Couldn’t help trying out WP 2.7 RC1

Though I’ve been away from blogging a good while due to extreme load at work and family front – I’ve been keeping a pretty close watch on the progress of the blogosphere. Thus, I couldn’t help but get my hands on WordPress 2.7 RC1 the moment it was released.

Here I am… loving every bit of it 🙂 Some minor hitches here and there and plenty of room for improvement – all taken into consideration there’s just one word for it – Terrific!

Determine the readability level of your blog

ReadabilityEver wondered who reads your blog or how easy (or complicated) is it for your visitors to understand your blog’s content? The Blog Readability Test, is one of those odd-but-fun-and-cool tools that analyses your content and based on the topics & linguistics (types of words used, terminology etc.), names the minimum level of readers who are able to decipher the content. I’m not really sure about the parameters used to come up with the readability score, but I’m simply making a wild guess on the most logical choices.

Using the tool is outright simple. You enter your blog’s URL and hit the Check Readability Now button. On an average it takes about 2-5 seconds to analyse the content (depending on your home-page size) and spits out a badge stating the readership level. My blog got tagged as College (Postgrad).

Chaos Laboratory Readership Level

Although I can’t vouch for the accuracy level of their algorithms, it may give you a decent idea on how much you need to perk your content up to get to the desired level.

What’s the Readability Level of your blog?

When Defensio fails…

Spam FloodFollowing my review of Defensio, Michael Hampton (of Bad Behavior fame) left a comment on the same post assuring that Bad Behavior would run just fine along side Defensio without causing any sort of hiccups for the latter. My thoughts exactly – since Defensio operates more or less on the same principles as that of  Akismet, whereas Bad Behavior’s modus operandi is a bit different.

Instead of filtering spam and diverting them to a hold (quarantine), Bad Behavior entirely denies access to your site to suspicious IPs (the ones from where there are an excessive number of requests within a short period of time). Logically, this shouldn’t hamper Defensio in any way. Michael’s comment had got me wondering if I should enable BB again and today’s incident gave me a hard shove in the same direction.

What happened today? Well… Defensio went for a toss, and that too for a good while (it’s till not back up as I’m writing this post). This is the second downtime I faced ever since I installed it, though I’m not certain of the cause. It may be because of lack of infrastructure to handle such high volumes of network activity or some other temporary server outage. Either ways, what I faced was a massive spam flood – the likes of which I never encountered while using the Akismet + Bad Behavior combination. Luckily, I had comment moderation turned on! End result? Here’s a snapshot of my inbox. See for yourself 😀

When Defensio Fails

Motivation enough to start using Bad Behavior again? I totally think so. Besides, as Michael pointed out earlier, it can’t hurt Defensio in any way other than denying their spam-harvester its share of spam.

Chawt (free SMS service) isn’t so ‘unlimited’ after all

Following my review of Chawt – the free SMS service – a couple of weeks back, I decided to swing by again and check out the improvements (if any). To my surprise I saw a new message below the message typing box which states that your are now limited to sending at the most 15 messages per day. Poooof !! So much for the ‘unlimited’ part.

Coming to that, I really don’t get why these services (mostly start-ups) invariably try to make it sound big using the ‘unlimited’ catch-word and then never manage to live up to their claim. It’s a known fact that any such service provider has to shell out a fat packet to the SMS Gateway on a monthly or by package basis. Behind the scenes, internet to mobile texting doesn’t come for free – AT ALL. Unless you’ve got a very strong source of ROI (either through advertisements or by some other brilliant marketing tactic that you’ve come up with) – you can never hope to offer unlimited free service for long. Besides, the market for mobile ads isn’t as widespread as the internet yet and neither is the revenue generated from it. So why make the claim in the first place?

Problems with Chawt

The second problem I face was while trying to send a message. Every time I composed my message (well within their 80 character limit and in English) and hit Send, I kept getting an error message that said “Multilanguage message too long”. Multi… what? Since when did pure unadulterated English become multilanguage? And what’s with composing your message carefully to keep to their character limit!

And just to think that I had given them such a positive review last week… Sad performance on their part – in fact extremely sad performance considering it claims itself to be a Web 2.0 start-up.

How to send executable (.exe) files as attachments in Gmail

Encrypted Email AttachmentGmail (and many of the major free email service providers) normally don’t allow you to attach executable (.exe) files and send them over to someone, because of security reasons – i.e. by barring this file type, they restrict the spread of various Worms and Trojans to a large extent. Even script files like .bat are blocked. This holds true even if you  rename such files, zip  them all up and try sending – because even zipped archives can be scanned.

