Friday, January 25, 2013

Managing multiple Wordpress sites - the easy way to update plugins!

Wordpress is arguably the one CMS that continues to lead the way for flexible website building and development.  The basic install of Wordpress is pretty special on its own, but the real power and flexibility comes from the many thousands of plugins that can add marvellous functionality to your websites.  But with that flexibility comes a great responsibility...

Updating Wordpress plugins across multiple sites and domains.
Due to the collaborative way that Wordpress is developed it tends to require a lot of updates.  These updates (mostly for plugins) aren't difficult to install, but if like a lot of web professionals you use a common set of plugins for all your installs then you invariably find yourself spending an awful lot of time keeping your plugins up to date.  Instead of visiting one website to run one update you find yourself logging in and out of many websites, which is time consuming and very dull.

When an update to a Wordpress plugin is released it is dangerous to ignore it - quite often updates tighten or seal security holes.

The easy way to keep all your Wordpress plugins up to date is to use the ManageWP service.  Creating a free account on the ManageWP site puts the information from all your Wordpress installations in one place.  I primarily use the service to keep plugins up to date but there is a LOT more management functionality on offer.

A free account allows you to add ten websites to your management dashboard, if you want to add extra sites you need to put your hand into your wallet.  Adding sites is as easy as installing the ManageWP 'worker' plugin.  As a precaution I still download the old version of a plugin from one of my sites (using FTP) before hitting the magical 'update all' button on the ManageWP dashboard, but so far I've not had to downdate* any plugins after using this service to update multiple sites.

To find out more click the graphic below, or go to

*might not be a real word

How to find out if your kids are ready to look after a dog.

If you're not sure if your kids will be any good at looking after a dog then melt some chocolate with weetabix and leave carefully dropped piles of the mixture on the kitchen floor. When your kids get home tell them a friends dog came to visit, and would they mind clearing up after it? If they say no then cheer yourself up by dropping to your hands and knees and astonishing your children as you give them a demonstration of how mummy dogs clear up after puppies.

More bad parenting advice on Twitter...

More bad parenting advice on Facebook...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Making real coffee without a filter cup, cone or cafetiere

The 'coffee' where I work is terrible, in fact I'm not sure it should legally be called coffee because it's that awful instant muck that for some unexplainable reason British people think is coffee.  They are wrong.  Instant coffee is bitter bile and I haven't drunk it for at least fifteen years.  Instant coffee can 'do one'.

I can see why folk choose to drink instant coffee, but the only reason I can see is that it is less hassle to prepare, which is a sad argument.  Deciding to drink instant coffee because it is easy to make would be like choosing to sleep on the floor because it's less effort than making the bed.

But it is undeniable that preparing real coffee can require more apparatus, so for the last year or so I've been making up a nice big brew first thing in the morning and taking a big flask to work.  This plan had a few drawbacks; most notably the requirement to have a heavy flask in my rucksack when cycling to work, and the sad fact that I'd run out of coffee before properly waking up (around 11am).  My morning routine is timed down to the nearest minute so sitting around making coffee was sometimes unhelpful in my efforts to get to work on time.

So I wanted proper coffee at work, but I didn't want to have to wash up a cone filter, cafetiere or one of those neato combined reusable filter cups.  I also needed a system that would neatly deal with the problem of disposing of coffee grounds without filling the canteen bin with black liquid.

How to make coffee without a cafetiere.

The solution was to buy some little paper filters that are supported inside the cup, the idea being that I can make my coffee and then dispose of the wee paper filter.  I took the plan a step further by rigging up a way of leaving the filter to drip every last drop of goodness into my cup, therefore ensuring the filter and coffee grounds are as dry as possible when going in the bin by my desk.  Click the link below to find the product on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ledaig single malt from Morrisons

Have you tried Ledaig single malt from Morrisons? It's made by Tobermory and is the best £18 single malt I've ever tasted.

The first impression is of a calmer, less challenging Ardbeg, then a less firey Bowmore.  But this whisky certainly doesn't lack definition, it is wonderfully light but won't reward you with the long rolling subtly changing tastes of a more expensive single malt from an island, but it certainly tastes more expensive than £18!

I once paid £180 for a bottle of whisky from the defunct Islay distillery Port Ellen; this is nicer.

Do you like those 'how it's made' programs?

Whenever I try and talk to family or friends enthusiastically about the big machines one of my clients builds I am met by the sort of face people put on when trying to be polite to door to door salesmen who are selling doors.

I think these machines are cool, but outside of the industry I'm not terribly sure anyone cares, which is a challenge when trying to get mates to help me out increasing 'likes' and watch counts when I make videos of the machines (which is a part of my job).

The machine in the video I have just finished working on winds a paper(ish) material that rips very easily, and it winds it very fast indeed.  If you have a passing interest in very clever machines (or like those 'how it's made' programs) you might enjoy this video.  You might also want to take a look at Universal Converting Equipment.

