Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Olympics - discovering content and live streams

List of Active Live Streams


UPDATE: nice, looks like people are putting together playlists for the music used during the opening ceremony! Link 1 (YouTube) Link 2 (Spotify)

UPDATE: VIPBox live coverage center

UPDATE: if you need to find out where a shortened link goes (ex.,,, etc.) enter it at LongURL and then copy the Long URL to Site Advisor and click "View Report". That should hopefully tell you if it's safe to click.

I'm pretty excited to watch some of the games these next weeks so I thought I'd share some of the resources I've discovered to follow along and watch online. Especially since I'm one of those poor blokes that can't afford a cable package. Actually it seems weird to me that a significant world event like this isn't simply streamed online from the organization itself or some other benevolent entity...greedy bastards! :P

Anyway, below you'll find official resources for results and coverage, along with methods for discovering "other" ways of watching it online.

My preferred method of discovering content is through Twitter. Head over to (you may need to login) and do a query of Tweets, for example:
Be sure to click "All" to reveal normal peoples' Tweets as well, but beware that some individuals might exploit this by submitting malware links. Use your best judgement!

You can also try advanced Google searches like this one:
That way you may discover websites that have updated with new links and fresh content.

If you're just looking for results and coverage then try some of these links:
It also appears that some countries might get free streaming services from certain websites like this one:
It may be possible to access this stream from non-applicable countries (like the US) using TOR or a proxy that masks your IP.

I'll keep this blog post updated as I find new content.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DayZ Journal Entry #1 - Part 1

I awoke on the coastline near Kamyshovo. It was raining and there was a heavy mist in the air. Down the road I could barely make out a town and people shuffling around. As I neared I knew something wasn't right. These weren't people, something was wrong. Wanting a closer look, I crouched and skirted the town, trying to stay hidden. At one point I was forced to crawl on my stomach to avoid being seen. I got really close to one of them and saw his blood covered face, smelt the rotting flesh, and heard his pained moans as he stumbled around. Zombies. A sudden fear hit me as I realized what had happened. I wanted to scream and run for the hills, but I forced myself to stay calm. Controlled breaths, slow your heart, I thought to myself as I crawled away from the city. I had to get into the hills, away from this city.

A long time ago, my friends and I had jokingly talked about zombies and what we would do if it happened. Somewhere within the conversation the city of Mogilevka was brought up because of the large industrial buildings they had. It seemed like a safe haven, somewhere you could fight and holdout for a long time. That was my destination and with any luck, someone would have survived to make it that far.

I ran through the woods north of Kamyshovo, crossed a dirt path and began to beeline for Pusta, a small village I knew of. It was quiet and eerie under the canopy and every twig snap made me jump. Along the way I discovered a tree stand with a 12-gauge shotgun. As I descended the ladder smiling, I turned to face my first zombie. Apparently I wasn't as sneaky as I thought. I lined up the barrel and watched his head pop, the round ripping through his flesh. I almost threw up as I scrambled away. Somehow I had never imagined killing zombies to be so brutal.

For hours I walked under the shady trees, the rain finally dying, until I found a road. It ran north and south and I guessed it to be the one that ran between Elektro and Msta. I also recalled there being some tourist stop along the way with an old ruin or something. I decided to press my luck and see whether I found it. It was risky but I was growing thirsty and needed to find something soon. The road stretched on for miles uphill and I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath. After what seemed like the millionth bend, I saw an odd rock structure. Quietly I approached and saw a sign reading Rog Por. This was it. Within the grounds and inside the crumbling buildings I found supplies. I wondered if someone was coming back for them, but shrugged away the thought as I abated my thirst and hunger. Every man for himself seemed fitting.

I returned the way I came and continued my trek through the woods. It was uneventful and I was grateful for that, until I reached Pusta, a small country village. Again I was forced to skirt the edges and stay hidden. It was tense half-hour as I passed dangerously close to zombies, but soon I found the old dirt road that led to Mogilevka. I jogged for miles until I saw a fork in the road and, my heart stopped, a person. I fumbled with my gun and brought it up. Would they fire on me? He saw me as well and we both cautiously approached one another. My finger was tight on the trigger, but I kept the barrel slightly off him, ready to snap to his chest at any moment. But as his face became visible I realized it was my old friend Devin. The fear lifted. After a brief celebratory greeting and an exchange of stories, we looked towards Mogilevka in the distance and the fields of zombies in the way.

