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Showing posts from 2011

Cross-platform multilingual support in PHP for the lazy programmer inside you

If you are like me, you dread adding multilingual support to applications.  It isn't that I do not like the various, rich cultures of our world, but rather that it is such a pain in the neck to implement multilingual support into an existing application from a programming perspective.

One of the problems stems from the fact that nearly all programming languages are written in English and limited to the basic ASCII character set and targeted at English-speaking people.  Sure, I know of one programming language in Polish and a few others in other spoken languages but non-English programming languages are few and far between.  It really has nothing to do with America vs. whoever but more to do with settling on something we can use to get work done on a computer and English happens to fit nicely into a single byte (or less) and seems to be one of a handful of what I call "common trade languages" - that is, if you want to conduct business across international borders, it help…

How to find "useless" MySQL indexes...

I was looking for some information on some high-performance MySQL questions lurking around in the back of my mind and found this very useful slideshow:

How to Kill Mysql Performance

On slide 40, there is a fairly complex and nearly unreadable (without going full screen) MySQL query that finds "useless" MySQL indexes by analyzing their cardinality.  Since it is not able to be copy-and-pasted, I figure I'll save someone the trouble.  It has been slightly modified for average data sets and to fix a case-sensitive bug:

SELECT t.TABLE_SCHEMA, t.TABLE_NAME, s.INDEX_NAME, s.COLUMN_NAME, s.SEQ_IN_INDEX, (SELECT MAX(SEQ_IN_INDEX) FROM information_schema.STATISTICS AS s2 WHERE s.TABLE_SCHEMA = s2.TABLE_SCHEMA AND s.TABLE_NAME = s2.TABLE_NAME AND s.INDEX_NAME = s2.INDEX_NAME) AS `COLS_IN_INDEX`, s.CARDINALITY, t.TABLE_ROWS AS `ROWS`, ROUND(((s.CARDINALITY / IFNULL(t.TABLE_ROWS, 0.01)) * 100), 2) AS `SEL %`
FROM information_schema.STATISTICS AS s INNER JOIN information_schema.TABLES …

How to calculate Password Strength...

When I visit websites that want me to create an account before doing something, I typically enter in bogus information and occasionally I see a "password meter" that determines that I've entered a "weak" password.  At least it is considered "weak" by some systems and "average/strong" in others.  Being the curious sort of person, I've been trying to come up with a good, consistent strategy for calculating password strength and then something useful to do with it.  I assume most developers only want to write password strength code one time, do something useful with it, and then move onto the next task.

What constitutes a strong password?  An excellent question and something the industry seems to have difficulties figuring out at the moment.  NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has a few words to say on the topic.  Basically, password strength boils down to the number of bits of entropy that a password has.

So the next…

Some thoughts about programming for the "Mobile Web"...

I recently implemented a new feature called Cache Profiles into Barebones CMS. I'm a bit stuck on the documentation because I've had to stop and figure out how I'm going to create a mobile-friendly version of the website. I eat my own dog food after all. Om nom nom.

The concept of a "mobile-friendly website" is foreign to some people. A lot of people think, "Our main website displays the exact same on the desktop, iOS, Android, etc. and therefore it is mobile!" That is NOT a mobile-friendly website. If a user has to use pinch-to-zoom or scroll horizontally at all to read the content, you have a desktop-only website. While desktop websites do display on most modern mobile devices, they are NOT mobile-friendly and users will hate you.

Actually, that is a pretty good definition of a mobile-friendly website:

"A mobile-friendly website is one that displays on small screens such as smartphones, scrolls only in the vertical direction, and is clearl…

Multiselect list boxes are not intuitive. Do not use.

I've come to the inescapable conclusion that multiselect list boxes are not an intuitive UI element and are actually quite frustrating to use for most users. A set of two-state checkboxes is much more intuitive. In fact, I've found that anywhere that multiselect list boxes can be used, two-state checkboxes can easily replace them for a much more intuitive solution.

Here's an example of a multiselect list box:


Set the average user in front of a computer screen and ask him to deselect all selected items. The secret is to hold the 'Ctrl' key while clicking, but how often do people actually execute a 'Ctrl + click'? Not very often. Most users, in fact, aren't even aware of special key + click combos. These things are put into applications for power users AFTER the basic functionality is implemented. All functionality of a UI element should be available through a left click or a right click. This is User Interface Design 101. The multiselect list bo…

Truly free SSL certificates are here!

