Use the Cloud9 online IDE to hack on WordPress

As some of you may know, I have been hacking on this WordPress blog site recently.  The decision to “improve” this site has really come from the realisation that WordPress is actually very good at what it does, and I am going to continue using it for the foreseeable future.  With that in mind, there were a few things that were annoying me about the site, so I started digging around the innards of WordPress to figure out what could be changed, and more importantly, how to do it.  To start with, this was done using the always useful FTP application, FileZilla.  I would download a .php file locally, make some changes to it, and then upload it again.  This cycle repeated for a few iterations, until I realised that there must be a better way to do this!

Using the WordPress Editor

Now, WordPress comes with its own built-in file editor, which gives you the ability to edit individual files.  This can be pretty much any file within WordPress, be it, plugins, themes, script files, etc.  However, the editor itself is very basic, and I quickly became annoyed at using it:


Using an Online IDE

Then I remembered about a conversation had with Phil Leggetter (@leggetter) and Daniel Elliot (@agileguy) while I was at GiveCamp UK last year, and the idea of using an online IDE to do the work started to become more appealing.  This would mean that I could “hack” on the files directly from within the browser, but still get the added benefits, such as syntax highlighting.  A quick search, and it turns out that there are lots of online IDE’s out there.  Here are some of the ones that I tried out:

The requirements for what I wanted were quite simple:

  1. Be free (yes, I am a cheap skate, but for now, what I need to use it for doesn’t warrant paying for the service)
  2. Allow editing of files on a FTP Server
  3. Syntax Highlighting
  4. Allow private projects

Due to requirement 1 coderun was not able to be used.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a GREAT application, and if I was looking to code full-blown ASP.Net applications in the cloud, this would definitely be one of the go to applications.  That left three applications to whittle down.

Although it claims to be able to do it, I couldn’t get codeanywhere to connect to my FTP Server (and this wasn’t for want of trying) so I gave up on using that.  That left ShiftEdit and Cloud9 IDE.

I played with both of these, on and off, while I was doing my hacking, and I have to say that they are both very good.  Both are free (depending on what you want to do with them), and I found it hard to choose between them.  After a good bit of consideration, I have decided to continue using Cloud9 IDE.  This was for a couple of reasons:

  1. Although ShiftEdit is free (for what I wanted to do) it didn’t offer SSL access, which was a bit of a downer
  2. Cloud9 IDE seems to be under far more active development, with exciting recent announcements about Azure integration

One thing I should note about Cloud9 IDE, is that in order to secure access to your projects you normally need to purchase the premium subscription, i.e:


However, when it comes to FTP projects, it is only you that gets access:


Now, I have to admit that other people getting access to my FTP Server was something that I was worried about, and I wanted to test to make sure that it wasn’t publicly accessible.  To test this I sent a DM on Twitter to Phil Leggetter and asked him to try to get in, and this is what he was met with:

denied access

However, what is interesting, is that you “can” grant access to users through the Cloud9 IDE dashboard, once they request access, which is a really nice touch:


Sorry Phil, I denied your request to join the project :).

All in all, this is a VERY polished application, and I would highly recommend checking it out.  The GitHub and BitBucket integration is seamless, and just works!  Make sure you check it out.

If you are interested in checking out the result of my hacking I have uploaded my changes to my GitHub site here.

Websites are now being blacked out

In case you haven’t heard, there are a number of websites/companies that have decided to black out their web pages today.  This is in order to join the protest against the U.S. Congress legislation which is being proposed called SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act.  You can find out more information about SOPA here (which strangely enough is a Wikipedia page, so obviously, not all of their pages are going dark).

















There are a number of other well known companies that are against SOPA.  You can find a list here.  However, there are just as many companies that are in favour of SOPA, and you can find them here.

If you also don’t agree with SOPA you can join the protest here.

Continue using WordPress, or not?

In one way or another, I have had a blog since the start of 2008.  This started out as a custom blog with I created in ASP.Net.  This was hosted on my own server in the house, using Red Hat Linux, MySQL and Mono (using the mod_mono Apache Module).  This was set up as more of an experiment than anything, just to prove that you could happily run an ASP.Net application on top of Linux, and by the start of 2009 I wasn’t really using the blog anymore.  Back in May 2011, I decided that I wanted to start blogging “properly” again.  This decision was taken for a number of reasons, but mainly due to the fact that I had started getting more involved in the UK .Net Development Community and I wanted somewhere to record what was going on, and so this WordPress blog was born.

