WordPress network domain mapping fix

I’ve just been on an interesting little journey that started last September when I discovered that some of the sites on one of my WordPress networks had stopped working.

You might enjoy a little schadenfreude if I admit now that it was because I had a brilliant idea and did something stupid. I’ve posted details here in the hope that (a) if I do it again, I can find out how to fix it, and (b) if you’ve done it too, you’re closer to the solution than I have been for the past six months. I’ve ‘genericed’ the details to help you map it to your own setup. Continue reading

Beeswing: a brilliant critical literacy resource in the making

beeswing

(c) 2013 Jack King-Spooner
Used without permission but I hope he doesn’t mind

I stumbled across an incredible project yesterday whilst lobbing a few quid into the KickStarter kitty of the makers of The Seventh Guest 3: The Collector. I like T7G and its sister, the 11th Hour, because they are what I wish many more computer games were: things that help the player grow as a person instead of the vast majority of nasty, violent, dehumanising poison that infects the minds of so many young people.

The project I found is called Beeswing and is a creative development by Jack King-Spooner of a handcrafted role-playing game, without violence (or puzzles!), set in rural Scotland. Jack is creating “a world of intertwining stories” within a game setting using beautiful media such as watercolour pictures, graphite sketches and clay animation, all set to original music. From the kickstarter project page:

It is a story about the past, about community and childhood, attachment and growing up. Scottish folk tales, morally dubious parables, cloudy anecdotes and more contemporary stories of homelessness and immigration all combine to create a truly dynamic narrative.

This is lovely enough, but the thing that really caught my attention was the value in the dialogues within the stories: there is a depth to them that goes beyond what you might at first expect. Jack describes them as, “trues stories, blended with fiction”. I think this game will have potential to be of great value to teachers in developing connected thinking and critical literacy in children, and a capacity to see the world around them in much more richer terms. Here’s an example from the video on the kickstarter project page:

I like the scarecrow, I know what it means.
See the flowers in the field? The poppies and buttercups? Rare sight.
They mean there’s no pesticide in the fields.
No pesticide means insects.
Insects mean rooks and crows.
Rooks and crows mean scarecrows.
I like the scarecrow, I know what it means.

If you liked Inanimate Alice, you’re going to love this. Why not click the picture and go support Jack? You’ll get the game when it’s out next year and an opportunity to really develop the children you’re involved with. Hurry, there’s only a couple of weeks left.

Mavericks OSX 10.9 Update php fix

I updated to OSX 10.9 Mavericks this week, and as with all updates, it broke PHP. I run a local MAMP server for development purposes and it all works OK except that you have to re-enable PHP in the apache configuration file. I found a useful guide over at coolestguidesontheplanet.com which included these steps:

Open a terminal window and edit the httpd.conf file:

sudo nano /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

Uncomment this line:

LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/libphp5.so

Write out and save the file, then restart apache:

sudo apachectl restart

… and Robert’s your Mother’s Brother.

Code hacks: Internet Explorer Compatibility mode

guess-browserI’ve been developing a site for a national competition to be launched in October and ran into a little difficulty with Internet Explorer. Despite this browser losing ground amongst even the unthinking default user community, it is still sufficiently popular that I needed to look at the problem.

The site is running WordPress on a LAMP server using Konstantin Kovshenin‘s Expound theme. One of the testers noticed the letters “Ski” next to the Home menu item. Mousing over it produces a fleeting grey box to appear top left of the browser window. This turned out to be only visible in IE8, IE9 and IE 10 in “compatibility mode”, a feature of IE that allows the browser to render sites that are broken by IE’s shockingly poor implementation of standards, using a model from an earlier version. It’s what a code monkey might call a Kludge.

SkiThe “Ski” is in fact, the first few letters of “Skip to content”. It is one of several features of the site’s theme implementation which are broken in IE’s compatibility mode.

