I concentrated on getting the transition effects and infrastructure perfect. I can worry about making the content of the dropdown boxes look pretty when I code it into the actual WordPress site. Here is my static demo: http://jafty.com/nav_demo

I won't post all of the code to my static navigation menu demo here but you may feel free to use the link provided and use your browser's view source option to see how I made it and copy it if you so desire.

 

 

 

Understanding IP Addresses

Have you ever needed to know how an IP Address works? Have perhaps just wondered how they worked? Well in my line of work it has eventually become necessary for me to fully understand exactly how IP addresses work and are made up. Therefore I aim to share my knowledge on such with anyone who cares to read about IP addresses here on my wonderful blog.

First of all it's important to know that IP addresses are displayed in what is known as dotted-decimal format. For example your current IP address is 54.161.249.135

For anyone Interested, I got your IP address using the following PHP code:

<?php
$ipaddress2 = $_SERVER[REMOTE_ADDR];
echo "<h3>Your Current IP Address: $ipaddress2</h3>";
?>

Just notice the format of the IP address above for now though.

Two Main Parts of an IP Address

While an IP address appears to have 4 parts due to the dotted-decimal format used, in reality, IP addresses are made up of only two main parts. They are "Network ID" and "Host ID". The two parts are not equal or consistent. The Network ID is defined first and the Host ID will be the remaining portion of the IP address.

IP Address Classes

IP addresses are divided into different classes. There are actually five IP classes, but only three are in common use, they are Classes A,B, and C. Classes D and E are reserved classes. Class D is Reserved for Multicasting. Class E is Experimental; used for research. The three main classes are shown in the following examples:

  • Class A - Class A IP addresses use 8 bits for the Network ID(8 bits = 1 byte or 1 segment in dotted-decimal format or 1 octet). Class A addresses only include IP addresses from 1.x.x.x to 126.x.x.x. The IP range 127.x.x.x is reserved for loopback IP addresses. Therefore a Class A IP address might look like 19.23.20.100. From what we know about the two parts of an IP address now, we know that the "19." portion of this example IP address defines the Network ID and the  remaining part(23.20.100) represents the Host ID.
  • Class B - Class B IP addresses use 16 bits for the Network ID(16 bits = 2 bytes or 2 segments in dotted-decimal format or 2 octets). The remaining 16 bits are used for the Host ID of course.
  • Class C - Class C IP addresses use 24 bits for the Network ID(24 bits = 3 bytes or 3 segments in dotted-decimal format or 3 octets). The remaining 8 bits are used for the Host ID in this case.

How to Determine IP Address Class

Determining whether an IP address belongs to class A, B or C can be a daunting task if you don't understand how IP addresses function. That is why I will explain it clearly here for you! First you need to realize that IP classes are determined by the first few bits of the IP address. Then you need to know that bits are not the same as the dotted-decimal format you are accustomed to! For example My IP address now shows as 173.6.69.165 if I open this post in my current browser. What class does 173.6.69.165 belong to? Well here is how I found out:

First, convert the dotted-decimal formatted IP address of 173.6.69.165 to its binary form and count the bits. Actually, you can do just the first octet or 173 in this case. Here is how to convert a decimal octet to a binary Byte:

You divide the number(173 in this case) by 2 and take the answer with the remainder and note both. Then divide the answer by two and note the answer and remainder again....do this eight times. Start at the top of a sheet of paper and move to a new line each time you start a new calculation.  Be sure to circle the remainder each time as those are the 8 bits that make up the Byte we are after. Here is my sloppy example of how I did it with my IP address that began with 173:

binarypaper_ink_li Notice that I circled the remainder after each division problem above. The final step is to start at the bottom and write each circled remainder down in order.

So from the image above, I get the binary number: 10101101

The first three bits of the binary 10101101 determine it's class. In my case, the first three bits are 101.

Then refer to the following table to determine your class:

  • CLASS A: the binary will begin with a zero.
  • CLASS B: the binary must start with 10.
  • CLASS C: the binary must start with 110.

So as you can see from the above table and the image above that, my IP address of 173.6.69.165 converts to a binary number of 10101101 and can then be identified as a CLASS B IP address because its binary form begins with 10. Alot to do to figure out the class of an IP, but it is mostly for learning purposes that I have explained it all like I have. Really, all you have to do is refer to the following table of information which will allow you to convert it to a class using just the first octet of the IP address(173 in my case):

Quick & Easy Method to Determine IP Class

  • CLASS A: First 3 digits of the IP address will be from 0 to 127.
  • CLASS B: First 3 digits of the IP address will be from 128 to 191.
  • CLASS C: First 3 digits of the IP address will be from 192 to 223.

So again, my IP(173.6.69.165) starts with 173 so I can use the above three lines of data to confirm that it is indeed a CLASS C IP address because 173 falls in between 128 and 191.

 

 

mysqli_result function to replace old mysql_result

Many of us are busy upgrading our PHP and MySQL code when migrating from PHP5 to PHP7. One of the first things you learn is that the MySQL functions have been depreciated and removed completely in PHP7, therefore can no longer be used! That's a major pain in the butt for many of us, but luckily the fix is not too difficult most of the time. Simply doing and find and replace replacing "mysql" with "mysqli" is often a good first step, but you will also need to add the connection variable as an argument to many of the mysqli functions as well. Then some functions, such as the mysql_result function, do not have a mysqli counterpart. That means there is no mysqli_function defined in PHP7! Real pain right? well copy and paste the following functino into your PHP code and you can now use the mysqli_result function effectively. Be sure to pass it the connection variable as most mysqli functions require even though mysql counterparts did not. Here's the function:

function mysqli_result($res,$row=0,$col=0){ 
    $numrows = mysqli_num_rows($res); 
    if ($numrows && $row <= ($numrows-1) && $row >=0){
        mysqli_data_seek($res,$row);
        $resrow = (is_numeric($col)) ? mysqli_fetch_row($res) : mysqli_fetch_assoc($res);
        if (isset($resrow[$col])){
            return $resrow[$col];
        }
    }
    return false;
}

Find a file using Linux find Command

If you need to find a file anywhere on a server, what directory it is in or not, the Linux Find command is your go to command! Here are some basic usage cases:

Find a file in the current directory:

find . -name "this-file.php"

Find a file anywhere on the server above the root directory:

find / -name "filename.php"

Notice in the first example we used a period and in the second we used a forward slash. The period means to search the current directory and the forward slash means to search from the root directory and will basically find a file anywhere on the file in the root directory or any of its sub-directories.