However, there are genuine cases where you DO need to send over such files to your contact in a hurry, but due to the restrictions you’ve to opt for third-party file-hosting solutions like RapidShare or Box.net. And… invariably every time you’ve wished how convenient it would have been if you were able to zip them all up and send along with your mail. Would have kept everything in one place and to the context.

Well… here’s a quick tip that’ll put you right on track. As I’ve pointed out earlier zip files can be scanned and renamed .exe files can easily be caught by examining the file header. So how do you go about it?

Have you ever utilised a feature called Encrypt in WinZip? This is meant for storing sensitive and confidential data in the archive and locking it up with a password. What WinZip essentially does is to employ a industry standard encryption algorithm (you can take your pick) and entirely encrypt the contents of the archive using your password as the key phrase. The encryption renders the contents of the zip file unreadable and such encrypted files cannot be scanned properly by Gmail – thus letting your executable files slip through normally. All you need to do is send along the password in your mail to your recipient – so that he/she can successfully unzip the archive and extract the contents.

WinZip Encrypted Email Attachment

This trick hold true for almost any zipping software (other than WinZip) – for these days 99% of them come with the option of encryption. Say bye bye to attachment hiccups. Give it a shot yourself and see 🙂

Update: Google’s grown clever and now can see through this. However, if you use 7-Zip instead of WinZip you can still pull this trick off. Thanks to ces for providing this tip.

iSpring Free: Convert your PowerPoint presentations into Flash for sharing on the web

If you’ve ever wanted to share PowerPoint presentations on the web but cursed at the lack of of a way – iSpring Free can do it for you for free! It’s this really cool plug-in that inserts itself into PowerPoint and provides you with a button that creates a flash-based sideshow at a single click.

iSpring Free

And not just that – in case you wanted to incorporate flash animations / movies into a normal PowerPoint presentation, iSpring Free can do that for you as well. The free version doesn’t offer much in the way of choices – for that you’ve to go Pro. iSpring Pro offers a horde of custom transition effects,  animations, sound syncing, embeddable hyperlinks, custom slide-show player etc. However, for our daily use, this is by far one of the best options.

There are quite a few online services like SlideShare which convert as well as host the slide-shows for you – but then again, there’s a question of branding. All such hosted presentations come branded with SlideShare’s logo. With iSpring Free you’re totally free to brand it the way you like…

A quick remedy to speed up / resume your file copy process in Windows

The default file copy method in Windows (any given version) is severely handicapped. First and foremost – it’s SLOW. The probably the worst part of it is that there’s no way to resume on error. Supposing your file copy operation throws up an error (say, due to some problems while reading the source) – you don’t have any method at your disposal to get rid of the problematic files/folders and resume with the rest. On most occasions the error will cause the entire source file list to be deselected and you’ve to start right from scratch !!

This gets particularly nasty when you’re copying a particularly complex selection of files and folders. Upon aborting it’s invariably that same Ctrl / Shift + Click routine all over again. This is where two nice little freeware utilities can help you go a long way. Both the tools create hooks onto the default copy operation of Windows and automatically takes charge whenever you’re copying or moving files.

The first one is TeraCopy – a freely downloadable tool from Code Sector. I came to know about this tool while discussing about CubicExplorer. Now that I’ve brought it up, CubicExplorer is this awesome , feature-rich tabbed file explorer that I’ve been using for a long while now. It can do about a hundred different things that you’ve always wished in the default Windows Explorer but never got. This brings to light a very important question – has MS entirely stopped on furthering the development of their file explorer?? Through all these versions of Windows I never saw a single change except for the eye-candy! Anyway, more on CubicExplorer later – as it deserves it’s own post. Back to the topic.

TeraCopy Compact View
TeraCopy – Compact View

TeraCopy Expanded View
TeraCopy – Expanded View

Here’s what TeraCopy can do for you…

  • Copy files faster. TeraCopy uses dynamically adjusted buffers to reduce seek times. Asynchronous copy speeds up file transfer between two physical hard drives.
  • Pause and resume file transfers. Pause copy process at any time to free up system resources and continue with a single click.
  • Error recovery. In case of copy error, TeraCopy will try several times and in the worse case just skips the file, not terminating the entire transfer.
  • Interactive file list. TeraCopy shows failed file transfers and lets you fix the problem and recopy only problem files.
  • Shell integration. TeraCopy can completely replace Explorer copy and move functions, allowing you work with files as usual.
  • Full Unicode support.

None of the features, I believe, require any further explanation. Code Sector has a Pro version of the same too – available for a nominal licensing fee – but with a horde of extra features.

Point to be noted here. While TeraCopy does significantly boost the file copy speeds – this is applicable only to the larger files and folders. There’s this added overhead of firing up TeraCopy’s engine (everytime you copy/move a file), which actually degrades performance for smaller files and folders. At least that’s how it behaved on my system.

