Archive for the 'Site update' Category

Spam Reduction

Posted by on May 5th 2009 in Plugins, Site update

I think it's fair to say that this blog is small change in the grand scheme of things, and as such doesn't attract too much attention from spammers, but I still like to maintain the defences to keep the yoghurt-sucking mutants at bay.

For a while I relied solely on the supplied-as-standard Akismet plugin, which does a fine job of preventing spam from appearing on post/page comments, but it didn't prevent further attempts by the same spammers.

The required prevention was added by the installation of the WP-Ban plugin, into which I put all of the IP addresses of the spams caught by Akismet. This meant that spammers no longer got a repeat chance, as WP-Ban prevented access and reduced the throughput into Akismet. The only hassle there is that the IP addresses have to be cut&pasted manually, which is a PITA. If only somebody could produce a bit of code that would allow these two plugins to talk to each other, life would be a tad easier. At about the same time, I installed the Simple Trackback Validation plugin, which is fairly self-explanatory.

That setup worked fine for many months, but just into the New Year I started to get a higher incidence of spam, so I looked at further lines of defence. As the majority of the spam was aimed at some older popular posts, the first thing that I did was to automatically close comments on posts that are over 150 days old, using the options in admin > settings > discussion > other comment settings. This cut down the spam even further, and I thought that I had installed enough protection. Spam-rates were down to about 15 a day, which was manageable.

Then a friend called me and said that he thought that a lot of his spam was coming in from sites that were scraping his content and displaying it in frames, and he was wondering if I was experiencing the same. To be fair, I had no idea what he was on about, but I thought I'd see if a preventative measure would make any difference, so I installed the No More Frames plugin to see if it had any effect. That was back in mid-March.

Today I had a look at Akismet Stats to see what the score is. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spam-count since mid-March was down to just one a day at the most, with many days being spam-free. I like that!

Here's the spam-graph (click the pic for a larger version):


Spam-stats screenshot from Akismet

Of course, there'e always a downside to these things. In this case, I now have precious little new material to add to my "Spam: choice cuts" page. Never mind, eh?

Sidebar screwed

Posted by on December 24th 2008 in A bit of a rant, Plugins, Site update

An update to version 1.7 of the WP-RecentComments plugin has resulted in some trashing of the sidebar.

First up is the naming of the folk who comment... you're all now "Anonymous" in the sidebar... until you open the comments for a post, at which time you all assume the identity of the last person to comment on that post. FFS, doesn't anybody bother with proper testing these days? UPDATE: FIXED DURING TEA-BREAK (went back to previous version) 🙂

Second, it's caused Collapsing Archives, which was working just fine, to disappear from the sidebar and is preventing it from loading in the widget admin screen.

Third? Well, that's anybody's guess, I've no compulsion to go looking for other fcuk-ups caused by others. I really can't be arsed to fix it at the moment, as there's a Guinness in the cupboard which is demanding my undivided attention.

I suspect that when the festive period is over, I will be gutting the sidebar and rebuilding it again from scratch.


Sidebar changes

Posted by on October 30th 2008 in Plugins, Site update

At long last I've found something to replace the HTML dropdown site-nav/blogroll/archives options that I knocked up a while ago to replace the standard space-hungry widgets. Thanks to the Javascript-based Collapsing Links and Collapsing Archives plugins from Robert Felty, it's a lot neater and takes up less space. Another new feature in the sidebar is the "show all" button (>>) under each recent comment, it does exactly what it says on mg12's WP-RecentComments tin, which now also allows smilies to show as graphics instead of as standard text.

So, the sidebar's now more active and user-friendly, and I reckon it's a lot better... unless you're using Internet Explorer, in which case it'll look sh!te.

Swabbin’ the decks

Posted by on September 18th 2008 in Just for fun, Site update

Been doing a bit of tidying up:

  • All unused tags (created by an auto-tagging plugin that I used for a while) have been deleted;
  • Quite a few new links have been added to the blogroll dropdowns;
  • Some other bits and bobs have been added to the sidebar;
  • All dead links in posts have been repaired or deleted;
  • Hell, I've even cleaned the screen and removed all of the cookie-crumbs from under the keys!

See you tomorrow, fellow pirates, but only through me one good eye!



Playing catch-up

The blog's now well out-of-date, so it's time to do a bit of catching up. Luckily for you lot, I'm not a stats-whore, so I'll keep things brief and cram everything into one or two posts so that there's not a pile of individual entries to wade through. Now, where to begin...?