Gripping our weapons and feeling a new surge of confidence, we rushed forward. As we slid up against a wooden fence I heard a growl and turned to face a zombie stepping out of bush. I panicked and fell backwards, managing to bring my shotgun up. The round exploded from the barrel and splattered into his chest and face. I looked at Devin and we knew what was about to happen. Zombie after zombie began showing up, wondering what the loud bang was. We began firing and running, trying to dodge their lunges and savage arms. I had never seen such anger, almost as if their thirst for blood was a horrible addiction, something they would do anything to satisfy. After body after body fell to the ground, we realized we had to make a move. We ran along the old wooden house and into the field. We were able to confuse them by hitting the dirt and remaining quiet. After a few minutes we began crawling towards the city.

We were about half way there when stopped at another old house. As we caught our breath I peeked around the corner and saw multiple zombies moving towards us. I went around the other way and saw more coming up the road and from the field. We were surrounded. There was an exchange of nods as we both realized it was time to run. Standing up and yelling we both fired our guns and shot the closest zombies. More rushed in and met their demise. Devin headed around one side the house as I went another. We both sprinted towards the large industrial building. Almost there I yelled to myself, just keep running. As I tore through the doorway I frantically scrambled to close the door. I didn't see Devin. I ran the length of the building checking other exits. Unfortunately one side had no doors and couldn't be blocked. I prayed none would come that way. Turning back I heard a door slam shut as zombies crashed up against it. Devin was panting and barely able to run as he crossed the building towards me. That was too close, Mogilevka was a bad idea. As we caught our breath and looked around the area we saw nothing but broken down buildings leading into the heart of the city. We needed supplies and more importantly, ammunition. We walked slowly towards some of the smaller buildings to check them out. A few minutes passed in silence as we explored the rubble. Nothing. All of a sudden I saw a couple zombies wandering in from the large building. They must have realized where we were. We fell back to a small building and waited. As we sat inside, a loud pounding echoed through the building as zombies began beating on a door behind us. Where were they coming from? I ran over and looked through the window and saw a face looking back at me. I almost screamed as I lined up my gun. No save the round, I thought, he can't get through. We had to run again. On the count of three we both stood and sprinted from the building. We ran back the way we came, through the large industrial building and out a side door. I led the charge as we crossed a field. Looking back I saw Devin being pursued by multiple targets. It was a horrible moment as I realized I might watch him die. Crouching down I brought up my gun and waited for him to pass. As he ran by, I lit up the first one. The round caught him and he dropped. Devin began to fire as well. Mogilevka was a bad idea.

We headed east for a short while. Both of us were wore out and needed rest. We passed into a small area with buildings. It was quiet and only had a couple zombies we easily finished off. We split up to find supplies. I opened an outhouse and discovered ammo and bandages on the floor. It was disgusting but I couldn't complain. As I gathered up what I could I heard an awful crashing noise. I ran over and found Devin on the ground, writhing in pain. The wooden platform above him was cracked and broken. He indicated towards his legs as he gritted his teeth. "Can you move them?" I asked as he tried to apply pressure. He muffled a scream. They were broken, maybe fractured. Fuck, this was bad. After an hour of lying around, Devin realized what needed to be done. "Shoot me," he said simply, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice.

"What?!" I exclaimed, "I can't do that." He sighed and explained the situation very clearly. Even if we decided he could be saved, it would require me to head alone to Elektro or Chernogorsk, find a hospital, get lucky and discover the right supplies, escape the city and return. It would take days probably, be extremely risky for both of us, probably risk Devin dying anyway since zombies would find him, and he might die of dehydration anyway. He said it again, "shoot me." My hands shook furiously as I raised the barrel. The iron sights came into focus with a blurry head behind it. After I fire don't look, I told myself. I swallowed the lump in my throat and felt my eyes water. Fuck this shit. A long silent moment passed and then I squeezed the trigger. I felt the boom ripple through my body, echoing loudly off the buildings and scaring birds from trees. I fell to my knees and saw his mangled face sputter its last dying breath. I ran into the woods, not looking back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DayZ Tutorial, quick tips

The other day I finally got Arma 2 from the Steam Summer Sale and eagerly loaded up DayZ. Unfortunately it wasn't the easiest of tasks and put me in right state of fury! But the game turned out to be fun and I wanted to share some of the basics so people don't get discouraged and stop playing right out the gates.

