Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Responsive design for TheQuotes.net to make it Mobile-Friendly

Few years back, I had published post about using wptouch plugin for making our motivational Quotes website TheQuotes.net

Wptouch made the website mobile friendly. But it had many shortcomings. For example, the free version of this plugin is not having option to show adsense advertisements. I had to manually include the adsense code in the wptouch plugin theme. And, I had to do it again each and every time whenever updating the wptouch with new version.

And, the cooperation between wptouch and wpsupercache is not good. Sometimes, we used to see the mobile version of the cached pages in desktop.
Another important problem with wptouch is, it seems hackers are exploiting it to include malwares. So, I decided to replace the wptouch with responsive design.
I just deactivated/deleted wptouch plugin and replaced the main theme with responsive theme. This simple step made the sites to appear correctly in desktop, tablets and mobile devices without creating any additional issues.

But in case of TheQuotes.Net, I had added lot of custom codings in the main wordpress theme. So, just changing the theme is not feasible. It will require lot of rework. So, I decided to manually change the current theme into responsive theme by adding required code/style changes.

First I added viewport meta tag, and I added few media queries to do the specific style changes related to mobile devices and tablet devices. And, I replaced the old Google Adsense ads with Responsive adunits provided by Google Adsense.

After making these changes, I tested it using Tools provided by Google and Bing to make sure that our site passes the mobile-friendly test.

Are you able to conveniently use our website Thequotes.net in your mobile/tablet devices? If you face any difficulty or error you can inform me or you can participate in this Forum Discussion.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Moving from Windows XP to Linux (Ubuntu / Lubuntu). Read this post if you are still running Windows XP in Old Computer

Few days back, Google Chrome browser in my computer started showing warning message "This computer will soon stop receiving Google Chrome Updates because Windows XP and Windows Vista will no longer be supported".

According to Google blog post, starting April 2016, Chrome will continue to function on these platforms but will no longer receive updates and security fixes.

After seeing this warning message in the Google Chrome, finally I made a decision to move from Windows XP.

 I already thought about moving from Windows XP many times, particularly when Microsoft stopped supporting windows XP on April 8, 2014. That time I did lot of analysis about moving from XP.  But I decided to postpone the move as it required lot of time and effort. Because there is no easy way to upgrade from windows XP to recent windows version. We had to completely destroy Windows XP and we need to freshly install the new versions of windows like Windows 7 or Windows 8. i-e We have to install all the applications again.

That time I was engaged in lot of different projects that required various tools and setups. I didn't want to lose them by removing windows xp. And, I had many clients who frequently ask corrections/updations  in their old projects. So, keeping the same setup/environment will help to save lot of time.

Because of these constraints I decided to postpone the OS upgrading plan.
But, now the situation got changed entirely. I changed our business model. As our youtube channel is growing very fast, I decided to focus more on developing/promoting  our YouTube Channel, our Forum and  our other websites (e.g TheQuotes.Net, RtoZ.org ) to earn money from Google Adsense, than doing web development projects for other clients.

So, I stopped taking any new projects from the clients so that I need not work on making corrections/modifications in future.

I implemented this transition plan gradually past 2 years.  And, Now reached a point where I can freely destroy Windows XP without worrying about losing environment/setup/tools/data for client projects.  And, all our internal projects (e.g Timesheet) are php/mysql based apps, and we keep them in our hosting server. So we need not care about them also.
So, finally I decided to move from Windows XP.  And, few days back, I noticed different behaviour of our websites. After doing more investigation, I found that our websites got hacked. It took lot of time and energy to bring them back to normal. The hackers might have used various approaches to get into our hosting server. But whenever we report this kind of issues, usually the hosting support team will just blame our side. They used to say that the hackers might have stolen the passwords from local computer.  I was regularly running anti-virus softwares in my windows XP computer, and it was free from any virus. Anyway, Windows XP is vulnerable for hacking  as Microsoft stopped updating security patches long back.

So, I wanted to move from Windows XP immediately. Once after making this decision of moving from XP, obviously the next question arises, i-e Which operating system should I choose to replace the windows XP?

I explored two options. One is Windows 8 and another is Linux.  Since both Windows XP and Windows 8 are from the same software provider Microsoft, I thought choosing Windows 8 will make the Operating System upgrading task easy, and also I thought it will be easy to have all the already existing tools/software again.  But after doing more analysis I decided to go with Linux. Find below the list of reasons why I preferred Linux over Windows 8.

1. After running windows 8 compatibility check, I came to know that hardware of my computer is NOT suitable for running Windows 8. That means I need to buy a new computer itself. I didn't want to do that as my current computer was working without any problems many years.

