One of the primary motivations for writing this particular post is to check whether this text will turn up automatically on my facebook profile, as blog postings used to, before fb turned off automatic importing to notes.
Anyway, back to the secondary reasons for this post…
1) I have a small confession. Tim has been a lot more difficult to settle to sleep, compared to Anna. Anna would often require a few lullabies to be sung to her before settling down, but I often found that Tim would exhaust my somewhat limited repertoire, requiring 4 complete cycles before finally giving up the fight with consciousness. So a couple of weeks ago I started experimenting with using basic hypnotherapy phrases. Obviously most of the words don’t actually mean anything to him yet, but I’m guessing it is the slow, low, quiet voice that helps him to start snoozing a lot quicker. If he is already tired, I don’t even need to sing sometimes (better for his ear drums at least), and even if he is still relatively awake, the little “relaxing your muscles, sinking deeper into the mattress, harder and harder to keep your eyes open etc. etc.” spiele seems to make only a few songs necessary before he will start ZZZ-ing. I don’t think this makes me a bad parent, perhaps many people do this and I’ve just not heard of it before. Anyway, any comments from fellow parents, or even friends who want to take a cheap shot? 🙂
Secondly, WordPress 3.4 is out now. I’ve upgraded my main blogs, and once nothing catastrophic has happened for a couple of days, I’ll go through upgrading all my other niche blogs. If they all seem to survive the transition, I’ll start logging into the sites that I administer for friends. I prefer to test out new versions (unless critical security problems have been found and fixed in a release) on my own sites first, as it looks a lot better if I have a solution to any minor hiccups to hand, rather than saying “ummm, no idea, that is weird, I’ll look into it for you” 🙂
Anyway, check out one of the official info pages for the new release here.
Ah, mustn’t forget, I wanted to add an image to check how facebook handled it and any possible auto-thumbnail generation procedures.
Full credit to failblog for the original heads up on this fb post!
That will do!
Thanks to Ira for bringing the issue to my attention 🙂
It seems others have noticed it too – see the ShareThis forum here.
Almost four weeks since this blog had a “proper” post on it. Since Christmas, New Year and Amsterdam all took my focus away from the blog, I tried to tweet photos or updates occasionally to keep some fresh content coming in. Anyway, back home now, though in a month or so we will all be moving back to Astana. I will try and post up the rest of Anna’s photos from last year, and also some info/pictures from the recent Amsterdam trip as soon as I can.
Before I forget, if anyone has noticed graphical glitches in the last few months, after a few WordPress core and plugin updates, please do let me know.
Anyway, I’ll be trying to use this netbook’s keyboard more often when adding to this site, and once Anna is at most one month behind in her photos, I’ll try posting Anna and Tim pictures within a week or so of them being taken. That way Ira’s family and friends can see Tim before he gets there, and once we move back to Kazakhstan, our family and friends back in the UK can keep an eye on the children in something closer to real time 🙂
When we are in Kazakhstan, Irina has some more maternity leave available, so it will be both of us looking after Tim and Anna a little longer. One possible direction to take would be me taking on more daytime work, and finding a nanny/childminder for a few days a week. The obvious field of work would be more IT based work, as this requires virtually no preparation time (beyond my normal techy-based idle research) compared to teaching English, my main other work when in Astana. Given regulations soon to come into force in Kazakhstan, I will not be able to write about some current topics of interest, but others who aren’t based in Central Asia have been doing a good job keeping people updated with links and thoughts. When fund management jobs were recently juggled around a little, KZBlog, eurasianet.org and neweurasia.net all caught some articles worth reading.
Anyway, I have not had any voice-over work since before Anna was born, and although there are definitely a lot more students who want extra lessons, the time spent preparing for each one can sometimes double time away from Anna (and now Tim). Fixing computers, installing new set ups and recovering from digital disasters also don’t require me to pay special attention to the (English) vocabulary spilling out of my mouth, lest I should pass on any bad habits to locals wanting to use English for academic or job related reasons! I just have to hope we can get a GPS sorted for our Kazakh car, as trying to find streets can take a long time in Astana, not only do you have the near gridlock achieved when traffic lights are turned off in favour of manual control, but with names actually changed fairly frequently, you want to spend your time away from home working on a errant computer, not battling against the massed 4x4s around the city!