Perform a case-insensitive search:

The above commands all use the -name parameter which performs a case-sensitive search. To perform a case-insensitive search, replace -name with -iname in the above examples, like so:

find / -iname "filename.php"

Perform a wildcard search:

The wildcard character is *. If you want to find all .php files, for example, use the following command:

find / -iname "*.php"

 

 

How to change DNS settings on your local PC

Have you ever been working on a website, changed your DNS settings over to a different server and later needed to access that server again from the old domain name for some reason? Well if you are an active developer, this situation is somewhat common. I'll explain or you can skip the rest of this paragraph to quickly learn now to do it. Let's say you own the domain name example.com and a web server with an IP address of 111.111.111.111. Now assume you have a WordPress blog on that server that you had to move to another server with IP 222.222.222.222. Let's say you already changed the DNS settings for domain.com to point to the new server with IP 222.222.222.222 but you need to go back to the original WordPress site on the other server with an IP of 111.111.111.111. What do you do? We all know a WordPress site won't function properly with just the IP address, so that is out. What you need to do is repoint example.com to 111.111.111.111 in order to access that WordPress site again. What a PITA, right? Well read on and I'll show you a fast and easy way to make the site on the original server work with example.com even after you've pointed it to another IP address or web server! It's as simply as controlling a local host file on your local PC to make example.com route to 111.111.111.111 even though the internet routes it to 222.222.222.222! Here's how:

Using hosts file to override DNS settings for your PC

A lot of people don't realize that when you make a request to the Internet using your local computer it first checks a local copy of the hosts file for an entry and only if one isn’t present it goes out to the Internet DNS servers. Therefore there's an opportunity present for you to redirect example.com only for your own PC if you wanted to! Here are the easy steps:

  1. Open file explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc.
  2. Open the file named "hosts" in notepad or another text editor that could be used as a code editor such as Notepad++, which is what I use.
  3. Now simply add a line to the end of the hosts file that contains the IP address of the server you want to route the domain name too followed by a space and then the domain name you want to reroute. So in our example scenario above, you would enter a new line that reads simply: 111.111.111.111 example.com
  4. Save the hosts file and open your browser and navigate to the domain which in our example was example.com. Note that there is a difference between example.com and www.example.com, so if you want it to work with www, you have to add another entry for www.example.com.

If you're using Notepad++ or similar as I was, you'll need to open it in administrator mode in order to be able to save the hosts file. Good luck! That's all there is to it.

How to change local DNS settings on a Mac

If you're on a Mac, the instructions are basically the same but do this instead:

From the terminal, type:

nano /private/etc/hosts
and then add the IP and domain name as described above, so the only real difference between Mac and a PC when it comes to changing DNS settings is that you will use a different editor and the hosts file is located in different places.

 

 

Cron Job Not Working

Cron jobs seem to be one of the things I have to do often that give me trouble. That's why I'm putting together this guide full of troubleshooting tips for people having problems with cron jobs.

Just today, for example, I wasted several hours figuring out why my cron job didn't seem to be working and here is what happened:

I set up my cron job exactly as I always do according to my own tutorial I posted here:

Linux Cron Job Tutorial

however, it didn't seem to be working so I tried chaing the shebang, changing the php location, etc. with no luck at all.

The Solution

Finally after hours of wasting time, I figured out that the output of my cron job was not going where I thought it would go. For example, my test script created a file and wrote a line to that file to show the cron job ran. My cron test PHP file looked like this:

crontest.php:

<?php

#!/usr/bin/php
<?php
$myFile = "cronresults.txt";
$fh2 = fopen($myFile, 'a') or die("can't open file to append");
$stringData = "appended text from cron job...\n";
fwrite($fh2, $stringData);
fclose($fh2);
?>

Simple, right? well the trick is the $myFile variable works as expected in that it creates the file in the same directory as crontest.php when crontest is called from a web browser. So when I opened up Firefox and went to mysite.com/crontest.php, it worked fine, it would create a file named cronresults.txt in my public_html folder and write a simple line of text to it. However. HERE IS THE TRICKY PART! I call the script in crontest.php from a cron tab by adding the following line in crontab -e:

* * * * * /usr/bin/php   /var/www/mysite.com/public_html/crontest.php

but when I call it that way and look for the cronresults.txt file or look for the line of text it added to the file if it already exists, there is nothing so it appears as if the cron job didn't work! Oh damn! I say. Then I try everything I can think of to fix it. The problem is that is was never broken! When you call a PHP script from a cron job and you do not specify the file path of the results file, it assumes the current users home folder! Therefore, it was working the whole time, but was creating and writing to a file in my /home/root directory because that's the directory I called crontab -e from! THerefore my solution was as simply as replacing the $myFile line with this:

$myFile = "/var/www/mysite.com/public_html/cronresults.txt";

WHEN YOU USE THE ENTIRE PATH IT WORKS AS EXPECTED! I can't over emphasize the importance of this because I wasited several hours due to not knowing this.

Cron Job Troubleshooting Tips

  • Always use a simple test script to test cron jobs for the first time on a new server. You can use my example crontest.php script above, but be careful to set the $myFile variable with the entire path to the output file or you'll have the same problem I wrote about above in this post.
  • Always use a very simple command line in crontab when first testing your cron job. You can customize it after you get it working. I use something like:                               * * * * *  /usr/bin/php  /path/to/cron/crontest.php      then crontest.php will be executed every minute so you can quickly see if it is working. This makes testing and debugging much easier.
  • Can't figure out your Shebang or don't know where PHP is on your server? Then simply go to a command prompt on your server using putty remotely or any command prompt if you are on your own server and type the following command: "which php" without the quotes. That will give you the path to php for both your shebang and your crontab file, like where it says /usr/bin/php in my examples above.

How to Use PHP SESSION Variables in a WordPress Plugin

I was writing a WordPress plugin today that required me to use PHP SESSION variables so the app could save variables across multiple runs of the application. So at first, I tried using SESSION variables in my PHP code just like I would with any other PHP application outside of WordPress, but it failed. So read on for the solution I found that works perfectly and is as simple as adding three lines of code to your plugin or functions.php file.

