WordPress 4.2.3 : Hurry up and … let it fix itself…

 

WordPress 4.2.3wordpress has been released.

It contains fixes for some pretty nasty stuff. Usually, the updates have to be manually triggered for a day or so before the auto-update feature picks them up. I was on the blog this morning and there were no “manually triggered auto-updates” available, so it looks like this one has been pushed straight out, which probably makes sense.

By the time you’ve read this you are probably up to date already, but if not, get on your blog and give it a nudge. :)

You can see the changelog here.

Cheers

Tim…

Why do people show Azure so much love?

 

cloudThe title of this post is taken from tweet I saw a few weeks ago and it keeps coming back to haunt me, so I thought I would comment on it.

Let me start by saying I don’t have any context as to why the tweeter thought people were showing Azure so much love. From my perspective, I kind-of like Azure and I think it is what my employer will end up using, but I’m not a crazed fan-boy about it. :)

Also, I fully understand a move to the cloud is not the right thing for everyone, so this post is focused on those people who do want/need to move to the cloud. Just because it is not right for you, it doesn’t mean it’s not right for everyone. So when I’m talking about running services on the cloud, it is not a recommendation. I’m not telling you you’ve got to. I’m speaking about cloud services to try to explain why someone might say something like the title of this post. I’m hoping this paragraph will stem the hate-comments that invariably come when you mention the cloud. :)

Interface

The Azure interface it pretty neat. It’s clean and reasonably intuitive. I’m a casual user, so I can’t say how I would feel about it if I were managing hundreds or thousands of resources, but from my brief time with it, I like it.

I don’t dislike the AWS interface, but it does feel a bit more cluttered and ugly than the Azure interface. I guess that could be enough to put off some people maybe.

Services

Coming from the Oracle world, we tend to think of UNIX/Linux as being the centre of the universe, but if I think back to the companies I’ve worked for over the years, the majority of their kit has been Windows-based, with the exception of the bits I work on. :) Since most corporate desktops are still Windows-based, Outlook, Office and Active Directory tend to rule the roost. If you are thinking of moving those services on to the cloud, Azure seems the “obvious choice”. Am I saying they are the best products and Azure is the best place to run them? No. What I’m saying is it will be seen as the “obvious choice” for many people wanting to move to the cloud.

The same goes with SQL Server. I happen to like the AWS RDS for SQL Server implementation, but I’m guessing a lot of SQL Server folks will get a warmer and fuzzier feeling about running SQL Server on Azure. Lots of decisions in IT are based on gut instinct or personal bias of the buyers, not necessarily fact. I can see how someone will “feel happier” there.

Once the Oracle Cloud becomes generally available, we may see a similar issue there. People may feel happier about running Oracle products on the Oracle Cloud than on AWS or Azure. Time will tell.

What’s under the hood?

This is where cloud really turns stuff on its head. If I want to run a Linux VM, I can do that on AWS, Azure, Oracle Cloud, VMware vCloud Air etc. From my perspective, if the VM stays up and gives me the performance I paid for, do I really care about what’s under the hood? You can be snobbish about hypervisors, but do I care if Oracle are using less hardware to service the same number of VMs as Azure? No. Where infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is concerned, it is all about the price:performance ratio. As I’ve heard many times, it’s a race for the bottom.

Call me naive, but I really don’t care what is happening under the hood of a cloud service, provided I get what I pay for. I think this is an important factor in how someone like Microsoft can go from zero to hero of the cloud world. If they provide the right services at the right price, people will come.

Conclusion

Q: Why do people show Azure so much love?

A: Because it does what it is meant to do. It provides the services certain companies want at a price they are willing to pay. What’s not to love?

Q: So it’s the best cloud provider right?

A: That depends on your judging criteria. No one cloud provider is “the best”. For some people Azure will be the best option. For others it might be the worst.

Cheers

Tim…

New Monitor… Again…

 

220px-Commodore_PET2001I’ve just bought myself a Dell U3415W 34-Inch IPS LCD Monitor for use with the laptop. It’s quite an extravagant purchase, but it’s pretty amazing. Having 3440×1440 resolution on a single screen feels much more useful than sitting a couple of smaller monitors next to each other. It feels almost like having 3-4 screens in one.

I bought it to replace the Asus PB298Q 29 inch Widescreen AH-IPS Multimedia Monitor I got about 7 months ago. The resolution of 2560×1080 is pretty darn decent, but I don’t like having a depth of 1080. When you are using a wider screen, the limited height feels really restrictive for some reason.

