Add shortcodes to WordPress Text widgets

WordPress comes with a few standard widgets, one of which is the Text widget. It's a fairly versatile widget that lets you add simple text or even HTML into any widget zone on your website. One thing it doesn't let you add is shortcodes. But it's very easy to allow the Text widget to accommodate shortcodes too.

Stop turning off CURLOPT_SSL_VERIFYPEER and fix your PHP config

As Pádraic Brady points out in a recent article about PHP security, there's a whole lot of misinformation about how to deal with the error "SSL certificate problem, verify that the CA cert is OK" from curl. Nearly everyone advises that you turn CURLOPT_SSL_VERIFYPEER off (in fact, countless comments on the PHP manual page for curl_setopt tell you this). This is bad, because it allows your nice, encrypted stream of confidential data to be silently highjacked by a bad guy. Don't do that! Instead, just fix your PHP installation so that it doesn't get that error.

How to hack a WordPress plugin that doesn’t have the filters you want

The best thing about WordPress, besides the fact that nearly anyone can edit a website built with it, is hooks. Filter and action hooks allow developers like me to customise a WordPress website in myriad ways. Many good plugins provide hooks too. But inevitably, you'll run up against a problem where you'd like a plugin to have a hook that it just doesn't have. You can ask the plugin author nicely to add that hook, and maybe they'll add it sometime soon, maybe even on time for your deadline. But what if your deadline comes before they add it?

Different thumbnail sizes for NextGEN Galleries

Ok, so we're allowed to have one (1) size option for thumbnails in all galleries, and they can be either cropped square, or not. This is my only option? But what if I want to have a gallery page of all of the lovely staff for my clients website, and their photos have been sensibly taken in portrait format, I do NOT want the thumbnails for this gallery to be cropped, that would be just wrong. And then there is to be a page with a photo gallery of the staff picnic where people have enjoyed taking happy snaps in both landscape AND portrait formats because that is what suits, so I need these thumbnails cropped.

Filter invalid characters from XMLReader input files

I just ran into a problem reading XML data exported from a Microsoft Access database. For whatever reason, Access has written VT (vertical tab) characters in the XML, which PHP's XMLReader baulks at. To be able to handle that on each data load without requiring the user to edit their XML, I wrote a simple PHP stream filter that replaces each VT character with a LF (line feed).