Monday, January 21, 2013

More snowy MTB panorama photos!

I've just been out for a slog through deep snow at lunchtime, mine weren't the first tracks to be laid.  I added a perhaps foolish frisson of excitement by cycling along the slippery Sproughton river path with new SPD pedals that are set a bit tight!  Here's the ride

Here are the photos -

Instructions for taking panorama photos using an Android phone here HERE...

Why do I post so much random chaff on my blog?

If you've been to my blog before, and the visitor stats reveal that remarkably folk do visit here more than once, then you might wonder why the content is so disparate, or you might wonder what the word disparate means...

The reason that the content on this blog is spread across a wide range of topics is that in some ways this blog is a dumping ground for content.  A few years ago I had about thirty websites to my name, and quite naturally this was daft, so I gradually shut down each site and moved the content to this blog.  By using this blog as an aide-memoir for my own technical discoveries will hopefully also help out other folk who have stumbled across similar issues.

I've not really answer the question in the title of this post have I?  Well if you've been here before then what more would you expect?

Riding a cheap mountain bike in the snow

My MTB (mountain bike) was cheap and cheerful when I bought it.  This bike has had a tough life and isn't terribly rewarding to ride, possibly due to some of the abuse it has had.  This bike weighs more than both my other bike combined.

But it got me to work this morning and for that I am grateful.

I know it was a Raleigh but I can't remember what model.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking panoramic photos on a Samsung Galaxy S2 - snow cycling

Until a few weeks ago I had no idea that most Android phones can take panorama photos.  Although far from perfect and no much for proper panorama stitching software like Hugin the results are very pleasing.  The process is also very swift; creating a pano photo on my Galaxy S2 takes just a few seconds which is remarkable considering that specialised software can take hours to prepare and stitch photos together.

How to take panorama photos on an Android phone.

  1. When in camera mode press the cog to open settings.
  2. Select shooting mode and press the panorama option.  The default is single shot.
  3. Take your first photo then move your phone either to the left or right.
  4. Follow the direction arrows on the screen by moving your phone and Android will automatically take more photos.
  5. When you have finished taking panorama photos check what resolution your camera is set to; in my experience I've noticed that Android sometimes reduces photo taking quality to the lowest possible setting. A bug I'm sure.

Please post links to your own panorama photos in the comments section, I'd love to see them.
It is worth taking several photos because as you can see below results are sometimes a little more creative than you may intend them to be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Riding a Single Speed bike in snow

I really meant to get thing to getting my mountain bike up and running in preparation for the snow but failed to find the time.

As it turned our my single speed bike did just fine in the snow.  There were a few dicey moments but I took my time and rode mostly in the ruts cleared by other road users.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Hobbit - a slapdash review from a numpty

When I heard that Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' was going to be eeked out from a very brief novel into three epic films I wasn't filled with excitement.  The principle reason for my lack of whooomph was that when Peter Jackson made the Lord of The Rings trilogy there was a lot of story left out of the final cut, even although the final cut was 400 hours long (with 600 hours of 'extras' on the DVD).  The Lord of the Rings is epic, it is interweaved with complexities that are so, er, complex that they have been studied by academics for over half a century.*  The Hobbit is not.

The Hobbit is a book that can be read in an afternoon, the pace is lightening fast almost to the point of absurdity.  If The Silmarillion was Tolkien's slap up evening meal The Lord of the Rings was his special birthday treat Sunday lunch, whereas The Hobbit is a peanut Tolkien popped in his mouth on his way past the bowl on the sideboard in the lounge.

However, this brevity is no bad thing, in fact the quick nibble of loveliness that is The Hobbit is one of the reasons I love the book so much.  Bilbo's tale is also very accessible, I read this book when I was about seven years old and romped through it.  The Lord of the Rings was much more of an undertaking to read, and as for The Silmarillion., well I'm still trying to get round to finishing it.

So last night as the lights dimmed (and I asked my wife the traditional question 'am I having a stroke?') I put down the world's most expensive air and heat expanded corn product and mumbled to myself 'please don't be shit'.

The web is full almost to the red line with reviews of 'An Unexpected Journey' so I won't top it up with my own floury farty prose, instead I'll attempt to condense my feelings on the film into a series of lazy bullet points:

  • Wargs - YES!
  • Eagles - YES!
  • Gollum - YES!
  • Utral-geek continuity with both the book and the LOTR trilogy - YES!
  • Martin Freeman - YES!
  • Galadriel, Frodo and Saruman et all squeezed into The Hobbit (not literally) - Kinda works!
  • Dwarves - YES!
  • More singing - Kinda fine with that!
  • Elves - YES!
  • Ken Stott and James Nesbitt as Dwarves - YES!
  • Sylvester Mccoy as Radagast the Brown - SHITTING HELL YES!
  • Weird pasty faced 'pale Orc' - Kinda works!
  • Ugly tumorous but humorous goblin king - YES!
I could go on, but I won't because there are other things I should be doing right now, but I will just mention a few minor (but ultimately irrelevant) niggles.

