How To Find Free Images For Your Site Even If You’re Totally Blind

In both the Intro To HTML 5 And CSS and Intro To WordPress And CMS Fundamentals courses at the Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired, we stress the importance of adding rich media to sites you design and build, even if you are totally blind. The web is a rich place, and its denisons have grown used to, (and like), all of that rich content. But how do you find images for a site if you are totally blind and cannot usually take the pictures yourself, and you don’t have a dedicated team of light slaves (sorry sighted people, we love you, but that’s just what we call you sometimes), to beta test the pictures you take, or you don’t have the money to use a service like this to have all the images you need described for you? (Protip: Use that service the next time you need to take a picture for a job interview. They’ll give you accurate, objective descriptions of yourself, and once you have a good picture, you can use that on resumes as well, or have it cropped to use as a social media avatar).

Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There is a reliable way to find good free images for your site that are easy to use. It will take a little work on your part, and you need to be familiar with your screen reader, but it’s definitely worth it. This method has been tested with Jaws 14 and 15, and Internet Explorer 10 and 11. Your milage may varry with other screen readers and other browsers.

We use Flikr for this, because it’s free and has lots of images that are released under the Creative Commons license. You’ll need a Yahoo ID for this, because you sign into Flikr using that ID and password. Here are the steps you need to take to start finding images:

Plan Your Images

Before you can do any searching, you need to plan what kind of images you need. What kind of images will butress your content and add flare to it. what kind of image will evoke the kind of feelings or thoughts or associations you want for your readers. For instance, if you manage a cooking site, and you’re posting a recipe for the most amazing cake ever, then an image of a scrumptious cake is what you want. Or, if you’re managing a site about beekeeping, then a picture of cultivated beehives or honey extraction is what you need.

  1. Go to the advanced search page on Flikr.
  2. Type keywords in the search box for images that you need. Also, make sure to type words you don’t want to show up in the search in the appropriate boxes. For instance, you might want roses, but not pictures of the band Guns and Roses, so type guns in the box for words you don’t want to show up in your search.
  3. Check the box that searches for photos only if you don’t want other kinds of images, and check the box that narrows your search to photos and images released under the creative commons license.
  4. Press the submit button and wait for results.
  5. Look through the page of results and pay attention to what tags are applied to
    the photos and what kind of comments people make about the pictures.
    Tags are keywords people use to describe the photo. Comments can tell
    you more about what the picture is like and how well people like it.
  6. 7. When you find one that is highly rated and sounds like what you want, press enter on its link. Its link is usually a long random string of
    letters and numbers.
  7. Do not download from this page since it defaults to a huge full screen
    picture that is 1024 by 768. It’s not what you want for a website.
  8. On that page, look for and press the actions button. It’s after the
    follow and fave buttons.
  9. Now comes the screen reader magic part. There is a silent menu
    that comes up once you press the actions button. You will need to use
    your JAWS cursor or object nav in NVDA to find the view/download all sizes button. Click that
    button with the key that’s next to the numlock key on a full-sized
    keyboard, the left mouse button.
  10. Once you click this, you’ll need to use your JAWS cursor again to
    click the view all sizes button. It’s on the same line as the download
    button, so you’ll need to be sure you click on the correct button.
  11. You’ll reach a page with multiple sizes for your chosen image. For
    icons, you’ll want the smaller format, the square or the thumbnail. For
    a regular image to use on the website, try one of the medium sizes,
    around 320 by 240 or in that neighborhood. Don’t go higher than 500.
  12. When you press the link to download the size you want, it’ll take
    you to a page where the download starts.
  13. This is very important. When the download finishes, immediately go
    to the folder with your file and give it a real name. By default the
    photo has a name that is a long string of random numbers and letters. If
    you don’t give it a better name, you’ll forget what that file is six
    months down the road. Call it something like “pink rose icon” or “red
    mountain bike medium” and make sure to keep the original file extension
    of .jpg.
  14. Now hit your back button twice. Tab to the link where you would
    follow a person’s photo stream. Press your context key and choose copy
    shortcut. This copies the URL for the person’s photo stream to your
    clipboard.
  15. The price for being able to use someone’s photo is that you must
    give them credit. People either do this by using the caption attribute
    in the img tag or by providing credit as an aside in the article where
    the photo is posted. You could also use space in your footer tag to
    provide attribution.
    Attribution consists of letting your viewers know who took the photo as
    well as posting the link to the person’s photo stream on Flickr. It’s
    not required, but I also send the person a message on Flickr to thank
    them for sharing the photo.
  16. This process works equally well using HTML or a WordPress site. Just
    do the attribution inside the caption area when you upload a photo to
    the WordPress post where the photo will be used.

