Category Archives: Wordpress

Seeing a new server before re-delegation

One of the weaknesses of WordPress and most other web-configured applications is that unless you want to go SQL or config-file-wrangling, it’s pretty much only configurable via the web, at least for tweaking, importing posts, setting up most of the options. This is a problem when, for instance, you’re migrating an existing site onto WP, and it’s on a new server, as you can’t get to the wp-admin screens.

The way to do it is to hack your hosts file. Once the new server is running and WP is setup on it, find your hosts file and add an entry to the new server. On Windows, this is the c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file.

Chuck in a line that says contains your new server’s IP address, and the hostname. Something like:

(Whoopsie, real-world example with a fake IP. The new evision site is going live Real Soon Now.)

Save, then away you go. You can see the new site and tweak to your heart’s content, but nobody else will be able to see any of it until you re-delegate.

The catch? It probably won’t work from behind corporate networks, where your computer uses a proxy.

WordPress’s best defence against the dark arts of spam

Scoble writes that has strong comment spam protection, but that it sometimes gets false positives.

I’ve found nothing better for spam protection than WP-Hashcash, which uses Javascript to make sure it’s a human entering the comment, not a robot, but without captchas or other stuff the user has to do. Works like a dream.

The only down side is it doesn’t work with some older WP templates. So while this site is fully spam equipped, my personal blog won’t run it until I upgrade the template (probably a project for Christmas time).

But apart from that, for WPers out there, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Combined with settings that ensure firsttime posters go straight to moderation (subsequent postings are approved automatically) it ensures that those damn spammers never get their comments published on my site.

I might add that the company I work for (which develops B2B messaging systems) is working on a new site. To encourage them to update it regularly (some might call it blogging, but I’m emphasising “regular updates to existing and potential customers”) I’m building it on WordPress. Given WP’s ability to do a site of static pages and dated entries, it should work very well.

Patches for Win2K and WP

If you’ve been holding off patching your Windows 2000 boxes with the latest security updates, do it now, because the Zotob worm is spreading fast. Thankfully it only affects Win2K, and anybody who’s already patched with MS05-039 is already protected.

Also new this week is WordPress 1.5.2. I’ve used WP for a while now, but am now dabbling with it for a company site… it’s increasingly impressive, especially for CMS/Non-dated pages work.

PS: According to a report, car-maker General Motors Holden has lost A$6 million in car production due to the Zotob worm. Other major companies have also been hit.

Stopping WordPress spammers

The blog comment/trackback anti-spam refinement continues.

I’m testing the WP-Hashcash plugin, which inserts Javascript code to calculate an authorisation code into the comment. Since comment spammers don’t actually use the comment forms (at least I hope not; not until they start using people to enter the comments), this means only real comments get through. Well, real comments from people with Javascript running. If they don’t have Javascript running, they may be out of luck. Hopefully that applies to nobody these days, and I think this solution is less painful than a captcha-based one.

But trackback spam is still a problem. One available option is to block direct access to the WordPress trackback PHP, but this isn’t very effective, since most current trackback spammers however are clever enough to call the “real” URL.

A version of Auto shutoff comments modified to close trackbacks on posts older than 28 days, however, seems more effective. I don’t particularly want to shut comments off (especially since the above plugin effectively stops comment spam), but trackbacks are less compelling to keep open.

Together with previously discussed .htaccess entries to block big bandwidth thieves, this appears to be a fairly effective set of anti-blog spam measures. For now.

Pirates! Spammers! Gyroscopes! Bandwidth thieves!

This is officially getting ridiculous. Not only are my blogs getting a lot of comment spam, but my personal blog site is burning huge amounts of bandwidth, as particular (I assume zombie) hosts hit the site.

