How Not To Update WordPress

Well, first, let me tell you what to do:

  • Make a complete copy of all files to your local computer. Heck, make two. Download it once to your local hard drive, and then download a complete copy of everything under public_html onto an external plugged-in hard drive or thumb drive or whatever you’ve got.

    • You can use an FTP client to do this. I use Transmit, a much-beloved Mac App that’s been around a long time.
    • You can also do it from the command line. Use rsync. Automate it. Script it. Cron job it. Stop thinking about it. That’s half the battle with back-ups.
  • Poke around in those copies to make sure everything is there. Pay special attention to the wp-contents directory, because that’s where all the images you upload are stored. It’s always where your plug-ins are based, and where your themes live. If you overwrite this directory without a backup copy, you’re in trouble.

  • When you do upload the new version of WordPress and your FTP offers you the option to MERGE or REPLACE the wp-contents directory as it exists with the updated version, go with MERGE. If you REPLACE, you’ll delete everything first. You don’t want that.

Long story, short: That’s what I did a couple weeks back. I REPLACED instead of MERGED, and I thought I had a back-up already when I didn’t. I made a second one, which I thought had finished. I didn’t double-check either backup. I didn’t have the complete wp-contents directory backed up in either place. I lost it all. Plug-ins and themes aren’t a big deal. This blog is run on a standard theme, with not too many adjustments. I re-found it quickly and installed it. Turns out, that was the German version of it. I had to track down the English version, but that was easy enough.

Thankfully, my wonderful hosting provider (the ever-awesome was able to restore from a daily back-up. And since I hadn’t posted anything new in the last day, it was a full recovery after that.

So, take it from me: Make a full and complete back-up. Back up more than you think you’ll ever need. Do it regularly. Do it particularly just before updating the supposedly easy “One Click” WordPress upgrade, which always endangers your files, no matter how blase they try to make it seem to be.

Failing all that, create a static blog engine. I’m trying… I actually have one that works to create the front page and the 6000 individual pages that would make up this blog. But the archives aren’t implemented yet, which are turning out to be a bit of a pain in the butt. Someday, I’ll have time to get back to that.

Mania in the Men’s Room

I could write a book on the craziness that goes on in men’s rooms. I could name it something like “Blowing the Stall Door Open,” but I’m sure someone’s seen that happen already. Here’s a recent example of the kind of nuttiness that will either make you cringe or laugh or want to strangle someone:

Guy finishes his business at the urinal. It’s self-flushing, so he’s safe from germs so far.

Then he goes over to the paper towel dispenser and pushes on the handle to get some paper towels. This man — who we’re about to discover is a germaphobe — just used his dirty hands to soil the paper towel dispenser. Thanks, pal!

He goes over to the sink to do a full handwashing. The water is automatic, but the soap is in a dispenser you have to touch to get. I’m guessing — though I couldn’t see at the time — that he used one of the paper towels to prevent his dirty hands from touching the dirty soap dispenser. Too bad the towel dispenser didn’t get such courtesy.

So he scrubs his hands like a doctor. The soap goes between each pair of fingers vigorously. He’s seriously about this. When he’s done, he dries his hands carefully with the paper towels he previously pulled off and touched with his dirty dirty hands.

Once dried, he disposes of the towels in the open garbage receptable, takes a step towards the door, and GRABS THE DOOR HANDLE WITH HIS BARE HAND, opens the door, and walks out.

He went through that whole charade to keep his hands “clean” only to fail on the last step and touch the bare door handle.


This man has a lot to learn from Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann.

Track 5

Only $2.99 at Amazon now. Track 5 is better known as “What’s Opera, Doc?” minus the speaking parts. For those, you’d need to buy this one:

Of if you want the DVD:

This public service message comes to you from — well, me. And the potential Amazon Affiliates points.

My Weekend Writing Appearance

Chad Nevett is doing his annual Blogathon fundraiser on Saturday, posting regularly for 24 straight hours. I am one of the special guests contributing over the course of the day. It’s a fun topic. Keep an eye out on his site for it as the day progresses and Chad slowly drives himself insane. For a good cause.

Apple Profits Mightily. Wall Street Plays Games

There’s no hope for Wall Street. It truly is a shell game that slowly destroys companies. Right now, they’re attempting to destroy Apple.

