Rebuilt Web Site

You’ll find that subscriptions for tracking posts/replies as well as view counts have all been reset.

I’ve been maintaining this blog since 2005 and have made only small changes to it now and then. My goal was not to get mired in all things WordPress but rather to have my own little forum of expression.

I’ve been having more and more issues lately that my Web Host has been chronically blaming on “old and inefficient scripts”. It probably doesn’t help that my hosting plan has me sharing a virtual machine with likely hundreds if not thousands of other low-use websites.

So rather than troubleshoot 14 years worth of updates and tweaking since I *know* I’ve made some coding changes along the way that may or may not have been impactful to the efficiency of the blog functions, I elected to just lay down a fresh install of WordPress and leave the customizing to plugins.

I’m still seeing some “500” errors that miraculously go away if you refresh so I now need to collect stats and get my web host on the ball.

On the plus side I can now change my theme pretty easily to make it look a bit more modern/attractive.

Thanks for visiting!

Had to ditch WP-SpamFree

I was using WP-SpamFree to control comment SPAM.  But a few of my friends let me know that their comments were being refused as SPAM after they invested however long crafting a thoughtful message. Who knows how many others were being affected as I presume those folks who don’t even know me would just get ticked off and move on to some other part of the Internet.

I contacted the WP-SpamFree folks and all they would tell me was that the commenter’s machines had software on them that is usually associated with spammers. They declined to elaborate and wouldn’t respond at all when I suggested that a whitelist or some other override vehicle would probably be apt where you *know* the submitter and always want them to be able to comment.

I presume that, if my friends logged in, there would be no issue but it seems that a lot of folks don’t like doing that so I would be happy enough just putting in all their known addresses and then whitelisting those.

Anyway, I’ve had to switch to a different SPAM comment preventer solution so I hope the issue goes away without suddenly incurring a ton of comment SPAM.

BTW to be complete, here is the text of the error they received:

Your location has been identified as part of a reported spam network.
Comments have been disabled to prevent spam.


In case you’re wondering what all those little silhouette icons are about, they are placeholders for folks with no avatar.

An avatar is a graphical representation you provide to give others some kind of insight into who you are. In this largely anonymous “interworld” it can provide a way to let folks know that you’re not (or maybe you are) overly serious. Or maybe you’re a cat lover… whatever you want to express.

This site supports a particular type of avatar called a gravatar. A gravatar is a globally recognized avatar. You can go to their site and register one or a few of your email addresses (they don’t have to be your primary address, just one that you’d provide to blogs and forums you frequent) and then put up your avatar image there.

Any blog or forum that supports gravatars, once you’ve provided one of your email addresses, will then show the relevant avatar sourced from the gravatar site.

You can even specify “G” through “X” so that you can have different images on differently oriented sites. My site supports up to an “R” rating.

A few more updates on this blog

I’ve done a bit more tweaking, such as adding the somewhat more informative pagination at the bottom of this page (rather than just telling you “previous entries” you can see what’s actually in store for you).

I’ve also added a little “Comments” link to the entries so you can see if there are any comments associated with a blog posting from either the main page or from a search.

I’ve updated the site to allow folks to post without registering on the site. I don’t like having to register to post on other folks’ sites so why inflict that on you guys? I had to lock things down for a while as I was trying to move to a new SPAM protector. Everything is in place now so hopefully those spammers will be kept at bay.

I’ve added a lot more relevance to the widgets on the sidebars. Generally the top ones on either side should be germane to whether you’re reading a post, searching or just scanning the main page.

I’ve updated the feeds on the lower right sidebar so you can subscribe to the main posts only, any comments or just my flickr photo postings. Chose one or all!

You’ll also notice that posts now sport a “# views” item near the
bottom. This will look weird for a while since it has to start counting
from zero but I’m sure it will be relevant in a couple of months.

Oh, and I’ve also added an wishlist widget in case you all feel like buying me stuff  🙂   Just check out my “about” page.

OK Things should be pretty much back to normal

I’ve pieced things together and have tried using as much “off the shelf” stuff as I can. It seems it all needs a little tweaking to do exactly what *I* want it to, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the results.

If you see anything odd, please let me know. I use Firefox as my browser as I can customize it to work the way I think. So my Internet explorer testing may be lacking on some of the more obscure aspects of my site.

I’m pretty excited about some of the new widgets that I’ve found. Most notably the “Related Posts” widget. When you open an actual post it will show items that it thinks are somewhat related both in the sidebar (useful for longer posts) and at the bottom of the current post.

I expect to keep tweaking things over the next few days until I get all of the info that I want up into the sidebar. So far I haven’t found anything that satisfactorily handles the rather over-long “Archives” listing. If you have any suggestions on that, let me know.

Fixing my broken WordPress Blog

If you don’t have an interest in the guts of WordPress or your WordPress blog isn’t broken, you can probably just skip this posting.

