Archive for March, 2010

Our Mass Birthday Party

March 31st, 2010

If you know me well you might have noticed that I did not do anything for my birthday earlier in the year.  This was entirely because it was cold, snow was everywhere, and most people (including me) just wanted to stay inside in the warm. I am not alone in this as a few of my friends have not celebrated there birthday either.

To ready this situation we are having a mass group birthday party come tweetup in Newcastle this Easter. So if you want to come to my birthday doo then you are invited. Just contact me or follow me on twitter for more details.

Ps. If anyone asks we are all 21. :-P

Closed Zone RIP

March 27th, 2010

Warning, this post might have turned in to a bit of a BT rant. ;-)

If you have been to a “geek” event that had flaky wifi and I was present you may well know about “ClosedZone”. It is a small and portable wifi access point I have been taking with me that shares any wired, wifi, or 3G connectivity we can get.

Well, last weekend a sad thing happened. The access point (a Linksys WRT64GC) failed completely. Like most Linksys equipment the AP worked very very well, but at BarCampNorthEast3 the PSU died (also like most Linksys equipment I have ever owned). The replacement PSUs are comparatively costly are cumbersome so this might well be the end of ClosedZone as we know it.

Now the ranting… The history of ClosedZone name all started with bit of a BT OpenZone cock-up at BarCampLondon2. This was held at BT HQ in London. You would have thought that a large telecommunications company would have been able to supply a good guest wifi service in the HQ, but sadly not. The wifi was a set of OpenZone hotspots and a nightmare, and when we got a good connection we only had access to OpenZone for 24 hours of the 2 day event without paying. There second PR fail of the event.

Then BT installed the wifi at Hackday London 2007. This was a large community coding event where access to the Internet was essential, and it just did not work. The venue was wired for OpenZone and for the first day it was as good as dead. We were given many reasons for this, but at least one of them was just rubbish. The second day was better once connected, but getting on was unreliable to the extreme.

Now a year passes and we end up at the same venue as Hackday London 2007 for Mashed. In fairness the wifi did work this time, mostly. The one big problem is that many of the 24 hour passes finishing early, including mine, and we could only use one device each. This is when ClosedZone was fist used in anger.

Since then it has been used on many occasions coping with wifi that either did just not work, did not work well, or was secured beyond practical usability.

I perhaps should also mention the UK Maker Faire 2010 where we stupidly did not bring ClosedZone with us. Extra connectivity was installed by BT for the event and they succeeded in completely screwing the events wifi, and the venues normal wifi. This ended in a Twitter campaign to @btcare (who will not follow me for some reason) to try and get something done as BT were essentially not answering the phone. You should know when you need a twitter campaign (including directors of a leading UK science centre) is needed to lodge an urgent support call you have a problem.

We also had our problems at BarCampNorthEast3 with the same wifi at the same venue, but this is one of the times I can not really blame BT. We installed our backup ClosedZone system quickly, but within hours the lights went out and it was no more. :-(

So lets all have two seconds of silence for ClosedZone. You served us well.

Now some good news. First I am going to stop ranting about BT for a few minutes. They have some good people working for them now and I feel when the people stopping progress retire it will have a much better future. Second I have invested in some new wifi access points supporting MIMO and can create one large virtual network for simultaneously serving over 250 devices. If you need a smallish geek event networking then they are available. Finally, if you know where I can get a small 3.3V 2A UK power adapter as a sensible cost then let me know so ClosedZone can live again.


March 16th, 2010

It is just under a week until BarCampNorthEast3 and we still have some tickets available. This year we are in the great Centre for Life, it is a full overnight event if you want to stay over, and I promise you that if you come you will love it and keep coming to more. There is more information about the event and tickets on the BarCampNorthEast web site.

Blogger to WordPress migration

March 10th, 2010

This blog post summarises my move from a Blogger blog that is published using the (soon to be deprecated) FTP publishing, to a locally installed version of WordPress. My aim is to keep a majority the URLs the same, and seamlessly redirecting users and search engines on the ones I can not. I suggest at least skimming the blog post before starting the move. I also strongly recommend not skipping the backup. Okay, let’s go…

The first thing to do is to set up new installation of WordPress. This is well documented else where so I will not go through that here. I am assuming you have the technical ability to do that, and if you do not then perhaps WordPress is not for you.

Next make a backup of your Blogger blog. Do this by selecting “Export blog” from the “Basic” settings on the “Settings” tab in Blogger. This is important as the migration process will destroy your comments and loose other settings. If it goes wrong you will need this file to go back and try again.

