The Google Movie

Confession: after reading Douglas Coupland’s excellent novel Microserfs, I made a pilgrimage with some friends to Seattle (well, Redmond, more specifically) to visit the Microsoft campus. Laurel was one of my fellow pilgrims and captured our adventures for posterity.

I’m far from a Microsoft devotee, but being there, in the place where so much household name software was developed, seemed extremely culturally significant.

So, I was totally fascinated to hear that the Googleplex will soon be seen on the silver screen in a forthcoming movie called “The Internship“. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land sums up the plots like this: “The movie is about two older men who know nothing about computers who recently lose their jobs. They decide to try to get a job at Google by interning there first.” While some of the filming was done on a pseudo-Google set in Atlanta, they also filmed at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California.

Unfortunately, IMHO, the trailer is  not even close to funny, so I don’t have high hopes for this film. But just as I eventually caved and watched “The Social Network”, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I succumb to my curiosity about the inner workings – albeit imagined ones – of Google. Are you excited for “The Internship”?

Cursive Catastrophe

I totally identified with Mary Ellen Bates’ thoughts on whether handwriting has become obsolete. She relays that children aren’t required to learn cursive in school anymore; instead, they now learn to type. Yikes! Although I learned to write in cursive when I was young, I admit I have never had nice handwriting. Like Mary Ellen,

“…my penmanship is so bad that I print my handwritten notes, and my signature looks like the scrawl of a third grader. But I still swoon when I see nice handwriting and dream of one day having the time to practice my cursive writing. Yes, I’m a nerd.”

In fact, it’s not just my cursive that looks ridiculous, it’s any writing I do on paper. While I used to journal by hand and write letters to friends, these days those have been replaced by blogging and emails. I am a semi-decent typist, but I physically write so rarely nowadays that it’s no wonder my handwriting is so atrocious. When I do sit down to physically write for any length of time, my hand gets tired embarrassingly quickly.

And I’ll admit my spelling skills have taken a giant hit, too. As a child, I was a good enough speller to make it into the city-wide spelling bee, but today, WordPress has alerted me to three misspellings in this post alone. Let’s pretend they were all typos, though ;)

At one of the law firms I used to work at, there was an articling student (who went on to become an associate) who freely and frequently sent hand-written thank-you notes to anyone who’d done something nice for him. There were people who teased him (lightheartedly, for the most part), but hey, I still remember the guy because of this, almost a decade later. Cursive or not, hand-written notes are rare these days — rarer still in law firms — and it was such a small, but thoughtful action; a tangible, personal expression of gratitude and connection. It’s always nice to receive a thank-you note, but hand-written ones really stand out.

What is lost when we stop writing on paper and committing spelling rules to heart, and start focusing entirely on a screen, typing skills, and built-in dictionaries? It doesn’t bode well. According to the WSJ article that Bates cites,

“Typing doesn’t help the brain develop as much as writing in longhand, a tactile means of expression with roots in scratching on cave walls, argues handwriting analyst Michelle Dresbold. With typing, the fingers make repetitive movements rather than connect shapes, she said.

“It’s a very natural process to take a crayon or a rock and make symbols with your hand,” Ms. Dresbold said. “It’s just bringing down things from your brain.” Without that, “children are not thinking as thoroughly.”"

The only way to reclaim these skills is to practice. Maybe I’ll dig out a paper journal and practice my cursive tonight.

WordPress Wednesday: Create Code with GenerateWP

In this week’s WordPress Wednesday, we’re going to talk about GenerateWP, a handy tool developed by Rami Yushuvaev.

GenerateWP allows you to generate code for your WordPress theme using simple forms. I’m not sure how much help it would be to someone unfamiliar with theme development or PHP (simply because troubleshooting the code itself could still be necessary), but I’ve found it very handy in creating snippets for functions.php files without having to dig around in the WordPress Codex for code examples.

generatewp

Some of the code you can create includes functions for custom taxonomies, custom posttypes, post statuses and even snippets for your wp-config.php file. As you’re filling out forms to generate the code, it’s also a great way to make sure all the function variables are accounted for — for me, that means not forgetting important elements that help users, like updating all of the page labels for custom post types.

via GoWordPress Blog

Giphy.com – Animated Gif Search Engine

I know animated gifs are Laurel’s beat here on the Greenhouse, but this was too cool not to share…  Giphy is a new search engine for locating animated gifs.