We used Flikr in this tutorial, but there are tons of websites that offer creative-commons images that you can use throughout your content. As you spend more time creating content and adding images, the process becomes a lot easier and you’ll be following it like it’s second nature.

Your Turn

Now I’ll turn it over to you. If you don’t take your own pics for your site, what sources do you use to find images? Are they free? Are they paid? And if you’re a screen reader user, what accessible sources of creative-commons images have you found? Why not share your findings in the comments below?

Track Your Billable Hours With Instabilling

If you’re someone who charges for your work on an hourly basis, keeping track of those hours can be chalenging. You could use a stopwatch, and then create a spreadsheet and enter that data, create a formula to calculate your rate, and then get the results from another column, but that means you have to remember to enter the data for the hours you’ve worked after you’re done. And if that work period is a long one, you’re probably just like me and you’re so tired after working that logging hours is the last thing on your mind.

Instabilling To The Rescue

I was talking to some of my geek friends last night, and the subject of hourly rates came up. I was given an app recommendation, and while searching in the app store on my iPhone for the app, I came across Instabilling. Instabilling is an app that lets you track tasks, how long they take, and for specific clients. For each task, you enter a task name, select a client, and enter an hourly rate. This is great for those of us who charge differently depending on the task and the client. There’s a task timer screen, and it shows the task, the time worked, and the earnings in real time. There’s also a start and stop button, which, (though unlabeled), are still useable by Voiceover users. Having a simple start/stop option makes it easy to stop when you take a break, and then start again when you get back to the grindstone.

Instabilling also lets you generate reports based on time period, task and client, and then email that report to the client, so he or she gets a time report along with your invoice should you choose to include that. You can also time personal tasks with the app, which means it has applications outside of work.

Oh, and one more thing. There’s a free version that works just as well as the full version, which is only ninety-nine cents. I don’t think you can beat that.

<3>Your Turn

Now I’ll turn it over to my fellow hourly workers: Web designers, developers, content writers, and anyone else who works from home and has to keep track of their hours. What tools do you use to keep track of all that time? Leave a comment and let me know.

SSL’s About To Get A Lot More Famous, Thanks To Google

We normally think of HTTPS (Hyper-text Transfer Protocol Over TLS) as something e-commerce or banking websites use. There are other types of sites that use it too, (webhosts can, for example, force logins to their user administration panels using https, and any site dealing in the exchange of any personal data is using it if they want to keep their good reputation intact), but banking and e-commerce are the two types of sites most users associate with secure. As of yesterday, Google is strongly encouraging everyone to use it, whether their website has e-commerce functionality or not. Google has indicated both on its Webmaster Central blog and on its Online Security blog that whether or not a site employs https will effect its ranking within Google’s search results.

For now, Google says that the https ranking signal carries very little weight, and will effect only about one percent of all rankings, but it hopes to ramp up in the future, which means that it’s likely that, at some point, if you want high rankings, your going to have to get yourself an SSL certificate, and then either learn how to install and deploy it or get someone to do that for you. It’s not a simple process.

I can see a market segment growing up around this, in both the white-hat and black-hat SEO communities. I can also envision all manner of spam opportunities arising from this, depending on how big it gets, which is something I never thought I’d hear myself say in relation to SSL certificates. I wonder when Google’s going to take the plunge and make Blogger secure?

