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10 Essential Tools You Need to Run Your Website

August 31, 2012   ·   By   ·   2 Comments   ·   Posted in Uncategorized

Improving your site’s productivity means making the site run smoothly. There are a lot of resources out there for web business owners, but you hardly need everything and the kitchen sink to make your company and website run efficiently. While some of these things vary from industry to industry, others are essentials for any successful website.

Start by assessing what your website needs and what you’re offering readers and users. Are you an e-commerce website? Do you offer users a service that allows them to check-in on their favorite TV show? All of these things come into play when choosing which of the essential tools you need for your website.

Here’s a look at the 10 essential tools needed to run your website and ensure it’s a well-oiled machine.

1. FreeScreenSharing

If you need to share your screen with other employees, FreeScreenSharing is the way to go. This site allows you to share your screen with anyone on the web, which comes in handy when you’re going over memos during conference calls or walking everyone through new CMS.

FreeScreenSharing is free (obviously) and allows you to share your screen with up to 96 other people.

2. SlideRocket

We love SlideRocket because you can open it on mobile phones and tablets too. No longer will your slick presentations be confined to a computer. SlideRocket also breathes new life into presentations when PowerPoint isn’t cutting it for your business or site anymore.

3. MarketWire 

If you have grand news to share about your business or website, be sure to use MarketWire to spread the news. There are plenty of niche channels to choose from to get the word out, which is beneficial for small websites catering to a specific market.

4. BravoVideo

BravoVideo lets consumers share their experiences and comments about a website or business. Use it to get that word of mouth thing going among people on the web. BravoVideo makes those text compliments seem far more real (and thus effective) because they’re in video form. 

5. Formstack

Formstack allows you to easily collect data on the traffic that visits your site. Any website owner knows that this is definitely a tool you must implement to know what your user wants and needs from the site. You can create forms and analyze data from your site using this tool.

6. WePay

This is an alternative option to Paypal that is totally free. The fees vary based on what you’re doing with the money (much like Paypal), but the site has stepped up its security game, which means now it’s just as safe to use as the it’s household name competitor.

7. HarvestTimeTracking

Sites who have telecommuting employees work by the hour will benefit greatly from HarvestTimeTracking. One of our favorite parts of the site is that there are mobile and tablet apps that allow you to track the time more accordingly. Website owners don’t always have money to spare and keeping careful track of billing is one way to cut unnecessary costs.

8. UserTesting

If you’re new to the world of online business, you will love UserTesting. This is the only site that allows you to watch a real live video of a user going through your site. Later, you get a summary of the user’s thoughts on the site and improvements that can be made according to web experts.

9. Google Business Apps

With Google Business Apps you get up to 10 free email addresses, which can be synced up with gmail and Outlook. This is a great way to streamline what your team is working with and costs.

10. GoogleDrive

If you decide to go with Google Business Apps, you’ll automatically have access to GoogleDrive, which works a lot like Dropbox. It’s basically additional space for you to store data and it’s accessible via mobile devices, which is great for working on the go.

Others

There are other essentials too. We recommend plugging in your site to Google Analytics, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools as a best practice. The most important thing you can do is to stay ahead of the game of course, as new developments always seem to pop up.

About the Author: Edwin is an avid online marketer and designer curently at 9th sphere. He has a passion for great design and helping online businesses succeed.

Can I Just Replace My Old timthumb.php File With the New Version?

September 1, 2011   ·   By   ·   6 Comments   ·   Posted in Uncategorized

First things first: Yes, you can just replace your old timthumb.php file with the new version of timthumb, found here. If that’s all you were after, move along – if you want a little more explanation, read on:

With all of the hubbub around the recent timthumb vulnerability, lots of people are looking for some easy instructions on how to get it taken care of. You should be, because I’ve cleaned up more hacks in the past 2 weeks related to this vulnerability than I have in the last 2 months – people ARE getting hacked due to this.

Unfortunately, if you’re not totally comfortable with code, upgrading this file can be a little scary. Good news, I’m here to help.

How do I know if I’m using timthumb?

This one isn’t too hard – the easiest way to figure this out is to use a scanner of some sort to search your server for the timthumb script. I’ve written a timthumb scanner that runs as a WordPress Plugin – you can find that here.

If you’re not comfortable with that process, you might be able to just give your blog a once over and figure it out yourself. Are you showing thumbnails on the homepage? If so, you might be using timthumb. Right click one of the thumbnails, and click “open image in new tab” (or the equivalent – that’s what it says on chrome on a mac).
In the new tab that opens, check out the url bar – does it say timthumb.php anywhere in the url (check the text right before the question mark, if there is one)? Note – this might also just say “thumb.php”

How do I know if my timthumb script is vulnerable?

