The Irish Digital Detox

Holly and Declan are a young couple addicted to 21st century technology. Writer and journalist Colm Tobin follows them to the island of Carnananánachán where they undergo a bizarre, back-to-basics digital detox.

Could you survive a week without your phone or any access to the Internet?

Your DNA results are now ready!

This was a weird email to receive since I have never sent off a DNA sample to any company.

Dear Friend,

Your DNA results are now ready!

The results of your DNA sample reveal information about your distant ancestors, including how and when they moved out of Africa and the various populations they interacted with over thousands of years of migration. We hope you enjoy exploring your chapter of the human story.

Sure enough, it’s spam from The National Geographic. The linked page allows you to buy the Geno 2.0 Next Generation kit.

I used to have an NG subscription years ago but I gave it up. I wasn’t reading it, and the issues were collecting dust in a corner. Looks like they’re harvesting their email lists. Anyone else get this email?

Howto: the Cork County Council Planning Enquiry System

The planning enquiry system of Cork County Council is a powerful system for downloading and viewing all the documents related to a planning enquiry. Unfortunately it relies on outdated software that most people won’t have access to any more (and for security reasons, that’s a good thing!). There are Android and iPhone apps too, but it’s not easy reading planning documents on small screens, and at least on Android requires the use of a third party app to view the .djvu files. You can also save the files to a dropbox folder to share with your desktop, but it’s awkward doing so. The mobile apps can’t download large files either.

When you first go into it, this is the page you see. If you’re using a modern browser (like Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari) you can’t really do much more. It requires Internet Explorer to work.

However, by looking at the source code of the page I discovered this code that sends you to MainFrames.aspx.

The next page allows you to search the planning database but until you’re running Internet Explorer you won’t get very far as it uses the Autodesk Mapguide Viewer for it to show anything.

So, if you’re not running Internet Explorer on your up-to-date copy of Windows or you use macOS, Linux or anything else you’ve only one other option. Use a virtual machine.

Go grab a copy of VirtualBox and install it, then download a free virtual machine image from this Microsoft page and import that into VirtualBox. I found the IE9 one worked perfectly. It expires after 90 days but you can download another image if you need to later.

VirtualBox allows you to set up a shared folder where you can download the planning files, and work on them at your leisure!

Take a sneak peek at WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is a full page caching plugin for WordPress that makes your site faster, and helps deal with unexpected surges in traffic.

Over the last few months we’ve been busy working on the plugin to add new features and fix bugs and we can almost call it ready. It’s stable and usable and runs on this site but we would love more people to test it out before we release a new version.

Here’s just some of the new features and bug fixes we’ve been working on:

  • The plugin was based on WP-Cache which stored cache files in a single directory, and those (legacy caching) files were for the most part stored the same way all this time but now they’re being placed in the supercache directories (#177). This makes it easier to manage these files. The plugin doesn’t have to search through potentially hundreds of cache files for those that need to be deleted if a page updates or someone leaves a comment. Now all those files will be in the same directory structure the anonymous “supercache” files will be. I’m really excited about this feature as it makes caching for logged in users/users who comment and caching of pages with parameters so much faster now.
  • We’re adding a REST API to the plugin because in the future not everyone is going to use wp-admin to take care of their sites. Take a look in the rest directory for the code we’re working on.
  • Debug logs now have a username and password to protect them from prying eyes.
  • And many bugs fixed over the last few months.

Since “legacy caching” or “WP-Cache caching” is now more maintainable and faster we want to change the language describing how the plugin caches and delivers pages.

Currently the plugin asks you to choose between mod_rewrite, PHP and “Legacy page caching” which isn’t really useful. Most users won’t recognise those terms. It’s also not accurate as “legacy page caching” is active all the time as long as caching is enabled.
Instead we should have “Standard Caching” and “Super Caching”. Super Caching will then have simple and expert delivery methods.

Simple delivery is through PHP, while expert delivery uses mod_rewrite rules which means the .htaccess file has to be updated and hopefully the warning below it will discourage casual users from testing it.

Due to the huge number of changes in the plugin we really need people to give it a try and check if everything works ok. The changes to the settings page will hopefully make it easier for new users to get to grips with it too.

You can find the newest code on Github. The changes to the settings page are in #255 if you want to comment on them.

Thanks in advance! 🙂

Don’t Stop Me Now

An amazing cover of the Queen song, “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Peter Bence. (Thanks Ken Collins for sharing)

When you’ve listened to that, watch these two videos by Valentina Lisitsa and marvel at how fast her fingers move.

Fidget Spinners are on the way out..

A street trader on Kyle Street in Cork was selling two “classic” fidget spinners for five euro last weekend. You can still buy fancy “gold” or LED ones at inflated prices but every bargain basement or novelty store has buckets of them to sell. My son is still obsessed with his ones, but I’ll give it a week or two before they’re gathering dust in a corner along with his collection of multi-coloured loom bands.

I’m just noting this here for future me when I wonder, “what year were fidget spinners all the rage?” I still remember the early 90s as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles years.