Introducing Hymnopedia.com – a semi-definitive WIKI of Christian hymns.  Yes folks, I’ve been a way from this blog a bit so I could complete the launch of a site that I hope will become a community of collaborators on those classic hymns of the Christian faith that express our joy in the good time, sooth our sorrows in the bad times, and heal us when we’re hurting.

Hymnopedia - a semi-definitive Wiki of Christian blogs

There’s quite a bit of back-end work that went on to make this launch. I’ll write about it more a bit later.

Now it’s late and I need some sleep.

Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized

Using MIDI to MP3/WAV Converter for Accompaniment Tracks

Nothing makes for a stellar Christmas performance of Oh Holy Night like having a MIDI track you can play and practice with on your computer … well except maybe for the same track on your favorite MP3 player or SmartPhone that you can tote around as your personal and portable accompanist. That’s what I did with a nifty little tool appropriately entitled “Direct MIDI to MP3/WAV Converter” by Piston Software.

Even better, I was also able to use Direct MIDI to MP3/WAV Converter to create WAV files I could then incorporate as sound tracks into the movie maker software that came packed with my laptop.

As I’m planning on another live performance of Dvorak’s 10 Biblical Songs that I wrote about on this blog back on 2002; only this time around I plan on follow-up with digital recordings. The  Direct MIDI to MP3/WAV conversion tool will come in handy for making accompaniment tracks for my iPod, as well as master destination tracks for my multi-track digital recording that I’ll mix down and post onto iTunes.

And if I find myself rehearsing for some Easter Cantata, you can be sure I’ll be creating MP3s of each SABT vocal track to distribute those about me so that the poor conductor or music minister doesn’t go batty from flat basses and sharp sopranos.

Below are some other features of Direct MIDI to MP3/WAV Converter you may find useful:

  • Quick and fast midi rendering engine – up to 10 times faster than the original midi file time;
  • Audio CD quality because of internal fast conversion without recording;
  • SF2 Soundfont support;Screenshot of Direct MIDI to MP3/Wave Converter
  • Adjustable reverb control;
  • Adjustable Midi tempo;
  • Fast batch conversion mode that saves your time;
  • Most popular MIDI formats are supported;
  • Adjustable qualities and bitrates;
  • High quality built-in MIDI player with trackbar;
  • Fully featured OGG/WMA/MP3 Tag editor;
  • Full support of ID3 MP3 tags;
  • Full support of WMA tags;
  • Full support of OGG tags;
  • Multilingual interface;
  • Hot keys for all operations;
  • An easy-to-use Drag and Drop interface;
  • Recording Level adjustment;
  • Ability to Minimize program during midi conversion;
  • Transpose MIDI feature;
  • All available directions: MIDI to MP3, MIDI to WAV, MIDI to WMA, MIDI to OGG, MIDI to WAVE, MID to MP3, MID to WAV, MID to WMA, MID to OGG, MID to WAVE, RMI to MP3, RMI to WAV, RMI to WMA, RMI to OGG, RMI to WAVE, KAR to MP3, KAR to WAV, KAR to WMA, KAR to OGG, KAR to WAVE;
  • Windows Vista compatible.

Now pardon me while I use Direct MIDI to MP3/WAV Converter one more time to make another background score to accompany some pictures of this morning’s Christmas cheer.

And even if you’re not into rolling your own music scores and accompaniments, I want to wish everyone a very blessed Christmas and a healthy and safe 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable:

I think I encountered this particular ‘brand’ of Church marketing when I first moved down to the Raleigh burbs of Apex.

It does inspire me to want to ‘reel-off’ a parody of “what if Amazon.com sold books like a Church website?”

Hmmmm …

Posted in Uncategorized

Setting up multiple test sites in XAMPP via virtual sites

It’s NEVER a good idea to test new designs, programs and/or learn new stuff on a production website. This article describes how to create multiple virtual servers on a Windows 7 platform using XAMPP to create a perfect Linux/Apache like test bed.XAMPP + Win7 = great platform to test WordPress, MovableType and   Drupal

Some Context

I’m in the process of re-factoring some websites I’ve let go fallow far too long. Part of this process includes setting up a Linux-like test site on my brand new Windows7-driven Lenovo U350 via XAMPP.

Yeah, I know, that was a lot all at once, so let’s break some of this down for those of you who don’t code for a living:

What’s XAMPP?

The WikiPedia defines XAMPPas follows:

(pronounced /ˈzæmp/ or /ˈɛks.æmp/[1]) is a free and open source cross-platform web server package, consisting mainly of the Apache HTTP Server, MySQL database, and interpreters for scripts written in the PHP and Perl programming languages …

… The program is released under the terms of the GNU General Public License and acts as a free web server capable of serving dynamic pages. XAMPP is available for Microsoft Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS X, and is mainly used for web development projects..

