Site Update

Hey hey! JIMCOFER.COM has an (unplanned) all new look!

WordPress rolled out a big¬†update last night. In addition to new core files, this update also included newer versions of the stock themes. Even though I’ve never had trouble updating themes in the past, for some reason this go-round the Twenty Fourteen theme broke. If you tried visiting the site for around 20 minutes last night you were greeted with blank pages, ‘cos the stylesheet was corrupted.

So – quite¬†against my will – I updated to the Twenty Fifteen theme. This broke a few things, like many widgets and some of the formatting tricks I’ve done in the past to make something look good. I’m heading off to bed now, but should be able to fix most of these issues in batches over the weekend, especially the missing pages in the Pages widget.

My apologies for any inconvenience.

– Jim

AllConsuming Shutting Down

A quick note: AllConsuming.net, the website that tracks the books you’re reading, the movies you’re watching and the music you’re listening to, is shutting down at the end of May. I used the site to make the “Books I’m Reading” and “Albums I’m Listening To” widgets in the sidebar of this blog.

It’s sad news, but not unexpected: seems like the site had stopped updating with new releases over the past few months. I have gone ahead and removed the widgets; I’ll be looking for replacements soon.

Website Update

Dear Visitors:

It has come to my attention that my site has been displaying the mobile interface for all users for the past couple of days, and feeds might not be updating on your RSS clients. I have tracked down the issue to the Quick Cache plug-in, and have temporarily disabled it until a working version of the plug-in is released.

I’d like to apologize if you had a sub-par experience with the site, and hope you’ll come back now that it’s up and running again.

Thanks!

Jim

Here Comes the Ban Hammer!

If you pay any attention at all to IT security issues, you probably know that many (most?) computer viruses and malware aim to turn your computer into a “bot”. As part of a group of infected computers (known as a “botnet”), your computer would then be used by the virus’ author to send out spam, conduct Denial of Service attacks on other computers, or whatever other evil thing the author has in mind.

But there’s a new breed of malware out there attacking WordPress installations. Why? Because most WordPress installations are hosted at data centers, which have several times the bandwidth of your puny home connection.Which makes total sense if you think about it: if having horsepower and bandwidth are the ultimate goals of a botnet creator, why bother with home users and their rinky-dink Pentium 4s and 1.5Mbps DSL connections? Think big and go for a quad-Xeon box at a T4 data center!

Anyway, the point is, I have really jacked up the security on this site as of late. One thing I’ve done is to add two-factor authentication. The second is that I’ve installed a plug-in which tracks login attempts and IP addresses. If unsuccessful, it locks out the IP address for 72 hours and emails me the IP address of the rogue computer.

So here’s a new policy: if your IP address tries to login to the admin portion of my site more than three times, your IP address is locked out for 72 hours. If your IP address is locked out more than once, your IP is banned permanently.

If you feel that your IP address was banned unjustly, please let me know (and seriously, I’d love to hear your story) and I’ll look in to it.

Website Update

Hi Ho, Everyone! Time for another website update:

– I found a real, gen-u-wine bug in WordPress! Well, not WordPress itself, but rather JetPack, a collection of add-ons put out by the WordPress team. As you might recall, I added the “infinite scroll” feature from JetPack to my site not too long ago. This automatically loads more stories as you scroll down the page. However, I noticed that if you clicked on a category (say, “History Blog”), WP would load the first seven posts from that category and then start loading stories from the front page instead of continuing with posts from the selected category. I posted about the issue at the WP support forums, and Jeremy Herve, author of the Infinite Scroll plug-in, quickly replied and said that he’d fixed the bug! So if you use JetPack and have having the same problem, expect it to be fixed in the next update.

– Jeremy also suggested that I could fix the problem immediately by switching from the default permalinks structure to Pretty Permalinks. By default, WordPress links look like this:

http://example.com/?p-123

There’s an option to change this so that the links look like this instead:

http://example.com/2013/01/17/post-title-goes-here

I’d wanted to change the permalink structure for a couple of years now, but was afraid that it would hurt my Google PageRank and kill any internal links on my site. Jeremy told me that it wouldn’t, that WordPress would handle everything automatically. So I switched over… and he was right! So you’ll now notice that my links look like this:

http://jimcofer.com/personal/2013/01/15/quick-take-new-zealanders-and-the-kiwi/

– I also want to thank Jeremy for replying so quickly to my issue and reassuring me about switching the permalink structure. That was some FAST and FRIENDLY service, my man! Thanks again!