I had my own, fairly heavily customized theme based on the original “Kubric” theme from WordPress’ earlier days.

I also have a mish-mash of plugins that support insertion of “Gallery2” plus “Picasa” images into the blog and a bunch of other little nice-to-have functions.

A few days ago, my ISP decided to upgrade a bunch of things on my server that I seem to depend upon, PHP was upgraded, the Zend optimizer, etc. this plumb broke my site – all the text was there but absolutely none of the graphics or gross formatting (columns in particular) was there. It was like being back in the late 80’s on the web. 🙂
Any attempt to access the admin panels or to do anything except just look at the basic posting pages was met with an “Internal Server Error”

I realized quickly that the LunarServers ISP techs would be of no use to me so here is how I got back. I’m not 100% there yet, but the site is functional and be refining it over the weekend. You can bet I’ll be using much more standardized plugins and themes from now on.

I don’t know why it’s so hard but I have absolutely no idea what version of WordPress I was running before. I think it’s around 2.3 but I can’t seem to find a way to tell just from looking at the files.

First, I backed up all of my WordPress files – I always keep a copy of my website on my computer synched nightly with the server version. I backed these files up to a safe, temporary location.

Then I blew away all of my WordPress files except those in wp-images. I knew I’d need some of the files in wp-content eventually but I wanted to be as clean as possible to get my site up and then pull in my older content into a fresh install.

Then I laid down the new WordPress files (2.6.1 – it says so on the zip file 🙂 ).

I went and both created a new database for this test and backed up my old database… just in case.

I set up wp-config.php as described in the 5-minute installation document (and in the wp-config.php file itself) – I didn’t copy over my old wp-config.php ’cause I knew there were new elements in the 2.6.1 version in support of new security features in wordpress.

I keep WordPress in a folder off of the root so I need to specify it when I invoke the following scripts, you may not need to do this or you need to specify the name you gave your folder.

I used the script to initialize the site and the “new” site worked just fine. This proved to me that the issue was not with WordPress so much as the stuff I’d added to it.

I went back and changed my wp-config.php file to point to my old database. This resulted in a blank screen when I tried to invoke my site. No errors (either on screen or in the error_log file in the WordPress folder).

There were tables that I could see (using phpMyAdmin) in the new
database that were different from those in my existing database. So I used the script to upgrade the database design.

This still didn’t help. Remember that I was not able to disable my plugins (couldn’t get to the admin panels) before all this started. And my theme folder no longer existed on the server.

So I was thinking about trying to migrate my data from my old (not working) database to the new one. But most of the suggestions involved having a working WordPress installation- even for the older ones you could get a plugin that could be used to export your data. So that didn’t help me much.

I tried playing with my database by deleting all of the items listed in the “options” table for “active_plugins” and adding a row for “current_theme” (which did not exist in my old file but I could plainly see in the new installation’s db). But none of this worked so I backed out those changes.

Finally it struck me that my admin panels might be working now with the new WordPress install. They did!

So I opened them and walked through most of the panels, especially the design and plugin panels and just saved them. Tweaking here and there as I went along.

For the plugins I was informed that all of the plugins were being deactivated because the associated files could not be found (since I had removed them), Yes!

For the theme, this is most likely the cause of my blank screen, I explicitly selected the default them and activated it and *presto* the site was working again.

Admittedly I have a road ahead of me re-customizing, but I think I’ll just use plugins now rather than writing my own stuff since it’s WAY too much work trying to keep up with the various wordpress releases and dependencies.

Hopefully somebody else in a similar position will see this and can take advantage of what I ended up doing.

Sorry for the messy site

My ISP (LunarPages) decided it would be just swell to go ahead and update a bunch of my server’s software without notifying me. It turns out my site relied rather heavily on the older versions of that software.

I have no idea what actually broke the site but I’ve had to do some work to upgrade the WordPress software and the database behind it and had to disable anything even slightly fancy including my formatting and sidebar.

I’ll take this opportunity to do some housekeeping so stay tuned for changes galore!

Renovation chronology

If you are interested in just stepping through the renovation entries to see the progression of pictures, you can click on the “On the Home Front” category on the sidebar.

You “can” use the search bar at the top right – it’s powered by Google’s search engine and is VERY useful for finding stuff on this site – but it will bring back summaries of each blog entry (no pictures until you click on them) where the category will bring back the entire entries immediately.

You can now be notified of comments on blog posts!

I just added a little plugin called “subscribe-to-comments” that gives you the option to receive an email whenever someone leaves a comment to a particular blog post.

Not that there are gobs of comments on this blog, most folks seem to just send me emails directly. But there are the occasional posts that do garner some comments and, if you wish to keep up with them easily, this should help.

Just look for the little checkbox at the bottom of the blog entry page.