Apple yesterday announced record-setting earnings and profits. When all was said and done, they profited by more than $13 BILLION last year. And then Wall Street tanked the stock. They don’t even bother with the slingshot anymore. Or maybe that’ll come next week

Here are some headlines to help you lose your faith in humanity:

Tim Cook is the guy who ran the business for the last ten years to keep the machines running and the products getting built. Now some in tech “journalism” are calling for his head.

More short term thinking, but that’s SOP for public companies. Going public will kill them all.

Podcast Catch Up

I did the WordBalloon Podcast with John Siuntres a couple weeks ago. (You can hear the whole thing here.) I had a fun time, and was reminded of how much I enjoy and fear podcasting, all at the same time. As a writer, it’s easy to work in advance and fact-check and edit everything to a fine point. Podcasting is painting in broad strokes. There are no re-dos and no time to check things while you’re going. I said a couple of things I wish I could have looked up on Google to fact check as soon as I said them. I can’t insert a link to back up what I had just said. And, sometimes, my thoughts would go competely off the rails and I had to fight my own way back.

Such is life. I had fun and will do it again someday, I’m sure.

The funny thing is, it’s the first podcast I’ve done in years. All of my equipment was boxed up. It was fun unboxing and testing everything, so I thought I’d document that process here.

First, you can see the set-up I was using in my podcasting prime in this write-up from six years ago on this very site. I don’t have the compressor anymore. Sold that on eBay a couple years back to fund another purchase, probably a camera lens. The mic stand is gone, too. It’s cheap enough to replace, should I ever get back into the game seriously. And if I did do a comeback, I might be more interested in going all the way and getting a boom arm that swings away from me when I’m not using it.

I’m also not using that Power Mac anymore. It’s since been replaced with an iMac. But for WordBalloon, since I wasn’t the one recording it, I didn’t even need that much power. I used an old MacBook. It goes back to 2008, I think. It’s a white plastic one, pre-uni-body construction. It’s Intel inside, at least.

But the real reason for using it is that I couldn’t record a podcast upstairs. My wife and daughter were sleeping in adjacent rooms to my “man cave.” And I’m a loud podcaster. That’s my mic technique. I had to record two floors below, in the basement, which has pretty poor wi-fi.

I used a 75 foot Cat6 cable. It’s something I bought with an eye towards eventually snaking it through the walls into the basement from the router in the man cave to set up a second router down there to create a second wi-fi zone that would be more reliable. Also, I could plug the Blu-Ray player directly in. And the Apple TV. And does the Wii have an ethernet port? I don’t remember.

That project still hasn’t happened, but the Cat6 cable was long enough to plug it into the router upstairs, drag it down the hall, drop it down four flights of stairs, and then pull it across the basement to the far corner where I could most comfortably record.

I nestled the mic in a couple of pillows covered by a blanket to help keep the echoing down. I sat on the couch in front of it and leaned over the mic to record. It’s not the most comfortable way to do it, but it produced the best results in the short time I had to test. (Thanks, Skype Call Testing!)

The mic is not powered, so I still used the small mixing board to provide phantom power, and then plugged that in through the USB port via a dongle thing from Griffin. My headphones went into the headphone jack on the laptop so I could hear John on the other end of Skype.

It’s been so long since I’ve used Skype, I was forced to upgrade from v2.x to version 6.x.

After that, it was an hour and a half of chatting and recording, then breaking everything back down, boxing it up into the back closet, and rolling up the wire.

Doing this one podcast got me excited to do two things:

  1. More podcasts.
  2. Wire up the network in the basement.

We’ll see if either of those things actually happens in 2013. I’d bet more on the latter than the former. That would make for a good blog post. Hey, maybe I’ll make it a New Year’s Resolution!

Quote of the Day, 22 Jan 2013 Edition

Twitter is deprecating its support for an insignificant power user segment that has been impotently threatening to leave en masse for over a year. And it’s doing so because there’s an enormous population of people using Twitter for altogether different purposes than we care to consider or grace with our arrogant presence. It’s looking to make money from a demographic of sociable, connected, and care-free users that are using Twitter for the sake of its features, not the way its app ecosystem works.

