Backing up local WordPress installation to encrypted Dropbox folder

(Note: This was done on Ubuntu 15.10, but should apply to other Linux distros as well)

I’m running a local WordPress installation for my personal diary, and I was looking for a way to automatically back up the database. On my WordPress sites that are online and hosted with my service provider, such as this one, I’m using a great plugin for the task, WP-DB-Backup by Austin Matzko. Works great and does exactly what it says. You can manually back up or have a regular backup sent to you per e-mail. For my local installation, however, this is not an option since I don’t want to install and configure a mail server as well. And even if I did, the file would still be in a local e-mail, which would make backing it up to Dropbox all the harder.

After quite a bit of digging and experimenting I Continue reading Backing up local WordPress installation to encrypted Dropbox folder

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WhatsApp on the Linux Desktop

Some genius created a cross-platform “client” for WhatsApp on the desktop. It’s not actually a stand alone client, since WhatsApp doesn’t provide an open API. Rather, it’s a wrapper for WhatsApp Web, the company’s own web client. I had some problems getting it to work, though. There seems to be a user agent related problem. WhatsApp Web wants you to use mainstream browsers, apparently. The initial login worked, but after a restart, all I got was this:

WhatsApp failed login

Somebody else reported the same issue, and while there doesn’t seem to be an official fix yet, the workaround was posted in the comments. It works by deleting the cache. On Linux, this can be found under ~/.config/UnofficialWhatsApp/Application\ Cache. Removing this folder fixes the problem, and you’ll be able to log in again. It’s a hassle, though, having to do that every time before you start the client, so I wrote a little script called “whatsapp”:

#!/bin/bash
rm -r ~/.config/UnofficialWhatsApp/Application\ Cache
/opt/WhatsAppForDesktop/UnofficialWhatsApp

I placed this in my ~/bin folder, then copied the desktop file from /opt/WhatsAppForDesktop/whatsappfordesktop.desktop to ~/.local/share/applications and edited it to point to ~/bin/whatsapp instead of the original location. For now this seems to be working.

Other than that, it works great.

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Quitting Facebook…

… yet again.

I recently deleted my Facebook account again, although for completely different reasons this time. Here’s what I posted to my friends:

That’s all, folks…

(If you don’t feel like reading through this whole explanation but still want to stay in touch, feel free to skip to the bottom 😉)

Those of you who know me and have been friends on Facebook with me before are probably going to have a good laugh at this, but I’m quitting. Yeah, I know, I’ve been there, and it didn’t last forever the last time, either, but this time my reasons are entirely different. Last time, in 2011, it was because of the company and its disregards for its income generating user base. When I got back on in June I thought, oh what the hell. Not that I totally changed my mind about that, but I didn’t take it quite as serious anymore (which is why I’m actually going to keep WhatsApp this time, although I originally dumped it after FB bought it.)

This time, however, it’s about what I see on Facebook on a day-to-day basis. It’s not good for me.
First, there’s all the hate, the racism, and the anti-refugee sentiments. Luckily, none of you, my friends, fall in into that category, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see any of it. The comments on news articles and the news articles themselves, it’s just plain depressing. I’m probably not going to stop reading the news; I want to stay at least partially up to date, but I’m not sure I want all the details, including every little racist comment coming out of our politicians mouths. It’s good that the stuff is out there and that they can’t hide it anymore, but I already know that we are facing some immense problems, and not with the refugees but the people who are against the refugees and the populist politicians who are using this mood to either stay in power or to gain it. I don’t need to be reminded of it every day.

