How To Change An Early WPMU Database from latin1 to utf8 Encoding.

I’ve written a note on how to do this, which is on a separate page was one of the early WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) sites.  It started off with Version 1.0 Release Candidate 4 of the WPMU software. The way WPMU encoded tables within the database changed in later versions, and needed changed. This has proved an extremely time-consuming exercise, and the note is an attempt to save others some time if they encounter the same problem.

eduBuzz service news

An order is now being processed for an upgrade to the edubuzz server. This will mainly provide :

  • more disk space, mainly needed for storage of uploaded files such as images, audio and video
  • more memory capacity, to handle increasing numbers of users

Disk space on the current server is being used up at an ever-increasing rate.

There’s an ongoing education job to be done in reminding people not to upload huge, high-resolution image files just to illustrate blog posts. This is all part of the process of learning about using the web in the classroom, though, and perhaps to be expected at this stage.

It’s not unusual to find image files of 2MB embedded in blog posts, even though these will take over 5 minutes to load on a typical dial-up connection. This is something we maybe should have spent time on in training sessions, where we’ve tried to concentrate on using the tools, and have probably tended to avoid discussion of file size issues. We’re not alone, though: it’s clear from discussion forums that other WordPress sites have the same problem.

If you’re reading this and wondering how to avoid the problem, our advice is to avoid creating a big image in the first place. You can do this by setting your camera to take a low-resolution image. For class web use, a JPEG (.jpg)  image file will usually be around 20KB to 50KB, depending on what it contains.  About 400 to 500 pixels wide is adequate.

If you’ve already taken a large image, web sites like offer a free,  easy-to-use resizing service. You just browse to the image on your computer, upload it, choose the size you want, and download the resized file.

eduBuzz blogs: Regulus theme updated

If you use the Regulus theme for an eduBuzz blog, you may find you’re back to the default theme and need to select it again.

Regulus has been updated to Version 2.2.1 to fix a bug in the handling of comments (thanks Chris!).  I’d hoped it would go in seamlessly, but it looks like some blogs may need to have it selected again. Use Presentation / Themes, and click on the Regulus screenshot.

New features on eduBuzz blogs

The WordPress Multi-User software behind the eduBuzz blogs has been upgraded to the current version, 1.2.5a.

If you’ve got an eduBuzz blog, what will you notice?

  • The editor now offers a “Code” tab where you can – if you want – view and edit the XHTML code behind your posts directly. This is sometimes helpful for more adventurous bloggers. A little HTML here can add tables, for example, to a post or a page.
  • Anarchy buttonsThe Anarchy Media Player buttons are now displaying correctly, making it easy to embed videos from sites such as Google, YouTube and My Space simply by pasting the full URL of the video’s web page – use the yellow V button.

  • A new drop-down site menu in the Dashboard makes it much easier to work with a number of different edubuzz blogs.
  • Upload menuControl of how uploaded files are displayed is now easier. There are clear “radio buttons” to let you choose to show Thumbnail or Full size versions, and to enable you to easily make the image link to the original file.
  • A new Manage Uploads option enables you not just to easily browse uploaded files, but makes it easy to see their URLs. That’s ideal for when you want to supply your own image’s URL for a blogroll link, for example, or a blog header.

Here’s an example of an embedded YouTube video, the wonderful “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Using Us” by Michael Wesch.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Where’s my “Latest eduBuzz posts” widget?

A recent update to this means it will have vanished from the sidebar of any eduBuzz blog using it.

If you’ve been using it, and you want it back, the good news is that it can just be dragged back again. Go to Presentation / Sidebar Widgets and drag “Latest eduBuzz Posts” to wherever you want it to appear. Don’t forget to save the change.
The changes were:

  • title: changed to latest eduBuzz posts (not Exc-el)
  • config settings: now default to showing both title and author, both were defaulting to hidden

Maybe you’ve tried it before, and wondered why you didn’t see anything? If so, why not give it a try? It has proved one of the most popular ways for people to keep in touch with what’s being posted across the site.

eduBuzz – now with added Widgetbox Widgets

Widgetbox LogoEdubuzz blogs now offer Widgetbox Widgets in addition to the standard Text and RSS ones.

Thanks to a new plugin from incsub and ringofblogs it’s now easy to incorporate Widgetbox Widgets into a WPMU site. The plugin has been developed originally for the blog hosting service, and is being shared under the GPL licence.

Widgetbox offer a huge range of Widgets, many of which have direct educational uses. For example, I’ve just been experimenting with one which offers instant translation of the web page into various languages via the AltaVista Babelfish translation service. You can currently see that one here:

James Farmer has done a 3-minute tutorial video here on how to use them. It requires a bit of cut-and-pastery with Notepad, for example, to extract an ID from the Java code provided by the site, but it’s simple and quick.

I now need some willing testers to try it… feedback welcome.

Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*

Now that the number of Exc-el / eduBuzz blogs is going up, it’s becoming more important to develop ways to sort out the information you want to see from the stuff you don’t.

Maybe you’ve discovered RSS feeds, and are using them to subscribe to blogs of interest. So far, so good. In your RSS aggregator, say Bloglines, you’ll see an entry for each blog you’ve subscribed to, and beside that entry a number showing how many new posts there have been since your last visit.

But what if the blog’s very active and wide-ranging, and you’re only interested in posts on one subject? Subscribe to the blog’s feed, and you’re going to have to browse through every new post looking for the ones you want. That’s a waste of time.

Fortunately WordPress offers a better way: it lets you subscribe to posts in selected categories. Continue reading Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*