2. Price of Windows 8 is costly comparing to Linux which is completely Free. And, any additional applications also need to be purchased whereas we can get them freely in Linux.

3. Generally I preferred Open Source over the Microsoft.  Because as a Developer I realized the difference between Internet Explorer Vs. Mozilla FireFox and Dot Net Vs. php

4. Our hosting servers are Linux servers. Scripts developed in Local Windows Development Environment will not always work on Linux servers. I faced this situation many times. We had to make small changes in  local coding to make it work in Linux server. So, if I make the local development environment using Linux similar to the hosting server, it will be useful to avoid this kind of issues.

Once after deciding to go with Linux, I started thinking about which Linux distribution I need to choose. i-e Whether I need to choose  Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, openSUSE, etc.  After doing some Google search and analysis, I decided to install Ubuntu Operating System.

Before start installing ubuntu, I had taken back up of data from my windows XP computer. I put the files in another hard drive and then taken backup of browser data (e.g  bookmarks and saved passwords ) by using browser Sync feature. Both Firefox and chrome are providing this Feature. We need to just click the Sync button after logging into the browser account.  We can access them from anywhere from any device if we login with that same account.

After completing data backup task, I started downloading Ubuntu from http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop

The latest ubuntu version is Ubuntu 15.10. But I decided to download the previous stable version Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS as recommended by the Ubuntu website.

Ubuntu download is available in two flavours.  One is 64 bit version which is generally recommended by Ubuntu website, and another is 32 bit version for machines with less than 2GB RAM. Since my machine is old, I selected the 32 bit option even though my machine is having 2GB. For downloading ubuntu we need not create any accounts/logins, we can easily download just by clicking the download button. And, the download didn't take much time. I didn't remember the exact time, but I can say that the download completed within a Hour even with our slow internet connection.

 After downloading the Ubuntu, I searched for ways to make it USB bootable and I came to know about the Universal USB Installer (UUI) provided by pendrivelinux.com . We have to just download the UUI from here and  follow few steps as mentioned there to create the bootable USB from the Ubuntu iso file . This step can be completed in few minutes. Now the pendrive will have the Ubuntu installer.

After completing this step, I restarted the computer and pressed "F2" button ( in some computers, it will be "Del" key) to get into the BIOS setup.  I changed the boot order/priority so that the machine can boot from USB instead of the hard disk.

I saved  the  BIOS setup changes and exit from there,  and  the computer got rebooted.  Then I was seeing the Ubuntu installation menu which provided many options including the option to try ubuntu without installing it.  This option will be useful if you want to know whether ubuntu will be suitable for your computer.
Anyway, I decided to go with actual installation which  again gave me few options including an option keep the current Windows XP OS also in addition to Ubuntu ( i-e Dual booting). I proceeded with full/fresh ubuntu installation (i-e overwriting existing windows XP OS).
Ubuntu installation process is very simple and very easy, we need not do anything other than just choosing our language and timezone. Everything will be taken care by the installer. I was surprised to see this. Because in case of windows XP installation we need to do few additional steps. For example, installing Network drivers, Audio and display drivers.

The Ubuntu installation got completed very quickly. Once after completing installation, I could start using the computer casually without requiring any additional efforts. I could use Internet, play audio and video without requiring any manual steps and without facing any issues.

But I noticed one issue, i-e the system was very slow some times. I did Google search about it and came to know that the default Desktop Environment (DE) "Unity" is not suitable for low configuration old machines. And, I came to know about many light weight Desktop Environments, such as LXDE, LXQT, Xfce, and MATE. And, I decided to replace the Unity desktop with LXDE which is very light weight comparing to others.

For doing that I opened the Terminal Screen by pressing Alt+Ctl+T key combinations. The Terminal is something similar to command line in windows XP.  For removing Unity Desktop I tried one of below two commands.
sudo apt-get remove unity
sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-desktop
I didn't remember which one I exactly used for removing unity.

And, for installing LXDE I run the below command from the Terminal

sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop

I came to know that "Sudo" is for running the command as super user.

After rebooting the computer, the LXDE desktop started appearing. Now it is showing Lubuntu instead of ubuntu.  It is looking like the windows XP with start menu also.  So any windows XP user will become familiar with lubuntu instantly.

