IP Geolocation and why it may be important

I frequently use something called IP Geolocation to find out where a user is located for forms, enquiries, or any log evidence of someone doing something to try to establish if they are who they say they are.

It does not work 100% but I would say it works in 99% of cases. The router or gateway you use that your network/ computer is plugged into has an address allocated to it by your service provider (BT, Talk Talk, NTL, etc). For most of us the IP address changes from time to time and is referred to as dynamic. They do this to make sure it is hard to run your own web server from home. If and when you reset your router, when it comes back online it will likely have a new IP address. You can find out what your IP address is by clicking on this link. Continue reading IP Geolocation and why it may be important

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Handling Spreadsheets in a website

(Introducing TablePress)

I am sure most of you are familiar with tables of data in WordPress sites and how to create one and populate it. I have recently been developing a Community Transport website which is nearing completion.  I have done one before, but this was some time ago.

One of the issues with publishing timetables is that the it can be done by simply publishing an image of the timetable. In most cases a JPG or PNG would do the job. It looks ok to people visiting the site, and if we also make a PDF version available as well so someone can download and print a high resolution version, it ticks all of the boxes.  Well not quite.

A computer cannot read an image

I frequently see people placing images on websites with text in them. That is fine for humans, but let’s remember that locally the website has a search function, and of course the whole internet works on search functions as well via Google, Bing and many others. But while a human can see what is in a picture, a computer cannot. You can only rely on what is in the Alt Text field for the image as a matching search string.

An image of a timetable is the same. So how do we get around this? One of the search considerations I made when approaching this new site was the ability for the public to search for their bus stop, or village. If you can search the site for your village, this will return when buses come through provided the time table is in text form.

Workflow

This is probably outside of the remit of a website developer, but one of the things I thought about was workflow from a maintenance perspective. Websites like plants die with no love and attention. So maintenance has to be really easy.

In this case the organisation had all of their timetables in Excel. I took the master sheet and generated PDF’s of each timetable. I then created additional sheets with just the timetable values in and exported each as a CSV (comma separated value) file. This is a very basic array of data that is commonly used in porting information from one system to another. The facility is built into Excel if you wish to use it.

Next I go into the website and load a plugin called TablePress. This allows me to import the CSV file and convert it back to a table. Once this is done, I can then add the table to a page. All remarkably easy and painless to do.

So if you want to add anything that is in a Excel spreadsheet into a WordPress website, take a look at TablePress. It is one of the best implementations I have come across, and in this case it takes out a lot of manual editing.

Catering for all

My final solution (provided I am not asked to change it) was to have a downloadable PDF timetable appropriately formatted. A text version of the same table, and a google map with the routes on.

For a short time you can see the website here, it should be published shortly.

http://wingrove-staging.uk/flittabus/

 

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Even I get caught out sometimes

Just to show I share the same human traits as everyone else, even though I am fairly IT literate,  I thought I would share the following with you because it demonstrates that being cautious is often not enough.

IOS 11.0.3

My iPhone had been nagging me for some time about upgrading. I usually keep things up to date, and finally had some time and decided to go ahead with the update.  I have a MAC and backed up the iPhone into iTunes before proceeding, because I have been caught out before!

I have the usual range of weird stuff on my iPhone that gets played around with once or twice and then forgotten. But there are a handful of Apps I use all of the time, one of which is a password manager called FireBox.

I have had this for around eight years and it has always served me well. It was pretty basic, simple to use and not particularly glossy or elaborate. I keep or should say now; kept…. most of my critical passwords in there. For some years now I have not used the same password in multiple places unless it is for a simple login which represents no security threat if compromised.

I carried out the upgrade, and was presented with a message that some of the apps needed upgrading and to check in the Apps store, or contact the author. Wow, contact the author, that seemed like an odd request. Well it said contact the author, because the app was no longer supported by the new operating system.

There were only around 4 not supported, but one of them was FireBox. At this point panic starts to set in, but I did carry out a backup before I started, so I am covered…..

I start to research how to roll back the operating system. I find a way of doing it, download the old iOS, and before starting plugged my iPhone back into the computer. Here is where my problems started. On plugging my iPhone back into my computer, it backed it up again, and overwrote my previous backup. Only it is a different operating system now, and we have already established that FireBox is unsupported.

Bottom line, by the time I got the old operating system back on the iPhone I had nothing to restore other than a much older backup.

And the lesson of this sad tale

Don’t assume anything. I should have manually backed it up and stored the backup somewhere else.  The whole process cost me 2.5 days so far going around and restoring passwords from various places. My family tell me I worry too much about things, well this is one example where paying a little more attention would have been hugely beneficial.

 

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Using the Read More icon in the editor

This is particularly important if you are adding POSTS to your website and they are quite long. The icon highlighted in the image above is the Insert Read More tag.

You use it so that when your post is displayed on your news page, you only see the top part of it. When the “Read More tag” is detected the post stops being displayed any further and read more… appears as a link.

Clicking on the link causes the Post to open full screen in it’s entirety.

Why is that a good idea?

Continue reading Using the Read More icon in the editor

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MailPoet 3

I flagged up that MailPoet 2 was being superseded by MailPoet 3 and it was a complete rewrite. There seems to be something going on with MailPoet 2 that is causing problems on some sites generating lots of requests to a housekeeping function called CRON which is a background process running on the server. I have looked at several sites and they were all the same. Mailpoet creates too many requests for attention, which causes the server to no longer respond to requests.

