Dogear Nation housekeeping

My friend Michael Rowe dropped me a line last week to ask if I’d be able to help with a spot of website maintenance around the Dogear Nation website. It has been a while since I’ve had to do much in the way of fiddling with website backends – does all of that for me, really – so I flexed my fingers and thought I’d give it a shot. Here are some notes on what I had to go through.

I needed to update the blog from an older version of WordPress to the latest 2.6.x release. The first stumbling block I encountered was a lack of shell access to the hosting service… instead they offer a web console based on cPanel. This system is actually OK, once you get use to how it all works, although everything would have been far faster at the command line. The web interface offers a level of “automated” application installation through something called Fantastico, which showed me that an upgrade to a newer (but not the newest) version of WordPress could be done automatically… but that I’d potentially lose any customisations and plugins.

Being a podcast, Dogear Nation does use some plugins to extend the basic WordPress experience. In particular it uses podPress. I thought I’d research whether this would cause me any issues if I upgraded, and sure enough it turns out that podPress doesn’t currently work with WordPress 2.6.x and that the plugin author hasn’t been able to release a fixed version yet. Luckily there’s a workaround which involves disabling the new feature in WP 2.6 which clashes with it – a simple switch in the wp-config.php file.

I wanted to check that the workaround plus the upgrade wouldn’t hurt the site, and fortunately there was another instance of WordPress available on the box… but I didn’t have an admin ID. I did have access to the WP MySQL database for that instance though, so I was able to hack myself an administrator ID through a couple of SQL INSERTs into the appropriate tables. Once I’d done that, I disabled the plugins, switched off the revisions stuff in wp-config.php, deleted the older 2.x.x files and replaced them with those from WP 2.6.2 – and things seemed to work, once I’d re-enabled plugins. Since that was a success, I then went ahead and applied the change across the site.

The only thing was that Fantastico continued to think that an older version was installed, so I had to modify an additional file in the install (fantversion.php) to reflect the updated WordPress level… which has now resulted in the system informing me that any further upgrades must be manual. WordPress makes upgrades so easy, I’m really not too scared by that.

While I was at it, I thought I’d make a few more cosmetic changes:

Dogear Nation iPhone screenshot
Dogear Nation iPhone screenshot
  • the site now has a favicon
  • the site now has a Web Clip icon, so if you add a link to the home screen of an iPhone or iPod Touch, a nice Dogear Nation logo shows up. This is a simple case of putting a file called apple-touch-icon.png in the top-level directory.
  • talking of iPhones… I’ve installed the very excellent iWPhone plugin, which means that the content is now optimised for Mobile Safari, whilst still working as before in desktop browsers.
  • the links in the sidebar now point to various other places where tags can be created (as well as the traditional
  • I’ve locked off a few files that shouldn’t have been accessible, tweaked robots.txt, fixed some typos, updated the podcast description in iTunes, set the home page to show the last 10 posts … basically I’ve done a bit of tidying 🙂

An interesting exercise, and hopefully the results are good. As an occasional contributor to the show, and a regular listener, do let me know if you have ideas that might be useful – happy to have a look at implementing additional improvements if the audience demands it!

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