PHP 4 and MySQL 4 End of Life Announcement

Our approach with WordPress has always been to make it run on common server configurations. We want users to have flexibility when choosing a host for their precious content. Because of this strategy, WordPress runs pretty much anywhere. Web hosting platforms, however, change over time, and we occasionally are able to reevaluate some of the requirements for running WordPress. Now is one of those times. You probably guessed it from the title — we’re finally ready to announce the end of support for PHP 4 and MySQL 4!

First up, the announcement that developers really care about. WordPress 3.1, due in late 2010, will be the last version of WordPress to support PHP 4.

For WordPress 3.2, due in the first half of 2011, we will be raising the minimum required PHP version to 5.2. Why 5.2? Because that’s what the vast majority of WordPress users are using, and it offers substantial improvements over earlier PHP 5 releases. It is also the minimum PHP version that the Drupal and Joomla projects will be supporting in their next versions, both due out this year.

The numbers are now, finally, strongly in favor of this move. Only around 11 percent of WordPress installs are running on a PHP version below 5.2. Many of them are on hosts who support PHP 5.2 — users merely need to change a setting in their hosting control panel to activate it. We believe that percentage will only go down over the rest of the year as hosting providers realize that to support the newest versions of WordPress (or Drupal, or Joomla), they’re going to have to pull the trigger.

In less exciting news, we are also going to be dropping support for MySQL 4 after WordPress 3.1. Fewer than 6 percent of WordPress users are running MySQL 4. The new required MySQL version for WordPress 3.2 will be 5.0.15.

WordPress users will not be able to upgrade to WordPress 3.2 if their hosting environment does not meet these requirements (the built-in updater will prevent it). In order to determine which versions your host provides, we’ve created the Health Check plugin. You can download it manually, or use this handy plugin installation tool I whipped up. Right now, Health Check will only tell you if you’re ready for WordPress 3.2. In a future release it will provide all sorts of useful information about your server and your WordPress install, so hang on to it!

In summary: WordPress 3.1, due in late 2010, will be the last version of WordPress to support PHP 4 and MySQL 4. WordPress 3.2, due in the first half of 2011, will require PHP 5.2 or higher, and MySQL 5.0.15 or higher. Install the Health Check plugin to see if you’re ready!

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Man Claims Droid 2 Smartphone Exploded in His Ear

A 30-year-old Texas man claimed this week that he was talking on his Motorola Droid smartphone when it exploded in his ear.

Wearing a bandage over his head, Texas resident Aron Embry showed broadcast reporters his Droid 2 phone, which appears to be cracked with a burn.

“I heard a pop, I didn’t feel any pain initially, I pulled the phone down, I felt something dripping,” Embry told Fox News in a video interview.

Motorola has said it’s investigating the claim. The company has not acknowledged a manufacturing defect.

Incidents of exploding mobile devices have made rounds on the web in the past, and often times the cause seems to be faulty batteries. For example, amid incidents of iPod Nanos catching on fire in Japan, Apple in August 2008 issued a recall for a small number of iPod Nanos (0.001 percent) containing defective, potentially hazardous batteries. Also, in 2006, Apple issued a recall for iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 notebooks, because their batteries contained cells manufactured by Sony, which were causing batteries to explode.

From Switched

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Why Percentage-Based Designs Don’t Work in Every Browser

Here’s a rule any web designer can live by: Your designs don’t need to look exactly the same in every browser, they just need to look good in every browser.

It’s a maxim that will spare you many a hair-pulling hour. That said, there some things you would expect to be the same across browsers that aren’t. One such problem that’s likely to crop up more often as designers jump on the responsive, flexible-width bandwagon is percentage-width CSS rules.

According to the spec, browsers, given a percentage width, would simply render the width of the page based on the size of the container element. And, in fact, that’s what browsers do, but how they do it varies quite a bit. As a result, percentage-based widths are often displayed quite differently across web browsers.