Below are the top ten bandwidth users of for June:

Top 10 of 15312 Total Sites By KBytes
# Hits Files KBytes Visits Hostname
1 14380 4.10% 3801 1.77% 111235 2.22% 159 0.24%
2 17558 5.01% 3191 1.48% 99441 1.98% 157 0.24%
3 3927 1.12% 3640 1.69% 75989 1.51% 3 0.00%
4 3062 0.87% 2797 1.30% 74881 1.49% 171 0.26%
5 3057 0.87% 2200 1.02% 62547 1.25% 392 0.60%
6 2691 0.77% 2248 1.04% 60684 1.21% 153 0.23%
7 2256 0.64% 2082 0.97% 56383 1.12% 124 0.19%
8 2146 0.61% 2033 0.94% 51665 1.03% 279 0.43%
9 2001 0.57% 1755 0.82% 47605 0.95% 23 0.04%
10 1686 0.48% 1571 0.73% 35979 0.72% 325 0.50% corporativos

It’s not like this site is hosting pr0n or something — there’s just no reason why any single host would need to grab 110Mb of traffic in a single month. In total traffic topped 4Gb for the month, which is ludicrous for a diary site with a few photos on it. 4Gb is actually my monthly limit — thankfully my web ISP isn’t too strict about charging extra for hitting that, but there’s always the risk if this is consistent that it’ll be costing me real money.

As a result I’ve started a list of bandwidth hogs’ IP addresses, which I’m putting in the .htaccess file. Anything with lots of hits and grabbing above about 5Mb per month is going onto the list, and the list is being duplicated (manually unfortunately) across to the other WordPress sites that I run.

Inspection of the access_log is particularly enlightening, with at present a staggering number of requests coming in with a referer at poker-related sites. Of the 6665 hits in the file for today (covering about 13 hours) there are 674 from (note the wonky spelling) and 1212 from All of these too are now being blocked with a 403 (forbidden) via .htaccess.

Sigh. I suppose it’s just too much to expect people to place nice?

.htaccess extract – Feel free to copy for your own site to block miscreants.
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Using Atomz free search with WordPress

I’ve set up the Atomz free search to index both my old site and my personal blog at together. Atomz allows you to specify multiple entry points for its crawler, putting all the specified sites into the one index.

Given the free search only allows 750 documents in its index, the catch with WordPress is to avoid it indexing individual blog entries, but doing the monthly pages instead. This is done using the URL Masks feature, so for instance with my blog structure of I specify

exclude regexp*

The other ones I’ve excluded are RSS feeds (which it chokes on, and wastes processing time on), comments and category URLs.

exclude regexp*/feed/*

This keeps my current total number of pages (both domains together) down to 519, which is pretty good, and well under the 750 limit for the freebie version.

It’s also handy in that the crawler logs broken links. I’ve got quite a few that have shown up as I move my old blog archives into WordPress, so I can just work through the list and fix them.

Smoke me a kipper…

About to upgrade this blog to WordPress 1.5.

11:40pm. Done. The main difference noticeable to readers will be that your comments automatically go to moderation if you’ve never left a comment before.

WP admin heading in Firefox.One thing notable to us authors is that the top of the admin pages looks a bit screwy in Firefox (but okay in IE). Not sure why that is, because WP1.5 doesn’t do that on my other blogs… something to look at when I have more time.

Moving WordPress to a new server

I moved my diary WordPress installation yesterday from an old WP1.22 installation to a brand new shiny WP1.5 database and URL. Here are the steps, in summary:

