All posts by Computers Made Simple

A throwback to PS2 and Gran Turismo 4

I’ve been playing GT4 for about a year now, maybe two. Recently, I’ve discovered some ways to ‘cheat’ the game. Since I’ve never come across these particular techniques before, I thought I would outline them here. I’ll add to this as time goes by but I’ll give you a few now. I’ve just been able to purchase the Black Cars in the used car lots on day 1394, I missed them the first time. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them since they can be beaten quite easily.

Tip 1. If you want to test out a car in a race but don’t want to upset your win/loss percentage, simply turn the game off before you back out to the main screen. Let’s say you are in the Japanese manufacturer’s area and you trick out some kind of Nissan. Race all you want, change your settings, add more stuff to the car but DON’T back out to the main screen! As long as you stay in the Japan world, or any other for that matter, nothing you do in there is saved until you back out to the main screen. Nothing is the key word. If you win a race and turn the game off, the win isn’t saved. If you trick out a car and get all the settings right and turn off the game, nothing is saved. This can save your bacon or ruin a good race! In the Missions area, or any other area for that matter, make sure you back out to the main screen in order to save your efforts.

Tip 2. May the force be with you! In the last couple of weeks I’ve been in some one make races where I just can’t seem to tune the car to get the win. I’ve come close but haven’t been able to grab the checkered flag. What I’ve discovered is that a good old demolition derby technique works just fine. Ram the leader! If you can get close enough to the leader, usually on a corner, ram him hard. Drive him off the track and scoot on by to win the race. This definitely isn’t kosher, or racing, or even nice, but it works. You can also do this in the SpecialConditions area when you are just a bit underpowered. Yes, you will get hit with a 5 second penalty but if you are hogging the lane, the guy isn’t going to get by you anyway.

Tip 3. If you have cars  just a bit ahead of you, you can drive much deeper into a corner by ramming the cars ahead of you. You can also use other cars to prevent a slide out on a tight corner, just get beside them and use their car as a bumper to make the corner. If you drive them off the road, even better!

Tip 4. If you get a car that you can’t handle too well, use the B Spec driver to win the race. I was racing the Lotus series this week and, for the life of me, I couldn’t control the Elise. Maybe I had it set up wrong but it was out of reach for me. Enter the B Spec AI and all of a sudden I had a winner. The AI could handle the car much better than I could and won the series.

Tip 5. If you need cash, enter the second Special Conditions race, the Malfi one, with a decent car such as the Cadillac that you win in the first Special Conditions race. The car you win, the Toyota rally car, can be sold for about $250,000 dollars and you can win it as many times as you want. Total time is about 20 minutes for that money, depending on the car you enter. Clear the winning record and race again. Then sell the car you win to build up your cash reserves. This is also a great way to practice with different cars. Yesterday I won it in the Land Rover and, believe it or not, the LR handled quite well.

I hope this helps someone out there in the ether. Let me know if you got something from all of this.

What WordPress is and how to install it – a series – Part 3

This blog isn’t in any kind of proper chronological order. You’ll have to sort through it to get a complete concept of what I’m trying to explain. If you’re a pro, this will look pretty lame, I’m sure. If you’re a newbie, like me, you just might be able to figure it out with this and the WordPress tutorials. Basically, I’m trying to add some missing points to the tutorial that the good people at WordPress have created.

Before we get too far into the installation, we have to back up a bit. There are some necessities that WordPress needs in order to be able to work on your behalf. One of these is something called MySQL. Another is PHP. The former is a database management system, read Mom. The latter is something that produces web pages from code. WordPress produces the code when you type your stuff into it, telling it what to put where. As soon as you click on SAVE or PROCESS or PUBLISH, WordPress spits out the code and PHP pops out a nicely designed web page and puts it up on your website, complete with links to your old posts and any other little things that you tell it to do, all automatically. WordPress needs PHP to work. The whole point of WordPress is linked to PHP. You type your words in a browser and PHP creates a web page for you. That’s why your index page, the main page of your site, is an index.php file instead of an index.html file.