Developer Steffan Williams recently ran into this problem when trying to create a percentage-based version of his Gridinator CSS framework. Williams created a container

<div>

with a width of 940 pixels and then wanted to create a 12 column grid within that container. Do the math and you end up with columns set to a width of 6.38298 percent.

Pull that up in Firefox or Internet Explorer 6/7 and you’ll see what you expect to see. In Safari, Chrome and Opera, however, you’ll see something different. IE 8 and 9 are also slightly off.

The problem is not a new one; developer John Resig pointed this out years ago. But as Williams notes, it’s odd that browser behavior when rendering percentage-width grids is still so inconsistent across vendors, especially given how much today’s browsers tout their CSS 3 support.

The problem isn’t necessarily a simple case of Firefox and IE being right and the others wrong. As Opera CTO and CSS creator Håkon Wium Lie tells Webmonkey, the problem is “the CSS specification does not require a certain level of precision for floating point numbers.”

This means browsers are free to round your carefully computed percentages up or down as they see fit. According to Lie, Opera considers the result of Williams’ experiment to be a bug. Same with the WebKit project, the engine that handles rendering in both Safari and Chrome, though in Webkit’s case the bug has been unassigned since 2006. But really, there is no right or wrong here, just different ways of rounding.

Fortunately, for most of your stylesheets, the differences in each browsers’ floating point precision will not result in visible differences on the screens of various devices. However, as Williams’ experiment shows, it’s easy to write a page where those very small differences in rounding become visible when compounded — like a grid-based layout.

What irks Williams and others is that these problems are old and well-known, and yet most browser vendors have still made no move to fix them. Instead, they focus on supporting the shiny new features in CSS 3.

We certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that browsers should stop innovating and supporting the latest and greatest standards-based tools, but sometimes it’s worth postponing playtime with the newest toys to make sure the foundations are solid. In this case, Opera, Safari and Chrome have some cracks showing, and it’s high time they fix them.

Until they do, we suggest you learn to live with the slightly different rendering behaviors in those browsers. After all, pixel-perfect cross-browser support is never going to happen. Given that the web of the future will have even more mobile phones, tablets, and small screen laptops, responsive designs and fluid grids are a trend we expect to grow.

There are also some workarounds. For example, you can use ems instead of percentages, which render much more consistently across browsers. Opera’s Lie also points out that the CSS Working Group has several specifications in draft to address the need for grid-based design, including multi-column text and the CSS Template Layout Module, though neither are widely supported at the moment.

iPad photo by Jim Merithew/Wired

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New Flash Player 10.2 Goes Easy on the CPU

flash logo[Updated, see below] Adobe has released the first beta of Flash Player 10.2, an update that focuses primarily on speed and performance improvements. New in Flash 10.2 is something Adobe calls “Stage Video hardware acceleration,” which the company claims will “decrease processor usage and enable higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.” And the hardware acceleration technology does do all of these things, though your mileage will vary depending on what kind of hardware and software you’re using.

To try out the new Flash Player 10.2 beta, head over the Adobe download page. Be aware that, while 10.2 appears to be relatively stable, it is a beta release and there may be bugs.

The Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player 10.2 can leverage your graphics card for not just H.264 hardware decoding (which works in Flash Player 10.1) but also color conversion, scaling, and blitting.

Adobe’s press release makes a rather bold claim: “using Stage Video, we’ve seen laptops play smooth 1080p HD video with just over 0% CPU usage.”

Sadly, we have not seen such results. While we won’t argue with the smoothness of the playback in this new release, Flash is still going to use quite a bit of your PC’s CPU. Based on my testing (done on a Macbook Pro laptop using both Firefox 4b7 and Safari 5, and a Mac Pro tower using the same browsers — Wired is an all-Mac office), while CPU usage is down in Flash 10.2, it’s still a long way from zero.

Update: Since this article was published, we’ve been hearing from you, our awesome readers, in the comments and over e-mail. Some things to note: The new beta performs much better on Windows computers than it does under Mac OS X. Also, full hardware acceleration on Mac OS X requires Snow Leopard or later, otherwise it falls back to using software rendering in the CPU. Thanks for the comments, and keep them coming!

