Ramblings on technology with a dash of social commentary
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  • Al Franken Finally Wins Minnesota Senate Seat

    Posted on June 30th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    So, Al Franken finally got his Minnesota Senate race victory, and one can’t help but wondering if it is because he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like him.

    Even if you only just barely lean middle or right, you should be very concerned. J.D. Hayworth explained on his radio show this evening that the win gives Democrats 60 seats, which means that they can put a stop to Republican filibustering. Not sure what the ramifications of this are? In a nutshell, it will further prevent discussions (arguments) about future bills. Not that the even read the ones they’re passing now.

    Suffice to say that it’s another huge blow in the ongoing saga of decimation the Blues are forcing upon the red, white and blue.

  • Ionia Free Fair Parking Nightmare

    Posted on June 23rd, 2009 phpguru 1 comment
    Cars Stuck All Week After Ionia Free Fair Flood

    Cars Stuck All Week After Ionia Free Fair Flood. Photo by Rex Larsen

    Thousands of Cars, Finances, Families, Hurt By Michigan Flood

    Turns out my Aunt and Uncle decided to go to the Ionia Free Fair this year. Here is an aerial shot of the parking area, near the Grand River in West Michigan. Maybe you can help find their car (and yours?)

    I’m really sorry for all these people. Maybe you want to Donate to the West Michigan Buy A New American Car Fund?

    Paypal me any amount earmarked as “Ionia Incident” and I’ll distribute it to my family.

    Here’s the Front Page Article in the Grand Rapids Press.

  • How to get a Mac Pro for one third the cost

    Posted on June 21st, 2009 phpguru No comments

    Want the power and performance of a Mac but can’t aford the hefty price tag? Running Windows XP, dreading Vista, and wishing for the wonderful Linux kernel under the hood of Mac OS X?

    Psystar’s new Open and Open Pro systems run OS X on blazing-fast Intel hardware, for a fraction of the cost of a new Mac Pro workstation. Check it out!

  • How to Move your Magento Store to a new URL

    Posted on June 20th, 2009 phpguru 3 comments

    Since writing this post on installing Magento, I discovered a lot of unique features of this amazing open source ecommerce platform. With that said, there’s still so much I need to learn about that I decided that I’d rather get a simpler site up for my home page URL, and move my Magento install to the ‘store’ directory on my server and create a subdomain for it (store.example.com).

    Moving your Magento store to a new URL is actually incredibly simple, but I did run into one confusing step that I’ll warn you about in a moment.

    Now, like the typical male stereotype, I don’t ask for directions. I’m the type of person that assumes everything will be easy, simple, and straightforward until I discover otherwise, hit a road block, or can’t figure it out on my own. I’ve been burned enough times over the years that I’ve learned one simple thing that can save hours, if not days or even a lifetime of anguish. Backup often.

    1. I start out by synching and creating an entire backup of my Magento install. I did this using Dreamweaver’s synchronize feature and phpMyAdmin to export the current database. I dropped the .sql.gz from phpMyAdmin into the root directory of my local working copy and the created a zip of the whole thing with WinRar.
    2. Next, I created a subdomain in CPanel, called store, and added a new cname record  at my DNS provider.
    3. Third, I updated Dreamweaver’s profile for the site, by adding /store to the remote FTP path field. I clicked Test and it resolved ok.
    4. Next, in Dreamweaver, I clicked the top folder of the site in the Files panel and typed Ctrl-F. I searched the entire Magento installation directory for my original domain name. I figured with this technique I’d discover anywhere Magento’s web-based installer had written its config files to or any path information. This took a little while based on the rather large number of files required to run Magento.
    5. Oddly, I found something in the downloader/pearlib/php directory, changed it, and synchronized. I wasn’t changing my database username or password, so there was no need to edit etc/local.xml.
    6. Next, I logged into the database using phpMyAdmin. I clicked on the main database name in the left panel, then the Search tab on the right. I entered just the part of the domain without the extension, in MySQL wild-card fashion, like so: ‘%example%’ (for example.com, no quotes). I selected every table, and clicked Go.
    7. phpMyAdmin found two rows in the core_config_data table, and a few others in the cms content and log tables. I clicked on core_config_data table’s Browse link, and updated two rows with my new URL, http://store.example.com.
    8. After lunch, my TTL on the cname addition to DNS was propogated, so I gave it a test at http://store.example.com. It half worked. I was getting my site content (the php/html was working), but no CSS, just a blank white Times New Roman site with tell-tale blue links.
    9. Here’s where the hidden gotcha is, that I told you I’d warn you about above.  I hope this saves you some time if you’re reading this post wondering why your Magento store has can’t find the CSS after moving it. Delete the contents of the /var directory. I did this using
      > cd public_html/store/var
      > rm -rf cache
      > rm -rf session

      from SSH.

      I wasted an hour trying to figure out where else Magento could be set to look for the path to CSS files before having the idea that Magento may be making a cache somewhere. As a PHP Fusebox developer, and having used the Smarty template engine, I’d seen a web app create temp files before. It’s not too uncommon for web applications to create some kind of parsed files to help aid performance. Sure enough, Magento creates parsed files in the /var directory, which must be deleted (and rebuilt after applying the new settings).

    10. Browse the site. Did it work? It worked for me.

    Thanks to Damián Culotta for his post on the Magento Forums on this  same subject.

  • AVI to ASF Video Conversion

    Posted on June 17th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    One of the websites I redesigned last year has quite a bit of video content stored in ASF format. I was a Mac guy turned Flash & PHP guy, turned Linux guy, so I know very little (nothing) about Windows Media formats. The client sent me a new DVD, so I figured I try to match the existing file format as closely as possible. I started by converting the .VOB to .AVI using HandBrake. I needed to edit out a 3 minute segment from an hour long video and perform some corrections using AfterEffects. The source footage turned out to be over 7GB.