Being a .Net Developer, my intention was always to start using one of the .Net Blogging systems such as BlogEngine, dasBlog, or Subtext, however, due to time constraints at the time, I set up this WordPress blog.  This was ridiculously simple to do, and I was very quickly able to set up the blog as I wanted it, with pages, contact form, and blog entries.  There was very little that I could fault with WordPress.  The sheer volume of plugins that it has means that if you want to add something to your blog, such as Galleries, Comment Management, Syntax Highlighting, you can simply add it.  And, best of all, normally, this doesn’t cost you anything.

For the next year or so, I was quite happy using the WordPress system, and it wasn’t until I set up the Aberdeen Developers .Net User Group site with BlogEngine, that I started to wonder whether I wanted to move this blog onto another system.  I started doing some investigation, and there are a number of tutorials out there that show you the steps that you need to take in order to migrate a WordPress blog onto another system.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I was going to go ahead and move it.  At least that way, if there was “something” that I wanted to add to the blog system, be it another module, or function, then in theory (given that I am a .Net Developer and that a new system would be based on .Net) I should quite easily be able to add it.

However, recently, a number of things have happened that are making me to rethink this decision.

  1. I attended GiveCamp UK and worked on a WordPress site and I got to see more into the innards of WordPress and saw that it isn’t that “bad” to tinker with, as I had previously thought
  2. I found an amazing Metro WordPress Theme thanks to Pedro Lamas
  3. WordPress 3.3.1 was released and it is quite simply, amazing!
  4. I installed a few new WordPress Plugins that contained the last remaining functionality that I was looking for on my blog, namely BackUpWordPress, Disqus Comment System, FeedBurner FeedSmith Extend, NextGen Gallery, and Now Reading Reloaded, (If you are interested in seeing all the WordPress plugins that I currently use, take a look at this blog post).

The Now Reading plugin doesn’t “quite” do exactly what I want, but I think I am now prepared to invest the time to get it working the way I want it.

So what does all this mean?

Unless someone can convince me to the contrary, I am going to continue using WordPress. 

It is VERY good at what it does, and I don’t see any killer feature in any of the other systems that would make me want to switch.  Granted, it is created in PHP, and this is not something that I am overly familiar with, but using it also forces me to get my toes wet with PHP, which when it comes to becoming a “well-rounded” developer is far from a bad thing.  To this end, over the last week or so I have added a few more things to the blog.  This includes, as mentioned, the Now Reading plugin which you can see in action here (expect to see some changes to this in the near future), and I have added some photo albums, which you can see here.  The majority of these photos come from my old blog back in 2008 (I have also imported the old blog posts from that blog into this one).  If anyone is looking for an explanation of what the hell “Gary The Coconut” is all about, check out this blog post here and here.

As always, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment.

WordPress 3.3.1 Released

Having logged into my Blog this morning, I was informed that a new release of WordPress was available; Version 3.3.1.


Upon checking what was included in this release, it was clear that this was something that I should get installed pretty much straight away, and this is exactly what I did. 

With the Database and Files backed up, I hit the Update button, and once again I am happy to say that everything “just worked”.  It is good to see that the WordPress Developers are adding a “bit of fun” into the update process:


Since this update addresses a Cross-Site Scripting Vulnerability, I would highly recommend that everyone using WordPress update their sites immediately.

Just updated this blog to WordPress 3.3

Thanks to a tweet from Richard Hay (@WinObs), I have just updated this WordPress blog to WordPress 3.3.  As always the installation was painless, and the new look and feel is very nice!  Might take a bit of getting used to, but in a good way.

If you are interested in the new features that WordPress 3.3 has to offer, you can check them out in the video below.  I am particularly impressed with the new drag and drop features for adding media to your blog, and the changes to the menus make perfect sense and are a great addition!

You can also find more information on Richard’s Blog here.

WordPress Plugins used on blog

On this site, I am starting to use a large number of WordPress plugins.  These range from plugins for SMTP configuration to showing my Tweets.  To aid an aging brain, I am going to note these plugins here, and will update this post as I add/remove plugins from my blog.

Are there any others that you can recommend?

EDIT: Just found this article thanks to @blacknight: