Be smart, buy the perfect Xmas gift – a full HD LCD

South African consumers shopping over the Christmas season for that “perfect gift” – a Full High Definition (FHD) with 1080p x 1920 resolution are to think hard about parting with their hard-earned money (cash or plastic). Luxury goods such as LCD Television sets take centre stage in all the major stores with their “walls” of LCD displays enticing the shopper to buy the biggest and the “best”. In South Africa our public broadcasting system is still analogue with the switchover to digital infrastructure scheduled for 2013. This means that the FHD television set you are about to (or have purchased) will not be able to receive, decode and display the digital signals since they all have built-in analogue receivers.

Very few, if any, of the FHD Television sets instore have digital receivers. In fact, in a store of about 15 branded models, not one had a digital receiver built in. When pressed, the salesperson eventually admitted that they did not “order” nor “stock” models with digital (or both types) TV signal receivers. Electronic store owners are fully aware that the switch-over is already being piloted in certain parts of the country and that the switch-over is just around the corner. Yet, they continue to stock and sell analogue-only television displays. Of course, they reckon, the choice is yours – whether to buy “old” technology or not. Their “obligation” is to simply “supply” the “demand”….

Here’s the sell

One of the reasons why FHD LCD Television display prices have dropped so dramatically is probably due to such “old” technology flooding the South African market. Sure, you can plug your blu-ray player into the full high-definition display and watch your movies as “you’ve never seen them before” but if you plan to use it to view public broadcasting signals after 2013 in South Africa, you’ll be out of luck. If you are not one of those fortunate enough to have a satellite dish receiver hooked up to a decoder unscrambling digital signals (Pay Channel), your “bunny ears” aerial will have to be replaced and you’ll have to buy a “set-top” box. Set-top boxes will have to be purchased and plugged in to convert the digital signal into analogue signals for display on “old” television sets. The FHD LCD Televisions sets in store now, will be such “old” sets in 2013.

Options?

If the plan is to buy a full HD display, rather opt for a “monitor” – a High Definition LCD display without a built-in TV tuner. Make sure that it’s got more than one HDMI connector and as well as a D-Sub (PC) connector and, if you are lucky, an S3-video and AVI connectors. Get hold of an HD Media player that you plug into the FHD monitor to watch your movie files. If you are able to get a media player with a built-in DVD (or Blu-Ray) player, you have a fully functional Home Media Entertainment Hub. Better still, grab an old PC with a DVD ROM and install XBMC on it.

Once electronic stores start stocking FHD LCDs with digital tuners, hold on to your money a little longer  until the prices sag, then grab a “modern” television set. And … if you are lucky the new sets might even be capable of receiving the next generation of TV signals – Ultra-High Definition (probably just wishful thinking).

The Missing (upgrade) Link

Sandboxes are useful places where you can fool around in and not do any real damage. In upgrading this version of WordPress, running it on a “SandBox” LAMP server sitting in my basement, saved both time and money. Installing it on a live site can have serious consequences if mistakes are made and your web server or site’s security is put at risk.

LAMP, short for Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP configuration of a web server, is an Open Source solution maintained by developers from around the world. The idea is to keep technology running the web open and accessible to those who wish to install and tinker with it. The development and implementation of a site like Facebook, for example, would have been nearly impossible to develop and troubleshoot without access to technology like LAMP and its various plug-ins. There are various”flavours” of LAMP – from the “enterprise” (high-end) to the low end, entry-level sandboxes.

Easy to install

TurnKey Linux was the flavour best suited for the task at hand. An old piece of hardware with a 800MHz Processor, 128MB of RAM and a 10G hard disk and network card (plus keyboard and mouse) was dusted off and the web server installed. Booting it from the CD, the hard disk was formatted (wiped clean!) and the screen prompts were followed. A root password is required during the setup – don’t skip it and don’t get it wrong otherwise you won’t have access to the configuration afterwards. For those new to Linux (LAMP) this a good place to start  BEFORE attempting an installation.

