Installing Scripts For Your Site

You just downloaded a script program from that you think will give your web site some very much needed features or maybe you decided that a complete content management system is what you need to base your site on, and now it is time to install that script or program. Except that all you keep getting are error pages and you cannot get your site working now!

Script installation can quickly become a nightmare if you do not know what you are doing or if you missed a step somewhere in the process. This is why programmers write installers for their scripts, but even a good installer cannot detect everything that could go wrong.

Here are some good tips to keep in mind when installing a script on your site:

Demo Your Script:

Although not always possible, most scripts that are popular have a demo site or demo area that show you what they do. This is the best way of seeing if a script is right for your site. A good site to try out most web based cms and blog scripts is, who has demos and user comments on many open source scripts.

Research The Requirements:

All scripts have certain requirements, be it a specific version of PHP or MySQL, or perhaps a specific Perl module is required. Make sure your webhost account has these requirements, in cPanel most version and module information is located on the left, when you login to your account.

Choose The Correct Script:

Resist the temptation to install a beta or alpha version of a script, unless absolutely necessary. Even full releases of scripts can have defects, and so sometime it is better to wait a couple of days after a regular stable release.

Unless you are a programmer and want to rewrite the script, a good support site for your script is a must. This is even more critical if you are paying for the script. You will want to make sure the script is at least supported and if you run into a problem you have a resource to go to.

Never install a script without looking at some of the script’s source code. If the script is encoded, so you can not see the source code, you will want to make sure the author of the script is reputtable. Any script you install on your site has security risks and installing a script you know nothing about is just asking for trouble.

Read The Installation Intructions!

This can not be said enough, because even when you read the instructions, you might miss something, so make sure you follow each step of an installation process.

Most MySQL based applications will require you to creat the database and user account in cPanel prior to installing the script, so make sure you do this if needed.

A configuration file is often edited manually if there is no installer for the script.

If you run into problems running the installer or getting the script to run after installation, make sure you have the right file or folder permissions. Some webhosts require that all php scripts be set to 644 and all directories to 711 or 755, otherwise apache will return an error 500. You should be able to fix permissions with your FTP client or in cPanel’s File Manager.

Secure Your Script:

If the installation went fine, and everything is running okay, the final step is to go back and delete any installer file or reset permissions to 644 for certain configuration files. Again, go back to the script’s documentation and see if there is any manual cleanup or security changes that you need to make once the program is installed.

What Not To Do When Designing Your Web Site

The idea behind the World Wide Web was to use the Internet to publish information and have it openly accessible to everyone. In the early 90’s the Internet was essentially Mosaic running on a computer, but now it is quite possible to browse web sites without a computer. You could use a PDA, a cell phone, even some kitchen appliances now connect to the Internet and download data automatically. The introduction of RSS feeds also offer new and innovative ways for information to become quickly accessible on more than just the traditional computer screen. Then there are the programs that search all this information and try to index it. All this accessibility is only possible if your site accommodates it, and so if you are just starting to build your web site you should keep in mind the following points, because accessibility is what the Internet is all about these days.

No Frames Please

If your site uses frames think about how confusing this is to Google and Yahoo. Most of the time, sites use frames for navigation, with a top frame or a side frame having all the links to the areas of the site. These are unnecessary, as the same effect can be easily recreated without frames. This is one case where someone invented a neat new way of doing something, and then realized the old way was in fact better. Other reasons not to use frames range from the fact that not all browsers support them, to increased page download times, to making it harder to bookmark specific pages on your site.

Under Construction Sites

Today when I see a graphic or message that states that the site is under construction, I immediately think amateur. If your site is truly under construction, then it should not be accessible period! Most site visitors will understand if a site is down for maintenance, updating, or if you are just moving in to a new server. If you really have a new site and it is not finished, think about having a message similar to a movie trailer. Putting up a nice graphic that depicts your site’s subject matter with the words “Coming Soon…” is a lot better than some yellow construction graphic. Your site’s theme should always come first.

Click Here To Navigate

If you actually put the words “Click here” to see other pages, then your site is stuck in the year 1991. An entire generation has already grown up on the web, and the term url is as common to them as cassette tapes were to my generation. You should never have to bring attention to your site’s navigation, because if you do, then you either do not understand how web pages work or your site’s navigation is so confusing that you yourself thinks it is bad! The exception would be if you have some special links which are different in some way, like when a weblog has article links to publications on a different site, or when the web site owner wants donations, like “Click here to give me money”, but these exceptions are quite specific.

Fonts, Fonts, No Really Fonts!

One of the best things you can do with a site is use CSS to make your fonts stand out. Perhaps CSS positioning is a little too hard to understand right off, but CSS styles are easily to learn and they can do a lot for making a site look ten times more professional than relying on the old html font tag. But whatever you do, do not make paragraph text blue. The color blue is most often reserved for links and making whole paragraphs of text blue confuses many site visitors. In fact if you need to bring attention to what you are saying on your web page, you might consider editing your message so it is more clear. Color is not what should get people’s attention. You want people to focus on your message, not the rainbow of colors you are using to convey that message.