Go Get The Latest WordPress Security Update As Soon As Possible

From the official WordPress blog:

WordPress 3.9.2 is now available as a security release for all previous versions. We strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.

This release fixes a possible denial of service issue in PHP’s XML processing, reported by Nir Goldshlager of the Salesforce.com Product Security Team. It  was fixed by Michael Adams and Andrew Nacin of the WordPress security team and David Rothstein of the Drupal security team. This is the first time our two projects have coordinated on joint security releases.

WordPress 3.9.2 also contains other security changes:

  • Fixes a possible but unlikely code execution when processing widgets (WordPress is not affected by default), discovered by Alex Concha of the WordPress security team.
  • Prevents information disclosure via XML entity attacks in the external GetID3 library, reported by Ivan Novikov of ONSec.
  • Adds protections against brute attacks against CSRF tokens, reported by David Tomaschik of the Google Security Team.
  • Contains some additional security hardening, like preventing cross-site scripting that could be triggered only by administrators.

For more information, see the release notes or consult the list of changes.

Download WordPress 3.9.2 or venture over to Dashboard ? Updates and simply click “Update Now”.

Sites that support automatic background updates will be updated to WordPress 3.9.2 within 12 hours. (If you are still on WordPress 3.8.3 or 3.7.3, you will also be updated to 3.8.4 or 3.7.4. We don’t support older versions, so please update to 3.9.2 for the latest and greatest.) If you want to update on your own, you still have the option of manually downloading the update from your dashboard and installing it yourself.

If you’re testing WordPress beta 4.0, the third beta is now available (zip) and it contains these security fixes.

The WordPress Community Gets A Huge Uplift: Chris Lema Joins Crowd Favorite As Its CTO

Chris Lema announced on his blog yesterday that he’s joining Crowd Favorite as its CTO on September 15th. I think this can only mean good things for the community. Chris as been writing a blog since 2012 through which he inspires us all on a daily basis, for free, and he’s also been giving talks at WordCamps all over the place, through which he inspires attendees as well as those of us who catch his speeches afterwords. And Crowd Favorite? Well, they’ve been at the core of WordPress development ever since its birth back in 2003, and they’ve contributed a ton in their own right. Things such as the Carrington suite of products, (which includes Carrington Core, a completely free WordPress theme that promotes best practices when it comes to its code, and Carrington Build, a package that scratches the drag-n-drop itch while still maintaining code best practices), along with several free plugins. Yeah, Crowd Favorite is definitely part of the concrete.

Chris has been using his experience in the corporate world to help WordPress freelancers become successful. And he’s done a lot of it for free, and it’s been excellent dvice, not just some sort of teaser that says “Oh here’s some stuff I know is absolutely amazing, but you can only have it if you pay me $29,999, and even if you’re a small business you should still do it, because invest in yourself”. (I’m not saying coaches or marketers shouldn’t be paid, or even that they shouldn’t necessarily earn the amounts they are. My point is that Chris has given of his time and talent to our community, and I know several people who have turned that information into successful businesses). So we have inspiring, and a rock-solid foundation for development in the WordPress community, coming together. What could possibly go wrong with this combination?

If you don’t know who Chris Lema is, or haven’t read any of his posts, you can find out more about him over at PostStatus, and you can visit his site and subscribe to his newsletter to get the latest from his keyboard on WordPress. I promise. He’s absolutely worth every minute you spend reading.

How To Create Tables Using WordPress

Tables are an important part of many websites. They are the best way to display data that reads best in columns. Examples of this kind of data might be the numbers for a company’s balance sheet, a list of files with their descriptions and release dates, a book list showing titles and authors, or an address list.

In this tutorial, I’ll first show you how to create data tables by hand, using HTML and CSS, (I’ll leave out Sass for now), and then I’ll discuss some plugins that will make the task much easier.