Once successfully installed, web-based software using the LAMP configuration can be installed and put through its paces – to discover if or how well it works. Usually, if there are too many issues with an installation it turns out to work “not as claimed” another solution is found.

Before installing WordPress 3.2.1 on this site, it was put through its paces on the local web-server, off the internet. Configuration was tested, plug-ins installed and tweaked and the posts and comments imported to see if (and how well) it would work. After some hours of testing to see if everything works, it was time to “go live”.

The upgrade of WordPress now enables the use of the latest developments and improvements, necessary to keep up with the web’s evolution.

Update:

One of the main reasons for the upgrade was to enable mobile devices to access the blog. If anyone is not able to do this, please let me know. I’ve tested it on my “non-smart” (dumb?) phone and it looks fine.

WordPress Upgrade … complete!

As I suspected, upgrading your site is easier said than done. The first order of business is to make sure that you don’t lose the content already on your site. This means that you either (a) manually make a backup of each and every post and comment or (b) use the tools at your disposal to make the upgrade as painless as possible. In the WordPress forum there are some handy tips from those who’ve had to undertake this same journey. The new versions of WordPress (like this one) comes with a handy “Upgrade” button and in the future it should be as “easy” as clicking the link. But, that’s another adventure.

Back-up and Export

Backing up your site is no mean feat. First you need access to your website’s database (MySQL) and use a tool such as PhpMyadmin to find and export your WordPress data. This backup (*.zip) you save somewhere on your PC. This step is not necessary if you are doing a “clean install”, in  other words, you intend starting from scratch by manually (Copy & Paste!) putting your posts back in, one by one. Unless you are immortal and thus have all the time in the world, this is not recommended.

Exporting is the option I used. Logging in as the site administrator to WordPress, there’s an “Export” function listed under “Site Management”. This tool allows you to export your users’ post into an XML file, complete with comments. To test how well this would work, the content was exported and then imported into a WordPress installation running on a mini LAMP server running on an old machine. Amazingly, all my posts and the comments with them were there!

The real thing

The next step was to “go live” and install the system on the website host provider. Checking (i) the database server settings (name of database & username) and (ii) the web path (where installed), you are ready to install WordPress. The forum’s packed with “how to’s” in this regard. The new WordPress version was installed and then the “test” , importing the posts and comments … and …. Viola!  .. it’s up and running. Luckily, this option worked just fine, otherwise there would have been an”import” to database and other issues to be dealt with.

Next, some configuration such as installing themes and linking the other bits and pieces (such as links) which were not part of the export, and the site was good to go. Over the next few days …err … maybe weeks,  the “fine-tuning” will take place. Your patience will be appreciated.

IE users fume at “less intelligent” claim

“Users of IE (Internet Explorer) have a lower IQ (Intelligence Quotient) than those using other web browsers” was one of those itches that needed to be scratched. As hard I tried, I could not resist a poke at this. The BCC recently reported that a survey has “unearthed” an indication IE users are, shall we say, “less intelligent” than those using Firefox, Opera, Chrome, etc. Of course it is somewhat of a stretch to claim such a thing to have merit, but it made me smile … and wonder.

IE has long been one of those things “best avoided” in my domain, ever since the security holes on the early versions of IE came to light during the crawling stage of the web. Perhaps, it was my “intelligence” which guided me in the direction of other browsers or the fact that whenever I use IE (even the latest ones), the fight is on – keeping popup ads from taking over my monitor or my home page from being “brow-jacked”. Over the years IE has “copied”… err improved by adding a number of features from other browsers to remain a contender in the “browser wars”.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no “browser war”. Firefox has its own quirks and is not perfect, but it won my heart. The customization options available make it worthwhile – not to mention its rock-solid performance. It does freeze up so now and then, but most of the time it is due to the “creativity” of a particular website.

So, make the “smart choice” and stay away from IE :-).