10 Fantastic WordPress Plugins to Make Your Blog Sizzle

Wordpress plugins

I was recently asked to identify some of the essential WordPress plugins that we use are here at 40Tech. A few years ago, we covered five of them. Amazingly, we’re still using all five. There are other plugins, though, that we also use. While I would prefer a lean WordPress installation, these other plugins bring functionality that is important. With that in mind, here are ten additional plugins that make 40Tech tick.

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WordPress Theme Developer to Use Code to Start Tracking All Sites Running Its Themes. Yikes!

Woothemes tracking

Almost two years ago, I wrote about the positive experience that I’d had with WooThemes when switching over to the current WordPress theme that powers 40Tech. I implemented several custom changes to the theme we use here, and the WooThemes folks were very helpful as I worked things out. Lately, though, the WooThemes team has taken a step that has given me pause. Specifically, WooThemes is integrating tracking into all of their themes – new or old – so that they can get a better idea of how their customers are using their themes.

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How to Survive Your Website Getting Hit With a Denial of Service Attack

Denial of service attack

Editor’s note: Today, 40Tech is pleased to present you with a guest post from Lazy Man of Lazy Man and Money.This article is intended to demonstrate one man’s thoughts on what was happening during a denial of service attack, and how he dealt with it.

The second week in February was a very bad week for me. On February 6th, I had received a legal threat from LifeVantage regarding my ProtandimScams.com site. I was still crushed by my beloved Patriots losing the Super Bowl. (Hey, I put up with their 1-15 seasons and Lisa Olsen scandals, so I’m milking the Tom Brady era for all it is worth). On the 8th, my websites stopped working. I went to my Putty window running a Unix top command to see what was the matter. The load average had spiked from its normal level of around 0.50 to 120. If you aren’t familiar with Unix, Top, or Putty, this means that either something on your site isn’t working right or Yahoo decided to feature you on its home page. Here’s what happened next.

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How to See What’s Happening On Your Site in Real-time Using Your Log File

Have you had a look at your website’s log file lately? No? Let me tell you, once you set your eyes on that thing you’re going to have trouble tearing yourself away. It will show you every file your Apache server is fetching, as it happens. This means if someone is visiting your website, you’ll see “GET nameofwebpage.com/specificpost.html,” and it will show you that as it happens in real time. You can see if the next-random-user of your website bounces, or if their IP address goes on to click on something else, and what that something is, and how long they stay there. Creepy-awesome, isn’t it?

Here’s how you do it:

Baby Simple Instructions on How To Access Your Log File

First, you’re going to need a command-line program. The Windows one won’t do, as that’s just going to give you DOS. I recommend Putty. Go to http://putty.nl and find the download page. Putty is such a simple little file it doesn’t unpackage anything; when you save it that is the install. So be sure to save it wherever you plan on accessing it.

Now that you have Putty, open it. In the box that pops up, type the website you use to get on your site using FTP. At the bottom of the screen, click “Open.”

The black box that pops up is where your log is going to read out. It should say Login. Give it the username you use to login to FTP and, after hitting Enter, the password that goes with it.

With me so far? You’re now logged into your website on the command-line.

Now type: tail -f /var/log/ but don’t hit Enter just yet!

I can’t tell you exactly what to type because I don’t know how it is written on your site. We’re going to get Putty to tell us by using the Tab key. Hit it once and it will automatically complete the line if there is only one option with what you’ve typed so far. Hit it a second time, and it will list all ways that the file you’ve started typing can be completed.

So after tail -f /var/log/ try typing ht and hit tab twice.

Did tail -f /var/log/httpd/yoursite come up?

If yes, sit tight while I catch the others up. If that doesn’t work, backspace back to tail -f /var/log/ and try adding ap and hitting tab twice. Hopefully you’ll see it tab-complete to apache/thenameofyoursite. If there are too many to list, start typing the name of your site, and hit tab once to get it to complete the name of your site. So far, your screen should either say:

tail -f /var/log/httpd/yoursite

OR

tail -f /var/log/apache/yoursite

If you were sitting in the back throwing spitballs, you may be able to type one of the commands right there to get caught up. But still, don’t hit Enter just yet! We’re almost there.