Steam installation

The DayZ Steam installation was surprisingly easy, but it seems like there's a few spots people might make mistakes. So please follow these instructions carefully:
  1. Download Arma 2 and Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead.
    • NOTE: Arma 2: Combined Operations is simply the name of the expansion pack containing the two games. It just gives you the option to buy them separately or together.
  2. Run Arma 2 and Arma 2: Combined Operations.
    • When launching OA, it gives you multiple options, launch Combined Operations.
    • Also, don't bother configuring controls and settings, it does NOT appear to save them between games.
  3. Close each game and navigate to here. Click "Download v2.9.7pre" or whatever version it's on.
    • You can also use a mirror if necessary.
  4. Install the SIX Updater and launch it.
  5. Once it loads, click the big button on the left which says, "Install" or "Update". Let it run.
  6. If everything went smoothly, it should say "Verify" or appear complete in some way.
    • In the background it is updating/installing beta files and updating/installing DayZ mod files.
  7. You are now set to play.
    • NOTE: the server list takes awhile to load. Be patient if you are looking for a specific server.

Playing DayZ

There are a few key things to know about DayZ:
  1. LOADING: It may take a LONG time to load so be patient. If you think you've froze on a black screen that says "Loading", it is simply just taking a really long time. I almost think they did it on purpose to discourage people from dying...
  2. LOCATION: as the game finally loads up, quickly look at the bottom right corner for some text. This is your starting location. Remember what it is and look here. If that doesn't help, look for signs or determine the shape of the coast to find your location. Knowing where you are is essential if you're playing with friends.
  3. FIRST 10 MINUTES: When you get in for the first time, don't get discouraged about dying. I ran around like an idiot the first couple times not realizing how powerful zombies were. I also couldn't figure out how to use items or where I should go. All I will say is avoid coastal cities and head for the hills.
  4. USING ITEMS: when you press G to open your inventory, you'll be presented with a list of items and bag slots. To use say, a bandage, you would right click on it in the bag slot (NOT the list). Then left click on the dialog that slides open ("use bandage"). For weapons, you use the mouse scroll wheel to bring up item selections in the center of the screen, then press ENTER to select that weapon.
  5. DYING: When you die, you can't simply click respawn. You must abort, disconnect and reconnect. Why? I have no idea, it's dumb.
  6. LOOTING: the interface is terrible. When you see something to loot (a body or pile of shit), you press ENTER to open the menu. The numbers on the left are items you do NOT have. The numbers on the right are items you do have. Click the arrows to exchange items from left-to-right or right-to-left.
  7. FALL DAMAGE: if you fall and break your legs, call over your best mate and have him put a slug in your face. You can only fix broken legs if you visit a hospital (there are only 4 locations in the world). The alternative is you crawl on your stomach which would take ages.
That should get you going. It's a really fun game despite the flaws in interface and controls. My biggest tip through all this is BE PATIENT. Good luck and happy surviving!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Encrypted User Signup/Login using hash_hmac

So I've been working with CodeIgniter for awhile now and needed a secure user login system. I chose to develop my own since I wanted to learn as much about building a framework as possible. At one point during development I realized I needed a good user password system that didn't store passwords as a hashed string. So I went online and implemented this solution:

Ok, before we do anything, we need to add a "site_key" to our application/config/config.php file:

| Site Key
| This is the global site key used for secure password generation.
$config['site_key'] = 'long_random_alphanumeric_string';

The site_key will be used below. I generated mine through KeePass. Now the signup controller:

// SIGNUP for user account controller:
public function validate_signup()
     // Use the form validation library to validate user input

     // Run the form validation
     if ($this->form_validation->run() == FALSE)
          $this->index("Optional custom error message!");
     else // if form validation passed
          // Run the INSERT statement and return TRUE/FALSE
          if ($this->user_model->InsertSanitize($_POST['password']))
               $this->index("ERROR: signup failed!");

The signup controller handles taking new user information, validating it, and then sending the information to the user model to be INSERTED. Next let's look at the user model:

public function InsertSanitize($password)
     // Retrieve user input data through POST:
     $user_name = $this->input->post('user_name');
     // Or passed through the method (choose one or the other, not both):
     $password = $password;