Now comes the other contender – Copy Handler, the free and open source sibling of TeraCopy. I came across this much later although it came as a very pleasant surprise. It can do everything that TeraCopy does, PLUS MORE. It’s simply packed to the core with tonnes of features and tweaks.

Copy Handler - Small View
Copy Handler – Small View

Copy Handler - Full View
Copy Handler – Full View

And here’s a list of the main features…

  • Copying data at rates up to 6-7 times faster than standard MS Windows copying (when copying data from one partition to another on the same physical hard disk).
  • Allows full-control over the copying/moving process by pause, resume, restart and cancel features.
  • Fully customizable – over 60 detailed options – from setting language (multiple languages) through auto-resume on error, shutting down system after copying finished to very detailed and technical (customizing copy/move thread – buffer sizes, thread priority, …) ending on sounds on specific events.
  • Multi-lingual support – with more new languages appearing everyday, since the translation process is quite easy.
  • Provides detailed information about copy/move process (current file, buffer sizes, priority, progress by size and visual bar, status, current and average speed, time elapsed/left etc.)
  • Can automatically resume all unfinished operations when system restarts.
  • Limits the number of simultaneously processing tasks (copies/moves) thus reducing system overhead. Instead, tasks are set into a queue and are processed in order it was inserted into queue.
  • Integration with system – adds additional commands to context menus of folders and drag & drop menus.

Phew! That’s quite a list of features. I wonder what the creator(s) haven’t thought of including yet! I used these tools for a week each and my conclusion is that Copy Handler does perform a lot better than TeraCopy – both for small and large files. And with all the tweaks you can make it turbo-charged – which isn’t really possible with TeraCopy.

Why don’t you give both TeraCopy and Copy Handler a try – and share your views with us?

Quick Tip: curreX version 0.9 released (with Flash Widget support)

Another quick announcement. I just released another version (0.9) of curreX – the Ajax based Currency Converter widget for WordPress.

Starting from this version, curreX also includes a Flash based widget and provides you with the option of selecting between the HTML/JavaScript version and it’s Flash counterpart from the widget configuration panel of WordPress.

A quick preview of the flash widget can be obtained from here. I’m pretty bad at creating snazzy graphics in flash – so it’s going to take a while to make the widget look nice. The current version is fully functional though.

As always, I’m open for any questions / comments / bug reports.

Quick Tip: curreX v0.8 released

Here’s a quick tip for those who have been plagued with problems while using curreX v0.7 (the Ajax based Currency Converter Widget for WordPress). I’ve released a new version v0.8 yesterday, fixing most of those issues.

Please grab a copy from here or the WordPress plug-in repository and update your installation to fix all the earlier problems.

If you run into any problems with this version, there’s always the official curreX support forum.

Dumpr: Another great addition to your online graphics toolbox

Dumpr LogoThis seems to be the era of online graphics tools. As computing power and  coding paradigms (read software capabilities) evolve, online tasks that were earlier deemed next to impossible are being delivered right to your doorsteps – most of them at the single click of your mouse. Just last week, I had reviewed this online tool named beFunky, that helps you cartoonize any given still picture and video. Today I came across another one called Dumpr – that adds a horde of PhotoShop like filters (effects) to your toolbox.

Generating any of the effects is a 3 step process.

  1. You select the desired effect (some of which are reserved for the paid Premium Membership level) from a pretty large library.
  2. Upload your image & specify the effect variation you want (if applicable). You can also pull in images directly from other URLs and a couple of Social Networking / Image Sharing sites like MySpace, flickr, Picasa, Zoomr etc.
  3. This is the step – where you are handed out the final image (with the effect applied). You can either download the image or use the provided code to embed it in other sites or even re-upload a whole range of Social Networks.

Here are a couple of examples (different effects applied on the same starting image)…

Dumpr Effect - Cellphone Camera Dumpr Effect - Museum
Dumpr Effect - Easter Egg Dumpr Effect - Rubik's Cube

Pretty slick, eh? The coolest part is that if you decide to sign-up for the service (registration is FREE), all the resultant images are automatically saved in the space allocated to your profile. The only thing I found lacking in their service is the ability to re-use these saved pictures for application of a different effect (you need to manually re-upload the image again). That would have covered all the aspects.

If you decide to opt-in for the Pro / Premium Membership – which, at $3.99 / month is quite cheap – you get added benefits…

  1. A larger selection of effects are made available to you.
  2. You get to be the first one to be able to use any new introductions (effects).
  3. All advertisements are taken-off your account.

Found via: JeetBlog