  • After a weekend-long posting-restriction imposed by the SGL forum admin, on Monday July 14th I was banned. And yes, the ban is justified. After some unjustified comments made by some of the admin, I reacted, broke the rules and got what I deserved. My crime was to react by removing the content from some of my posts. Just mine. No posts by other members were edited by me. The official version is different, and sounds much more sinister - according to the ban screen, I am banned for "attempting to corrupt the SGL database", which is a bit like saying that I've attempted to eradicate all life from the planet just because I swatted an annoying fly in our kitchen. Luckily, there's no sign that I'll be extradited to spend the rest of my days confined to the Guantanamo Bay facility. Anyway, I deserved the ban, and I don't much care that it'll never be lifted, but at least I'll no longer be hassled by some admins who think themselves beyond reproach and who think that they never have to apologise for anything, even when they have been proved wrong. It's sad that they get the good admins (who are in the majority) a bad press.
  • Talking of things astronomical, I had a bit of a panic a while back when one of the scope mount's tracking-motors packed in. After an online chat with the retailer, arrangements were made for the defective items to be investigated and replaced. Everything's now fixed and working fine, thanks to the great customer service provided by Adam at Rother Valley Optics (retailer) and by Optical Vision Ltd. (importer).
  • There was a clear night here a week or so ago, so I set up the scope to test out the replacement motors and to let the kids have a good look at Jupiter. They were suitably impressed with the view, seeing clearly-defined cloud-bands on the planet and seeing all four of the largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - the Galilean satellites, after Galileo Galilei who discovered them in 1610). After sending the kids to bed, I returned to the scope and had a reasonable visual observing session, finding M8, NGC 6530, M20, M22, Cr 399, NGC 6822 and a few others. The ISS passed over twice during the session, and there were a few meteors around. I didn't set up for imaging, so there are no pics. Since then, it's been cloudy almost every night.
  • Regarding other outdoors activities, there's precious little to report. I missed out on the Outdoors Bloggers' Dartmoor Meet because it was the weekend of my birthday and I didn't feel that it would have been right to bugger off for the weekend. Suffice to say that I got loads of nice pressies. :mrgreen:
  • I managed to fit in a drinking session with my friend Dave, who's a casualty of the recent round of redundancies at Thwaites Dumpers. He's taking it well, but there are a few folk I know from there who've been hit hard by the job cuts. I hope that they all get sorted out soon.
  • Gear-wise, I've been quite reserved about splashing the cash. I supplemented the money that I received as birthday presents in order to buy a SkyWatcher Auto Focuser from Steve at FLO, so that I don't have to faff about twiddling the knob by hand (go on, you make the puns). Even though it's not really auto (it's a motor with a control-box on a curly lead), it's a great bit of kit. Fed up with buying numerous adapters for allowing all sorts of electrical gadgets to be powered or charged in the car, we got a power-inverter so that we can just use the standard mains chargers/transformers instead. I should have bought one of these years ago - I must have spent a small fortune on car-adapters in the last few years. We had a day shopping at Go Outdoors and I didn't get any outdoors gear for myself - that must be some sort of record! Mind you, we spent a small fortune kitting out the other three for our summer holiday.
  • Blog-wise, there have been a few changes here. A few more plugins have been added, if you're interested they're listed at The blogrolls have been updated - quite a few additions, some moves and a few deletions - if you spot any cock-ups, please feel free to let me know. I've a few more changes in the pipe-line, but I'll tell you about them another time.

Well, that's all for now. There's more, but it'll have to wait for later.

Comments: ownership/moderation/policy

Posted by on June 17th 2008 in Blog on Blog, Site update

After reading Jeff Chandler's recent article about comment ownership, where he refers to a discussion over at IntenseDebate, I got to thinking about how I've been treating comments here, and whether I should declare some sort of policy.

Since starting blogging back in Jan 2007 there have been few occasions when I felt I needed to step in and moderate. Most of the time I just let the comments stay "as posted", but there have been a couple of spats between "opposing factions" where I've had to shout "BREAK", step in and state the unwritten rules, then step back and let battle recommence. In another instance, one of my posts was regarded (wrongly) as an attack on the policies of an organisation who I'll not identify here, it attracted so many comments with so much vitriol and insulting profanity that I got fed up of starring-out the obscenities and eventually deleted the whole shebang without due notice or apology. I can and do accept all manner of swearing, but not in an insulting or inflammatory manner. It's a matter of context, there's a big difference between "Oh, f***!" and "F*** off!"