On our Macs, we tested several 1080p videos on YouTube in Flash Player 10.1 and found that on average the 10.1 plugin used between 44-48 percent CPU. Watching the same movie in Flash 10.2 did drop the CPU usage down to the 18-22 percent range, but definitely not zero.

Worse, running the same tests on Adobe’s Stage Video optimized demos, Flash 10.2 actually performed worse than than it did on normal 1080p movies with the cpu usage varying widely between 5 and 60 percent (the 18-20 percent range appears to be the norm).

The short story is that, while Flash 10.2 does offer decreased processor usage, it doesn’t quite live up to Adobe’s claims. While Flash Player 10.2’s performance falls short of the hype, there’s no question that it’s a huge leap forward in terms of performance. The smaller CPU footprint alone is well worth the upgrade, provided you don’t mind running beta software. So far Adobe has not set a final release data for Flash 10.2.

One other thing to keep in mind: to take advantage of the new Stage Video tools, sites like YouTube and Vimeo will need to alter their video players. So, it may be some time before the full benefit of Stage Video’s improvements makes it to your day-to-day web browsing.

As for other new features in this release, there’s Internet Explorer 9 GPU support and support for fullscreen mode with dual monitors — meaning that you can have a movie on one screen and keep working on another.

Custom cursors get some love in this release, too, with Flash Player 10.2 handing off the job to the operating system rather than using resources to manually draw custom cursors. The beta also improves text rendering, adding sub-pixel rendering enhancements that should make your typography look a bit nicer and more readable.

It’s worth noting that the Flash Player 10.2 beta does not replace the Flash Player “Square” preview release — in other words, Flash Player 10.2 still isn’t 64-bit native. If 64-bit support is important to you, stick with the Flash Player “Square” preview.

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Enhance your web forms with new HTML5 features

Please note that HTML5 is an emerging technique. These examples are not intended for use on a production site. Results may vary according to browser implementation. Please use Chrome or Safari for best results.

Required fields

Whose ever tried to submit a form and gotten an error message saying that you “forgot” to enter your email address? Probably not a lot of us: In fact, 99 percent of all web forms have at least one field marked as required.

In good ol’ HTML, we had to manually display that a specific field is required, most of the time by using a red asterisk. But with HTML5, you can set up a input field to be required:

<input type="text"  name="client_name" required>

And on the CSS side, something like

input:required {
    border: 1px red solid;
}

will save you a lot of time.

Two similar attributes are also available:

optional

and

invalid

. They work exactly as the

required

attribute explained above.

Placeholders

In a form, an input field always has a label explaining what kind of information is required. While you can currently use the

label

tag to display a label for a specific text field, HTML5 introduces the

placeholder

attribute. As shown below, using it is pretty simple:

<input name="firstname" placeholder="Please enter your first name">

The HTML5

placeholder

attribute works exactly as the

value

attribute, except that when the user click on the text field, the placeholder text is automatically removed so the user can easily enter his information.

The placeholder attribute currently works only in safari/webkit. Don’t worry about other browsers though, it is pretty easy to simulate placeholders using javascript:

Autofocus

A new HTML5 attribute is named

autofocus

. If applied to an element, the element will automatically receive the focus once the page is loaded. This can be seen on some sites and most search engines.

Nothing complicated, just use the syntax below, and remember that in HTML5, there’s no more need for attributes to have a value like in XHTML 1.0.

<input name="search" autofocus>

Email fields

Asking someone’s email on a web form is extremely common because email is still the easiest way to contact someone over the internet. HTML5 introduces a new type for the input element, named

email

.

<input name="email" type="email">

Pattern attribute

When validating a web form, we have to validate the data entered by the visitor. The new

pattern

HTML5 attribute allows you to define a regular expression pattern. Only the data that matches the defined pattern will be validated. If the data doesn’t match the pattern, then the form will not be submitted.

