// 11.Jan.2009

The New Front Page

If you’ve visited the Urban Mainframe website a few times, as opposed to reading the articles in an RSS reader, you may have noticed that the layout of the front-page recently changed. I have opted for a more compact format for the page and have reworked my Loop so that I can adjust the page a little more easily.
Continue Reading…

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// 03.Jan.2009

A Better 404 - Redux

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I’d modified my WordPress 404 page to be a little bit more useful and informative to any reader unlucky enough to encounter it. Amazingly that article was deprecated almost as soon as I’d published it as I had continued to refine and supplement the code I’d described there. Furthermore, I had added some more functionality to the page for better “possible match” suggestions. So in this article I’m revisiting the custom 404-page to describe the changes I’ve made since the previous installment.
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// 02.Nov.2008

A Better 404

NOTICE: This article is deprecated. While the article is still valid it no longer accurately describes the current 404-handler used on this website. Please also read the later article, A Better 404 - Redux, which contains updated information.

After reading Ian Lloyd’s The Perfect 404, I’ve revamped my “Not Found” error page to be a little bit more useful because, as Lloyd writes, “a user-friendly website will give you a helping hand.” Previously my 404 page simply stated that an error had occured and offered links to the home-page and archives. I knew I could do better than that! Continue Reading…


// 29.Aug.2008

Going Down

I’m sorry to say that there may be a little downtime on the horizon. I’m transferring this domain from it’s current host to (mt) – where the site is physically hosted. It’s silly for me to be paying two suppliers in order to keep the Urban Mainframe online and there are some additional benefits in (mt) domain hosting that I’ll take advantage of including email services and DNS management.

It’ll take around 48 hours for the DNS changes to propagate fully so the dust should start to settle over the coming weekend.

See you on the flip-side…


// 17.Jul.2008

WordPress 2.6 and Version Control

When I discarded my bespoke CMS and adopted WordPress as my blogging platform (see: Starting Over) I was surprised to find that most of the features I had painstakingly written for my CMS were available in either the WordPress core or one of the multitude of plug-ins that are available for it.

However one feature that I immediately missed was Version Control (or Revision Control). I was quite proud of the Version Control system I had incorporated into my CMS. Hooked into Subversion on the server, I could easily browse the entire revision history of any single document I’d published. I could also revert an existing document back to any previous version at a click of the mouse. It was a powerful and compelling feature and impressed everyone I showed it to.

Imagine my delight then when WordPress 2.6 was released with Revision Control as one of the headline features. I was further surprised by the implementation when I learned that WordPress’ Revision Control provides a facility to visually compare the differences between versions - a facility my own interpretation lacked.

It’s worth upgrading your WordPress installation for this feature alone, but there’s more… as this brief video illustrates:

To summarise, the new features in WordPress 2.6 are as follows:

  • Word count! Never guess how many words are in your post anymore.
  • Image captions, so you can add captions under your images.
  • Bulk management of plug-ins.
  • A completely revamped image control to allow for easier inserting, floating, and resizing. It’s now fully integrated with the WYSIWYG.
  • Drag-and-drop reordering of Galleries.
  • Plug-in update notification bubble.
  • Customizable default avatars.
  • You can now upload media when in full-screen mode.
  • Remote publishing via XML-RPC and APP is now secure (off) by default, but you can turn it on easily through the options screen.
  • Full SSL support in the core, and the ability to force SSL for security.
  • You can now have many thousands of pages or categories with no interface issues. Ability to move your ”wp-config” file and ”wp-content” directories to a custom location, for clean SVN checkouts.
  • Select a range of checkboxes with shift-click.
  • You can toggle between the Flash uploader and the classic one.
  • A number of proactive security enhancements, including cookies and database interactions.
  • Stronger better faster versions of TinyMCE, jQuery, and jQuery UI.
  • Version 2.6 fixes approximately 194 bugs.

Kudos to the WordPress team for a job well done!

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// 13.Jul.2008

Accelerating My WordPress Installation

I’m currently engaged in the process of trying boost the performance of this website as some of the page weights and loading times are horrific (God, how I miss mod_perl). These are the steps I’ve taken so far:

  • Turned on mod_deflate and am now serving my XHTML, CSS and JavaScript as GZIP’d files.
  • Uninstalled various non-essential WordPress plugins.
  • Installed and configured WP Super Cache but, as yet, it doesn’t seem to be actually doing anything (the administration page tells me that nothing has been cached). I’m sure I’m doing something wrong here!
  • My MySQL database has been tweaked considerably during the past couple of days and I am fairly happy with the performance there now.
  • I will have to make an effort to reduce page weights by reducing image file-sizes (currently the heaviest content I am delivering by far).
  • I’m investigating PHP accelerators and need to learn which of them play nicely with WordPress.

Obviously I’ll document things here as I progress.

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// 29.Jun.2008

A Little Turbulence Ahead

This is just the beginning, there’s still a long, long way to go…

Now that I’m blogging again I expect that I’ll be tweaking things considerably in the near future. I’m happy with the core of the site but I think it now needs a little gloss and finesse. You shouldn’t be surprised if the site doesn’t always look right or if things aren’t working as expected. I may unknowingly break bits along the way - so if you notice anything wrong please let me know in the comments or via email.

I will also gladly take on board any feedback or suggestions for improvements, so don’t be afraid to shout out.


UPDATED 26th July, 2008: Still fine-tuning but the design is now just about final and the CMS/plug-in combination feels feature-complete. I’m happy with the site now.

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// 28.Jun.2008

Starting Over

Welcome to the all new Urban Mainframe. It is almost exactly two years since I wrote my last post on the previous incarnation of this website. In that post I promised that the website would soon be active again. I told you how I’d started to recover from my blogging apathy and that I was about to introduce a redesign and a whole bunch of new features.

It didn’t happen (but you know that already)! So you’re probably wondering what went wrong? Well, I began to suffer that most dreaded of programming diseases: feature creep. My ambitions for the Urban Mainframe grew (and oh, how they grew). I added millions of lines of code (perhaps a slight exaggeration) to an already bloated CMS. I began to code up new features without completing existing ones. I created so many bugs…

There came a point where I just couldn’t keep up. My code-base was a complete mess, a nightmare to maintain and utterly unworkable - and so I entered my second period of blogging apathy. I simply gave up.

In the meantime… real life carried on. I changed career, moved house, reunited with my mother and sisters whom I had lost touch with over twenty years ago, fell in love, had my heart broken (cue the violin), suffered depression, started college… and so on. My inclination to blog just wasn’t there.

Recently, however, I’ve found myself reading all my old favourite blogs. I’ve been trawling through archives and following links. I’ve rediscovered the urge to self-publish. I want to blog again.

Of course I couldn’t just pick up where I’d left off. I’ve already described how mangled my CMS had become. So I have taken the plunge and started from scratch. I’ve adopted WordPress as my blogging tool and I’ve deployed a (slightly modified) off-the-shelf theme rather than create a bespoke design. I’ve even ditched my treasured Rackspace servers in favour of a cheap and cheerful hosting package from (mt). Wow!

And the future? I’m not going to make any promises people. At the time of writing I’m keen to get going again. I’m eager to write, eager to code, eager to publish. I don’t know if my new-found enthusiasm will last or if it will wane. But for the time being at least… I’m back.

P.S: Don’t forget to revise your bookmarks for the current domain (http://blog.urbanmainframe.com/) and don’t forget to update your RSS feed subscriptions either!