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After years of fighting spam and vandalism on my WL-HDD site - involving making many complex spam rules and heavily restricting user’s editing permissions, I have finally found a more ideal solution to the problem - reCAPTCHA.

Many of you will already be familiar with reCAPTCHA via other websites - where it is often used to block spam comments on blogs or on user registration forms. Basically, it requires you to recognize two words in a picture and to type them into an input box as a means of proving that you are a human and not a spambot. You can see an example of reCAPTCHA in action in the screenshot provided.

Screenshot-Editing Sprayfly-sandbox- - WL-HDD Wiki - Mozilla Firefox

I currently have the plugin setup so that it is activated on:

  • New user registration
  • Creation of new pages
  • Anonymous edits that contain new external links
  • Brute-force password cracking

If you are interested in implementing the plugin on your own blog, there is more information available here. It is a very straightforward and simple procedure.

Tidy Sidebar

April 10th, 2008

I had a quick go at tidying up my sidebar today - as part of an ongoing effort to keep my site clear, clean and succinct. Basically, the ‘categories’, ‘feeds’, and ‘links’ sections are now all hidden initially when you load a page - to save some sidebar space. However, if you wish to view any of them you simply need to click on the ‘Show’ link beneath the header and the content will magically appear on your screen.

For any interested parties, the hide/show function works using the “Scriptaculous” javascript library. I have to admit that I got this idea from Duane Storey’s personal blog - so I’m sending him some link love :-)

If you would like the code, just look at the source code for this page. If you still don’t understand then just leave a comment.

New Host - Media Temple

April 6th, 2008

Recently, I decided I was paying far too much for my web hosting package with Heart Internet UK, especially considering that they lacked support for some really important features such as Trackbacks and Pingbacks in Wordpress and did not support Subversion (useful for testing the latest development version of Wordpress). Despite having excellent customer support, the servers were often slow and the setup was a bit clunky - it was time to make a move!

Luckily, my friend Jacob over at jdpictures.co.uk was also a former Heart Internet customer itching to move to a better host. He had done some research and recommended Media Temple’s Grid Service hosting to me. Whilst I’m not going to go deep into the details of this new state of the art hosting technology, basically it means that if your site gets a spike in traffic, the server setup will immediately adapt to deal with it - meaning that your site should never slow down or be suspended. Media Temple also allows you to map multiple domain names to one hosting account for free (so sprayfly.com, inchina.co.uk, jdpictures.co.uk etc. can all be hosted on one server). This basically means that me and Jacob are able to share a hosting package with Media Temple (and share the costs) without having to make any compromises whatsoever.

Jacob decided to sign up for the service and give it a test - since then we have both been progressively migrating our files and databases over to the new server and making changes to the DNS records. Finally sprayfly.com, inchina.co.uk and radotages.co.uk (i.e. all my sites) are now hosted on Media Temple and I will shortly be cancelling my Heart Internet account for good.

So far, I have encountered very few problems during the migration and am impressed with the speed of the new servers. The Media Temple control panel is very smooth and easy to use and some of the new features that weren’t provided by Heart Internet have already come in handy. I have been using an SSH shell to transfer my files between servers (using rsync) and also used the shell for database dumps and imports which has made the transfer a breeze. It is of course possible that there are a few hiccups that I’ve not spotted - so if you notice anything unusual then please let me know (leave a comment).

To think that I have been forking out so much cash to Heart Internet each month when all along I could have got more for less is quite frustrating - but at least I’ve made the move now…

Today I did a major upgrade on my blogs, not only upgrading all my Wordpress installations to the newly released Wordpress 2.5 but also rolling out a completely new site design.

The Wordpress upgrade went smoother than expected. After backing everything up, I used ‘rsync’ to update all copies of Wordpress on the server and then followed the upgrade instructions for each site one by one. To my surprise, all the plugins worked fine and some even updated themselves automatically. Much smoother than I had expected!

Regarding the new design - I was fed up with the old one which was ugly, cluttered and difficult to navigate. I therefore downloaded a very mimimalistic Wordpress theme called ‘Simpla’ which i then modified to add a few new features (Flickr badge, Search Box, Twitter Feed, Site Links, RSS Feeds) and its all up and running now.

As usual, please let me know if you encounter any bugs. I’d also love to hear anybody’s opinions on the new design.

Thanks