In the rush to finish a website, don’t forget these things….

It seems like these things always get pushed to the end of my projects and get done at the last minute. I’m posting here to (1) say it out loud so I get it in my head earlier in the process and (2) see what everyone leaves till the end.

1. 301 Redirects

Typically, we’re rebuilding an old site. Whether it’s converting an old WP site or bringing a site full of .htm and .html files to WordPress, URLs are changing. People have those old URLs bookmarked and Google has them indexed. It’s necessary to redirect old links so they don’t wind up as 404s. I use the plugin “Simple 301 Redirects” (http://wordpress.org/plugins/simple-301-redirects/) because it is so simple. It does just one thing and does it well.

2. Favicon / Touch Icon

This is another small thing that makes big difference on a site. A nice favicon helps distinguish a site and it’s amazing what can be done in 256 pixels. It’s also important to have a nice “Apple Touch Icon”, a larger (75px or 150px square) image used for bookmarking a web page on iDevices and other smartphones/tablets. I like “All in One Favicon” (http://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-favicon/) for putting these on a site.

What’s in your last minute scramble?

Add IE8 support to the WordPress Underscores _s theme

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Selection_003_0The developers of the underscores starter theme for WordPress are fairly adamant that the the theme supports only Internet Explorer version 9 and above. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of Windows XP users out there who cannot go beyond IE8. While we can’t provide a lot of the cool features for Internet Explorer 8, we can at least make sure that the basic site lays out in a readable manner. To accomplish this, it’s necessary to add the following content to the file header.php

<!--[if lt IE 9]>>
<script>
 var e = ("abbr,article,aside,audio,canvas,datalist,details," +
 "figure,footer,header,hgroup,mark,menu,meter,nav,output," +
 "progress,section,time,video,main").split(',');
 for (var i = 0; i < e.length; i++) {
 document.createElement(e[i]);
 }
</script>
<![endif]-->

I typically add this right before the line with

<?php wp_head(); ?>

The Joys of Working From Home, Part 1: The Plumbing

2013-11-07 10.48.12Yesterday afternoon, I heard a funny noise coming from an outlet in the first floor bathroom. It was buzzing. Outlets are not supposed to do that. It appeared that the ground fault interrupter part was blowing out.

No problem. Ran over to Menards and got a new one. Removed the old outlet and saw water dribbling out of the outlet box. That’s not good.  There are different pipes for water and electricity and meet they should not.

Yeah, not good.  I went upstairs to check the bathroom above and found water in the cabinet under the sink. The tube that goes from the cold water valve to the faucet was leaking. You’d think that a 98 cent part would last more than 20 years!  Also, you’d think that the LEFT one would be hot and the right cold.  Not always!  I emptied the cabinet, turned off the water, dried things out and threw out all the stuff that was soaked.

Back downstairs, I put in the new outlet. When I turned the power back on, I noticed a small bubble in the paint on the bathroom ceiling. Uh oh. Poked a hole in it…. and that was the start of about 8 gallons of water flowing out over the next 30 minutes. I think we were about an hour or two away from the ceiling coming down in there.

Stay tuned for my next post: The Joys of Working From Home, Part 2:  Hanging Drywall.

iOS 7 Styles: Flat buttons, skinny fonts

In another few days, we’re all going to be in love with or loathing the new look on our iPhones and iPads. iOS7 brings the end of skeuomorphism, sculpted button, and wide fonts.  For those who’ve don’t follow All Things D and TUAW religiously, this means

  • The end of digital things that look like their real world analogues. The most common examples ar the leather-bound look of the calendar in OS/X and the wood-grained shelves of iBooks.
  • The new iOS and OS/X font is Helvetica Nueu, a redrawn sans-serif font.
  • Buttons and app-launching icons are flat: There’s no shading or lighting effects to simulate 3D.

On the web side of things, we’ll be bringing the same effect to our call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

For example, here’s the oh-so-2012 style button

Old Button

And here’s the iOS7 influenced version

New Button

Hackers, Bots, and Bores

A few minutes ago, I tweeted “It’s fun using #Wordfence to watch bots try to login as ‘admin’ to my #WordPress sites. I auto-block that ID.” And it is, although the ongoing attempts are both annoying and a waste of bandwidth.  This was a big deal a few weeks ago. In fact, the sheer volume of attempts to login as ‘admin’, over and over again with commonly  used passwords, was enough to bring down several shared hosting sites.

