WordPress comes to Android

For a while now I have been quite jealous of the SquareSpace iPhone app that let’s you manage you site right from your smart phone.

Well now, if you have a WordPress blog and an Android phone you too can have this functionality. WordPress is now in the Android app store, and what’s more its totally free.

Thanks to readwriteweb for the headsup.

Note: This post was done from my phone, alhtough the above link was impossible to do and categories also seem to be broken at the moment but this is a 1.0.0 version.

Im a very happy geek now!

Give Google a Break

Google are developing a new operating system, aimed squarely at the netbook market. The ethos behind it, like with most things at Google in the last 12 months, is speed – they want it to take no more than 7 seconds to boot.

Once logged in you will only have access to a web browser – the browser will be Googles Chrome Browser, as you may expect. There will be no desktop or other apps, everything will be done from the browser. They are going to build in functionality for  working offline, for when you are not connected to the net.

Many people, even in the Linux world, seemed to be opposed to this but I can only see it as a good thing. Under the hood its based on Linux, Google have said they have been working with Ubuntu in this respect. Google have stated that Chrome OS will be Open Source and released the current dev version on Chromium.org. From my point of view I think its going to be good for the Linux platform. The improvement in boot speed and hardware drivers alone can only be good.

I really dont know why Google seem to have so much opposition. I understand peoples concerns about a company that knows so much about its users but they are the only company to have a “do no evil” moto. Whats more Google are also a very transparent company, the information that they have on you can easily be found and deleted if you so wish. For example, if you want to view or delete your web history, just go here and do so.

I do wonder how many people know about the Data Liberation Front, a team of Google engineers who work solely on making sure that you can easily get your data in or out of as many Google products as possible, as simply as possible.

I really do feel that Google are a friend of open source. Their Android phone OS is Open Source and while I know there was some concern over their reation to the Cyanogen mod, when you read into it, you can understand their point of view – plus they worked with the Cyanogen guy to come up with a work arround.

Also, lets not forget the Google Summer of Code. Each year they make this great contribution to Open Source. Im sure its not entirely altruistic but never the less it is a very valuable contribution.

Recenlty Google seemed to cause some more negative ripples with their aquistion of the Etherpad Project. I think anyone who has tried both Wave and EtherPad will understand why Google wanted Etherpad. Etherpads real time document editing is much better than the current Google Wave client. So the Etherpad team have been pulled off Etherpad and put to work on Wave. The controvesy was not so much about this but that the fact they closed Etherpad, a product that many people use and find invaluable. They gave people about a months notice to trasition away from it. The thing I will say about this is that as soon as they became aware of the communities concern, they re-examined the decision and have re-opened EtherPad – in a matter of days. They then said, in a very open way “what were we thinking”.

UPDATE: They have also released the sourcecode for Etherpad under the Apache Licence

This brings me on to Google Wave.I know that people who have been able to try this out are not that overwhelmed with it. What I will say is that its very early days in this products development. I would also so that Wave is all about the protocol underneath that lets you collaborate on document editing and the current Wave client is just the first implementation of a client – there will be other clients. In other words, think of Wave as SMTP and the current client as Outlook Express. There will be better clients

My main point about Wave though is how Google have gone about this. They said, from the outset, that they wanted to create an open protocol, just like SMTP. They also built federation in and they have also desinged it to be extensible, so that people can develope their own plugins. This shows that they are a company that just seem to get it. The understand why Openess is important.

So whats the point of this article, well what Im really saying is give Google a break. Yes they have a lot of information about us and its right to be concerned but their every action to date seems to have been honorable. Lets save the paranoia for companies that treat us and our data appallingly on a daily basis

I’d love to hear your opinion of this subject, please leave a comment or use the contact form


WordPress Auto Upgrade

Recent versions of WordPress have the ability to upgrade themselves at the click of a button. This has never seemed to work for me, instead it just asks for FTP credentials. I was told this was a permissions thing, that this is what happens if it permissions arent correct. So today I decided to look into it. Its really quite simple.

On a web server, the service runs under an account context – in my case the account is apache. Now all the files in the root of my WordPress folder are owned by root, and only root can write to them. So this is why auto-upgrade doesnt work. Changing the ownership of these files to be Apache would fix it. However, this means that if ever Apache is attacked and breaks giving the user access as the apache user, he would have read-right access. Its a pretty unlikely scenario I know but hey, call me paranoid

If you want your WordPress to be autoupgradable, you simple need to change the ownership of the wordpress files to apache so that the webserver has read/write access.

