Upgrade WordPress … the journey begins

Upgrading your site is a daunting undertaking, fraught with many unexpected twists and turns. Reading forum posts on “how easy” and ‘straightforward” it is to update you site’s back-end to the latest version might be “simple” for website developers and webmasters who eat programming code for breakfast, but if you are just a mere blogger, this is no small task.

I’m ready to upgrade the WordPress version that is currently installed to the latest one (3.2.1). The main idea with this post is to document this undertaking and share “lessons learnt”. The main concern is to upgrade the back-end and have your site restored to its “former glory” – with posts, comments and other files all put- back-together-again. Considering what happened to poor Humpty-Dumpty, I’m thus attempting the “impossible”.

Why upgrade?

Since upgrading is so daunting, why upgrade at all? If your site works and you are comfortable with using the various tools to keep it running smoothly, why risk “breaking” it? There are two main reasons, in my book, why upgrading has become inevitable – new technological improvements and security.

Technological improvements such as mobile device used to access websites, the use of multimedia objects (e.g. videos) in your posts and the move towards an HTML 5 compliant web publishing system have made the move necessary. This version of WordPress, for example, is not “mobile aware” – the system does not detect and serve up a mobile version of the site when so accessed.

Security is the other main concern. Programming code, despite best efforts, is not perfect. There are those on the web who trawl through code, looking for loopholes to exploit and “hijack” your site. Fortunately, the team behind WordPress usually takes care not to release coding that’s easy to break into and are quick on the draw when such vulnerabilities are brought to their attention. From what I’ve been following in the forum posts, the current version is better at managing security issues than the older ones.

So, it’s time to take the plunge. I’ll keep you posted.

RICA or Die ….

Dogged Persistence
Dogged Persistence

South Africans are facing wind, rain and  the cold to queue and register their cell phone numbers  before the cut-off date of June 30, 2011. Having been extended twice, the Department of Communications is adamant that it won’t extend the deadline – despite industry analysts warning that close to half a million users in the country will see a “service unavailable” message on their phones after 23:59, June 30.

South African citizens are mandated by the “RICA” Act (Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act) to ensure that their SIM cards (cell numbers) are duly registered  – that they have provided positive identification (Identity Document) and proof of address (Municipal / Property Account).

Here’s the logic …

Various statements from the South African government punt this line (or something close to it): “Cell phones are used by criminals in the perpretation (!) of criminal activities. Therefore, the RICA Act sets out to ensure that each cell phone number is registered to a user that can be identified and located.” The RICA Act also places the burden squarely on the shoulders of Mobile Operators (Cell C, Virgin Mobile, MTN, Vodacom) to register their users on a national database.

At first, Mobile Operators baulked at this idea as being “expensive” and “impractical” but the state insisted: “You gave them these numbers, you must tell us which number belongs to whom.” On top of this, the Act required that Mobile Operators keep logs of ALL calls made and received via their networks. More administration, more cost, the operators barked.

Concerns

Apart from the Mobile Operators protesting the cost and burden of administration and infrastructure, concerns have been raised by privacy groups about the potential abuse of the system – despite “safeguards” stipulated in the RICA Act. State agencies such as the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African National Intelligence Agency (NIA) are to approach a judge and present their case to support a request to access the information, the Act stipulates.

Yes, that’s all good and well, privacy right groups argued, but “How secure is the information on the side of business and/or government?”, it was asked. “Access to this (people’s private information) is against the law, and is covered by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2002“, responded the state.

Comment(s):

I am not convinced that due to a small number of the population being involved in criminal activities, the whole country’s citizens should be “tagged” to a SIM Card (cell number). Being tracked in societies through your Identity Document (ID) Number and various other numbers such as your bank account number is already more than enough “information” with which to find “criminals”. Registering your SIM number is just another means for authorities to track citizens. By no means do I wish to underestimate or applaud the genius of (un)organised crime but since folklore has it that criminals are always two steps ahead of the law, a solution has already been found.

