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The best directory comparison tool for Windows
Written by Brett Brewer   
Wednesday, 05 March 2014

If you've ever needed to compare a shit-ton of files, on say, two different 4 Terrabyte raid5 drives to figure out which of your files from in an old backup on your backup drive shouldn't be replaced by the same files on your raid drive because you had a stripe go bad on your main raid and you don't want to copy over files you know are intact on your backup, but you do still want to back up any files that have changed and may not be (probably aren't) corrupt on your main drive.......well, you probably spent some time cursing the myriad of directory comparison tools out there if that's ever happened to you like it just did to me.

Fortunately, there is one (and only one) directory comparison tool that doesn't completely suck, in fact, it can make short work of comparing many terrabytes of files in just an hour or two, without crashing or running out of memory. It comes in both 32 and 64 bit varieties. Oh, and did I mention this awesome program is FREE -- like 100% free -- like, made by a guy named Juan M. Aguirregabiria, somewhere in some spanish-speaking country -- I think Spain. Okay, so without further ado, you can find this awesome tool called "Directory Compare" buried in a frame in his antiquated homepage here:

http://tp.lc.ehu.es/jma/win32/dirco.html

That's the direct link to the page. His full software section is stuck in some silly looking frame-based layout here:

http://tp.lc.ehu.es/jma/win95.html 

and if you care, here's his full homepage:

http://tp.lc.ehu.es/jma.html 

Don't even bother with any of those other directory comparison tools out there, I've tried MANY and this is the only one I'll ever use again. It's simple, it's fast and it just works! Of course, this isn't a full file comparison tool, you'll want to use something like WinMerge if you're looking to compare the actual contents of some files, but for directory comparison, you can't beat Juan M. Aguirregabiria's 'Directory Compare'. 

 
Making mustache tags play nice with CKEditor
Written by Brett Brewer   
Wednesday, 26 February 2014

I'm working on a CMS for a client and ran into the problem of needing to use nested conditional mustache tags in my site content. I'm using CKEditor to give the customer a nice UI for editing pages, but for some of the dynamic content, it requires putting mustache tags in the html code that is editable by the customer. When resaving the content it munges up all the witespace and indentation, making it a real pain to re-edit the html source if I need to go back in and make changes. Enter the CKEditor protectedSource config option. Since empty or undefined mustache tags are simply ignored by mustache and parsed out of the final output, you can use a little trick to protect the whitespace and other tags inside some simple delimiters. Simply add something like this to your CKEditor config:

CKEDITOR.config.protectedSource.push( /{{start_protect}}[^]+{{end_protect}}/g );

Then in your source view in CKEditor you can simply surround anything you don't want it to touch with:

{{start_protect}}
your custom code here
{{end_protect}}

There's just one caveat -- this doesn't work inside tables in your source code. I'm not sure if this is only if you have the CKEditor table plugin enable, or if it always happens with tables, but mustache conditionals somehow get stripped out of tables and placed above the table with all their contents emptied. I haven't found a way around this yet, so I switched my tables to divs and now it works -- my conditionals are where they are supposed to be and whitespace is preserved for ease of editing later. 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 February 2014 )
 
REAPER - The multitrack recording solution you've been looking for
Written by Brett Brewer   
Monday, 24 September 2012

I feel compelled to write a little blub today about REAPER . If you haven't heard of it, it's an amazing multitrack recording program with an insanely great price. I've been playing with various multitrack recording programs over the years, including, Acid, FruityLoops, Reason, ProTools, Cubase, various trackers (MadTracker), and a random selection of other tools, but due to the ridiculous pricing and bloated codebase of most of them, I've never really found anything I wanted to pay for, or use as my permanent multitrack recording solution. That is, until recently when I discovered Reaper. I've now replaced most of the aforementioned programs with Reaper. Why do I love Reaper so much?