It appears that some time during one of the later releases of MailPoet 2 this problem has been created, perhaps it is something to do with advising people version 3 is available.  The symptoms are that some housekeeping functions will fail to run, notably the backup, but there are no doubt other things as well.

Am I affected?

Continue reading MailPoet 3

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Fast Secure Contact Form

Some of the websites I have built use a plugin called Fast Secure Contact Form. It was a very popular form handler highly regarded by users written by Mike Challis.  The plugin was sold to a third party in June of this year and the new owner attempted to manipulate the code in the plugin to set up adverts.

Please check ASAP whether the version that is currently in use on your website is version 4.0.56. You can do that by logging in, and going to the Plugins page and look down the list. You will see an entry similar to the one below which includes the version number.

If you have version 4.0.56 you are OK! Don’t panic. 

If your site is at an earlier version contact me immediately and I will sort out updating it. 

(update: 6:00am 27/9/17 Nobody has reported a problem so far, all sites have upgraded automatically. That was to be expected. If you cannot find Fast Secure Contact form another method is used for forms on your website. Probably Form Manager. You are not affected by this notice.)

Why is this important?

Continue reading Fast Secure Contact Form

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Is my internet slow?

Or…   the Onion of Discontent

There are many reasons why an internet connection may be slow, some of them will be directly under your control, and others will be under the control of the equipment manufacturers of the devices used that the communications pass through. The extent of which is from the device you are using to the server at the far end of the connection. Various services providers share the responsibility of carrying the traffic. It is a complex picture to reconcile.

Where is the problem?

When trying to establish where a problem exists the first person you call is your service provider (BT, Talk Talk, Virgin etc). They will follow a fixed trouble shooting process which will try to prove that the problem is something you are doing, or have done or is within that part of the network you control. They adopt this approach because if nothing is listed as a fault in your area, then statistically it is most likely to be something at your end.

That will include your router/ hub, your phone wiring, the building materials used in your house, the location of WiFi access points, the list is large. They will not be as direct as that, however those are the implications. Continue reading Is my internet slow?

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Phishing Page

What is it?

We have all read about phishing trojans, but many of you probably do not know what they are or how they work. I came across one over the weekend while backing up a client’s website. My anti virus system prevented me from downloading the backup to my computer and warned me that one was present. As I was concerned about the security of this particular website I took it apart to find out where it was, and what it was doing.

Phishing

Phishing refers to a form of identity theft, it is where credentials like a user name and password are compromised, often without your knowledge. Other than reading about them, I had not come across one before. This one relates to stealing the credentials to access someones email address and email password.

I turned off my anti-virus (not recommended if you do not know the risks) and downloaded the zipped folder containing the files into a special area on my computer and then inspected the files. Two files contained code, one was a web page. Only one of the files was being flagged as the one containing the Phishing Trojan, the file contents were very simple, they packaged up the information and sent out an email to two recipients.  Continue reading Phishing Page

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Two Scams to be aware of…..

I have come across two scams this week targeting small regional charities, one about domain registration, I came across several years ago, but it looks like it is still going on. The first is encouraging you to call a premium rate number.

Scam #1  Contact me message

You all have forms on your websites, and you usually get legitimate enquiries on these forms. Do however check the contents in a message and if the only way you can contact someone is via a premium rate number then don’t bother calling. If the content is virtually non existent like this one below, it is encouraging you to call a premium rate number. In this particular case I checked the number through a web search. This individual is sending messages to websites through contact forms.  So if 10 people call back then that is £1+ they have made depending on how long they keep you on the phone, you would not know what their premium rate is prior to calling.

If you are not sure, type in the following into a Google Search form:  who called me 08712771062  (Obviously substitute the number you wish to check. In this particular case it took me to this page: http://who-called.co.uk/Number/08712771062 if you read the reported cases there, you can see the depth of the scam and other people’s comments.

Normally anyone contacting your organisation will provide more information in the form for you to process and not leave a short message like this.

Scam #2  About your domain name

In many cases I am looking after your domain names, so if you get anything like this send it to me, it is a bit more subtle than the previous one. In general domain names are registered to organisations and that registered information can be located on the internet. So a determined third party can find it and then contact you. This is how the domain scam works: Continue reading Two Scams to be aware of…..

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Divi Template Update Bug

8th Sept 2017

Important information about a bug

A new release of the Divi template occurred overnight. The chances are that sites which are based on this template will not automatically update immediately. If you have updated your site you may find that it behaves differently. The images have disappeared. This is what happened to me this morning. (8/9/17).

Divi have released some powerful animations with images, and this modification is affecting an upgraded website. The images are still in the site, but one of the settings is to make an image transparent which was not there before. So now images default to transparent. The solution is to delete your web browser cache. I am hoping that this is a problem local to me because I was on the site prior to upgrading it, and still had the site in my local cache after the upgrade. Removing the history did restore it and now it behaves normally.

If the developers had left set the new default transparency setting to visible, then this problem would not have occurred. No idea why they did it that way. I have reported it to the developers.

If you receive any reports about Divi losing images, then suspect this first, check it yourself and delete your web browser cache history. If the problem remains please get in contact with me.

I have confirmed if you see this problem, it is local to your computer, your users will not see it.

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