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Drupal 6 Essential Training
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Exchanging content via RSS


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Drupal 6 Essential Training

with Tom Geller

Video: Exchanging content via RSS

One way that websites exchange information is via a format called RSS or Really Simple Syndication. Drupal has a feature built-in that let's you both publish information from your website and subscribe to information from websites throughout the Internet. Before we get into talking about how Drupal publishes and subscribes to RSS feeds, here's a brief description of what RSS is. RSS is typically a format for publishing serial material such as blogs, periodicals, and community sites. It's used for publishing information that's updated frequently, for example, a newspaper would publish its news stories through RSS. It doesn't make much sense to publish static information through RSS since the newsreaders grab it and then replace the old information with new information. If your information doesn't change frequently, it would quickly be pushed to the bottom. In RSS, content is syndicated through a feed or a channel. You may hear both words. That content is then viewed through either a reader or an aggregator. A reader usually refers to a piece of software such as Apple Mail, whereas an aggregator usually refers to a website. There are many websites that will actually let you look at RSS content including Google and LiveJournal and in fact, any Drupal site will let you aggregate RSS feeds from throughout the Internet. So, that's the theory, but what is RSS in practice? Let's take a look at few sites to see how it works. We'll start with Drupal.org, which makes a lot of information available as an RSS feed. For example, if you wanted to see all the stories that appear on Drupal.org's front page, but you don't want to have to keep checking the website, you could subscribe via RSS. To do that, you would click on the little RSS symbol in your web browser and it would show you the page that you would need to include. In this case, it's drupal.org/node/feed. You would put that in your RSS reader and it would then feed these stories in as they became available. That little RSS symbol shows up on many, many websites.
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  1. 4m 38s
    1. Welcome
      50s
    2. Using the example files
      3m 48s
  2. 28m 55s
    1. Drupal is a CMS
      7m 43s
    2. Choosing Drupal
      5m 32s
    3. Checking Drupal's requirements
      4m 26s
    4. Understanding the inner workings of Drupal
      4m 35s
    5. Meeting the Drupal community
      6m 39s
  3. 11m 28s
    1. Learning key terms in Drupal
      5m 20s
    2. Touring Drupal's interface
      6m 8s
  4. 34m 35s
    1. Installing WAMP and Drupal on Windows
      9m 41s
    2. Installing MAMP
      4m 34s
    3. Setting up the database on a Mac
      2m 2s
    4. Downloading and installing Drupal on a Mac
      6m 37s
    5. Troubleshooting installation problems
      3m 49s
    6. Automating updates with cron
      7m 52s
  5. 25m 37s
    1. Setting up clean URLs
      5m 52s
    2. Backing up your Drupal site
      3m 31s
    3. Restoring your Drupal site from backup
      4m 19s
    4. Wiping your Drupal installation clean
      2m 7s
    5. Updating Drupal
      9m 48s
  6. 15m 37s
    1. Using the Administration menu
      6m 21s
    2. Setting site information
      4m 50s
    3. Setting the theme
      4m 26s
  7. 35m 8s
    1. Understanding security and permissions
      7m 2s
    2. Controlling site access with user management
      3m 39s
    3. Creating users
      7m 58s
    4. Setting user profiles
      9m 40s
    5. Creating contact forms
      6m 49s
  8. 19m 19s
    1. Creating your site's basic info pages
      7m 13s
    2. Understanding page layout
      5m 40s
    3. Creating a flexible layout with blocks
      6m 26s
  9. 15m 35s
    1. Monitoring performance
      4m 52s
    2. Recovering from disasters
      7m 37s
    3. Improving administration skills
      3m 6s
  10. 41m 3s
    1. Understanding nodes
      6m 50s
    2. Creating basic content: Stories and pages
      7m 9s
    3. Enabling other content types
      9m 22s
    4. Adding blogs
      3m 49s
    5. Adding forums
      6m 56s
    6. Adding polls
      6m 57s
  11. 34m 50s
    1. Exploring content categories
      7m 45s
    2. Exchanging content via RSS
      9m 47s
    3. Using input filters
      7m 41s
    4. Managing comments
      9m 37s
  12. 38m 5s
    1. Configuring your theme
      11m 27s
    2. Changing your theme's graphics
      4m 59s
    3. Finding and installing a new theme
      8m 56s
    4. Understanding Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
      5m 56s
    5. Deciphering CSS files
      6m 47s
  13. 22m 41s
    1. Finding modules
      6m 53s
    2. Unpacking and installing modules
      6m 30s
    3. Configuring modules
      3m 50s
    4. Implementing complex modules
      5m 28s
  14. 32m 12s
    1. Ensuring automated updates with poormanscron
      3m 11s
    2. Defining custom content types with CCK
      12m 54s
    3. Stopping spam using a CAPTCHA
      10m 43s
    4. Using a WYSIWYG text editor
      5m 24s
  15. 22m 18s
    1. Getting around with multilevel menus
      7m 26s
    2. Building custom menus
      5m 42s
    3. Creating easy-to-navigate books
      9m 10s
  16. 20m 19s
    1. Changing page templates with PHP
      8m 15s
    2. Using PHP in content
      5m 20s
    3. Implementing PHP snippets
      6m 44s
  17. 10m 15s
    1. Launching your site
      5m 52s
    2. Joining the Drupal community
      4m 23s
  18. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s

