A little while ago, Baby Steps let us know that Emily needed to come to playschool the next day dressed as a sports player – all very well and fun, but not so great when you don’t actually own anything even remotely sporty for your little girl toddler!
However, as luck would have it, a beautifully packaged blogger drop from the team at Frontpage Communications on behalf of Parental Instinct arrived at our front door in the afternoon – and wouldn’t you believe it, inside the box was the cutest toddler polo/tennis dress I’ve ever seen!
You want to know something ever more funny? That particular dress is called… wait for it – The Emily Dress! Talk about a happy coincidence.
Emily was of course thrilled to come home to this awesome surprise, and very proudly went to playschool the next day to show off her cute as a button tennis dress to anyone and everyone that she could find!
Actually, pretty much all the Parental Instinct clothing line is awesome. Started by two sport, style and design-loving dads, Paddy Muldoon and Chris Baff (who between them have 37 years spent in the design, production and marketing of sportswear), Parental Instinct was initially dreamed up as a humour-fuelled business idea, but then turned into a very clever movement for producing good looking, easy to care for, and even easier to use children’s wear.
“By taking the innovations trusted in sportswear and applying them to iconic children’s wear essentials, each of Parental Instinct’s unique products include stain resistant and release nano-technology, as well as colour-coded snaps in an attempt to make parenting as easy as pie.”
Oh, and in case that all sounds a bit like marketing guff, they even released a video about what they mean:
Stellenbosch-based Xander, an award-winning proudly South African venture courtesy of the well known Knott-Craig clan, produces educational apps for young children aimed at promoting mother-tongue learning. Children are able to engage with technology, learn and have fun all at the same time – a sentiment with which my young Jessica wholeheartedly agrees with!
Anyway, it was pretty cool of them to recently feature me and my Dad and the Code blog on their website as one of their Xander Dads (note, I’m actually the first dad included. Up until now it has just been Mommy bloggers!).
Silly, I know, but deep down I kind of like it! ;)
Anyway, check out their website for more about their very kid-friendly and educational apps!
(Just like the Spar Savour Magazine feature, I made sure to grab screenshots for posterity!)
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That’s pretty cool. I didn’t realise that the blog and I got featured in the December 2015 edition of the Spar Savour Magazine. Or rather, I know that someone sent me some questions to answer towards the end of last year, but I didn’t know that they actually got used.
So it was rather nice to spot my smiling mug looking back at me, even if I only discovered it three months after it was posted! :)
The SA Blog Awards programme has been running for a good couple of years now (and courting more than its fair share of controversy in the process mind you).
Nevertheless, seeing as I did pretty well with the African Blogger Awards earlier this year, trying out for this one shouldn’t hurt. So, if you like my content, how about a quick vote then?
(Click on the badge. No really, click on it…)
No? Okay. I guess I still like you anyway.
Related Link: SA Blog Award Vote
I’m not particularly active on Twitter to be quite honest – the appeal of the whole thing doesn’t quite make sense to me, but nevertheless, I have an account and as such I do receive e-mail notices whenever someone directs a tweet my way – which is exactly what happened on the 5th of May when I spotted this glorious tweet in my inbox:
That’s right, my little corner on the web just got recognised as the winner of the Personal blog category of this year’s edition of the African Blogger Awards (2015. The second year that this competition has ran).
Of course, as always, this doesn’t really mean all that much when you consider that they had a fairly low number of entrants overall (just over a 1 000, about double last year’s total), but what is pretty cool is that I won the award in this particular category based entirely on measured metrics – in other words, this was no “popular kid” vote system here in play here, oh no, this was cold hard click counts.
(Which then automatically makes it a lot better and massively more fair than what has since gone on to become a bit of a blogger joke these days, i.e. the SA Blogger Awards.)
Webfluential is an advertising platform which allows marketing teams to place adverts across Blog, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram networks, and is quite obviously positioned hard the real benefactor to these awards, what with all the exposure that it is getting (it was the official analytics collector, with the added bonus of getting a whole slew of new content producers onboard seeing as they needed to sign up in order to take part).
Not that I actually mind, mind you – Webfluential is actually already a pretty slick platform (I was on it before I had even heard of these awards), and again, I kind of like this thing that runs on metrics and algorithms!
Anyway, taken from the Awards about page (if you’re still not following as to what exactly is going on):
“The African Blogger Awards aims to acknowledge the top African talent in the world of Bloggers, YouTubers, Facebookers, Tweeters, and Instagrammers. These awards provide an opportunity to the most successful online influencers in Africa to be recognised for their hard work in growing and keeping their communities active and engaged.
