WordPress Blocks

WordPress 5 introduced an entirely new editor, Gutenburg.  I knew it was coming, but had not really paid attention.  So when I updated DarkerView to WordPress 5 I was unprepared for what was coming.

The new Gutenburg editor introduced with WordPress 5
The new Gutenburg editor in WordPress 5

Oh *#$@!  This is different.

Blocks?  What are blocks?  Everything is blocks? I think I get it, it makes sense, the concept is straightforward… The trouble is in the details of actually doing anything useful, learning what icon to press, how to arrange things.  There should be a way to do this, but where is it?

Now that I have had some time with it, and watched a couple training videos, I think I am getting the idea.  At least I have been able to produce new posts without struggling.

The new editor is truly more powerful, more of a desktop publishing editor than a simple blogging editor.  With Gutenburg the power of WordPress to produce professional websites is dramatically improved.

I wonder what new users will think of when they encounter the editor.  Gutenburg dramatically steepens the learning curve necessary before using WordPress.  It is possible to use the classic editor, but only within a block.  A more explicit way to use the classic editor may be a good idea.

The only real effect on DarkerView right now will be a modest increase in the time it takes me to write a post, there are more keys to press and a few more mouse clicks to get the job done.  There will be no real change in the appearance or function of the blog, at least for now.

Some Blog Changes Coming

You may have noticed that DarkerView got hacked back in late March. Somehow malicious files were inserted that sent search traffic to various less than reputable websites, of course that means mostly sex sites. Sorry about that.

GyPSy in the Night
The 11″ NexStar GPS telescope, GyPSy set up at Ka’Ohe
Only search traffic was affected, those who went directly to the site saw the correct webpage, thus I did not notice right away as I use direct links. As a side note, getting hacked does result in a huge spike in traffic volume, that was the first sign. This sort of hack is apparently called conditional redirect hack, essentially borrowing a reputable website’s reputation with the search engines to send traffic towards certain websites.

As a result I have been tightening up security around here. Removing some old plugins, changing things around and checking for known vulnerabilities. One thing you will soon see is that the old theme will be replaced for an entirely new look for DarkerView.

The old theme is just that… old. Also probably insecure as there has been no maintenance on it in years. As I really do not know how the attacker got in I need to look to everything that could have been the weakness. Time to update the look and update the code to something that is modern and supported.

Worpress 3.6 Running Slow?

So for the past few days Darker View has been really slow, ever since I updated to WordPress 3.6. Even the admin pages were slow, not just the public side. It could take 30-60 seconds to load a page, simply unacceptable. I knew it was WordPress as the part of the site that are static HTML had no issues, it was not the server… This time.

I have been poking about, trying to understand what was holding up the site, without much success. Today I turned off all the plugins, everything. Then brought them back one at a time. I expected the issue to be Jetpack, one of the more involved plugins that works on both the public and admin sides of the site.

One by one, with plugins restored, I tested page load times. Now I am at a loss to understand what was wrong… When I finished turning all of the plugins back on the site is working fine, with quick load times. Did I just need to reinitialize stuff? Turning Jetpack back on requires you to re-login to the WordPress servers.

All seems well… For now. I will have to keep an eye on things. Maybe next time just deactivate and reactivate Jetpack.

Backing up the WordPress Database

DarkerView is a substantial part of who I am. Recorded here are my writings, photos and experiences spanning years. A personal diary recording so much of my life. While my blogging effort goes back to 2005, it is only the last few years that are hosted on the newer WordPress based DarkerView. Still, I worry about losing it all, this would be a stunning blow, not something I wish to contemplate. Thus I make an effort to back everything up.

Hawaiian Double Hulled Canoe
A Hawaiian double hulled canoe awaiting a crew below Pu’ukohala Heiau
I use a plugin called, simply enough, WordPress Database Backup. The plugin is easy enough, just a few settings to make.

The settings are fairly stright forward to figure out… You can choose to exclude storing post revisions and any spam comments you may have not yet deleted. Any optional tables, not part of the basic WordPress setup, can be included. You can choose to set up an automatic backup at several different time intervals.

The plugin also gives you a few choices in what to do with the backup file. The backup can be stored on the same server as the site, emailed to the specified address, or simply downloaded to your local computer. I generally trigger my backups manually and download them to my local machine for storage at home.