As far as MySQL is concerned, let’s think about your house or apartment. It’s a database, right? It’s full of bits and pieces of your life. Sometimes you know where things are, sometimes you don’t. When you don’t know where something is, you call in your Mom or your wife or your girlfriend/boyfriend. They become the MySQL in your life. Bing, bang, boom! Suddenly that missing piece of paper is in front of your nose. The missing socks are all put back in your drawer. That’s what MySQL does on your website. It keeps track of all of the bits and piece of your website, sorting it out and keeping track of it. WordPress needs MySQL to work. It sorts out all of the bits and pieces of your web pages and tells anything that asks it where everything is.

My hosting company has three levels of hosting accounts, bronze, silver and gold. Guess which one I was on? Yup, bronze. Bronze was great for my original hosting needs but it didn’t offer either MySQL or PHP. Part of my original setup with WordPress was to change my account from bronze to silver. That took a few days, some emails and, of course, a hit on my credit card. Most hosting companies give you the best price if you sign up for a long period of time. Right now, I’m good for two years.

Once I had my new silver account set up, the first thing I had to do was to create a MySQL database. With this hosting company I am only allowed five databases. Since I have seven domains, I’ll have to figure out a way to split one database between three domains. Details on that later.

The WordPress documentation is pretty clear on how to set up the databases. First you have to name it. Then you have to create a password for it. Then you have to allow people to access that database. Usually, the user is you, right? If you are sharing your site with another creator, then you have to set up user accounts for that person too. This is the same as your bank account. No different. You set it up, you allow access to some people and then you set your parameters. Your kids can only add money, for instance. They can’t take money out! You can add money, take money out, basically do whatever you want.

That’s it for this entry. If you have questions or comments or suggestions, please comment below.

What WordPress is and how to install it – a series – Part 2

Every installation of WordPress is probably a little bit different. In my case, I was adding WordPress to an existing site. I already had my hosting account which is currently hosting all seven of my domains. Your installation may vary but my installation explanation should help you a bit.

Every web page you visit is hosted on a computer somewhere in the world. A hosting account allows you to present a website on the Internet. That’s pretty straightforward, right? What isn’t straightforward is getting into a hosting account to actually get your page or site onto the Internet.

Hosting companies have banks of computers which feed their customer’s content onto the Internet. Each customer account accesses the hosting computers via a software interface, much like you see when you are using a piece of software. Every part of the website can be controlled through this software. In order to get WordPress operating, you have to get WordPress installed on the hosting computer. It’s not rocket science but it can get complicated.

In my case, since I have seven domain names, I also had seven folders or directories in my hosting account. Each one of those directories has a name which is similar to the domain name whose files it contains. For example, widget.com would have its files in a folder or directory named widget in the www folder of my hosting account. If you have a hosting account that you access through Cpanel, in my case Cpanel Accelerated, then you either use FTP or direct upload to get your files into the folder for your site. The route for me would be 1. log into Cpanel. 2. Click on File Manager. 3. Choose which site I want to access (in my case brianmahoney.ca). 4. I’m where I want to be. This is where you want to FTP to, in order to upload your WordPress files and folders.

Skipping a little bit ahead, you put the files into that folder, browse to the website through a browser such as Firefox, click install and WordPress pops up with something that says, “Wasn’t that easy!”  You do some stuff with passwords and email addresses which is as easy as pie and then you can start dressing up your website.

In this folder are all of your old files too, the main one being index.html. Remember that I have an existing site, right? I wanted to change it to a WordPress site. WordPress will make a new index file, which no one told me about, but it won’t be an ‘index.html’ file. It will be an index.php file. Because of the laws of the Internet, you can’t have an index.html file AND an index.php file for the same site.  Any browser will default to an index.html page and ignore the index.php page.  It’s not too hard to figure this out but, again, there was nothing about this on the WordPress site. They assume you are creating a new site instead of rebuilding an old site like I was. I simply renamed my index.html file to index.old and, voila, my new WordPress site appeared.

