Open Source

Bulk Rename Utility

[ad name=”200x200all”]

The Bulk Rename Utility is a neat little tool I found while searching for how to rename a bunch of files at once. I run a family gallery website on a four bay Synology NAS at home and it’s not a very powerful unit. I bought it primarily for the disk redundancy, but the memory is somewhat lacking. This isn’t an issue for viewing pictures, but I do run into problems when I’m uploading dozens of photos at once. I often get that dreaded fatal memory error and when this happens the NextGen Gallery plugin doesn’t always generate the thumbnails for each image.

I use a two pronged approach to creating and renaming these thumbnails in bulk. Since I need to resize the images first, I use Snagit to create the new thumbnails all at once. The problem I now face is that the thumbnails have the same exact name as the original file, whereas if the plugin had been able to do its job correctly, it would have created and renamed them appropriately. Snagit also capitalizes the extension too, so to manually update the name would be quite an arduous task. That’s where the Bulk Rename Utility comes to the rescue.

With this software I can remove or alter the filename, change the extension and case, add a prefix or suffix to existing filenames, and add numbers to files starting at whatever number I want. I can also preview what the end result will look like before making any actual changes. For my predicament, I need two things. First I need to add the “thumbs_” prefix to the files like NextGen, and then I need to change the case from upper to lower on all of the extensions.

The first time you open the Bulk Rename Utility, it looks like a lot to take in and a bit confusing, but it’s not that bad after taking a few minutes to read and figure out what each section does. I’ll include a sample of the changes I had to make accompanied by a screenshot to give you an example of how easy it can be to make bulk edits.


  1. Add the same prefix to all files in folder.
  2. Change case on all file extensions from upper to lower.


  1. Browse for the folder containing the files you want to change and click to highlight it.
  2. You should see the files show up in the large pane to the right. Highlight the files you want to change in this pane.
  3. Add the prefix “thumbs_” in the Add (7) section. You should now see the Add (7) title turn red.
  4. In the Extensions (11) section, select lower from the drop-down. The Extensions (11) title will also turn red.
  5. When you’re sure you’ve set all of your changes correctly, click Rename.

**You’ll notice after every setting you change, you’ll automatically get a preview of your new file name in the large top pane where your files are highlighted under the New Name heading.

nRelate Content Optimization Plugins

[ad name=”200x200all”]

I’ve only been using the nRelate suite of plugins for a couple months now, but since my first install I’ve probably added them to the majority of my sites. I’ve found they’re a great way to share some existing content in a more distinct way.

The functionality of these plugins is certainly nothing new. We’ve seen the most popular widgets and the related post plugins before, so what makes these so special? It’s all in the presentation. The plugins have the ability to display your posts first image, your post title, and even a short excerpt to keep your readers on your site and engaged in your other content.

My favorite part is the possibility of earning revenue from advertising. For example, if you display five related stories beneath each one of your posts, you can also select to include some nRelate network ads as well that look very similar to another one of your posts. I understand that this somewhat goes against the point of the plugin which is to keep your readers interested in staying on your site, but I figure if they are going to leave, I may as well get paid for visitors exiting through an ad link.

Notice I said the “possibility” of earning revenue. I’m still new to being an nRelate Publisher, so as you can see, I’ve yet to cash in on this potential income. Yep, I make serious nRelate bank. Ha!

The first plugin is the Related Content product. With this plugin you can control the location within a post (top of bottom) as well as where the related content is displayed (posts, pages, archives, etc.), the size of the thumbnails, the number of links, relevancy, exclusions, gallery style, and more. Check out some style options below.

The second plugin is the Most Popular product. The options for it are nearly identical to the related content plugin above, but for the most popular plugin I use the text option instead of the thumbnail choice. If you take a peek over to the right hand side bar, you’ll see a number of this sites most popular posts displayed using the nRelate plugin.

The third plugin in the Flyout box product. This handy tool slides out a banner type display from the side of your screen to entice readers further with additional content. Some of the more notable options are your ability to select the width of the flyout box, which side of the screen it originates from, where in the page it will fly out vertically, and the style of the flyout. At the time of this post, I have the Flyout plugin installed but I’m not currently using it. I figure I’m choosing between six and eight related articles at the foot of every post, so the Flyout might be overkill at the moment.

Maybe I’ll offer the flyout as an available advertisement to pitch to others at some point. It might be a nice way to utilize the plugin while not inundating visitors with duplicate content from the relate content display.

What I just noticed when doing some post reconnaissance at the nRelate site is that there is a fourth product that I was not aware of called In-Text Linking. I haven’t used it, and at first read I’m not too fond of the idea either. It reminds me of those awfully intrusive text ads on some sites that pop up an ad when you hover over them (on purpose or accidentally). I can’t say for sure that’s how they operate without trying them first, but I think I’ll pass on implementing this one for now anyway.

