Backend Update to Deep Sand

 Software, Technology  Comments Off on Backend Update to Deep Sand
Aug 042009

We did an update today to a new version of WordPress. This was a significant upgrade that involved a lot of updates for the plugins that add so much functionality to the site.

WordPress now has an automated “in-place” system for updating the core files. There have been automated in-place updates for the plugins for some time. Some people reported some issues with the update, so we created a development blog that replicated the Deep Sand environment.

To create this development site, we download the entire set of files for Deep Sand. We create a test database, and change the special WP Configuration File to match the test database. Then we upload the entire set of files to the sub-directory housing the test site.

We create a complete backup of the database using the WordPress Database back-up program. I open it in a text editor and do a find and replace to replace to the URL for the main site with the URL for test site. I import the modified backup file into the the test database, and you’re pretty much ready to go with an exact replica.

It’s a good thing we did some testing, and there were some issues with a couple of the plugins we use that haven’t been updated in a while. We changed a few to start using plugins that seem to be updated more often, and found some workarounds for a few of the other issues. It wasn’t anything major, and you really can’t expect every plugin developer to support their plugins forever. You just hope they are engineered enough initially to stand up over time.

We had a lot of plugin updates with the newer version of the core software, so when I did the upgrade on the production system, I deactivated all the plugins, did the update, then deleted the entire plugins directory. I had previously downloaded the entire plugins directory from the test site, and just uploaded it to the production site. Brought all the new plugins online and implemented the few changes we had to make to accomodate the minor issues, and Deep Sand was back on-line in no time.

The folks responsible for WordPress, Automattic, do an outstanding job, and have put a very powerful publishing tool in the hands of millions of users.

Spiffing up Deep Sand a Little

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Jun 292009

I’m taking this week, so today I gave myself a little time with my hobby, Deep Sand. If you’ve watched the stream, you noticed a number of posts sort of catching up on some movie reviews, and I still have a couple to do. I also incorporated some new functions into the front facing parts of the blog.

To start with, we can now keep the featured posts “featured” for a little longer. We’ve added a java script “slider” that will scroll through the four most recent posts to the featured category. This took some work, and I had to learn a little more about programming, as I wanted to incorporate another plugin into the scrolling plugin. This captures the first image attached to the post and automatically converts it to a thumbnail and displays it in the featured area. I think it’s kind of cool.

I also added a Social Stream page which catalogs all my social site activity such as Twitter and Facebook. Why, I don’t know…mainly because there was an intriguing plugin that does that, so I decided to play around with it.

I’ve also cleaned up the side bars a bit using an according tabbed widget plugin. I hope you like what we’ve done.

A Clean Upgrade to Deep Sand

 Software, Technology  Comments Off on A Clean Upgrade to Deep Sand
Aug 072008

If you visited Deep Sand earlier this week, you might have gotten a message saying we were temporarily unavailable. I was performing an upgrade to a new version of the software. Normally, that’s not a huge task, but this time I wanted to get as clean a database and code base as possible. Over the years, a lot of additional tables for plugins and files and folders and options settings have been left behind. I wanted to get that cleaned out.

I pulled a current back up of the site (site files and database). Then I uploaded the new version and ran the upgrade routine. This meant that database would be updated to the current format (whatever changes that might mean).

I made sure that all the plugins we currently use here were up-to-date (the WordPress team has made that a lot easier). I then took a clean set of the latest WordPress files (2.6, but this technique could be used for any version I believe), and downloaded all the current plugin files and theme files we use here on Deep. I made sure I got rid of plugin files no longer in use. I also downloaded an additional backup of the database file from the upgraded version.  Continue reading »

A Rambling Blog

 Election, Featured, Politics, Technology, Travel  Comments Off on A Rambling Blog
Jun 142008

I don’t get a ton of traffic on this site, and have always been disappointed with the lack of comments. I get a few, but I know I have opinionated friends, and would expect a little more from them. I suspect one of the reasons is that this blog is so far ranging in the topics I write about.

I’ve read some good articles lately on blogging, and most say to narrow the focus of your blog. The people writing these articles do have very widely read blogs, so one must give them their props. I can’t say I disagree with them, but one of the things I notice is that most of them maintain multiple blogs, and each blog is for a different topic. So, like me, they write on a wide range of topics, but do so on a multitude of blogs.     Continue reading »

A Big Day at Deep Sand

 Featured, Software, Technology  Comments Off on A Big Day at Deep Sand
Mar 282008

We’ve been busy here at Deep Sand over the past several evenings, and you will probably notice one  of the biggest changes right away, as we have implemented this new look to the site. We really loved the older theme, “I Feel Dirty,” and it’s still there for us, but this Zeke 1.0 theme offered a great look, along with some newer features. We also worked on what goes on behind the scenes as well, and while things are pretty much back to normal as far as you’re concerned, we still have a bit of work to do.