Now when you hit tab the second time, one of the options should have the word “log” in it. If there are a bunch of them with numbers, just type out the simple one without any numbers. You could always copy-paste this exactly, once you know what to type. I’m using the tab-complete technique because it’s faster, it will tell you what to type if you don’t know, and most importantly, you can be sure everything is spelled correctly. The biggest pitfall of the command-line is that one spelling error and not a thing works. By having Putty finish the command with the Tab key, you have Putty spell it out for you.

Once you have the entire command, it will look something like this:

tail -f /var/log/httpd/yoursite_log

Or possibly the same thing, with “apache” instead of “httpd”

NOW, hit Enter.

Is there a bunch of gobbledegook flowing up and off the screen? Congratulations, that’s your Apache server’s log! I like to hit Enter a bunch of times so there’s a big blank space where I am looking. Mostly, what you will see on the screen will be an IP address (who’s checking out your page) followed by the command and file (the webpage they are accessing).

You can use this same process to figure out why something on your site isn’t working. Let’s get to that next.

How to Access Your Website’s Error Log

Say, for example, that you’ve created an .htaccess file and when you try to use it you keep getting a message like “Server Access Error.” There’s a log of that error, and you want to see it to try to unravel why your page isn’t working. To get to the Error Log, do exactly what we did above, all they way up to the part where you are tab-completing to get the name of your site. But instead of choosing the Log file, type an e, hit Tab and, if that doesn’t complete the line, hit it again to see your options. You want the one that says Error. So you’re here:

tail -f /var/log/httpd/yoursite …[Tab] [Tab]

or conversely,

tail -f /var/log/apache/yoursite …[Tab][Tab]

Once you have the full command, with error at the end, Hit Enter. It should show you the most recent error messages. Again, if you want to trigger the error again (by doing whatever is causing the error, in another window), hit Enter a bunch of times to create some space so you’ll see the right thing as soon as it pops up.

Troubleshooting

 A few tips:

  • Unlike MS Windows, this land is case-sensitive. If you capped something that shouldn’t be, or vice versa, it’s not going to work. Using tab-complete will insure you have the right case.
  •  In the command-line, spaces matter. If you added one or took one out, your command will fail.
  •  If you want to run a command you already ran, hit the Up key to scroll to it.
  •  To copy something to paste it elsewhere, you need only select it. Selected text in Putty is copied automatically.
  •  To paste something into Putty, hold down both mouse keys at once.
  •  If your log isn’t at tail -f /var/log/httpd/yoursite or tail -f /var/log/apache/yoursite try reading your Apache configuration file.
  • If your server isn’t run on Apache, this probably won’t work for you.
  • Want to see both your log and any errors at the same time? Type this: tail -f /var/log/httpd/fyoursite_{error,log} …or whatever tab-complete has offered you, plus {error,log}.

Help! How Do I Get Out of This Thing?

If you want to get out without closing the window, press CTRL + C and it will take you out of the log and back to your command prompt.

I’ve tried to make this baby-simple for folks who aren’t generally comfortable on the command-line. I hope it helps!

Google Demotes Itself (Chrome) in Search Rankings

Chrome demoted

Do a Google search for “browser,” and Google Chrome no longer appears on the first page of results. In fact, as of the time of this writing, I’m seeing a hit for Chrome appear on the seventh page of results. Has Chrome suddenly become less relevant? Nope. Instead, Google has penalized Google Chrome for a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines involving paid links. Google requires all paid links to use the nofollow attribute, so that the link doesn’t pass “Google juice” via Google’s search ranking algorithm. A sponsored post for Chrome appeared on a blog, and did not use the nofollow attribute. The demotion followed.

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Yep, Geeks Love Markdown, But Why Should You Bother?

Markdown loved by geeks

If you’re a geek, you may have heard about Markdown, a markup language that makes it easy to output HTML, without actually having to know even a lick of HTML. We joined the love fest ourselves recently, covering the basics, as well as looking at a Windows app and a Mac app that support Markdown. With the proliferation of what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editors today, though, why should you even bother with Markdown?

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App of the Week: MarsEdit – My Mea Culpa [Mac]

Marsedit app of the week

This week’s app of the week post is a mea culpa of sorts, instead of a full review. Several months ago, we compared MarsEdit, ecto, and Blogo, which are all Mac blogging apps. Head on over to that review for a more detailed look at MarsEdit, and the other two apps. At the time, I favored ecto, largely because of the way that it handled images. Since then, I’ve seen the light. I’ve purchased a MarsEdit license, and haven’t looked back.

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