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Updates and Changes

Most of the past year I have been so busy working on updates for me and my friends that I have had little time to post about my thoughts on the current state of the web, and technology. I apologize to my friends that have kept me in their feed readers! There have been so many changes in the world of tech that I am having trouble keeping up.

Some things I’d love to go into more detail one of these days.  Adobe abandoning flash for mobile devices, html 5 becoming the new standard, yet most are not being quick to embrace it, and why. Google axing it’s rss reader. My new tablet. WordPress good and bad. There is so much I want to go into.

I had planned on writing several posts today, but it has taken me so much longer to get my blog site back up and running on a new web server, that I am a bit more focused on wordpress today. I love WP, and have been a fan for years. I was happy with WP 1.5 – it worked just fine, and I would still be using it today if it was never updated beyond that. I like quick and clean, and wordpress has always been that for me.

Moving WordPress install to a new server – don’t forget these basic things

Lessons learned from exporting my blog today, and then setting up a new install of wordpress, then importing my original content.

My original version of wordpress for years had a blog roll / links section in the backend dashboard. A new install today has this functionality removed. You may want to copy your blogroll from your older version before you switch. I imagine there is a plugin out there to bring the blogroll back – I did like the original that gave the option to use a picture as the link. You can of course use the newer custom menus to do a basic text only blog roll, and add that widget to your sidebar if that’s all you needed. However this did not come through the export / import process that I had expected.

Permalinks – a new install does the dynamic post =?123 thing. I had forgotten to check what my exact permalinks were before the export, nameserver change, and then import. Good thing the internet’s way back machine / archive.org is there. My suggestion is go into your permalink settings and copy the structure while you still have you old blog setup up.

Plugins – which ones are you using? Make a list, these will not come over in an import / export of wordpress automatically. What I did was keep a tab open in firefox on my plugins page of my old web server. Once I had the new install up and running, I went to add my plugins, and simply clicked over to the tab showing what I had installed previously.

Plugin Settings!

The wayback machine, and having the plugins page open from my old web server was not enough to get my plugin settings back. I strongly suggest opening the settings for each plugin you have and making notes. I ended up finding some plugins that offer an export settings option, but one of those did not import the settings from itself to it’s new install. Copy and pasting some plugin notes into notepad saved me from screaming when it came time to adjust the post teaser plugin for one of my friends recently. Her all in one seo settings were lost however.

Widgets!

I keep a copy of my original site open in another tab, this lets me quickly add the widgets in the right places for the new install. Some widgets also have settings that you only see in the backend, so if you use some widgets that have settings, get those notes before you move your worpdress and it’s nameservers. Luckily for me it is basic widgets, and the order is not too important for me. I was surprised, as noted above, of the missing in action (no longer available) links / blogroll widget with this new install. A friend of mine had a widget that included settings for hiding pages from navigation, and images that would display in his link roll – those have all been lost.

Sorry goes out to Steven for losing his sidebar! If we really wanted to, we could switch the name servers back to his old host, wait for it to propagate, then go back in there and get these settings. Perhaps find a widget that will work like the old blogroll / links function wordpress deprecated. We might just pull the code and hand write the html into a text widget – not sure if he really wants to keep those links bad enough to warrant the extra 10 minutes of work though.

I hope some others will learn from these lessons I went through today.

Make notes of all your settings, get a full backup of your files, and your database. Simply having the the wordpress xml export is a great way to save your precious words, but it is not a complete backup of your site. Even if you were running the latest wordpress, moving to a new install will be different, and you will want to have as many notes about your settings for each one of the small parts that make this cms machine doe what it does so eloquently. This should especially be on the mind of developers who maintain WP installs for other clients.

It would be nice if a wordpress export would also include some other basic info – like the name of the theme you were using, the plugins that were activated at the time, what widgets you were using, what order, and any basic settings for the basic widgets would be a nice option. I don’t expect WP to export settings of the various third party apps. I have seen some others post about some better WP backup solutions – it may be time to seriously look into some of those, then test what would happen if a full server crash occurred, and we had to install a fresh WP on a new server, then import the backups.

Better to learn and test before a crash I can assure 110%.

A year of updates and security enhancements

The past year has been a busy one for me. With so many updates and patches to roll out on my systems, and then trying to fix all of my friends security issues, I have not been able to keep up with the fun things in life as much as I have wanted. This blog was one of my favorite ways of sharing and connecting with others in a single unified place, yet as so many other things have changed the past year or so, I had to put it on hold.

Well I am back, for the weekend anyway. I am considering a theme change for the blog section here, so if you return it may look a bit different, but will have the same info as before. I have seen so many great customized blog themes around the web, it makes me want to try out some of the premium options out there that will save me from having to re-invent the wheel with custom css written from scratch. It’s funny to me how so many of must get good at doing some things while in school or working on a big project, then after a couple years go by we find ourselves taking advantage of well made shortcuts and saving the hassle or re-writing from scratch. I see this with many other professionals such as dentists and doctors as well.

Speaking of that, I am going to sort through some new theme possibilities. As much as I enjoy the simplicity of this one, average monitor size and screen resolution has been increasing for most people, and even those who do not have 24 inch screens many are probably using widescreen more these days. I see so many people using laptops and tablets to surf these days, it seems that the old days of keeping web pages long and narrow may be over. Maybe that will change again one day. Maybe I should just try to find a fluid theme so that people who surf here using a tablet can turn it sideways and read it more like a book, yet those who are using laptops and monitors can still get plenty of info on their screen and save some scrolling. Thinking cap on – can’t wait to see what’s out there these days.

Updates and backups – ugh

Updates are important, and backups are just as important. Whether it is backing up precious digital photos – which I tell everyone to do all the time, or updating windows – these are things that are absolutely necessary around my home and office. Then there are site and blog updates – these are needed too.

Sometimes I find myself spending more time updating software than I do actually using it. That certainly drives me crazy! I prefer to take pictures and write new articles. Most of the last year however I have spent mroe time doing backups (for myself and friends) and updating software. There have been so many updates for everything I use this year, it’s making me batty!

Everything from firefox, to windows, to Divx, and wordpress – all these updates are really necessary to help keep things safe and secure. So today I am updating my blog instead of just updating the backend software. Please everyone, make a backup of your photos today.

right now, save your precious pictures to a CD or DVD – burn a disc – or make a backup on a USB stick, heck you can even upload the important ones to facebook or flickr – but make a backup. I hate to see the tears in people eyes when they call me for help when a virus destroys their computer – or a hard drive fails and they have no backup of the precious memories that were so easily stored on their computer – and yet so quickly disappear when there was not a 5 minutes spent making a copy.