The result is a compressed file containing the necessary SQL code needed to recreate the entire WordPress database. For DarkerView, a three year old blog with almost one thousand posts, the resultant backup file is just over a gigabyte.

Unpacking and perusing the resultant backup file is interesting. Laid before you is the entire structure and contents of the site in SQL query statements. In the case of DarkerView this currently results in over sixteen thousand lines of SQL. Not having really looked at the back-end database before it is quite interesting to examine.

The backup file does not include the uploaded files, the images and thumbnails. It is necessary to copy this section of the blog manually. This is easily accomplished with an FTP session opened to the hosting computer and a single copy command.

Deleting Revisions in WordPress

I tend to revise my posts… A lot.

This is particularly true for my essays. I will stew on the text for several days, often saving very minor revisions. As a result there may be 20-30 revisions in the database. I also tend to find a few errors during proofreading that require another save or three. All this editing does add a bit of a clutter.

I do like the WordPress revision feature, it has saved the day more than once. The ability to recover the text from previous versions is simply invaluable.

Waialea Bay
Looking out from the beach at Waialea Bay
On the other hand, I have wondered just how much this extra cruft adds to the WordPress database? How much does it slow the blog down in generating pages and editing?

WordPress does have some tools for dealing with the revisions. Even if you have to know about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff to make changes to revision handling.

Finding how to do this is done through the usual learning materials… A Google search for something like “WordPress limit revisions” provides all you need to know. The information was out there, but I will repeat it here. If nothing more this post can serve as notes for when I next need to purge the database.

Continue reading “Deleting Revisions in WordPress”

Style.css and Templates

I have spent much of the day, between doing yard work, working on the style sheet for Darker View. I have solved a few little issues, put a header image in place, and learned a great deal about the intricacies of CSS and WordPress. I still have some problems with tables and the favicon, I will just attack the issues one-by-one.

I have also learned a bit about WordPress templates, making a few modifications here and there. Good progress, the whole thing is looking much better.The major bug of the Blogum theme seems to be putting a ‘Read More’ at the bottom of every post, even if it has nothing else to read. This one will be a challenge. Otherwise I have figured out date formats and many of the other WordPress function calls.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please comment!

Update… The Read More bug is fixed!

Mucking About in Themes

Yes, I have changed the theme. Sorry.

The theme currently displayed is Blogum. I think this is the way I want to go. The original appearance was back on white. Not really appropriate for a blog called Darker View. I have edited the CSS for a gray on black appearance closer to the original DV. A few things do not work quite right, particularly the tables I had so neatly laid out for the earlier theme. Just more work ahead, bear with me.

Darker View is now on WordPress

It has been a decision that has been brewing for quite some time.  I have changed Darker View over to using WordPress as the underlying software.

For the last four years Darker View has run on Serendipity (known as S9Y) as the underlying blogging software.  The software has served me well, it is easily customizable and has proven quite stable.  Unfortunately it is also beginning to show some signs of wear.  It is getting slower and slower as the size of Darker View’s databases have grown.  Any number of new technologies and features I would like to add to DV are not available.

Serendipity is not supporting the blogging community to the degree that WordPress is.  The development behind WordPress has reached such an overwhelming critical mass that it is hard not to make this switch, if just to avail myself of the features and support available from the WP community.

When my father asked me to setup a blog for him I knew I would use WordPress to do it.  Using WP to setup NordicQuest.com allowed me to get a good hands-on look at the software.  I was expecting a good experience, what resulted was even better.  I was consistently pleased with the features and ease of use offered by WP.  This cemented my decision to convert Darker View to WP as soon as possible.

This will not be without a lot of pain.  There are over 2350 postings, hundreds of images, and a lot of history contained in the databases of Darker View.  I have attempted twice to automatically convert the mass of material contained in the S9Y databases to WP.  Both attempts were dismal failures, resulting in a couple FTP and SQL sessions needed to delete and clean up the resulting morass.  Thus I have simply setup a clean WP install and started afresh.  I will probably make an effort to cut and paste the most significant articles over to the new platform.

I will leave the old blogging software in-place for now.  All of the old links and articles will remain online.  Fortunately the choices I made when structuring the site years ago when installing S9Y will allow me to run both blogging packages in parallel.  But for 2012, all new material will be on the WordPress platform.