Continue reading »

Personal Technology – Series Introduction

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Apr 052007

Over the past year or so, I’ve made a concerted attempt to get all my technology integrated to the extent that is reasonable, and actually helping me manage my life…rather than getting in the way. I think I’ve had a small level of success, so I’m going to write an irregular series on the “technology” I personally use day-to-day.

In some cases, this may be the software I use, other times I’ll write about gadgets I’ve incorporated into my life. I may also use the series to periodically rant and rave about how I or others abuse technology sometimes, and allow it to take over our lives.

I would classify myself as a bit of a gadget head. I like trying new gadgets, but I’m not afraid to return them if they don’t make my life better. However, I make no claim to have “automated” every aspect of my life…nor do I want to. I use desktop and mobile technology myself, and I may, from time to time discuss technology I might use out in the world.

I guess I should start with the pieces of the technology that make this blog possible. First, the site is hosted on my personal web hosting account at I started out using a hosting service that was purchased by a larger company. They more than quadrupled the annual cost, and reduced the services. Not until I canceled the account did they contact me to offer to “grandfather” me in. I hate companies that play games like that. From there I moved to a company called No Monthly I won’t even provide a link to them, as they were pretty poor service providers. I frequently had problems with their e-mail, and there support was fairly arrogant and unresponsive. I moved to Bluehost about six months ago, and have been pleased so far.

This site is driven by an open-source freeware software called WordPress. WordPress is weblog (aka blog) software. I employ a number of plug-ins written by other software authors. I won’t elaborate too much here about the technology behind the site, as I have a more lengthy explanation already posted on the Deep Technology page here on the site.

The site is integrated with my Flickr account. The photo galleries are hosted there, but you can view them from within this site because of plug-in I use. This is one of the ways I’ve tried to use the best product/service/software for each thing I want to do, but still have everything as integrated as possible. I’ll write more about Flickr and that integration in another article.

New Site Design

 General, Technology  Comments Off on New Site Design
Nov 022006

The web is a dynamic place. Things change a lot here. If you are a repeat customer, you’ll notice the overall look and feel of Deep Sand has changed. I just felt like it needed a refresh.

As I’ve noted before, WordPress has an amazing user community of smart people. One of the things many people do is create site “themes” for the software. WordPress has a “theme” system to make it fairly simple to change the overall look and feel. However, I have done a good deal of customization, so it’s a long days worth of work to port in a new theme.

Of course I can always switch back to the previous site design, but I’d like for you to take the survey in the side bar and let me know what you think of this new design.

I think all the same functions are here, but I hope you appreciate the presentation more.

Whew! Digital Move Completed

 General, Technology  Comments Off on Whew! Digital Move Completed
Aug 252006

Well, due to continuing performance issues with the web hosting service I used (No Monthly Fees), and an arrogant and uncooperative customer service attitude, I decided to move as many of my website hosting accounts as possible. I think I’ve completed that move today.

I did some investigating, and a company called Bluehost seemed to get good reviews with the blogging community. I contacted them prior to their selection, and was able to get a live person. He seemed cooperative and intelligent. Another appealing aspect of the hosting package at Bluehost was that I could host my three personal domains on a single account, and that single account cost the same as each of the domains with the other service.

Two of the accounts, including Flamingo Services were no trouble at all. One was net new anyway, and moving the Flamingo site just involved reloading the static HTML files at the new location, and re-creating the email accounts. I did that week before last.

I was hesitant about moving Deep Sand however. I really didn’t have any experience using phpMyAdmin to import database file backups, but it was definitely time to get off the servers at NoMonthlyFees. The?performance over the past two weeks was terrible.

I found two great resources written by people who moved their blogs. Paul Burd at One Digital Life had a very complete article describing the steps he followed for the move. There was information about it on the WordPress Codex, and I came across a great WordPress resource at Tamba2, with tutorials on many aspects of blogging technology. I’ll be visiting there often.

So, last night I created the database backups and downloaded the site files. I collected the information I thought I might need, and did a test restore of the database. This morning I reset the Name Servers, added the domain and sub-domain to the new host, created the email accounts, and started the migration.