     // Do additional validation here if needed:
     if (!isset($user_name) || $user_name == "")
          // You can also use regex or functions like is_numeric()
          return FALSE;

     return $this->Insert($list_of_safe_values, $password);

private function Insert($list_of_safe_values, $password)
     // Now it's time for the fun stuff!
     // First we need to use crypt() to hash the input password
     $hashed_pass = crypt($password);
     // Next we need to call a custom function below (scroll down):
     $enc_pass = $this->encrypt($password, $hashed_pass);

     // Create an array of user info to INSERT
     // Be sure to store the encrypted and hashed password
     $data = array(
          'list_of_safe_values' => $list_of_safe_values,
          'enc_pass' => $enc_pass,
          'hashed_pass' => $hashed_pass

     // Run the INSERT
     if ($this->db->insert('user_table', $data))
          // Optional: Return the last records ID
          return mysql_insert_id();
          // Or simply:
          return TRUE;
     else // if INSERT failed
          return FALSE;

private function encrypt($password, $nonce)
     // Retrieve the site_key
     $site_key = $this->config->item('site_key');

     // Return the encrypted password using hash_hmac

     return hash_hmac('sha512', $password . $nonce, $site_key);

Be sure when updating your website or overwriting files that you keep the site key! If you forget to re-add it, existing users won't be able to login and new users won't have the site_key attached to their accounts.

Finally, I'll show you how to use this system when logging in:

public function validate_login()
     // Just like before, run form validation


     if ($this->form_validation->run() == FALSE)
          $this->index("Optional custom error message!");
     else // if form validation passed
          // Next, run validation in the user model:
          $data = $this->user_model->Validate($_POST['password']);

public function Validate($password)
     // Retrieve user input data through POST:
     $user_name = $this->input->post('user_name');
     // Or passed through the method:
     $password = $password;

     // Do additional validation here if needed:
     if (!isset($user_name) || $user_name == "")
          // You can also use regex or functions like is_numeric()
          return FALSE;

     // Next we need to call a custom function below (scroll down):
     $enc_pass = $this->retrieve($user_name, $password);

     // With the encrypt password we can now validate our user login
     $sql = sprintf(self::constant . " WHERE user_name = '%s'
          AND password = '%s' LIMIT 1",

     // Run your queries however you normally do
     return $this->LoadFromDb($sql);

private function retrieve($user_name, $password)
     // Find user by user_name
     $data = $this->FindUser($user_name);

     // Get the hashed user password

     if (isset($data))
          foreach ($data as $obj)
               $hashed_pass = $obj->hashed_pass;
          return $this->encrypt($password, $hashed_pass);
          return FALSE;

And that's it! But before I leave, let me explain quickly in case it's a little unclear.

First we created a site key, which is used to further enhance the encryption process.

Then we allowed a user to signup, validating form data and then data that's passed to the model. Within the Insert() function we took the submitted user password and hashed it, creating a randomly generated, alphanumeric string. This is what is used as a key for decrypting the encrypted password. Then we called the encrypt() function which takes the user password and the hashed key, along with the site key and encrypts them altogether. We returned this encrypted password and INSERTED it into the database along with the hashed key and any other user data (like username, email, etc.).

Now that we have a new user account with an encrypted password, we need to login. We validate the login form and data that's passed to the model. If everything looks good, we call the retrieve() function which loads the requested user information. We grab the supposed user's hashed key, along with the password they provided at login, and run it through the encryption process again.

From here we created a query using the provided user_name and processed encrypted password to see if any entries in the database are returned. If there is a record, that means that the username and password the login provided, matched and was successful. If it fails, that means either the username or password was wrong, or the user doesn't even exist.

Hopefully that all makes sense. Good luck!

Note: sorry if the code looks messed up, Blogger apparently sucks at pasting...also we're technically never decrypting anything. Just encrypting again and comparing.

Simple PHP loop script to transfer user table

A while back I was working on my CodeIgniter project and decided to restructure my database. Since I didn't have many rows that actually mattered (it was all test data), the only thing I needed to transfer over was my user table. So here's a simple example of a script that will transfer records over from one database to another.