As a hosting server, what can you do?  It seems to me that you should monitor http traffic, looking for multiple login attempts with the ID ‘admin’ and use firewall blocks to throttle traffic from those IP addresses.  I chose to say “throttle” rather than “block” because — just maybe — there might be a real user out there struggling to remember his admin password.

As a WordPress site owner, what can you do?  First, don’t have a user named ‘admin’.  They can’t login on an account that’s  not there! Second, install the WordFence plugin.  On the options panel, enable “Login Security” with fairly agressive settings:

If you want to see if it’s effective, enable WordFence’s “Live Traffic View” and on the Live Traffic panel, click on the “Logins and Logouts” tab

If you set up your WordPress site with an ‘admin‘ user, how do you remove it without breaking the site? 

  1. Create a new user on the site that you’ll use for administrative purposes.  Make sure you give it a strong password and don’t forget to assign it the adminstrative role.
  2. Log out and log back in as the user you just created.
  3. Under “users”, select and delete the orginal adminstrative user, ‘admin’.  WordPress will allow you to reassign content posted by this user to another user.

How else do you secure your WordPress sites?

 

 

phyMyAdmin, mcrypt, and Centos 6: “mcrypt extension is missing” solved

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Installing a current version of phyMyAdmin on Centos 6 turned out to be a grand pain. First, it turns out there are two packages in the rpmforge repo, “phymyadmin” and “phpMyAdmin”, resulting in installations of version 2 and 3, respectively.

Once past that, phpMyAdmin reports “Cannot load mcrypt extension. Please check your PHP configuration“. Well, that should be easy to fix. Just a quick “yum install php-mcrypt”. Nope. After digging around for a while, installing, uninstalling, rebooting, etc, I checked the the file /etc/php.d/mcrypt.ini.

Its contents were

; Enable mcrypt extension module
extension=module.so

This is incorrect. I changed it to

; Enable mcrypt extension module
extension=mcrypt.so

then restarted httpd and the problem went away. It appears that the php-mcrypt rpm, at least as of php-mcrypt-5.3.3-1.el6.rf.i686, incorrectly creates the mcrypt.ini file.

When the Cloud is Offline

By Google Inc. (https://developers.google.com/drive/branding) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsGoogle Drive apparently went down for a couple of hours this morning.  (I missed it. I was in a meeting.)  This is a good reminder that you need to maintain the ability to work with your documents when the Internet or the cloud service itself is unavailable.  Google has a page about setting up offline access for Google Drive documents.  Do it now while you’re thinking about it.

On the Mac, the Google Drive app created a folder in my home folder containing all of my Drive files with extenions like “.gdoc”, “.gslides” and “.gsheet”.   I presume that offline Google Drive works the same way on Windows.  On Linux, I enabled offline access from the web, then installed a Chrome app.

How Do You Get Started with WordPress?

Branding and Blogging with WordPress | Promoting Your Personal Brand on the InterWebsI build WordPress websites, both “regular” sites and blogs. Are you ready for a web site? Before you invest money in a blog or site, take a minute to set up a free site over at WordPress.com.

Use your new site to sketch out the content you want on your site. Then, write your content. So far, easy. Now we come to the hard part — creating new content  on a regular basis. Make the effort and get over the hump. Revise, reconsider, and restart if necessary. Once you and your blog are getting along and enjoying each other, call me to discuss things like design and functionality.

Getting started is always the hardest part. In the words of Pigpen, “Get your hands out of your pockets and turn on your web site.” Or something like that.

Hint: Use Wordle.net to profile your site. What you’re talking about and what you think you’re talking about may be two different things.

WordPress Themes: Underscores AKA _S

Selection_003_0Here we go again.  I’m feeling comfortable with creating child themes for WordPress’ TwentyTwelve theme, using it on several sites* including my own WordPress site.  Last night, at the Northside WordPress MeetupBecky Davis reminded me of a few of the problems with the TwentyTwelve approach and suggested — for the second time — that I try the Underscores theme.

So…  You’re either on the bus or off the bus.  My WordPress site may be an interesting place over the next few days on its way to brilliance or disaster.

* Recent TwentyTwelve based sites are http://threemorewishesjazz.com, http://ellenblumbarish.com, http://slneighbors.org, and a couple in development.