 

  1. First and foremost, their software has a 100% fully functional unlimited free trial. There's no difference between the free and paid versions, just a nag screen that comes up every time you start the program until you buy a license. The free version never expires and has no features disabled whatsoever. 
  2. Second, the full paid license is extremely reasonable. For individual non-commercial users, the price is $60 for the full license which give you free updates for two major version numbers worth of updates. So a license for the current version, 4.261 will give you free updates through version 5.99. This is an awesome deal!
  3. Reaper is coded by masters. They have native binaries for Win XP/Win7 both 32 and 64-bit, as well as MacOSX 32/64bit/PPC. What's more, they somehow manage to pack all the features of their software into an installer that is less than 10MB on Windows and less than 13MB for OSX. Do they sacrifice any features in the process? Not that I've seen, there is simply zero bloat in their software. The program runs fast as hell and is rock solid stable on the two Windows7/64bit machines I've used it on. Compare that to most other commercial multitrack recording programs, which offer basically the same functionality, but take up hundreds of megabytes just to install them, sometimes even several gigabytes worth of disk space. Compared to Reaper, most other programs I've tried are bloated and slow and often crash my computers by the time I get everything set up to record. Compare that to Reaper, which takes a couple of minutes to get set up, loads in under 10 seconds, never seems to crash, and uses system resources sparingly. No track limits, no limits on VST effects, this software will let you record right up to the limits of your hardware. I have a 3 year old MacBook Pro with 8GB of ram running Win7-64bit. I'll sometimes be running several browsers with doezens of open tabs, my PHP IDE for programming, and Reaper, without any problems. 
  4. Reaper's UI rocks. They took a lot of the best ideas from the software you might already be used to and implemented them in a fast and stable UI. 
  5. Tons of documentation and tutorials online. Reaper has one of the best community documentation efforts I've ever seen for audio software. So far, there has been nothing that I've wanted to do in Reaper that I couldn't figure out via free video-based tutorials on Youtube. 

 

What does't Reaper do? 

I'm not actually sure what Reaper won't do. Every time I think I've run into something that it won't do, I do a Google search and discover that there IS a way to do whatever I'm trying to do. So, in summary, it's rare that I find a piece of software I'd recommend as highly as Reaper. Don't hesitate to give it a try if you're looking for an alternative to the high-priced bloatware offered by the old standard recording tools.

Last Updated ( Monday, 24 September 2012 )
 
DNSMadeEasy.com is a great solution for enterprise DNS services
Written by Brett Brewer   
Friday, 31 August 2012
This is just a quick post to plug the services of DNSMadeEasy.com . I signed up with them a couple of months ago to use as the DNS provider for a high traffic ecommerce site after doing some fairly exhaustive research on the offerings from competitors. DNSMadeEasy is by far the most economical of all the large dedicated DNS providers. They are rock solid and have one of the largest, fastest, and most redundant networks of all the providers. You can get a small business account with them for just $29/year that includes 5million monthly queries for up to 10 domains, and vanity DNS (your own nameserver names). For $59/year you get 10million queries/month for up to 25 domains (an amazing deal compared to all competitors), and for $1499.95 you get 50million queries/month for up to 50 domains, plus some free phone support. If you need more queries for a particular service level you can buy them a-la-carte at a rate of 1million/month for $37.95/year, extra 10million/month for  $299.95/year, or an extra 20milliion/month for $524.95/year. So for instance, for one site of mine that requires almost exactly 20million queries per month, I pay a total of $583.95 per year! This gives me 30million queries per month for a grand total of $48.66/month, but paid by the year. The cheap accounts get only 24x7 web support, but no phone support without paying hefty support fees. However the web support has proven to respond quickly to all questions I've posed to them so far, usually within an hour. Not only that, they actually take the time to give very good and very specific answers to technical questions, unlike many many other tech support depts I've dealt with. I must say, that DNSMadeEasy has made managing the DNSes for my client's sites almost fun. Once you get to know their control panel, managing your DNS is truly easy, assuming you have a pretty good working knowledge of how DNS works already. For newbies, they have a ton of online tutorial videos in their help section that cover most DNS operations you are ever likely to need to learn. I was a bit hesitant to sign up for their service initially because I literally couldn't believe they could be as good a provider as most of the other major providers who charge 10x as much for the same services, but I'm glad I gave them a try before making a mistake of signing up with a more expensive provider. As long as you don't need to talk to their support on the phone, or are willing to pay for phone support, DNSMadeEasy will NOT disappoint you. If you do require the occasional phone support or help with the initial setup via phone, you can purchase Standard Phone Support billed at $85.00 per/hour during normal business hours, $190.00 per hour night/weekend, $290.00 per hour holiday. But from my experience you'll never need phone support unless you really don't know what you're doing with your DNS setup. So, feel free to use my affiliate link below (everyone who signs up with them gets one) if you want to give me a little referral credit for sending you their way....
https://cp.dnsmadeeasy.com/u/78431
Last Updated ( Friday, 31 August 2012 )
 
