Featured WordPress Plugin: W3 Total Cache

Let me be straight with you: Every WordPress blog on the web should have this plugin installed.

And, no, I’m also not being paid to say that. :)

W3 Total Cache is exactly what its name suggests: A total caching solution for WordPress blogs. WordPress is a good publishing platform and content management system (CMS) but runs into problems quickly when more than a few visitors hit your site. Even moderately busy websites can buckle under the strain of the database connection pools, stylesheets, Javascript, and HTML that WordPress uses.

Some of the neat features that W3 Total Cache includes:

  1. “Minifies” CSS, Javascript, and HTML by removing all whitespace. To see an example, view the source code of this page. This means there is less data to send to viewers of your website which also means your website loads faster.
  2. Final output is cached and then re-served to the next viewer without having to rebuild. This means that in many circumstances, your blog might only be recreating your site dynamically once an hour. Otherwise, the cached version will be served, greatly increasing the performance and stability of your site.
  3. Uses advanced disk caching techniques to cache output or can also take advantage of Memcache technology (if supported by your server) to increase speed even more.

Before W3 Total Cache I was a fan of WP Super Cache. And before that, I used WP Cache. Neither of the latter two can hold a candle to the capabilities and caching power of W3 Total Cache.

For more information on how this plugin can increase your website’s performance, take a look at W3 Total Cache on the WordPress Extend website.

Breathe New Life Into An Old Computer

My laptop is an Averatec 3260. 512MB of RAM, 80GB hard disk, and 1.6GHz processor. It’s had the front panel LCD and battery replaced, by me. It’s still missing the front bezel (I thought it looked cooler with it off.) Up until yesterday, the performance of the machine was just above what I’d consider to be “survivable” regardless of OS.

Then, everything changed.

While I was working with Cory Fowler at Red Brick Cafe and then later at my apartment, I was updating my copy of Mandriva Linux from 2009.1 to 2010.0. During installation something must have gone wrong because KDE4 no longer started properly. It kept bringing me back to the login screen. So, instead of using KDE4 I used IceWM.

I haven’t gone back to KDE4 since yesterday. And I’m the hugest KDE4 fan there is.

If you’ve got an old laptop or an old desktop that’s struggling under the weight of Windows XP or KDE4, grab a copy of Mandriva Linux for free and install the IceWM packages. Give it a go. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the performance of your machine. I know I was! I remember running IceWM a few times when I first started using Linux quite a number of years ago but it has really come a long way since then.

IceWM runs all of the KDE4 programs I care about and even the Gnome programs, too. Watching a video on YouTube is made much easier with the lighter-weight desktop, as is just general browsing.

IceWM offers a lot of customization but some of it is complicated to configure. The easiest thing to do is to replace the God-awful default theme with something way cooler and easier on the eyes. The theme I’m using now is psicopoire.

The Box-Look.org website includes hundreds of awesome themes you can try out. And installing them is actually pretty simple. To install a new theme in IceWM, try this:

  1. Download the tarball
  2. Untar the tarball into the ~/.icewm/themes directory (if it does not exist, create it)
  3. Right-click on the desktop and go to Settings->Themes->Your New Theme’s Name

Does anyone else know any other neat, lightweight software to replace large-scale, heavy applications? I’d love to give them a try.

Google Chrome for Linux Now Available

The world’s fastest web browser, Google Chrome, has recently been released on the Linux platform. This is big news since it will greatly improve the web browsing performance of many of the world’s netbooks.

I’ve been a huge fan of Google Chrome since it appeared in the summer of last year, but haven’t used it heavily simply because of the lack of Linux support. It is installed on my Windows 7 virtualization, however.

Word on the street is that Google Chrome is also available for Macs, so if that’s your platform, take a look!

One thing that I think is important to note that I haven’t seen anyone pick up on is this line on the Official Google Blog post about Chrome being available for Linux and Mac:

“At Google, most engineers use Linux machines …”

Hmm.. No wonder they’re winning! ;)

Go for it -> Download Google Chrome for Linux

PHP Smarty Tip: Speed Up Your Site With ‘trimwhitespace’

If you use the Smarty template engine for your site then you can take advantage of the included output filter Smarty plugin called trimwhitespace. Trimwhitespace is an output filter, which is basically a plugin that runs after your source code has been created but before it gets displayed or put into a cache file.

The premise for trimwhitespace is simple. Most HTML source code for most websites includes whitespace put there by the web developer for readability. Since this whitespace is not required for the website to display and takes up needed bandwidth, we can eliminate it. Enter trimwhitespace.

To enable trimwhitespace, place this command before your Smarty display() function:

$smarty->load_filter('output','trimwhitespace');

An added benefit is that while the user recieves a trimmed copy of your HTML source code, you can still see your source in its fully tabbed and spaced glory by examining your template files. It’s a win-win situation!

HTML Code Before ‘trimwhitespace’:

<table>
  <tr>
    <td>
      Content
    </td>
  </tr>
</table>

HTML Code After ‘trimwhitespace’:

<table>
<tr>
<td>
Content
</td>
</tr>
</table>

See the difference?

Firefox 3 First Impressions

I downloaded Firefox 3 today. Just like a gazillion other people. It’s launch day and Mozilla wants to enter the record-books for number of downloads for a software product in one day. Supposedly there is no previous record so basically once the first download finished they were the winners :) Anyway, it was good to drum up some interest in alternative browsers!

The first thing I noticed was how responsive everything was. I’m a web developer — I get used to how long it takes for menus to load and things to happen after I click. I started using Firefox 3 and I have to say they have really raised the bar for browser speed. It used to be that only Opera was this fast. Great work!

Secondly, the “Awesome Bar“: I love it. Looks great, works great. It’s similar to Google Desktop’s search field in that you just type a few keywords of what you’re looking for and it’ll show you any sites that you’ve been to that match those keywords. Handy. We are definitely moving away from people actually knowing the domain your business is at. We know we’ve reached the turning point when browsers stop including an address bar entirely or when businesses owners don’t even know their own domain names :)

Finally, a new feature has been added on my Bookmark Toolbar that contains the top 10 most visited websites. This could be good or bad depending on your browsing habits ;). For me it’s really handy. Gmail is in there, Dzone, Digg, Synnema. Awesome.

I have to say I’m really impressed. The difference between Firefox 1 and 2 really didn’t hit me much but the difference between 2 and 3 is monumental. You really have to use it yourself to feel the difference in speed.

If you’re reading this post on June 17th, 2008, then head over to Firefox.com and help raise the number of downloads today by 1!