Weblogs & Blogs

There was something that I planned already for a long time to do, move the weblog from http to HTTPS/SSL.

HyperText Transfer Protocol, that is where HTTP stand for and it is the protocol that is used by a browser (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer/Edge) to communicate with a web server. So basically this makes it possible to see the websites on your computer or any other device alike (lets not get too technically).
Already for some time there has been an adaptation of the HTTP protocol to make it more secure: HTTPS, which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocal Secure (well, that you didn’t see coming, right? *SMILE* ).
So what makes HTTPS more secure as HTTP? Well, the communication between the browser and the web server is now encrypted. The encryption of the communication between a browser and a web server protects against eavesdropping and tampering of the communication that is happening. There is a lot of technical information and discussions on HTTPS, but I think we should not go here into that here the weblog.

http https

So the whole idea behind this all was to make the weblog more safe for the people who read and write here.

I was afraid that this all would be a huge job. After all, every internal link must be changed from “http: //www.dimrost.nl” to “https://www.dimrost.nl”. This includes every link to a photo or picture stored on the same server as the weblog, every link to a page or post. We are talking about 18080 fields over 50 database tables that needed to be updated.

I reserved quite some time to do this all.

Some days ago I requested a SSL certificate and installed it. Yesterday I started with the real work with the idea to finish it off today.
I changed to configuration of WordPress so it would used the https-address, I forced that WordPress would use https by default and that it would handled redirects correctly.

I started to create SQL update queries to update all the http-addresses to https, when I read on the website Webtalis about a WordPress plugin to do this all for me. And it worked wonderful.

Yesterday evening within 30 minutes I migrated our weblog from http to https. I should have done this already ages ago!

https safe

I have checked many post/pages manually, but all pages show the green lock as in the picture above, which means the pages is secure and communication to the web server is encrypted. I also ran some automated test tools and those also showed all is fine.

https unsafe

In case the post/page is not secure, a yellow warning sign will be shown, as can be seen in the picture right above here (I changed for the example picture a https-link back to http… which I should not forget to set back to https again *grin*).
If you ever see such a yellow warning sign here on our weblog, please let me know. Then there is something wrong on that page which should be changed. Please mail the address of the post or page to me (you can use the “Contact us” link at top of the page).

Gives a good feeling that it all went so good and fast :-).

Edit: It turned out there was a problem afterwards, it was not possible to write comments to articles anymore (thank you for spotting it so fast Marissa). It turned out a plug in was causing the problem. It was not a very important plug in (it was displaying the “recent posts”-overview in a nicer way), so I deactivated and removed it.
But also it turned out that the GEO plug in was not working anymore. Not critical, just not nice. I am looking into it.

Rob

 

(Source http vs https diagram: Wikipedia)


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As regular visitors of our weblog will know, there is an overview of restaurants of which consider they are good to exceptional (you can find that overview of Cafe’s and Dinners here.

As Marion and Rob go often out for dinner during their weekends together, I guess you can say it so kind of hobby of them, the list of restaurants grew quite some over time.
Especially around Haaksbergen (where Marion lives and Rob grew up) and Heemskerk (where Rob currently lives) there are a lot of restaurants they visit. Mind you, only restaurants they consider good or better will make it to the list.

Somewhere last year Rob opened up his weblog for his close friends and with that he opened also this list.
This leaded to more entries around Haaksbergen and Heemskerk. But our dear friend Mel also started to add entries and as she lives in Greece (Lesvos to be precise) that area also started to show good restaurants.

But there is even more to it. Marion travels very often through Europe for her work. She does not always like to eat at the hotels she is staying and eats at restaurants that were recommended to her. Some time ago, she started to add restaurants she enjoyed to the list, giving it a more European coverage. Patricia, who works as a flight attendant for a big international working airline company, followed up the idea of Marion. This made the list really international.