Posted in Web

Testing New Twitter Functionality

Let’s see how embedded tweets work on this blog:

Thanks for playing along with today’s test. Regular posting resumes tomorrow.

Alternate Path to Learning a Foreign Language

I had a crazy idea for learning a new foreign language.

Why not use a comic strip? I’ve heard plenty of stories of people who learned English by reading comic books, so why can’t I learn, say, French by reading familiar American comic strips in French?

The daily comic strips are all online in America in English. Surely, there is another country that also puts up the color strips translated into their language. And they’ll be showing the same strip on the same day, too, right?

So you could read the English comic strip in one browser window and then the French comic strip in another, side by side. The language used in comic strips is very conversational, usually. So that would help you to learn some basic vocab easily, I would have to think. At the very least, it would help re-enforce lessons learned in a more structured language course. Or it could just be good practice and exercise.

I think I will work on this for a future Pipeline column, but maybe there’s an obvious answer. Maybe one of the main comic strip websites in America has a direct link to a French translation or Spanish translation on their own website. I don’t know, I haven’t researched it yet

But, please, if there’s an easy and obvious solution to this issue, let me know. Leave me a comment or send me a tweet or something. Thanks.

In a perfect world, this could be automated with a third party website that would grab the strips off both pages and show them together on one page for you, perhaps with a Google Translate plug-in in the middle. Even better, imagine if the strips could be OCRed and auto-translated for you.

  • Problem #1: OCRing all-caps lettering made to look like it was done by hand might not work.
  • Problem #2: The syndicates likely would not let you grab their comic strips to add to a third party page. If they did, it would come with a reprint fee that would make it impractical in volume.

Done as a standalone tool for personal benefit with proper screen-scraping, though, it might go unnoticed. Just don’t open-source your scripts and let them get popular.

I will let you know what I find in a future addition of Pipeline at CBR.

Addendum 1: As it turns out, offers a Spanish translation of their strips each day. I just tested it with Garfield. If only they offered a French translation, too… That’s what I really want to learn.

Addendum 2: This blog post started out dictated into my iPhone in the Drafts app, which I highly recommend. The voice-to-text translator, though, does not like “comic strip” very much, translating it differently each time. My favorite was “coming train.” As the old saying goes, “The light at the end of the tunnel is often the lights of the on-comic strip.”

Quote of the Day, NASA Style

“I haven’t sat down for six months now.”

-Astronaut Sunita Williams, NASA, in her “Cribs: International Space Station Edition” video. It’s a hypnotic must-watch. Imagine living in a confined space for months with no sense of up and down. Freaks me out. I think more than the physical problems with living in zero gravity, the mental game of living in such a confined space would screw me up first. It’d be fun for a week, but then I’d be ready to hop back into the Soyuz and plunge back to the big blue marble.

Check out 15:00 in when she flies like Superman. Pretty cool.

And at 17:40, check out those cameras. Russians have the best gear.

Stories of the Day

It’s a tight race today. The tech world is heating up with its silliness:

No, Google did not run over a donkey in Botswana:

It’s not clear how Google verified the donkey’s current status. We think the company simply contacted the Street View employee in question and made sure he or she did not run a donkey over. The donkey may actually be dead right now, but not because of Google.

That’s crazy, but the next story is transformative. Post-modern. “Office Space”-esque. We’re all just jealous of this guy on so many levels:

Verizon finds US developer outsourced his job to China so he could surf Reddit and watch cat videos

A developer at a US-based critical infrastructure company, referred to as “Bob,” was caught last year outsourcing his work to China, paying someone else less than one fifth of his six-figure salary to do his job.

There follows after that a timeline of what Bob did at work on a daily basis. Sounds boring, but relaxing. Really, Bob is just doing to Verizon what Verizon would most likely like to do to Bob — move his job offshore to save money. Bob just got the job done. He also covered his tracks well, while being industrious in his laziness:

Apparently Bob had the same scam going across multiple companies in the area (this part is a little unclear given that he clearly couldn’t physically go into work for all of them), earning “several hundred thousand dollars a year,” and only paying the Chinese consulting firm “about fifty grand annually.” At the unnamed company, he apparently received excellent performance reviews for the last several years in a row, even being hailed the best developer in the building: his code was clean, well-written, and submitted in a timely fashion.

He’s a better coder than me, on top of it all.