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Drupal 6 Essential Training
6h 52m Beginner Aug 25, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Drupal is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) for a variety of platforms. It has a robust user community and easy-to-use administration features. Drupal Essential Training covers all the important aspects of installing, configuring, customizing, and maintaining a Drupal-powered website. Instructor Tom Geller explores blogs, discussion forums, member profiles, and other features while demonstrating the steps required to make Drupal perform. He also teaches fundamental concepts and skills along the way, including installation, backups, and updates; security and permissions; flexible page layouts and CSS; menu navigation; and performance monitoring and disaster recovery. He also discusses how to select and install the community-supported modules that further expand Drupal's capabilities, and gives experienced PHP programmers tips on customizing page templates. Example files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the inner workings of Drupal
  • Creating stories, pages, blogs, forums, and polls
  • Managing users and comments
  • Setting and customizing themes
  • Exchanging content via RSS
  • Stopping comment spam with a CAPTCHA
  • Launching a site and joining the Drupal community
Subjects:
Web CMS
Software:
Drupal
Author:
Tom Geller

Exchanging content via RSS

One way that websites exchange information is via a format called RSS or Really Simple Syndication. Drupal has a feature built-in that let's you both publish information from your website and subscribe to information from websites throughout the Internet. Before we get into talking about how Drupal publishes and subscribes to RSS feeds, here's a brief description of what RSS is. RSS is typically a format for publishing serial material such as blogs, periodicals, and community sites. It's used for publishing information that's updated frequently, for example, a newspaper would publish its news stories through RSS. It doesn't make much sense to publish static information through RSS since the newsreaders grab it and then replace the old information with new information. If your information doesn't change frequently, it would quickly be pushed to the bottom. In RSS, content is syndicated through a feed or a channel. You may hear both words. That content is then viewed through either a reader or an aggregator. A reader usually refers to a piece of software such as Apple Mail, whereas an aggregator usually refers to a website. There are many websites that will actually let you look at RSS content including Google and LiveJournal and in fact, any Drupal site will let you aggregate RSS feeds from throughout the Internet. So, that's the theory, but what is RSS in practice? Let's take a look at few sites to see how it works. We'll start with Drupal.org, which makes a lot of information available as an RSS feed. For example, if you wanted to see all the stories that appear on Drupal.org's front page, but you don't want to have to keep checking the website, you could subscribe via RSS. To do that, you would click on the little RSS symbol in your web browser and it would show you the page that you would need to include. In this case, it's drupal.org/node/feed. You would put that in your RSS reader and it would then feed these stories in as they became available. That little RSS symbol shows up on many, many websites.

