Archives for June 2008

Cool Install and Upgrade Plugins for WordPress

I use WordPress for several sites, so I’m always on the lookout for good plugins. I stumbled upon two today that could make all of our lives a little bit easier.

The first, is not really a plugin. It’s more of a script. What it does is make it insanely easy to install WordPress. One of the bottlenecks for WordPress installation is the FTPing of all the WordPress files to your server. EasyWP WordPress Installer (hat tip: DazzlinDonna) is one little file. You upload it to your server and then run the script. The script takes care of the rest and prompts you with a webform for the info that you would normally put into a wp-config file. Sounds easy.
At this point, I haven’t tested this, but it really does seem to be that easy. The only caveat that I see so far is the security of the files that it’s downloading to do the install. I’m assuming that it’s pulling the file directly from the WordPress repository, but even so, some caution will still be required.

The second plugin really is a plugin.  It’s called the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin.  Wanna guess what it does?  There are a couple of programs out there that will automatically upgrade your WordPress install.  This one seems to be a good one.  It automatically backs up  your files, and backs up your database.  It then ftps the zip file from the WordPress repository and unzips it.  It then gives you the link to the upgrade page.  Oh, and it deactivates all your active plugins and then remembers which ones were on so it can reactivate them when it’s done.  It also has a feature to do all of it completely automatic with no prompts.  Pretty cool huh?

I’m sure I’ll find a good excuse to test these two out over the next week or so.  The auto upgrade one should come in really handy for a few sites that are using WordPress as a CMS and don’t get the attention that they deserve on the backend.  And the install one should come in very handy for another project that I’m thinking about.

Anyone else tried either of these out?  Or have others that are cooler?

Review: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart Shaped BoxHeart Shaped Box

by Joe Hill

This is a book that I might never have picked up if not for one little secret that got “revealed”. Joe Hill, the author, is really the son of Stephen King. Yep, his real name is Joe King. One look at the artist portrait on the back inside cover will assure you of that. The family resemblance is pretty strong. Knowing that, I put this book at the top of my list.

And I couldn’t be any more happy that I did. Heart-Shaped Box is an absolutely amazing book. It reads quickly and easily. And best of all? It’s extremely reminiscent of an early Stephen King work. And I’ve gone on record as saying that the newer King works lack something that the early works had. Joe has picked up on that (undoubtedly from years of hanging out with his dad) and made it his own. In fact, I still harbor a few suspicions that the book was really written by Stephen King about 20 years ago. There are too many new references for that to be true, but it’s that close to the original writing style of the elder King.

The book follows a hard rocker named Judas Coyne. Get it? Judas Coin. Well, I didn’t get it until about half way through the book, but I find it very clever. It seems that Jude has a bit of a reputation as being a dark fellow a little bit like Ozzy. His assistant finds a genuine dead man’s ghost for sale on a “eBay knockoff” auction site. He buys it, and then all hell breaks loose.

The spoilers begin about here, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you should probably stop reading.

When the ghost arrives in a heart-shaped box, some funny things start to happen and Jude starts seeing the ghost at night. After a little bit of looking into it, he finds out that the person that sold him the ghost was the sister of an old girl-friend that he kicked to the curb and the ghost is her step father out for a little afterlife revenge.

Joe takes us on several twists and turns throughout the book and by the end of it, I had to struggle to put it down and not finish it in one session. I nearly did anyways.

It’s an amazing story and I couldn’t recommend it any more. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next Joe Hill novel. Now, I’ve got a few of his fathers books that I need to read. 😉

You can buy Heart-Shaped Box at Amazon!

Schools Push and Get Results

A couple of teachers at a high school in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN decided that they’d seen enough of their students fail and not go on to college. Instead of letting their students get by with low test scores, they decided to do something about it.

What’s most important here, isn’t that the teachers gave a darn. (Although that is important in and of itself) The truly important part is that the students are being held to a high standard and are excelling where once they weren’t. Over the years, we’ve let our standards lapse so that none of the students feel left out or “stupid” and so that they all get that ever important diploma. All that’s accomplished is a decrease in the level of education that our students receive. Our students test grades, when compared to other countries, have been steadily declining. Why? Because we’ve let our standards go. No child left behind right?

Push.

Cunningham said some of her [classmates] don’t realize the importance of those high expectations, because “once you get put into that category, you just live up to it.”

Push.

“Sometimes you need someone to push you,” Davis said.

And it’s popular.

Originally, the course was scheduled for three days a week, but [Susan] Barnard works with up to 20 students every school day.

I wonder why 20 students a day would volunteer for a “hard” class like that?

My congratulations go out to the teachers in charge of this program. Assistant Principal Gerald Sakala and English/Special Education teacher Susan Barnard have taken the future of their students into their own hands and directed it to a much brighter place.

Top 5 Referrers for May 2008

Another month has passed us by and here we are with a top 5 referrers post again.

Once again, Mark and Burt hold the throne as the biggest referrers.  Most of the traffic from Mark comes from his page for the Yahoo/eBay/Amazon mashup.  And most of the traffic from Burt comes from his Links page on Osworld.biz.  The blogs.payscale.com traffic is old traffic from a link a long time ago.  It must get decent search traffic for them as it’s still pushing through a bit for me.  And, finally, the traffic from nicusor.com and linkbuildingbible.com are from NoFollow lists.  I still use NoFollow here, only you have to leave 3 comments before it kicks in.

So, it would seem that if you want a link in one of these top referrers pages, all you need to do is add a link to this site.  Someone has to uproot Mark and Burt don’t they?  Sounds like a challenge to me!