The content is a tad light, and there’s nothing remotely useful (yet) for our friends in the legal market. However, TPMIdealab reports the fledgling website had 30K visitors in their first weekend of operation. That sounds like a fantastic start, and something that deserves a pat on the back. As web workers ourselves, we like people who try new things!

And besides, finding gems like the picture below isn’t always that easy.

Vader

 

WordPress Wednesday: Maintenance and Security Update 3.5.1 Available

Geek Factor: 1

This week’s WordPress Wednesday is just a quick reminder that WP 3.5.1  was released late last week.

The latest WordPress update is a maintenance and security release; although no new features have been added, these upgrades are just as important as they fix any issues that may have been introduced with the new features, and security problems that have been found in the software.

Check out the WordPress blog for more information about the 3.5.1 release, and make sure to upgrade your sites as soon as possible!

WordPress Wednesday: Changing the WYSIWYG and HTML Editor Typefaces

Geek Factor: 2

In this week’s WordPress Wednesday, we’re going to cover how to change the visual and text editor typefaces in WordPress.

Changing the WYSIWYG Editor Typeface

Customizing the WYSIWYG editor’s fonts can be very helpful — it can give anyone writing for the website a chance to see (roughly) what their content will look like on the front-end of the site. Customizing the editor styles can also give you an opportunity to increase legibility and making editing text easier.

The WYSIWYG view of the WordPress editor is loaded in an iframe, so any custom CSS can be applied by uploading a CSS file in the site’s active theme, and referencing that file from the theme’s functions.php. The path to the CSS file should be relative to the functions.php file, so if the editor CSS is called ‘editor-style.css’ and it is in the root of the current theme, you would link to it like so:

You can find out more information about custom stylesheets for WordPress’s WYSIWYG editor on the Codex.

Changing the HTML Editor Font in WordPress 3.3+

Changing the typeface of the HTML view of the editor is a little different. This view of the editor is simply loaded as a textarea in the WordPress UI. This means a separate stylesheet is not necessary; instead, the styles will need to be written to the top of the page.

This example is from WPDailyBits — simply copy and paste the code into your functions.php file:

In the above example, we’ve switched the editor’s code view to use the font-face helvetica at 15px; you can change these values to whatever you like.

WordPress Wednesday: WP 3.5 is Out!

Geek Factor: 2

This is a quick reminder that WordPress 3.5 — “Elvin”, after drummer Elvin Jones — has been released.

Outside of the typical fixes and tweaks, the Media Manager in WordPress have been completely overhauled.  WP 3.5 also includes the most recent version of the TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor, jQuery and SimplePie. You can find a more detailed list of what else has been updated in the WordPress Codex.

As always, make sure to backup your database and files before running the upgrade!

It’s Zeitgeist Time!

Geek Factor: 1

I always look forward to a new edition of Google Zeitgeist, the search engine’s annual release of most popular queries. Not only is it simply fascinating, it’s also a lot of fun to scan through the lists and see how in touch you are with popular culture.

In this year’s edition there is both “trending” and “most searched” data available for countries around the world across a wide variety of topics and when you look at certain sets, you just know the Googlers who work on this project have a ton of fun with it.

For instance, Canada’s data set includes beauties like this:

Canadian Food

  1. Bacon
  2. Poutine
  3. Maple Syrup
  4. Yorkshire Pudding
  5. Bannock
  6. Smoked Meat
  7. Kraft Dinner
  8. Butter Tarts
  9. Sucre a la creme
  10. Sugar pie

(didn’t know we owned the rights to bacon, and am slightly distressed that Yorkshire pudding – a traditional British dish not typically associated with Canada – beat out Nanaimo bars, but I’ll live!) and this:

Craft Beer

  1. Granville Island
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Big Rock
  4. Muskoka
  5. Creemore
  6. Wellington
  7. Okanagan Spring
  8. James Ready
  9. Mill St.
  10. Dead Frog

Switzerland’s lists feature the most searched mountain peaks, the UK has most searched Royal family members (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s dog Lupo makes the top 10; Camilla does not), and the US has a series of lists on fad diets, body exercise and calorie searches. The “How to” and “What is” lists for each country are worth a  read, too.

