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Backup all the things

December 22, 2018 in progress by Matthew Brown

If there is one thing that this outage has shown me, it is that there can always be a more comprehensive backup system in place.

This post should publish just after the most comprehensive, site-wide, backup of all the things has completed. That ends step one.

Some backup stats

  • Files copied via FTP this backup: 98,948
  • Days I’ve been at this: 3*
  • Time it should have taken: <24 hours

* To be fair, I have not been working at it solidly. Christmas is coming up and I have a life outside of servers.

Step two is next

Step two is a bit more complicated. However, if all goes well, step two will be seamless and go unnoticed.

It involves some DNS changes. It also involves a bunch of other stuff that I would prefer to cover once the step is complete.

Step three: Wrapping up

When we get here I can start going into detail about what has been happening and what we have done to stop it from happening again.

butterfly

Author Buzz is back

December 14, 2018 in progress by Matthew Brown

I think by now that everyone noticed that we were off line for an indecently long time. I will talk about exactly what happened but not quite yet. There is a lot to do to fix what went wrong and to make sure that it does not happen again.

Before I am willing to get into the details – and I will – it would be wise to go ahead and make some behind the scenes changes.

I do want to say that we are online in no small part to the wondrous talents of Danny H. I am going to be singing Danny’s praises for some time. Not only because he is a fantastic fellow (which he definitely is) but also for the way he went above and beyond in helping to bring this site back to life.

I will talk about how Danny saved us. However, not quite yet. I want to make sure that his effort is truly capitalized upon first.

What that means is that I am going to work my bum off between now and Christmas. When I get to the point that I feel I can start telling the story, you will know that all the dust has settled and there will be no more interruptions.

For now, I simply want to say, thank you Danny – you are a star.

All fixed now

November 13, 2018 in bugs by Matthew Brown

There was a problem but we are all fixed now.

I’m going to duck away again and hope nobody saw that downtime.  If you did, then please rest assured that our hosts have taken care of the issue and there should not be a repeat of the problem.

train crash
Pictured: All the things happening at once

Thus continues the joys of running a website. 

I hope NaNoWriMo is going well for everyone. Back to the grindstone for me. 

New features coming

September 10, 2018 in wordpress-development by Matthew Brown

Author Buzz has some exciting new features coming soon. I have been working on the largest plugin yet which will add a unique game to the author buzz family. Initially, it will be limited to a new blog that we will create to play the game. However, once that phase of testing is over, any of our blog admins will be able to add the plugin to their blog.

What game?

Author Buzz UK Dev Site QR CodeThe game will allow our blog owners to organise treasure hunts that range over geographic areas. From a single museum to an entire county. At the centre of this game are QR codes. If you have ever seen a square made up of dots and thought, “what’s that?” That is a QR code. Every phone with a camera (and most tablets, and anything else) have a lot of (usually free) QR code readers in their app stores. QR codes can contain URLs. For example, the one shown to the right links to this website. Your phone can use the QR reader to open your web browser and navigate to the link given. This is the basis for the game. A custom post type (QR Hunt Item) with a custom taxonomy (Game) allows the creation of posts with secret content (well, secret if you use the custom archive and item templates). The content is only revealed once the QR code has been scanned. This earns points to track progress and “gold” to track overall success across games.

Sticker album

The game archive shows you which items you have found and which are still needed to complete the set. However, it is possible to create “secret” items that do not show up until after you have found them. Here’s a demo from my home test rig. Each of the found item’s lead to a full page which includes further clues as well as information, links, and other interesting content about the found location. How interesting this is, well that depends on the person that wrote it. Each of the remaining unknown items leads to a page giving you only a subtle clue. The quality of the clue is limited only by the imagination of the person that writes it.

High Score Table

A shortcode allows you to display a high score table for any given game. I’m still working out the best way to format this and exactly what it should display but here is a screen grab of the high score table from my dev rig. High score table for QR hunt dev edition

Birthday Beta

I have created a treasure hunt in my home which will be limited to people using my WiFi. The game will be tested during my birthday party at the end of the month. As I will be turning 42, the party theme should be guessable from the usernames in the high score table. A public beta should follow not long after that.