Click through to the story, because there’s even more craziness in it.

Quote of the Day – The Pickpocket

“I’m now down inside your pants pocket.”

This is a great short video showing ways in which a pickpocket can steal a watch, a wallet, or a cell phone with you being none the wiser. It’s all about misdirection and sleight of hand. It’s the magic of the streets, except with stuff actually being stolen. Watch the video; it’s awesome. But, kids? Don’t try this at home. Or on the streets. Thanks.

Qualcomm Reinvents the Keynote at CES

2013 was the first time in many years that Microsoft didn’t host the opening keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. Instead, the show went to Qualcomm and its CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs. We weren’t quite sure what to expect beyond a new series of processors, but what we got was weirder than anything we’ve seen in all of our collective years attending CES. While Chris Ziegler translated the surreal experiences into a liveblog and I took photos of the craziest moments, the rest of the Verge staff took to Twitter to react to the event. You can relive the insanity right here.

via Qualcomm’s insane CES 2013 keynote in pictures and tweets | The Verge.

Must reading. Must viewing. Sadly, they’ve replaced the full Qualcomm video with a Supercut of The Verge’s own making. That will only give you a taste of the madness, but it’s still madness, nonetheless. Delight in the cringe-inducing moments. Marvel at the desperate attempts of old fogies to found hip. Yawn as another CEO pretends to pretend to be Steve Jobs. (“Everything about [this car] is awesome. Even the sound system is awesome.”) Oh, man, that “Star Trek” actress’ appearance is awkward. CRINGE all over again. And, hey, there’s even Steve Ballmer. Can never go wrong with him.

And did I mention Big Bird alongside a guy wearing a Big Bird costume?

And Bishop Desmond friggin’ Tutu? (Who will for me always be known best to me as a punchline from Billy Connolly in the old (“Head of the Class” tv series.)[])

Qualcomm just replaced spectacle with awkwardness.

Thankfully, Qualcomm has been kind enough to post their own video of the event. Even better, they’ve included the actual Maroon 5 audio at the end. You’ll have to fast forward to about 85-90 minutes in to see that.

Cinderella: The Awful Truth

In watching the new “Cinderella” Blu-ray with my daughter, the awful truth dawned on me:

Cinderella’s stepmother is a murderer. Cinderella’s father didn’t die of natural causes. It’s never stated explicitly in the movie how he died. And since the movie is done from Cinderella’s point of view, it’s nothing the audience needs to know if she doesn’t know it or is explicitly told it. The Wicked Stepmother got away with the perfect crime: She killed her husband to get his money. Imagine if they have life insurance policies back then; maybe then her runway would have been long enough that she wouldn’t have pressed Cinderella into service cleaning her own house before the Ball arrived and Cinderella met the man of her dreams.

Obviously, the murder was done with two goals in mind: Don’t dirty your own hands, and don’t get caught. To that end, this nasty man-eater likely paid off someone to do the dirty deed. She’s still getting of murder by this, but she didn’t have to poison the father’s food. She couldn’t stab him or shoot him, because that would raise suspicions. A quiet poisoning leading to a heart attack would do the trick. Science and medicine weren’t significantly advanced back them for a medical examiner to have doubts as to the husband’s death. But who would do it? Obvious money would be on someone in the kitchen. They have access to the food and to the husband. And, given a big enough payment (with the husband’s own money, naturally), they have motive: Filthy lucre.

The problem is, the stepmother likes money, so she can’t afford to give it away. Plus, there’s a loose end. The kitchen help could talk. If any suspicion were ever to be raised, they might be interviewed first and squeal before she’d have the chance to silence them, or convince them to stay silent. Instead, I believe the stepmother paid off someone in the cleaning staff to do the deed.

cinderella's wicked stepmother

Then, she poisoned that staff member, took the money back, and had Cinderella take over the job of the entire staff, crying about lack of money all the while as a cover story. Since the second dead person in the household is the downstairs help, nobody cares enough to be suspicious and life goes on.

It’s the perfect crime. The stepmother is a real schemer.

I suspect this will be the plot of “Wicked II”, coming to Broadway this fall. Someone check Kristen Chenoweth’s availability to play Cinderella. Maybe we can get Glenn Close to play the stepmother? Gus and Jaq can be Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.