I’ve been pretty pleased with these plugins so far with one exception. Around the time when Sandy touched down and for about a week after, the plugins did not work. I have no idea if the two were related, but during this time the plugins displayed no data on any site. The forum moderators were quite busy responding to frustrated users and stated they were having issues across the board and were working on the issue. This is one of the downfalls of having the plugins do the work on external servers instead of on your local (hosting) server.

I’d still recommend giving one or more of these plugins a try. You can either keep your visitors on your site a bit longer or earn a little revenue for sending them elsewhere. It sounds fairly win-win to me. To check out another example of these nRelate plugins in action, just look below this post a bit for the “Related Articles” block and see if there’s anything else that peaks your interest.

So…did it work?

NextGEN WordPress Photo Gallery

[ad name=”200x200all”]

Chances are if you’ve used WordPress and toyed with displaying a picture gallery on your site, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the NextGEN Gallery. The plugin was launched by Alex Rabe back in 2007 and since then it’s become the most popular photo gallery plugin downloaded by WordPress site owners.

Earlier this year, a company named Photocrati Media acquired the NextGEN plugin and took over the reigns of its future development. Photocrati sells WordPress photography themes, so it’s a fair assumption that a premium version could be in the works. I’m hoping they’ll keep the plugin free and use it for lead generation, but that might be a stretch as it directly competes with their bread and butter.

I have the NextGEN Gallery running on a few of my sites, but it really gets a work out on my family photo gallery site where I’m nearing 500 galleries and over 6,700 pictures to date. I went through a few different designs starting with Coppermine, then a quick Plogger test, and then Gallery before settling on WordPress with the NextGen Gallery. While all of them were decent, there really is no comparison to be able to use the platform I’m most comfortable with and also having flexible and attractive galleries just a few clicks away.

Here is a number of reasons/features why I think NextGEN is the best free gallery plugin available right now.

  • Set your own thumbnail image size
  • Set max image dimensions to resize your photos
  • Set the number of image thumbnails per page
  • Display your images in a slideshow
  • Sorting and reordering options
  • Custom image watermarks
  • Multiple image upload options
  • Quick and simple gallery creation

Don’t take my word for it though. Check out all the NextGEN features for yourself.

How about the cons? Well, in the few years I’ve used this plugin quite heavily, I only ran into one issue with the plugin running out of memory and not creating all the thumbnails during image uploads. The original images actually uploaded fine, and I could click through them on the front end while the full images displayed, but the thumbnails just weren’t present. However, this is not a plugin issue at all, but rather a server memory setting that some people may run into in some (but not most) shared hosting environment.

By the way, if you haven’t started your own family photo website yet, I think it’s time you start. With so many pictures being taken solely on cellphones, not to mention all the single drive computers out there, people are losing years of images when those phones get lost or stolen or those hard drives fail. Sure, with digital images we can point and click until we get the perfect image, but that’s not going to matter if there’s no images left to share.

I began when everyone started having kids around me, and now years later I’ve got a decent collection of the last few years and a good start on getting the old stuff scanned and posted too. Nobody other than my mom cares about it now, but I like to imagine one day when I’m old (or gone), it will be like a treasure chest of photos that most family members forgot about or never knew existed. Not a bad start, eh?

Plex Media Center

[ad name=”200x200all”]

What happens when you gush to your parents about your media center set up? They end up wanting the same thing and you get drafted to set it all up for them. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch in my case. It was more about me wanting to set this up for them, but they have been enthusiastic about the idea from the moment I explained my set up to them.

Since I had recently upgraded some hardware in my house, I was going to have some stuff available to get them going, so I set a date to make it happen. I brought up a Dell Studio Hybrid I was no longer using, a used APC SmartUPS home battery backup, and a one terabyte Seagate external drive that started intermittently clicking within a month of ownership, but still keeps on chugging along a year or more later.

My biggest obstacle was ensuring whatever I chose to set up was easy to use for a couple of nontechnical users. If it isn’t, they just won’t use it and it will all be a waste. My Boxee set up would have been perfect for them, but since Boxee is going the hardware route and no longer updating the code, it probably doesn’t make sense to start them off this way. I want something that will likely be around (and work) for awhile so once they become familiar with it, they won’t have to relearn another product a year down the road.

I chose to use the open source Plex media center software which seemed very easy to use. In my few hours of preparation before heading up to my parents, I installed XBMC briefly, but when I realized they wouldn’t have a way to remotely control the application (at least not right away since I don’t get up to their place all that often), I chose Plex instead. Plex is based off the XBMC code, so the visual look and feel is extremely similar, but Plex had one thing that would benefit them that XBMC did not; a Kindle Fire app that could also work as a remote control.

