Archive for the ‘General’ category

Blog backup?

October 31st, 2008

Just in time for Halloween, a Scary WordPress Moments! blog article has been published.

I back up my WordPress database (MySQL) daily using a Windows scheduled task.   A script (built by the MySQL Administrator) is executed which dumps the database to a file (hot backup).  The database dump is then backed up to tape nightly.  I believe the backup method is solid and I’m also thinking ease of restoring (the whole database) is easy.  Restoring individual tables or rows however – probably a nightmare I don’t want to get involved with.

There exists another backup method in plugin form located here.  Since I host my own blog, I don’t really have a need for the “Save to server” versus “Save to my computer” options.  I certainly don’t need to email the backup to myself.  I’ve already instituted a backup method that should have me covered.  It’s automated with script and scheduling so to me that’s a huge benefit.  Work smarter, not harder right?

I’m new to both blogging and WordPress.  Is my backup methodology sound?  One thing that I think I share in common with all bloggers:  I would hate to lose what I have created.  One of these weeks I should test the restore scenario in the lab to make sure it works.

Plaxo: Did we really need another online network?

October 29th, 2008

I’ve been a member of the LinkedIn online networking site for, I think, over ten years.  The goal of building the biggest baddest list of online networking contacts ever orbits my interest cluster about once every three or four years (I’m on my active cycle right now by the way).  Nonetheless, during those periods of minimal activity, LinkedIn has graciously maintained my account without so much as even a friendly periodic inactivity email reminder.

Then I start receiving email requests from friends and colleagues that have joined the new Plaxo online networking site.  Some of these people I already have links to on LinkedIn.  Maintaining contacts and my updated information in both LinkedIn and Plaxo is about as much fun and time well spent as keeping all of my bookmarks in sync between different PCs and browsers.  You’ll have to excuse me as I come from the Netscape days… Favorites might be the term you recognize.

Relatives, friends, and colleagues, I refuse to participate in Plaxo and as such I accept no contact requests in that system.  LinkedIn was and still is the standard.  As far as I’m concerned, Plaxo had no business re-inventing a solution that had already existed for a decade and in the process mucking up a perfectly functioning eco system.

Microsoft Windows Add or Remove Programs terminology clarified

October 26th, 2008

A look at “Add or Remove Programs” on a Microsoft Windows machine reveals a list of installed software and Microsoft Windows Updates.  To the right of each program are details on installation size, use frequency, and date last used.  I rarely use the information on the right hand side because I’ve found it to be unreliable.  Take a peek at the example below.  Adobe Acrobat, a program I use often for reading and creating .PDF files is listed as being used “frequently”, yet I apparently haven’t used Adobe Acrobat since 12/23/2005, which was around the time this machine was built.


Well what exactly does the term “frequently” mean then?  Below are the defintions from Microsoft. 


Things are so much clearer to me now.  Well, not really.  Arbitrary definitions from one Microsoft developer are just that, arbitrary and potentially meaningless to the next person.  The reality of it is this is a broken feature that I’ll venture guess has behaved this way since Windows 2000 (I recall the screens being similar or identical).  Added shame is this misinformation comes from a Windows Server.  One would think this type of information would be easily gathered and reliably reported on a server class operating system.

Blog infrastructure updates

October 26th, 2008

I finally got around to removing the default logo on the banners used in the Xplosive Reloaded 1.0 theme I’m using. Anyone using Xplosive Reloaded can feel free to “borrow” my updated version of the banners. I’m not a graphics art guru but I was able to use SnagIt (a screen capturing tool I regularly use) to get the job done. All four of the banner images (.PNG format) are identical in pixel dimensions. The only difference between the four banners are the colors used. Once saved, the aqua (blue) and prairie (green) banners are 4KB, the default (red) banner is 8KB, and the autumn (orange) banner is 12KB. Can someone can please explain that to me? First person with the correct answer wins a new MacBook w/o firewire (just kidding).

Added a few plugins:
Akismet (spam filter for comments)
Flickr Manager (using my own bandwidth for hosting images wasn’t going to be feasible)
Feedburner (again, a bandwidth saving measure, but also a feed statistics tool as well)
Related Posts (appends other potentially related posts to new posts)
TinyMCE Advanced (more wysiwyg editor goodness for writing)
Twitter Tools (displays Twitter updates in a sidebar widget)

My First Blog and How To Install WordPress

October 18th, 2008

Well how special am I?  I had two paragraphs of my first blog post written and after changing to full screen mode, I lost everything I had typed!  And I was just about to comment how impressed I am with WordPress.  I still am but I just learned my first valuable lesson with this web based application.  I am actually blown away by the flexibility and number of versatile configuration screens the admin console has.  I am proof that with WordPress, anyone can have a professional looking blog, irregardless of content.  Now I just need to find a decent theme so my blog isn’t mistaken for RTFM Education.