Then there’s the other stuff, mostly stories or pictures of the things that people do or say. That also includes comments, and sometimes responses to my comments. I’m already not exactly a people person; I’m definitely not the most social person you’ll ever meet, but some off the stuff I read around here every day really gets me close to losing my faith in humanity altogether.
Some of you might say, hey, it’s just Facebook, it’s not that important (something I used myself, a while back, but when I used it, it was on a rant somebody wrote about having technical problems with writing posts. That person went totally nuts about it, and I used that line to calm him down. In that context, it really wasn’t that important.) The thing is, it’s not just Facebook, and I think it’s more important than you would think. Facebook is shaping this society, and it’s changing it. You might ask yourself, what harm can a little picture with some text on it do? Or some idiots who write racist comments? Those people were always around, after all.
There are two problems. One is the sheer amount of those things that we see everyday, and the is that nobody bothers to fact check. People forget that image editing tools are not exclusively used by skilled photographers anymore; these days anybody can put text on a picture. And when people see something that fits their point of view, they will (mostly) mindlessly re-share it. That doesn’t mean that the text on the picture is factual, or the quote attributed to the person on the picture was something that person actually said, but it will re-inforce people’s beliefs, even the false ones, or the dangerous ones. The same goes for comments.
Two important facts to remember: One, everybody has an agenda, and two, people don’t like to change their minds. People will react positively only to posts that appeal to their own beliefs and agendas and dismiss the rest as propaganda or conspiracy. No, I’m not making that up. There are already studies, and other people, with a larger audience than me, saying the same thing or something similar. Go read up on the Filter Bubble, if you don’t believe me. Also, I know it from experience, for the one positive thing that Facebook did for me (apart from re-connecting with a few relatives and old friends I haven’t seen in a looong time 😉) is to really reinforce my atheism. I had already quit the Catholic church in 2013, because I simply stopped believing, but I was more in a stage of “I simply don’t care”. Now I do care, and I now openly call myself an atheist. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I started following some atheist pages on Facebook, and the posts fit into my world view that was emerging at the time. And I saw them because I chose to follow those pages. I would not choose to follow any religious pages, so there was no chance of me being influenced by opposing view points, and that’s the point I’m trying to make.

I find it hard to express, in English or German, all of what’s really going through my mind on the subject. All I can say is, Facebook is not good for me. It’s costing me too much time and energy, and that’s why I’ve decided to simply quit.

Those of you who want to stay in touch and are not already connected to me outside of Facebook, feel free to write a comment or drop me a private note and we can exchange other means of contact (privately). I’ll stick around for a few days to give everyone a chance to see this.

Thanks.

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Let girls be girls

Somebody on Facebook posted a link to this story about a mom who’s not happy about her little daughter being into Disney princesses. I wrote a rather lengthy comment that I thought would make a nice blog post, so I’m simply copy-pasting here:

I don’t know about this; I think it’s a lot more important to let your kids be who they want to be and not who you want them to be. I came across a couple of stories a while back (and now, of course, I can’t find them) where it was little boys who were into everything pink, princess, girls stuff. One of them was about this little boy who didn’t want to wear anything but his sister’s dresses. While in both stories it was initially hard for the parents, eventually they learned to accept it and just go with it.

I agree that the female body image that Disney represents is distorted, and it really fits in this time to critize them for it, but it’s still just a cartoon, and I’d say that most kids grow up to learn to tell the difference between a cartoon, which people can draw however they want, and reality. The stuff that I grew up with is really not that different; Disney princesses haven’t changed that much since Snow White, and most of the stuff that I used to watch when I was a kid (may I be forgiven, but I actually watched He-Man and She-Ra, Saber Rider, Captain Future, and stuff like that 😀 ) had a very similar female body image. And yes, I had Barbie dolls, too. As a matter of fact, I saved some, just for the good memories. And yet I still came away with a healthy body image. The main thing is, it’s a fantasy, and that’s what you need to teach your kids.
Besides, the guys in the cartoons aren’t much different, at least not the good guys.

You can’t “protect” your kid from mainstream culture, not forever, and if you try, they might end up going totally extreme once they find out about it. Also, I think you can take everything too far, and that includes feminism.

As far as I’m concerned the fashion industry and the advertising industry are doing a lot more harm to the body image of girls and young women, because they either use anorexic (and therefore sick) models or pictures that are photoshopped to death, and that’s where education needs to kick in — not with cartoons that are aimed at an audience that’s way to young to care about body image.