This is, in my opinion, an extremely good thing, which will save lots of time to developers when coding forms. Though, remember that you should always validate data on the server side as well.

<input type="text" name="Phone" pattern="^0[1-689][0-9]{8}$" placeholder="Phone" required>

Url fields

Nowadays, many people have a website, blog, or at least a Twitter profile. This is why many web forms offer the possibility to enter an url.

HTML5 introduces a new type for the

input

element, designed specifically for entering urls:

<input name="url" type="url">

Although I didn’t test it myself, I heard that the W3C validator will raise an error if the value of a url field doesn’t match a proper url structure.

Date pickers

Many businesses are offering an appointment request through their website. In that case, the visitor has to specify the day they would like an appointment. HTML5 introduces the

date

type for the

input

element:

<input name="day" type="date">

When clicked, the

date

attribute will display a date picker so visitors will simply have to choose a date instead of entering it manually. Unfortunately, except in Opera, most browsers don’t have it implemented yet.

Note that a date picker can be implemented on your forms using the following types:

<input type="date">
<input type="datetime">
<input type="month">
<input type="week">
<input type="time">

Isn’t that user friendly? Personally, I can’t wait to implement this in my forms but as I said earlier this isn’t very well implemented in browsers at the time of writing this post. Of course, Javascript is always here to help. On this site I found a simple fallback implementation for the

input type=date

HTML5 attribute:

var i = document.createElement("input");
i.setAttribute("type", "date");
if (i.type == "text") {
    // No HTML5 native date picker support, use jQuery or your favorite framework to create one.
}

Search boxes

To enhance ease of retrieving information, many websites have implemented their own search engine. HTML5 has created a new type for search fields.

<input name="q" type="search">

For now, the only difference with regular text inputs is that, if you use Safari, the search box will have rounded corners. But maybe interesting functionalities will be implemented in the future. Let’s hope, because right now I have to admit that I don’t really see why we should use this type.

Sliders type and step attribute

HTML5 is also introducing sliders: A new type for the input element, which allows visitors to easily select a number instead of entering it manually.

<input name="number" type="range" min="0" max="10">

The example above allows the visitor to choose a number between 0 and 10. If you want the slider to be incremented/decremented 2 by 2, you’ll have to use one more new attribute: step. Here is an example:

<input name="number" type="range" min="0" max="10" step="2" >

That way, visitors will only be able to select numbers like 0, 2, 4, and so on.

Like CatsWhoCode? If yes, don’t hesitate to check my other blog CatsWhoBlog: It’s all about blogging!

Enhance your web forms with new HTML5 features

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Time Warner Cable profit rises, subscribers slip

Despite losing TV subscribers, the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S. sees profits jump 34 percent on higher revenue compared to a year ago.

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Heavy smoker? Consider annual CT scans

National Cancer Institute study finds that annual CT scans reduce current and former heavy smokers’ risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent.

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Watch Out, Big Cable: Xbox Live Now Bigger Than Comcast

Microsoft is making a play to get its users watching more video through its Xbox 360 game console, and could soon pose a clear threat to cable operators. Unlike big cable, it’s actually gaining subscribers who are eager to watch video services available through the service.

Microsoft has sold more than 42 million game consoles worldwide, but the more impressive stat is that its Xbox Live subscription service now has more than 25 million users. That’s more subscribers than Comcast, which earlier this week, reported its subscriber count had actually decreased by 275,000 over the most recent quarter, ending at less than 23 million for the first time in years. While many Xbox Live subscribers are clearly international, with the service available in 26 countries, Microsoft clearly has some scale and a huge audience it could leverage.

After all, it’s one thing to have a lot of subscribers to your gaming network — and many Xbox owners only sign up for the service for multi-user gaming — but Xbox Live users are increasingly turning to the service to watch live and on-demand video. According to Microsoft, users spends an average of 40 hours a week on the service, and over the past year, the amount of time those users have spent watching TV and movie content has grown 157 percent. Not just that, but Xbox already makes more money from media sales than through its Xbox Live subscription revenues.