There are several suggestions in the forums designed to force IE into non-compatibility mode and render the site properly. Most rely on delivering a <Doctype> tag on the very first line, followed immediately by a X-UA-Compatible meta tag. Unless this tag is placed on the line immediately after the Doctype tag, IE ignores it.

I considered trying to knock up a plugin to make this work in some kind of customisable way. Editing the theme’s header.php file seemed doomed to be overwritten on the next update, and branching a child theme felt like too much hard work for such a small fix to accommodate a browser that I personally would like everyone to stop using. Part of me wants all sites to look broken when viewed with IE so as to encourage the masses to make an intelligent choice for once. Let’s not start talking about democracy.

Anyway, a little more digging found a really elegant solution which suited my particular needs from Reza Qorbani, which is to use the .htaccess file to have the Apache server sniff the browser and send the metatag. This is what I finished up with:

BrowserMatch MSIE best-standards-support
Header set X-UA-Compatible IE=edge env=best-standards-support

It works a treat. Thanks, Reza!

AudioBoo for Education

audioboo-t_7I’ve been a user of AudioBoo for some time now, and have recorded a few dozen commentaries, some of which have been listened to thousands of times. I find it an excellent tool for easy podcasting and most of my broadcasts are automatically cross-posted to iTunes and edutalk.cc. I’m pleased to find that audioBoo have launched this week a facility for educators who might consider the power of audio for their learners. From the announcement:

…we’re delighted to announce the launch of Audioboo for Education: a new initiative to help students and educators to enrich the learning experience and encourage conversation and debate through the power of audio.

Apart from ideas and examples of how audioBoo can be used to support and enhance learning, there’s also an intelligent and useful app for Edmodo, the VLE of choice for many teachers.

New channels of engagement are essential to the flipped classroom and the enabling of access to education on the learner’s terms, which is something that if you’re an educator and not driving it, then it will soon be driving you. Why not try it? It’s free, it’s easy and it offers leverage to your impact on learners: if you want an example, my most recent public talk has reached hundreds more through the podcast than it did in the flesh, so to speak.

And(roid) it’s STILL faulty

Switched my Nexus 7 on today for the first time in a little while today. I’ve got to the point now where I don’t use it much, as it’s such a flaky piece of junk. I can’t be relying on flaky pieces of junk. This is what I saw:

2013-05-24 00.06.37 2013-05-24 00.07.25 2013-05-24 00.07.56

It’s still faulty. Same fault I returned it for back in November. And again twice more since. This is seriously the worst product service I have ever had. And that’s coming from a guy who once bought a Lada. Get it sorted, please, Asus.

The Future is Technology? Don’t make me laugh.

The future is technology. So goes the idealistic vision of the future theme of edcmooc and the happy dreams of those who dream of a digital utopia in which our lives are enhanced by amazing geekery and augmented reality.

My world is different. Mine is a world in which technology doesn’t work. It claims to work but forgets to mention the endless hours you will spend trying to get it do what you thought, foolishly, that it would do. Don’t even mention the word “GLOW” in my presence.

I bought a Sony Bravia TV because it had internet connectivity. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It connects to a half-rokuassed clunky version of the internet. It doesn’t, after all, play stuff from the web. I doesn’t let me browse. At all. I discover that I can jigger about with things to make it do that, sort of. I bought a Roku Media Streamer so I can stream digital media from my network to the TV. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It has an interface clunkier than a clunky thing from clunky-land in the far forgotten time of the early nineties. I took it back. boxeeI bought a Boxee Box which according to the manufacturers, does all the things I want it to do. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It falls over a lot. The display is intermittently broken and it switches sound output on and off suddenly, threatening my lovely expensive speakers (which were made in the 1970′s by the way and still work when not rapidly switched on and off by a dodgy boxee). I took it back.

I got an Asus Nexus Google 7 tablet which has had a flickering display fault since the day it arrived and despite being returned to the manufacturer twice, still has the fault. The audio output has never worked. I’m sending it back. Again.

