Facebook Comments for WordPress “Invalid Application ID” Error

HollowDevelopers uses the Facebook Comments for WordPress plugin, which helps reduce comment spam and allows for more active user engagement.  It has worked well for the past few years, but the plugin hit the deadpool a while ago, with no updates since 2011.

For a while now, the plugin has stated that the application ID entered in the settings was invalid.  This wasn’t true, obviously, as the comments functionality still worked.  So, the error was more of an annoyance than a real problem.  However, after a few minutes of research, a quick resolution was found in the comments on the plugin’s homepage via a contributor.

It turns out that a one line change in the plugin code will fix it:

  • Open facebook-comments-admin.php code.  Scroll down to line 78 — $needle = ‘wall’;
  • Replace the line with — $needle = ‘<title id=”pageTitle”>Facebook</title>’;
  • Save

Hope this helps others that may be having the same problem!

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Cross-Region EC2 AMI Copy Comes to Amazon Web Services

Cloud GraphicThe recent shutdown of GoDaddy’s cloud product shows how hard it can be for even a well-funded cloud infrastructure start-up to compete against the behemoth that is Amazon Web Services (AWS). From the biggest names in tech (Netflix, Reddit) to some of the smallest, companies depend on AWS to power their cloud server infrastructure. However, even as Amazon dominates the market, they are not resting on their laurels, introducing new features and price drops nearly every week.

Amazon’s latest announcement is the ability to copy EC2 AMIs across different AWS regions, allowing server administrators to store these server images in different regions. Why is this important? Take the recent outage that took down Netflix and several other large websites. The outage affected Amazon’s US-East region, but many other regions exist across the world, and those regions were still online.

For the small guys that can’t afford a full sys ops team, keeping EC2 AMI images on standby in other regions can allow for a quick failover with minimal cost. You only pay for the size of your AMI images, and can bring servers online only if they are needed. (Databases are another story, and may require some multi-master replication strategies, but that’s another blog post.)

At Hollow Developers, our mission-critical applications are hosted on AWS with a hot backup waiting to go online at a separate hosting company in case of an AWS failure. As AWS offerings continue to increase as prices decrease, the choice of hosting the hot backup in a different AWS region is tempting.  For instance, it is much easier and cheaper to interact in one ecosystem rather than multiple. However, as rare as it may be, an entire ecosystem could get knocked offline/hacked/etc. As always, it will be interesting to watch the cloud infrastructure competitors duke it out over the next few years & hopefully provide even better solutions that can help websites experience the optimal 100% uptime.

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Very slow PHP with XAMPP on Windows

We use XAMPP on a few machines to quickly test some PHP scripts. Upon upgrading to the latest version of XAMPP, everything slowed to a halt. It turns out that the database connection was slowing down the scripts in phpMyAdmin, and our custom scripts. We just added a line to our phpMyAdmin config.inc.php, and adjusted the database connection strings in our custom scripts to fix things.

The line in config.inc.php:

$cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘host’] = ‘127.0.0.1’;

Our custom scripts were fixed by using 127.0.0.1 instead of localhost.

(On a side note, we had already changed our hosts file & ruled that out as a problem prior to changing these values.)

Great thanks to EllisLab for the phpMyAdmin tip.

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GoDaddy Instant DataCenter vs. Rackspace Cloud Servers Part 2

Last year, we posted about GoDaddy’s alternative to Rackspace’s cloud servers.  We delivered a mixed verdict on both products, siding with GoDaddy primarily for price and ease of use, while Rackspace won the reputation, documentation, and API control.

Starting today, however, we can definitely recommend Rackspace over GoDaddy.  Not only for their SOPA stance, or hours-long outage a while ago, but due to the fact that they are shutting down the product.  It was a great step for beginners into the world of cloud computing, but it seems that their low price and tarnished reputation drove them out of the market.  In a memo that we received late last week, the company announced that Cloud Servers would be discontinued, giving customers until mid-April 2013 to move away from the platform.

As a rule, Hollow Developers always maintains our primary servers on one web host in one city, as well as backup servers on a different web host in a different city.  Every provider is going to experience downtime, and we want to make sure that we are always online.  Look forward to another host vs. Rackspace article in the near future, as we move our servers away from GoDaddy and find a new home.

Here is the bulk of GoDaddy’s memo to existing customers:

Go Daddy appreciates your business with us – we know you have many choices when choosing a business partner online. We continually strive to deliver you the best products and the best support in the industry. After careful review, we have decided that the best way to bring cloud hosting to our customers is by integrating it with our Web Hosting and Virtual Private Server products. As such, we will be discontinuing Cloud Servers as a stand-alone product.

We know you have invested your time building your business on top of our Cloud Servers product, and we want to work with you to take the next step. We will be giving our Cloud Server customers until April 15, 2013 to migrate their data and processes to a new platform.

Our customer care representatives will be reaching out to you over the next week to help you make this transition. We have several alternative products to meet your hosting needs, including:

• VPS (Virtual Private Servers) offer flexible capacity with guaranteed RAM and storage availability.

• Dedicated Server plans that give you your own lightning-fast processor, up to core i7, with up to 20TB of bandwidth.

• Go Daddy Web hosting is an option for those who need reliable hosting in a clustered, multi-server environment.

If you are still interested in GoDaddy, they still offer some products – find out more about their Dedicated Servers at GoDaddy.com.

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Yii CEmailValidator now checking MX records

Yii 1.1.11 was released a few weeks ago, sporting a number of bug fixes and enhancements.  One improvement in particular caught my eye.  In the past, if you used the checkPort functionality in CEmailValidator, it wouldn’t always work as intended.