In short, XAMPP gives me a Linux/LAMP development platform on a Windows based machine.

My Situation

Whether it’s learning something for work, or working on a church website, often find myself jumping between languages such as Perl, PHP and Python … and content ‘manglement’ systems such as WordPress, Drupal and MovableType, I find it’s easier to keep things organized if I:

  1. keep each project in its own path
  2. establish a virtual server for each project
  3. enter the project name in the address bar of my browser

Getting it done

By default, “localhost” is the default domain name for your PC. It resolves to IP address 127.0.0.1.

But just as a hosting provider can support several domain names on a single IP address, so too can your Windows system.

Below are the steps to get this done:

Step 1 – identify the new host

Unlike Windows XP or Vista,  for Windows 7 you’ll need to right click on the NotePad program and “Run as Administrator” as pictured below:

Notepad - Open as Admin

This is because the file we want to edit is now protected. That file is located at:

[bash]

C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts

[/bash]

Once you’ve opened the file and on or about line 23, edit your file so it reads:

[bash]

127.0.0.1       localhost
127.0.0.1       drupal

[/bash]

Save it, close your notepad editor, so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot in admin mode.

Step 2 – establish the virtual host

Keep in mind, the primary purpose of XAMPP is to give you an Apache server that runs on your local machine.

That in mind, you’ll need to edit one more file:

[bash]

notepad C:\xampp\apache\conf\extra\httpd-vhosts.conf

[/bash]

Once in, you’ll want to modify it so it reads:

[bash]

NameVirtualHost *:80
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin postmaster@dummy-host.localhost
DocumentRoot "C:/xampp/htdocs"
ServerName localhost:80
ServerAlias localhost
ErrorLog "logs/dummy-host.localhost-error.log"
CustomLog "logs/dummy-host.localhost-access.log" combined
</VirtualHost>
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin postmaster@drupal-host.localhost
DocumentRoot "C:/xampp/htdocs/drupal"
ServerName drupal:80
ServerAlias drupal
ErrorLog "logs/drupal-host.localhost-error.log"
CustomLog "logs/drupal-host.localhost-access.log" combined
</VirtualHost>

[/bash]

Note, in the default XAMPP install, the above is commented out, and the hosts are dummy and dummy2. I simply un-commented everything and renamed dummy2 to drupal.

Step 3

Restart your Apache server. The easiest way to do this is stop and start the server through the can be done through the console as pictured below:

XAMPP Console

Step 4 – Test It

Finally, you’ll want to test it by entering “drupal” in the address bar of the browser of your choice.

Before you do that, you may want to create the directory C:\xampp\htdocs\drupal …

… and then add an index.html, .php, .pl OR .py file to provide the ubiquitous “Hello World!” to demonstrate everything is running as planned.

Wrap-up

Additional Resources

I’m not the first person to write on this topic, nor will I be the last. That said, here are some other sites that offer similar tutorials in case the one above is still as clear as mud.

Why Bother?

Some of you may be wondering why bother at all? Why not just work on your live site.

Personally, as an IT professional with a couple of decades experience, I can say with utter certainty – backed-up with copious examples – that this is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, why not simply take an old box and install a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu or Fedora … or do what I did, took a new box an added XAMPP.

Either way, you’ll be glad you did when one of your tests or learning experiences fries your non-production site.

Posted in Uncategorized

WordCamp Raleigh 2010, Liveblogging, Day 2

Once more, I’m live blogging from WordPress WordCamp Raleigh (#wcraleigh) here at the Sheraton in Downtown Raleigh. I’ll be posting notes from sessions on managing events in WordPress and how powerusers can get the most out of multimedia via WordPress. Stay-tuned, I’ll be posting often all morning.

8:42 AM Arrival

WordCamp Raleigh 2010I didn’t read the schedule close enough, today’s events start at 9:30 AM rather than 9:00 … so I’m here early.

Makes me all the gladder that I didn’t speed to get here as NC64/I40 East from exit 293 to 298 are crawling with Raleigh Police issuing speeding citations. Me, I had the cruise control set as I listened to some Pentecost chants and plainsongs being played on the local classical music station.

As I get here, no surprise, a 17 year old attendee is up bright and early, while some others are lightly snoring on the mezzanine couches & chairs outside the meeting rooms. From what I glean from last night’s #WCRaleigh Tweets – there were several folks up very late having a good time.

Anyway, I’ll be live blogging from two sessions today, one for programmers on organizing events … the other for power users on podcasting, streaming, multi-media and fun like that.

Stay tuned!
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

WordCamp Raleigh 2010, Liveblogging, Day 1, Afternoon Session

As I anticipated, it’s been GREAT meeting all sorts of neat people here at WordCamp Raleigh (#wcraleigh).

1:00 PM Grant Swaim

WordCamp Raleigh 2010

How to biuld a membership-style website

The presentation is at Google Docs.