So actually this isn’t quite my first ever blog post.  My first blog post was written several months ago on a different platform when I had five minutes to kill.  I also write family news once in a while on my site to keep our relatives up to date on current events around our house.

Before installing WordPress, I had a few thoughts on what my first blog post should be.  Helpful and insightful to the reader.  As I struggled for a few hours getting WordPress to work, I knew I had a topic in the making:  How To Install WordPress.  Well, not so much how to install and configure WordPress, but rather how to install and configure the prerequisite platform components so that WordPress works correctly.  Hopefully someone is able to follow the steps I did without wasting hours troubleshooting PHP, IIS, and directory permissions.  By the way, this is on Windows Server 2003.  The error message I was struggling when trying to use WordPress was “Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL extension which is required by WordPress”.  Here are the steps I followed to get WordPress up and running successfully:

  1. You need a web server.  Install Windows Server 2003 and Internet Information Services 6 (IIS).  Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7 may work also, but that platform introduces some significant differences which I don’t have the tested steps for.  Create your new website in IIS Manager, or use the default website.
  2. Install MySQL 5.0.67.  I used the MSI installer (file name is mysql-essential-5.0.67-win32.msi).  Don’t use the .zip file.  Choose an installation drive letter that’s going to provide enough disk space for your WordPress database and any other MySQL databases you might want down the road.
  3. Create your WordPress database by using the MySQL Command Line Client from the Start Menu.  The command is CREATE DATABASE wordpress;   Don’t forget the trailing semi-colon.
  4. Install the MySQL Administrator which you can download from the MySQL website.  File name is mysql-gui-tools-5.0-r13-win32.msi.  Use MySQL Administrator to create a WordPress user account that will be used by WordPress to manage the WordPress database in MySQL.  When creating the user account, grant all MySQL roles for the user on the WordPress database.
  5. Install PHP 5.2.6 using the MSI installer (not the .zip file).  File name is php-5.2.6-win32-installer.msi.�
    1. Perform a custom install. 
    2. Web Server Setup:  IIS ISAPI module
    3. Important:  Choose two extensions to install:  MySQL and MySQLi
  6. The installer will perform several key configurations for you:
    1. Adds your PHP installation directory to your PATH statement allowing your server to find the file libmysql.dll
    2. Places the two extension .DLLs in the \ext\ directory which PHP based WordPress needs
    3. Modifies the php.ini file to activate the two extension .DLLs
    4. Creates a PHP Web Service Extension in IIS and sets to Allow
    5. Adds the .PHP application extension and appropriate verbs to IIS
    6. Creates the environment variable PHPRC=(path to your PHP directory)
  7. Next step, set the correct NTFS permissions on your PHP directory.  Allow subfolders and files to inherit.
    1. Internet Guest Account (IUSR_servername) = Read & Execute
    2. NETWORK SERVICE = Read & Execute
  8. Install WordPress 2.6.2 by unzipping the folder contents into the appropriate IIS directory structure for the website defined in step 1 above.
  9. Set the correct NTFS permissions on your WordPress installation directory.  Allow subfolders and files to inherit.
    1. Internet Guest Account (IUSR_servername) = Modify
    2. NETWORK SERVICE = Modify
  10. In IIS Manager, modify the properties of your website.  Documents tab.  Enable default content page:  Add:  index.php
  11. Restart the World Wide Web Publishing service
  12. You’re ready to install and configure WordPress.  Follow the instructions at

Using the PHP MSI installer with the appropriate options is the best use of your time.  Many Google internet searches on the error message above will have you performing steps that may or may not resolve your issues if you choose to install PHP manually.  None of the home brew solutions worked for me and resulted in a waste of time:

  1. Modifying the php.ini, changing the path for extension_dir=
  2. Modifying the php.ini, tweaking values for extension=
  3. Copying the file libmysql.dll to %systemroot%\system32\
  4. Adding and modifying environment variables
  5. Rebooting your web server

Special thanks to Michael Sharman and his website who ultimately pointed me in the direction of re-looking at the PHP MSI installer where I had missed the steps of adding the two MySQL extensions.

By the way, after struggling for a while on my production web server and not wanting to muck it up while spinning my wheels, I called on the assistance of a vanilla VMware virtual machine running Windows Server 2003 to successfully test my new installation steps (taking snapshots along the way).  VMware virtualization helps save the day (again).