// Set the connection information
$con = mysql_connect("localhost", "root", "root");

// Select the original database containing old records
mysql_select_db("old_db", $con);

// Check the connection
if (!$con)
die('Could not connect: ' . mysql_error());

// Select the records from the database
$query = "SELECT * FROM user_table";

// Run the query
$result = mysql_query($query);

// Now select the new database
mysql_select_db("new_db", $con);

// Loop through each row from the old database
while ($row = mysql_fetch_assoc($result))

     // Set each column to a variable
     $user_name = $row['user_name'];
     $password = $row['password'];
     $email = $row['email'];
     // You could also reset defaults or check for NULL columns

     // Here's an example for permissions:
     if ($row['permissions'] == 0)
          $permissions = 1;
     else if ($row['permissions'] > 3)
          $permissions = $row['permissions'] + 1;
          $permissions = $row['permissions'];
     $date = $row['date'];

     // Set up the INSERT query
     $insert = "INSERT INTO new_user_table (user_name, password, email, permissions, date) VALUES ('$user_name', '$password', '$email', '$permissions', '$date')";

     // Run the INSERT query

     // Check to make sure this particular INSERT worked
     if (!mysql_insert_id())
          echo "ERROR: there was a problem inserting data.";

// Close the connection


That's it! This script is pretty simple and might not be great for really large user tables, but for smaller sites or when you're just testing data, it works fine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Using CRON and PHP scripts with Dreamhost

As a followup to my previous post regarding inserting RSS feed data into a MySQL database, I wanted to quickly explain how I used DreamHost's CRON to create an automated news feed.

First make sure you have a script ready to use. Something that you want to run at certain time intervals. This could be the RSS feed script from before, something that scans user accounts, looks at site data and publishes an XML document, whatever. Just make sure it works (connects to DB, grabs or modifies data without problems, and closes the connection). Also be sure to change any local settings. For instance, if your script still says "localhost" for the connection string, it's not going to work!

Next we need to set up a Shell account, which is really easy in DreamHost:

It may take a few minutes for the new user to be created. After it's done, FTP into your web server using the new Shell account. I use Filezilla for this. If you don't know how to FTP in or setup Filezilla, this guide will probably help (or just Google it). Once you're in, create a folder called "cron" (or whatever you want to name it) and upload your scripts.

Almost done. Head back to DreamHost and click on "Cron Jobs", then "Add New Cron Job".

Finally we need to enter the cron settings. Select the shell user account you just created and title this cron job whatever you'd like. For "email output to", optionally enter an email address. If you do this, it will email you the results of your script. For instance, if you wrote your script in PHP and had any echo statements, you'll receive them. This is handy for when you first test your cron job so you can check that each part is running successfully. For example, you may want to echo/output any possible errors, success messages for DB connections/inserts/selects/etc., and a message at the end saying "script successful" or "script failed". After a few successful iterations of the cron job you can turn it off if you please.

For status we obviously want it enabled, although you can disable it later if you deem this script unnecessary. I prefer this as opposed to deleting it in case you want it later. For the command, we enter the path to the script. You can also write command code here, but I prefer having an external script I can modify and play with. I also leave locking on. And lastly, you can set your cron interval. This particular script runs every 15 minutes since I need fresh news frequently.

And that should be it. Once you submit it the cron job will run at the next interval and hopefully the script will execute successfully! For me, this allows me to read incoming RSS feeds, insert it into the DB, and then use the data on my website. It works great and I haven't had any problems since implementation. Good luck!

UPDATE: that space between php and /home/ in the command is on purpose! Be sure to do the same.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running an eSports Booth

The other weekend I was in the Twin Cities (MN) for a Teh Pwn Gaming / CSL StarCraft 2 tournament (you can read about it here). It was a ton of fun and I wanted to share a particular aspect about it that might be of interest to some young entrepreneurs out there. Here's what I learned about running an event booth.

The story begins on Facebook. I was contacted by my friend Evva, the president of Teh Pwn, and she asked me if I wanted a booth for the up-coming event. I was initially concerned about agreeing because my operation is small, obscure, and the opposite of well-funded (one of those grassroots, indie-style operations). Anyways, I pictured myself next to Antec, ASUS, and NOS whose booths were epic, decked out with kick-ass banners and voluptuous women distributing tons of free swag. Needless to say I was afraid of looking inadequate and cheap. But Evva assured me that everything would be fine and it was a great opportunity to network and share my website. So I agreed.