Here's another. This is the page groups .drupal.org/bayarea and it keeps track of all of the Drupal related activity in the San Francisco bay area. One again, if you wanted to subscribe to it, you would clear here and get your feed here in the address bar. This would then be copied into your RSS reader. There's one other place that provides RSS feeds that I found very useful for running a new site that's Google. Let's search Google .com for waterproofing. Now, we don't see it from the search results here but if you go to Google News, this is all of the most recent news for which the word, waterproofing, has appeared in the title or the body of the story. We click on RSS, subscribe to the RSS feed instead of the Atom feed, since there can be many different kind of feeds on a particular site and we get our URL. We are going to come back to this later and subscribe to this in our Drupal site.

First, we have to turn on the module, Aggregator. So, we'll go back to our website and do that. We do that through Administer, Modules, scroll down until we get to Aggregator, click on Enabled and as always, go to the bottom of the page and click Save Configuration. As with most modules, we are going to have to change the permissions to give our users the rights to see everything that comes through that news feed. So we go to Administer, scroll down to Permissions and we see the aggregator module. We are going to give authenticated users and anonymous users the right to access our news feeds.

Again, Contributing user is also an authenticated user because this is a group that we added before. Scroll down to the bottom and Save permissions. Now, let's take a look at how we can actually add feeds to that aggregator. We go to Administer and search for aggregator and there it is. Click on it and we have a choice of adding feeds at the top. We can also add categories, which we won't discuss at this moment. Let's just add ourselves a feed, click on it, it asks for the title and the URL. We are going to go back to that one that we found earlier which was about waterproofing from Google's News search. To subscribe to this feed in our Drupal site, we go up here, select all of it by doing Command+A on the Mac or Ctrl+A on the PC and then Command+C to copy on the Mac or Ctrl+C on the PC. We'll then switch back to our Drupal site, go to Administer, Feed aggregator and Add feed.

For a title, I am going to call it News from Google - Waterproofing. And for the URL, I'll use Command+V or Ctrl+V on the PC to paste it in. Now, there is a problem with this URL, which has to do with our particular browser. If we go back to the beginning of it by hitting Command+A and then Backspace or Ctrl+A and then Backspace on the PC, we see that it starts with feed. This has to start with http. Most browsers don't have this issue and in fact, Firefox doesn't. If you are using Firefox, you won't have to take this additional step.

The final option we have here is the Update interval. This determines how frequently we'll be fetching news from this URL. Because it is only updating once every 15 minutes, we are allowed to do no faster than that because if we were allowed to and everybody did, then it would overwhelm the servers. However, we can't do it less frequently if we like. I recommend keeping it on 15 minutes because that's no too frequently to overwhelm the servers but at the same time, it's frequently enough that somebody, who checks your site several times a day, will generally find new information whenever they go back as long as there is that new information.

Then we'll click on Save. If you want to pull it in immediately, we'll click on this link here, cron maintenance task that takes us to our status report and then you say, run cron manually. Now, when we go over to Feed aggregator, we'll see all of the stories on our website. Let's go to our ordinary user, Fishy Joe, who we have logged in on the Firefox browser. If we refresh this page, we see that he now has a Feed aggregator and when he clicks on it, he can see all of these stories. There are a few links he'll notice. One of then is he can click on the title of the story itself and that takes into the original story directly. We'll go back and if he clicks on News from Google - waterproofing and remember, that's the feed that we set up, we see all of the news items that were fetched by that feed.