Add this code to your main plugin file or theme's functions.php file:

function register_session(){
    if(!session_id()) session_start();
}
add_action('init','register_session');

Those four magic lines of code was all I had to add to my main plugin file to make the following code work:

<?php
// Start the session
session_start();

    if(isset($_SESSION['timesran'])){
        $_SESSION['timesran']++;
        $runno = $_SESSION['timesran'];
    }else{
        $runno = 1;
        $_SESSION['timesran'] = 1;
    }
    echo "Run number $runno<br />";
    ?>

So each time the WordPress plugin's application is ran, it increments the timesran session variable successfully as long as I have already added the previous code snippet above to my plugin's main file. The register_session function is needed for sessions to work and should be in your plugin's index.php file or whatever file is your plugin's main file. You can then use PHP session variables in any file within your plugin.

 

Passing PHP Variables to File included with get_template_part WordPress Function

Today I had a problem where I had a WordPress page template that used get_template_part to include a section of the page like WordPress themes often do. My problem was that I did some custom coding to the theme and found it necessary to pass a variable to the file included using get_template_part.

The Problem

Let's say you have a custom page template for showing search results called special-search.php. Now let's also say that the actual search results are displayed using another template file named content-searching.php. inside of special-search.php we would normally include the content-searching.php file something like this:

get_template_part( 'template-parts/content', 'searching' );

What's wrong with that? Well, nothing unless you need to use PHP variables from special-search.php inside of content-searchnig.php. Then we have a problem. Read on for the simple solution!

Making it Possible to Pass PHP Variables to Template Parts:

The solution is actually to simply not use the get_template_part function! We can very effectively replace get_template part with a combination of the common PHP include function and the WordPress locate_template function like this:

include(locate_template('template-parts/template-name.php', $load, $require_once));

As you can see the locate_template function is called inside of the include function and locate_template takes three parameters. While, you really only need to use the first parameter in many cases, it is good to know what the other two do as well, so here are all three parameters defined:

  1. 'template-parts/template-name' - will be changed to the path and filename to your template file you used to include with get_template_part. In our example case above, this parameter would get set to 'template-parts/content-searching.php'.
  2. $load - is an optional Boolean parameter that would be set to either true or false, but which is set to false by default which is the desired setting in this case. This parameter tells the function whether or not to load the template file. We don't want the template to be loaded by locate_template since it will get loaded by the include function in this case. So if we include this parameter, we would set it to false.
  3. $require_once - is the third parameter which is also optional and set to true by default. It simply determines whether we use require_once or require to include the template file. true = requrie_once and false = require.

Example Usage:

Still using our test case scenario from above, here is how we would use the include and locate_template function together to replace get_template_part and hence be able to use variables defined in the parent file inside of the template part file. Above we said we had a template file named special-search.php that used get_template_part to include a template part file named content-searching.php. Below I will demonstrate the change that would need to be made:

Change this line:

get_template_part( 'template-parts/content', 'searching' );

into this line:

include(locate_template('template-parts/content-searching.php'));

Notice how get_template_part doesn't use the actual whole filename due to it's unique naming convention rules, but our second method however must use the whole filename. Both cases call the same file however. If you change get_template_part into the include statement shown in our example, then you will now be able to use variables defined in special-search.php within content-searching.php. Problem solved!

How to Share Your Internet Connection in Windows 10

So I've used a couple different methods to share internet connections on several different computers. What's a real pain is that some methods only work on some PCs and some PCs don't have all the components or programs needed to run ICS(Internet Connection Sharing) properly. So, I finally may have found a great, easy to use solution. It does require installing a simple app in Windows, but it doesn't seem to have any adware or nonsense in it. I will update this post if I do find any malicious content from the app later on though.

Using an App for Internet Connection Sharing

Some peope are against using an app for this, but let me tell you, it is easier if you have to deal with this issue regularly. The app is called Virtual Router and can be downloaded from: https://virtualrouter.codeplex.com/downloads/get/621827.

Screenshot (11)

Using CSS Media Queries in Responsive Web Design

That's right! The post of the day is going to be on how to use CSS media queries to make a responsive web page or application. The project I'm working on requires me to create a responsive events calendar application that looks good in all sized browser windows as well as mobile devices including iPhone and Android phones and tablets. This can be done very well with CSS media queries and a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Making today's task a little more challenging is the fact that we will be using HTML table elements. If you have any experience with HTML tables, you probably know that they can be tricky to size according to specific requirements most times. We will overcome the table cell sizing limitations in this article however.

Common Screen Sizes

One of the most important things to take into consideration when developing a fully responsive web application for both computers and mobile devices is your users screen size. What are your users likely to be using? Some will be on a PC, some on a tablet, others on an iPhone and yet others will be on an Android or other device. The ugly truth is that there are a lot of possibilities. I have found from experience that it's best to take into consideration the most commonly used screen sizes. I program for the most common and try to make it work resonably well in the uncommon sized screens as well because roughly up to 3% of your users could be using an odd sized screen that you haven't programmed for. While 3% may not sound very significant, think of it like this: If your site has 1000 visitors a day like mine does, then that means up to 30 people a day are viewing your site on a less-common screen size. 30 is 3% of 1000. Here are some of the latest statistics I could find on common screen sizes used:

First I want to show you common screen sizes of Mobile Devices since they are probably the fasting growing segment of 2016:

2016 Total iOS* Android Windows Others
February 5.15 % 1.08 % 3.49 % 0.42 % 0.16 %
January 5.38 % 1.17 % 3.69 % 0.37 % 0.15 %

The above information was collected by the website w3schools.com. The data represents the users of their website according to information collected by thier servers. It shows that only slightly greater than 5% of thier website viewers view thier site on a mobile device, but your site could have more because I think the w3schools website is one that developers reference a lot and developers do their work on a computer more often than on a mobile device. That may account for some of the low figures for mobile users. Now lets look at the most commone screen sizes according to rapidtables.com:

Common screen resolutions of rapidtables.com visitors (2/2014):