What is X-Commerce and what does it have to do with PayPal?
Written by Brett Brewer   
Monday, 26 March 2012

I recently did a hasty implementation of PayPal ExpressCheckout for a client and while talking to a PayPal sales rep prior to the integration he directed me to x.com for documentation, but then couldn't explain exactly how it related to PayPal and the traditional PayPal developer site. I was left wondering whether to use the docs on x.com or the docs on the paypal developer site. Then today I was reading the JanRain technical blog looking for some info about their social sign-in API and stumbled across this line in a blurb about the Innovate Developer Conference.

Now in its third year, Innovate has evolved quickly from a developer conference put on by eBay’s PayPal unit to a broader event featuring X.commerce, which unifies the commerce tools and technology platforms of eBay, PayPal, Magento, Milo and other eBay companies for developers and merchants.

So now I know.

 
Catching uncatchable fatal errors in PHP
Written by Brett Brewer   
Thursday, 01 December 2011

Ever been annoyed when your custom error handlers or exceptions don't catch fatal PHP errors and leave you with the dreaded "white screen of death" on your web pages instead of a useful stack trace? Me too. So I was happy to find this helpful article that shows a trick you can use to catch fatal errors such as "out of memory" errors. 

<?php
set_error_handler('myErrorHandler'); 
register_shutdown_function('fatalErrorShutdownHandler');
function myErrorHandler($code, $message, $file, $line) {   
     //handle the fatal error however you want here.  
}  
function fatalErrorShutdownHandler() {
     $last_error = error_get_last();   
     if ($last_error['type'] === E_ERROR) {
          // fatal error     
          myErrorHandler(E_ERROR, $last_error['message'], $last_error['file'], $last_error['line']);  
     } 
}
?>

You may also need to put this in your script to get fatal errors onto the error stack...

<?php
error_reporting(0);
?>

Also keep in mind, if you have any other functions registered as shutdown functions and one of them throws an error, your custom fatalErrorShutdownHandler will not work.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 December 2011 )
 
Google Plus finally comes to Google Apps users
Written by Brett Brewer   
Tuesday, 01 November 2011
Google finally annnounced "Google+" support for Google Apps users . Now those of us that have been using google apps to host our email and other domain services can finally see what all the fuss is about. Previously, if you wanted to use Google+ you had to use a Gmail account, which for many Google Apps users like myself meant creating yet another gmail account just to use Google+. And since many of us tend to stay logged into Google under our Google Apps account, this meant that most of us have been ignoring Google+ entirely. This has been especially bad for the Google+ adoption since power users who host their own sites also tend to be the early adopters that new services like Google+ need. In fact, early reports on Google+ suggest that many users have tried it and then not returned and I suspect that some of that behavior was caused by early adopters who needed to create new accounts for Google+ access. Perhaps now the Google+ metrics will start improving as an influx of Google Apps users join the ranks.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 November 2011 )
 