The future may be technology but don’t you rely on it doing what you think it will do. It will, sort of, but not the way you understood it.

week3

Google Nexus 7

2012-11-06 09.29.42I’ve had my Google Nexus 7 tablet for a little over three months now. I had been looking at tablet computers for a little while but hadn’t quite got to the point of investing a squillion quid on the offchance that my life would be transformed by having one. I had seen plenty of people with iPads and most seemed very pleased with the convenience and usefulness of the device. Many people have been considering their application in education, not least Ollie Bray, who has published a series of posts recently on how to ensure their impact on teaching and learning.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I won a Nexus 7 in the Krystal Hosting Halloween draw (thank you!).

Hardware – display problems

Imagine my surprise and delight when the display started flickering erratically after three weeks. I called Google support. Not their problem. I called Asus support. They arranged courier collection and transport to Holland for repair. They sent it back by courier, “no fault found”. It still had the fault. It went back. Courier again. It came back, “no fault found”. It still has the fault but after all the shuggling about travelling around Europe, it’s infrequent. A few more trips should have it sorted out, but why didn’t they just replace the evidently faulty unit and save all the courier costs?

Software – The Google Play App Store

There are loads and loads of good apps available either free or for a few quid on the Google Android “Play” App Store. Not all of them are bug-free: I downloaded Infinite Design today, having tried the free version and been impressed by the beautiful interface and playfunctionality of this intuitive drawing app. The paid version (£3.22) includes the ability to export vector graphics, which I might use with Video Scribe software to produce digital artefacts for the mooc I’m enrolled in. Imagine my surprise and delight when the paid version of Infinite Design crashed frequently, to the point of being unusable. I checked the returns procedure and discovered that you have 15 minutes in which to return apps bought in the Google Store, after which it’s, “screw you, contact the author” (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously). Now, I’m no lawyer, but I think that’s not right under consumer rights legislation in the UK. It certainly not filling me with confidence as my finger hovers over the purchase button as I ponder my next killer app download. As I’m writing this, by the way (on my trusty never-gone-wrong-in-three-years-even-after-all-the-abuse-it’s-had Apple Mac), I’m using the Nexus to examine the Google App Store App, which has just crashed.

Conclusions

eyePadSo far, I’ve found that the tablet computer is a wonderful thing, allowing me, when in a wifi-zone, to do some pretty good things, be highly productive with maps, email, calendar and all the googly goodness of modern technophiliac living. I figured out how to fix the bug in the Infinite Design app – I just uninstalled and re-installed the program and it seems fine now, apart from the occasional flickering of the display. I will continue to use it because I still can’t afford an iPad mini and I’d rather have my flaky Nexus than a naePad.

If I were in the market for a tablet computer, would I buy the Nexus at £160 or the iPad mini for a hundred quid more? I think that because for me it is important for things to just work, I’d go for the Apple and consider the extra expense justified in the cost of the time I don’t have to spend pfaffing about with stuff that doesn’t.

A warning about Vuze

novuzeI have been a long-time user of the torrent and DLNA sharing program Vuze, formerly known as Azureus. Not any more, I have removed it from my system after the upgrade program made unauthorised changes to my browser settings, default search engine and installed without my permission, extensions for Chrome and Safari which I would never use and did not give permission for. These alterations seem to be a paid service with the Vuze installer/upgrader program which silently modify the users computer to direct search traffic to Yahoo (who uses Yahoo by choice?) and send traffic to ebay via spigot, a nasty spammy marketing service I would never choose to use.

Apart from anything else, this is a breach of trust. I WILL NEVER AGAIN USE VUZE OR ANY OF ITS PRODUCTS and I advise you to consider the risks of unauthorised changes when using their products also, because if they’ll abuse your trust right in front of your eyes, you have wonder what they’ll do where you can’t see it happening.