Currently I have both screens plugged into the laptop, but I can’t see it staying that way. I’ve really had no reason to look at the MacBook or ASUS screen yet. I’ll see how I feel over the next few days. If I’m happy to let it go I’ll probably take the ASUS screen to work and use it there. It’s better than either of my work monitors. :)

Ditching the second screen will also free up some room on my desk, which is looking a little crazy at the moment… :(

Cheers

Tim…

Site maintenance and how to manage changing URLs

 

DiagnosticsAfter my recent rants about Oracle changing URLs and breaking stuff, I’ve actually done some changes myself. :)

From time to time change is forced on internet content producers. This might be because of platform changes, or changes in the way search engines behave. The important thing is how you handle that change.

Followers of the blog will know I recently made my website responsive. That happened in part because Google recently announced they would downgrade the rankings of sites that weren’t “mobile friendly” and “responsive”. The search ranking were only meant to affect mobile searches. What they didn’t say, but many people including myself believe, is that these rankings actually affect normal desktop-based searches as well. When this Google announcement was made, I noticed a drop in my hit rate. Once I changed the site to be responsive, the hit rate went up again somewhat. When I recently corrected about 100 of the remaining non-responsive articles, the hit rate went up again. It could be conincidence, but it certainly seems there was a bleed-over of this ranking change into the desktop side of things, which represents over 95% of my traffic. Those changes affected content, but not the URLs to the content.

Since I’m revisiting almost every article to fix broken links to Oracle docs, I thought I would take the opportunity to do some additional site maintenance, specifically in the following two areas.

  • HTTPS : About 9 months ago I got a certificate for the website to allow it to be accessed using HTTPS. This was also influenced by a Google decision that they would improve the ranking of content that was available over HTTPS, as well as HTTP. It was part of their “HTTPS Everywhere” campaign. Even though the site could handle HTTPS, I did not make it the default. As of a couple of days ago, you may have noticed all pages on oracle-base.com are how delivered over HTTPS. Unfortunately, this represents a URL change as far as the internet is concerned, so it means lots of broken links, unless you handle it properly. More about that later.
  • Removal of “.php” extension : You will notice many blogs and websites don’t display a file extension of pages, or display a generic “.htm” or “.html” extension. It’s pretty easy to do this using query rewrites in Apache or a “.htaccess” file. For a while, the site could be accessed with or without the “.php” extension. Now it is removed by default. The nice thing about this is you can change the underlying technology at any time, without having to support an inconsistent file extension. Once again, this represents a URL change.

So how do you manage this change without pissing off “the internet”?

The answer is rewrites and redirects done in real web pages, Apache config or “.htaccess” files. Essentially, you are supporting the old URL and redirecting the browser to the new URL, using a 301 redirect, so all search engines know the content has moved location and can be re-indexed in that new location. Over time, all the links from Google will go directly to the new URL.

So that means you can remove the redirects after a while right? NO! People will have links from their website to the old URLs forever. People will have bookmarks in their browsers forever. If you are going to change a URL, the old URL must be maintained forever.

Over the years I’ve made lots of structural changes to the site.

  • When my website started it was written in Active Server Pages, using a “.asp” extension.
  • After a while I switched to PHP, using a “.php” extension.
  • I used to name pages using initcap. A couple of years ago I switched to lower case and “-” separated names.
  • About 9 months ago I removed the “www.” because it seemed pointless in this day and age.
  • I’ve just swicthed to HTTPS.
  • I’ve just removed the “.php” extension.

If we look at a really old article, probably about 15 years old, we will see the history of these changes in the following URLs.

So all those structural changes over the last 15 years should have resulted in zero broken links, zero pissed off content producers who link to my content and zero uninformed search engines.

Now I’m not perfect, so if anyone finds something that is broken, I will fix it, assuming it’s not your bad typing or copy/pasting. :)

Cheers

Tim…

PS. Any structural changes, regardless of how well you do your 301 redirects, can result in lower search rankings, so it should not be done on a whim if you really care about hitting that top spot on Google. This is my hobby, so I will do whatever I want. :)

Birmingham City University (BCU) Talk #3

 

bcuOn Friday I took a day off work to pop over to do my 3rd talk at Birmingham City University (BCU). This one was rather unfamiliar territory for me, because it was directed at the staff and was focussed on student employability…

During a previous discussion with Stuart Hutchison from BCU, he suggested I take the “Community” session I presented at the UKOUG Next Gen event, add in some information about graduate recruitment and Bob’s your uncle. Sounds fine, but what do I know about graduate employment? It’s 20+ years since I left university…

Luckily, the online community came to the rescue. I sent a bunch of emails out to friends, small companies and huge corporate types. Over the years I’ve built up a network of contacts all over the world who were happy to help me out directly, or put me in touch with people in their organisation that could. I’ve already sent out thank you emails, but I’d just like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you once again to everyone that helped me out!

