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WordPress: switch between subfolder and subdomain for blogs

I set up a new wordpress/buddypress site and managed to select the option which creates new blogs as subdomains rather than subdirectories, which was what I wanted. Having done this some time ago I knew there was a simple way to switch between the two but a thorough search of forums etc suggested that a complete re-install was required, but this is not the case.

To switch the setting is very simple: edit the following line in wp-config:
define(‘VHOST’, ‘no’);
The above line is currently set to NOT use subdomains. Changing it to ‘yes’ switches the setting so that new blogs are created as a subdomain.

CATCH
There is one catch: this works fine if you haven’t already created any blogs, but will cause problems for any existing blogs.

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Which WordPress e-commerce plugin?

I’ve had a few customers come to me looking for a website to display their products. Their budgets did not really warrant a custom built e-commerce site so I took a look at whether a customised WordPress site might be able to offer them what they wanted within their budget.

My first attempt was with wp-e-commerce, which seems to be widely supported in the respect that there are a number of additional plugins to go with it and a lot of downloads of the plugin – but it did not work for me. It just all seemed pretty buggy and the final straw was that I could not for the life of me find a way of accessing the basket once I’d selected products to buy. I think it may have had something to do with the Theme I was using but either way, a quick and simple solution it wasn’t.

Next up was Zingiri which seemed more stable and I thought it might do the trick, but then I found that the upload product image button did nothing so I had no way of uploading images to go with the products. I tried looking at their demo site but the interface was different to the one I had in my installation so I couldn’t compare – again I gave up.

My last and final attempt was WpStoreCart which seems to do the job nicely. Nothing too fancy, a pretty easy setup process which allows you to select the currency etc and a checkout to Paypal all setup.  I setup a demo site for my prospective customers to take a look, it took me probably a couple of hours if you exclude the messing about with the other plugins initially.

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Sage, Journal entries and director loans

Despite having an accountant I decided that I wanted more visibility of my accounts and to that end I bought a copy of Sage version 16.

I’ve had a few moments where I’ve struggled but most of it is intuitive. The one area that I have found repeatedly difficult is how to use journal entries when accounting for movements in and out of my director loan nominal account – as the credit and debit columns do not necessarily work as I immediately thought they would.

The journal entries need to balance out, so a movement from one account is replicated with a counter movement to another account – double entry book keeping.

The following examples may help anyone else struggling with this:

LOAN REPAYMENT
If I am reducing my director loan account, so in effect a payment is being made from my business bank account into my personal bank account I enter the following information:

N/C Name Details T/C Debit Credit
2101 Director Loan Account loan repayment T9 140.00 0.00
1200 Bank Account loan repayment T9 0.00 140.00

The N/C values are those used by default in Sage, yours may differ. The T/C value should always be set to T9 as this is VAT exempt.

This will result in the Director Loan Account being reduced by 140 and a payment out of the business bank account for 140. The fact that it says 140 in the business bank account Credit column is confusing as it is the opposite of what happens.

INCREASE IN DIRECTOR LOAN
If I am increasing my director loan account, so in effect a payment is being made to my business bank account from my personal bank account I enter the following information:

N/C Name Details T/C Debit Credit
2101 Director Loan Account loan T9 0.00 140.00
1200 Bank Account loan T9 140.00 0.00

This will result in the Director Loan Account being increased by 140 and a payment into the business bank account for 140. Again, the 140 in the Debit column for the bank account is the opposite of what happens.

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common autoresponder mistakes

Setting up an autoresponder for your emails for when you are away is relatively well documented but there are some additional things you need to do to ensure it works as you plan, otherwise you can get caught out.

1. The autoresponder loop

If you setup an autoresponder to simply reply to any incoming email with a ‘I’m away email’ then you can get caught in a loop if the sender has setup a similar autoresponder. i.e. I received an email from ebay, to which my autoresponder replied to say I was away, to which ebay replied that ‘my message was important to them’ or somesuch, to which my autoresponder replied to say I was away to which … you get the idea. I had set up various filters etc to keep my emails to the minimum so I could pick them up remotely on my iphone, where I was paying according to the volume downloaded. This loop generated an email about every other minute until I was ironically rescued from drowning in auto emails by:

2. The automatic update

If you forget to switch it off, Windows will automatically check for updates and install them, if that means a restart then your emails are no longer checked and the autoresponder doesn’t kick in.

These two both caught me out but a third which I DID manage to do but which I don’t see often mentioned is to ensure that your computer is set not to sleep after a certain amount of time.

