Tag Archives: wordpress

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 – WordPress.com 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 del.icio.us)
  • 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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Mobile blogging

Well here’s an interesting experience. As I’ve twittered and mentioned on Dogear Nation, I recently got an iPhone 3g… and now there’s a WordPress application for it. And I’m typing this entry on it. I can’t say it is as usable as the web interface on a laptop but that’s largely a statement about the keyboard… actually the app itself is really nice. Progress! 🙂

Related?

I was just editing a couple of posts and spotted that WordPress is now inserting “possibly related” links:

On further investigation it looks like this was a feature they rolled out at the end of last week, which can be disabled via the Design->Extras Dashboard panel. It seems interesting and I’ll keep an eye on it… with the HackDay post shown above, it would have been really cool if it had linked across to Kelly’s blog, but never mind, one of my old posts is fine…

Update: it only shows up on the main post page (not on the front page) so you have to follow the URL to the page to see it… so far I’m not that impressed, on one post it has created two links to the same old article of mine (which isn’t at all related), but we’ll see how it gets on and I’ll disable it if it becomes too random.

Aggregation using MoonMoon

One of my current side projects / tinkerings is the creation of a site which aggregates a bunch of my online feeds – an aggregated “identity dashboard”.

Jean-Francois made me think about using WordPress to do this. I love WordPress. It’s so ridiculously simple to install… provided you have a PHP + MySQL host, you just unzip, provide the DB login information in the config file, and then it initialises itself and has a nice administration dashboard. I played around with adding some feeds in widgets on the sidebar, and it kind of works. I can edit my own pages and I don’t have to use it as a blog.

Talking to Rob on Friday led me to experiment with Planet. Planet is built in Python, and generates static HTML pages. It is exclusively built for aggregating feeds together, and it works fine, but I have to go hack around in config files, setup a cron job, and so on.

Something I’d never heard about until today is MoonMoon. This is a PHP-based web solution (like WordPress) but it’s a simple feed aggregator rather than a CMS (i.e. similar to Planet). It doesn’t need a database. It’s at a fairly early stage of development, but if you pull down the latest code from Subversion you’ll find that it does have a nice administration page that enables new feeds to be added very quickly without the need to go near any configuration files.

Still at the tinkering / experimentation stage, but this has been an interesting exercise so far.

Annoyances and discoveries

Little annoyances

Twhirl on OS X refuses to remember the configuration option NOT to play sounds when new messages arrive, between restarts anyway.

My Facebook profile sometimes doesn’t load, I just get a blank page.

Little discoveries

ecto 3 can correctly tag WordPress posts – you need to configure Blog Settings-> Templates-> Tags to put the tags in the Keywords section of the post. It then doesn’t add Technorati links to the post, but what the heck.

Quick Look in Leopard will preview a .vcf file (but, kinda oddly, not a .vcard file).

The improved stats page on the WP.com dashboard now means that I see a link to the specific day of my largest-ever number of hits, and the graph is animated, faster to draw, and works in FF3b2.

A very talented consultant I’ve just spent the past couple of months working with has a blogtwo, in fact – this is a good thing.