404 error while wrapping a page with WordPress

There are time where you have existing pages on a site and want to wrap your WordPress design around that content.  I had a database application in PHP, and was finally able to get it to play nice with my WordPress header and footer.

First problem:  I was using HTTP GET to pass parameters between the pages, but the variables were not being passed.  I had to specifically use PHP’s $_GET[ ] variable to pull them in before validation (to prevent a MySQL injection attack).

Second problem:  the CSS of the theme will overwrite any CSS in the existing page, so some minor rewriting of your page will be necessary. A separate CSS file can then be pulled in per page.

Third problem:  accessing the pages would result in “Page Not Found” as the page title, even though the page was working 100% correctly.  It has to do with WordPress’s handling of content, and your “third party” PHP file is something WordPress does not recognize.  This cool post at cooltrainer.org came up with a clever solution which works perfectly.

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Business owners and site operators: stop committing these 7 common Facebook mistakes today!

Let’s face it.  The “AOL” of the 21st century has to be Facebook.  “Everyone” seems to be on it.  Certainly almost everyone talks about it.

If you own a business, operate a Web site, or are part of the public relations department at your employer, it’s time to get over it.

Too many Web site operators, business owners and so-called “experts” in social media are still all hyped up and pushing this service as though it is the Internet.  Well I hate to break the news to everyone, but the world does not revolve around what has turned into a simple site to connect college chums into nothing more than a site that persists in data mining all of its users in an attempt to sell advertising.  (And most of these users are clueless as to the privacy and security issues Facebook has.)

At any rate, and despite the popularity, there are several mistakes being made regularly that business owners and site operators need to realize before dumping a lot of faith, effort and time into Facebook.  Here are mistakes you should avoid.

1. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.  There are other social media sites out there–to be exclusive to one only is to shortchange and alienate anyone who refuses to use one service over another.  If you use one social media site, you should use all of the popular ones, and post equally to all of them.

2. Do not put unique content on Facebook, or any other social media site.  Again, this alienates living, breathing potential customers who choose not to use the site.  Instead, use social media only as a means of pushing customers to your official Web site.  You do have one, don’t you?  Please, please tell me you do…

3.  Do not ever, ever use Facebook as your “official” home page or Web site.  Grave, grave mistake!  Think about it for a moment: you are excluding non-Facebook users, even if your content is public.  Setting up your own site is not that difficult–you can even create a free one on Blogger and WordPress, complete with your own domain name!  Using Facebook, or anything similar, as your official site just reeks of laziness and again, shuns visitors who want nothing to do with it.

4.  Do not use Facebook as your commenting system…if you operate a blog or Web site.  There are others out there that are more “open”.  People simply do not like Facebook, and they are not about to open up an account and risk their numerous privacy and security issues just to leave comments on other sites.  And, what do you think Facebook is doing with those comments?  Their system is free for a reason–it is feeding their data mining operation, depositing cookies on your computer which track you around the Internet to get your browsing and buying habits.  Do you really want to subject your customers to that?  Use a less hostile service such as Disqus, even if you have to moderate comments.

5.  Never, ever run your contests, giveaways or sales exclusively on Facebook.  How does that make potential customers, readers or visitors feel if they are not members?  It turns them away.  Run those contests on your Web site.  It is not difficult!  And it is way more fair to your visitors. The same applies to Google+, Twitter, Tumblr or any other service.

6.  Do not assume what you post on Facebook is your property! Read the fine print.  Read up on how this information is used.  Keep in mind that any text Facebook encounters is indexed, attached to your name and your page, and is used to feed advertising right back at you.  And all of those followers who “Liked” your page?  This told Facebook they are interested in whatever topic or product you are promoting, and will feed them advertising that your competition likely paid to have delivered to them.  Also be careful of what images you post–anything is a free-for-all when posted on Facebook.  Don’t be surprised to find they have used it for other purposes, or other members have stolen it for their own use!

7.  Finally, do not bother using Facebook’s “Pages” and expect it to reach your visitors.  Given changes in their monetization structure, if you use a Page for your business or organization, you now only reach a small fraction of people who have “liked” the page.  That hot 50% off sale you are advertising?  Of your 2,000 followers, maybe 100 or 200 will ever get notification of it in their feed.  Oh, wait–that’s right.  Send Facebook money, and they’ll expand your “reach”.  Send them more, and it’ll reach further.  This monetization strategy has made the Pages feature useless except to those who foolishly spend money to increase their “reach”.  Don’t fall into the trap.  Seeing that most visitors ignore what is in their feed anyway, there’s no point in throwing money at the issue.