So some time ago Rob and I were pondering if we could not do something more with all this list of good restaurants. Quickly the idea was there to put them on a map. We both liked that idea.
But this map should be dynamic and easy to maintain. After some time we found exactly what we were looking for…

Map Restaurants

The map above is not the dynamic map, just a picture and nothing more. For the dynamic map you have to go to the actual list of Cafés and Dinners.

Restaurant map

At the top of the map there is an option to search the map. You can enter there an address, city/town or country. You can also change the way the result of the search will be displayed (map, satellite, hybrid or terrain). Next, you can select which map you want to see. Actually, we are trying to remove this because there will be only one map.
And you select from a dropdown-list the restaurants from the list. The list is sorted on the name of the restaurants.

Restaurant map

While holding the left mouse-button it is possible to move the map around, basically in all directions as long you hold the mouse-button.Of course it is also possible to zoom in and out. This can be done by holding the CTRL-key and using the scroll-wheel of the mouse. Also, there are on the right bottom of the map two buttons that can be used for zooming in and out.
Zooming in can be done to street level and where available Google Streetview can be used.

Restaurant map

When clicking on the pin that locates a restaurant, a window with more information will pop up, such as the address.
When known, it will show who of our group has been there and when. In the beginning the kind of information was not placed in the list, so there may be restaurant without this information.

Sometimes a small message may be added as the “back, because we loved it the last time” in the screenshot above.

The “More information’ link in the window will open the website of the restaurant (in a new browser window).

We are thinking about doing more with this window, but there are so many options and possibilities that we will leave it for now like this.

Not all restaurants on the list are already on the map. It is quite some work to do.
Amsterdam, to mention one, still has to be done. Rob lived for more as a year in Amsterdam without the possibility to cook. So in that time he often visited restaurants in that time. But of course, in the Amsterdam will also be added to the map.

One thing we noticed while checking all the websites on the list: Many restaurants are closed. Now I can imagine the world of restaurants is very dynamic and that it changes fast, still it is sad to see…

Anyway, enjoy the new map :-)


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10 Years “dimrost.nl”

by Rob on

10 years

It almost slipped by without noticing it. By coincidence, I just saw it today: Our weblog on “dimrost.nl” was in October 10 years old! On 26 October 2007 the first article on this weblog was posted. And now we are more as 10 years further.

I remember well how at first the weblog was titled “Life is there to live again”. But at a certain moment I made the conclusion that I am living my life fully again, so the title was outdated. With some other titles in between, we ended up with “The Fellowship of Friends”. The name was based on the idea that during our holiday with our friends on Lesvos and we were walking along mountain slopes towards that high mountain and someone remarked that we were as the Fellowship of the Ring. And after I opened my weblog for my friends to write here, that was the perfect name for our weblog.

Looking back over some of the articles I wrote over those 10 years, it feels like a diary without really private stuff. But very good to bring many memories from over the years.

Oh, fun fact: The 3 most used keywords that leaded to our weblog?

  1. Kruidenbitter (herbal bitter)
  2. Sexmuseum (in Amsterdam)
  3. Lucifera (a soft erotic comic from seventies)

Why am I not surprised? Oh yes, most searches came from the countries where they “should” not come from *WINK*

I have many plans for our weblog. First thing planned is bringing the weblog to SSL, which will make it all more secure. But there are more (fun) things coming.

Well, up to the next 10 years! And special thanks to Marissa, Richard, Miranda, Jennifer, Sanne, Patricia and Marion, who all made this weblog even so much better, specially the last year. Thank you all!

Rob
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RSSYesterday Marissa asked me if there was not an easy way to see if something new happened on the weblog or the forums. I was happy that I was able to say that there is indeed something for that: RSS, which stands for “Really Simple Syndication”.

Let me explain what RSS is. With RSS you can register to a news feed and track the changes. That sounds cool, but doesn’t really explain anything.
A news feed can be any online source with changing information, such as a weblog, forum or vblog. Oh wait, we have a here a weblog and some forums. So that is a good start.
So with RSS we will be able to see what has changed here on our weblog and forums.