The Basics

You define a table and include all of its elements between the “table” tag and its corresponding “/table” end tag. Table elements, including data items, row and column headers, and captions, each have their own markup tags. Working from left to right and top to bottom, you define, in order, the header and data for each column cell across and down the table.

Tables are treated by most browsers as a separate browser window within your page. A table can contain almost any type of HTML tag that holds content such as paragraphs, forms, images, links, scripted applets, and even other tables. Tables can be quite simple or quite complex, depending on your needs.

Tags for Tables

When making tables, you’ll use five tags. There are more tags if you want to get fancy with layouts, but the ones we’ll cover are the tags you’ll use in almost every table you create.

The Table Tag

The table tag is the way you begin every table. It tells the browser that everything you do until you close the table tag is going to be part of a table.

The “table” tag and its “/table” end tag define and encapsulate a table within the body of your document. Unless otherwise placed within the browser window by style sheet, paragraph, division-level, or other alignment options, the browser stops the current text flow, breaks the line, inserts the table beginning on a new line, and then restarts the text flow on a new line below the table.

The only content allowed directly within the “table” tag is one or more “tr” tags, which define each row of table contents, along with the various table sectioning tags: “thead”, “tfoot”, “tbody”, “col”, and “colgroup”.

The “table” tag has several optional attributes as well as many CSS properties that can be used. Some of the optional attributes are being replaced with CSS. You may want to Google these or read a book like CSS The Missing Manual to learn how they all work. We’ll focus on those used most often.

For now, optional attributes include border, cellspacing, cellpadding, background (bgcolor), bordercolor (bordercolordark), (bordercolorlight), class, cols, dir, height (hspace), (), id, lang, nowrap, rules, style, summary, title, valign (vspace), and width. There are also around a dozen mouse and key click events that you can explore if you intend to use scripting in your tables.

Preparing The Ground

Because we’re doing this using WordPress, you’ll need to add any CSS rules to your theme’s stylesheet. If your theme already has styling for tables, you can either modify those styles, or leave them as is. If not, you’ll need to go ahead and add those rules to your stylesheet. If you’re using a Genesis theme, (that’s an affiliate link, so if you click it, and make a purchase, I get a commission),there’s already a structure in place, including a table of contents documenting all the styles that are provided for the theme. You may wish to add an entry in the contents for the tables section. That way, you’ll be able to more easily find that section should you want to make future changes to your table styling. Next, add any style rules for tables. Make sure you add them before the media queries.

Colors

In HTML 5, it is best to specify both the background and other colors using CSS with either a tag selector for all tables or by assigning your table a class and setting colors that way. It saves you time, and the color attributes for the table tag will be going away in a few years.

Aligning Your Table

Like images, tables are rectangular objects that float in the browser display, aligned according to the current text flow. Normally, the browser left-justifies a table, abutting its left edge to the left margin of the display window. Or the table may be centered if under the influence of a centered paragraph or a centered division. Unlike images, however, tables are not inline objects. Text content normally flows above and below a table, not beside it. You can change that display behavior with a CSS definition for the “table” tag using the align property.

The align attribute accepts a value of either left , right , or center , indicating that the table should be placed flush against the left or right margin of the text flow, with the text flowing around the table, or in the middle with text flowing above and below.

Borders

Borders can and should be handled using CSS. However, if you must use this attribute in your table code, here is how it works. The optional border attribute for the “table” tag tells the browser to draw lines around the table and the rows and cells within it. The default is no borders at all. You may specify a value for border , but you don’t have to with HTML. Alone, the attribute simply enables borders and a set of default characteristics, slightly different for each of the popular browsers.) With XHTML, use border=”border” to achieve the same default results. Otherwise, in HTML 5, supply an integer value for border equal to the pixel width of the 3D chiseled-edge lines that surround the outside of the table and make it look like it’s embossed onto the page.

