All posts tagged ‘tutorial’

File Under: Multimedia, UI/UX

Use Filters in Photoshop

OK, you’ve created your own weblog and your hands are shaking with excitement and terror. You just posted an excellent new piece that details your grievances with that jerk Kelly at work, an essay that is by turns insightful and thrillingly alive with a kind of erotic frisson. But where are your readers? Where are the hits? Why aren’t people falling over themselves to get at your sweet, sweet words?

There are many possible explanations, but one is that people are shallow, crass, and easily distracted by shiny objects. If they come to your site and just see a page full of text, their eyes will glaze over and they’ll head right on back to the Nude Animated GIFs site.

But, but, it’s the content that’s important, right? Shouldn’t your razor-sharp writing be enough to keep their attention? Wouldn’t dressing up the text with pretty pictures almost be an insult? Isn’t it what’s in here (gesturing toward heart) that matters most of all?

Yes, truly, but in the real world people like to see their content all gussied up, preferably as sextastically as possible. Sure, you can give them a few well-cropped and color-adjusted photos. But your blog also needs its fair share of arty, distorted, eye-searing pictures! And what about a zany logo?

Enter filters!

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File Under: Programming, Software

Generate PDFs Dynamically With PHP

PDF is the Portable Document Format developed by Adobe. It’s an open standard implemented by Adobe in their Acrobat series of software, but implementable and extensible by anybody who’s got the time, inclination, and knack. One trick that’s got a lot of potential is using PHP to dynamically generate PDF files and serve them via the web.

PHP can do a lot for your web operation (read our PHP Tutorial for Beginners tutorial). You can generate nice-looking printable receipts, invoices, and brochures. Disc-Cover has a test site that looks up info about a CD automatically and then generates a PDF label for the CD box that you can print, cut out, and use. And there are literally one billion other possible uses for dynamically generated PDFs.

So what are you waiting for?

You have a variety of PDF-generation options. The standard, classic way of doing it is with PDFlib. Because it’s so widely used and well-integrated into PHP, that’s the library I’ll go over today. But it’s by no means the only way of doing things. PDFlib is source-available, but not free. The license specifies that PDFlib can be used and redistributed without charge for non-commercial projects, but commercial use carries a fee.

There are also a number of completely free options. These include R&OS and FPDF, Panda. The choice is yours. (I haven’t had a chance to test these free packages very thoroughly. If you have had negative or positive experiences with them, please do let me know.)

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File Under: Programming

Keep Sites Clean With Smarty

One of the main advantages of systems like PHP, XSSI, and CSS is the way they let us keep the functional code (or “business logic” as the eggheads call it) separate from how the content is rendered (“presentation”). At least in theory.

In actuality, this separation happens all too rarely, and muddled code with everything scrambled together is the norm. That kind of separation becomes especially important when multiple people are involved in a project, with designers, programmers and content writers working separately. Or, when you need to make frequent changes to, say, the look of a site without changing its wording, or vice versa.

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File Under: Programming

Set Up a DNS Name Server

You are a savvy net wrangler; doubtless you already know a bit about the Domain Name System ( Choose and Register a Domain Name). You know that it’s why we are able to have nice memorizable domain names like, and not just numbers. You probably even know that when you type “” into your browser, your computer contacts a DNS server to find out what numerical IP address the domain name corresponds to.

Let’s take a closer look, though, at exactly how this all works, what exactly is going on, and even how to set up a DNS server of your very own. Wait, you say — your ISP already provides DNS service for you. Why would you want to set up your own? I knew you’d ask that.

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File Under: Software

Install and Use Cygwin

Windows provides a little command line utility called cmd.exe, but it has nothing close to the power of the Unix command line and its integrated free tools and applications. Fortunately, especially for addicts of the Unix way, there’s a way to use a lot of the Unix tools in a Windows environment. That way is a free piece of software called Cygwin. Cygwin is a Unix-style command line for Windows; it comes with a selection of hundreds of free tools as well.

Installing Cygwin

Installation is shockingly easy. Download onto your Windows computer, and then run the program.

The setup utility walks you through installing Cygwin. When prompted to choose a download source, select “Install from Internet”. Choose a reasonably local download mirror from the choices it offers.

Next, it’s time to choose which software packages you want included in your Cygwin installation. Choosing All is the easiest option, and it means you won’t get that annoying “command not found” error often — but it takes a long time to download everything, and it takes a lot of drive space. The packages are broken down into categories — Database, Devel, Editors — for ease of picking and choosing if you want to grab just the packages you need. I recommend blowing up the window to full screen for this process.

After you’ve picked some or All and clicked the Next button, all those packages will download from the mirror site and be installed on your machine. You can watch a captivating progress bar while this happens.

Finally you should see the “Installation Complete” message.

If, later on, you realize that now you want a package you opted not to install the first time around, just run setup.exe again and choose it. It’ll be added to your Cygwin setup, and any updates will be downloaded too, while your existing installation is left intact.

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