Next you need to switch your blog to a “” address for an FTP published blog. To do this select “Publishing” from the top of the “Settings” tab in Blogger, click to option to switch to “ (Blogger’s free hosting service)”, enter a temporary Blog*Spot address (that can be literally any text and you don’t need to remember it) and save the settings.

We are now ready to import the blogs in to WordPress. Log in to WordPress and select “Import” from the “Tools” menu. Select Blogger (obviously) , click the “Authorise” button, and then “Grant Access”. With luck You should be able to click the import button next to the blog you want to, well, import. Wait while it does it’s magic. For some reason it thought I had fewer comments than I did that made the progress bar go mad, but I left it a while and it worked okay.

Next to fix the premalinks.

Set the WordPress permalinks setting so the format reflects your current blog. You can finds the setting in “Permalinks” from the “Tools” menu. If your old archive settings were for monthly archives with a php extension (like mine) then your new setting will be “/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%.php”. Add a “/%day%”, remove the “/%month%”, or change the “.php” as required. Remember to created the .htaccess file as requested when saving. If you archived by week then my apologies, but you are on your own with that one as there is no direct mapping between old and new.

Now to change the “slugs” so that the new post URLs are the same as the old ones. To do this we need to run some SQL and I will have to leave you to figure out how to do this on your hosting provider. Most ISP control panels will have a link to phpMyAdmin somewhere.

You can optionally find out what will need to be changed by running the following. This is totally optional and you don’t need to run this if you don’t want to. Not that if you run this at any time you unpublished posts will show up as hey don’t have any slug yet.

SELECT posts.`post_name`, meta.`meta_value`
FROM `wp_posts` AS posts, `wp_postmeta` AS meta
WHERE ( posts.`ID` = meta.`post_id` ) AND ( meta.`meta_key` = 'blogger_permalink' ) AND ( posts.`post_name` <> SUBSTRING_INDEX(SUBSTRING_INDEX(`meta_value`,'.',1),'/',-1) )

If you changed the default settings when installing WordPress remember to replace the “wp_” prefix with the one you changed it to. Do this will all the SQL in this post.

One difference between Blogger and WordPress is that Blogger allows you to have multiple posts with the same files names posted of different days, weeks, months or years (depending on your old Blogger settings), while WordPress requires a unique “slug” filename regardless of the date. With four years of blogging I have been lucky and had no duplicates. If you do have a duplicate then WordPress will rename one of them by editing the post after the import. You can find out how many times each name is used by running the following (rather quick and messy) SQL…

SELECT SUBSTRING_INDEX(SUBSTRING_INDEX(`meta_value`,'.',1),'/',-1), COUNT( SUBSTRING_INDEX(SUBSTRING_INDEX(`meta_value`,'.',1),'/',-1) )
FROM `wp_posts` AS posts, `wp_postmeta` AS meta
WHERE ( posts.`ID` = meta.`post_id` ) AND ( meta.`meta_key` = 'blogger_permalink' ) AND ( posts.`post_name` <> '')

If you have a duplicated name where count is greater than 1, then make a note of it and rename one of them after the import. If you want to make the old URL point at the new page you will need to add something to the htaccess file.

Now we are ready to change the slugs. To do that just run the following SQL script…

UPDATE `wp_posts` AS posts, `wp_postmeta` AS meta
SET posts.`post_name` = SUBSTRING_INDEX(SUBSTRING_INDEX(meta.`meta_value`,'.',1),'/',-1)
WHERE ( posts.`ID` = meta.`post_id` ) AND  ( meta.`meta_key` = 'blogger_permalink' ) AND ( posts.`post_name` <> '')

Now we need to fix the links to the archives and the labels. To do this I got the server to direct the browser from the old URLs to the new ones using a 301 (permanent) redirect.

First I create a directory called “archive”, create a file in it called “.htaccess” and cut and paste the following code in to it…

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /blog/
RewriteRule ^([0-9]+)_([0-9]+)_([0-9]+)_(.*)$ $1/$2/ [R=301,L]

My blog is stored in a subdirectory “blog”. Simply change the RewriteBase line to reflect your blogs location. If you used the day in your old archives then add “$3/” after “$2/”, and remove the “$2/” if you archive by year.

Now for the labels create a directory called “labels”, create another file in it called “.htaccess” in it, and cut and paste the following code in to it…

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /blog/
RewriteRule ^(.+)\.(.*)?$ category/$1/ [R=301,L]

Again change the RewriteBase for your blog. This should work whatever your blog settings are.

Finally the RSS feed has also changed so add the following to your blog’s main .htaccess file.

