Archive for April, 2008

No More Internet

I’m not usually a massive fan of South Park but I have to say this episode about there being no more internet tickled me somewhat. The hilarity of the concept was one thing, but the sheer dependency on the service shown by the characters added a whole new level of amusement as of course did the concept that the internet can just shut down universally and only originates from one location. RouterTech fans will note that “The Internet” appears to be a large Linksys wireless router with the tell-tale flashing ADSL light that frequently occurs when ADSL sync cannot be acheived. As the saying always goes “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

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Job Applications

Looks like I’m not suitable for a career in IT because I can’t read paragraphs in 2 seconds flat and answer questions on them in an online test. But oh yeah, thats right, you need to be able to do that when you’re working with low level programming and mathematics don’t you. Sure, I can read. Sure, I can assimilate information. Can I do it before you can finish saying “Jack Robinson”? No. What do you think I’ve spent my last 5 years doing? Reading Shakespeare? For fucks sake.

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Using the WordPress legacy branch

I run the legacy 2.0.x branch of WordPress. I’m often asked why I don’t upgrade and I’ve decided to voice my reasons here and talk about using legacy software in general.

My reasons for not upgrading are simple. I don’t want to have to update regularly, simple as. I’m very busy and I run a lot of blogs. Upgrading all of them takes time, time that I don’t have. The legacy branch is supported and secure. It is only updated for security reasons and because its had a few updates in the past, new issues hardly ever arise – indeed I haven’t needed to update in months. Sure I don’t get the shiny new features, but these are not numerous and I don’t need them to maintain good websites. By spending less time upgrading I spend more time writing and more time developing software.

I am continually surprised by the attitude of plugin developers concerning people running the legacy branch. Many will release a security update for their plugin and at the same time introduce new features which require the latest WordPress version thereby preventing legacy users fixing their security holes. This is annoying because I am faced with a choice; keep the insecure version, stop using the plugin or back port the fix. Clearly I’m not going to use an insecure version and removing the plugin would reduce my sites functionality, so I end up having to take the time to back port the fixes.

In my eyes plugin authors should do one of two things; only use features that are available in the legacy branch thus keeping their updates accessible to all or maintain two branches themselves. Leaving users high and dry without security fixes is just not acceptable. I run a legacy version to save time. Many newbies however run the legacy version because they find upgrading daunting and they don’t want the hassle. This is particularly note-worthy as it is the newbies who cannot back port fixes and they WILL end up running insecure versions.

When developing Calendar I take the time to ensure that legacy users can run the plugin. I even pay careful attention to the server requirements of the legacy version of WordPress so that users staying on the legacy version for this reason can still use the plugin (see my update to support certain versions of MySQL). This doesn’t take much effort. Why can’t everyone do this?

Forgive me for ranting but this is a very important issue. Running a hosting company as I do I’m continually concerned by the scripts users are running, particularly those with security holes. A lot of my time is spent helping users upgrade and advising them on the best course of action concerning loss of functionality after an upgrade. Dougal Campbel notes that upgrading is important, even at the expense of functionality. I believe we should be able to have both. Some comment authors on Dougal’s article seem to agree with me. Upgrades to WordPress shouldn’t break plugins (but they do), neither should plugin updates remove support for the legacy branch (but they do). To users it is WordPress *and* the plugins that make their site, not one or the other. Developers clearly don’t agree with the users.

Come on people, get it together, it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Golf Lessons

So I’ve been bought golf lessons for 4 people at a charity auction and I need to find 3 other people from in and around Leeds to join me in taking them. It will just be one lesson, on some weekend in the not too distant future although obviously a date wouldn’t be set without either having the right number of people or ensuring that all of said people could make it.

Back in St. Albans there are a number of people who I would have asked directly, but here in Leeds things are a little different and I’m not so aware of the golfing landscape amongst friends so I figured posting here was easiest.

Essentially all that is required is an interest. Having played before would help significantly, but you certainly don’t have to be any good. Nor do you need your own clubs although you would be welcome to use them. If you know me (no random blog readers please) and are interested then please get in touch. If you need a clincher, remember, its FREE :)

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Update on Calendar

Its about time I offered my users an update given its a while since I last discussed the plugin.

I have been very busy on other things recently which means progress has been rather slow and bitty. That being said most of the requested and accepted features from my last consultation have now been implemented and have been seen to work on my development machine.

