Plugins spring cleaning

I’ve done a little spring cleaning of some plugins installed and activated on this site.  You shouldn’t notice much of a difference, except, maybe, fewer quirks and issues.  Here are some of the plugins that were removed:

  • Smart YouTube Pro – it was only used in a couple of posts for easier embedding of YouTube playlists.  Since I installed and used this plugin, WordPress got much better at embedding videos, so I don’t need it anymore.
  • Smart 404 – I think I used it with one of the previous themes on this site, but I can’t even remember last time I saw it working.  The 404 page of the current theme features a search form, which I think is good enough.
  • PayPal Donations – this was an experiment I tried ages and ages ago.  No need for this at all for quite some time now.
  • Related Posts By Tags – I used this with one of the previous themes, but it’s been ages since, and I think even the plugin is discontinued now.
  • Social – the plugin has been discontinued and the functionality was moved to JetPack.  I had this one disabled for quite some time now.
  • WP-Polls – this was yet another experiment I tried years ago.  There were a few polls with a few votes, which prevented me from removing this plugin.  But today I thought I’d do a compromise.  I replaced all polls with the screenshot of voting results for the purposes of data preservation. :)  Now I don’t need the plugin anymore and it’s gone.

That’s 6 plugins fewer – not bad.  Especially considering that some of them were quite heavy on the rendering side of things, and they were inserting useless CSS and JavaScript assets into every page of this site.  I think I should do it more often.

Magento database maintenance

If you are running a Magento-based website, make sure you add the database maintenance script to the cron.  For example, append this to the /etc/crontab:

# Magento log maintenance, as per
0 23 * * 0 root (cd /var/www/html/ && php -f shell/log.php clean)

Thanks to this page, obviously.  You’ll be surprised how much leaner your database will be, especially if you get any kind of traffic to the site.  Your database backups will also appreciate the trim.


Maintenance screen from

No matter how big or small you are, how much money you’ve invested into your infrastructure, how many levels of redundancy you have, or how many IT gods and gurus you’ve hired to watch over your website – the fact of life is that your website will go down, even if it’s for a brief moment.   And you should be ready for that moment.  Here is a good example that I came across recently – maintenance screen.

It looks simple and and straight-forward.  But if you are even remotely familiar with web development and design, you can appreciate how much thinking actually went into this one.  First of all, the mere fact that there is a maintenance screen, means that someone thought plenty about the website.  Secondly, it’s very well composed.   The big yellow helmet and large, bold “Under maintenance” letters both tell you exactly what’s going on.  It’s not a user error.  It’s not a crashed server.  It’s not something to report to the webmaster.  They are working on it.  Thirdly, it tells you exactly when to come back – in 30 minutes.  Fourthly, it still provides you with an emergency contact information – phone number and email.  Fifthly, it gives you something to do for thirty minutes that the site is going to be down – explore the company’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter stream.  Sixthly, it reinforces the company brand.  Twice, in full color and full name, and in black-and-white small logo.  Seventhly, it doesn’t have any useless junk.  What else could you wish for?

To me, this is up there with Twitter fail whale and GitHub 404.

PrimeTel maintenance

I just received an email from PrimeTel, informing me of a scheduled maintenance work.  Just in case you didn’t get yours, here is the content of that email:

Dear Valued Customer,

This is to inform you that due to scheduled maintenance of our network infrastructure, you will experience service outages during the following period:

30/05/2011, from 04:00 am to 05:00 am Cyprus time.

It is expected that the total downtime shall not exceed 30 minutes and we will do our best to keep it minimal.
We apologize for any inconvenience and please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

PrimeTel Support Team
Customer Support Service: 133


mp3 collection maintenance

I have a rather large MP3 collection.  The directories and files are named correctly more or less, but ID3 tags used to be a mess until very recently.  Two applications helped me to bring some order in that mess.

EasyTag, a GUI application, that helped me to fix lots of broken and add lots of missing comments to my MP3 files.  The smart thing about this program is that it can figure out a lot of data from the names of the files and directories, and that it can grab and replicate partial data from within the albums.

The second program that I wanted to mention, I just found out about today (thanks to Michael Stepanov’s delicious bookmarks).  It’s called tag2utf.  It’s a little Python script that converts the encoding of ID3 tags from koi8 or cp1251 (two most widely used Russian encodings) to utf8.  It’s very easy to install (the only requirement my system needed was python-eye3d library, which exists in Fedora repository) and use.  Just run it from the command line with no parameters and it will recursively look in the current directory for any files that have ID3 tags in non-utf8 encoding.  It will then give you a choice of two encodings to select from (koi8 or cp1251), a “skip” option, and a “manual” option.  All you will have to do is take a quick look at the files, and chose to either convert them from one of the two options, skip them or convert manually one by one.  You will have to make this choice for every directory with non-utf8 files.  Optionally, you can specify on the command line which directories to scan.  In case you need to convert from some other non-Russian encoding to utf8, the script is trivial to modify.

Both tools are excellent pieces of software.  It took me practically no time at all to fix my mp3 collection.  Now I can search it better, and all files display nicely in any mp3 player.  Brilliant stuff!