We realize these mistakes may go against the common thinking that everyone should “Promote! Promote! Promote!” on social media, but think of the users, like myself, who feel shunned, turned away and discouraged because of our choice to not use some forms of social media personally.  In these highly competitive times, shunning customers will do nothing but turn them away…to your competition.

Our recommendation?  Use Facebook.  But, also use Google+.  Use Twitter.  Use Tumbler, Instagram, Pinterest, or anything else in social media to get your message out.  Use that message only to point back to your own Web site, and nothing more.  Never post exclusive content on any one social media site.  Ever.  Remember, what is hosted on your own Web site is your property.  And you control that site exclusively.  Use social media only to build traffic back to your site!  Keep that clear goal in mind for success.  And remember that the more you post links back to your site, those are more links which others share with their friends on these networks, which gives you even more exposure!  Always include a link back to your site in every post you make on social media, to build traffic back to your own Web site.

 

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The new Google Hangouts feature that the cellular companies will HATE!

For years, I have used an Android phone.  Even longer, I have had a Google Voice account.  While I could have made free phone calls over the Internet, it would have required a computer with speaker/headset and microphone to pull it off.  There were some hacks for the phone that allowed you to place and receive Google Voice calls, but when they worked, quality was horrible.

The Google Voice app for Android has seemingly been neglected, and has had some performance issues as of late.  I have noticed I often do not get SMS or voice messages right away; in fact, a few times, they never showed up at all, other than an alert on my computer.  (The Voice app is separate from the Messaging app, which is strictly for texting through your carrier’s system.)

Hangouts had already folded the Messaging app’s capabilities into their product, and now with its latest released, Google Voice integration is complete.  Now, I can send and receive images via text.  My SMS messages appear in Hangouts.

But here is the kicker: I can now use my Google Voice account to make and receive free Internet phone calls from any device I own, even my tablet, to any US or Canadian landline or cellular phone.

The carriers aren’t going to like this!

I have had my Google Voice number for several years.  When Google bought Grand Central many years ago, and then shut it down, users wondered why it was shuttered.  Turns out it was stuck on the back burner.  I have long wanted to make and receive calls directly through Google Voice, and the new Hangouts app permits me to do that.

To sweeten the pot even more, I should also mention that if you have more than one Voice number, you can now choose to receive calls made to those numbers, as well as place calls using those numbers.  I use three Voice numbers myself–one is personal, one for my business, and a third I keep with a hyper-professional voice mail message which I used for LinkedIn.  To do this is simply a matter of adding those Google Accounts to your device, and then choosing which one you’d like to call from.  Incoming calls show your Google account address faintly as the call rings you in Hangouts, so you know which account is being called.

I have not yet had a chance to test the call quality, but in the couple of test calls I made from my office using 30Mbps WiFi, it was only a shade duller than a call directly made through T-Mobile.  Keep in mind that if you call someone directly using Hangouts, the call quality is superior (much like it is with Skype) as you are bypassing the telephone network entirely.

Trick:  if you have a Google account with no Voice number attached to it, you can use that to place calls as well.  The bonus?  With no number attached, there is no caller ID, and your call will show as “Unknown”.  Great for calling pesky parties who have no business knowing your number.

We will always have a use for the standard telephone system, but at least now I can make calls on my cheap prepaid T-Mobile account and not worry about the minutes ticking away.  Will the carriers notice?  If they do, you can bet that in their vendor-specific builds of Android, they will try to disable it, much as Verizon did with their own release of the Skype app which blocked users from utilizing the Skype feature to call cells and landlines.  For now, I’ll enjoy what Hangouts has to offer, and take advantage of substantial cost savings.

If anyone requests, I will include a pictorial on how to setup Hangouts to make and receive calls, as well as show you how to setup Google Voice.  It is well worth the effort to have the freedom to make unlimited free calls, and use your Voice numbers on any device you own.

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Roaming Router SSID

Since I switched from AT&T Uverse to a local cable company for Internet, and had already made other wiring changes in the house, I needed a new location for our cable drop (the wire running from the utility box to the house).  As installing it next to the incoming phone wires made the most sense, I went that route, and set up a “network shelf” in the basement to hold my various networking equipment.  This had the effect of clearing off equipment, and several irritating flashing LED lights, from my main computer desk.

Without getting into an expensive wireless access point (WAP), I wanted to make do with the routers I had on hand.  By now, I have accumulated four Linksys routers.  One was a somewhat erroneous purchase, but it now plays a central part in my reconfigured network which utilizes three routers, and the fourth is available either as an emergency backup, or I can enable it under a new subnet to offer guest access, as well as provide access to older devices which use 802.11B/G and/or WEP encryption.  That way, I can turn it on when needed, then disable it when not.