Creating the archive “sticker album”

By far the hardest part was the archive view. I had to not only figure out how to make it look nice but how to change the item sort order too.

Non-standard archive sorting

Normally archives start with the newest and go back in time. My first design used items in alphabetical order and the newer sticker album view uses oldest items first. To do that you have to hook “pre_get_posts” and supply a callback function. [php]function cqh_alpha_order_items( $query ) { if ($query->is_main_query() ) { if( $query->is_post_type_archive(‘qr_item’) || $query->is_tax( ‘games’ )){ $query->set( ‘order’, ‘ASC’ ); // older posts first $query->set(‘posts_per_page’,20);// 20 divides by 5, 4, and 2 } } } add_action( ‘pre_get_posts’, ‘cqh_alpha_order_items’ );[/php] You can also do things like this: [php]$query->set( ‘orderby’, ‘title’ );[/php] Which the view by title method was using.

Making it look nice

I am not a designer (I’m a coder and writer but not a designer). As such, I had the hardest time making an archive that looked nice. I tooled around with all sorts of CSS trying to get an image that filled the space from top to bottom but used only a fixed width so that the title and clue of unfound items could show up (or the title and a success message for found items). The best I managed set the thumbnail as a background with a fixed width and a percentage height. That left us with a deformed image. During that process, I discovered that you can add theme options from a plugin. After some sleep, I hit on the idea of a gallery look. The “add_action” this time was “after_setup_theme” and with a little logic to check what was already going on, I added three square thumbnail sizes and another callback so I could give those sizes pretty names. I’m not sharing that code because it is pretty ugly and I am not sure it is a good example to learn from.

Template logic

I chose a thumbnail size that was 800 by 800 on the grounds that it could resize down to whatever the screen needed. I added a CSS file that gave different percentage widths for the containing DIV according to viewport size and thought I was done. It was true that the layout adapted to different screens (this is a plugin that expects almost all mobile traffic). However, it was not true that all images were square. You see, 800 by 800 only works if the thumbnail(featured image) was over 800 in both directions to start with. That was when I added the medium and small sizes. Of course, then I had to pick the largest available square thumbnail. I’m not convinced this was the easiest way to do things but it did work, so I was happy. [php] if ( has_post_thumbnail() ) { $image_data = wp_get_attachment_image_src( get_post_thumbnail_id(get_the_ID())); $size = min($image_data[1],$image_data[2]); if($size>800){ the_post_thumbnail( array( 800, 800 ) ); }elseif($size>500){ the_post_thumbnail( array( 500, 500 ) ); }else{ the_post_thumbnail( array( 200, 200 ) ); } }[/php] I added an else and a fallback image for posts without a featured image but that is hardly something new.

Initial public beta

The first public beta will be run by a charity called Thanet Creative and will be focused on locations in and around Thanet, Kent. Right, back to the grindstone for me.

Updates

August 28, 2018 in progress by Matthew Brown

I thought I would post an overview of the updates I’ve been running.

Themes and plugins

It is not terribly exciting. A month’s worth of bug fixes and security updates but no new features to speak of.

The only really important news is that we have been silently keeping on top of updates to keep everyone safe and secure. As they say, no news is good news. I’ve not broken anything lately.

Author Buzz progress

I’ve talked about the plans we have for Author Buzz before. I’m sorry to report that I’ve not been too well and those plans are not proceeding quickly.

It turns out that there are a lot of platform specific things to learn about WordPress. For now, I am mostly tinkering and trying to make sure the network runs as fast and efficiently as possible. Part of that tinkering led to the opening up of blogs and groups for public registration. Progress, as they say, is being made.

Most of the work has gone into making sure that your activity stream looks good. I am still slowly working towards a custom theme to bring out the best Author Buzz UK has to offer. I’d rather get it right and have something you can use than rush things and make a mess

Limits and gotchas

One of the limits that our users currently have to contend with is that groups are not passive. Without regular interaction or updates posted by a human, some features will skip pulling outside data. That’s not entirely a bad thing I think.

That’s all for now…

That is all the news from behind the scenes. Now you are up to date back to the grind for me.

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