dosarrest.com - the real deal
Written by Brett Brewer   
Thursday, 23 June 2011

I recently had the unpleasant experience of weathering a rather nasty distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on one of the sites I manage. It's a high traffic site that does many tens of thousands of dollars of business each and every day. Downtime on the site costs a lot of money and makes us look really bad. Earlier this week we received a short, poorly worded email from an anonymous email address informing us that our site was under attack and demanding an unspecified ransom to cease the attack. The attack took the site down early Monday morning and I, along with a few other people, scrambled to find a solution, working with our dedicated server company and Akamai to block the deluge of traffic that had maxxed out the connections on our firewall. This particular type of attack is known as a "SYN Flood Attack".  It is very hard to defend against.  We tried blocking IP addresses with our firewall and some POS software from Cisco called "Cisco Guard" which proved utterly useless. Akamai tried some other things that took hours to implement and also proved fruitless. In the end, both the dedicated server company and Akamai advised us there was little we could do other than "wait it out". That was simply not an option. By late in the day, we had lost thousands in revenue, not to mention the sinking feeling of utter helplessness at the hands of some asshole "hackers" who we could not hope to track down or identify. We suspected they were in eastern Europe, possibly in Hungary, but that was about all we could deduce. We called the FBI and got a recording and a message about submitting an incident report on their web site. I called CERT's 1-800 number to see if they had any advice or knew who I could report this to and they nearly laughed at me when I told them I'd tried to call the FBI to report it. CERT also directed me to a web form where I could fill out a report, but advised me that most likely nothing would be done. Apparently the WWW in internet addresses really does stand for "Wild Wild West". When it comes to dealing with a DDoS attack, you really are on your own. So what were we to do? Would we pay some unknown stranger an unspecified ransom? Would we wait another day and lose thousands more? Would we hire our own hackers to fight back? Finally as the day was quckly turning to evening and financial losses were piling up, we called one of our business associates who runs an even bigger and more prominent web site and told them what was happening to us and asked if they had any suggestions. They had two words for us....."Call Dosarrest.com", they said.  We'd already done some research online looking for solutions and came across dosarrest's web site, but we were hesitant to try them at first. There were dozens of companies out there claiming to be experts in stopping DoS attacks. Some were big, some were small, some had proprietary hardware they would want to sell us to install at our datacenter, some were just services with no explanation of how they would help. But after the recommendation from our business associates, we decided to give dosarrest.com a call. Our associates assured us that when they had gone through a similar situation, they used dosarrest's services and though it wasn't particularly cheap,  dosarrest got them back online within an hour or two. We had nothing to lose. Our mounting lost revenue had already cost us far more than dosarrest wanted to get us set up with their service. We made contact with dosarrest's sales rep who told us that depending on how quick we could make the required config changes to our site and DNS, they could have us back online within minutes or at most an hour or two. The sale rep wasn't joking.  Within a few minutes of agreeing to the terms of their contract and making our initial paypal payment, their support team had sent us all the required configuration information, set up a proxy server to filter our traffic and were waiting on us to make the needed changes to our web server and dns config. Within the next hour we had completed the DNS and web server updates and our site was back in business.  Throughout the process, I emailed their support with questions and had answers within minutes. When I called them, I was quickly connected to a tech-savvy support person who had all the answers I needed. Each time I have contacted them via email since, I have had a response within minutes. I think the longest response time from them was about 20 minutes for a non-emergency email, but usually it's much quicker. In fact, this evening, after several days of running with their service, I made a major update to the web site. About 100 files were changed and out of that 100 files I made 1 mistake in a config file that caused an endless redirect loop on the site. Because I had updated so many files at once, it took about 15 minutes to find my mistake and correct it. When I finished fixing the redirect problem, I checked my inbox to find an email already waiting from dosalert.com support informing me that they had detected that our site was down, had determined that it was not the result of an attack, had added some additional traffic filters as a precaution and were continuing to monitor the situation. It was not an automated message, it was from an actual support person who was actually on top of the situation. I immediately emailed them back to let them know the problem was caused by a stupid mistake on my part and to tell them how impressed I was that they were so diligent in monitoring our site. And then I sat down to write this post. I'm just not used to service this good. We pay a lot of money to our dedicated server company for 24/7 support and though they are often good, they don't come close to the level of service we've gotten from dosarrest so far. In fact, our web server company is supposed to be monitoring our server for downtime too, but I didn't get any messages from them tonight when I took our server down for 15 minutes. Dosarrest was on top of it within a few minutes. My only complaint with dosarrest is that they don't offer dedicated server hosting because I'd probably bite the bullet and go through all hassles to switch to them for that too.

So, in summary, if you are dealing with a DDoS attack on your servers and don't know what to do, call dosarrest.com. Tell 'em Brett Brewer sent you. I won't say they are cheap, but I will say that if your business lives and dies by its web site, there is no substitute for the kind of service they provide. They are the real deal. 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 June 2011 )
 
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