Upgrading to WordPress 2.6

WordPress caught me on the hope a little bit by releasing a new version of their WordPress blogging software, and I decided to upgrade tonight. I had a couple of issues with the upgrade this time that are worth pointing out. Firstly, if you can’t login in again after the upgrade, clear your cache and your cookies, then try again. Don’t do what I did and spend ages trying to change the password in a variety of ways.

Also, if like me you use the K2 theme, you may then find your sidebars have reverted to the WordPress default. If you go into the K2 options, don’t change anything, then click save, this restored them to how they were before for me.

WordPress 2.3 is out now – get it whilst it’s hot (maybe)

Time for a new release of WordPress. WordPress 2.3 brings a long awaited feature, actual tags instead of categories. Word so far is that they are quite basic, and that the underlying tables for WordPress are quite different to cater for them, so it is quite possible that it could break plugins you have in existing installations. This is the good thing about hosting WordPress on your own webspace though, you can test it out properly. I have a few blogs, including a test blog. On the test blog, I can run upgrades like this, having turned all the plugins off, then turn them back on one by one to see that they works. Saves a lot of time debugging. Since WordPress can be such an easy install, it’s really worth having such a testbed.

For more information about WordPress 2.3, I’d really reccommend listening to Lorelle Vanfossen on the latest episode (#29) of the WordPress Podcast. They really get into a good level of detail about what you can expect, and what issues you need to be aware of. I’ve installed a few .1 advances of WordPress before with various levels of success (usually good to be fair), but having listened to this in detail, I’m feeling more cautious, and will test properly first this time. I’m probably a couple of weeks away from having chance to do this, but when I do, I’ll review the process and show my workings.

New look for the site using the K2 theme – Stage 1

And there we go, a new look! I’ve been meaning to get into the nuts and bolts of the site a bit more, and have used the K2 theme for WordPress to give me a building block to work from. One of the nice features of K2 is that you can write your own styles for it, so you can keep the basics built by them, and then start to mould it how you like. What’s more, you can revert back to their style if you don’t like it.

What I’ve been using to assist me today is a fantastic article on Customising K2 by Paul Stamatiou (which was mentioned recently by the ever-inspiring Lorelle). I’ve had problems working with K2 in the past, but this really helped me get what I wanted working. I’ve now got a nice little set of images that rotate as the header, and a bit more idea of how it all fits together. There are 5 articles in Paul’s series on K2, so I will certainly be reading the rest of them.

My aim now for Stage 2 is to develop my own style a little more, make this blog look a bit more unique than just a different header. I haven’t got it quite clear in my mind yet, but I now think I’ve got the building blocks in place to work with what I’ve set up today.

Is comment spam on the rise?

On one of my blogs I’ve had a massive rise in comment spam that has got around my Akismet plugin in WordPress. They aren’t published, as I manually moderate all comments, but it is still a pain. Now my other blogs (on a different host) are fine, so it could be they’re stopping the spammers before they get to my blog. The other possibility is that this problem site has webstats installed in the same directory, and I was reading recently that this is a big lure for spammers (the hits get listed in publicly available webstats without being approved in the blog itself, and it helps their sites visibility).

So I have a couple of solutions available to me. I’m going to do this over a few days out of interest, so the first thing I’m going to do is remove the webstats package (I use analytics now anyway). Leave it a couple of days, see if it dies down. If it doesn’t, there are a couple of WordPress plugins that bounce spam traffic, so I’ll try one of those.

Has anyone else noticed this rise in comment spam?

Moved feeds to Feedburner

I’ve finally got around to moving all my feeds for my sites over to Feedburner. I’m hoping that in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to hook that up to my various Google accounts for Analytics and Adsense, amongst others. I’d also recommend using their WordPress Plugin, as it redirects feed traffic over to Feedburner, and thus gives you more complete statistics for who is accessing your feeds.