The console currently has video content from its Zune marketplace, Netflix and ESPN3, and early next year, will also have video content from the Hulu Plus subscription service. That range of content has 42 percent of Xbox Live subscribers watching an hour of TV and movie content on average per day, or 30 hours of video per month.

So far, Xbox has played nice with pay TV providers, and some of its features are only available if you’re a subscriber to cable or IPTV services. The ESPN3 service, for instance, only works if your ISP has struck an affiliate deal with ESPN; that means Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers will have access to ESPN video on the Xbox, but customers of some smaller ISPs may not. Microsoft has also been working with AT&T to allow U-verse subscribers to use their Xbox 360 consoles as digital set-top boxes, instead of leasing one from the pay TV provider.

The day could come when Xbox might think about using its massive audience to roll out its own pay TV service, and that day may come sooner than you think. Earlier this year, Microsoft was reportedly in talks with former News Corp. President Peter Chernin to create an Xbox-only TV network. At the same time, based on its audience numbers alone, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Microsoft to approach existing cable networks about cutting out the cable providers and offering up distribution directly through Xbox Live.

Want to know if the Xbox 360 can help you cancel your cable now? Check out the second episode of our new show, Cord Cutters, in which Janko reviews the game console’s possibilities as a cord cutting device.

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Cord Cutters Are Young, Educated and Employed

Comcast dropped a bomb shell on Wall Street and the cable industry the other day, when it reported that it lost 275,000 basic cable subscribers in the most recent quarter, leading us to conclude that the cord cutting phenomenon has finally begun in earnest. But who are these people are that are canceling cable? They’re not the unemployed nobodies some would have you believe.

For its part, Comcast blamed the weak economy, the housing crunch and increased competition from other providers for the subscriber losses. Others have tried to dismiss what looks to be a troubling trend among cable and other pay TV providers, with this week’s money quote coming from Sanford Bernstein analyst and cable apologist Craig Moffett. In a New York Times article on Comcast’s earnings, he basically said not to worry about cord cutters because they’re poor, sad losers:

“Mr. Moffett said the image of the cord-cutter had been that of a ‘cutting-edge technologist’ who preferred to bypass cable to watch programming on computers and on an ever-proliferating array of devices. ‘The reality is it’s someone who’s 40 years old and poor and settling for a dog’s breakfast of Netflix and short-form video.”

As it turns out, Moffett is wrong on all accounts.

Contrary to Mr. Moffett’s statement, the typical cord cutter is young, educated and employed, based on research from Strategy Analytics. The research firm surveyed 2,000 Americans, and found that 13 percent of them intended to cancel their cable subscriptions in the next 12 months. But the profile of those who said they wanted to abandon cable is what’s really interesting.

A majority of those likely to cut the cord (54 percent) are under 40, according to Strategy Analytics, and they are well-educated: A full 97 percent of those surveyed have graduated high school, and more than two-thirds have pursued or are pursuing secondary education. It’s not a lack of income that is driving them to save on cable bills; 91 percent of likely cord cutters are either employed, students or retired, and 57 percent make $50,000 a year or more.

Contrary to Comcast’s reasoning that the poor economy is hitting people in the wallet, forcing them to cut back, the cord cutters in Strategy Analytics’ study weren’t just planning to cancel their cable due to tough times. Instead, the top reason given for canceling cable was poor value for the money they were paying.

As to the claim that cord cutters are settling for a “dog’s breakfast” of Netflix and short-form content online, we hate to burst Mr. Moffett’s bubble, but there are tons of long-form content available via free, over-the-air signals and networks’ sites online. Not just that, but there’s a great selection of web-only content being made by independent creators. Cord cutters aren’t “settling” for a limited amount of video not available on cable; they’re opening their eyes to a vast and growing volume of content that can be found online.

