Category: Nerdery

deployCamp is GO


UPDATE: Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel the conference. Read more on the blog.

Today, Andy Robinson and I are beyond excited to announce that our labor of love is finally public news. deployCamp is ready for launch.

We’ve been working on this for months and are still getting all the pieces together. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you may have seen my frustrations at the lack of open dialogue in my industry. I often feel like I’m working on a desert island with tools that Google isn’t aware exists. Welp, in the spirit of changing things for the better, Andy and I have been putting our heads together and figuring out what to do about it. Our solution? Have a giant meetup!

Over the past few months I’ve spent all my spare time reading about successful conferences, reading venue contract details, thinking about speakers, and working through a million details with Andy. I’m sure we have a lot left to figure out.

You can read more about our motivation and what we’re thinking on the site. I’m super excited about the whole deal and hope that we can find other engineers out there willing to give up a few days to join our conference. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me here, but in the meantime… please check out the site.

WordPress Essentials

Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of malware on WordPress sites that either I manage or my friends manage. Here’s a little collection of plugins and sites that I use to mitigate the risk, protect against common hacks, and track down the issues:

  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox – This is a simple plugin that keeps a live backup of your WordPress site to Dropbox. I check on the backups occasionally and am always pleased that the files and database exports are current. There might be better ones out there with more options, but I’ve been happy with this one (and donated some cash to the author too).
  • BulletProof Security – I’ve been using this on all my sites to protect against common threats. However, it’s kind of nerdy and doesn’t have a smooth administrative side. You really have to read all of the directions on this thing. Also, one of my sites running this did get some malware through another plugin that I hadn’t kept updated, so that is a good reminder to keep things current!
  • Sucuri Security Malware Scanner – Great tool to check the integrity of WordPress files and help narrow down security issues. Their website is also excellent for doing a scan of your site.
  • Google Webmaster Tools – Really great at helping track down issues, especially if you’ve been blacklisted.
  • The most important thing to do, though, is keep your site completely updated. I use WPRemote to monitor all the plugins and WordPress versions on all of my sites. I admit, though, I was lazy and didn’t keep a few of my sites updated which is why one of them got hacked. Been thinking today about maybe upgrading to get the automatic updating service. They also have a backup service that could replace using that WordPress to Dropbox plugin.

Do you have any plugins or sites that you deem essential for using with WordPress? Would love to hear about them in the comments!

Update 25 Feb 2015: 

  • Wordfence. Fantastic plugin to scan ALL files, including plugins. I would scratch out Sucuri and go with this instead. Also gives you alerts to bad user passwords and blocks multiple suspicious login attempts. This tool saved my butt on several sites. Love!

Dropcam for the win

Following the theft of my bicycle in broad daylight from my attached garage… I’ve been looking at security cameras again.

Dropcam Mounted

A few years ago, I had searched high and low for a simple WiFi security camera to watch my driveway. I ended up trying a cheap model found on eBay that looked a bit shady. Everything I looked at was hundreds of dollars, but this one was only $100. Worth a try, I figured.

Driveway Cam

After a few tweaks to the settings, that camera turned out to perform well. Unfortunately, what I didn’t think about was the software side. For awhile I used SecuritySpy on my Mac Mini, but then my Mini died and left my camera sending signals to no one. Now it seems there’s a few web-based monitoring packages, so, after the theft, I decided to give CamCloud and a try.’s app and website is far superior to CamCloud, however, it is twice the price. I am still not sure if I can stomach $100/year for I’d prefer a buy-once plan.

Driveway Watching

Another new development since I initially got my outdoor security camera is Dropcam. This camera is really impressive. It has HD video, two-way-audio, WiFi, and, best of all… a fantastic website and apps (iOS and Android). The only downside? It’s not weather-proof.

Since I can’t easily tell when my garage is open, I decided inside the garage would be a great place to try the Dropcam. I ordered it right before my vacation, so it was waiting for me when I got home. I popped open the little box, and followed the simple directions:

  1. Connect USB cable to camera and computer.
  2. Run application from camera’s disk.
  3. Create a Dropcam account.
  4. Type in a name for the camera and the WiFi info.
  5. Unplug the camera.
  6. Mount it somewhere and plug it in.

Done! Live footage streaming to my phone or website. The simple timeline shows when events are and lets you scroll around and replay. My phone gets push notifications when motion is detected, and lets me go to live view. The novel feature is that I can actually talk back to the garage via my phone!

Messy Garage

I’m really, really impressed with the Dropcam. Live monitoring, motion detection, and alerts are always free. I am currently using the 2 week free trial of the “Cloud Video Recording”, but that is $100/year and I’m not certain if that’s valuable enough for me. I’m really impressed with the tight integration of the camera with the app and website. By far the best combo I’ve seen. Hopefully they’ll do a weather-proof version at some point and I can replace my no-name driveway camera and consolidate to one software system.

For now, I’m wondering where else I could put another Dropcam… I have noticed a few Oreos missing from my stash…



Rusty Programmer

My secret admission: I’m a rusty programmer.

In high school, I compiled my own kernels in Linux, bundled & contributed packages for Debian, wrote extensive documentation for Jabber, and hung out with some brilliant programmers. On the side I learned the basics of PHP and MySQL to build my own little sites and help maintain

Microcomputer In Action!

Microcomputer In Action!

In college, I enjoyed and did well in Data Structures class. We delved into C++ structures, objects, and pointers. I found I was good at thinking like a programmer and solving programmer problems. But, for various reasons I decided to switch over to Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering to pursue circuit design and embedded processors.