So how this all works. Well, it is not that difficult.
First, lets have a look with what application we are going the results of the RSS stream. There are special applications, as “Feed Reader” the view the RSS content.
Nowadays every self respecting mail client supports RSS.
But every modern browser also supports RSS, directly or through a plugin. I prefer this way as a browser is often already active.

You can see if a site supports RSS by the symbol at the top of this article or by a text referring to it, as on our weblog (see the picture below).

RSS

Activating an RSS feed is simple. Click the RSS symbol or the link provided with the referring text, select where the RSS feed should be stored, confirm your selection and you’re done.

RSS

An RSS will not only show the latest content, but it will also show if you have read already.
But here is a little catch: The article will only show as read when the article has been opened, reading while browsing the articles will not let RSS mark the article as read.

Both the weblog and our new forums support RSS.
The weblog supports 2 RSS feeds: One for articles and an second for comments on articles.
Our forums also has two RSS feeds, one for the public forums and another for the private ones.
Maybe needless to see, you can see the content through the RSS feed. So the private articles and forums can only be accessed when to proper rights are given and when logged into them.

RSS

I hope this helps and when there are questions, please let me know! And oh… there are many site out there that support RSS. Use it, it is very handy (at least I think so).

Rob
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A forum…

by Rob on

On request of the authors here on my weblog I will be adding a forum. They would like to have a place where they can discus things and make fun without bothering anyone. A forum can be a perfect place for that.

As I listen to the authors here on my weblog :-)

I suggest two make a forum with two area’s. One public area where anyone who wants to participate in the ongoing threads can do so (with a good Captcha, or anything alike, to block any spam). And the second area should be completely private with only access for the authors, so they (we) can discus subjects that are more private, for whatever reason this may be.

There are two options to do this.
There are WordPress plugins to have an forum. Big advantage of this is that everything is integrated into WordPress. So no messing around with the users and security. Everything adjusted to the layout of the used theme.
On the other side I could install a full forum-package aside of WordPress. This will most likely lead to many more features and control on everything.

Let me ponder on that a bit and try some things.

To the authors here on my weblog: Thank you for being such nice people *SMILE*

Rob
 


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Problem with the slideshow

by Rob on

Out of order

I just discovered that the slide show with photo’s on top with widget-menu is not working any more. No idea what the problem is yet. If I cannot fix it fast I will be looking for another plugin. I was not very happy with configuration of the current one (way too complex to add new photo’s).

I will keep you posted.
Rob

 

 

(Credit photo: Public Domain, please read Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license)


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Visitors to this weblog

by Rob on

Just for the fun of it. Below a map with the locations of the last 200 visitors to this weblog. It is interesting to see the origin of the visitors.
If someone visited the weblog more than once, there will only be one marker on the map.
Also be aware a marker on the map may be a little off the real location.

200 Last visitors

It is also interesting to see from which area’s there are no or just a few visitors. For some area’s there is a logical and obvious explanation, but others make me wonder. Well, I leave it to everyone themselves to have an opinion on that.

Rob

(Source map: Detail Google Maps)


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Offline

by Rob on

Out od order
As some may have noticed, my weblog has been for the last two days offline. Well, maybe offline is not completely correct. The site was running, but not in a proper way. Visitors only saw blanc pages.

So what happened? For a certain update I wanted (and needed) to do on the weblog a newer version of PHP was required. PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is the scripting/programming language that was used to create Word Press. And Word Press is the software package that I use for my weblog.
So I contacted the company that hosts my weblog what the best way would be to do this. They suggested to move the complete weblog to a new server in their data-center with the newest version of PHP and other software (as MySQL) installed. That sounded as a good plan.

My provider moved the site and mailed me that all the was done, but that it could take some hours for the site to be reachable again.

But sadly the site didn’t come available again. Well, it showed only blanc pages. It was Marissa who noticed it the first and sent a mail to me.