Finally, we can look at Sources here. So, here we can see all of the news stories that came in through our Google waterproofing feed. If we had other feed setup, we'd see them listed below with all of their items. There's one other thing that we can do with RSS feeds and we are going to switch back to our administrator interface to show you. Here in the administrator interface, we can take this feed and put it in a block and we'll put that in the right-hand column along with our other blocks. To do so, go to Administer and then to Blocks. Whenever you create a feed like this, it shows up as a separate block. As we scroll down, we see it here, News from Google - Waterproofing feed. We'll bring that up into the right side bar and save it and voila! We actually see it here in the right- hand column and indeed, we don't see the entire story; we only see the headlines, which is yet another way that you could make your site look fresh and new.

As with any other block, you could move that around within the column or you could move it to the left-hand column. I think I'll put it above the most recent poll. Scroll to the bottom again, Save blocks and let's switch to our ordinary user just to see how it looks. And there you have it, we now have Google's waterproofing news followed by the poll just as we expected. As with most Drupal topics, there is a section on the Drupal.org site specifically for aggregation tricks. It's at drupal.org/handbook/modules/aggregator. So, we have learnt how we can subscribe the information in your Drupal site but you can also publish information that appears on your Drupal site. To show that, let's go back to our home page by clicking on our Drupal icon up here. Now, let's move to becoming part of the grand pool of RSS publishers. In Drupal, you actually don't have very many options for how you publish your content in RSS. If it appears on your site and is visible to anonymous visitors, it can be subscribed to via RSS.

So somebody, who goes to your site, would see this RSS tag up here. In this case, we are running on a local machine, so we see localhost. But of course, somebody, who was looking at it on a public web server, would see, for example, www.example.com. When they click on RSS, it adds that rss.xml and they would subscribe in their reader exactly as they would in any other site. There's one thing that I want to point out here though. One of our stories, we added to teaser that is text that shows up before you click Read more and then additional text that shows up after your click Read more. That carries over whenever you do an RSS feed. The first Read more showing here, shows where the teaser cuts off. The second Read more shows up at the end of the content itself, so you can actually cut off content before the end by adding a teaser break.

Being able to subscribe to RSS feeds tremendously increases the amount of content on your site and can beautifully compliment your own content.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Drupal 6 Essential Training.


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Q: While following along to the installation instructions in the “Installing WAMP and Drupal on Windows” chapter in the Drupal Essential Training title, an error occurs when attempting to open the local host page. Nothing appears except for an error reading “WAMPSERVER server offline.” What is causing this?
A: There is a known problem with some versions of WAMP that include a version of PHP (5.3) that some versions of Drupal is not compatible with. See http://tomgeller.com/content/tips-running-drupal-windows-using-wamp#comment-831 for more information.
If that is not causing the issue, reference the tips at http://tomgeller.com/content/tips-running-drupal-windows-using-wamp.
If you don't see the solution at either of those links, try using another AMP stack, such as XAMPP or the Acquia stack installer. See http://tomgeller.com/content/what-hells-wrong-drupal-wamp for discussion about these.
Q: After installing XAMPP and running Drupal for the first time, the Administration menu does not appear. What is the reason for this?
A: There are several possible problems. Here are some likely solutions. (These may also solve problems encountered with other AMP stacks.)
  1. Increase XAMPP's PHP allocation.
  2. Check to make sure all XAMPP's paths are correct and that permissions are correct. If the database information appears, but not Drupal's supporting files, and an included theme is being used, the supporting files will be in the /modules folder.
  3. Another solution is to not use WAMP or XAMPP. One option is to use Acquia's Drupal Stack Installer ("DAMP"), which can be found at http://www.acquia.com/downloads. However, that installs Acquia Drupal, which is a version of "normal" Drupal extended with additional modules. If  only core Drupal is desired, see the instructions at http://acquia.com/blog/kieran/try-drupal-7-alpha-your-laptop-or-desktop. (The instructions are for Drupal 7, but will work for Drupal 6 as well.)
Q: In the "Using the example files" movie, the method of importing information to the database is shown, using the backup in Chapter 10. When attempting to do this, the following error is shown: "No data was received to import. Either no file name was submitted, or the file size exceeded the maximum size permitted by your PHP configuration. See FAQ 1.16." The system is running the latest versions of Apache, PhP and MySQL, on Windows Vista. What could be causing the problem?
A: This is probably caused because your AMP stack allocates too little memory to PHP. 
 