If this sort of thing is as interesting to you as it is to me, be prepared to get sucked into the 125-page report…. fire up an extra browser tab and get ready to look up all the terms you’ve never heard of!

‘What If?’ Answers Your Hypothetical Questions With Physics

Ever wonder how much gas carrying an extra penny in your vehicle’s coin tray uses up? How much food cows would require if they could photosynthesize? How about how long the sun would last if a giant water hose was spraying on it?

Well, you need to check out What If?, a site ‘answering your hypothetical questions with physics’ by Randall Munroe, creator of the brilliant webcomic xkcd. Munroe does a great job answering the above questions and more using a combination of humour, drawings, diagrams and a boat-load of math.

If you need a little break this Friday, I highly recommend you check it out!

WordPress Wednesday: Extra Login Security with .htpasswd

Geek Factor: 4

We’ve written before about various ways to tighten up your WordPress security; in this week’s WordPress Wednesday, we’re going to cover how to add another layer of security to the WordPress login screen using .htpasswd.

.htpasswd can be used to create basic authentication on Apache servers by storing usernames and encrypted passwords. By using .htpasswd and .htaccess, we can require users to enter a basic username and password combination before they can access WordPress’s login screen. This may seem a bit redundant, but it prevents bots from being able to access the WordPress login screen, making brute-force attacks near impossible. As most browsers remember .htpasswd authentication for a period of time, it also means users shouldn’t have to log in twice every time they access the site.

Each WordPress install should already include an .htaccess file, but you will need to create a .htpasswd file to add to your site.

There are many ways to add .htpasswd to your server; we’re going to go through a basic set-up manually creating the files and adding them to the site using FTP.

First, create a text file and name it htpasswd.txt. As .htaccess and .htpasswd files are invisible files, you will need to have invisible files set to visible on your computer to see them. Creating the files in the .txt format ensures we won’t lose track of the file before uploading it to the site.

Next, select a username and password. The password will need to be encrypted — this can be done using an .htpasswd generator tool to format the password correctly. For the below example, we’re using username/password as our username and password:

The generator will create a string of text in a format similar to this, with the username and encrypted password separated by a colon:

username:$apr1$n07zM4Dw$MT/fHlVqvzII2IRNUHEt71

Copy the generated line of text into your htpasswd.txt file and save it. It’s recommended that you record your username and password combination somewhere safe.

Next, upload the htpasswd.txt file to the root of your WordPress installation, which will be the same location as your .htaccess file. Rename the file to ‘.htpasswd‘.

Now the .htaccess fill will need to be edited. It is necessary to set your FTP software to view invisible files so you can find the .htaccess file.

First, make a backup of your .htaccess file, just to be on the safe side. Next, copy and paste the below code to your .htaccess file, underneath the line that says # END WordPress:

You will need to update the AuthUserFile value to match the path from your server root to the .htpasswd file.

Optionally, you can also update the AuthName value — this is the text that will appear in the login prompt.

Next, we’ll need to specify what files or folders the .htpasswd file applies to. In our case, we want to make the file wp-login.php password protected. The following code goes below the AuthUserFile path in your .htaccess file:

You may have additional code in your .htaccess file, but the end result will look something like this:

Now test the .htpasswd file by going to your website’s login screen — you can access it by going right to /wp-login.php, or using /wp-admin. Each browser will render the password prompt differently, but what you will see should be similar to the following:

It is possible to create multiple username and password combinations in your .htpasswd file; you just need to put each entry on a separate line. As WordPress users will already each have their own accounts, it’s probably not necessary for this kind of set up.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface of what you can do with .htpasswd and .htaccess. Do you use .htaccess to enhance your WordPress installation in any way? Share your set-up in the comments below!