In the electronic age, it has become far too easy to access the information of large groups of people due to the negligence (or corruption?) of those responsible for protecting it. Just glance at some of the articles on http://epic.org/ as “food for thought”. The more information is gathered in one place, the denser the cloud of “data buzzards” circling it.

Faster internet dial-up ..?

“Dial-up subscribers can now surf the web up to 3x faster with the XYZ Accelerator” shouts an advertisement in one of Cape Town’s daily newspapers, dated February 16, 2007. The ad then went on to explain that for an extra fee a month (apart from you normal dial-up subscription) you can activate this additional speed for your e-mails and other downloads. Although the ad does not specify I assume it’s not a reference to ISDN, but your normal run-of-the-mill “last mile” to your PC – a plain old copper wire connection.

Now, it’ s not the first time a claim about accelerating your dial-up connection has been bandied about to dial-up subscribers. What ‘magic’ some configuration settings are supposed to work, is debatable. I’m one of those few (a dying breed, no doubt) who still have a dial-up connection and I fail to see how anyone can “speed up” my internet service. I’ve got the fastest (latest) dial-up modem in the universe and, being technically-minded, have thrown the book (literally) at improving the speed at which I am able to surf.

Just Google “dial-up internet connection” and you’ll end up with enough information to squeeze the last bit (byte?) out of your connection. Some of the information is quite technical but for those who do not want to fiddle with all sorts of settings, downloading software that will do this “trickery” is your best (and safest) bet.

Be careful though, there’s software out there that will hijack your internet connection. Ask someone who knows a bit more about the subject to help you out. Do it once and your connection will be optimised. It will save you those extra few rands for the rest of your digital life.

Want to go faster?

If you are determined to speed up your internet connection, then you should consider setting your dial-up out to pasture – to disconnect as it were. If you only use your internet connection to download e-mails, you are using the right option. Except when one of your well-meaning relatives from the UK or elsewhere send you the 50 pictures
they took of the birth of your first grandchild. It could take a while to download…..
However if you’ve had enough of this slow connection nonsense and want to go faster, and further, and higher (er..sorry got carried away a bit), the choices in South Africa will cost you a bundle – even the cheapest offers are not so cheap, if you look at what it gets you…

Yes, but How?

Apart from the “tweaking” of your dial-up modem which will hardly give you a noticeable boost to your internet speed, there are mainly three recommended options, namely

  • ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line ) Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a technology for transmitting digital information at a high bandwidth on existing phone lines to homes and businesses. ADSL is asymmetric in the sense that it uses most of the channel (bandwith of your wire) to transmit downstream to the user and only a small part to receive information from the user. In other words, ADSL will make sure that the data coming towards your computer (downstream) is given priority over data passing from your PC to the network (internet).
  • GPRS / HSDPA(Wireless) General Packet Radio Service(GPRS): A GSM data transmission technique that does not set up a continuous channel from a portable terminal for the transmission and reception of data, but transmits and receives data in packets. It makes very efficient use of available radio spectrum.
  • High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA, also referred to as ‘3G’): (Sometimes known as High-Speed Downlink Protocol Access) is a 3G mobile telephony protocol in the HSPA family, which provides a roadmap for UMTS-based networks to increase their data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA now support 1.8 Mbit/s, 3.6 Mbit/s, 7.2 Mbit/s and 14.4 Mbit/s in downlink.
  • ISDN (Dial-Up) Integrated services digital network. A service that allows digital communications over standard phone lines and offers two 64Kbps (kilobits per second) bearer, or B-channels (128Kbps). It requires a special TA (terminal adapter) on your PC. Although it is “old school’ technology by now, it is still an option that is relatively cheap – depending on your needs. Eventually (hopefully) broadband will become more affordable in South Africa in the future, but if you need to only do the basics such as e-mails and occasional browsing, consider this option.