A few minor (but ultimately irrelevant) niggles.

You'd have to be a proper nerdy geek to point out some of the very minor niggles in this film, and because I am a proper nerdy geek I'm going to mention the following (please correct me if I'm wrong):

  • When the trolls turn to stone they are not in the same poses that they are when Frodo finds them in Lord of the Rings
  • The Warg riders seem to have no issue with mooching around in direct sunlight
  • Gandalf getting a bit daft with his little speech about love
  • I can't think of any more.

The sort of hasty conclusion one writes when he realises he's spent too long on a review.

As far as I'm concerned 'An Unexpected Journey' is almost perfect and has a lot to offer Tolkien fans, but if you didn't think much of Lord of the Rings then The Hobbit might not burst your corns.  This first part of The Hobbit trilogy (it still feels weird saying that) takes a lot of meat from other Tolkien works, which is just fine by me because lets face it; we're never going to see Jackson make any other Tolkien films.

I loved this film, but then I am known to be able to suspend disbelief to the level of a newborn shrew so I wouldn't encourage you to take my word on anything.

*I reckon

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dear Knog, it's over, I can't live with you anymore.

Dear Knog,

I'm sorry but we're finished. This morning I found something I hoped I wouldn't see again, a snapped rear light laying on the ground under my road bike, and it's the final straw, I gave you one more chance and you blew it.

I remember when I first started to notice you about town, on other folks' bikes, you gave me a cheeky wink and I had to find out more. I asked some friends about you and they said you were pretty cool; a new way of fixing lights to bikes, small, efficient and unobtrusive. I'd grown jaded with the enormous 'Ever Ready' types lights I'd had in the past, in my youth, and I was ready to try a new relationship.

I bought my first pair of Knog lights at my local Halfords and we had a wonderful honeymoon period together, but after a couple of weeks the front light stopped working. These things happen, and all relationships have a few bumps in the road early on, but when I spoke to Knog HQ they wouldn't help me without my purchase receipt. What did they think I'd bought? Faulty lights from a different bicycle light manufacturer, also called Knog?

I like to try and see the best in everyone, so went out and bought another set of Knog lights, but within a few months both had snapped; the tubes on my Single Speed bike are quite broad, so i must admit I did blame myself.

A loved one gave me another set of Knogs as a birthday present so I put them on my road bike, a bike with nice narrow tubes. Things were great for a while, and I thought that maybe you had changed, but a few weeks later the red Knog light on my helmet snapped off. This was only the start of our problems.

Out of seven Knog lights I have only one still works in the way intended. I wanted you to meet my MTB one day, but now that won't happen.

It was fun while it lasted, but it just didn't last very long.

I'm sorry you had to find out this way, but I just can't be with someone I can't trust. I've started seeing someone else, now I'm with a Cree L.E.D light that treats me right, and cost me half what you did.

I hope you find your feet and develop into a proud reliable product, and who knows, maybe we'll meet again in the future, in happier times, and maybe you'll earn my trust again.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

How to waterproof jeans for comfy cycle commuting?

As discussed elsewhere I have utterly failed to buy some Levi's Commuter jeans, even although my dear old mum has given me some cash for them.  The commuter jeans appeal because of their alleged water and road-chud repellent coating.

My commute is only three miles so I can't be doing with wearing bibtights, and I have nowhere to get changed at work other than a toilet that smells so bad I can only assume the extractor fan is set to reverse and is pumping in rank odours from the bowels of the local Victorian sewerage network.

I usually wear Wrangler Texas Stretch jeans and they've got enough lycra in them to make them pretty darn tootin' comfy for a few miles in the ole saddle.  Sorry; that was an attempt at a Texan accent.  Hmm, Texan bars, remember them?  Back to the point...

As Levi's Commuter Jeans appear to be harder to buy than hens' teeth I figure I'll fetch a pair of old faithful Texas Stretch and waterproof them myself.  I've been looking at a product called 'Nikwax Cotton Proof Wash-in waterproofing for cotton'.  Has anyone used this?  Can anyone recommend a better product. 

Clothing that I have waterproofed in the past has added a certain stiffness to the garment, and that's something I really want to avoid.

Things are getting a bit desperate because I only own two pairs of jeans and this morning the older pair was declared unfit to wear in public by my wife, due to the fact I've worn the crotch out.  I suggested bridging the groin gap with a roundel patch, but apparently that would be uncouth.

Update - 11/01/13
Trying to buy a pair of Levi's commuter jeans was turning into a mission akin to painting the Forth bridge so I gave up.  Instead I have bought another pair of Wrangler Texas Stretch jeans and will cycle to work in cheap lycra leggings that will dry out quickly even if they do get soaked.