I know there’s plenty of XBMC compatible remotes, but I did not have the time to pick one up and become familiar enough with it to be able to show the oldies how to use it. I might further explore XBMC and a physical remote at my house, but since my parents are both pretty familiar with the Kindle Fire, it was Plex all the way for them.

Unfortunately I can’t say that Plex was extremely intuitive for a first time set up. I was befuddled by what I needed installed if I wanted to play media and found conflicting information from users in the forums. For my test at home, I only had one computer hooked up to my TV, so I only needed to play media from that. I was not trying to view video from my laptop, desktop, phone or tablet…just the TV. I figured out I needed both the Plex Media Server AND the Plex Media Center. Had I wanted to set this up to view video on my laptop or other device, I would only need the “Server” on one computer, and the “Center” on my laptop. (At least that’s how I understand it thus far)

Once it was installed it was just a matter of poking around the menus to map to local media or update server, network, appearance, or skin settings. After an hour or so, I was fairly confident I would set them up with Plex and give them a crash course in how to use it. The only thing I wasn’t able to test was the Kindle Fire app until I got there, and unfortunately that ended up being the Achilles Heel of the entire set up.

The Plex app got some mixed reviews with some complaints about playback on the Kindle, but since I was buying it primarily for the remote control aspect, I went ahead and purchased/installed it. The server was immediately found and I was able to launch the app on my TV connected computer from the Kindle which was great because it’s something I could never do with the Boxee remote. I began using the remote control portion right away to play video on both the TV or the Kindle, so I was initially impressed.

All I can say for everything after that first attempt is it was a combination of bugginess and user ignorance from lack of intuitiveness. After playing around for a short while, things changed without intervention on my part. I could no longer launch the app from the Kindle, and it was not asking me where to play a video and instead playing all files directly on the Kindle. I lost the remote control portion of the app as well. My easy to use and easy to teach media solution was quickly becoming a nightmare.

Then there was the lag. People used to using a remote aren’t as patient when you have to tap a tablet and wait ten seconds for a response. This only happened a couple times in the few hours I was there, but when it did happen, my parents would keep tapping impatiently and eventually the program locked up until the program task had to be killed (yet at no time did it appear to strain the computers resources).

Then after I launched the media center from the computer using an attached mouse, the remote control portion of the app returned, and we could navigate and play media using it. What we could then no longer do was browse the folders to play from there like we initially could, and we still couldn’t “launch” the media center from the app either.

I left there with a mouse and keyboard still connected to the front of the Studio Hybrid feeling rather defeated because I know they won’t be using it. That’s something I could put up with while I tinker, but not them. They need something that just works and clearly this was not the solution for them. I think it’s back to the drawing board to figure out a better solution. In the meantime, I may just temporarily set them up with Boxee if I can find a used remote somewhere. 🙁

KeePass Password Safe

[ad name=”200x200all”]

KeePass Password Safe is an open source password management application that helps you keep all of your passwords secure with one master password. I know most users out there probably think there’s no reason for a personal password safe. I’ll bet you use one password for just about everything, right? While this certainly makes it easy for you to remember, it also makes it easy for thieves.

Just imagine you use the same password for only two services; email and Facebook. What happens when your Facebook account gets hacked? The thief has the email from your Facebook profile and now he’s in your email account. What do you keep in your email? Other passwords, account names, sensitive or personal information, your family and closest friends info, etc? It’s no longer paranoia because it can and does happen everyday.

The above scenario happened to someone I know very well. This person had their Facebook account hacked, the the hacker got into the victims email account, then sent out a sob story email to the entire address book asking for money to get out of a jam. (Which was on this persons birthday by the way…yay, Happy Birthday, you’ve been hacked!) It seems pretty legit when you get an email from someone close to you asking for money, but luckily one of the email recipients happened to be with this person when the email came through so this individual was able to let everyone know it was fraudulent rather quickly. Scary shizz.

If you’re like me, you have so many accounts that it would be impossible to remember them all if they were different. This is why a free password manager is a great idea. Now imagine you work in corporate IT and have local server passwords, multiple domain passwords, and countless application passwords, all of which change quarterly to comply with the company security policy. The simple truth is we couldn’t keep track of them all securely without some kind of centralized password database, so for us KeePass is a no brainer.

The need for personal password storage and protection is reason enough to check out this software, but that’s not all it offers. Be sure to stop by the KeePass features page to learn more about security, portability, user keys and more. I’d break it down for you here, but I couldn’t possibly “sell it” better than the folks who cooked this dish up in a lab.

Oh, and did I mention it’s free?