Fortunately, this one is pretty easy. Open up the file in the wordpress theme editor, or using FTP (it’s probably in your theme directory, called timthumb.php or thumb.php – the previous step should tell you that). Look for this code, near the top:


// external domains that are allowed to be displayed on your website
$allowedSites = array (
	'flickr.com',
	'picasa.com',
	'blogger.com',
	'wordpress.com',
	'img.youtube.com',
	'upload.wikimedia.org',
);

// STOP MODIFYING HERE!
// --------------------

To clarify (or make things more confusing): If you see this:

// If ALLOW_EXTERNAL is true and ALLOW_ALL_EXTERNAL_SITES is false, then external images will only be fetched from these domains and their subdomains. 
if(! isset($ALLOWED_SITES)){
	$ALLOWED_SITES = array (
			'flickr.com',
			'picasa.com',
			'img.youtube.com',
			'upload.wikimedia.org',
			'photobucket.com',
			'imgur.com',
			'imageshack.us',
			'tinypic.com'
	);
}
// -------------------------------------------------------------
// -------------- STOP EDITING CONFIGURATION HERE --------------
// -------------------------------------------------------------

You’re ok. $allowedSites = Bad, $ALLOWED_SITES = Good. For another way to check, if you look up near the top of the file and see this:

define ('VERSION', '2.8');										// Version of this script 

You’re good. Version 2.0 and greater are safe to use.

If it doesnt look like you’re using the right version, it’s time to clean it up!

How do I fix it?

400 words later, we finally get back to the question posed in the title. Can I just replace the old, vulnerable code with new, safe code, and have everything still work? Yes, you can.
From the previous step, you’ve got the file open in your WordPress theme editor. All you need to do is replace the entire contents of the file with the code found here:

http://timthumb.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/timthumb.php

Save the file, and you’re done! Your thumbnails still work, and you can sleep a little easier at night.

Plug Time: I do this service for subscribers to my WordPress backup and security monitoring service – so if you’re not sure you want to take it on yourself, have a look here. If you just have a question, or need some guidance, I’m happy to give that away for free. Get in touch with me at peter@codegarage.com. Good luck!

Dealing with Curly Quotes in WordPress by Changing Your Site’s Character Encoding.

May 21, 2011   ·   By   ·   No Comments   ·   Posted in Uncategorized

Here’s a problem I run into every few months with a customer: Their site is suddenly showing strange characters (strange question marks, accented characters, general gibberish) in place of quotation marks, dashes, etc. Oftentimes this happens after a move, but it could also be the result of a few other things.

The Problem

The problem is generally a result of pasting straight from Microsoft Word (or similar) into WordPress. Word generates lots of evil characters that WordPress and web servers don’t deal with properly. As a result, you end up with gibberish. And frustration.

The Solution

The best solution is to stop pasting formatted text from Word into WordPress. That is, however, not useful if you’re already dealing with the problem. You could manually replace the problem characters, but that takes FOREVER, and writing a script to get into the database and do it for you is a chore I havent been confident enough to take on, because of the relative obscurity of the problem ( and how difficult it is to find every problem instance ). So, I generally take the easy way out, which is this:

Change your site’s character encoding

Yep. Just trick wordpress/web browsers to treat the content with Microsoft’s character set, brush your hands off, and be on your way. Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to yoursite.com/wp-admin/options.php
    You’re goign to have to type this in, there are no links from the WP backend to this page.
  2. Seach for “blog_charset”:
  3. Change the value to “windows-1252″ and save.
  4. Move on to more interesting problems

There you go: Band aid applied. Again, this isn’t an ideal solution, it’s more like the “quick, dirty, I’m tired of dealing with it solution”.

We’ve Moved!

March 5, 2011   ·   By   ·   No Comments   ·   Posted in Uncategorized

I finally took the plunge and redirected apartmentonesix.com here to yourcodegarage.com/blog. This is where I’ll be doing all of my code and tech help related blogging from here on out. Expect much more frequent content over here.

Thanks for visiting!

Get Post Tags in WordPress

December 15, 2009   ·   By   ·   1 Comment   ·   Posted in Uncategorized

Here’s a little tidbit I can NEVER find when I need it: If you need to get all the tags that belong to a current post, here’s the function:

$tags = get_the_tags($post_id);

This will return an associative array of tags, with all their relevant info.

BONUS
If you need the same thing with categories, here’s your function:

    $args['fields'] = 'all';
    $categories = wp_get_post_categories($post_id, $args);

Including the args bit allows you to retrieve all the category info. If you leave that out (and use only the $post_id argument), you’ll get an array of relevant category ids, but no other info.

Big thanks to Clay Lua at hungred.com and his post Get Tag with Post ID in WordPress for pointing me in the right direction.