HOWTO: Turn ClearType Font Rendering On

ClearType font rendering in Windows adds a nice shadow to screen fonts. You may notice your desktop fonts have (or don’t have) this shadow:

No ClearType:
Without ClearType enabled

With ClearType:
With ClearType enabled

If you want to enable or disable it, go to Display Properties > Appearance.

Appearance

Then click the Effects button and choose your option under the second drop-down menu.

Effects

 

HOWTO: Turn YouTube videos into MP3s

Ever have an urge to rip the audio from a YouTube movie into an MP3? Well, I have a fairly easy way to do it. The only required software to use is VLC Media Player. Audacity is optional, but recommended, for additional audio editing. The process uses the VLC command-line to transcode a Flash video file (.flv) into an MP3. Let’s get to it.

1. Download the software

First, you need to download VLC media player. I also recommend Audacity for any additional editing (which I will not get into — it’s up to you).

2. Get a FLV of a YouTube video

Find a YouTube video of your liking and head over to keepvid.com to get a FLV download of it. Once you download the FLV, I recommend you move it to the VLC installation folder, just to keep the paths simple on the command line. The typical installation folder is at
C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC.

3. Transcode the audio

Open up the command prompt (Start > Run > “cmd” [Enter]). Change the directory to the VLC installation folder using the cd command. Once you’re in the VLC folder (with your .flv in the same folder), enter in the following command and swap in your source name and export MP3 name:

vlc.exe "source.flv" :sout=#transcode{acodec=mp3,ab=192,channels=2}
:duplicate{dst=std{access=file,mux=wav,dst="export.mp3"}} vlc:quit

Try to put all of that code into one big line. Once you hit enter, this command will open VLC, go through the GUI and actually transcode the video to an audio file for you, then it will close VLC. This command is actually just the command-line version of going through the VLC GUI from File > Wizard…

Have any additional hints for this in VLC? Let it fly in the comments.

 

Oh Don’t Forget: Text Message and Reminder Service

Service site Oh Don’t Forget (ohdontforget.com) provides an excellent way to send FREE text messages either now or in the future. You can set up reminders that will text your phone in the future so you won’t forget to do something. The extremely easy-to-use interface makes it one of the best free simple and useful service sites out there.

Sending free text messages has been covered in the past, but this site has an edge since you can schedule future texts to be sent. Check it out if you need a way to send free text messages or if you’re always forgetting things.

Oh Don’t Forget

 

Site Changes to Come

All Things Marked has been running for over a year now. Since August 2006. I think it’s time to change the look, so I’m developing a new design for the site. It should be coming out within the next month hopefully. Please feel free to contact me about anything you’d like to see in the new design. Let me know if there’s something you do or don’t like about the current one, for example, having just the most recent article on the home page.

I will also start writing about software and websites that I think are useful. These won’t necessarily be HOWTO’s but they will cover some good apps out there. Feel free to contact me about anything you think deserves to be covered. Stay tuned to see some new stuff.

 

HOWTO: Update WordPress with Minimal Downtime

All Things Marked runs on the WordPress blogging platform. Honestly, what blog doesn’t? WordPress often has updates to the code, which involves completely updating files that run the site. Many blogs need to take their sites down for a bit to deal with the update process, however, this process can be completely done within 5 minutes. I’ll give you some tips on how to systematically update WordPress while keeping a professional look to the site. Let’s get at it so you can use this method for your next update.

1. Create a “We’ll be right back” landing page

The first thing you need to do is to create a landing page for visitors to see when you are in the update process. This should be a very simple page that says something like, “[site name] is updating right now and will be back in a flash.”

I’ve created such a page at allthingsmarked.com/updatingwp.html

It’s simple and to the point. One thing that I’ve done which I recommend is to add a refresh meta tag that will refresh the site in 5 minutes. The whole update process should take 5 minutes or less, so if you auto-refresh the page for your visitor after 5 minutes, they will see the site back in action. To do this, just add the following meta tag:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="300;url=http://www.allthingsmarked.com" />

Obviously you need to change the domain. The 300 is the time in seconds, which means 5 minutes.

2. Create alias commands (if you have shell access)

If you have shell access to your server, SSH in and open up your aliases file. I’m not a linux guru, but I believe this file varies for each distro. My file is the .aliases file in my home folder. Open it up and add two new aliases, one to swap in the landing page, the other to revert to the original home page.

We want to rename the live site’s index to a backup of it and then rename the landing page to index. This will “take the site down” by making all requests go to this new home page. Don’t worry though, you still have the backed up live site index. At this point, you would then transfer your update files. Once your done with the update, you want to undo the renaming of files. Here are the two commands you need:

alias startwpu 'mv ~/site_path/index.php ~/site_path/index-backup.php && mv ~/site_path/updatingwp.html ~/site_path/index.html'

alias stopwpu 'mv ~/site_path/index.html ~/site_path/updatingwp.html && mv ~/site_path/index-backup.php ~/site_path/index.php'

The startwpu command you are creating will rename the real index file to another name, then it will rename the landing page to the index. The stopwpu will do the opposite: rename the index to the landing page then rename the backed up index to index.

3. Upgrade WordPress

Once you have the landing page set up and the appropriate aliases, you can update your site.

1. On the command line run the new startwpu command.
2. Transfer all of the files in the new version of WordPress EXCEPT index.php (save that till the end!)
3. Once all files except index.php are transfered, run stopwpu — this will bring back the real index.php
4. Now, transfer the new index.php from the upgrade files and it will overwrite the “old” one
5. Go to your-site.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php and finish the process
6. At this point, 5 minutes should not have passed, unless you have a slower connection

Your visitors in that 5 minutes while have the landing paging standing by to redirect them. Feel free to adjust the refresh rate based on your typical backup time length.