After replacing Unity with LXDE, the computer started working very fast (comparatively). I could see the difference clearly. There is no change in any hardware. But lot of performance improvement just by replacing the windows XP with Ubuntu. Particularity I noticed the huge change when viewing photos. They got loaded quickly.
 Then I started looking for frequently used items, like browsers. I noticed a browser in the ubuntu menu. It is fast and light weight. Anyway, I want to have my favorite Firefox and chrome browsers. I opened the "ubuntu software center" and searched for Firefox and installed it from there. This process is very simple and easy.  After opening Firefox, I logged in with my firefox browser account to sync the browser data. I got all the data including stored password.

I tried to do the same thing  for getting Google chrome browser. But I couldn't find it in the "Ubuntu Software Center". So, I decided to download it from Google chrome website. But it not having option for downloading 32-bit version. It has only 64 bit version. Anyway, I proceeded with that one, but I couldn't install it as expected.

Then I came to know that Chromium is exactly same as Google Chrome. So, I installed it from "ubuntu software center".  It is working exactly same as the Google Chrome Browser. Surprisingly I could use the Google Chrome account also for logging into the Chromium. i-e In Chromium, I could use all the bookmarks and saved passwords that I saved from Google Chrome in Windows XP.

In windows XP, normally I use Windows Movie Maker for creating youtube Videos. I was looking for Movie maker equivalent in Linux. I found various tools like, Lightworks, Kdenlive, OpenShot, Cinelerra, PiTiVi, and Avidemux.

I decided to use OpenShot as its specifications looked similar to Windows Movie Maker. I installed OpenShot from "Ubuntu software center" and I could learn/use it easily in very short time period. But I noticed some parts of the output video is distorted  and sometimes openshot got closed abruptly without giving any warning. This kind of crashes made me to think about alternates. And, I noticed there is a difference in the version installed in my machine and the latest version specified in the Openshot website.  I thought of giving a try to the latest version. I followed the steps specified in the openshot website to get the latest version. Instead of updating the existing openshot it installed separately as openshot-qt. But this one also got crashed more frequently. So, I decided to try other video editing software.
Then I installed kdenlive from "Ubuntu software center". I didn't face crash problem with kdenlive.
And,  I didn't find any built-in audio recorder in kdenlive. So, I installed Audacity from the "Ubuntu software center". It is really useful software. And, in windows XP Operating System, I use screen capture software Camstudio for recording desktop screen as well as audio from speaker or mic. That one was very useful for creating youtube videos. After doing some search, I came to  know that RecordMyDesktop will do the same thing in ubuntu.  So, I installed it from Ubuntu Software Center. Basically it worked fine. But I am bit uncomfortable with it as its short cuts keys are different from camstudio. And, some of the Global short cut keys are not working for me. So, I had to use the mouse for recording and stopping the record. I hope it will become familiar once after I use it for few days.
Also, I came to know that there is no option to easily switch between recording from mic and recording from computer/speaker, it seems we have to choose the appropriate option in audio control panel for doing this. I felt that the default audio controller Alsamixer is bit uncomfortable for making this switch. And, audio volume is bit low. I couldn't increase the volume beyond 100% from Alsamixer. So, i uninstalled Alsamixer and installed pavucontrol (PulseAudio Volume Control). It is working fine and it is user-friendly, I could easily change recording source from mic or speaker easily, and we can increase the volume beyond 100% easily.

Though the kdenlive supported the RecordMyDesktop's file format .ogv, it didn't show the video preview properly for this file format, while video preview is working smoothly for other Video formats like .mp4. As suggested in various forums, I tried various settings changes in kdenlive to solve this issue. But this issue was not solved. As a workaround, I used the below command for converting the .ogv file into mp4 file before importing into Kdenlive.

avconv -i input.ogv -strict experimental output.mp4

When I checked the IP address of the machine I noticed that it is changing daily.  I have to use  "ifconfig" for checking the ip address in linux, whereas I use "ipconfig" in windows. (notice the one letter change)
I made the IP static by changing from DHCP option to manual ip address.

As of now everything is going smoothly. I found that libreoffice is almost similar to microsoft office. (from my usage perspective), and I didn't face any difficulty in using leafpad or gedit which are almost similar to notepad. I could easily play videos and music easily. Till now I didn't see any problem.

The only thing that made me to face difficulty is, using reliance data card /USB modem. Drivers were not installed automatically on inserting the data card in USB. I need to do some workarounds as specified in some forums. Now it is working.