It went extremely smoothly I think. I only encountered two “hiccups.” One was that the SQL import would not load the email addresses?for the email notification system. However, because I had done a test restore of the database last night, I knew this could be a problem. I had exported that file as a text file. So, I did have to reinstall the email notification plug-in to recreate the tables, and then just imported the text file.

There was only one unexpected error. The random quotes did not import. They were certainly in the backup file, so in a worst case, I could have done an individual cut and paste, but with 256 quotes, that would have been quite a task. So, again, based on reading my two resources, I extracted just that part of the backup and ran it as an SQL query, which dropped the quotes right in. It took about two minutes to solve this issue.

The only thing not working right now are email addresses, but I’m betting that is just a matter of the DNS record not yet being fully propagated. I’m hoping to see emails starting to flood in here sometime later today.

All-in-all, and thanks to a couple of great articles, the move went very well. I hope you will see much better performance.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, just like with email, people create bots to spam blog comments with links to poker sites, and on-line pharmacy’s. (I’m kind of like a guy I work for, if all this stuff was true, we’d all look 21, have the sex drive of a 17 year old, and 14 inch dicks.) As a result, there are a couple of tools running on the site that prevent those items from every even being published. They work extremely well. One of the most mature and widely used is Spam Karma 2. I was doing some further testing today, and discovered that the associated database tables did not load from the backup, so I had to run those as separate SQL queries. This solved that problem. The only step I didn’t do in Burd’s article was load each table separately. Based on his description, I didn’t think my database was of sufficient size to make that necessary. If I ever do this again, however, I’ll load each table individually.

More Deep Features-Mobile Computing

 Business, Technology  Comments Off on More Deep Features-Mobile Computing
Aug 082006

Along with the recently added “ratings” feature, we’ve now made the jump to mobile technologies.

Recently I was on the road for a few days and experiencing a hardware problem with the laptop, causing me to be unable to access email. So, I’ve made the jump to a mobile PC device. (I’ll write more about that after I’ve used the device a little longer.)?As part of that jump, we’ve added functionality to Deep Sand to make it display appropriately on Mobile PC devices. You can see how it looks by clicking here.

I’ve also added functionality so that I can post updates to the site using nothing more than email. I still have a few minor bugs to work out in that, but overall, it’s a pretty solid system. The talent of some of these people that develop plugins and hacks for WordPress continues to amaze me.

Weekend Update-July 23, 2006

 Friends, General  Comments Off on Weekend Update-July 23, 2006
Jul 232006

Again, the week was somewhat hectic, so I didn’t get to posting much.

This weekend was fairly slow and quiet. Friday evening I did a major cleaning on the pool pump. The pool’s been cloudy a lot lately, so finally I just broke it completely down. Saturday morning I did some cleanup around the yard and the house.

I also spent some time on two blogging projects. If you happened by the blog during the course of the weekend, you may have noticed it having a different look. WordPress, the blog software I use,?uses a “theme” system, and like with the plug ins, lots of people have created some really nice themes. However, I have a good deal of customization done to the current theme. This would have to be recreated in any new theme, and some of the things I use are more difficult to integrate in some of the themes.

I should have a development blog set up to test on, but I just haven’t taken the time, and this blog doesn’t generate revenue or anything, so it’s not that important that it stay up. I have found a couple that I like, but the transition isn’t complete.

Also, I have registered a domain and have some hosting space where I can provide blogs to friends. I’m working on a standard install with a selectable theming system that will allow me to quickly setup blogs for some friends. I have that pretty much taken care of, now I need to write some “how-to” documentation as these friends aren’t technical at all. WordPress has a very extensive Codex, but it is almost too extensive and complex. I need something that is very straightforward with instructions on the basic stuff.

We stayed up kind of late last night watching TV. I had to get up early this morning to pick up our good friends Mike and Jeff at the airport. They were coming back from a vacation that included taking in Madonna in Philadelphia, and then visiting Jeff’s family. We had a late lunch at their house. An ex of Jeff’s, B.R., had taken care of their house and dogs while they were gone, and he had fixed lunch.

After-wards, we went out to the Brandon Mall and did some shopping. This weekend started the back to school tax free days here in Florida. Clothes are included in that week.

WordPress Updated

 Technology  Comments Off on WordPress Updated
Jun 012006

I’ve upgraded the blog software to version 2.0.3. This is a minor upgrade that takes care of some bug fixes related to security, and updates the anti-spam plug-in and a backup plug-in.

I’ve written before about what a great software program and development community makes up WordPress. You can read about the technology behind Deep Sand by clicking here.