Solutions:
1. It is unfortunately difficult to make this 100% foolproof as not all autoresponders reply with a copy of your original email, so you can’t simply check for a word used in your original email to stop the process. My best effort would be to create a rule which sits above your autoresponder, which checks for :
– a word (such as ‘autoresponder’ or whatever you have used in your reply)
– certain give-away addresses, such as ‘donotreply@’, ‘blackhole@’ etc
– any domains which you happen to know of which has this kind of receipt notification set up

If any of the above are found stop the system from processing any more rules, so it never reaches your autorresponse rule.

2. stop the computer from updating

Go to : control panel > system and security > windows update > change settings.

Change important updates to: anything except install automatically.

Note that this does pose a minor security risk but you can’t have your cake and eat it, just remember to turn it back on when you return.

3. stop the computer from sleeping

Go to : control panel > hardware and sound > power options > edit plan settings.

Change put the computer to sleep: never

These settings in 2 and 3 are for Windows 7.

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business cards, who do you use?

If you look online there are loads of firms offering business cards very reasonably, but as I discovered some are better than others.

I used logiprint very successfully – I uploaded my own design and they contacted me before printing to get some adjustments as they thought what I had uploaded might not be perfect. On receipt the card quality was good, as were the colours used.

I subsequently tried 123print and have just thrown them in the bin. The paper quality was not as good, the colour was not good (the white background was off-white) and the cut was also not good. This latter may have been my fault in terms of the graphic I uploaded but logiprint had contacted me specifically to avoid this problem so clearly a better service.

Based on on my experience I would recommend Logiprint, I would recommend avoiding 123print.

has anyone else got good/bad recommendations?

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How do I restrict registration on WordPress MU / BBPress?

WordPress MU and BbPress combine to make a powerful social network, but this is prone to Spammers and Spam so controlling who can register and what they can do is important if you want to maintain any level of control over what content is displayed on your site.

The site I have been developing, ScienceAfrica, is a social network which is limited to the students and staff of a number of Universities. Despite the site not being advertised, optimised or officially launched in any way it has already attracted unwanted registrations.

Controlling this however is easier said than done – most of the plugins I tried seemed to have unwanted side effects or just didn’t work and I also found that it was necessary to consider WordPress MU and BBPress registrations as separate, despite the fact that a user of one is automatically able to login to the other.

My solution? I have decided the easiest thing to do – for this specific project – is to remove any online registration and make it on request only. This means we have to manually add members but gives total control.

I would however like to come up with a solution that gives the best of both worlds, i.e. a system that allows you to :

– limit online registrations to specific domains / blacklist certain domains

– have a process of authentication of users

If anyone has any ideas let me know.

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bb press security options

There are a bewlidering array of plugins that try and control security settings within bbPress. Which one(s) to use??

The plugins don’t appear to be categorised in any useful manner so I’ve trawled through and here’s my list:

Registration

  • Approve user registration – adds a manual check
  • Clickcha – adds a visual puzzle to forms to prevent ‘bot submissions. Works on registration and forum posts
  • Human Test for BB Press – displays 2 random numbers, add them to complete registration.
  • New User Notification – sends email notification, could be used in conjunction with ‘Approve user registration’.
  • bb-NoSpamUser – blocks registrations based on a centrally controlled database of IP addresses, emails and username.
  • Project Honey Pot – not entirely clear, but appears to block according to centrally controlled criteria.
  • reCAPTCHA for Bb Press – uses the reCAPTCHA project from Google to display fuzzy text which needs to be entered when registering. Needs a free account with Google reCAPTCHA.

Forum use

  • Force login – requires users to login in order to see any forum posts
  • Forum restriction -restrict access to forums to certain individuals and hide them and their topics from all others.
  • reCAPTCH Bb Press as above, adds it to forum posts
  • Private forums – set viewing access to forums

Administration

  • bb Press Moderation suite – contains a number of tools
  • Mass Edit – allows moderators to bulk edit posts/comments
  • bb moderation hold – holds posts for moderation.
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Chris Cardell Snail Mail Spam

I received an interesting envelope in the mail yesterday, with a newspaper cutting and a handwritten post it note headed ‘Douglas’ and signed curiously ‘J’.

Reading the cutting I very quickly became suspicious – it is written in the ‘advertorial’ style, i.e. blatently advertising a particular product but written in a sycophantic editorial fashion. The idea behind this is that people trust an editorial article, in which a person has put their name and reputation behind recommending something more than advertising which has just been paid for by the company in question.

[edited]*

Looking at the piece more closely there was no by-line and nothing to identify which publication the cutting had come from. The paper had been ‘cut’ in a strange way that almost looked perforated. This along with the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me think who ‘J’ might be led me to look more closely at the post-it note and envelope. Both carried very distinctive handwriting but something did not look right – there was no indentation on the paper, and the lettering was so exact that I could only conclude it was printed.