Cellspacing and Cellpadding

Both cellspacing and cellpadding can be handled nicely in CSS and will save you time. Use a tag or class selector, and you’re golden. However, if you want to use the attributes in your “table” tag, here’s what you need to know.

The Cellspacing Attribute

The cellspacing attribute controls the amount of space placed between adjacent cells in a table and along the outer edges of cells along the edges of a table.

Most browsers normally put 2 pixels of space between cells and along the outer edges of the table. If you include a border attribute in the “table” tag, the cell spacing between interior cells grows by 2 more pixels (4 total) to make space for the chiseled edge on the interior border. The outer edges of edge cells grow by the value of the border attribute.

By including the cellspacing attribute, you can widen or reduce the interior cell borders. For instance, to make the thinnest possible interior cell borders, include the border and cellspacing=0 attributes in the table’s tag.

The Cellpadding Attribute

The cellpadding attribute controls the amount of space between the edge of a cell and its contents, which by default is 1 pixel. You can make all the cell contents in a table touch their respective cell borders by including cellpadding=0 in the table tag. You can also increase the cellpadding space by making its value greater than 1.

Combining the Border, Cellspacing, and Cellpadding Attributes

The interactions between the border , cellpadding , and cellspacing attributes of the “table” tag combine in ways that can be confusing. You will need to experiment a bit to understand how these attributes work together.

While all kinds of combinations of the border and cellspacing attributes are possible, these are the most common:

border=1 and cellspacing=0
produces the narrowest possible interior and exterior borders: 2 pixels wide.
border= n and cellspacing=0
makes the narrowest possible interior borders (2 pixels wide), with an external border that is n + 1 pixels wide.
border=1 and cellspacing= n
tables have equal-width exterior and interior borders, all with chiseled edges just 1 pixel wide. All borders will be n + 2 pixels wide.

The Cols Attribute

Setting this attribute can make your web pages load faster and assist with screenreader navigation in large tables. Always use this attribute if you can. To format a table, your browser has to read the entire table contents, determining the number and width of each column in the table. This can be a lengthy process for long tables, forcing users to wait to see your pages. The cols attribute tells the browser, in advance, how many columns to expect in the table. This applies to the virtual buffer used by most screenreaders as well. The value of this attribute is a number, an integer value defining the number of columns in the table.

The cols attribute only advises the browser. If you define a different number of columns, the browser is free to ignore the cols attribute in order to render the table correctly. In general, it is good form to include this attribute with your “table” tag to help the browser do a faster job of formatting your tables.

The Summary Attribute

The summary attribute was introduced to HTML in the 4.0 standard. Its value is a quote-enclosed string that describes the purpose and summarizes the contents of the table. Its intended use, according to the standard, is to provide extended access to nonvisual browsers, particularly for users with disabilities.

The TR Tag

The “tr” tag defines rows in your table. Every row in a table has the same number of cells as the longest row; the browser automatically creates empty cells to pad rows with fewer defined cells. In early versions of HTML, closing the “tr” and “td” tags wasn’t necessary. Most browsers will still display your table if you don’t do this. However, for best compatibility with all browsers, close each row with the “/tr> tag.

Use CSS if you need to style rows in your tables including colors, alignment, and such. If you define classes for rows that need formatting, you won’t have to type a bunch of attributes every time you make a new row.

The “TR” tag will hold either the “td” tag or the “th” tag to make cells. Don’t put data immediately inside a “tr” tag without first adding a “td” or “th” tag first.

The th and td Tags

The “th” and “td” tags go inside the “tr” tags of a table to create the header and data cells, respectively, and to define the cell contents within the rows. These tags make the columns in your table. The tags operate similarly. The only differences are that the browsers render header text, (meant to entitle or otherwise describe table data), in boldface font style and that the default alignment of their respective contents might be different than for data. Data usually gets left-justified by default while headers get centered.

The contents of the “th” and “td” tags can be anything you might put in the body of a document, including text, images, forms, applets… even another table. Browsers automatically create a table large enough, both vertically and horizontally, to display all the contents of any and all the cells.