Basically the presenter is reciting the google doc … I’m going next door to the sitecast.

1:00 PM Ryan Duff
Saving Youself TIme WHen Setting UP a Dev Environment

Lots and lots of talk about SVN (subversion) Server and how to set it up on your development server.

Ugh .. this is good and important stuff for us developers, but its like watching grass grow and probably better provided in the form of 3 five-minute how-to videos.

Let me check out the SitePoint PodCast.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

WordCamp Raleigh 2010, Liveblogging, Day 1, Morning Sessions

WordCamp Raleigh 2010One advantage to living in the peak of good living,  Apex, NC, is that I’m about a 15 to 20 minute drive from downtown Raleigh, the site of WordCamp Raleigh 2010 – where today I’ll put on my best effort to live blog about the various sessions and people I discover here.

I already know it’s going to be a fun morning as I no only discovered free parking a block away from the Sheraton in which the conference is held, but my spot was in front of a Starbucks, with none other than iThemes creator Cory Miller &  friend sitting at a table just in front of the spot – as if to reserve my place.

I’ve also run into another online BFF, WordPress ninja Nathan Rice and social media guru Wayne Sutton.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll learn much about the upcoming release of WordPress 3.0.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

The Facebook Activity Feed Widget Plugin for WordPress

I’m pleased to announce the initial release of my 2nd social media plugin, the Facebook Activity Widget Plugin for WordPress. Simply put, it automates the display of a Facebook Activity Feed on the sidebar of your blog by making it a easy-to-configure widget.

(This is a new and different plugin than my Facebook Like Button Plugin for WordPress I deployed last week.)

For those who may not be aware of what the Facebook Activity Feed is, it is a ‘social plugin’  displays the most interesting recent activity taking place on your personal website and/or blog. Since the content is hosted by Facebook, the plugin can display personalized content whether or not the user has logged into your site.

The activity feed displays stories both when users like content on your site and when users share content from your site back to Facebook.  You can read more about this over on  the Facebook Activity Feed reference page.

Update April 30, 2010

Okay folks, version 0.2 is out, and now you can:

  • run as many sidebar widgets that your bandwidth can tolerate;
  • pick border colors with a little dialog box (still a little buggy for my tastes);
  • and as always, the plug-in is translation ready (thanks to those of you who’ve been contributing files to my other plugin!-)

NOTE – for those of you early adopters, looks like the WordPress repository did NOT give me the file name/path I requested.

So unfortunately, deactivate and delete version 0.1 before installing v0.2. Yeah, I know, whatta  pain.

Installation & Use

I also wanted to keep it simple, so here’s how it works — using the standard WordPress plugin installation process:

  1. Upload the ‘fbactivitywidget.zip’ file to the `/wp-content/plugins/` directory using wget, curl of ftp.
  2. ‘unzip’ the ‘fbactivitywidget.zip’ which will create the folder to the directory `/wp-content/plugins/fbactivitywidget`
  3. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  4. Go to the Widets submenu option of the Appearance menu
  5. Drag and drop the widget entitled ‘Facebook Activity Widget’ into widget-enabled the sidebar of your choice
  6. Configure the newly dragged-n-dropped plugin through ‘Facebook Activity Widget’ contol box on the sidebar
  7. Modify the fields to choice and click save..

Here’s a screen shot below of the Appearance/Widgets screen (you’ll want to click on it to see it full size):

A screenshot of the FBActivity Feed Widget Setup Screen in action

Everything is pretty obvious from there – with the exception of the ‘domain’ parameter. Basically, it is the domain of your personal website and/or blog without the “http://” or “www.” prefixes.

You specify a domain to show activity for. The domain is matched exactly, so a plugin with site=healyourchurchwebsite.com would not include activity from obfuscator.healyourchurchwebsite.com. According to Facebook, currently you cannot currently aggregate across multiple domains.

Here’s how the FaceBook Like button appears on my own sidebar (in case you’re not reading this post from the front page :-):

How the Facebook Activity Feed Widget appears on a blog.

Download It

Also, I’m currently in the process of setting getting established with the WordPress SVN and everything else that goes with publishing an official WordPress plugin.

The plugin is now available from the WordPress Repository, until I can get the plugin its ownhome on the WordPress Plugin repository. Keep in mind it is version 0.1 version 0.2 – so expect more to come!

Download the Facebook Activity Feed Plugin for WordPress

As NOTED before, if you implemented version 0.1, de-activate and delete first before installing 0.2 and later versions.

Other Facebook Social Plugins

I don’t know if I’m going to build an entire suite of Facebook Social Plugins for WordPress, but with today’s deployment, that at least gives me two.

In case you’re not a regular at this blog, last week I delivered: The Facebook Like Button Plugin for WordPress.

Unlike it’s cousin here, will display the Facebook Like Button above and/or below your posts and/or pages.