– I also ditched ShareThis for WordPress’s own JetPack sharing solution. There’s no real reason for this, aside from the ShareThis bar not appearing on occasion in some posts. I just figured that the WordPress solution would be more stable and robust. Try it out and let me know how it works.

– I’ve also done some work under the hood, mostly retiring plug-ins that do things that WordPress now does natively. I don’t expect any issues to come of this, but if you see anything unusual, let me know!

– Lastly, I’m going to overhaul the Contact Me page this afternoon, since I no longer use a few of the instant messaging services listed on that page. I’m also getting tired of the current round of header images, and will probably swap those out early next week.

Website Updates

Various updates about the website:

PLANNED MAINTENANCE: My web host is planning to do some upgrades in the near future. These are scheduled to take place in the wee small hours of Eastern Standard Time. So if the site is unavailable, that’s most likely what’s going on. I’ll update this as my host updates me.

NEW FEATURE: When you visit a WordPress blog, the software defaults to loading the 10 most recent stories. When you get to the bottom of the page, you can click “Older Stories” to load the next 10 stories, and so on. The people who make WordPress also make a set of plug-ins called “JetPack”, and a recent update added an “infinite scroll” feature: when you get to the bottom of the page, the next 10 articles automatically load in the browser, and you can keep scrolling as far back as you wish. This is a feature of the Reddit Enhancement Suite, and I really like it. Unfortunately, you can’t use a footer with infinite scroll, so I moved the footer widgets to the sidebar.

NEW FEATURE (OF SORTS): One of the biggest complaints people had about Instagram is that it lacked “profile pages”. When you uploaded a picture to the site, Instagram would create an HTML page around the picture, which you could then send to friends as a link. But there was no “profile page” where people could look at your other pictures. Instagram has finally created profiles for users, and my account has been upgraded. You can see all my pictures here, or just use the Instagram icon in the sidebar (with the RSS, Facebook, Twitter and other icons).

THE PLUG-IN MERRY-GO-ROUND: For a long time I used a plug-in called WordBooker, which automatically added a Facebook post whenever I published a new article on this site. I also used another plug-in called Twitter Tools to do the same for Twitter. However, the author of WordBooker seemed to be locked in a constant battle with Facebook’s ever-changing API, so the plug-in broke early and often. Not too long ago, the folks behind Twitter Tools created a new plug-in called Social, which added the ability to post to Facebook as well as Twitter. But Social had one annoying bug: it would pull any random picture from the site and use that as the “featured picture” in the Facebook post (that’s why I temporarily disabled the Instagram widget in the sidebar). I found a plug-in which fixed that bug, but then noticed that JetPack has a similar feature called “Publicize”. I figure the “official” WordPress plug-in will be the most reliable and have the best support, so I’m gonna use that one… for now.

Site Stuff

OK, so I’m back! The missus and I went on a short vacation to Myrtle Beach, then came home and left around 40 hours later for another trip. But we have nothing planned for the next several months, so I should be able to get back to the Mad Men recaps soon!

I swapped out the banners on the site. It’s kind of funny: I saw a cool picture on the Internet that I wanted to use as a Facebook cover image. I opened it in Paint.NET and edited it….then I thought of another cool image… and the next thing you know I’ve created a stockpile of Facebook covers. And today, for no good reason at all, I decided to convert them to banners for this site:

The Clash London CallingThe Clash: The iconic cover of the infamous London Calling album.

Joy DivisionJoy Division: The famous pic of the band on the bridge over Princess Road in Hulme.

Japan PolaroidsJapan: Details of the cover of the 1980 album Gentlemen Take Polaroids.

Lord NelsonLord Nelson: British naval hero of the Napoleonic Era and all-around bad ass.

London UndergroundLondon Underground: The world-famous map of London’s subway system.

Kate flipsKate Winslet: The greatest actress of my generation flips you off, British style!

Art RooneyArt Rooney: A.K.A. “The Chief”, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.

Jack LambertJack Lambert: One of Rooney’s all-time best players: the much feared Jack Lambert!

Edwin HubbleEdwin Hubble: American astronomer and all-around awesome dude!