Archive for the ‘Site Maintenance’ Category

Transfer of Ownership

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Transfer of Ownership

Beginning today mikestrawbridge.com will be owned and managed by Jennifer Bryan. I will not go into the reasons behind this change but trust that the site is in good hands.

From this point forward, Jennifer will be responsible for the content of the site and will collect the commissions it generates. She will also be answering the questions you send via the “Contact Mike” form. If you need any Crown Parts, she will be able to get them for you.

Thank you for your support and I hope you will continue to support this body of information by supporting the advertisers here. They pay for the web hosting and other expenses associated with running the site.

Repairing my hacked WordPress site

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Repairing my hacked WordPress site

Incorrect tiles and descriptions showing in Google search results

On October 14 my web traffic went down to less than a fourth of what it normally is. It took me a day or so to find out why. From my viewpoint my blog was fine. I finally did a google search on my most popular term expecting to see some drop in ranking. What I did see shocked me. Instead of the normal title and description, my blog post – still ranked number one, now said “Buy Viagra with a prescription.” The cached preview showed a page titled “SOMA for sale.”

However, if you actually clicked the link, which few people were doing, you got the original page. I was really confused.

I did some forum searches to see if other people we having the same problem with Google. It turned out they were but all the post I found were closed to comments and there were no answers. It took quite a bit of digging to find out what was causing the trouble. It turns out that 90% of the people who are reporting the problem are hosted on Godaddy like I am. There seems to be a security problem with he Godaddy servers. If my trouble returns, I will switch away from Godaddy. I hate to because I have had good service over the years from them but this lack of security is not acceptable. See this article for more info: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2010/05/13/hosting-with-godaddy-might-want-to-rethink-that-decision/

I followed the helpful guide at this link: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2008/06/24/how-to-completely-clean-your-hacked-wordpress-installation/

I began by making a copy of the wordpress directory on my web site. I used Filezilla to make the copy. Next I had to learn how to make a copy of my SQL data base. This took a lot of reading before I was able to learn to use the data base controller software on Godaddy’s hosting controls. I also installed a plug on the blog that makes backups. This let me make a copy of the database easily.

In the process, I accidentally changed the password on the database so my blog was down with errors overnight until I realized the problem. I had to edit the wp-config file to fix it. It took more reading to learn how to do that.

By this time I was more comfortable using the Hosting control software and I had backups of everything on my hard drive.

I had also figured out some of how the hack worked. Somehow they inserted code that redirected the traffic if the googlebot was doing the surfing. I used http://web-sniffer.net to find out what was being presented to Google.

I got the courage to hit delete and cleaned up all the old files from the server. I left the database in place.

Instead of letting Godaddy reinstall WordPress for me or trying to install it using Filezilla, I used a program called EasyWP WordPress Installer. It is available here: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2008/06/18/easywp-wordpress-installer-cause-there-aint-no-such-thing-as-too-easy/

I simply downloaded the file to my computer and then used Filezilla to copy it up to the server. I then used my browser to run it. I had to open a separate window in the browser to get the right data to access my SQL database on Godaddy. I had to change the hosting parameter that is says 99% don’t need to change but all the info was on the Godaddy info page. I just copied and pasted it into the form.

The program loaded up a fresh install of wordpress and sucked in all the data from my database. At first the blog was still blank because there was some error with the theme. I simply reloaded the theme and it cleared right up. I did have trouble for a while getting 404 errors on individual blog posts but that cleared upon its own after a few minutes.

I then checked through all the photo files in the backup of the upload directory. I had read where some people had had their site hacked by someone putting php files in the photo directories. I did not find any suspicious files so I uploaded all photos using filezilla. That took a few hours. Once the photo files were back in place the blog posts looked fine again.

I then began the tedious task of reinstalling plug ins. I tried to get fresh versions of as many as possible. However, there were a few that I had to restore form my back ups. I really have no way of knowing if they were clean. I have tried to use web sniffer to check regularly to see if any of the posts have been re corrupted but so far none have.

I have to give a special thanks to the folks at smackdown for providing lots of good and useful info on how to fix my blog. Hopefully Google will rescan the affected articles soon and correct their files.

I have learned a lot about how WordPress works and I will be able to rebuild the blog a lot faster next time. I used this event as an opportunity to clean up some plug ins I don’t use anymore and make some other changes to the blog I have wanted to do for a while.

I have no idea what the motivation for the hack is. There are no links I see that would make anyone any money or bring them clicks. The only issue for me was destroying my search results. I guess some people like to cause trouble just because they can.

Trail Maintenance

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Trail Maintenance

I did a little trail maintenance this weekend. The big storms in the early summer put a tree down right across the intersection for three trail and right at the creek crossing. I cut the tree off the trails but at the time I was not able to move the stump out of the creek.

I had really hoped that the flooding would wash the stump down the creek. However, after several floods, the stump stayed put.

The trouble was that in order to cross the creek with a vehicle with limited articulation, you had to enter the creek where the bank was not so steep, drive along the creek and then exit at another place where the bank was not too steep. With the stump in the middle of the creek, this path was not possible.

There was enough water in the creek most of the summer to make access to the stump difficult, so I just left it alone. Now that the creek has dried up some, I decided to get in there with the chain saw and see if I could clear the path.