That's especially true if you're using WAMP, which only gives PHP 2MB of memory, when it really needs at least 16MB. 
You'll see the issue if you go to the MySQL-controlling phpMyAdmin screen (probably at http://localhost/phpMyAdmin) and click "Import": The maximum file size allowed is 2,048K. That's only 2MB, and the databases for most Drupal sites are much larger than that. (The example site for Drupal Essential Training gets as big as 5MB.) The video "Installing WAMP and Drupal on Windows" shows (at around 3:30) where the php.ini file is, but here are some more-complete instructions to increase that memory limit. 

  1. Click the WAMP icon in your system tray.
  2. Select "PHP". In the side menu, select "php.ini" to open a file containing PHP's configuration options.
  3. Search for the line, "upload_max_filesize = 2M".
  4. Change it to "upload_max_filesize = 32M" (or whatever you like). 
  5. Save the file and restart WAMP. (Better yet, restart your computer entirely to be sure. I'm frankly not sure whether it makes a difference.)
  6. Now go back to that "Import" screen in phpMyAdmin: You should notice that the limit has changed.
Q: I don't remember the default username and password used demonstrate Drupal.
A: The default username used in the course is "admin"; the default password is "booth".
Q: How can I change Drupal's administrative username and password?
A: If for some reason the default exercise file username (admin) and password (booth) don't work, you can change them in the database itself using phpMyAdmin. (This technique is demonstrated in a video from Chapter 8, "Recovering from disasters".)

  1. Open your Drupal database with phpMyAdmin.
  2. Go to the "users" table. Click the Browse icon.
  3. For the row where uid = 1, click the Edit icon. (Note the value under the "Name" column: That's the administrator's username.)
  4. In the "pass" row, select "MD5" under the "Function" column
  5. In the same row, enter your new password under the "Value" column.
  6. At the bottom of the screen, click the "Go" button. You should now be able to log in with that username and new password.
Q: In Windows Vista, the WAMP icon disappears from the system tray after a certain amount of time. How do I get it to reappear?
A: To make the WAMP icon reappear (so that you can access localhost, phpmyadmin, php.ini, etc.), you have to activate the "start WAMP server" icon (from start menu, desktop or wherever). The system tray icon will reappear.
Q: My .htaccess file disappeared. What caused this?
A: A few times during the Drupal Essential Training video series, the instructor says to copy a Drupal installation by selecting all the files in the folder and then "dragging and dropping" them, either to a server or another location on your local computer. This is not the best way to do so, as the hidden file ".htaccess" will not be copied. 

There are two ways to get around that problem: 
  1. When installing Drupal for the first time: Instead of copying files from the Drupal folder, move the entire folder to its target location and rename it. This is the easiest solution for those without experience with Unix. 
  2. Use the command-line interface to copy the .htaccess file.
Sorry for the error.
Q: In the video, the instructor says the current version of Drupal is 6.3, but on the drupal.org site, the latest version is 6.17. Which is the newer version of Drupal?
A: Drupal 6.17 is newer than version 6.3. For some reason, the the version numbers go 6.3, 6.4... 6.9, 6.10... 6.17. It’s counter-intuitive, but that’s the order.
Q: My WAMP phpMyadmin will not allow me to upload the exercise files. It returns this message: "No data was received to import. Either no file name was submitted, or the file size exceeded the maximum size permitted by your PHP configuration. See FAQ 1.16." There was no previous database to drop, so what do I need to do to make this work?
A: This is a common problem, caused not by Drupal, but by WAMP. WAMP only allows you to upload files of 2MB or smaller, which is much too small. The solution is detailed at http://tomgeller.com/cant-import-a-drupal-site-in-windows.
 
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