It turned out the a rather old plugin was not compatible with PHP v7.* and that caused any page to show as a blanc page.
Luckily this plugin that caused the problem was not an important plugin and could easily replaced by one that almost did the same.

The trick I used to solve it was renaming the plugin-directories (“askimet” to “askimet.old” as example. Renaming the directories will deactivated the plugins automatically. By renaming the directories one by one to the original name and reload the website in a browser will show fast which plugin caused the problem.

Anyway, all is working as normal again and now the weblog is running with PHP version 7.1.2 and MySQL version 5.7.17. And that was the goal I was after.

And oh, the new server that is running the website is really faster :-)

Rob
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A Fellowship of Friends

by Rob on

Fellowship, Life is better with friends
It seems that everyone agrees and “A Fellowship of Friends” will be the new name of the blog. Kudos to Mel and Marissa. Well done!

A nice step forward in the new structure of this weblog with multiple authors.

The “About Us”-page of The Fellowship of Friends.

With this please the request to the authors to complete their part on the “About us”-page. People visiting our weblog should have an idea who we are. And please keep maintaining the information on the “About us”-page. Often after such information is written down, people tend to forget about it. Lets not do that :-).

Search Engine Optimization

The coming time I will also focus on SEO… Search Engine Optimization. I have been reading into that lately and there is a lot more that then I thought. It not only about meta-data and such, but also about how the weblog (in our case) is set up and is used. Very surprising, but also very interesting.

For those interested: Last night I made the first change.
By default WordPress links to its post by post number. Every post has a unique number and be directly referenced by that number (like “https://www.dimrost.nl/WordPress/?p=123”). That is very nice, but those numbers mean nothing to us humans.
Now we can configure WordPress that it will work with more meaningful links like “https://www.dimrost.nl/WordPress/health/running-through-the-moor/”. So this post belongs to the category “health” and the name of the post is “Running through the moor”. This is something we can understand.
But there is more to it: Search engines like Google can also read these links with the category and the name of the post. And that will make the site shows up in more the search results of people.

I had so my concerns to do, because this links (or perma links as they are officially called) are the very base of the weblog. Luckily it all went very smoothly (and of course I made first a backup for doing it).

This was step one, there is more to come…

Rob
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Weblog 666 :-)

by Rob on

This morning I noticed by coincidence that there were exactly 666 articles posted on my web-log. And that is a reason enough for a new article!

Since 2007 666 articles and 1295 comments. Not bad at all, I would say. Specially when you consider that there have been times of low activity here on my web-log. There even have been times that I was thinking about to shut it down. Now, when I look what is going on here on my weblog, I am very happy I never did this.

23995 Spam comments captured by Akismet and my spam queue is empty. That is good news.
An old article was targeted by a spam attack from China. Akismet handled basically everything very good and stopped any spam message of becoming visible. But the spam queue filled up with all the messages.
When I noticed this the solution was simple. It was an old message, so no problem to have it moved to “no comments allowed”. That stopped the spam attack, as it was not possible to add new comments any more (spam attacks are mostly automated processes and even more likely no one ever noticed that it was not possible more to add new comments to that article.
The 23995 messages in the spam queue was something else. Removing them one by one was no solution. So I wrote a “delete SQL-query” and removed those directly from the database table (after making a backup of the database table of course :-P).

The changes I made recently to the weblog are good. I love how enthusiastic “the group” reacts. I have seen some very interesting and fun articles. I really really like it.

I still have to solve the issue with number of comments per article. Doing it manually is temporary an solution, but there needs to be a permanent fix.

And as last: Now we write here as a group, I want a new name for the weblog. The current one was fitting when I wrote here alone, but now it is not any more. Any suggestions?

Oh yes… and of course 666 is the number of the beast. Wanna have some fun? Google religious explanations about 666. Never read so much unscientific and vague stories…

 

 

(Credit WordPress screen shot: Rob)


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