This is a post about technology. Mostly, I like to write about photography and Photoshop in my blog—but sometimes in this modern world you got to get down and hands-dirty. It’s a rotten job, but someone has to write about the mechanics of what makes this stuff tick. Without the software stack my blog wouldn’t be available to all of you I hear from who read what I write. If the mechanics of blogging bores you to tears you can skip this one—there’s plenty of other stuff to read on my site, like several thousand blog stories, mostly about photography.
Before I get there, let me briefly note the image above of a flower reflected and refracted in a water drop caught in a spider web. Shot with my 200mm f/4 telephoto macro, a 36mm extension tube, and a +4 diopter close-up filter: very, very close. A companion shot: Orbit.
Now to the live-by-technology bit so here’s where you should click a link into my archives if you are a technophobe. Hey, 2008 was an interesting year—here’s May, 2008 the month my daughter Katie Rose was born.
I’ve noted before that my blog is an electronic version of a daybook, such as the one kept by Edward Weston. See also Nearly Naked Women for a related story. With its thousands of entries, this blog is an important part—and explanation—of my work and life. However, it is inherently fragile—as are all electronic constructs. A WordPress blog needs many “moving parts” to keep running—a web server, database, and the PHP language to name a few of the more obvious.
A few days back I decided to add a plugin to my WordPress installation that would allow me to keep better track of readers of my blog who are signed up to get daily emails via the Google Feedburner service. Among other things, this service turns my syndication feed into an email for people who sign up for delivery this way. By the way, if you’d like to sign up for the service, follow this link to my subscriptions page.
More specifically, the Feedburner Stats WordPress plugin uses the FeedBurner Awareness PHP API to access the FeedBurner feed data and the Google Visualization API to show this data in my WorPress control panel—at least theoretically. The problem I had was that the plugin crashed with an internal syntax error. Its developer very nicely pointed out to me that PHP 5 was required—and my web hosting service was running PHP 4.4.9.
Well, I could probably live without the Feedburner Stats plugin, although why should I have to do without my toys? But its developer also brought to my attention a much bigger issue: with WordPress version 3.2, WordPress will stop working on PHP versions below PHP 5.
This is something that should make anyone with a WordPress blog sit up and pay attention. By way of background, WordPress is a wonderful, open source blogging tool written in PHP—and there has always been an “arms race” between the large WordPress development community and the probably equally large number of hackers out to corrupt and infiltrate blogs. This partially accounts for the rapid, incremental versioning of WordPress. We’re now at version 3.01, and version 3.2 is not far away, maybe six months at the most.
One pretty much has to keep one’s version of WordPres up-to-date. To not do so is to ask to be spammed.
To repeat, if you are not running PHP 5, your WordPress installation will not be upgradeable—or will mysteriously “Go South” when you try to upgrade it—in a matter of a few months. Very serious indeed for a committed blogger.
It turned out that getting my PHP upgraded to the current version was a much more complex issue than simply bringing this to the attention of my webhosting service—for reasons mostly having to do with the internal architecture of the hosting company. It took a couple of headaches and hours of my time, and the webhosting service was really pretty good about helping me along. I’m glad I upgraded, because this way my “blogging lights” won’t go out mysteriously when I try to upgrade to WordPress 3.2—what a mess that would be. It’s much better to have a little lead time on these things, so I’m writing this by way of warning to anyone who is in a similiar situation: upgrade to PHP 5 now!