Our aim is to broaden the industry for bloggers in Africa and allow brands to see the value in blogging as a marketing platform.”
(For interest’s sake, the African Blogger Awards appear to have been the creation of the viral social media gurus behind both the Retroviral media agency and Webfluential, Murray Legg and Mike Sharman.)
…Okay, wait. This is all getting a bit convoluted and silly now.
All I initially wanted to achieve with this post was to recognise the fact that I DID in fact win a blogging award because my stats aren’t particularly half bad for a personal blog run by a singular person, with a post pushed out every now and then instead of in constant flood mode! (i.e. it isn’t a corporate construct or anything like that.)
That makes me smile a little.
(Now I wonder if I should be expecting a little something arriving for me through the post…)
Related Link: African Blogger Awards
I know, I know, I promised some feedback from the awesome two week long jaunt in Japan I experienced back in October 2014, and yes, that was quite some time ago. The thing is though, there are so, SO many photos to organise – never mind the part of actually getting around to writing everything up!
Nevertheless, you’ll be rather pleased to know that at long last I’ve sat down and sorted through all the photos – that’s two Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards plus my Huawei P6’s memory card worth of pictures – in other words a decent amount of sorting that was done.
Of course, it could be worse – I could have been armed with a proper camera and not just my little point-and-click Sony Cybershot – which if that was the case and I was all professional like, I’d be wading through thousands and thousands of the damn things!
So small blessings then, even if the trade-off is at times some pretty shoddy (and blurry) shots! (I shudder to think just how many photos and how much organising my friends who actually are proper into photography have to go through after a trip like this!)
Anyway, I have to say, the last couple of evenings going through all these photos has brought back some wonderful memories of my short visit alongside Ryan to the Land of the Rising Sun, and so pleasingly I’m looking quite, quite forward to writing up all the text to go along with the pictures.
In short, I hope you’re ready for some tales from Japan – because looking at all these folders sitting in front of me – you’re in for a lot!
Now, where did I put that file with all the attraction ticket stubs and travel guides in it…
Well I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my extended break from blogging – I’ve pretty much not written anything of substance since mid-October last year, and taking a break from the keyboard in the evenings to rather spend time with either Jess or Chantelle, or just to simply veg out in front of the TV or the XBOX, has been pretty great.
Of course, the blog has kept ticking over with a content-filler posts on a daily basis for the duration my break period, but I’m happy to see that they’ve pretty much run out now, and with that, the year and a bit long little SEO and income generating experiment is now over.
Frankly, I don’t like the fact that my archives are now over-run with these soulless bits of writing and quick posts, which means that from here on in, the blog will be reverting pretty much to its original mission of being a place where I can share all the current goings on in the Lotter Clan life with my friends and family (and in the process create a great memory box for myself!), as well as an easy access storage place for code snippets, tech tips and application how-to’s that are useful to me and my work.
Naturally, this does of course mean that this blog will no longer be updated on a daily basis, rather updating when the whim to post takes me – bad news then for any regular visitors to these pages in other words.
Anyway, naturally there is a literal ton of stuff that I haven’t shared with you over the 2+ months that I haven’t been posting to the site, some of which I’ll catch up on or at least provide synopses for, and some of it that I won’t. (Truthfully, this all hangs off on what I can remember, and what I can’t!)
And that’s that. I’m officially back.
Right. So it’s probably been a month and a bit now, but so far so good. My craiglotter.co.za blog has been running nice and smoothly, powered by its new hosting company, namely the almost always awesome Afrihost.
Back in 2008 Ryan and I picked up on AmpleHosting to provide the hosting for our online venture, and while Ryan has long since left the picture, I had continued up until recently using them for their well-priced and quite flexible hosting packages. They played host the the multitude of sites I built on their service, sites including the likes of codeunit.co.za, houseofc.co.za, cookiesandcakes.co.za, and funakoshikarate.co.za, to name but a few.
Of course, having tired of spending unnecessary time online, I pulled back my online footprint over the last couple of years, in the end leaving only my personal craiglotter.co.za blog and Chantelle’s cookiesandcakes.co.za sites running on the old Amplehosting package.
Not that they were perfect during all those years mind you. They switched servers a number of times without informing us, leaving us to find out about the downtime on our own accord, and more than once they would suspend the account and again wait for us to discover the downtime and contact them instead of the other way around.