After doing the legwork I decided to check out Google and came across this post which confirmed my suspicions – thanks to SEO Creative for putting it online.

Here’s my pretty much identical version*. Before finding the SEO Creative post I actually found a number of people saying that Chris cardell’s material was OK(ish) and some had found it useful. Doing this kind of marketing is (in my opinion) stupid – which is clearly (in my opinon) what they think we are.

* following the receipt of a cease and desist letter from Chris Cardell’s lawyers I have now removed my copy of the marketing, as well as a sentance included within the content of my blog post. The removal of the sentance does not imply acceptance that it was in any way false or incorrect but has been removed pending further investigation.

It was not my intention to infringe on his copyright and I have therefore removed the image.

The envelope and post-it note were addressed specifically to me, are therefore mine on receipt and will remain on the site.

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Using BuddyPress groups with bbPress

See my installation notes on setting the whole WordPress/BuddyPress/bbPress installation up.

1. install wordpress MU, BuddyPress and bbPress

Although that gets the basic setup going if you want to use display the forums as part of a Group you still need to do one or two other things to integrate these two together:

2. go to example.com/wp-admin
3. click on forums setup, click to use existing bbpress installation
4. enter URL (may be autopopulated, check it has correct folder, I had to append /forums/)

using forums with groups
1. click to add a new group, enter name and description
2. ensure ‘enable discussion forum’ is checked
3. follow the instructions

Notes on privacy:
Something that I had not appreciated initially, is that while a group may be private or or even hidden so that posts to the group cannot be seen by anyone not a member of that group, forum posts are displayed in both the group forum AND the public forum. Group members need to be aware that forum posts are NOT private regardless of the settings of the group itself.

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Installation of WordPress MU 2.9.2, BuddyPress 1.2.3 and bbPress 1.0

I made these notes as I went along, if you take a step out of turn as I did on more than one occasion you will probably have to start from scratch with your installation. The installation of these three provides you with a good platform for a social network. I used this to setup www.scienceafrica.info, which at the time of writing is still in Beta.

I’ve used www.example.com as my example, substitute this for your own domain.

Setting up WordPress MU
1. Setup the database
2. download http://mu.wordpress.org/download/
3. unzip and upload the contents of wordpress-mu to the root of the webserver
4. go to www.example.com
5. follow the instructions to setup WordPress up with access to the database. Exclude ‘www.’ from the server address.
5.a. NB for this to work make sure that you have http://example.com (as opposed to http://www.example.com) registered as a A record for your domain, otherwise it will not work
6. login to test it is all working OK using the supplied username and login. make a note of these for future ref.

Setting up Buddypress 1.2.3
MANUAL  INSTALL РI recommend the automatic install
1. download http://buddypress.org/download/
2. unzip and upload to /wp-content/plugins/folder NOT mu-plugins folder

AUTOMATIC INSTALL
1. login to wordpress
2. go to plugins -> add new
3. search for and install buddypress
4. activate a buddypress compatible theme -> follow on screen instructions

Setting up bbpress
1. download http://bbpress.org/download/
2. create the directory where you want the forums, i.e. root/forums will mean users access them via www.example.com/forums
3. unzip and upload contents of bbpress to /forums directory
4. go to www.example.com/forums/
5. enter the database configuration info requested:
— for ease of use suggest using same database as WordPress
6. check the tick box to add integration settings for WordPress then cookie settings
— enter the wordpress and blog address as http://example.com
— all of the cookie and salt info is found in wp-config.php. Click on the ? to get the exact description of which value to enter.
7. check to add user integration

Integrating WordPress with bbPress
1. login to bbpress – if already logged in after installation, logout, then login again.
2. go to settings_wordpress integration
3. Enter user mapping andn save, suggest:
admin->key master
editor->moderator
everone else->member
4. check that the cookie & salt values entered are correct as entered previously
5. got to www.example.com/wp-admin/
6. go to Plugins->add new->bbpress integration->install->activate
7.go to settings->bbpress integration
8. enter the info requested and save:
–bbpress URL : http://example.com/forums/
–leave the plugins field
— wordpress type -> MU
9. scroll down to the bottom and the manual cookie settings should be populated with code:
define( ‘COOKIEHASH’, ‘xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx’ );
define( ‘COOKIE_DOMAIN’, ‘.example.com’ );
define( ‘SITECOOKIEPATH’, ‘/’ );
define( ‘COOKIEPATH’, ‘/’ );
Copy and paste this code into wp-config.php

You should be done! Do all of the above before attempting to use the installation.

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