Archives for July 2007

Automatic Daily MySQL Backups

automysqlbackup.sh is a rock-solid Unix/Linux shell script that automatically makes daily backups of your MySQL database(s). It is available as an open source project on SourceForge, consisting of just one file that is easily configured and deployed — ideal for anyone running a PHP website or any other LAMP-stack site where the M stands for MySQL. The current version, 2.5, has been downloaded 50,000 times. I’ve been relying on it ever since version 1.9.
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Quick Link: CVSDude – Subversion in 10 Sec Flat

In Version Control – A Developer’s Best Friend, I touted the many benefits of using a version control system to keep track of all of the changes to all of the files in a project, as they are being developed. I also mentioned how, over the decades, version control systems have gotten better, faster, and cheaper (free) — referring specifically to an open source version control system called Subversion. Subversion is smart, easy to set up, and easy to maintain. I tried to make a compelling case for any developer who has yet to take advantage of any version control system to take another look. Let’s see if I can’t sweeten the deal even further.
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Version Control – A Developer’s Best Friend

Version control - a simple illustrationA version control system (“VCS”), or “change-tracking system,” keeps track of the files that belong to a development project in a systematic manner. Such files can include software source code, graphics files, third-party code libraries, technical documentation (e.g. Word documents and Visio diagrams), and project management files (e.g. Excel spreadsheets). It records exactly what changes were made, by whom, at what point in time, and in conjunction with what other changes. This gives the developers full control over being able to review the history of those changes, as well as the ability to roll back or undo any of them.

Version control systems have been around for decades. Over time they’ve gotten better, faster, cheaper (free). They are smarter than ever, and they are easier to set up and maintain than ever. I simply could not imagine doing software development these days without a version control system in place, even for the tiniest of projects.
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Creative Uses for Free Project Gutenberg eBooks

Project Gutenberg logoNamed for the inventor of the first printing press, the Project Gutenberg website hosts and distributes over 20,000 eBooks drawn from the public domain -— books whose copyrights have expired, or which never had one. What’s more, Project Gutenberg’s entire library is downloadable for free.

Even better, you’re allowed to do just about anything with a Project Gutenberg eBook. As long as you remove the header and its references to the Project, you’re free to copy, reuse, and redistribute any eBook in the Project Gutenberg digital library. Granted, their library holds nothing new, for the most part: it’s limited to books without copyrights. But it is gigantic —- and, don’t forget, it’s free.

So how can you use it? Aside from filling your leisure hours on the Web (not that you need any help with that), you can pull text from Gutenberg eBooks—which are all accessible in simple plain-text ASCII—to do research from the comfort of your desk.

  1. If you’re a documentalist or a designer, you can use Project Gutenberg as a source of large blocks of natural text to explore layouts, font designs, and color schemes without having to rely on the same old “Lorem ipsum” again and again
  2. If you’re a software developer or QA tester for an application that deals with words and text, then here’s your test data.
  3. Puzzled over a vocabulary word? Is the Webster’s definition clear as mud? Try searching your favorite ebooks for occurrences of the word, to see how it is used in context.
  4. If you’ve got spare drive time, you could give a listen to one of the hundreds of audio books on file at Project Gutenberg. Some of them were recorded as read by a human, and some as read by machine. You could also use a text-to-speech tool to “read aloud” any of the 20 thousand other ebooks, recording it as an MP3 yourself. (See related link, below.)
  5. Mix and match. What if every day for the next month you read (just) the opening chapter a different classic? How much more literate would that make you?
  6. Raw data. Project Gutenberg isn’t just old fiction. The non-fiction collection include such items as “United States Census Figures Back to 1630″ and “The Square Root of 4 to a Million Places”

You can check out Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org, or look over their Top 100 lists of popular eBooks and authors at www.gutenberg.org/browse/scores/top.

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Forcing Browsers to Use Your Latest CSS/JavaScript (Despite the Cache)

For those of you who publish websites that utilize cascading stylesheets (*.css) and/or JavaScript (*.js), you may have run into this problem: You enhance your site by changing the HTML, the corresponding stylesheet(s) and the corresponding JavaScript file(s), and then publish all of the updates to your server. Two minutes later, you get a complaint from a user that the site is broken (or worse, the user just goes away disgruntled). The problem turns out to be that the user’s web browser has cashed the stylesheets and JavaScript files. So, it’s trying to apply old versions of those files to the new versions of the HTML, which is obviously not what you intended.

It turns out that there is an elegant solution to this problem — a simple way to force the web browser to load fresh copies of the stylesheets, JavaScript, or any other related files associated with the HTML when the HTML changes.
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Know Your Keyboard: Bang, Splat, Whack!

Bang! Splat! Whack!Most of us who frequent the wide world of the Web know a thing or two about the various letters, numbers, and symbols that proudly display themselves on our computer keyboards. You probably know most of these characters by the old-fashioned, everyday names you learned in grade school: the exclamation mark, the asterisk, the number sign, and so on. But did you know that many of these symbols can be called something quite different?
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