As craiglotter.co.za traffic numbers grew (and we’re not talking big – only between 2,000 and 3,000 visits a day), Amplehosting eventually persuaded me to upgrade to a better package, which I did, absorbing the higher monthly cost as part of my hobby. However, it wasn’t long before the trouble began. Time and again I would find my account disabled, and time and again they couldn’t provide me with any information other than saying that my site was overloading the server. This was particularly annoying because the site is nothing more than a WordPress installation, with no other services or crons or anything like that running in the background.
Most annoying of all though was the fact that they continued to disable my account without contacting me about it, and with my advertising links starting to bug me about server uptime, Amplehosting’s lack of immediate support, or more importantly, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable support, eventually drove me to cut ties with them and move craiglotter.co.za over to Afrihost, the ISP which has now been serving me well for the last couple of years, and most importantly, a company who in particular continues to impress me everyday with their always over the top customer service.
So yeah, no more money for Amplehosting then.
Sure, they have well priced packages, a good billing system and a generally friendly 1st level of support – but if you’re running something with a little more traffic than your aunt’s local baking site, I wouldn’t bother.
Customer service. It’s really important to get it right.
Wonderful, just wonderful. So my online presence was completely down for well over two days at the start of this week, and no, that never points to something good.
The reason? Some silly twit hacked my hosting account for the lulz, and pretty much destroyed everything in sight, just so that he or she could throw up their silly little defacement page featuring some bad music, a picture of a sniper and a link to his ‘security site’. To be honest, I never bothered loading it to see, I just saw the bare code on the pages as I was busy manually removing them, so there may have been a little more. The hosting company (AmpleHosting) picked up on the hack pretty quickly and shut down my account, meaning I don’t think too many people were subjected to what this person obviously thinks is “cool”.
I’m not sure what the attack vector was to gain access to the hosting account, it could be either Joomla, WordPress, Gallery or one of my own concoctions floating around, but the fact of the matter is that the hacker successfully deleted a number of files and folders off the account and managed to inject his replacement defaced page across the various sites. At the moment it points to the work of a script kiddie, but oh well, regardless of their level of skill, the damage was done.
My hosting account plays host to five WordPress sites (http://www.craiglotter.co.za, http://www.codeunit.co.za, http://www.houseofc.co.za, http://www.countingbeans.co.za, and http://www.cookiesandcakes.co.za), one Joomla site (http://www.funakoshikarate.co.za), one Gallery site (http://photos.codeunit.co.za), and a couple of my own homebrew sites like the mobile-formatted http://c.codeunit.co.za, my CodeUnit applications Autoupdate framework, my Adobe AIR applications, as well as the beginnings of my portfolio site.
In other words, a fair bit of things down for the count then.
The damage done by the script was pretty simple. Troll through all folders and delete any “index” or “default” pages it could find. Replace with custom index page in all root folders. Also delete any files named “wp-config” as wells as folders named “wp-admin” or “uploads”, before finally deleting itself (well, I think that this last one is true, as I can’t find a trace of the malicious script for now).
Thankfully, apart from a single username change in the craiglotter.co.za database, it doesn’t appear that the attacker tampered with any of the databases, meaning that to get the WordPress sites back up and running, I needed to download WordPress from its official home, and then upload the wp-admin folder, plus index.php file back into each affected site folder. Finally I had to regenerate the wp-config file using database details for the existing databases held in the account, creating new database user accounts in the process. I have lost some shared images and the like that used to be stored in the Uploads folder, so that does mean that unfortunately you’ll have to bear with a couple of missing items until I manage to root them all out.
I haven’t bothered to bring the Gallery site back up, and will instead trash it and introduce the photos it used to contain into my main craiglotter.co.za site – it makes sense to bring the photos in-house anyway. Already disillusioned with how user-UNfriendly Joomla is, I’ve decided to kill the Funakoshi Karate website and rather create a brand new WordPress site for it (Thank goodness my leave is coming up soon!).
As for the other custom stuff, well, it is pretty much destroyed as far as what I’m concerned. I’m already in the process of recreating the CodeUnit Collections mobile site using jQuery Mobile as a platform, and for the rest, well, I’m just going to pretend they never existed until I one day have need of them again! ;)
Sucky, but that’s how it goes.
On my hosting plan, automatic backups aren’t done, meaning that because I wasn’t keeping up to date with backups, the deleted files are lost forever. The fact of the matter is that I should of course have known better and managed the backup process on a more consistent manner, but the reality is that this remains something I have fun with in my personal time – and it simply isn’t all that high on the list of things to do with what little free time I have available to me!
Anyway, the worst part for me is that this shit is done simply for kicks by one very sad, lonely little individual. *Sigh*, eventually they’ll also grow up I imagine.