    Now I need to figure out how to conver the uncompressed AVI to I can’t imagine finding a better post on this topic than this forum thread at videohelp.com: Convert AVI to ASF.

    One of the recommended tools in the above post is called MediaCoder. The poster gives a link to download the program, along with settings to use. It seemed straightforward enough, so I decided to give it a try.

    As it turns out, VideoHelp is a stupendously helfpul resource when it comes to the dizzying array of video conversion issues, formats and software to use to convert video. Another post said to re-compress your .AVI using VirtualDubMod, so I tried that, too.

    Well, after trying both VirtualDubMod and MediaCoder, I got really frustrated. MediaCoder has to be one of the most annoying softwares ever created. When you install the program and run it, it opens their website with a button you have to click to open the program’s main window. What a joke. Half of the menus in the program are designed to display website pages which show ads to download AVS Video Converter.  The whole “digital video conversion” shareware arena is a complete scam-fest nightmare. There’s no less than a dozen tools in the $40 to $80 range that claim to be the easiest, best, fastest, greatest everything-to-everything converter. I really don’t understand why there has to be 27 gazillion video file formats.

    Anyway, I installed and ran AVS too. Upon launch it opens the registration page with a $39 one-year license or a $59 unlimited license. I tried it in demo mode, and it did work great, but it created a watermark in the middle of my video. Rats. Not even one free encode from these guys. In all fairness, AVS does seem to be the simplest, quickest tool for the most common video conversion formats, but I just didn’t feel like coughing up $40+.

    I read on the FFMpeg site (a server-based tool for command-line media conversion on Linux) that ASF is generally to be avoided, and a post on another site recommended to use WMV using the Windows Media Encoder is free from Microsoft. I decided to switch to Windows Media. It is free and worked fine.  And as it turned out, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out settings for ASF files to work in MediaCoder. I never did get it to encode anything correctly – lol. Uninstall.

    Assuming you have Windows Genuine, and I know you all do, all you have to do is encode to WMV using Windows Media Encoder and when the file’s done, change the file extension from .WMV to .ASF. Duh! That makes sense… not.  But it works, and I’m tired, so I don’t care.

  • Farewell War On Terror, Hello New World Order

    Posted on June 13th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    Was Obama put into the White House by the global media elite, to sell a new world order to the American people?

    Did the 125 richest and most influential people in the financial world purposefully orchestrate the sub-prime mortgage lending failure, throwing the U.S. economy into the worst tailspin since the great depression?

    Where did Hillary and Barack disappear to for nearly two days in 2008?

    In Bill O’Reilly’s latest column, entitled Farewell, War On Terror, one of the commenters posted a link to a 2-hour HQ full-length documentary on YouTube called, The Obama Deception. This may be one of the most important works of non-fiction you will watch this year.

    The film has had over 2 million views, it is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars, has received nearly 20,000 ratings and over 53,000 comments.

    A couple of interesting quotes:

    “Inspite of what you might have heard, I wasn’t born in a manger.”   — Obama

    “They put a black face on the new world order, and everybody happy. KRS ain’t buyin’ it.”  – KRS One

  • Obama Spending is Destroying the U.S. Economy

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 phpguru No comments

  • The Strange Boom in the Popularity of Shorter URLs

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    It was recently noted that bit.ly took over as the #1 “url shortening service” to twitter users, besting the oldest and most well-known of such services,  http://tinyurl.com/. Some 46% of shortened links redirect through the service.

    Lately though, I keep stumbling onto more and more short URL services.

    Here’s a post at Mashable that lists… get this… 90 of them.

  • British Coverage of Obama in Telegraph

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 phpguru No comments


    Why Does Obama Hate America So Badly

    Obama in the British Media   

    The Brits see right through Obama & are not afraid to say so.   It’s too bad that the media in the U.S. is just part of Obama’s cheerleading squad, with just a few exceptions.    

    If you haven’t seen this article, Mr. Warner cuts right to the chase, doesn’t mince words, and delivers a punch that may wake you up.

    I really must commend @AcePilot101, @ExpatInTheUSA on truly biting comments.

  • Business Leader’s Open Letter to Obama

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 phpguru No comments
    Whenever a friend or realative sends (fwd:'s) me a really original 
    piece of content, I check on Google and Snopes. This one checks out. 
    Thank you for expressing your opinion, Mr. Pritchett!
    (This is exactly how the plain-text email arrived.) 




    By Lou Pritchett


    Dear President Obama:


    You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.


    You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you. 


    You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.


    You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth  growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.


    You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.


    You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don’t understand it at its core.


    You scare me because you lack humility and ‘class’, always blaming others.


    You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.


    You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America’ crowd  and deliver this message abroad.


    You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.


    You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.


    You scare me because you prefer ‘wind mills’ to responsibly capitalizing  on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.


    You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.


    You scare me because you have begun to use ‘extortion’ tactics against certain banks and corporations.


    You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.


    You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.


    You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.


    You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do


    You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.


    You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.


    Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably  not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.


    Lou Pritchett


    Note: Lou Pritchett is a former vice president of Procter & Gamble whose career at that company spanned 36 years before his retirement in 1989, an d he is the author of the 1995 business book, Stop Paddling & Start Rocking the Boat.

    Mr. Pritchett confirmed that he was indeed the author of the much-circulated  “open letter.” I did write the ‘you scare me’ letter. I sent it to the  NY Times but they never acknowledged or published it. However, it hit   the internet and according to the experts has had over 500,000 hits.  

    American Family Association
    Tupelo, MS 38803