If you have your WordPress based sites regularly e-mail you a backup of your MySQL tables (oi! You at the back… wake up!), then you may have noticed the size of the GZip attachment has grown a lot in recent months. To be honest, I just ignored it at first, but when I discovered that this site in particular was slower than it used to be, I tried to investigate the cause. I repaired and optimized my tables (after disabling some plug-ins following advice from StarGazer). The size dropped a little, due to the overheads being reduced to zero again, however I was still seeing too much CPU throttling taking place through my CPanel admin interface. Deciding to get my hands a little dirtier, I started to actually look at the contents of one of the worst offenders (in terms of size). The wp_commentmeta entries seemed to be disproportionately large, considering how many comments this blog has. I’d obviously trashed all comments marked as spam, but the size hadn’t gone down anywhere near as much as I’d expected. Looking through the data, it appeared that Akismet had been storing a lot of data for each comment that was rejected as spam. Until I switched to just using the WP-BlackCheck plugin, I was sometimes getting thousands of spammy comments left each week. This meant that due to what I’m assuming was an old bug with a previous version of Akismet, my tables were getting unwieldy!
Now, if you’re still reading this, I’ll assume you’re confident running SQL queries (probably more than me!), in which case, feel free to try the following
Select * FROM wp_commentmeta WHERE comment_id NOT IN (SELECT comment_id FROM wp_comments)
this should select the entries that can be safely dumped. Then run
DELETE FROM wp_commentmeta WHERE comment_id NOT IN (SELECT comment_id FROM wp_comments)
You should now be done – either check the wp_commentmeta size manually, or just wait for your next backup e-mail to arrive.
I can’t say for sure that has helped speed my site’s load times up (though I can see why it might, I don’t know for sure whether MySQL reads through all data to get to the section it needs, or caches everything to RAM?), or that the drop in CPU throttling rates (currently around 30 seconds total in any given hour) was due to cleaning the tables in this manner, but I don’t think it harmed anything either.
Disclaimer: If your server blows up, your site refuses to load, your car breaks down, your dog runs away and your wife leaves you, I’m not to blame at all. I would recommend considering a career writing Blues lyrics though 😉
If you have a Windows Mobile device, and your interface is Sense 2.5, then Co0kie’s Home Tab (CHT) and Co0kie’s Home Tab Editor (for making most of the tweaks) are most definitely worth checking out. I’ll post a few photos first, to give you an idea of the changes made. The first six concentrate on CHT’s modifications to the GUI, and the last three are just for reference, in case you’ve not yet seen a Sense 2.5 interface.
Top Left CHT
Top Middle CHT
Top Right CHT
Bottom Left CHT
Bottom Middle CHT
Bottom Right CHT
I like my phone’s homescreen/tab to squeeze a lot into the standard space, and keep tight controls on what is allowed to expand in size. Using CHT, I have six different screens available, the “top” ones in the pictures above are selected by swiping left or right, and the “bottom” ones are just an extension of the top ones, again accessible by swiping. You can control whether you want any screens added to the bottom/left/right and also which one is the default one. The five large icons at the bottom are to access your default browser, the phone’s keypad, all the other Sense tabs (see the last three pictures), settings and also to lock your phone.
How you layout the homescreen(s) is entirely up to you – you can decide whether to use it purely for standard program shortcuts, special widgets (such as the WiFi power, data connection etc.) and standard windows for music, notifications, clocks etc. or a mixture of any of them.
You can spend a lot of time tweaking the layout, colour schemes and actual content of your home tab, just don’t forget to backup your masterpiece before you flash a new ROM or hard reset your phone!
So, now that I have completed the list of plug-ins that I’d recommend you check out, I thought I should probably mention how to install them. Most of them can be downloaded from the author’s site, extracted, then uploaded to your blog’s /wp-content/plug-ins/ folder. However, since WordPress now has a plug-in finder and installer routine built in, you’ll could just click on the Plugins menu option in the dashboard. From here, click the Add New link, and then in the search box, type in the name of the plug-in, and then click the Search Plugins button. From there, either click the Install Now option, or Details, if you would prefer to check it out a little further before committing to trying it out. Assuming the installation reports back as successful, all you need to do is now click the activate plugin link, and probably check the newly created settings page for it. You may need to use your head a little to find the settings page – if there isn’t one directly under the Settings area (and you’re sure it was installed OK), try checking the Appearance, Widget page. (Some plugins don’t even have a settings page, they’re either off or on).