If a row has fewer header or data items than other rows, the browser adds empty cells at the end to fill the row. If you need to make an empty cell before the end of a row, for instance to indicate a missing data point, create a header or data cell with no content in it.

if the table has borders, empty cells look different than those containing data or headers. The empty cell does not appear embossed onto the window and is simply left blank. If you want to create an empty cell that has borders like all the other cells in your table, use a minimal amount of content in the cell: something like a single “br” tag, for example.

You can use CSS to control the appearance of cells using the “td” tag selector or by giving certain cells a class that contains a style.

The Ccaption Tag

A table often needs a caption to explain its contents, so browsers provide a table-caption tag. Authors typically place the “caption” tag and its contents immediately after the “table” tag, but it can be placed nearly anywhere inside the table and between the row tags. The caption may contain any body content, much like a cell within a table. Screenreaders do read the caption, and it can be helpful to blind and sighted users alike. Unlike the summary attribute, the contents of the caption tag always show visually on screen.

This is a time vampire! Can’t I use a plugin?

One of the great things about WordPress, (or any CMS for that matter), is that it does the heavy lifting for you. And when you’re writing content, and you want to display data in a table, allowing WordPress to handle the creation of that table with a plugin is a lot less time-consuming than switching to the code editor and manually creating it yourself. So if you’ve read this far, here are some plugins that will help.

Ultimate Tables

Ultimate Tables is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to insert tables into posts, pages, and other custom post types.

Six different styles are available with the plugin. Alternatively, you can define your own class or apply no styling to the table. Tables are configured in the settings area. From here you can define rows and columns, and enter text or HTML into cells. Rows and columns can be reordered by defining their row or column number at the side of the table.

The output of Ultimate Tables looks great. Additional rows of data can be broken up into pages.
Ultimate Tables supports search, filtering, and sorting. Once you have completed your table, you can insert it into your website using a shortcode. The table can also be placed in a widget.

TablePress

TablePress, (formerly known as WP Tables Reloaded), is easy to use and offers more custom options than does Ultimate Tables. In the settings area, you define the table name, description, number of rows, and number of columns. It supports any type of data in cells (even formulas). Rows and columns can be moved, inserted, and duplicated. Cells can also be selected and combined into larger cells. One of the great features of the plugin is the ability to select a cell and then add content using an advanced editor. This allows you to style content and insert images. Table headers and footers can be added too. There is also an option for alternating row colors and enabling row hover highlighting. TablePress features search and sorting functionality and table rows can be divided into pages. Custom CSS can be added via the plugin options page and then called in the settings area for individual tables. However, if you don’t want to add your own CSS, the default design will work as well. With the ability to import and export data using CSV, HTML, and JSON, it is a practical option for anyone who works with data tables on a regular basis.

These recommendations should get you started. If you’d like more options, Elegant Themes has compiled a list of WordPress table plugins ranging from simple to advanced, and from free to premium.

I hope you have found this tutorial useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. While you’re at it, if you have a favorite table plugin, why not leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to this post.

If You’re Not Watching Genesis Office Hours, You Should Be

Shameless kiss-up: I love Genesis Office Hours. I think it’s one of the best WordPress podcasts out there, not least because it deals with the Genesis framework, which I also love.

What Is Genesis Office Hours?

Genesis Office Hours is a podcast hosted by Carrie Dils, a designer and developer using the Genesis framework. Along with designing and developing sites for cost, she provides a lot of tutorials for Genesis, showing users and other developers and designers how to get Genesis child themes to go beyond their original designs and functionality. On top of that, she hosts Genesis Office Hours, which is a podcast featuring interviews and tips from others in the Genesis community, along with the opportunity for users to ask questions and have them answered by the guest hosts and herself.

Note: I’m not going to get any money for this post, nor have I been featured on the show. I have, however, chatted up Genesis a lot, especially to my students, and I really do believe this is one of the best Genesis podcasts they, and you, could spend your time listening to.