Ive decided to come up with two scripts, one that is run before the upgrade, that changes the ownership to apache and one that runs after the upgrade to change the ownership back. Its really very simple, so here they are

Before upgrade

chown apache:apache /var/www/html
chown apache:apache /var/www/html/readme.html
chown apache:apache /var/www/html/index.php
chown apache:apache /var/www/html/license.txt
chown apache:apache /var/www/html/xmlrpc.php
chown -R  apache:apache /var/www/html/wp-content/
chown -R  apache:apache /var/www/html/wp-includes/
chown -R  apache:apache /var/www/html/wp-admin/
chown apache:apache /var/www/html/wp-*

chown root:root /var/www/html
chown root:root /var/www/html/readme.html
chown root:root /var/www/html/index.php
chown root:root /var/www/html/license.txt
chown root:root /var/www/html/xmlrpc.php
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-content/
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-includes/
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-admin/
chown root:root /var/www/html/wp-*
Post upgrade

chown root:root /var/www/html
chown root:root /var/www/html/readme.html
chown root:root /var/www/html/index.php
chown root:root /var/www/html/license.txt
chown root:root /var/www/html/xmlrpc.php
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-content/
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-includes/
chown -R  root:root /var/www/html/wp-admin/
chown root:root /var/www/html/wp-*

Its probably not really necessary but it feels better this way 🙂

Please note, my WordPress files are in the root folder, not in “wordpress” or “blog”, so you will need to adapt the above for your own case


VMware Left Me

Was it me? I dont know, I was loyal, but they left me anyway – well thats how it feels

Long Time Fan
Ive been a long time (read 2000/2001) fan of VMware – they were the first and, you could argue, still are the best in their space. Im a Linux fan, have been for a while and one of the reasons that I liked VMware was because the software I bought from them (yes I paid for Workstation and upgrades) was available for my OS of choice. Whats more they took the time to make sure that the windows worked with GTK2 looks. This to me meant that they liked their Linux users, they gave a crap about us.

I was so disappointed when I moved my home server from VMware Server 1 to VMware server 2 as the Linux client had gone. At least its been replaced with a web interface, that seems like a good idea – then all operating systems can manage the server. The interface came in for some criticism but it did everything I needed it to for the most part and I could manage my home VM server while out and about.

Times change and VMWare came out with their free version of ESX – namely ESXi. Now while ESX also had a decent web interface, ESXi did not. Your only choice of a graphical interface now meant you had to run Windows. So I stayed with Server 2.0

Recently I became aware of “VMWare Go” which was a “new web interface of ESXi users”. Yay I thought, good times! Alas no, when I went to log in I was prompted with a message that said “Your broswer must be at least Firefox 3 or higher, or IE v7 or v8 to use this site”. Thats odd I thought as I am running 3.5.5. What I very quickly realised is that this wasn’t to do with browser, it was to do with OS. I tried the site from my dual boot laptop (the only place I have Windows left these days) and I was able to get in with Firefox 3.5.5 on Windows but running the wizard prompts you to download components like the .net framework and other such single platform technology. How utterly disappointing

End of the Road
What did we do VMware? Why did you abandon us? Well anyway, I guess its the end of the road then old friend. Be happy.

Im off to migrate my stuff to Xen or KVM. Im not sure which yet, Xen has Amazon using it and Citrix seem committed to open source. In fact Ian Pratt was on FLOSS Weekly earlier in the year, so they seem to have the right mindset. On the other hand the Redhat road map points to KVM.

Anyway, watch this space. Im going to take my time to decide which to chose – i am on the rebound after all 🙂


Open Source Music on Hold

I have been working on a new project for work that I thought I would share with you. At work our Music on Hold devices (the things that provide music when you are put on hold) have been going faulty regularly. The device we currently use is a Fortune 2000 MOH from Rocom. It retails for about £260 If you are considering one of these devices, please read on.

Faulty by Design
The Rocom devices seem to last about 12-18 months before going faulty. I suspect that its the flash cartridge but being a proprietary design means its not easily replaceable.

Ideally the device will have no moving parts; we did away with the original devices (which were literally CD players) because they were unreliable and not remotley manageable.

All we really need it to do is

  • play music on a loop
  • automatically start after power interuption
  • be remotely managable

Open source
The continued failure of device after device (we have about 70 of them accross EMEA) got me thinking, there must be a better way. I looked at Shuttle PCs but they failed the moving parts criteria (well there are ways but it didnt seem a good fit). Then my mind we to a very small fanless PC that i bought a couple of years back from Aleutia. So I took a look at the website to see if it was viable. The original device has now become the Aleutia T1

While the original device ran Puppy Linux but all the current ones run Ubuntu. Great, so the device is small, fanless and runs a very good, open source, operating system, and has a network port. So far so good.