The following features have been added since there was last an update

  • Changeable styles. Inline styles are no more and there is now a dedicated area on the new Calendar options page to edit the stylesheet directly.
  • Users other than Administrator can edit events if the Administrator changes a setting on the Calendar options page.
  • There is now an option to show the event author on the pop up for each event. This is set on the Calendar options page. This also means that for budding developers there is now a user ID by each event in the database allowing interesting things to be done with the plugin data.
  • There is a set of drop down boxes to jump straight to a given year and month. This can be shown or hidden based on a setting on the Calendar options page.
  • The description can now be any length. There is a text box to show this fact on the manage events screen instead of the small box that was there before.
  • The dates can be selected from pop up mini-calendars meaning you don’t have to check somewhere else if you are choosing the right date. This system also prevents you from selecting a finishing date which is before the starting one which caused some problems when done accidentally in the past.
  • The 30 character limit for the event title is now visibly enforced so that users are not surprised by their title appearing truncated.
  • HTML errors have been fixed by ensuring that all styling is placed in the header of the page and not in the body.
  • Seeing as WordPress 2.5 has recently been released, compatibility with this was coded in. This brings the range of WordPress branches the plugin is compatble with to 5; 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5. It is of course worth noting that the only versions you should be running are the 2.0 legacy branch and the latest 2.5 branch.

Two main features do remain to be implemented. These are

  • Event Categories
  • Upcoming Events

All this means that a release does draw ever closer. I have been spurred on in particular by the release of 2.5 as I note that the current Calendar version doesn’t support 2.5. I have also been getting increasing support requests concerning things that don’t work on Calendar 1.1. I ask that you all hold off on these requests; you can be sure your issue will be fixed in Calendar 1.2.

Most importantly thanks for your patience and for deciding to use my plugin.

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Blog Etiquette

It has come to my attention that a number of people have been posting comments on blog articles of mine asking for support for calendar when the subject of the post wasn’t even anything technical. Please don’t do this, it clutters things up for readers and confuses search engines. I have a contact page with an e-mail address which you can use to ask me for support. Please help me to keep things nice and ordered on the blog.

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RouterTech releases v2.5 firmware

For those who frequent RouterTech it can’t have escaped your attention that we have recently released our v2.5 firmware. This was an important release for many reasons and marks an impressive milestone as we approach our 2 year birthday.

We now have over 4,000 community members, have had nearly 10,000 downloads of our firmware and have recently welcomed a new member to the RouterTech team. My impending graduation will give me a lot more time to work on the website and other aspects of the group so I hope things will get that little bit better in a few months time, if that is possible!

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Easter Holiday

Easter came early this year, more so in fact than in the 90 odd years easter that preceded it. Still it was the end of term and for that a short break was called for.

At the start of the vacation period I spent a few days in Middlesbrough with Heather where we spent time chilling out, going on day visits to local areas, practicing our cooking skills in the evening and solving a murder mystery puzzle (its amazing how engrossing they can be once you get started!). It was nice to really chill out for once and also properly enjoy days out and relaxed evenings which although we very much enjoy we hadn’t been able to do for quite a while due to work commitments.

Another thing that occupied some of our time while away was Heather’s Victorian dolls house that she is building from scratch. I spent a few hours with her helping to get the painting right, fix some of the hinges and ensure the house all fitted together. This is a really special project as it isn’t just a normal dolls house but one of considerable size. It has 10 rooms with an attic, basement and traditional frontage. It’s going to be fantastic when its finished. I don’t have a picture of it but I found one on the web to give you an idea of the kind of thing I’m talking about.

During the holiday I also got a chance to get my camera out and take a few shots of the places we visited. Most of these involved boats of some description but there were a few others, in particular some spectacular shots of stormy weather at Whitby. We climbed a lighthouse to get a better view and were nearly blown off. It was one of our best days out for a while.

After my break with Heather I spent some time with my family over the Easter weekend. I got to see my sister which, now she is at university, is a rare occurrence. We all went out for a meal together on Easter day which was a very nice affair. During the rest of my stay with my family I spent time fixing things around the house, relaxing, having the odd drink, and meeting up with James to catch up. When I wasn’t doing all that I chilled out on the computer throwing radiators at people.

Sadly all good things must come to an end and I had to return to Leeds to continue work on my project which is pretty much all I have been doing since. Still as I keep reassuring myself it will all be over soon and hopefully the standard will be good enough to clinch the mark I want.

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