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Tips for Google CSE plugin for Drupal

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If you've decided to use the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) plugin for Drupal, there are a few things you can do to make life easier for your visitors:

  • Add some rewrite rules (to the .htaccess file) to redirect requests for the old search engine to the new one. This can help visitors who know how Drupal works and were typing their search manually, etc.
    • RewriteRule ^search$ /search/google [R=301,NC,L]
    • RewriteRule ^search/node$ /search/google [R=301,NC,L]
    • RewriteRule ^search/node/(.*)$ /search/google?query=$1 [R=301,NC,L]
    • RewriteRule ^search/taxonomy_search$ /search/google [R=301,NC,L]
    • RewriteRule ^search/taxonomy_search/(.*)$ /search/google?query=$1 [R=301,NC,L]
  • Disable the built-in search engine module to reduce memory overhead and speed up page requests.
  • Use some CSS to hide the google.com background image added to the search boxes:
    • input.form-text {
    • background-image: none !important;
    • }
  • If you have custom search boxes replace them with code that calls the Google CSE engine, i.e.:
    • <?php print drupal_get_form('google_cse_searchbox_form');?>

Put together this can make the GoogleCSE almost(*) completely transparent to your visitors.

* Note: I'm not sure if it's a feature or a bug, but I'm going to go with the latter - all search result pages for GoogleCSE append a great deal of information to the URL instead of just submitting these fields transparently via the API call. This is obviously not very user friendly for advanced users who can normally just go to e.g. /search/node/doodlebutt to search for "doodlebutt", or for occasions when you're doing tricks on the search engine, instead when visitors do this they're just putting their search term into the search box and will have to click the Search box to see any results.

Don't take your iPhone abroad

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A simple statement for you: unless you have AT&T stock, don't take your iPhone with you when you go abroad. If, for some crazy reason you decide you moost haf eet, at least do yourself a favor and:

  • disable data roaming
  • disable 3G

You may also want to enable Airplane mode, just to be sure.

I say the above after having returned from two weeks in Ireland. Before we left we signed up for the 20mb international data plan and international roaming. What we didn't do was:

  • sign up for the 30mb data plan
  • sign up for the international calling plan

I believe if we'd signed up for these two we'd probably saved about $100 off the $350 bill that followed soon after our return, but quite possibly not that much.

Overriding CSS can be a pain

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One of the difficulties with Drupal is that with so many modules needed to make a good site you can end up with a dozen or more different CSS files. On occasions when you need to tweak the CSS to match a specific design, or fix something for IE6, it can take quite a while to dig down to the exact definition you need. You might try throwing random snippets of CSS at the problem to try to make it go away, but they usually won't work.

What I've found is that to successfully override CSS you have to repeat the exact same definition as the original, no matter how obtuse it my seem. So if you want to override one simple paragraph you may have to assign some pretty strange CSS, eg.:

* html .span-6 {margin-right: 5px;}

If that's what is already being used, then that's what you have to do to override it.

It may be a bit frustrating, but following that simple guideline has saved my bacon several times.

Patch for wp2drupal for Drupal 6

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I'm trying to migrate one of my personal sites from Wordpress to Drupal and needed a way to migrate the existing data. Well, it turned out to be a little tricky as I'm using Drupal 6 while the only really useful converter, wp2drupal, was written for Drupal 5. Luckily someone converted wp2drupal to D6, so away I went.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get far, it turned out that there was a problem in the D6 port which causes an "Access Denied" error when you actually submit the form to begin the conversion. Not to be undone, I started poking around the script and discovered that the menu configuration was using an older format than what the current Drupal release (v6.4) required. A few quick lines later and I was able to get it working again.

In the interests of helping the community I've compiled the changes into a patch file:

There are still a bunch of syntax errors that will show up after the data has converted, but at least it will actually convert the data over. Also, I made some minor tweaks to the code according to the Drupal development guidelines based on what the coder module recommended. Lastly, be warned that the patch was created using git, so it may be easier to just add the few missing "access" lines manually.

Working around Exchange Webmail / OWA constant logoffs

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I've always found that Exchange's webmail system, aka "Outlook Web Access", to be extremely buggy regarding remembering who you are. It sets sessions cookies with a pretty far-away timeout but regardless of whether I'm connected via a VPN or from the public internet it always delights in logging me out as quickly as it can. Well, I've worked out a work-around for these all too frequent occurrences. Here's what you do:

  • When you are provided with the login prompt, login.
  • Click the Back arrow in your browser until it asks if you would like to resubmit the form again.
  • Click Cancel.
  • Click Back again. This will take you back to the original edit window with the fresh empty (or if it was a reply, the original quote) edit page ready to go.
  • Click Forwards. It will say that it needs to resubmit a form in order to proceed.
  • Click OK / Accept / Aye Cap'n, whatever is the appropriate response to the affirmative.
  • Your message has now been sent, just like when you originally clicked Send.

Hopefully this will help some others who are also loosing their hair over this stupidity.

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