For good wireless throughout the house, I needed to have two routers active, one on either side.  With my new networking shelf located in the basement, the signal would have been poor.

My erroneous purchase was a used Linksys E2000.  It seemed to be a nice gigabit router, until I hooked it up and realized it only had one radio.  I could only run the wireless at 2.4GHz or 5.0GHz, not both simultaneously like in my WRT400N (which has two radios).  I bit the bullet and found a Linksys E3000, which offers the gigabit routing, dual radios, and the bonus of a USB port which I can connect to a printer.

Thinking it through, I need gigabit access between my main desktop computer and my Synology NAS, along with a Seagate Central I use as a network backup drive.  What I did was set up the E2000 as my primary router, which connects to the Surfboard cable modem.  The radio is disabled in the E2000.  As it has only four Ethernet ports, two of those needed to be reserved for my auxiliary routers, which now act more as a simple switch/wireless access point.  The other two accommodate my Synology and Seagate network boxes.

The E3000 is in the room with me at my main computer desk.  The WRT400N serves duty on the other side of the house, albeit only at 10/100 network speeds.

But, one thing that annoyed me with my previous setup was that I had so many different SSIDs floating around that it was a pain to connect to!  I had two routers with two radios each (2.4 and 5.0).  Why should anyone have to enter so many passwords to connect to one network in the house?

My solution was to set up the SSIDs similar to how cellular network towers operate:  the wireless device has one login, but will connect to the strongest signal it finds.  To do this, I create the same SSIDs on each router (2.4 and 5.0 have different SSIDs).  The key here is to use different channels for the radios.  I keep one router on the low channels, and the other on higher channels.  As I pair the channels to get 300N speeds, this was a bit tricky given our “noisy” neighborhood, but it is working perfectly here!

The only drawback is that I never know which router I am connected to.  Most of the time, I know I am connected to the strongest signal.  Yet if I come in from the car and walk in the side door, the phone’s tendency is to pick up the first, strongest signal it finds, which is the router on the other end of the house from my desk.  I can tell if I use an app on the phone which shows the MAC address of the router I am connected to, but in most cases this is not important.  I eventually end up on the stronger network anyway! And it is nice not having to constantly give out our network password to everyone in the house.

One final note.  How are these routers all connected together by Ethernet?  Since these routers have autosensing ports, I simply connect the incoming Ethernet from the primary E2000 router to port #4 on the back of a remote router.  Why not use the WAN ports?  The routers have a feature where, if you connect using one of the LAN ports, any address on that router will be part of the same subnet that is set up on the primary router.  And because of this, I have each router set up with its own IP address, and can access and configure any of them from any computer in the house.  10.0.1.1 will get to the primary router, and 10.0.1.3 accesses the E3000 in my work area.  10.0.1.2 finds the WRT400N on the other side of the house.  Since DHCP is enabled only on the primary router (the E2000), all routers, and devices attached to them, can share across the network.

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WordPress Network domain issue

I have been attempting to deploy a couple of WordPress “networks” and have run across an issue that fortunately was rather easy to fix.  It just took a bit of thinking.

When WP is set up as a network, you have to choose whether you want subdirectories, or subdomains.  Since I want separate domains, though, that is not always satistfactory.  Fortunately, you can edit your site URL in the dashboard and use any domain you’d wish.

Sort of.

At one host I use, I “park” a domain on top of another.  If I had domain-one.com as being my main WP network site, I would then park anotherdomain.com on top of it, and point it to the same root WP installation.  That works, up to a point.

The problem I was having is that WP’s htaccess coding tends to treat anotherdomain.com and www.anotherdomain.com as different entities.  I always use “www” just due to the fact that it is more “correct” in terms of referencing a server.  Fortunately, I was able to add the following to my htaccess to fix it:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^anotherdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.anotherdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Not ideal, but I did not want to muck about with WP’s own provided htaccess code for now.  I found I also needed to do this with the root domain of the site as well.

The above will work for a single domain.  For a couple of my WP installations, I only have one live site on the root domain.  But for another WP network installation, I feature sites all with differing root domains, so adding a recipe is not only time consuming, it is yet another thing to completely overlook.  If you create a lot of sites using a single WP installation and all have different root domains, this works perfectly.

This recipe will redirect everything to the “www.” version of the URL:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

Just wanted to post this as a heads-up if you find your WP network and additional domains don’t behave as you’d think.

 

 

 

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