To prepare I ordered business cards, spray-painted some t-shirts, and packed my laptop. It was a pretty low-key package, but figured it would do. However, upon arrival I checked out my setup and realized I forgot some sort of banner. Oops... But we ended up making a banner out of cardboard paper which looked pretty legit from a distance. If you do this, make sure it's cool within your industry. Fortunately eSports is pretty young so I don't think it was a big deal.

The best part about my setup was probably the business cards. I would highly recommend getting some. Why? Because you can get a ton of them for relatively cheap and you'll always have something to give out. If you just bring t-shirts, what happens after they're all gone? Now there's nothing for people to look at later and be reminded of your organization. Definitely order some.

Bringing a laptop was another great idea. It helped to physically show my site rather than just explaining it. If you don't have one, find someone who does and borrow it. If you're in technology, Internet, web, whatever, you need a device to show off your work.

One thing I wish I would have done differently is buy professionally made t-shirts. The ones we were wearing looked legit from a distance, but up-close looked cheap. I also wish we would have had some extras to give out. The NOS booth ran through all their free stuff right away because people wanted it. And in exchange they Liked them on Facebook and checked in on Foursquare. Not a bad deal in my opinion.

Overall, if you're thinking about representing yourself at an event. The more professional you can be the better. I'm unfortunately locked down by a small budget so I have to pick and choose, but if you're not, definitely get everything made professionally. A nice banner, solid business cards, free t-shirts, and a laptop will go a long way. But even if you can't do that, just go anyways. I still ended up meeting a ton of cool people and networked with other organizations. Don't doubt yourself, it'll be fun and everyone is a lot nicer and more supportive than you think.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Website Plugs February 2012

I wanted to give a shoutout to a couple websites that have really helped me in various fields of my life.

The first is a website analysis tool I stumbled on during development last month. It's called The reason I was so attracted to this site over others was their layout and simplicity. I entered my address, a little dial racked up points, and it told me exactly what to do to increase SEO. If you haven't tried it out, give it a whirl and see what you think. The test takes under a minute.

Next up is, a to-do list manager with apps for mobile devices. For awhile before Christmas I was looking for a website like this to manage all my projects and tasks, but hadn't come across anything spectacular. Most other sites were missing a crucial feature or just looked awful. But Astrid was simple, sleek and had everything I needed. Now I use it everyday and it has helped my productivity immensely. I definitely recommend testing it out.

Just for fun I wanted to shoutout I've been using their site for a year or so and love it. Their album reviews are generally spot on and have helped me discover tons of new music. They also track your ratings so you can refer back and listen to great albums you forgot about. The only problem with their site is stability and speed. It seems to be down quite a bit and very slow at times.

Finally I wanted to shoutout my new site that I mentioned above: It's a major work in progress, but something I'm extremely excited about. It's an eSports resource website that will act as a centralized database of eSports knowledge. I have a ton of features I'm working on and will be releasing them over the next few months. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Note: I was not paid or asked to shoutout these sites. I'm doing this entirely on my own because I truly use and enjoy these websites.

Ways I manage my productivity

I'm currently in the process of starting a small business and I wanted to share the different ways I help improve productivity using online tools. I'd also love to hear recommendations from readers for new tools they find useful.

The first and most used tool in my inventory is Google Documents. I use docs for almost everything I write down because it's convenient, easy to use, and is safely backed up on a Google server. It's also attached to a Google account I use other services with like Gmail, Calendar, and Talk so this makes it even more useful.

The next best productivity tool I've discovered is Astrid to-do lists. This website and mobile app allows you to create categories, add tasks, schedule due dates, share them with coworkers, and set their priority. It's simple, easy to use, and best of all keeps me on track. I used this extensively for managing not only project development, but in my personal life as well. Easily one of the best, if not the best, to-do list I've ever used.

Next is duo of productivity tools that work amazing in conjunction with each other: Keepass Password Safe and Dropbox. To set this up, there are a few easy steps:

  1. Register for a Dropbox account and download the installer for your operating system.
  2. Install Dropbox and login with your account.
  3. Install Keepass, create a password database and save it in the Dropbox folder.
  4. Voilà! Your Keepass database should sync to your Dropbox account and any computer with the same login credentials.
This combo between Keepass and Dropbox has been amazing for me. My passwords are safe, in a centralized location, searchable AND backed up online and to other computers automatically. I highly recommend this setup so you can sleep easy at night.