I and many other people have been waiting for a decade for this, but truly free SSL certificates with a root certificate installed in every browser is finally available. It used to be that to get a signed cert, you had to shell out tons of money. That was and is a ripoff. SSL certs cost ISPs nothing to produce and are pure profit. Even the EV validated certs (green bar) are a huge ripoff - sure the setup fee might make some sense where they do real checking, but, after that, the renewal process is entirely automated. Some places want $400 per certificate per year. This is one of the hosting/reseller industry's best-kept secrets.

I've been keeping a very close eye on the free SSL certificate market for a while now. Every couple of months for the past decade, I've run a search query like "free SSL cert" and looked carefully at the results.

The first organization that popped up on my radar was CACert.org. It was exciting when I first saw this because it mere…

Google Instant bugs - and no good way to report them...

Ever since "Google Instant" was released by Google, the search box occasionally just disappears in Firefox:


This seems to happen right around the moment when Google Instant directs Firefox to a new URL and I happen to be pressing the back button on my Logitech G500 Mouse.

Which is, by the way, a very nice mouse for gaming and general-purpose use for us right-handed folks. Left-handed folks are, unfortunately, so neglected by computer equipment manufacturers.

Anyway, I'm not sure why this bug happens.

There is also another annoying bug with Google Instant that happens when I'm typing quickly. It switches from the main page to the Google Instant page. The search box is there with my search but complete search results refuse to show up and clicking the search button does nothing. Starting over and running the exact same search causes search results to show up.

Google is one of those companies that doesn't publish their e-mail addresses anywhere. I do have a few…

Two ways to make your computer faster that no one thinks of.

I've been using Windows for a really long time. As have many other geeks/nerds. I've seen my share of "Registry Cleaners", speedup tools, and tips from other people. All these things don't work. They really don't. You might get a temporary "boost" in certain areas, but a month later you'll be experiencing enough seemingly unrelated system problems that you'll end up reinstalling Windows.

People always tell me their computers are slow and want to know how to speed it up. Today, I'm going to show you two ways to truly speed up a Windows-based computer and keep it lightning fast.

First, fire up that slow computer and launch Task Manager. Go to the "Performance" tab, and look at the amount of memory being used. If the amount of memory being used exceeds 80% of the amount of available physical RAM, that means that portions of the OS and other programs are being moved to what is known as "swap space". Swap space is…

Dedicated Hosting just got affordable...

It used to be, in order to have your own dedicated host, you had to plop down hundreds of dollars a month. Today, I noticed that 1and1 has a fantastic deal on dedicated hosting for $60/month on a permanent basis - this is not one of those 6 month deals. Cloud hosting and virtual hosting are, in my opinion, no longer competitive with this deal.

I use dedicated hosting myself and absolutely love it. Most people opt for shared hosting, which introduces them to a world of hurt. If you have multiple websites, shared hosting gets expensive really fast. Plus shared hosting has significant downsides:

- No control of the server. You are at the mercy of the hosting provider and their settings.
- Web hosts cram hundreds, possibly thousands of websites onto a single box. Your website is not alone.
- Greater risk at getting hacked because someone else on the same box got hacked.
- You risk getting kicked off the hosting provider due to "too much CPU, RAM, or other resource usag…

How to get unblocked from Hotmail/Live

For the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to get my domains unblocked from Hotmail/Live. I set up a new domain for Barebones CMS (barebonescms.com) and put forums on the site and forgot to add a SPF record for the domain. A couple weeks ago, Hotmail/Live servers decided that e-mail from barebonescms.com was invalid and therefore refused delivery. Due to the holidays being crazy, I was unable to get around to dealing with the problem.

Then I discovered that Hotmail/Live was actually blocking ALL e-mail from my e-mail server regardless of domain. This sent me on a search to see how I could get unblocked. Of course, the first step was to fix my DNS records to add a SPF record. SPF-aware mail servers should really be assuming a default of:

v=spf1 mx -all

Or:

v=spf1 a mx -all

That way, most of us don't have to fiddle with silly things like this.

The next two steps to getting off the Hotmail/Live block list is to go here:

https://support.msn.com/

And request to join both t…