I setup the php/mysql development environment easily by installing LAMP by running below commands.

sudo apt-get install apache2 //install Apache
sudo apt-get install mysql-server // install mysql
sudo apt-get install php5 libapache2-mod-php5 //install php
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart //restart server

The server was working properly. But I couldn't add my own pages in html folder due to permission issues. So, I had to change the virtual host config file. I changed the Documentroot and added new directory to give permission to my web development directory. After making these changes I could add my own files.
And, I installed phpmyadmin for managing mysql database tables by running below command.
sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin apache2-utils

Then I looked for light weight IDE for doing php web development. I came to know about Geany, and I installed it, and I feel very comfortable in using it. It provides syntax highlighting and code suggestion/completion.

For transferring files between our local computer and hosting server, I installed the FTP Tool FileZilla from "Ubuntu software Center".

And, I have noticed that my logitech web camera started working without installing any drivers manually. I just clicked  the Cheese from the menu to see the web camera output. I just had to change the resolution to make it work. It is much more better than the quality I used to get in windows XP even with the logitech's own drivers.

I like performance and stability of Ubuntu over windows xp. I used to notice slowness in switching tabs if I open multiple tabs in Firefox from windows XP. But now I am not facing such issues.

So, if you are running windows xp in old computers  you may think about changing into Linux when seeing below message in your chrome browser next time.

"This computer will soon stop receiving Google Chrome Updates because Windows XP and Windows Vista will no longer be supported"
If your computer is old (i-e has very low end configuration) , you can go with linux as you will not be having any other option. Because you can not keep it with windows XP for long time due to security issues and lack of any upgraded apps. And, you can not upgrade to new windows versions due to their minimum system requirements. So, you will be having the only one option of moving into linux if you want to use your old computer.

But if your windows xp computer is bit new with good configuration you can do more analysis about going to Linux or any other OS based on your own needs.

I feel very comfortable in using Linux. It doesn't mean that it will work for everyone. Say for example, if you are using .net applications, they won't work in Linux directly. ( I heard that we can use windows applications in linux by using Wine. But I haven't tried it, and I don't know about its limitations ) And, if you are completely new to linux you may find some difficulty in handling it.  Though I am using Linux as Desktop PC, I am bit familiar with it for long time as our hosting servers are Linux servers, and used to access them through ssh using putty. I am familiar with using basic linux commands, like, ls, ps, grep, cat, more , find, cd, rm, etc. And, I used suse linux few years back for doing one of our projects that required linux application. That may be the reason why I am feeling comfortable with Linux.  So, if you completely new to linux, may be you can try the dual booting. i-e keeping windows xp while installing ubuntu.  But I am not sure whether it will work reliably.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Updates about Our Discussion Forum.

Past few days, I was spending lot of time in updating our websites to make them more secure and mobile-friendly.
As part of this updation, I had updated our Discussion Forum also.  Our Forum is running  from phpbb3 software. First I updated  it to its latest version, and then I made some changes to remove many of our old applications that were using the forum login. Since those applications are now either outdated or not actively used by the people, I removed them. For example, I removed SERP checker, Inbound Link analysis, PR checker, Affiliate program, twitter multipost, stock news reader, etc. and therefore I updated the Forum to break the integration with these outdated apps. Right now the Forum login supports Quiz and Quotes Tweet only.
Since Search Feature of the Forum was taking more database space, I thought of replacing the phpbb search feature with Google Custom Search. And therefore I disabled search and added Google Custom search. But after disabling the search, I had noticed that  few other useful features (eg. links for View unread posts, View new posts, View your posts)  were also removed. So, I enabled the search feature again. Anyway, I  changed the search indexing from "Fulltext native" to "Fulltext mysql" to save database resource.

So, now we have both built-in search and Google custom search. Let me know if you find any difficulty in searching our Forum.

Since I am spending significant time in creating youtube videos, I decided to inform about our latest youtube videos to our Forum members.  I explored various options to do that. Finally I decided to use the Feedburner image for showing titles of 5 latest Videos. You can see this image at top of the Forum.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Know about Youtube Shortcut Keys

Google's Video sharing site youtube.com is growing rapidly. Lot of people are sharing their knowledge and experience through their youtube videos.
Youtube is sharing ad revenue with video creators. So, people are getting encouraged for spending lot of time and energy to share their knowledge through their youtube channel. And therefore we could find lot of useful and interesting videos in the youtube website. Ultimately we will be spending lot of time in watching youtube videos. So, it will be good to know about shortcut keys for using youtube player effectively just by using keyboard alone.

Many people are familiar with using "space bar" for pausing/playing video in many different video platforms. They will be trying to do the samething with youtube also. But it won't work always. It will work only when the focus is on the youtube player control part. So, we should use "K" for pausing/playing youtube video. Few days back I had created a youtube video for telling about the useful youtube shortcut keys.
Watch the below video to know about it.

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