Besides, if kids learn, at a young age, from the people who matter most in their life — their parents — that it’s ok to be who they are, they will be much less likely to fall into the body image or gender image trap later. If, on the other hand, they get the feeling that they’re not the person their parents wanted them to be, then you’ll end up with a mess sooner rather than later.

It turned out to be quite a novel, and I still wasn’t done. My brain insisted on going back to this, until I found I couldn’t go to sleep without adding three more points that I thought are important:

  1. If a little girl turns out to be a tomboy, nobody complains. Everybody just says, oh, isn’t that cute, and how wonderful, she’s not conforming to gender stereotypes. But if a little girl just wants to be a little girl, somehow that’s not o.k.
  2. The main focus of this story is about the looks of the princesses, but when asked why they like them, it’s not the first thing that comes to the girls’ minds. Instead they talk about personality traits, all of which are desirable.
  3. I have a little niece who just turned 3, and I have spent enough time at my brother’s house with the TV running to know that there are much, much, *much* worse things than Disney out there…
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Computer games & actual violence – What is it with these people?

I know, I haven’t written anything in a long time, but I really feel the need to vent.

I just came across this article on the website of German public broadcaster NDR (Google translation, not perfect, but you’ll get the gist of it). It’s about some 70 year old criminologist who is going to semi-retire in Germany, but he wants to go to the U.S. to help fight violence. I didn’t really think too much about it, until I came to his claim that “computer games are one cause for violence”, which, according to NDR, he is absolutely sure of.

*takingadeepbreath*

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHRG…!!!!!!!

What is it with these people? This guy is obviously not the only one; every single time Continue reading Computer games & actual violence – What is it with these people?

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Updating…

Terrace Since it looks like summer might be at least peeking in for a bit, I created a little space on the patio; cleaned off the table, connected the netbook and decided it’s time for some writing, which I haven’t done in a while. I just updated several WP plugins, which led to the title — I feel like my life needs a little software update to clean up all the bugs 😉

Actually, though, things aren’t going too bad right now. Starting last month, I finally have a job that fits me — took me long enough after I came here. With the last one I think (I hope) I found the bottom of the barrel; I’m still running after my last salary, the one for March, plus 45 hours worth of overtime. I have a really good feeling, though, about the job I’m doing now, and what’s more, they don’t mind me doing my photography business on the side (it’s not competition, this job has nothing to do with photography whatsoever, and that’s probably better. I’m a much better photographer working for myself. I don’t have to worry about what the boss thinks about my work, which usually gets in my way as an employee; at least if the boss is also a photographer. So in a way it’s good that, just to pay my rent and put food on the table, I’m doing something entirely different.

Now that I had a month to settle in at the new job, it’s time to get back to doing the things that I love to do. April, the month I was out of work, feels totally wasted; I had a terrible cold, so I didn’t go for my daily walks, and since I couldn’t sing, I got sloppy with my guitar practice. Then came the new job and all the changes it brought with it, and a lot of times I felt to tired to go for a walk or pick up my guitar, and now I have to work really hard to get my fingers back in shape. But I guess, all in all, things are looking much better than they did two months ago, and hopefully I’ll be able to start writing something useful here again pretty soon.

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Ubuntu 12.04: “No Screens Found”

I just spent about three hours fixing my computer. Ok, a great deal of the time was spent backing up my photos, but still. Anyway, I thought I’d share.

Last night, when I just wanted to quickly check something on the internet, X froze. I restarted, and it wouldn’t boot to a graphical login anymore.

This is the tail end of the Xorg.0.log:

Fatal server error:
[ 56.973] no screens found
[ 56.973]
Please consult the The X.Org Foundation support
at http://wiki.x.org
for help.
[ 56.973] Please also check the log file at "/var/log/Xorg.0.log" for additional information.
[ 56.973]
[ 56.980] ddxSigGiveUp: Closing log
[ 56.981] Server terminated with error (1). Closing log file.