Don’t just take Strategy Analytics’ word for it; we’ve got a spirited discussion going on in our open thread from yesterday, in which a ton of cord cutters and future cord cutters discuss their reasons for canceling their pay TV subscriptions. And, as always, we have our new show, Cord Cutters, where the NewTeeVee staff checks out the latest gadgets for viewing streaming video, talks to people who have cut the cord themselves and reviews great content online that you might not already know about. Take a look:

Photo courtesy of Flickr user comedy_nose.

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Who Will Redbox Choose as Its Digital Partner?

Expectations were high that Redbox would announce its strategy for digital delivery on today’s Coinstar earnings call, and those who believed that the company would lay out its plan must have been disappointed. While the company confirmed that it would go to market with a digital offering in 2011, and said it would do so with a partner, the DVD kiosk company had little to say about the specifics of what such a plan would look like.

Coinstar CEO Paul Davis said that the company spent a good long time debating whether or not to build its own digital offering or to find another company to partner with. But in the end Redbox decided that the partner strategy was the way to go, based on its ability to roll out a digital offering quickly from a technological perspective, as well as a partner’s ability to offer up a wide range of digital content without the DVD kiosk firm having to do a lot of heavy lifting in striking content deals.

While Redbox declined to name which companies it was in discussions with, it did talk about the reasons why it would be an attractive partner for any of those companies. “Consumers have told us that they are hungry for [digital content],” Davis told analysts on the call. Not just that, but Redbox customers are well-positioned to take advantage of a digital offering, with 91 percent of them having broadband connections at home. Finally, Redbox said its strong brand and extensive physical presence would also offer up a opportunity for any potential partners.

That said, it’s not clear whether Redbox would roll out a subscription service to compete against Netflix, as has been widely rumored, or whether it would pursue a digital VOD strategy to compete against rentals from iTunes and other digital storefronts. That strategy would primarily depend on whatever partner it chooses and which options are available through such a deal. With that in mind, these are probably the top potential partners for a Redbox digital offering:

Walmart

Walmart and Redbox have long been partners in the physical DVD world, with the big box retailer playing host to a number of its kiosks around the country. It would only make sense for Walmart to extend that partnership to the digital realm. Wal-mart purchased Vudu earlier this year, and the digital video subsidiary has been mainly quiet ever since. Vudu has distribution on a number of connected consumer electronics devices, and just announced today that it has struck a deal to bring Hollywood movies to the Boxee Box. With Vudu back out of its quiet mode, it wouldn’t be surprising for Walmart to leverage that asset to help out Redbox with a white-label or co-branded offering from Vudu.

Pros: A wide distribution on CE devices, a strong partnership with Redbox already.

Cons: Walmart has struggled with digital offerings in the past.

Amazon

Ever since Amazon rolled out its video on demand offering, it has struggled to gain traction in the digital marketplace, mainly playing second fiddle to Apple’s iTunes. Even so, Amazon has managed to snag some consumer electronics deals, landing on TiVo DVRs, as well as Roku broadband set-top boxes and Google TV devices from Sony and Logitech. Striking a Redbox partnership would go a long way to expanding its market clout, but it might not give Redbox the flexibility it desires from a distribution point of view.

Pros: Quick, easy access to a library of 40,000 on-demand titles.

Cons: Somewhat limited CE distribution.

Sonic Solutions

Sonic could be the dark horse in Redbox’s partner hunt; while it doesn’t have the instant name recognition that Walmart or Amazon have, it’s providing behind-the-scenes help to a number of digital storefronts already, including those from Best Buy and Blockbuster. The owner of the RoxioNow video purchase and rental offering already is embedded on a number of CE devices and would be able to turn on a branded Redbox offering pretty quickly. At the same time, a Redbox-branded storefront and content library would be competing directly against similar offerings from other Sonic partners.

Pros: Wide distribution, potential for a quick turnaround on a Redbox-branded storefront.

Cons: Direct competition against other Sonic partners.

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