MUniversity of Minnesota

December 2005 Archives


December 16, 2005

Podcasting with UThink

I've written a little about this before, but podcasting is not only possible, hopefully it is made easier with UThink. All new UThink blogs come with the built in capability to recognize when a podcast (mp3, mp4, etc.) has been uploaded to the system. UThink blogs will also automatically create the RSS 2.0 file, complete with enclosure tags, necessary to make subscribing to a podcast possible. In addition, UThink enables users to upload files of up to 30 MB 65 MB per file (this used to be 15), with no limit on space.

For more information concerning podcasting using UThink, check out this short (8 minute) flash demonstration:

Podcasting with UThink

As always let me know if you have any comments.

Posted by snackeru at 10:44 AM

December 09, 2005

How do I password protect my blog?

Of all the suggestions I receive for desired features on UThink, by far the number one suggestion is the ability to password protect your blog. Well, thanks to the upgrade, this is now possible. However, before we begin I must warn you that for some this will not be easy. Some of you will find these instrutions to be the equivalent of ancient Greek. I will try to do my best to make them as easy to understand as possible. One more thing, these instructions are for PC users only. They may work for the Mac, but I cannot guarantee it. Please let me know if you can get this to work for the Mac platform.

While it would be nice if Movable Type had password protection capabilities built in to its interface, the fact of the matter is it doesn't. So we have to work around that. What we'll be using is the Apache web server's built in capability to password protect a directory. In order to password protect the directory that your blog sits in you must create two files: a ".htaccess" file and a ".htpasswd" file. And yes, you read that correctly, each file name begins with a dot (".").

The trouble with these two files is that you cannot create them with Word or Notepad. You must use a text editor that strips out all the extra encoding stuff that Microsoft wants to put into a file. You may be able to use an HTML editor that you already have on your computer, or you can try to download a free/trial version of a Notepad replacement. I would recommend either EditPad Lite or the free Notepad++. If you aren't sure of what to do, just download Notepad++ and carry on with the instructions below.

With your text editor, create a new file. This will be the ".htaccess" file. It should have the following text:

AuthUserFile /htdocs/blog/[your Internet ID]/[your blog directory name]/.htpasswd
AuthName "You gotta log in"
AuthType Basic
Allow from all
Require valid-user

Replace the parts that say [your Internet ID] and [your blog directory name] with your Internet ID and the name of the directory right after your Internet ID in your blog's URL. (You may also want to replace the text "You gotta log in"!) For example, my test blog has the URL: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/snackeru/test/. So, I would create an .htaccess file that looks like this:

AuthUserFile /htdocs/blog/snackeru/test/.htpasswd
AuthName "You gotta log in"
AuthType Basic
Allow from all
Require valid-user

Save this file somewhere on your computer where you'll be able to find it again, like your desktop. We will be uploading this file to your blog later.

Now we need to create your ".htpasswd" file. You'll note that this file is referred to in the .htaccess file above. The first thing you'll need to do for this file, though, is generate a username and password. For this task, we will need to use an htaccess password generator because this method requires that your password is encoded into something unrecognizable. Confused? Don't worry about it, just use the htaccess password generator to pick a username and password and follow the instructions below.

Let's say I want to create a username of "goldy" and a password of "gopher." Using the htaccess password generator I might get a line of text that looks like this:

goldy:I2ZU0L1SBgrMw

Take your line and in your text editor create a new file and paste that line in. Save your file as ".htpasswd" in the same place as you saved your .htaccess file.

Still with me? You should have two files, a .htaccess file and a .htpasswd file. Now we will upload them to your blog directory. Login to UThink and enter the blog that you want to password protect. Click on "Upload File" in the left hand menu and one at a time upload your two files:

Upload files

Since you aren't creating a new entry or a link with these new files, just exit out of the next screen. Once you have them both uploaded, go to your blog home page and test it out.

If you would like to see how this works, check out my test blog snackeru playground. Use the username/password "goldy/gopher." Let me know if you have any difficulty.

Now, there is a pretty good chance that you will have difficulty with this or that after you get it to work you may at some point want to take your password protection away (or change your password). In that case, you may want to delete the your .htaccess and .htpasswd files. To delete files on your blog (and view all the files in your blog directory) use the "List Blog Files" tool located in the left hand menu of Movable Type. You may delete files one at a time, or multiple files at once.

Anyway, that is how you add password protection to your blogs, at least for the immediate future. As new plugins are developed for Movable Type we will hopefully be making this process easier. Until then, let me know if this works for you!

UPDATE 3/3/2006: It is also recommended that you alter your RSS 2.0 template if you use the above method to password protect your blog. The RSS 2.0 template has a command that looks for various media you may be uploading to your blog, and the directory level password protection can sometimes cause an error to this function.

To fix this, login into UThink, click on Templates, and then click on the RSS 2.0 template. Find the line that says:

<$MTEntryEnclosures$>

Take it out and rebuild. What this tag basically does is allow for podcasts. If you are password protecting the directory, you have taken away the capability to podcast from your blog anyway.

Posted by snackeru at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

December 02, 2005

Need for Speed

Hello everyone. As any user of UThink has probably found, things are pretty slow going since the upgrade. As I've already said, UThink has seen an unexpected performance hit and we are dilligently working on finding a way to make the system faster. So far, we have identified some possible fixes concerning our server configuration and the way we have configured Perl (the programming language Movable Type is written in). If these fixes don't work we will start the process towards purchasing a new server. Until then, until we can figure out exactly what needs to be done, I'm very sorry about the lack of speed currently on UThink. And truthfully, I'd love to hear from any UThink users: is this totally unbearable? There are definitely times when I find it excrutiatingly slow, and I just want everyone to know that we are doing everything we can to speed things up. Thanks for your patience!

Now for something completely different, if you have created a new blog since the upgrade (or if you have refreshed your templates), you may have noticed the link at the bottom of your blog's administration page, "Edit My Blogroll." If you are wondering what this is, a "blogroll" is blog-speak for a list of links on your blog's home page. If you've created a new blog you've probably noticed on your blog's home page a section called "Links." If you've ever wondered how to get some links under that heading, the "Edit My Blogroll" link is the way to do it!

When you enter the "Edit my Blogroll" link, click "Add Link," add the "Weblog Name" and "URL" for a link you'd like to add, and then click "Save." After saving, you must rebuild your the main index (home page) of your blog. Click "Rebuild Site" in the left-hand menu and choose "Rebuild Indexes Only." Once your blog's main index is rebuilt, click "View Site" and check the "Links" section. You should see the links you just added!

In addition, I wanted to let you all know that I've updated some of the help pages in the left hand menu including How to Use Movable Type and Templates. You may have also noticed that I have brought back the "Recent Entries" section of the Blog Directory. Things are coming together, and I promise they are only going to get better! Thanks for using UThink and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Posted by snackeru at 03:52 PM | Comments (1)