  1. We don’t want to lose any comments so get into phpMyAdmin and shut down comments/trackbacks on the old blog, by running this SQL:
    UPDATE wp_posts SET comment_status = 'closed', ping_status = 'closed'
  2. Then export the database, with Complete Data Inserts turned on. Get the dump down into a text file (there’s probably an automatic way, but I just copy/pasted into my preferred editor — Ultraedit)
  3. Do whatever replacements are needed on the data. I replaced all the URLs with ones, for instance. Be sure to change the setting in wp_options that specifies the site (WP) URL, ‘cos you won’t be able to logon if you don’t — the logon code will throw you over to the old blog. There’s another setting called Blog address which will also need changing if you’re coming off WP1.5.
  4. My export seemed to add extraneous escape characters in odd places. For instance a quote "e; in the database came out with two backslashes in front of it. I did some replacing to remove "e; with "e; — and similarly with single quotes, they all need only one
  5. Create the new database, with whatever database user WP will be using, and plug the details into your wp-config.php
  6. Run the export SQL into the new database, by copy/pasting into myPhpAdmin. I did it table-by-table so I could catch and correct any problems easily. I was especially wary of the wp_posts table, which had almost 700 rows, most with very long data. But as it turns out it all went very smoothly, with no problems whatsoever.
  7. Time to upload all the WP files into the new web server. Because I was moving from WP1.22 to 1.5, there were some steps to follow first for migrating the old template. All pretty straightforward really. Then run the WP wp-admin/upgrade.php to make sure the tables are all up to date with the latest design.
  8. Log onto WordPress and go through the config screens to make sure it’s all okay. Things to watch out for include the timezone (if different on the new server), setting your preferred template, activating any plugins you want, and setting the new file upload directory (on which you’ll need to set permissions).
  9. Check out the Permalinks. Set it up, then copy what it tells you to your .htaccess file. (The WP1.5 version wouldn’t actually work for me. For now I’m still using the WP1.2 version until I figure it out.)
  10. Check how the blog looks to the outside world. Post a test post and comment, just to check it all works. If not, go back and correct where applicable.
  11. Re-enable (selected) comments on the new blog:
    UPDATE wp_posts SET comment_status = 'open', ping_status = 'open'
  12. Insert an .htaccess redirect on the old site to point people over to the new:
    Redirect /olddirectory

And presto! Done!

(Okay, I had some further hassles with some old HTML and broken image links mixing it up with WordPress, but that’s my problem, not yours!)

WordPress 1.5

WordPress 1.5 came out overnight. Well actually it came out on Valentine’s Day, but they didn’t announce it until a few hours ago. From the sounds of it, there’s been a lot of work done on the template system, comment control, a way to make non-dated pages run in the system (ooh, getting more CMS-ey). All sounds rather good to me, and I’ll be checking it out and (all being well) implementing it on the blogs I run directly.

Spam Karma

Well after deleting what seems like hundreds of bloody comment and trackback spams over the past week, I’ve installed Spam Karma (billed as a “fearless Spam Killing Machine”) on this blog. If it’s successful, I’ll be installing it on my other WordPress blogs.

It includes blacklists, captcha or email verification for suspicious comments, a myriad of settings, all that good stuff. For now I’ve set it to “lenient” mode until I get a feel for how strict it is. Feel free to leave junk comments here to see how it goes. (But beware of deliberately leaving spammy comments — for all I know it may decide to blacklist your IP address!

PS. Tuesday 21:25. The manual install as in the ReadMe worked for fine me, except that you can’t get to the config page through the menus, you have to activate it from the plugins page, then go to the URL it quotes. (This is apparently a known thing with WP1.2, but I guess it applies to WP1.2.2 as well, which we’re running here. Presumably it doesn’t apply to the current nightly builds or to the future 1.5.)

Also be sure to try the test captcha page (linked off the config page) to make sure that bit works (eg the correct PHP libraries are there somewhere. If they’re not, I guess you need to hassle your ISP. Works fine for me.)

PS. Wednesday 21:15. There is a hitch: the e-mail it sends out summarising what it’s done is encoded with something. I think this is an incompatibility with the PHP setup on my ISP… the same thing happened with WordPress 1.2’s password reminder messages. I’ll have to dig around for a fix.

It should also be noted that Tony has tried to plonk it onto a blog he runs, and is having some issues. So it’s not all beer and skittles.

On the bright side, it tells me it caught 20 spam comments in the last 24 hours. I certainly haven’t seen any get let through.

PS. Thursday 20:05. Some are getting through, but evidently nowhere near the total number being caught. Hmmm.

A few brief things

Some people aren’t so happy about Google suggest… certainly not Eric Rice, who gets his name listed with words like “child molestor”. Wouldn’t be delighted about that, myself. (via the G’Day World podcast)

New version for WordPress (minor fixes) (hopefully it fixes the thing where if you forget your password and need it mailed to you, it sends it in some incomprehensible encoding format that can’t be read… at least not on any web or Windows email client I have access to).

New version for Trillian (major new release). Haven’t had the chance to try it yet… no time Bellamy, no time.