WordPress 2.2 available for download and installed

If you’re the sort of person who likes to squint at small type at the bottom of blogs, you will have noticed that I’m now running WordPress version 2.2. It is running nicely on here, no issues with it so far. My ultra simple upgrade process is:

  • Backup your blog
  • Deactivate all plugins
  • Switch to the classic template
  • Delete everything from the WordPress directory bar wp-config.php and the wp-content folder
  • Copy over all the files from a new download of WordPress, having removed wp-content
  • log in and run the upgrade process
  • Reactivate your theme and plugins

As I’m lucky enough to have the space for it on my hosting, I’ve now got a test blog that I try things out on first to see if they cause any problems. It does raise your confidence a bit to see things work, and is better than a first run on your live blog. This is especially worthwhile with your template, as at the moment template authors don’t always keep up with new releases of WordPress, they tend to update in the weeks following a release if there are any problems. I can report that Black Minimalism 1.0 seems happy with the new release.

Issues in K2 theme with Sidebar Modules

The K2 theme is one of the more popular WordPress themes, and I’ve used it in various guises on several different blogs. However recently it has been causing issues with its own Sidebar modules, giving quite random behaviour, some will work, some don’t work at all, and some when placed in the middle of the sidebar will wipe out working ones under it. So it is about time I got it sorted out. Some investigation on the K2 Forums suggested that the latest builds has fixed this, so I decided to try it out.

This was the process I used to fix it:

  • I downloaded the latest nightly build of K2. The one that worked for me was revision 323. Once they release their next full version, I would suggest using that instead (I was on 0.95rc1, which I had installed after 0.91 to try and fix the sidebars issue).
  • I changed the theme on my blog to the default one for now. I’ve had issues in the past with making changes with K2 live, so better to be safe than sorry.
  • I unzipped the K2 files, then logged onto my server. I renamed the directory with the existing version of K2 to K2old. There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which is that if things go wrong, or I just don’t like the new version, I can change back to the old version in a click. Both version will be selectable in the themes section of WordPress once I’m done now. I copied the new version over, and went into k2/images/ to chmod to 777 the headers directory. This allows you to upload new header images for K2 within the admin interface. If you have any old images in the previous version of the theme, now is the time to copy them over as well. This was the other reason for not deleting the old version.
  • I could now go to K2 Sidebar Modules, add new modules, and they show up fine on the site.

Job done!

WP-Amazon plugin – Add Associate Links to Amazon the painless way

So what you would like is an easy way in the middle of a blog posting to find a link to a product, and an image, and tie the link up with your associate ID? Have you tried doing this quickly on Amazon? Not much fun. Here to save the day is WP-Amazon.

I’d suggest installing this using Matt Read’s installer plugin, as you can just upload the zip file for WP-Amazon via your admin interface, and set it up in a minute or two. You just need to choose which country’s Amazon you want to use, and add in your associated ID, and you are ready to go. From there, when you are writing a blog posting, you can just click on the Amazon logo on the right hand side, search for a product, drag and drop an appropriately-sized image and link in place, and you are done.

For example, one of my favourite books is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. And that was pretty painless to drop in, although it doesn’t like to flow the text around the image, may have to play with that. For a quick book or album reccomendation, it looks spot on.

Diagnosis for WordPress

Well Lorelle has got me writing again, with her article about admin plugins for WordPress. There were a few in there I liked the look of, so I’m going to work through them and see how I get on. The first is Diagnosis, which is a simple but very useful addition that tells you quite a lot about how your blog is set up. Installing it just adds a link on the dashboard, which then shows you information such as the versions of MySQL, PHP and WordPress you are running, which ports are being used for various things, what modules are installed in PHP, and so on.

If your command line skills are sometimes lacking, it is very useful for getting a lot of knowledge about these backroom things very quickly, and gives you a handy place to check such things when you are debugging issues with your blog. I’ll put this on any blog I install in future, particularly if I was installing on someone elses hosting, as it would tell me a lot about the setup there without having to dig to much.