Screen resolution Display
ratio
Usage Screen size / type
1366x768 16:9 19.1% 14'' Notebook / 15.6'' Laptop / 18.5'' monitor
1920x1080 16:9 9.4% 21.5'' monitor / 23'' monitor / 1080p TV
1280x800 8:5 8.5% 14'' Notebook
320x568 9:16 6.4% 4'' iPhone 5
1440x900 8:5 5.7% 19'' monitor
1280x1024 5:4 5.5% 19'' monitor
320x480 2:3 5.2% 3.5'' iPhone
1600x900 16:9 4.6% 20'' monitor
768x1024 3:4 4.5% 9.7'' iPad
1024x768 4:3 3.9% 15'' monitor
1680x1050 8:5 2.8% 22'' monitor
360x640 9:16 2.3%
1920x1200 8:5 1.7% 24'' monitor
720x1280 9:16 1.6% 4.8'' Galaxy S
480x800 3:5 1.1%
1360x768 16:9 0.9%
1280x720 16:9 0.9% 720p TV

If you study the numbers above, they suggest that rapidtables.com visitors are much more likely to be on a smaller screen size device or mobile device than are w3scools.com users. I guess from reading the above data that their website has roughly up to 12% of their users using smaller screened devices such as iPhones, Androids and other mobile devices.

CSS Media Queries

I choose to use one simple type of CSS media queries in this challenge. I like to call it the max-width technique for sizing web pages at various sizes. This is due to the fact that the technique uses ony the max-width media query as you will see with the demonstration code below.

From studying the more common screen sizes, I've come up with a simple plan to make my calendar application look good on just about any possible screen size. Here is my rudimentary logic:

I plan to set the maximum with of the calendar to 1000 pixels and centering it on the page. By doing this I eliminate the need for any media queries for screens over 1000 px wide! As you can see from the charts above,  there are 17 screen sizes represented and 11 of them are over 1000px wide! We have already made our work a lot easier since we only have 4 other screen widths to worry about(because 3 of them have 320px wide screens). Obviously 320px is of great concern as it is one of the most common widts on mobile phones, but I'll also take into considertion the widths of 360px, 480px, 720px and 768px. However, some will be taken care of by the same media queries as you'll soon discover. Here are the basic rules we will go by when making out calendar application:

  • web page will be no wider than 1000px and centered.
  • first media query will be set for max-width of 800px meaning that if the page size is under 800px wide the styles inside of the media query definition will be altered.
  • A second media query set for a max-width of 500px will apply changes for any screen size under 500px down to the next media query.
  • A third media query set for a max-width of 400px will account for any screen between400px and the next media query.
  • A forth and final media query set for max-width of  320px will account for the common screen sizes of 320px and under which are the smallest group of mobile phones, so no other media queries after this one will be required.

I have outlined my logic above, now I can add my media queries to my CSS style sheet as follows:

/*add styles for screen sizes of 800px and up. These don't need to be inside of a media query because the table's width for the calendar will be set to 1000px and centered. Tables are generally flexible enough to be reduced from 1000 to 800px without any problems given it is styled and tested correctly.*/

@media(max-width: 800px) {
//add styles for screen sizes from 500 to 800px:
}

@media(max-width: 500px) {
//add styles for screen sizes from 400 to 500px:
}

@media(max-width: 400px) {
//add styles for screen sizes from 320 to 400px:
}

@media(max-width: 320px) {
//add styles for screen sizes 320px and under:
}

The above is a good way to start your CSS style sheet for a resposive design. You may find that you may not need to use one or more of the media query definitions. You may also find yourself adding one or two media query definitions. None-the-less, this is a good start.

Writing and Testing your CSS Code

When I make a responsive web page, I first make the basic page with basic CSS and no media queries. Then when the basic page is complete, I start testing it at different screen sizes by making my browser window smaller and larger and seeing how the page looks at every possible width and height. Then I add styles to media queries and edit them until the page looks good at every possible size. Finally I test on actual devices such as an iPhone, Android phone and a tablet while making final adjustments according to how the page looks on the actual devices.

How to Make Putty Automatically Login with User and Password

In this article, you'll learn to make a one-click Putty shortcut to your server from your desktop. What's so great about that? If you are a web developer or operate your own server and use Putty, then you probably know how much of a pain it is to have to open putty and enter the URL, user and password each time you need to open a command prompt on your remote server. Imagine being able to simply click a link on your desktop to open a command prompt to your remote server! Wouldn't that be great? I think it is. Here is how you can make a direct single click link to a remote server on your desktop:

  1. Locate your Putty program. Normally it would be somewhere like C:/ProgramFiles/Putty or similar. However, it could be anywhere. I installed mine in a special C:/Desktop/Tools directory as you can see in the image below, but yours is most likely in ProgramFiles.puttyfile
  2. Once you locate putty.exe as in the image above, right click on putty.exe and select "send to/Desktop(create shortcut)" to create a shortcut on your desktop. It will look like this:puttyshortcut
  3. Right click on the shortcut like in the above image and select "rename" and give the shortcut a name that identifies it as a link to your server such as example.com or whatever name you like.
  4. Right click on your new example.com shortcut and select "properties" and edit the target attribute to read: "C:\ProgramFiles\putty.exe root@207.150.12.233 -pw YourPassword". Be sure to change "C:\ProgramFIles" to the correct path of your putty.exe file. Change "root" to the user you would use to login to your remote server and edit "207.150.12.233" to equal either the IP address of the remote server or the domain name such as "example.com". Finally, edit "YourPassword" so that it is the correct password for the username you used in place of "root" previously. Once the target field is correct, click "Apply" then "OK" to commit the change.
  5. Now simply double click on your new shortcut and a command prompt to your server will magically open! Magic!

I've been using Putty for years and always thought there was no way to store a password for a remote server connection using Putty, so I was absolutely thrilled to learn of this little known secret for creating a desktop shortcut that logs you into your server with putty and without having to enter your password every time!

Make a Bootable El Capitan USB Drive for Mac from Windows PC

After a couple days of random Google searches, I finally was able to put together enough information to figure out how to make a bootable USB drive to restore my Mac using a PC. Yes, my Mac took a dive, a huge one. It won't even start up, so I found that the only possible way of fixing it on my own without taking it into the shop and spending hundreds of dollars I can't afford, was to try to re format the Mac's Hard Disk and install the latest version of OS X on it. I am crossing my fingers it will work! TIP: before you start, you might want to get the os x software .dmg file download started because it's over 6gb and takes a while. Click on the first link under the Download OS X Software heading below to get that going and you can take your time with the rest.