This is it! The last WordPress plug-in review for a little while at least, as I have reached the end of the list of plug-ins I use across my different sites. If you don’t run a blog, apologies for this barrage of posts on a topic that doesn’t necessarily interest you. If you’ve come here expecting news about Kazakhstan, I’ll be trying to revive that category soon (though nothing controversial for about 6 months as I need to get my residency permit renewed next yet). If you have been waiting for more Amsterdam based posts, you’ll probably be waiting a few years for any personal reports from that city (see a post from earlier today). Finally, if the “Aware Or Conspiracy Nut” or book review categories were the reason you started coming here, I agree they’ve both been very neglected in recent years. I’ll try and revive them too some time.
Anyway, back to the reason for this post’s existence – WP Security Scan. It is a plug-in written by the same author as the All in One SEO Pack I mentioned a while back. Instead of trying to get you the best possible results in search engine rankings though, it scans through the files, folders and settings of your WordPress install, and draws your attention to any errors, lax security rules in place or other settings that need your attention. Some are automatically corrected, whilst others will require your manual intervention. If you want to ensure you reduce the likelihood of your blog being hacked, download it today, and make sure you follow the author’s advice when it comes to changing settings.
The following plug-in (WP Calais Archive Tagger) is very similar to, and in fact written by the same author as the Calais Auto Tagger plug-in I mentioned back towards the end of September.
It too analyses posts for you and tries to extract the right terms to use as tags. However, whilst the Auto Tagger works with posts that you are actually editing at the time, the archive tagger (you may have guessed this part already…) trawls through your archives (old, previously published posts) and adds any suggestions it finds. Again, you’ll need to sign up for a Calais API key, but these are free and I don’t appear to have received any spam after signing up with the scheme. Since I first installed this plug-in, updates have been released, so your old tags aren’t wiped out by the new suggestions, and throttling has been put in place to ensure you aren’t banned from Calais’ server by making too many requests at once. Oh, one quick note, WordPress’s dashboard has altered since the plug-in was first released – I don’t know if that is the reason why the area to enter your API key has moved to within the Plug-in section, rather than under comments, but in case you struggle to find the right area, now you know.
This is the second plug-in from the same author as WP-BlackCheck. However, this has nothing to do with fighting random spammers from dropping links to their sites into comments on your blog. Instead, this helps to promote your site wherever you are able to display a banner. For an example of the output this plug-in provides, see the graphic below.
WP-HeadlineAnimator takes your most recent blog posts’ titles, combines them with your chosen background, and then creates an animated GIF each time you add or edit a post. If you are displaying the banner on a normal website, you’d just use the normal IMG tag, in the middle of a href=”http://chrismerriman.com/ and /a , if you wanted the graphic to be linked back to your site. (Obviously I’ve left out the brackets here, so it displays properly as text.)
If you wanted to include the graphic as a link in your forum signatures (assuming they use one of the major forum software apps), the code would look something like this – [url=http://chrismerriman.com/][img]http://chrismerriman.com/wp-content/animator.gif[/img][/url] – pretty much the same as the HTML version, but with square brackets and different labels for the tags.
You will need to supply your own TTF file and upload it to the plug-in’s directory, however, if you browse your own hard drive and navigate to c:\windows\fonts , you will find a lot there, and if you have some flavour of Linux installed, I’m going to assume you know what you’re doing already. Should you wish to save your monthly bandwidth allowance on the server your blog is based, you can remotely store the created GIF on a different server. There are a few other options available, such as tweaking the colours, timing, amount of posts displayed and the format the blog post’s date should take.
If you mis-configure the plug-in by giving the wrong path to the background PNG or TTF files, the text to the left will appear in bright red, to give you a clue as to why no GIF has yet been created. If you have problems or suggested new features, be sure to check out the blog of the author and leave a comment.