A Totally New Blog Design After Restoring From Azure Backup

Monday was one of those days you dread – this site’s server had a catastrophic failure and I had to restore the VM from an Azure Backup. Luckily, the process worked perfectly and I was back online. But I realised that I just wasn’t doing a very good job at running the VM, the software (MySQL and WordPress), and managing the site.

So after getting things back online, I spent a bit of time doing updates and re-engineering the site. And this is the result. The site has a whole new home page with featured posts, and recent posts in several key categories. The blog has much more imagery, and the design is brighter, more modern, and easier to read. Hopefully you agree.

Please Welcome 5nine!

I’m pleased to announce that 5nine have become a sponsor of my blog.  5nine is a key player in the Hyper-V partner ecosystem, making of security, networking, and management tools & extensions.

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You’ll find an alternative to SCVMM for small/medium businesses, extensibility to SCVMM and the Hyper-V virtual switch for the medium to large enterprise, and a number of very useful free tools.

Please take the time to evaluate 5nine’s tools and see what they could add to your network.

Getting The XML Sitemap Generator for WordPress Working on Windows

This blog is running using WordPress on Windows hosting (Windows 2008 & IIS7) on a shared hosting platform.  The control panel is Plesk.  The WordPress application was installed from the control panel rather than the usual manual installation.

For SEO reasons you need a sitemap.xml file to tell search engine crawlers about your site and it’s content.  There is a very handy Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator for WordPress.  I installed it when I set up the blog last month but I kept getting errors that it could not create neither the sitemap.xml nor the sitemap.xml.gz files.  When I tried manual executions of the build process then the page would fail to load.  I did a tonne of searching and found two solutions:

  1. You have to create 2 empty files in the root folder of your WordPress site for each of the files.  The generator will not create these files, only edit existing files.  Empty notepad files will do on Windows.  Linux folks can “touch” them.
  2. The next thing was permissions.  This is where it became obvious to me that most WordPress folks are on Linux hosting.  The advice was to use chmod or FTP to set the permissions to 777, i.e. all rights to all users, on the two files.

I’d done the first step.  The control panel doesn’t allow us to modify permissions on CP installed application files/folders.  I also couldn’t set the 777 rights via an FTP tool for this reason.  I viewed the permissions and donned my traditional least privileges approach.  The website runs using the application pool identity.  So if I grant that account write permissions on the files all should be OK.  Turns out that wasn’t true.  The plug-in was running as something else. 

I was unwilling to test more on my production site so I set up a dummy site and did a manual install of WordPress and the plug-in.  Now I had rights to set permissions.  I granted write permissions to web users (the only remaining group in the control panel).  Now I ran the job manually.  It worked!

I got the hoster helpdesk to set the permissions on the two files on this production site.  I re-ran the job manually.  Now it worked and my sitemap was created.  Excellent.  I’d been doing some other SEO stuff to bring search engines here and it has been starting to work.  But the sitemap should help greatly.

Technorati Tags:

WordPress Permalinks Not So Great After All

I had to disable permalinks today in WordPress.  I found that scans of my site were failing because lots of URL’s could not be resolved.  This was because Permalinks was miscalculating what do with with punctuation in a title.  It’s a pity.  It also means every URL on the blog had to change which is a royal pain in the backside.  Sorry if you’d linked but there was no alternative.  It appears to be a common issue.

My Very First WordPress Blog Post

This is my very first blog post on my new WordPress site.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite some time.  I’ve set up a few very basic sites in the past (and this one continues the theme) and the site we have at work is based on WordPress (though not quite so basic).

What pushed me from Live Spaces to WordPress?  As you might notice, I am a big Microsoft fan.  I try to keep things simple and use their integrated products as much as I can.  However, I got more and more frustrated with Live Spaces as a blog service as time went by.  It hasn’t developed at all since I started using it back in 2006.  During the summer they changed the all-too-basic stat counter so it wouldn’t record RSS statistics.  All the while the amount of spam comment postings was mad.  Lately it’s gotten to be unbearable.  Microsoft’s support wouldn’t respond either via Live or via other avenues so I decided to make a change.  Finally, I wanted a search engine for my blog.  Live doesn’t have that and WordPress does.  I use my blog as my personal notebook and I got tired of using Google to search my Live blog.

So here I am!

All this was made possible by many people:

  • Gavin Duncan helped a good bit by answering my questions and trying to figure out things for me.
  • The folks on Twitter helped out.
  • I wanted to make sure I brought my content over from my old blog.  Given that there are thousands of blog posts I can’t really update all of the URL’s.  Getting the content over was a nightmare.  I used the Live Space Mover to get the content out of Spaces.  MS does their best  to lock you in on Live.  The Python script was installed into a VM along with the prerequisites.  It took a while to get the Live blog configured correctly (mainly the time and date formats) but eventually the export job ran.  Then I had problems importing the content.  The problem appeared to be that my 4.9MB upload was timing out.  So I opened up Wordpad and chopped up the file.  I made sure to keep the header section (not sure if it was required after the first import) in the start of each XML file.  Then I broke up the doc in 5 pieces before an <item> tag and after a </item> tag.

This will be an ongoing learning experience for me.  I’ve got to learn things like SEO, tagging (why the heck is it different to categories!), etc.  I’ve put in a bunch of SEO and associated plug-ins and I’m hoping they do the work for me!  We’ll see.

For now, the Live blog is dead.  I’m going to be bringing the whitepapers over as time goes by.  All live content will be on this blog.

My First Windows Live Writer Post

This is my first post using the beta release of Windows Live Writer.  It’s a WYSIWYG editor and the cool thing is that MS wrote it not only to support Windows Live Blogs but also other blogging sites too.  It makes it much eaier for no webbies like me who are alergic to HTML to add richer content like photos, etc.  If you install the Windows Live Tool Bar then you can integrate into IE to directly blog about a site you are currently browsing.

So far I like it.  It’s much quicker and easier to use than the web interface.

Old Whitepapers

This is a list of whitepapers I’ve written in the last 9 months both for my site and for work.
My Site
Free to download
Old Job
Requires registration but free to download