I began by clearing the mud off some of the larger roots. I did not want to damage my chain saw chain by trying to saw dirt. It seems nothing dulls a chainsaw blade faster than dirt.

I used an adz to chop away the small roots and free up the entrapped dirt. I was able to cut off several large section of the roots and clear a path past most of the stump.

I tried it with my off road Jeep. I could get by easily but I noticed that my rock rail was still hitting the stump as I went past. That would not bode well for street Jeeps trying to use the path to the campground.

I cut off part of the tree stump that was still sticking up and I noticed that I could now move the mass of roots around some. I decided to try winching it.

I could not get in a position to remove it from the creek bed. However, I was able to roll the stump up on its side and up against one of the stream banks. This provided plenty of room to drive past the mass of roots. I trimmed a few more of the ones that stuck out just to be sure.

Driving by in the off road Jeep with 33” Maxxis Buckshots was no trouble at all. So after some rest and a drink, I decided to try my Daily Driver XJ.

I had not trouble at all on the first pass. I went down to the campground and turned around. Getting back into the creek took some maneuvering to get the right angle to go past the stump. I went slowly and I sunk in the mud. I had to rock back and forth a few times before my 30” BFG ATs found enough bite to pull me through the mud.

I think as soon as the creek flows some it will wash some of the loose mud away and make it more passable. Or if it stays dry, it will simply dry up enough to get through.

Using dd-wrt to convert a Linksys router

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Using dd-wrt to convert a Linksys router

When I got my MiFi device to replace my satellite modem, I had to figure out a way to share the internet signal with the other computers on my home network. At first I thought I could just use the UBS connection on the MiFi and then use the desktop computer as a gateway for the other computers. Well, I never could get the USB modem software to run on my old XP computer.

I then thought I would just buy a wireless USB device to plug into the desktop. However the cost of these at Wal-Mart was more than I wanted to pay. I started to order one from Tiger Direct but then I found a different solution.

I found that I could convert my router that I no longer needed into a device by running it in “Client Mode.” Unfortunately my Linksys router did not support client mode.

A few more Google searches revealed that I could replace the firmware with some from dd-wrt.com and make it run like I needed it to.

At first I was scared from the dire warnings that I could easily convert my router into a paper weight if I did not carefully follow the instructions. But I eventually decided to give it a try.

I found my router listed in the wiki and printed out the instructions. I downloaded the appropriate files. I then reset the router just like in the instructions. I actually used a stopwatch to make sure I held the button down for the correct amount of time.

Holding the button down while disconnecting and reconnecting the power was the hardest part of the job for me. Well that and the waiting five minutes between changes near the end of the procedure. If I had not used a stopwatch I am sure I would not have waited long enough. I got very impatient, but I read where not waiting was the most common error people make in installing the software, so I waited it out.

The instructions were very easy to follow. I just checked off each step along the way. Everything worked like it was supposed to and my Clint mode ran first time. The router automatically syncs up with the MiFi whenever I turn it on. It runs in secure access mode so I don’t have to worry about my neighbors using up my bandwidth.

See http://dd-wrt.com for more info on the router modification.

Goodbye Hughesnet; hello Verizon MiFI

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Goodbye Hughesnet; hello Verizon MiFI

While there are a lot of great things about living in the country like letting the dog run free and having 4×4 trails in the back yard, having access to high speed internet is not among them.

I am about a mile from the end of the Charter cable run and several miles from the nearest DSL capable phone line. For years the only option I had was Directway. Directway eventually evolved into Hughesnet.

The satellite internet seemed really cool at first. Connection speeds were much faster than dial up. And it was also more reliable. It was always on and I never had to worry about busy signals when trying to connect the modem. The savings of dropping AOL and the extra phone line pretty much paid for the Satellite service at first.

However over the years the price went up and the service went down. First they added download limits. And they did not tell anyone, they just secretly started limited speeds if you went over a certain amount. It took some folks in a broadband forum to figure it out and write a program so you could monitor your download sand not go over the limit and be penalized for going over.

In the past few months, the system has become virtually unusable as the connection speeds during peak use times are unbearably slow. The system works fine during the day and late at night; but from 4pm to 10 pm it is useless.

I reluctantly tested the Verizon 3g connection at our house. Cell phone coverage is pretty good there but not perfect. I suspected the data transfer would be spotty at best. However, I was surprised at the speed of two different devices I tested. They worked great and got better signal than my phone.

So, I finally cancelled the Hughesnet service and got the Verizon MiFi 3g. 4g had just come out but it was much more expensive for the device so I decided to just get the 3g.

The box arrived by FedEx and was very easy to set up. All I had to do was connect using the wireless card in my laptop computer. I have not run any actual speed tests but the feel is much faster. I can actually play Car Town on Facebook. That was next to impossible on the satellite.

The trouble came about when I tried to connect it to the desktop computer. The USB connection simply refused to install. I saw in some forums that others were having similar issues using XP like I was. I decided to just stop fighting it and use a wireless connection for the desk top as well.

The trouble was, I needed a wireless device for the desktop. See the next post for how I modified my Linksys router to connect to the MiFi.