Branching off this same idea, I also wanted to encourage readers to save other important documents there as well. Every night after I complete revisions to my projects I zip and copy them to the Dropbox folder. That way if my laptop was stolen or destroyed, I always have an updated copy of my work online and on my desktop. If you're concerned about the security of these files, you can take additional steps to protect them using TrueCrypt.
I won't go into too much detail here since there are plenty of tutorials online, but using TrueCrypt, you can encrypt files or create "containers" to place files in. This way you can encrypt your work and then back it up to Dropbox. This should definitely put any anxiety to rest.

For the last part I wanted to mention a couple other tools I use here and there. Twitter has been great for not only spreading awareness, but reminding myself of cool websites, ideas, and people. When I tweet, I am often times doing it for myself, just as much as for my followers. They also have the list feature which makes it easy to organize others into meaningful groups to reference later.
Google Calendar is another great application that helps me keep track of upcoming tasks and appointments, but is quickly being replaced with Astrid. Sorry Google!
The last one isn't exactly related to productivity but something I wanted to mention anyways. It's YouTube and their queue/playlist feature. I am involved in the eSports world with my website and part of my job everyday is to follow the community by reading news and watching eSport podcasts and shows. The YouTube playlist feature is awesome for this. I grab the list of shows, hit up their VODs and launch the playlist. Works perfectly and keeps me up-to-date. Now I just wish all these shows used YouTube. Darn you!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hosting a Mumble server with DynDNS on Windows 7

Last week my Mumble host decided to shutdown operations completely unannounced. Which was just awesome...but that aside I decided to try and host a server myself. Here's how I got it working on a dedicated Windows 7 box.

First, download and install Mumble. The server software, called Murmur is inside (something that wasn't obvious when I started). Install it and select the packages you want, Murmur for sure, Mumble if you want.

Once that's ready, head on over to DynDNS and setup an account. Once you've activated it, click on "My Services".

On that page, click "Add Hostname", and run through their process. This used to be free (no credit card), but it appears they require it now-a-days. After activation, simply cancel your order within 14-days and you won't be billed, but you keep your hostname. For this I selected

Continuing with DynDNS, make sure to download the client updater and install it on the machine hosting the Mumble server. The client looks like this once you login and synchronize:

Alright, so we have Murmur installed and DynDNS installed. Next we need to configure the "murmur.ini" file. There's quite a few settings in here, but the main ones you'll want to look into are these:

welcometext=The text I want to welcome someone with when they join my server! HTML can be used here.
port=64738 or whatever port you want to use for the server. This can be whatever you like, however make sure it's something you're not already using. You can find out what ports you're using by opening a command prompt and typing "netstat". Browse the listed ports and select something NOT listed.
#host=Keep this commented out so the server will bind to all available connections.
serverpassword=Set a password here if you don't want "randoms" joining without the password.
users=20 or whatever number of user slots you want. This will vary depending on your bandwidth. For my 20 mbps business line I have ran 10 concurrent users with no noticeable lag. I'll try and update this post in the future with more information about what I am able to handle.
registerName=My Mumble Server or whatever you want the main channel of your Mumble server to be called. This is generally what people associate with the actual name of the server. So for my website, my main channel name is The Spawn Room.

This is all I changed in the ini. If you want to mess with other settings look at the Mumble documentation for more information.

Note: make sure to double check if a line has the # sign. If it does, that means it's commented out and won't work!

Now let's make a SuperUser password before moving on. Open a command prompt and enter:

<path to murmur.exe> -ini <path to configuration file> -supw <password>

This is how mine looked:

"c:\Program Files <x86>\Mumble\murmur.exe" -ini "c:\Program Files <x86>\Mumble\murmur.ini" -supw mySuperUserPassword

Note: the quotes are needed this time.

Port forwarding time! I'm not actually going to go into detail here because everyone has different routers, but here's the general concept. You'll want to log into your router which is probably at an address like: or If you've never logged in before, the default username and password can be found through Google with a search like "my router name/model default password".

Once you've successfully logged in, find a section for Port Forwarding. Now you'll need to add an entry for Mumble/Murmur (name it whatever you like), with the appropriate information. IP of the machine (command prompt -> ipconfig /all -> 192.168.x.x), the port (or port range) you selected for the Murmur server, and whatever else it asks for.

Again, depending on your router, you may need to restart to apply the settings. Do this now.

Once you're back up and running, it's time to launch the Murmur server and see if everything's working. Find murmur.exe in your Mumble folder, launch it and right-click the icon in the taskbar. Select "Show Log".

