Backup WordPress plugin

Written on 5 February 2016, 10:37pm

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For backing up the contents of this blog I am using the excellent WordPress plugin called – you guessed it – BackupWordPress.
It offers the possibility to backup the database and the content files on the same server for free, and for 24$/year it sends your backup files to Dropbox. It works by using a number of utilities (zip for the files, mysqldump for the database) that are run in the command line using the PHP function shell_exec.
Recently I noticed that the plugin simply stopped working – without any visible error message. I realized it was because shell_exec was in the list of disabled PHP functions.
To find out if this function is disabled you can use phpinfo() or ini_get('disable_functions').
If indeed this function is disabled, then the plugin will not work at all, without returning any error.
If you have access to cpanel you can re-enable this function by going to Select PHP version / PHP Settings:
Screenshot 2016-02-04 22.51.50
For more info about it, see the official WordPress plugin page.

Microsoft Outlook for iOS – pros and cons

Written on 26 January 2016, 03:20pm

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After one month and a half with GMail Inbox, I decided to try another iOS email app: Microsoft Outlook. Below the impressions.

Cons

1. Sometimes there is a mismatch between the real GMail inbox and what Outlook shows in its Inbox. It’s probably caused by the snoozed emails mechanism not working properly. I’ll explain: as the other GMail clients (Mailbox, Inbox gy GMail), Outlook snoozed the emails by moving them to a folder called ‘Scheduled’ (btw – ‘snoozed’ sounds much more intuitive than ‘scheduled’ and I’ll use this name below). But sometimes, when I schedule an email, Outlook only applies the label ‘Scheduled’ to the email, but it does not move it away from the inbox. Moreover, the email can no longer be found in Outlook: not in inbox, not in All mail, not in Scheduled; it can only be found if I run a search.
A glitch that will be probably be solved, but an annoying one.

2. Just like in Inbox by GMail, the snooze options are quite poor (few hours, this evening, tomorrow morning, manual choice); I cannot change the hour of the evening/morning, I cannot snooze to location (got used to this feature from Inbox by GMail)

3. The snoozed emails (in the Scheduled folder) are sorted in a way that I don’t understand and worse, I cannot change. I would like to see them sorted by the time they are supposed to come back in the inbox.

4. The interface is too cluttered for my taste. There is a lot of redundant/useless information:
I don’t need to see my email address on top of every interface, I don’t need the filters option to take up a whole line, I don’t need the number of conversations, I don’t need the ‘files’ and ‘people’ tabs. There should be toggles to show/hide these options, but apparently they don’t aim for a minimalist interface.

5. The system messages are shown in the bottom part, which is particularly annoying when you pull to refresh or when you are looking for the ‘Undo’ button.

6. Mismatch between number of emails shown in the folders count and in the actual folder view. See screenshot below, where Outlook reports 8 scheduled emails, but in fact there are only 5 scheduled conversations containing 11 emails.

Pros

1. Customizable swipes
2. Good calendar functionality (which is important, knowing that Sunrise will be sunset)
3. Dropbox integration
4. Nice looking font and folders menu
5. Easy to select emails (long press)
6. Undo functionality

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Scheduled emails – different numbers:
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Overall, Microsoft Outlook has a few nice features, it looks slightly better than GMail Inbox, but it still has a few bugs to squash and it does not seem to be designed for the minimalist people aiming for Inbox zero :)

Update, 2/2/2016: After more than two weeks of struggling with Outlook, I ultimately decided that it’s time to move on. I was annoyed with the way it handles the scheduled emails (leading to constant mismatch between Outlook and GMail inbox), the lack of customization and the slow pace.
So, time to move on to Spark. First impression is awesome :)

Inbox by Gmail: pros and cons

Written on 18 December 2015, 11:10am

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Since Mailbox will be sunset in a couple of months, I am looking for an alternate iOS email client.
One of the must-have features that I needed was the possibility to snooze emails, which became an important part of my email workflow.
Right now I am evaluating Inbox by Gmail and here are the first impressions after more than one week of using it.

Pros

– snooze to location
– integrated reminders (with snooze functionality)
– undo action
– nice compose interface
– as expected, excellent search functionality
– auto responses

Cons

– even after disabling the bundles, it still puts certain emails in the Google Plus circles, skipping the inbox
– the ‘Snooze until…’ interface has a lot of room for improvement, I almost always have to tap more times until I find the right time/place
– the ‘pin’ functionality is useless
– swiping a snoozed email archives it instead of putting it in the inbox as expected (this is related to the previous remark)
– boring interface when you reach Inbox-0, no incentive to get there nor the possibility to customize
– bundles enabled by default, but that can be easily disabled

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