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Testing WordPress with WP Security Scan

In today’s world, attacks on web sites by hackers are common. We need to take precautions to prevent the security in our web sites from being compromised. There isn’t any built-in utility for WordPress to test security, but there is a plugin by Michael Torbert that can be installed for this purpose.

WP Security Scan examines a WordPress installation for security problems and if it finds them, recommends a course of action to correct them.

Some of the functions that it performs are:

  • test the strength of passwords
  • examine file permissions to prevent unauthorized usage
  • checks the security of the database
  • hides the version number of WordPress
  • protect the WordPress admin account
  • remove the WP Generator META tag from the core code

The plugin is easy to install and it found several problems on my blog, which were also easy to fix. I strongly recommend all WordPress users install this extension and properly security their web site.

You can download WP Security Scan at wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-security-scan/.

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DWF Viewer for OS X

AutoCAD users can easily share their drawings by exporting them to a DWF format. The Digital Web Format was developed by Autodesk for designers to share their to share their documents for people who would like to view or print them. A DWF is sort of like a PDF for AutoCAD drawings. It’s also easy to print because you don’t have to specify the many settings that is required to print a DWG file.

The only problem is that most DWF viewers are available only for machines running Windows. Mac users can now view DWF with Austin Silver Software’s McDwiff application.

McDwiff can be used viewing, converting, or printing DWF’s. You can be ensured of good accuracy because it uses the Autodesk online DWF translator. While the information transmitted there is private, you shouldn’t use this software if security is a concern for your organization.

The software is easy to install and easy to use. You can open 2D and 3D drawings, but rotation in 3D is still being worked on. Zooming and panning work very well. Printing may be an issue because your processing a Windows document on a Mac. A variety of problems occur when printing a Windows PDF on a Mac (i.e. font dropout) so I would imagine that similar things would occur with a DWF file.

If you want to use the DWF file in other applications, you have the option of exporting it to TIF, GIF, JPG, PNG, BMP, or PDF.

As with many newer OS X applications, it requires a minimum version of 10.4 and it will run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs.

You can download McDwiff at www.macdwf.com.

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Windows Live Writer

I’m always looking for better ways to do things and I’ve spent some time thinking about how I can make blog posts an easier task. It’s not really a difficult thing to do, but the editor that comes with WordPress really isn’t that great. Web-based editors tend to be slow and sluggish.

I did a Google search for a WordPress client and found a large number of blog editors available for Windows. After trying a few of them, I decided to use Microsoft’s product, Windows Live Writer. The software is in beta still but I haven’t experienced any problems with it, other than it crashing a few times but I’m running Windows so these things are to be expected. ๐Ÿ™‚

Windows Live Writer can post directly to Windows Live Spaces or to any blog that uses Really Simple Discovery, the Metaweblog API, and the Movable Type API. This allows it to work with Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, and WordPress.

The advantage of posting to your blog with this application as opposed to using your blog’s web-based editor is speed. The editor is very responsive and you can easily add links, pictures, or maps from Microsoft Virtual Earth. The pictures can be uploaded to a specific folder in your blog by FTP. I like this feature because I place images by the month and year of the blog post.

You can switch to HTML view by pressing the F12 key, and switch back to editor view by pressing F11. I normally edit the HTML to add the Google Adsense code after the first paragraph. A preview of how the blog will actually look in your web site can also be seen.

Windows Live Writer has the standard functions that are typical with editors, such as making text bold, changing colour, and making bullets. Of course, there is a spell checker for peeple whu haf trubel speling. A grammar checker would be nice, but you can always drop your blog post into Microsoft Word for that.

I recommend this program for people who want to become probloggers. You will probably make more posts with this software because it’s just a matter of typing your text and pressing the Publish button.

You can download Windows Live Writer at windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com.

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Menalto Photo Gallery

Once you start using a digital camera, you won’t go back to film. The advantage over film is that you can take as many pictures as you want and not worry about the cost. Digital photos are also easier to share than film. All that you have to do is e-mail the pictures to your friends. The problem is that you may have thousands of photos and it’s too much to work selecting photos for sharing.

An online photo gallery would solve this problem. I’ve examined many PHP gallery applications and found that the Menalto Gallery was the best solution. The proper name of the program is just Gallery, which isn’t very descriptive.

The gallery integrates with many client applications in Windows and Macintosh, such as Google’s Picasa. You can upload to your gallery directly from these clients, but I prefer uploading all my photos by FTP to the gallery and posting the photos in the appropriate albums.

This application is loaded with features, and it has a plug-in architecture with many useful utilities that can be installed. You can set permissions for albums so that, for example, only family members may see certain photos.

Another useful feature is the ability to download entire albums in a Zip file. This is a great way to share photos with family and friends.

I’ve placed photos of Vancouver, Victoria (the nicest city in B.C.), and surrounding cities on gallery.cyprich.com if you would like to see what Gallery is capable of. Keep in mind that I’m not a professional photographer. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Managing Users in phpBB

Managing users is essential when running a forum. In spite of phpBB’s many strengths, it is lacking in this area. Deleting a user in the administration panel is quite an involved task and I normally do this through the backend by directly modifying the phpbb_users table in the MySQL database.

While this is not the recommended way of managing users in phpBB, it’s highly effective and easy to use. You just have to make sure that a user has no posts when you delete them or you’ll have records in your databases that don’t link anywhere. Another risk to directly modify tables in the database is that you might corrupt it in other ways making it unusable. If your not familiar with the phpBB database structure, avoid playing with it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I recently found a utility called PHPBB Admin Toolkit. This is a utility for controlling all of the settings for a user, including deleting users and all of their messages. Before this, when spammers posted their messages, I had to delete each message one a time. After this was done, the spam user was also deleted. I used to spend about a half hour each day cleansing my forums. I think there are better things to do with my time.

The toolkit allows the deletion of multiple users along with their e-mails. If a spammer manages to post a message, I can quickly and easily wipe out their account and messages.

Also, if a hacker manages to login with the admin account and demotes it or changes the password, the toolkit will allow you to access your forum and regain control over it.

A bonus feature that it includes is a security scan which will show if there are any issues that can compromise your forum’s security.

Overall, the PHPBB Admin Toolkit should be a part of every forum webmaster’s utilities. You can download it at starfoxtj.no-ip.com/phpbb/toolkit/.