At the same time, I got the following error message at the login prompt:
mountall: disconnected from Plymouth
mountall: Event failed

I don’t know if the two were related or not, but I did fix the latter one first. After some googling, I found that someone else had this problem after modifying the swap partition. That prompted me to compare actual UUIDs to the ones in /etc/fstab. Turns out that for some reason the UUID of the swap partition hat changed; as to why, I don’t have the slightest idea. I didn’t make any changes to the system. But replacing the one in /etc/fstab with the one from ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid fixed at least the one error.

As for the X server problem, before I went to sleep last night, I posted the problem to Google Plus. When I checked this morning, some helpful soul had posted a comment saying the problem might be a hard disk problem. That scared me right out of bed to back up my latest photos to my external hard disk — nothing like a good scare to wake you up 😛

I don’t want to detail all the little things I tried that failed, so here’s what solved it:
sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg*
That also removed ubuntustudio-desktop, which was convenient because to re-install everything all I needed was
sudo apt-get install ubuntustudio-desktop

So, I have a working system again, but I also got a friendly reminder to back up more often.

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Experiment: Failed

Note: This is a cross post from my 365 Days project.

I think it may be time to admit defeat.

That was five days in a row where I didn’t get a picture. On Tuesday it was work. I have a part time job now where I spend two days at the company offices taking photos and half a day at home editing. On Tuesday I suggested to only shoot when I’m there and do all editing at home, which meant taking home the pictures from Tuesday and editing them that evening. By the time I was done, it was 9 p.m., and I really didn’t feel like putting any energy into this project. That one day was the beginning of the end, as I knew from the start it would be. On Wednesday night I was too tired and went to bed early. On Thursday, after I was done with my editing for the job, I decided to take the afternoon off from pretty much everything — work, photography, exercising, dieting. I felt like I really needed that; I had been constantly on the move for weeks. And I was glad I did; I don’t even regret the Pizza I had. (I made up for that and not taking a walk on Friday, which made it ok.) Again, though, no picture. Also on Thursday, I got an e-mail from a concerned friend who had been looking at this website every day since I showed it to her. At that point I realized that I’m probably not gonna make it.

The truth is, I had been struggling with this project for a little while before I actually stopped. I came across this article on diyphotography.net a few days before, and it had the ring of familiarity for me, even though at that point I was still shooting.

The simple truth is that we’re photographers. Artists. Sure, we can take snapshots, but we’d rather “create images.” If we’re not going to put in the effort, why bother? And effort, my friends, takes time. Planning it. Shooting it. Processing it. Posting it. At its most basic, those four steps actually take up a considerable amount of time. And time means pressure.

For me, that’s the key in this article. It is hard to force creativity, and I realize that by setting a topic, I created a much bigger amount of pressure. It’s not that I don’t like to take pictures every day, it’s trying to force myself into the constraints of a certain topic. I already mentioned it on Monday, when I took the (from my point of view) uninspired image of the light bulb. On that day I had been on a really long walk on the Thüster Berg, and I had dared to undertake an experiment of another kind: I took only the 50 mm lens; for the first time in my photographer’s life I went for a walk without taking a zoom lens. The results were exhilarating. While I realized that there’s still lots to learn about this subject (and did learn a few lessons on that day), and those pictures are still a long way from the works of other (more famous) forest photographers, they were still the best forest pictures I ever took. And then I was supposed to stop working on them just for some stupid project that I had already lost the enthusiasm for?

The thing is, I’m very reluctant to pick up my camera for the sole purpose of keeping to a schedule. I don’t want to publish pictures with my name on them if I don’t fully stand behind them. What’s the point otherwise? As Jeff Guyer, the author of the DIY Photography article, said it: If we call ourselves photographers, why should we be content with a snapshot, just so that we can say, “yes, I, too, completed a 365 project”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I tried this. I did end up with some pictures that I really like, and I started a nice little collection, to which I might add some more later, when I see something inspiring and without the pressure of a project.
For now, though, I declare this experiment ended with failure. Ultimately, this decision will mean more and better pictures in the future, because it frees both my time and my mind.

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