As the session started, people introduced themselves and it became apparent that everyone in the room (except me) was in some way linked to student employment and career development. Needless to say, I suddenly felt completely out of my depth, incredibly nervous and needed a change of underwear! :) I introduced myself and made it very clear I was definitely not an expert in this subject, then proceeded to present the information I had gathered. It was meant to be about 60 minutes, but there was a lot of audience participation, so it ended up being more like 90 minutes. Despite my initial nerves, it went really well and was really good fun.

After the session I chatted with Professor Nick Morton, the Associate Dean (Student Experience) at BCU, and he was keen to get me involved in some of the other stuff they are doing, which also sounds like fun. After that I spent quite a long time chatting with Stuart. I will of course keep doing the technical stuff with his students.

I guess some of you may be wondering about my motivation for doing this stuff, especially the non-technical presentations. This isn’t a career move. I’m not being paid to do this. It’s good to try something different and stretch yourself. I’m not suggesting that technical presentations are easy, because they are not, but doing things like this take you out of your comfort zone and teach you a lot about the craft of presenting. I definitely feel this is making me a better presenter, which is a great confidence builder.

Cheers

Tim…

WordPress 4.2.2

 

wordpressAnother day, another WordPress release. I woke up this morning to see WordPress 4.2.2 has arrived. It’s common after a big release to get a bunch of quick fixes, so I expect to see a number of these over the next few weeks.

Downloads and changelog in the usual places, but you will probably find your auto-update has already installed it for you. :)

Cheers

Tim…

 

WordPress 4.2 “Powell” (and 4.1.3)

 

wordpressOvernight I got an auto-upgrade to WordPress 4.1.3 maintenance release and a notice telling me WordPress 4.2 “Powell” was released. The downloads are in the usual places, and of course available from the update screen in your blog.

The announcement page has a video explaining the new features, which seem to make it easier to repost other people’s content, where you would normally expect to just tweet a link. Not sure what I feel about this yet!

Happy upgrading.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: WordPress 4.2.1 came out today.

WordPress 4.1.2

 

WordPress 4.1.2wordpress has been released. It’s a security release and I’m guessing most of you will pick it up passively using the auto-update features, so it’s nothing to worry about too much.

You can read about the fixes in this release here.

I’ve just installed it on 5 separate installations and there were no dramas.

Cheers

Tim…

All Change : Responsive and mobile and all that jazz

 

If you’ve been near oracle-base.com recently you will see things have changed a bit…

The Main Website

For a couple of weeks I’ve been playing with Bootstrap and Font Awesome to make the main body of the website mobile friendly. Last night I got a bit bored so I decided to shift the whole site to the responsive mobile template so it’s a single look and feel regardless of the device.

Less than 5% of my traffic is from mobiles and tablets, so that wasn’t really the motivation for doing this. Over the years I’ve accumulated a whole bunch of crappy code to deal with specific situations and it was getting a little hard to manage the basic framework of the website. The switch to using Bootstrap meant I could effectively throw a whole bunch of my code away, making my life much easier. The main goal has been to keep everything plain and clean and minimize the amount of time I spend on maintenance. That leaves me more time to work on content, which is the important thing. The whole responsive thing was an added bonus.

It’s a work-in-progress. There are still some things to neaten up a little.

  • There are some pages that are “less responsive” than they should be. :)
  • I keep tweaking font sizes and colours.
  • I’ve got to sort out the main image in the navigation bar.

Overall, I’m relatively happy with it and it seems to work fine in the browsers I’ve tried (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari) and the mobiles and tablets I’ve tried it on.

The Blog

I switched the blog to the “Twenty Fifteen” theme a few days ago. The old theme was getting a bit long in the tooth and required an ugly plugin to be make it mobile enabled.

I’m not totally happy with the “Twenty Fifteen” theme, but it will do until I find something I prefer. My main criteria is it has to be really plain. :)

Comments?

If anyone has any comments or suggestions I would be happy to hear them.

Cheers

Tim…

Updates:

  • Praveen : Mentioned the lack of direct links to the version-specific article pages. I missed them too, so I put them back in for larger browsers. On smaller devices they don’t show as they make the page look messy.
  • Frankly : Noticed the copy/paste was not working correctly. It turned formatted text into a single line and added a site URL on to it. This was down to an incorrect ShareThis.com setting for my sharing buttons. I flipped the switch and copy/paste is working again now.