Anyway, back to what it is. Carrie has feature guest hosts ranging from small business owners to some of the folks from Studio Press itself, and everyone’s been amazingly helpful and more than willing to share what they know. Not that this doesn’t happen with the rest of the WordPress community. But Genesis is my favorite framework, so I’m focusing on that.

Can I Watch?

Of course you can! That’s what I’m trying to get you to do after all, right? If you click on the link to Carrie’s site above, and then click on the Genesis Office Hours page, you can watch all past episodes. You can also submit your questions via the Twitter hashtag #gohchat. And here’s a helpful link to a post where Carrie gives you a bit of behind-the-scenes action. And be sure to read Carrie’s blog where she posts the show notes along with her other tutorials.

I hope that Genesis Office Hours will become a regular addition to your list of resources. It’s always great to have those to rely on.

Git: It’s Not Just For Developers

Version control: It’s one of those handy tools developers use to keep track of changes to a project. It also makes it easier to “code in the kitchen”, as it were, by allowing for small changes we may have come up with while, say cooking dinner or cleaning the house to be made and noted, so that we can come back later and decide if we want to keep the little change, or roll it back without having to dig through lines and lines of code to find and delete it. But did you know that Git (or any other method of version control, for that matter), can also be used for design, and even content writing?

I first came across version control in the form of Murcurial while working on a project last year with Monica that involved adding content to a hand-coded site. To be honest, at first, I thought the owner of the site was crazy for insisting on version control for a hand-coded, relatively simple site, but after having switched my own processes over to version control from plain-old work-as-you-go text files, I’m thankful I was introduced.

So how do you, as a content writer or designer, implement version control? There’s an excellent post over at Flywheel that will get you started. It lays out some reasons why version control, (specifically, Git), is a good for designers, and provides some free resources for getting started. Admittedly, the concept took me a while to get used to, and I ran into some issues while getting everything initially set up, but once I got rolling, I’ve never looked back.

Google Brings Out The Big Stick: Search Results To Indicate Whether Older Technology Is Being Used

Google announced on its Webmaster Central Blog that as of Monday, its U.S. search results would begin indicating whether or not a site is supported on your device. Technologies like Flash aren’t supported on Android 4.1 or higher, as well as iOS, and since smartphone usage is increasing, this is becoming a problem for users. It’s actually been a problem for users for a while now, and Google is finally catching up.

There’s of course a lot of pushback in the comments to Google’s post, but since this is Google we’re talking about, anyone maintaining a website will gripe, but be forced to make the change unless they want to see their search ranking plumet. Google is including its technology notice in the snippits section of search results, which raises the question of whether this was one of the intended reasons for implementing snippits in the first place. I can’t say I’m against this. It’s a great way to encourage the adoption of newer technologies like HTML5.

If You’re Using WPTouch, Update Immediately!

WPTouch is a plugin for WordPress that automatically enables a mobile theme for those who may be visiting your site on a smartphone or tablet. With five million downloads to date, it’s one of the most popular plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. Earlier today, Sucuri reported that WPTouch has a dangerous security vulnerability, and users are strongly advised to update immediately. The short version is, unless you’re running the latest update, WPTouch allows users who do not have administrative priveliges to upload php scripts directly to the server, meaning that someone with not-so-good intentions has the capability to take over any site running anything but the latest version of the WPTouch plugin.

The unpatched version of the plugin uses the “admin_init” hook as its authentication method. As was discussed previously, “admin_init” should not be used as an authentication method because it is invoked not only when an administrative user visits any page within wp-admin, but also when wp-admin/admin-post.php is visited, thus allowing anyone to upload potentially malicious code to an effected site.

If you’re using this plugin to create a mobile-friendly experience for your users, update it as soon as possible. Sucuri made the vulnerability known to the authors of the plugin, and they have uickly released a patch to the plugin directory. the only thing users of the pugin need do is update to the latest version.