Download OS X Software

The first thing you want to do is download the El Capitan Software from one of the following links:

The best option for me was to download the .dmg file directly from:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B8s8_mgNDN5scDI4R0VTUVpkQUU&

usp=sharing

Beware that it is a 6.2GB file and will take quite some time to download in most cases.

If the above link doesn't work for any reason, you can try this second one if you are good at piecing together the .rar archives:

https://goo.gl/8CGh5L

 

 

Download TransMac

The first step to creating your El Capitan USB dongle using Windows is to download TransMac, which can be done free of charge using the following link:

http://www.acutesystems.com/scrtm.htm

Click the above link and then click on the hyper link that reads " tmsetup.zip" towards the top of the resulting page.

Once you have the TransMac .zip file downloaded, if it's not already on yoru desktop, move it there so you can follow this tutorial easily. Unzip it to your desktop and click on the setup file to install it. You can accept the defaults while going through the GUI. It's nothing very important, just get to the "install" button at the end and click it and you are golden. Before clicking on "Finish" however, you should uncheck the "read me" and "run" options because we have to run it a certain way as you'll soon see.

Now's a good time to insert your USB stick, thumb drive, dongle or whatever you call it. Backup any files you want to save and erase them from the USB drive to be safe.

Next, right click on the new shortcut icon for TransMac the install process should have created on your desktop and select "run as administrator". You will want to then run the free trial.

Once TransMac is running, select your USB drive from the menu on the left by right clicking it and choosing the "Format Disk for Mac" option and clicking "yes" to continue if a warning pops up about losing files or formatting etc...

You'll be asked for a Volume Name next, enter something like "EL Pwn Version" and click "ok". Soon, it will say "Format Complete" and click "ok" again.

Again in the left side of TransMac, right click on your USB drive and this time select "Restore with Disk Image" and then select the copy of the "EL Pwn Version.dmg" file you should have downloaded to your desktop earlier.

 

 Summary and Credit

If you follow along with this tutorial closely, hopefully you were able to get a copy of El Capitan installed on your Mac using only a Windows machine to build your bootable USB flash drive. I have to give credit to the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjTLYJXM8u4 because it was the only source I found online that even remotely covered how to do this successfully.

 

 

Fix Asus Touchpad After Windows 10 Upgrade

Today I spend a few hours trying to figure out how to fix the touchpad on my Asus laptop after installing the new Windows 10. It was not easy to find this fix, so I am posting it here. All you have to do is download the Windows 10 version of Smart Gesture and you will be able to control your touchpad once again after installing it.

Problems this fixes include:

  • Not being able to turn of tap to click
  • scrolling problems
  • no controls for your touchpad after windows 10 upgrade
  • Control panel link to smart gesture not working
  • many other possible touchpad issues after installing Windows 10

The download:

dlcdnet.asus.com/pub/ASUS/Commercial_NB/Apps_for_Win10/SmartGesture/SmartGesture_WIN10_64_VER405.zip

Summary:

If you're having any problems with your touchpad or with touchpad settings in particular, try downloading and installing the software from the above link. It has worked for many!

 

 

 

 

PHP Check if File Exists

It's often necessary to verify if a file exists or not in PHP. Here is how:

<?php
$fn = "dir_path/file_name.txt";
    if(file_exists($fn)){
    echo "$fn exists!";
    }else{
    echo "$fn does not exist.";
    }
?>

Simply replace dir_path and file_name.txt with the path to the file you wish to check for and you're done!

Also note that the same method can be used to check if a directory exists as well, simply exclude the file name portion of the $fn variable in the above example

CodeLobster All-in-One Coding Software

CodeLobster PHP Edition Software Review

Written by Ian Lincicome of Jafty Interactive Web Development - Jafty.com

For the past couple of weeks, I have been evaluating CodeLobster's latest release of "CodeLobster PHP Edition" which I'll refer to as simply "CodeLobster" from here on out in this review. The current edition at the time of writing this review was CodeLobster PHP Edition Professional Version 5.4. I am reviewing CodeLobster because I am looking for a tool I can use for my web development business, Jafty Interactive Web Development. Also I was given a break on purchasing the pro version of CodeLobster in exchange for writing a product review on my site, Jafty.com. Please note that I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I will be as brutally honest as ever, I assure you. This review will include both the pros and cons of using CodeLobster rather than a one-sided review like many company's probably hire writers to write. In fact, if that was my intention, I wouldn't have mentioned that the someone had asked me to write this review. My ulterior motive for writing the review is to find the perfect program to do my work for my business. I am also evaluating other products as well because I want to work with the best.

I'm looking for an application that will allow me to seamlessly edit several types of code on several different servers without having to use a separate code editor, FTP program, web browser and Language reference material. To this date, I have been using three separate applications to accomplish my day-to-day work. I used FileZilla to copy files from a client's web server to my desktop. I used Notepad++ to edit the code files. Finally, before using FileZilla again to upload the files back to the client's server, I viewed the file in Firefox to see how it looks in a browser. That is if it is not a server-side language like PHP which I use the most. If I had to edit a PHP file, I had yet another couple of steps to perform because I'd have to upload the file to the server to view it and then repeat the whole entire process again if I had more changes to make to get it perfect. So I used FileZilla, Notepad++ and Firefox mostly up until now. I figure I could probably almost double my productivity with one good tool that does it all.

Technologies CodeLobster Supports

CodeLobster supports a wide range of technologies including:

  • PHP
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • CSS
  • SQL
  • MySQL
  • Version control systems such as SVN, Git etc.
  • CakePHP
  • CodeIgniter
  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Facebook
  • jQuery
  • Smarty
  • Symfony
  • Yii

CodeLobster also has a very wide assortment of features including all the standard components you would expect in a code editor and many extras. I found a helpful built-in Help feature that also links to online help if you can't find what you need in the built-in documentation. The online documentation is surprisingly complete for a newer product.

Installing CodeLobster

The installation went smoothly and was very easy and comprehensive. Simply download and click the set up file and the installer will guide you through the simple set up process. Here is the Download Link: http://www.codelobster.com/download.html

When I first installed CodeLobster, it allowed me to select what languages/technologies I wanted to install. I only deselected two that I knew for sure I would most likely never use. I figured if there was even a small chance that I might use one of the items listed, then I should leave it checked. That way I will be prepared in case I need that particular technology in the future.