If you get "Server listening on" that's fine. I thought this meant it wasn't working, but it does. If you're getting an IP with "failed: The address is not available" after it, then it's NOT working. Or at least it wasn't working for me. I tried changing the port and ensuring that the #host= line was commented out.

Another important note here is that, for whatever reason, I was ONLY able to connect over LAN. Trying to connect to my DynDNS IP from the local network DID NOT work. If anyone knows why, I would love to hear it. But for those of you just trying to get this working, don't waste a bunch of time wondering why it's not working. Ask a friend to try and connect to the server first before making assumptions.

That's it! I got it working this way and was able to have a number of friends join to play some games. You can proceed from here with the SuperUser account to create channels, add admins/mods, manipulate ACL's, etc. (I may cover these things more in future tutorials).

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or want to point out something unclear/wrong, post a comment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RSS feed(s) to MySQL database - a script using Simplepie and PHP in Codeigniter

A few weeks ago I was looking for a PHP script that would take RSS feeds and insert them into a MySQL database so I could manipulate them in my environment. There were a few examples here and there that were useful, but not one big example that suited my needs. Here's what I ended up doing.

First I needed to choose a RSS parser. A quick Google search revealed Magpie and Simplepie. I compared the two and ultimately chose Simplepie since it's being actively developed and the documentation seemed thorough and accessible.

After downloading the latest version (1.2.1 at the time of writing), I unzipped it and grabbed the "" file. This went in the root of my /CodeIgniter/scripts folder along with a new PHP file called "rss.php".

The Code


This allows the script to take advantage of Simplepie. Next:

// Create a new instance of Simplepie.
$feed = new SimplePie();

// There are two options to parse RSS feeds depending on your needs.
// The first is a single url:
// The second is an array of feeds, if you're parsing more than one:

// Only use one of the above ways. Comment out or delete the other.

// Set a folder where the cache can reside.
$feed->set_cache_location($_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . '/CodeIgniter/application/cache');

// If you're on Dreamhost like I am, you'll need to modify the cache location to something like this:
// This will ensure the output from the RSS feed matches the MySQL encoding, otherwise you end up with characters like this: â€
// Initialize Simplepie.

// This makes sure that the content is sent to the browser as text/html and the UTF-8 character set (since we didn't change it).

Next we need to establish a database connection. For testing purposes, I ran this script on my local machine using XAMPP.

// Make sure to put in the proper server, username, and password information here.
$con = mysql_connect("localhost", "mysql_username", "mysql_password");
// Select the database you want to use.
mysql_select_db("myDB", $con);

// Then check if the connection failed. If it did, die with the error message.
if (!$con)
{ die('Could not connect: ' . mysql_error()); }

Now it's time to loop through the parsed items and load them to the database.

foreach ($feed->get_items() as $item)
// Here are some of the various items you can pull from an RSS feed:
        $permalink = $item->get_permalink();
$title = $item->get_title();
$content = $item->get_description();
$date = $item->get_date('Y-m-j g:i:s');

        // This next part will check for duplicated items by hashing the content and comparing it to the hashes in the database. This part is optional, but recommended.
        $content_hash = md5($content);
$result = mysql_query("SELECT * FROM my_posts WHERE content_hash = '" . $content_hash . "'");
$num_rows = mysql_num_rows($result);

if ($num_rows > 0) { }
        // If this item's hash doesn't match any in the database
// This part will check if the date has been set. Sometimes feeds don't post the date so I found this to be necessary. If it has a date, then INSERT everything, if not, set a default date in MySQL and don't INSERT the date.
                if (isset($date))
mysql_query("INSERT INTO my_posts (date, content, content_hash, url, title) VALUES ('" . $date . "', '" . $content . "', '" . $content_hash . "', '" . $permalink . "', '" . $title . "')");
mysql_query("INSERT INTO my_posts (content, content_hash, url, title) VALUES ('" . $content . "', '" . $content_hash . "', '" . $permalink . "', '" . $title . "')");


// Finally, remember to close the connection.

That's it. I can run this, parse feeds, grab the data and INSERT it into the MySQL database. There's probably a more elegant and simple way to do it, but this worked for my needs. From here you can access these posts and manipulate them on your site however you please. I added the ability to comment, rate them, modify and delete, etc.