Next I needed to work out if it would automatically start after a power outage. I dropped a quick email to the guys at Aleutia to see if this was possible and they very quickly responded to confirm that there was a BIOS setting for exactly this requirement. The final part was playing music on a loop. I was expecting it to be quite easy to acheive and I wasnt wrong.

The method of music playback I have gone for is called MPD (Music Playback Daemon), which is easily installable (its in the Ubuntu repos). I quickly installed MPD an uploaded an MP3 to the folder. Finally I added the MP3 to the playlist and set it to repeat and I was in business. Within 30 mins of unpacking the T1 I had it playing back music.

I shutdown the T1 and removed the power adaptor to test its ability to power on automatically. No sooner than I applied the power the device booted up, once the device had booted, MPD started playing the music – WIN

Final Steps
Now that I had a working device up and running, I need to think about how its supported within our company. I guess other people wouldnt be happy with SSHing into it to control it (which is really very simple actually). What I needed was a front end. Needless to say there are many front ends written for MPD. I went with a very simple web front end called MPDPlayer – its one of the many open source front ends listed on the wiki.

Ive done a little customisation of this and added a file upload button so that the whole process can be managed from the web interface.

Test Test Test
Im now in the process of testing and I do seem to have come accross a bug where playback stops after a number of days. I could just schedule a reboot of the device every night but I would prefer this to be a last resort. The MPD forums have given me some into on how to debug MPD, so I shall persue that.

So whats the catch? Well there doesnt seem to be one, plus this solution comes in nearly £100 cheaper than a Rocom and comes with a three year warranty rather than Rocoms 12 month one. Finally, as it uses a standard compact flash card, if it does go faulty, we can very easily replace it.

Overall Im really pleased with how easy its has been to “scracth my own itch” using existing open source projects. I intend to contribute my file upload button back to the MPDPlayer guys in the true Open Source fashion. Im also hoping that this experience will open my companies mind to using more open source solutions in future.

As ever I welcome your comments



Ive just got back from my annual trip to FOSDEM, it seems to get busier every year and each year there are exciting new things to be found

The top three projects that interested me this year were:

SUSE Studio: This is a web application (currently in closed alpha) that enables the very quick creation of virtual appliances. Currently it supports exporting to three types of appliance – VMWare Appliance, Bootable ISO, Bootable USB. The web interface itself is very slick, using the latest AJAX goodness, and is very intuitive. Lets say you want to set up an appliance that will have a webserver and database combo, you simply tick apache and mysql and it adds the relevant packages. It asks you to set up mysql (if that’s what you have chosen) and then you simply click on build and within a minute or two the appliance is ready to download

Another project that I was unaware of was Cobbler – this is used for the fast commissioning of multiple (from tens to thousands) servers. There are many use cases for it – one that he gave an example of is when a web server farm became breached and taken over by a malicious hacker in the middle of the night, He was able to rebuild the whole server farm with just a few commands! If you want to make you server commissioning both quick and completely standardised this is a very interesting program.

The final project I wanted to mention was FreeIPA, this aims to bring Identity, Policy and Auditing all under one roof. Its something that, although all the individual components have been available for ages, no-one seems to have brought them all together into one project, not in any coherent way at least. Currently it provides/uses LDAP (specifically the FDS) kerberos, DNS, DHCP and puts a web interface on the front of it all. It worth pointing out that policy and audit management wont be added until version 2, but this is certainly a project to watch

FOSDEM has really expanded the number of tracks it does in recent years and I know it would love to expand them further if they could get hold of a big enough space but I for one think it might be time to expand FOSDEM beyond its two day length, then we could fit in more talks. All in all a fantastic weekend in Belgium though


Collaborative documents

You know I love the cloud, no matter what some people say and so Im always interested in new sites and web based apps.

While on IT conversations recently I became aware of EtherPad and to be honest I initially “thought why bother, its already been done”

Whenever I think about collaborative documents I have to admit I think about it in the Google Docs paradigm. I use Google docs whenever I need to work on a document with somone else but then I watched their screencast – when they say multiple people working on a docuemnt at the same time, they mean at the same time 🙂

At the moment it seems to be limited to only text documents, so no spreadsheets or presentations; and I have no idea if they even plan that but I have to say its an impressive piece of work for sure.

Why not check it out at http://etherpad.com/