Pros and Cons

Once I began using CodeLobster I noticed both good and bad points regarding the program. I loved how versatile the program was right out of the box. I did not like the way the word wrap feature worked(View/Word Wrap). It breaks up words rather than splitting lines by the nearest space. I'd prefer it to not break up words at all or at least do so in a more logical manner(by syllables with hyphens for example). From what I understand from reading the forums and talking with my contact, CodeLobster plans to add an option between soft and hard word-wrap. Hard wrap is how it is now and soft wrap would be a word-wrap technique that doesn't break up words. I do hope they add it soon because it was one of the of the first things I noticed.

One of the first features I noticed and liked was the completely configurable hot-keys. You can configure any hot-key by going to Tools/Preferences/IDE/Hot keys. Another nice feature is the Find and Replace feature that is very much like that of Notepad++ including regular expression search and the ability to search and replace text in files, folders and sub-folders. This can be a huge time-saver for coders.

One of the first things I noticed and did not like was the lack of a decent spell checker. I know notepad++ has the option as a plugin, but not as a built-in feature. Either way would be great, but I think it should be a standard built-in feature. I realize that auto-complete helps with this, but not if you are writing a plain text file such as I am doing right now while writing this review. I talked to my contact at CodeLobster Software about this and he assured me that they plan to add a robust spell-checking feature in the near future. He mentioned that they plan on making several additions to the software and will be releasing future editions with new features and improvements ASAP. So, while CodeLobster may not have everything I would like it to have at the moment, I was assured that they are heading in the right direction with future expansion plans.

Another nice feature I also noticed right away was CodeLobster's tool bars. The tool bars are completely configurable and have a nice drag and drop feature to move tool bar items around as you please. The same can be said for the man different windows that can be added or removed from the work area.

CodeLobster is a code editor first & foremost and it does a wonderful job at editing PHP code which is my code of choice. If you are looking for a word processor, CodeLobster probably won't fit the bill, but it is a very robust code editor that can handle all of the languages I use for web development and several others.

CodeLobster's plugin ability is great to have in a code editing program. The pro version of CodeLobster comes with many plugins that the free version does not include from what I understand, so I think the pro version is definitely worth the cost for those of you who work with frameworks such as WordPress, Joomla, CakePHP, CodeIgniter, etc. I currently own the Pro version and I am happy with its performance so far and will be much happier once some of the additions are made in the near future.

Even the free version would be great for coders who use many different coding languages regularly but don't need the extra plugin abilities that require the pro version. As a full-time web developer, I mostly use PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, WordPress and MySQL. I also occasionally use Joomla, XML, Perl, Python, Drupal, Smarty, Laravel, CakePHP and others, so I require the Pro version of CodeLobster myself. If you only use the most common languages such as PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript, you can probably do fine with the free version. Some of the things I require the Pro version for include WordPress support, Smarty, Laravel and CakePHP. Honestly there are to many features to list here. You should visit their web page at http://www.codelobster.com/details_phped.html to figure out which version is best for you. They also have a Lite version which you can read about on their site since I won't be covering CodeLobster Lite here.

As I continue to evaluate the software I am finding there are more and more features that I like. As a web developer, I need a tool that allows me to quickly edit code, test it and upload it to the client's server. So far, CodeLobster seems to be meeting my three main requirements quite well in most cases.

FTP Feature

CodeLobster's FTP ability is a very powerful feature. The FTP feature allows you to set up as many FTP connections as you need. I was able to copy all of my client's FTP connections from FileZilla into CodeLobster. Now I am able to click on a connection, edit a server file, preview it and upload it back to the server seamlessly from within a single application! This is huge for me because I used to use at least three different applications to do the same thing without CodeLobster. I can see that my work will get done a lot faster by using CodeLobster. In fact, I am already getting work done faster after only two days of using it.

The FTP feature is very functional, but for a guy like me who hates to read instructions, it took a little bit of fooling around using trial and error methods to get it set up for the first time with all of my client's 20+ FTP connections and configuring basic settings. Everything I needed to accomplish my FTP tasks is in CodeLobster, but the FTP system does need some improvements. For example it gave me trouble when trying to connect to a SFTP connection. It worked great with all non-secure FTP connections however. As luck would have it, out of over 20 current clients I work with, only one uses SFTP rather than FTP, so I am unable to test it on other secure SFTP servers to see if the problem is just with this one server or not. Unfortunately this is one of my regular clients so it is going to be a problem for me. It did connect using SFTP, but had issues when trying to edit files on the server which I was able to do fine with regular FTP connections. I did bring this issue to the attention of my CodeLobster contact however and he assures me it will be looked into ASAP.

Regarding the GUI set-up for FTP, in my personal opinion, the way the windows are organized in the work area could have been done a little better. For example, when I use FTP, I have to go to Tools/FTP to open the explorer window that lists FTP connections. That alone will allow you to open your FTP connection but won't allow you to see what's going on. If there was an error and the only window you had open in your work area was the explorer window, you wouldn't see that error. This is where I think it could have been done better. I would have programmed it so that when you open the FTP window, the output window opens along with it, right above it, similar to how FileZilla allows you to view console output. Of course this is just my opinion, it may not bother others and actually I am starting to get used to it so it doesn't bother me as much as time passes.

Search Features

The "Find in Files"(Search/Find in Files...) feature is great for finding text in open files. It could be improved to allow file search on the local directory tree files as well, but it is sufficient the way it is. Also I love the regular expression search as I mentioned earlier.

Also, I often use the incremental search feature when I edit code. While I am glad it has this feature, a small nuisance for me is that the incremental search box is not persistent across different views. I think it would be nice if the incremental search box would stay at the bottom of all view tabs once it is opened. I don't think it should close unless you manually close it. Again, this is just my preference, not a bug.

Nice-to-Have Features

One more thing I liked while test driving CodeLobster is that when editing .html and .css files I could hover over class names in the HTML or CSS code and it would show me the associated style declaration. Also when hovering over items in a .css file, it shows me information regarding the browser compatibility of the CSS code.

The HTML preview feature works very well. It is a built-in browser that shows the results of your code live without having to open a separate browser window. All you do is click on the "preview" tab. I did notice that sometimes you have to hit the refresh button to see your changes, but that is to be expected.