In the WordPress instructions on their site, this is where it gets a bit complicated. When you download WordPress, you get a folder inside of a zip file. After you unzip that file, you have a folder (or directory) on your desktop named WordPress! Inside that folder, is yet another folder named, believe it or not, WordPress. What you have to put up on your website is everything inside of that folder, but not the folder itself.

Before you upload the files and folders, however, you have to change one file. Inside the WordPress documentation there are instructions on how to change the wp-config-sample.php file. The reason behind this is to tell WordPress where it is, where the database it uses to work is and all the other details it needs to work.

Before we go any farther, I have to back up just a bit. I’ll do that in my next entry. I hear you have to keep these things short!

What WordPress is and how to install it – a series

I’ve just installed WordPress and, frankly, I found it slightly more difficult than I think it should have been. Part of it has to do with my ignorance of some parts of Internet technology, part of it has to do with a lack of clear instructions from the WordPress site. In this next series of blog entries, I will try to sort out the fuzzy details that had me stymied.

What is WordPress? Basically, WordPress is a piece of software that runs on a hosting computer somewhere on the Internet. It isn’t a software program, don’t get me wrong, it’s a set of translation instructions that take your input and formulates it into a distinct look for your presence on the Internet.

I was looking for a way to standardize my web pages. Right now I have seven domain names in my possession. Over the next while I want to develop these domains or sites into interesting places where people can read my words, see my pictures and share my decades of experience. I have had websites since 1996 and I have been using html since then but I’ve always been hampered by my inability to bring the websites that I see in my head to life on the Internet. I wanted a ‘look’, quite frankly. WordPress gives me the ability to have the look that I want, with minimal design input from me.

WordPress doesn’t run on your computer. You download it from the Internet to your computer, change one file a bit and then you upload it to your hosting account. It doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or a PC or a Linux computer.  WordPress is only on your computer for a while, then you put it up on your hosting account’s computer.

What confused me, at first, is what WordPress actually is. It’s a set of already-formatted web designs that allow you to simply fill in a space with your words, click a button and shazam! Your words are on the Internet for everyone to read. Essentially and basically it’s a blogging platform for you but it’s much more than that. You can tune it, tweak it, adjust it to be just about anything you want it to be.

Your computer desktop is different from mine, right? You’ve adjusted the pics, the icons, the way it looks so that your desktop matches your vision of how you want it to look. But, it is still a desktop, right? Mine is too. If you look at my desktop and your desktop, you will know what it is and you’ll know, probably, that it’s pretty much a Windows or an OS X desktop. It won’t look like a white room or a mountaintop. WordPress is like that. Your WordPress website will look a bit like mine but you will be able to recognize it as a website, perhaps as a WordPress website but it will be your WordPress website, depending on how many variables you adjust.

Is WordPress just for bloggers? No. It was setup to expedite blogging but, if you look around the Internet, you will see thousands of variations of WordPress. I will post some links for you to check out what other people have done to the basic, default WordPress page.

What have we learned? That WordPress isn’t software. It’s a set of instructions and translations that take your words/pictures and ideas and formulates them into a cohesive, structured web page or website. You don’t have to know beans about html. You don’t have to buy an expensive html editor. All you have to do is follow some simple instructions, get your hands a bit dirty with computer geekiness and then forget about it. Open up your browser, log in and type away to your heart’s content. WordPress takes care of the rest.

A completely random set of thoughts

I did it!  This is Friday May 1st, 2009. I spent most of my afternoon screwing around with FTP and WordPress, trying to figure it all out. I took my brianmhoney.ca site because no one knew about it and if I screwed it up, no loss! But the changing of the configuration script went well, the FTP caused a few problems since I used to use CuteFTP and Filezilla seems to be the favourite hero now. Once I got the FTP figured out, the rest went, as they say, swimmingly!

I’ll get some new designs, some new widgets and some kind of spell checker for this and then I’m on my way. I finally got what I wanted: a formulated website that I can control without a lot of html crap and without any css.  The browser interface works well and I can access this from anywhere in the world, not like I’d travel a whole lot but I might. If these pages ever take off, I’m off to Fiji or somewhere warm. Stick around! It might get interesting.