For instance, Hollow Developers uses Google Apps to manage our mail server, so we have no mail server listening on our domain.  CEmailValidator’s old processing would fail for our domain because the validation was very simple – it only looked to see if a mail server was up and running on the email address’ domain.  As more and more domains use third-party services for mail, more and more domains would fail.  Obviously, this rendered this validation as fairly useless.  As of 1.1.11, however, the checkPort functionality is smart enough to look at the domain’s DNS MX records and look for a mail server at those locations.

We wanted to write a blog post about this since there are a few comments at the bottom of the CEmailValidator page that are out of date, and may confuse some people.  We hope this helps someone so they won’t have to dig through the release notes or validation source code.

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Improving the DateTimePicker Yii Extension

The Yii extension DateTimePicker is a great extension when you want a user to be able to select a date and time within the same popup for an input.  We have recently started to use it extensively for dates & times that occur in future months.  We ran into a problem, however, in that the date would default to today’s date – a real headache for the user.  The root cause of the problem is that the Yii extension’s jQuery files are a few versions behind.  To fix it, you can upgrade the ‘assets’ folder with the new version of Trent Richardson’s jQuery-TimePicker-addon extension.  Here’s a step-by-step:

  1. Download the zipped jQuery-TimePicker-addon from github
  2. Extract the zipped contents into your protected/extensions/timepicker/assets folder
  3. Update the minified jQuery file.  You can either copy the exact same code from the main js file into this file, or you can minify it using one of the many easy-to-use JavaScript minifiers.
  4. Test it out!

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Great Online Marketing

Philadelphia Cream Cheese – I love it – but I also like their new online marketing campaign.  It is titled ‘Pheel the Moment‘, and is one of the most creative use of Facebook that I have seen in a marketing campaign to date.

Login to the page via Facebook, and the app scans your photo albums to create a custom Flash presentation about different ‘moments’ that the algorithm determines might be important to you.  I was amazed at how accurate it was for me – granted, I don’t post much to Facebook, so when I do, it’s fairly memorable.

From an online marketing strategy standpoint, this campaign has the potential to be really effective – the fact that I’m sharing this with an audience with nothing in it for me is illustrative of this.  I don’t like spamming my friends with marketing, so I didn’t share, but I can see how a lot of people would.  Stepping back and approaching this from an advertiser’s perspective, there are a few pros and cons about this particular campaign.

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My Google Maps Wishlist

Google unveiled their ‘next dimension’ of Google Maps earlier this week, and the largest takeaway from their announcement was the inclusion of better 3D modeling in Google Earth.  Using measurements taken from airplanes, Google Earth will recreate the terrain and buildings to ensure that all buildings are captured and recreated in the virtual environment.  As I said in the previous post, I thought this would be a pretty cool addition, but I wanted to see something that would be relevant to everyone in the world, not just the selected areas where Google planes would fly overhead to collect the measurements.  Alas, that’s what we got, but I won’t complain much – it’s still pretty cool, although I doubt it will come to my neck of the woods any time soon.

But, you know what would be even more cool?  Some of my Google Maps wishlist items below.

Instant Routing Updates

Make a change to Google Maps in Map Maker (the service that allows users to edit Maps), and have the Maps products update immediately for better routing around traffic or construction.  Right now, routing updates can take months to roll out to all Maps products due to the computing power needed to produce directions.  Maybe an option to force an update, however?

Recent Satellite Imagery

Have satellite images automatically update when a better image is taken.  Right now, it seems this is a manual process and judgment call based on if a newer image is better than the other.  I would think that there would be some concrete method of determining this, however, since % cloud cover is already captured on many satellite images, as well as the average resolution of the image.  Any time we can get more updated imagery in our hands is good with me.  (After thinking about this for a while, I doubt this will ever be in place.  Google blurs a lot of high-security areas to prevent the use of the tool for nefarious purposes.)

 

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The Next Dimension

Google has announced that they will introduce the ‘next dimension’ of Google Maps tomorrow at 12:30 pm ET.  The event comes the week before Apple will likely announce that they will start to remove Google Maps from iOS.  So Google’s looking to make Apple regret that decision.  Much analysis has gone into what this ‘next dimension’ may be, but being a Google Maps addict, I am adding my speculation to the mix.

The Next Dimension – 3D from Street View?

So the next dimension that Google Maps would have in a literal sense would be 3D.  Already, you can see “2.5d” buildings in Google Maps, but these are fairly crude gray blocks.  Leveraging technology from their Street View cars, it would be nice to supplement these gray blocks with actual Street View images.  From my experience, though, it seems that the Street View images identify too many false positive buildings, from parked trucks to signs to people.  (Take a look at this by attempting to click on what Street View thinks is a flat surface.)  So, while this would be a nice next dimension, I doubt that this is what we will see tomorrow.

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Location, Location, Location

Another summer is upon us, and with the nice weather, consumers are bound to be getting out of the house more.  If you own a small business, you may be missing out on an easy, cheap method of bringing in these potential new customers.  You may have heard of FourSquare and Yelp, but how much have you paid attention to services like these?  How much of a return on investment can you experience with a little time?  Follow these three easy steps, and it may surprise you.

Step 1. Most services allow business owners to claim their business listings and administer their page.  A collection of these links are below.  Taking the first step is usually quite easy – once you have claimed your business, you can start to engage with current and future customers.  (Limited time?  Start with Google Places – the name is synonymous with search, and gives you a great advantage in Google Search rankings!)

Step 2.  Once your business is claimed, you usually have the opportunity to create a special and post it.  In 10-15 minutes, you can create a special that can be used to attract new and retain current customers.

Step 3.  Continue to cultivate these listings and engage with your customers.

Need some advice?  Hollow Developers specializes in setting up small businesses with websites and helping to manage these location-based services.  Contact us with a short overview of your business, and what you want to accomplish.  We will work with you to establish your online presence and get the customers you deserve.

Claim Your Business

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