I also enjoyed the code formatting features very much. I tested them on an HTML file that I copied from an online web page. At first the HTML code was ran all together with no line breaks or indents. I simply went to the tool bar and clicked "Tools/Code Format/Format" and it formatted it perfectly. I am sure it will work with other supported languages equally well.

When you double-click on a variable name in the PHP editor, it highlights the variable and the dollar sign, so you can copy the whole thing and paste or search for it easily. Notepad++ wouldn't include the dollar sign and it was a bother to me.

CodeLobster has what they call a "Map" feature(View/Windows/Map) that I've never seen before. It is basically a small window with a tiny view of the document you're working on. It allows you to click anywhere in the Map to quickly jump to a section of the file that you need to work on. It is a great feature for working with large files.

Conclusion

I have concluded that CodeLobster will indeed fill a need in my current web development process. It is not yet developed enough to be the only tool I use simply because of that one SFTP connection it will not work correctly with. However I found that I can combine it with another tool, CyberDuck, as a work-around until the developers of CodeLobster work out the final kinks in the software and add some more nice-to-have type features such as spell-check and . In the end it still gets a thumbs up for all the wonderful features it has and for its robustness in general. Eventually I believe it will make the perfect all-in-one coding tool for my company. The other contender for my new all-in-one coding tool was CyberDuck and I can honestly say that CodeLobster has much more potential. CyberDuck is also in its early stages of development and it needs several improvements to be truly useful. CyberDuck fails in comparison to CodeLobster when it comes to Features. CodeLobster is truly made to be an all-in-one coding solution while CyberDuck is missing many of the necessary features to be a real competitor.

If you are interested in how I combined CodeLobster with CyberDuck to make up for CodeLobster's short-coming when connecting by SFTP, I'll quickly go over how to do it. Create a bookmark(that's what CyberDuck calls their FTP/SFTP connections) in CyberDuck to the SFTP server. CyberDuck allows you to set it up so you can use your own code editor with it in a way that allows you to click on a file from a remote server and open it in that editor. Then when you save it in that editor(CodeLobster), it saves it to the server. That way I still have a seamless process even though I have to combine two tools to get what I truly want.

Edit Files Live on the Server

I've been a web developer for many  years now and I must say I feel a little foolish for not thinking of this earlier. I've been wasting countless amounts of time waiting for files to upload and doing the mundane tasks involved in updating files and uploading them to a server when I didn't really have to. Here's why.

Today I got fed up with editing my file in Notepad++, switching to Filezilla,  finding the file in a folder on my desktop, uploading the file by dragging it to Filezilla and finally testing my online website or app. I decided to Google the term "Edit files live on server" and found https://cyberduck.io/ that has an amazing product which allows you to type in your FTP details, just like I used to in Filezilla, and open a connection to my server. Then it gives me a directory tree on my server. CyberDuck allows me to click on any file on my server and open it in Notepad++ on my desktop, edit it and save it right back to the server without having to click and drag it to another program like I used to do for so many years.

This is the best program for a developer I have found in years. Traditionally I do not favor fancy programs to help you write code or frameworks to make things "easier" because I found that they only complicate matters in the long run, CyberDuck is the exception however. It is great so far, but I've only been using it for an hour now, so if I find any flaws, I will report them here asap. I just wanted to share this. If you are interested in downloading the CyberDuck app for yourself, simply CLICK HERE or the link above and look for the two download links on the left side of the page. Do not use the first download link you see at the top of the page because it is a sponsored ad and will try to trick you into downloading something else. I hate those types of ads, but none-the-less, I still recommend CyberDuck!

Like I said, it's great when used with Notepad++, so if you'd like the experience I had, download Notepad++ too. Just google it, it's easy to find.

How to Create a CSS Stylesheet with PHP

Variables can be very useful in CSS. Unfortunately CSS isn't particularly variable-friendly. In comes PHP. It is very easy to dynamically create portions of your CSS style sheet using PHP. You can also generate the entire style sheet using PHP if you wish, but I find it usually more practical to only generate needed sections of my CSS with PHP. Either way, here is how it is done:

Convert Existing CSS Style Sheet to PHP

Lets start with an existing webpage with the below  index.html and style.css files.

Content of index.html:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head><title>CSS & PHP Example</title>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.php">
</head>
<body>
<div id="box">
<h1>H1 Header</h1>
<p>This is text inside a p tag which is inside of the box div...</p>
</div><!--/#box-->
</body>
</html>

Edit index.html

In index.html, the only required change to convert to a PHP enhanced CSS style sheet is to edit the link tag's href attribute. In our above example HTML code's link tag, we  changed "style.css" to "style.php". For example:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css">

becomes:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.php">

That's all for index.html. The rest of the changes will be done in the style sheet.

Content of  style.css

Our original style.css file looks like this:

body{
background-color: #FFFFFF;
}

#box{
position: absolute;
background-color: #0000FF;
border-radius: 15px;
top: 100px;
width: 400px;
height: 300px;
left: 60px;
line-height: 18px;
padding-left: 15px;
padding-right: 12px;
}

Edit style.css File

We will only be making a few minor changes to the above style.css file to make it work with dynamic PHP variables. Here's the simple process:

  • Save style.css as style.php - all we are doing in this step is changing the .css extension to .php.
  • Add some PHP code to the top of the style.php file that changes the content type back to CSS. The php code needed is: <?php header("Content-type: text/css; charset: UTF-8"); ?>
  • Build a couple of variables for various CSS attribute values such as color, padding, height, width etc. You can set any values you wish using PHP by following our example. We are keeping it simple for learning purposes and only changing the background colors in our example webpage by setting a variable for the body's background color and for the box's background color with: <?php $body_bg = "red"; $box_bg = "blue"; ?>
  • Save style.php and upload your two new files, index.html and style.php to your server for testing. Unlike using just HTML and CSS, when you use PHP and HTML files, you can no longer test the webpage from your desktop unless you have an active web server which most people don't. But it will work fine if you upload it to your website and navigate to the index.html page.