RewriteRule ^atom\.xml$ /feed [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^rss\.xml$ /feed [R=301,L]

If you don’t want to take down your web site while you are doing this then you can install the blog elsewhere to do the port, and then move the WordPress install in to place. You will also need to change all the references in the database from the temporary URL to the normal one. Just changing the settings in WordPress is not enough. I did the install on a subdomain using the same file structure at the live site, backed up the database as SQL (after the port), did a find a replace of the SQL replacing the temporary domain name to the normal one, and finally run that SQL to replace the old data. Then when I copied the WordPress files across it just worked.

I hope this is of help and I wish you luck in your move. I really can not help with dozens of noddy questions, but if you are really stuck then feel free to get in touch and I sell see if I can help.

UPDATE: There appears to be a bug affecting at least a few of us. The WordPress import process is only importing the latest 50 comments. To work around this follow import process above, but after the posts have been migrated, and before running the scripts, do the following. Delete all the comment on the blog (to avoid duplicates), run your Blogger backup through and import the file produces. I am hoping that is all you need to do and you can continue with the instructions above. Personally I then had to manually go through the log of imported posts and manually merge them, and if you have run the scripts then you will need to do the same, but I an hoping you will not need to do this if you do not run the scripts first.

So long Blogger, and thanks for all the posts

March 10th, 2010

First of all welcome to my new WordPress based blog. I was doing a dry run of the migration from Blogger to WordPress but when switching things back it started to go wrong, so I decided to switch over now rather than faff around. I will blog about what I learned very very soon with scripts and instructions.

I could not let this moment pass without saying a big thank you to Blogger, now part of Google. I have managed this blog with Blogger for just under 4 years and other than the odd frustrating niggle, that you get with everything, it has been a pleasurable experience. I will continue to use it for some other blogs where I don’t need the ability to run scripts or integrate with other web content. Thank you once again and keep up the good work.

Finally I am still figuring out a few of the settings, and am going to tweak the look and feel a bit, so please be patient.

You can still switch to Blogger FTP publishing (for now)

March 6th, 2010

This blog post might be of use to you if you, like me, you are migrating your Blogger blog to WordPress. As you may have read I am having to move my blog because Blogger is removing it’s publish by FTP feature.

When you first try and migrate your posts it will fail. After a bit of head scratching I realised that this was because the WordPress “import” migration relies on the blog being hosted on a “” address and not on a custom domain. You can easily change this temporarily without affecting your current blog. Just clock the appropriate option under “Publishing” from the blog’s “Settings” tab.

If you then want to edit your old template to redirect the old URLs to the new ones, or are just testing the migration process, you will need to switch back to FTP. This would not be a problem if Blogger had not removed the FTP option already, but they have, so it is. Fortunately the feature is still active and it is just the link that has been removed.

So, to switch back now you need to look at the address of the page when you are creating a post or editing blogger settings. Make a note of the “blogID” from the line. Then paste the following in the address bar replacing XXXXXXXX with the blogID value.

You can then check all the details, enter the captcha, and save the setting to get back to where you were before. I hope this is of help.

March 2010 Events

March 1st, 2010

People ask me to let them know when something is happening that they might be interested in and I try and do that, but this month there are so many events I thought I would also summarise them here…

  • March 4th is another Dorkbot Newcastle in the Life Lab at the Centre for Life. This month Sam Goldwater talks about animation techniques, David King talks about his KISS ethos (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and Brian Degger talks about the curve from scientist to new media.
  • March 12th is Datarama. This month is an AV and Science festivals special at the Start and Shadow. This is a show and tell with a artistically creative slant. You never quite know what you will see and it is worth a visit.
  • March 13th and 14th is the second Maker Faire at the Centre for Life. This is a chance for the UK’s mad inventors (including me) have a chance to show off there creations.
  • March 17th NE Bytes is back at Newcastle University. This month features Visual Studio 2010 with Richard Fennell and Matt McSpirit from Microsoft talks about System Centre in the R2 Wave.
  • March 20th and 21st is BarCampNorthEast3 at the Centre for Life. This is a chance to share your experiences and skills with others and you are coming. Attendance is mandatory but I promise you that you will enjoy it. :-)
  • March 29th is Super Mondays. This month is all about mobile payments featuring John Lunn from PayPal.

Finally March 10th and 24th is the fortnightly Newcastle Coffee Morning from 8:30am at the The Settle Down Café. Just a chance to have a cupper and a chat before work.

That is it for now. I recommend all these events. There are more details on the events web sites but feel free to ask me if you want any more details.