After college, I found an interesting niche that fit my skills well: manufacturing automation. But the tools are way different than the rest of the programming world. At the lowest level is PLC programming with ladder logic and PID loops (which I learned about in mechatronics class). Higher up, is HMI design with light scripting. Even higher in the food chain is various Microsoft-related platforms (Reporting Services, custom .NET controls) and business connectivity (think SAP).

Making Liquor

Making Liquor

At this point in my career, I’m pretty adept at technologies that are only known in manufacturing such as Rockwell RSLogix ControlLogix, Wonderware ArchestrA, Wonderware InBatch, and, of course, Wonderware InTouch. I can put together pretty much any application a factory might need to run their machinery, monitor equipment, and evaluate line performance.

A few rungs of PLC logic

A few rungs of PLC logic

Over the last decade while I’ve been building factories, I’ve been reading all the web development and iOS/Mac blogs. Ruby on Rails has sprung up, MVC-style platforms are abundant, and everyone has learned Objective-C.

I feel like I missed the bandwagon. Off over here in the strange sideshow of manufacturing. Sure, every factory in America runs Wonderware or Rockwell software…but there’s no StackExchange for manufacturing software, and there’s barely any mention of these technologies on Twitter or ADN. In short, there’s not really any public community.

I have urges to design and create things that the world can see…but I’m rusty. I don’t know how to make an iOS app, or even install Ruby on Rails. I don’t fully grok git (but my coworkers are finally adopting Subversion!).

I’m not complaining. I have a solid career that is very valuable and useful. But, I’ve let my “real” programming skills get rusty. And programming seems to have changed a lot in the past 10 years. There’s a lot of new concepts I am not familiar with and a lot of terminology I have to look up. Scripting in Wonderware products is basic and simplistic. My latest achievement was to write a function to parse a string that looks like an array (because InTouch–a 20+ year old product–doesn’t have array capabilities).

6-9-2013 11-46-36 PM

At the moment, I’m often baffled by JavaScript and I never got very far in my iPhone 3.0 (!!) programming book (gosh it’s hard to not skip boring bits).

But… when I tear apart WordPress themes and plugins, my old PHP knowledge starts to resurface. (I’m still amazed at how quick and dirty you can make things with PHP.) I’ve been running WordPress sites for a long time, and have become very familiar with modern themes and how to manage these sites. And recently I’ve realized that this might be the very outlet that I can create things that I own…even if they are small at first.

Setting up this site was an important little step–it’s nice to be able to have my own space to play and write and create. I’ve been connecting with some WordPress developers in real life and on ADN, and it’s nice to start plotting an alternate course.

Here’s to the future.

A slick shave

Straight Edge

Straight Edge

I’ve been a safety razor guy for almost 5 years now. I love it. The blades are insanely cheap ($5.50 for a 10 pack) and last a month (at least). I love the old-school use of a brush and soap. I also love that it takes time to perfect the technique. The whole process feels like a lost art that feels good to learn and work on…a little ritual that gets the day started right.

When I first started learning to “wet shave”, the Shave Tutor on YouTube was a huge help. Just reading how to use a safety razor doesn’t cut it (hah). Watching how he holds the handle and moves across the face was very helpful. Now it’s second nature.

I have come across a few products that I love. The first is a nice shave oil like this one by American Crew. I have happy with pretty much any soap for the foam; they last forever, so I don’t remember where I bought the last one. I still occasionally cut myself, especially after not shaving for a week, so a styptic pencil is critical. Finally, I love to use some old school after shave applied with cotton swabs.

When I can’t use my safety razor (on business trips…TSA doesn’t like those blades), I simply use Jack Black Beard Lube as my shave cream with a 3-blade Shick. Incredible stuff. When I’m in a rush at home and don’t want to do the soap lather, I also use the Beard Lube along with the safety razor.

Migrating from Blogger to WordPress

Last week, I helped The Pondering Cyclist migrate from Blogger to WordPress. He uses his own domain name. I learned a few things along the way that existing tutorials didn’t seem to capture correctly.

On a Temporary Local Server

  1. Set up a temporary WordPress on your own computer. This is easy with XAMPP and such.
  2. Run the Blogger import in Tools > Import.
  3. Install SEO Blogger to WordPress
  4. Go to SEO Blogger to WordPress under Tools.
  5. Check Download Interlinked Images? and then click Download.
  6. Depending on the size of your blog and number of images, you may want to go grab a cup of coffee.
  7. If the server times out, go back and hit Download again. It will pick up where it left off.
  8. Repeat previous step until you get the message that says “Download Successful”.
  9. Click “Clear Temporary Settings”
  10. Use the PHP script that this website shows for “Fixing permalinks for imported post”. This is important.
  11. Run the WordPress Export from the temporary system

On the Destination Server

  1. Copy the upload/ directory to your destination server
  2. Set the permalinks structure to be /%year%/ %monthnum%/ %postname%.html
  3. On your destination WordPress site, install the ReadyMade WordPress Importer
  4. Go to Tools > Import > ReadyMade WordPress Importer and upload the Export file. Tick the box to import images.
  5. If the import just ends up on a white screen, you may need to split the XML file into smaller portions. Try splitting up the images and posts. I had to do that & then the Media one had to be re-run several times to get them all. Keep refreshing after the browser stops loading until you get “All done. Have fun!”
  6. I wanted to use the /%year%/ %monthnum%/ %postname%/ style of Permalinks, so I added a Rewrite rule to change the .html calls to the nicer WordPress style. I also added the other Rewrite rules that this post suggests.
    • RewriteRule ^([0-9]{4})/([0-9]{2})/(.*)\.html?$ $1/$2/$3/ [R=301,L]

All done! Shoo!

The key for me was doing the first half on a local machine. I kept running into time-out errors and incomplete data when doing this straight on the destination server.

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