FYI

I said this in my last post … but it bears repeating … please don’t forget to click the FaceBook Like Button for this post … I’d appreciate it.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Facebook Like Button Plugin for WordPress

Facebook rocked the internet yesterday with 5 new plugins, one of which is an API for the Facebook Like Button. After reading about it and playing a bit with the Facebook’s Like Button generator, I decided what’s needed is a WordPress plugin that allows folks to easily configure the look-and-feel of the Facebook Like Button, and then automatically add it the beginning and/or the end of their posts.

Update 26-Apr-10

FYI, I just released version  0.1 of the The Facebook Activity Widget Plugin for WordPress – yet another useful (and different) WordPress plugin for displaying Facebook Social plugins on your website.

Update 25-Apr-10

Version 0.4 just got released – it now has a preview feature built into the administrator panel … and I’m starting to get translation .po & .mo files from abroad (thanks!-). It’s also now being distributed via the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Update 24-Apr-10

Version 0.2 is released as of Saturday, April 24, 2010 7:14 Eastern Standard Time.

Also after some excellent email and FB message feedback from some early adopters, you can now also decide whether or not you want the FaceBook Like Button to appear on the top and/or bottom of individual pages, individual posts and/or your front page.

Installation & Use

I also wanted to keep it simple, so here’s how it works — using the standard WordPress plugin installation process:

  1. Upload the ‘fblikebutton.zip’ file to the `/wp-content/plugins/` directory using wget, curl of ftp.
  2. ‘unzip’ the ‘fblikebutton.zip’ which will create the folder to the directory `/wp-content/plugins/fblikebutton`
  3. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  4. Configure the plugin through ‘FBLikeButton’ submenu in the the ‘Settings’ section of the WordPress admin menu.
  5. Modify the fields to choice and save.

Here’s a screen shot below of the administrator screen (you’ll want to click on it to see it full size):

Screenshot of the FBLikeButton Admin Panel - now with preview

Here’s how the FaceBook Like button appears on the bottom of this post:

Screenshot of the FBLikeButton after fabulous formatting

This being being version 0.1, you can bet your sweet bippee there’s more to come. Still, I wanted to get this out to the WordPress community as fast as possible.

A bit more about the FaceBook Like Button

What’s nice about the Facebook Like button is that no login to your site is required. Even if you’ve never visited HealYourChurchWebsite.com before, they can get social context starting with their very first visit.

If you’re logged into FaceBook, then you can see which of your friends like a site — without the site knowing anything about you. Pretty neat, huh?

Download It

Also, I’m currently in the process of setting getting established with the WordPress SVN  and everything else that goes with publishing an official WordPress plugin.

Until then, click here to download the latest fblikebutton, from the WordPress Plugin repository keeping in mind it is version 0.1 0.2 – so expect more to come!

Download the FaceBook Like Button Plugin for WordPress

Shout Outs and Thanks

A shout–out of thanks for the immediate feedback goes out to Benjain, Julien, Tim, Jason, Dave, and Chuck.

Additional Reading

FYI

Oh, and hey, don’t forget to click the FaceBook Like Button for this post … I’d appreciate it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Debating using WordPress 3.0 as your CMS? Here’s 20 ‘Brand Name’ reasons to say Yes!

With the release of WordPress 3.0 right around the corner, I thought I might offer some perspective to those arguing against said tool as a professional content management platform.

I figured the quickest way to do this is simply to point out 20 large companies building their brand by means of WordPress – the links below taking you to their individual portfolio pages on the WordPress showcase:

  1. Fisher Price Expert Series
    Fisher Price Expert Series
  2. UPS Racing
    UPS Racing
  3. Nikon Festival
    Nikon Festival
  4. Pepsi Refresh Everything Blog
    Pepsi Refresh Everything Blog
  5. Now Playing by Nokia
    Now Playing by Nokia
  6. Intel Blogathon 2009
    Intel Blogathon 2009
  7. OnStar Connections
    OnStar Connections
  8. VW TankWars
    VW TankWars
  9. Best Buy
    Best Buy
  10. The Ford Story
    The Ford Story
  11. BLogitech
    BLogitech
  12. Samsung Newsroom
    Samsung Newsroom
  13. GE reports
    GE reports
  14. Inside BlackBerry
    Inside BlackBerry
  15. WSJ. Magazine
    WSJ. Magazine
  16. Coke Studio
    Coke Studio
  17. eBay Insider
    eBay Insider
  18. Yodel Anecdotal
    Yodel Anecdotal
  19. Xerox
    Xerox
  20. BNET
    BNET

Please don’t misinterpret the purpose of this post. It’s not my intent to disparage other open source nor professional web-based content management systems …

… rather, I’m simply pointing out that WordPress isn’t just for us tech-weenies anymore

Posted in Uncategorized