On the lighter side, I've taken the liberty of deleting a few extraneous comments where the author has accidentally double-posted, and I've moved a few comments from pages to posts, as I'm now using a theme that, at present, doesn't allow or show comments on pages (although I hope that this situation will be resolved soon). I don't go around correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar for people (although I don't know how I manage to keep my inner stickler at bay, the compulsion to get out the digital equivalent of the red pen is always there) unless the author asks me to do so. I do edit the email and/or URL on older comments when the author has provided updated information, this ensures that their (W)avatar remains consistent with their identity, and gets around the problem of old URLs leading to dead sites.

So, what about a policy?

Well, that could depend on who owns comments, and opinions on this matter vary as you can tell from the comments on Jeff's blog. For myself, I consider a comment to be similar to a good old-fashioned snail-mail letter - it starts off as yours, then you post it, then I receive it and it becomes mine, then I read it, then I decide whether to bin it, or frame it, or run a highlighter-pen through the juicy bits... I reckon that if you're going to comment on here, the comment belongs to you up to the point when you post it to this blog. At that time, it may well have entered the public domain, but, as it's on my blog, it's under my jurisdiction, even though the content of the comment remains the property of the author. After all, I'm held responsible for this blog, so I reserve the right to control it, on the basis that I can't have Responsibility without Authority. I'm the only person with admin rights to this blog, if I don't have the authority to cut out the crap, who else does? A comment author certainly doesn't, due to my admin restrictions.

Mind you, that's just my opinion, based on common sense, and the law doesn't always see things the same way. Intellectual Property Rights would be a source of conflict.

Anyway, regardless of who owns a comment, or the content therein, here's my draft policy:

I will leave all comments in their intended places and in their unedited forms unless one or more of the following apply:

  • If a comment author asks me to modify, move or delete one of his/her comments, I'll consider making the requested change(s) so long as there's no significant alteration of the context of the comment or any debate associated with it;
  • If a comment author changes his/her email address or URL, I'll make whatever changes I see fit for the smooth running of this blog;
  • If I decide to change the theme or layout of the blog, thus affecting the placement and/or visibility of comments, I'll make whatever changes I see fit for the smooth running of this blog;
  • If any comment contains insulting profanity or other content which I deem to be causing or likely to cause trouble, I'll edit or delete as I see fit, unless Akismet gets to it before me.

I'll try to remember to display the reason(s) for editing comments, so that folk aren't left hanging wondering what happened and why. I'll also reserve the right to amend this draft policy until it's in a form with which I'm happy. You'll find a copy of the latest version below each comment input box.

Oh, and feel free to comment on this if you like!


Say what you see

Posted by on June 11th 2008 in Site update

While test-driving this new theme, something peculiar has come to my attention...

The theme's supposed to display like this:



but sometimes it displays like this:



I would appreciate people letting me know what they see. If it's not working right, I'll repair or replace it.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Posted by on June 10th 2008 in Plugins, Site update

Welcome to the new-look BG!

No doubt there'll be a few teething-troubles with this new theme, but I'll give it a shot and see how it fares.

I know that a few of the more useful plugins aren't functional yet, and at present there's no facility to view or create comments on pages, but hopefully it'll get sorted soon.

Please bear in mind that this blog's optimised for Firefox and a screen resolution of 1280x800 px, so if you're using a different browser or res, YMMV.

2007 model to get facelift

Posted by on March 7th 2008 in Site update

What, with all this e-petition stuff, the playing with the scope/kite/kids and the general duties of the house-bound parent, I've been neglecting the upkeep of this site. Sorry if I've offended anybody by not blogrolling them yet. I'll get the place tidied up next week, in time for a report from the Outdoors Show.

All change: Wavatars replace Gravatars.

Posted by on February 4th 2008 in Just for fun, Plugins, Site update

Another nice new plugin, Wavatars (by Shamus Young) shows a Gravatar-style face next to your name when you leave a comment. Of course, if you've set up a proper Gravatar, that will be displayed by default.

Wavatars can generate 956,384 different shapes in 57,600 different color combinations for a total of 55,087,718,400 (55 billion) unique Wavatars. Here are a few examples:



See them in action here.

Sorry but you don't get to choose, that's all sorted by the plugin.


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