Graphics You Love, But Which Everyone Else Hates

Probably the easiest mistake to make when designing a site is to want to include some graphics which you think are eye catching or interesting, because you absolutely like them. Sometimes it is very hard to admit to ourselves that we do not always have good taste or simply that something we like will not work. Film directors wrestle with this all the time, because they often shoot a scene that they totally love, but which they know will not work in the final edited film, so they end up cutting some of the scenes that they personally love in order to produced the best film they can. The same thing applies to web design, you can often make a really interesting graphic, but somehow it will not fit into your site’s theme and so you make it fit and the end result is a bad web design which everyone else except you will hate.

Your site should have a theme from the beginning, and understanding that theme is what should guide your site design. If a graphic is too large in size, the wrong color, or simply does not fit into the them, you should not use it. The web site has an audience, and that audience is what will drive the success of you site.

Additional Resources:

For further reading, look over some of the criticisms atWebPagesThatSuck, which has tons of examples of when web design goes bad. You can read over Alertbox: The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines, which is revelant if you are designing a corporate web site.

Firefox Config Hacks

If you recently switched to Firefox from another browser, you might not be aware of all the available about: config settings that you can change or add to customize Firefox. Since I recently got a new computer and had to install Firefox, I decided to take another look at the the config settings and review which ones I apply the most. What follows then is my personal favorite config changes and why I implement them.

To access the config screen, open Firefox and type in about:config for the url and enter. You will be greeted with a long list of settings and their values. Some of these settings might not appear on the list, so you will have to add them.

Browser Memory:

browser.cache.memory.capacity – This integer setting specifies how much RAM, Firefox can use to cache itself. For computers with 512MB of RAM, set this to 32768, if you have less physical memory than try 16384. And of course if you have more than 512, try a higher value. A value of -1 tells Firefox to automatically manage this setting. The new setting for 2.0 Firefox is actually browser.cache.disk.capacity.

browser.cache.memory.enable – This boolean setting must be set to true in order for Firefox to use memory for cache, so if you are going to use the previous setting, make sure this is set to true.

config.trim_on_minimize – For Windows users only, this boolean setting specifies if Firefox should reduce its memory usage when minimized to the Taskbar. Changing this to false will speed up minimizing and mazimizing of Firefox.

Popup Windows:

dom.popup_maximum – This integer setting determines the maximum number of simultaneous popup windows which can be open at any time. The default is 20, which is pretty high, so a more conservative value like 8, 6, 4, or even 2 would be more appropiate, depending on your browsing habits.

dom.disable_window_open_feature.close – This is an essential boolean setting that forces all popup windows to include a close button is set to true. Helpful because, so many popups deliberately disable the close button.

dom.disable_window_open_feature.close.resizeable – This boolean setting if set to true enables popups to display resize controls. Helpful for sites that show popups that are too large for your screen resolution.

Browser Speed Settings:

nglayout.initialpaint.delay – Adding this integer setting will allow you to change the amount of time Firefox should wait before it starts to display a web site. The default is 250, but some users prefer a setting of zero, or perhaps a smaller value like 60. Changing this setting should seem obvious if you have a high speed connection.

The following settings increase network connections to the web server, which some webmasters may frown upon, so do not implement these changes without understanding that more connections do in fact increase the load on web sites you visit. If you are connected through a proxy server, there are separate settings for this that are not covered here, see the additional links for more information.

network.http.max-connections – This integer setting determines how many simultaneous HTTP connections can be made. The default is 24, but if you have a broadband connection, you can attempt a value of 48, 72, or even 96. This is the max number of connections, it does not mean that Firefox will create 48 connection at once.

network.http.max-connections-per-server – This integer setting determines how many simultaneous connections can be made to a single server. Firefox defaults to 8, but broadband users can increase the value to 16 or even 32. However excessive connections to the web server could be seen as an attack on the website, similar to a DDoS attack and you may have problems connecting to some sites.

network.http.pipelining – This boolean setting enables what is called HTTP Pipeling, which is a feature that not all web servers support, but which does increase browser downloads. If you experience unusual problems after setting this to true, you should set this setting back to false to avoid connection issues with certain websites.

network.prefetch-next – Usually you would want to enable a feature that offers some speed benefit, but some users find Google Prefetching to be controversial, because it allows your browser to go to certain sites without your approval and without you seeing it. It is done in the background and based on what Google thinks you want to go. Some see this as a security issue and recommend disabling it, by setting the value to false.

For Firefox 2.0:

browser.urlbar.hideGoButton – In Firefox 2.0, the GO button was changed to a green arrow. Many people like to remove the GO button. However for some reason Firefox 2.0 does not let you do this via the Customize Toolbar interface; there are plans to fix this at a later update. If you change this boolean setting to true, it will make the arrow disappear.

browser.tabs.closeButtons – You can change the way the close button is implemented on tabs. Your choices range from 0 thru 3.

  • 0 – Display a close button on the active tab only.
  • 1 – Display a close button on each tab (default).
  • 2 – Don’t display any close buttons.
  • 3 – Display a single close button at the end of the tab bar.

More Resources:

If you would like to learn more about Firefox, see the following sites for more information and details.

TweakGuides Firefox Guide is perhaps the best all around guide on tweaking Firefox.

MozDev Documented Preferences is the most comprehensive list of config preferences you can find on the Internet.

Mozillazine Forums are also a good place to post questions or find answers on all things Firefox related.