Final HTML and PHP Code

I won't list the HTML code again here because it is still the same as it was above, so simply use that if you are following along with this tutorial. The style.php file however has more changes so I am adding the final PHP code for style.php below:

Final PHP/CSS Style Sheet Code

<?php
header("Content-type: text/css; charset: UTF-8");
$body_bg = "red";//"#DBF5F3";
$box_bg = "blue";//"#DBF5F3";
?>

body{
background-color: <?php echo $body_bg; ?>;
}

#box{
position: absolute;
background-color: <?php echo $box_bg; ?>;
border-radius: 15px;
top: 100px;
width: 400px;
height: 300px;
left: 60px;
line-height: 18px;
padding-left: 15px;
padding-right: 12px;
}

The final solution is no more than a blue div with some simple text inside a red body and you can see my working version of it here: http://jafty.com/CSSnPHP/

Converting index.html to index.php

An optional idea which is often more convenient, is to convert your index.html file into a PHP file. All you have to do is change the .html extension to .php and that is done. One good reason why you might want to convert your HTML file to a PHP file is to be able to declare styles in your index.php file too using PHP. You may also want to set your main styles at the top of your index.php script to make them easy to find and edit. The only reason I used an HTML file in my example was to show you the simplest way to use PHP with CSS styles, in the real world, if you're using PHP in your style sheet, you are probably going to want to use it in your index file as well. While it is not a requirement, it does make good sense in many situations.

The one caveat to using PHP variables in both your index.php and you style.php file is that when you use the link tag to include your PHP style sheet as in the above HTML example, the variables do not carry over from one page to the other. One possible fix to this is to create a new file just for configuration settings, I use this to set basic color variables and the like and call it config.php. Then other developers working with your code can very easily change colors, sizes and other styles all in one place without having to pour over all the css code.

Another possible solution to overcoming the passing of variables between index and style scripts is to eliminate the use of the link tag to include the style sheet. You could use a regular PHP include function instead, but you'd have to restructure your style sheet to read like an inline style sheet included in the head section of your index.php page. Basically you would not use the content declaration in PHP and wrap the CSS in <style> and </style> tags instead.

Troubleshooting

If this solution didn't work for you. There's a few possible causes.

If you're on an Apache server and using WordPress with the above solution. You may need leave the file named style.css, and use .htaccess to parse it as PHP. Add the following code to the .htaccess file at the same directory level as the CSS file. Then just use PHP inside it as you would any other PHP file.

<FilesMatch "^.*?style.*?$">
SetHandler php5-script
</FilesMatch>

Another possible WordPress solution involves using PHP code such as:

<?php
 $absolute_path = explode('wp-content', $_SERVER['SCRIPT_FILENAME']);
 $wp_load = $absolute_path[0] . 'wp-load.php';
 require_once($wp_load);

  /*
  Do whatever here...
  */

  header('Content-type: text/css');
  header('Cache-control: must-revalidate');
?>

If your PHP variables are not working as expected. Read above last two paragraphs under the heading "Converting index.html to index.php". There I explain how to overcome this possible issue related to using the HTML link tag.

Summary

There you have it! Easy as pie. Of course, in the real world, you will be developing much more complex solutions than this, but the easy example code here should be just enough to get you started using PHP to generate CSS style sheets. If you have troubles when using WordPress with this solution, the troubleshooting tips should help.

 

 

Troubleshoot Email Issues

I generally dread working with email no matter what system it is on! Here I am going to discuss some useful tips for debugging an email system on a Linux server. I am using an Amazon Linux AMI with Centos, but the process is similar for any Linux server you might have. Below I will discuss how to check error files and how to avoid sending email to spam or junk folders.

Having Trouble Sending Email?

If you're emails are not getting through and you don't know why, check your server's log files. Below I'll show you how to find mist email related error logs. They can normally be found in /var/spool/mail/username which on an Amazon Linux distro would be either:

/var/spool/mail/root

or:

/var/spool/mail/ec2-user

It is important to know that in the above context, username, root and ec2-user are files, NOT directories. To open one of those files, navigate to /var/spool/mail like:

cd /var/spool/mail

To open root file with your Linux command line text editor, type:

sudo vi root

...and check the last errors to see the most recent.

TIP: use [shift]+g to skip to the last line of the file using VI editor.

How to Avoid Sending eMail to Spam or Junk Mail folders

I ran several tests to find the best way to send emails from the command line without ending up in the recipient's spam or junk mail folder. Since I was using an Amazon EC2 instance with SES, I will explain the server setup used and then show the results of the tests. Some went to spam immediately and others went straight to the recipient's In Box as it should.

Amazon EC2, SES and sendmail environment

Here are the circumstances that my test cases were executed under:

The following command line commands sent emails to my In Box:

  • /usr/sbin/sendmail linian11@yahoo.com
  • sudo mail linian11@yahoo.com
  • mail linian11@yahoo.com

The following command line commands sent emails to my Spam:

  • /usr/sbin/sendmail -f SESverified@email.com linian11@yahoo.com
  • sudo /usr/sbin/sendmail -f SESverified@email.com linisn11@yahoo.com
  • sudo /usr/sbin/sendmail linian11@yahoo.com

In the above examples, I didn't use parameters for subject, CC or BCC because they don't seem to make any difference. Only  using sendmail, sudo and the -f parameter made a difference to determine if the emails were delivered to my in box or spam folder.

As you can see from the above spam tests, the best way to avoid spam is to:

  • Avoid using the -f parameter even with an SES verified email address.
  • While /usr/sbin/sendmail method did work when avoiding both the -f param and the sudo command, the mail method worked with or without sudo.
  • Either use /usr/sbin/sendmail without -f parameter and without using sudo, or use mail for the best chances of your email getting through to your recipients in boxes.

 

How to Use Firefox for Mobile and Responsive Web Design

Today I found a nice trick that I wish I would of realized years ago. I figured I'd post it here in case anyone else is missing out on this great Firefox feature for mobile developers and responsive web design. Firefox as a mobile screen display which you can get by using the shortcut:

CTRL + SHIFT + M

It's that easy.

To use this feature of Firefox, simply open the browser, hit the key combo, control+shift+m and type in any web address in the address bar like normal. Here's what it looks like:

Snap 2014-11-20 at 21.39.23...and what's really nice is that you can use developer tools while at this size and be able to read them easily with little scrolling. I used to try to use the tools while the browser window was very small and I couldn't read more than a line at a time but now it is easy. Here's a picture of the same website as above with developer tools opened:

Snap 2014-11-20 at 21.39.45Nice huh? By the way, there is an icon in the top right corner of the tools window that allows you to reposition the toolbox in the side of the window instead of at the bottom as it is by default.