All posts by AHON

WordPress – The ‘white screen of death’ and how to avoid it.

The ‘white screen of death’ is something that you have come across in either trying to customise your site or you wouldn’t have come here for answers!

On a brand new installation of WordPress it can be extremely annoying to suddenly find that your site doesn’t work. The actual site may be online, but it isn’t much good if the first post simply says ‘Hello world!’ and you can’t change it, or worse still you can’t see anything!

So what causes this?

Problem 1

Well I’ve had the same problem twice with the same installation. The first solution was reasonably simple to fix. The mod_security() settings server side needed changed. This can be done very quickly by your host (assuming they have a dedicated support team and it isn’t a bedroom reseller host) and will resolve the white screen issue in minutes. They simply need to add your domain to their server whitelist.

WordPress doesn’t tell you what the error is by default, but you can force it to provide error messages so at least you know where the error occurs in scripting.

The first thing to do is to create a log file. Do this by creating a file called debug.log in the /wp-content/ folder.

You then need to modify the wp-config.php file to include the following three lines.

define (‘WP_DEBUG’, true);  // Turns on debugging

define(‘WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY’, false); // Set the debugging to NOT display the errors on the live site

define(‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true); // Record the errors in a debug log file</code>


Make sure that this code is placed before the line which reads             /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ in the wp-config.php file.

This will log all errors and record the actual error in the log file you have created. Although this means you will not see the error message on screen, you will at least be able to track it down and look for further advice when you have found it. The reason for doing it this way is to ensure that error messages are not displayed on the live site. To display the errors in real time (I used this while the site was in dev and therefore not public facing) then simply change the display flag to true.

Problem 2

The second error wasn’t so easy to track down. It manifests itself in exactly the same way when you click ‘customise my site’ from the dashboard, and the white screen is all you get. I eventually narrowed this down to the plugins. Plugins can be very useful. I use several (spam trapping, cookie policy display on first visit, contact form) but the way they interact with the main template can be an issue. The fix for this error is REALLY simple.

If you need to customise the site (either through the dashboard or by changing the code) then start by going to the plugins screen from the dashboard and deactivate ALL plugins. Then make the changes you need, and when you have saved all the changes and are ready to log out, go back to the plugins screen and activate all plugins. This should ensure that the white screen doesn’t affect you, and while it means the plugins won’t work for a short time, this is much more preferable then not being able to make any changes at all. This last point is useful for ANY changes, even adding new posts to the site.

Microsoft to ‘force’ Windows 10 on those yet to upgrade

Microsoft have decided that everyone should be using Windows 10, whether or not they want it.

Early in 2016 a round of updates will include the W10 download for Win 7 and Win 8/8.1 users. This will download the required installation files without prompting from the user. Considering the download is at least 3.5Gb, those users with capped download contracts should be aware that this is coming. They may want to schedule any updates so that they don’t run out of bandwidth at the end of the month when they are only halfway through the update.

Once the files have downloaded, there will then be a prompt ‘inviting’ those users to update.

Microsoft currently have Win10 installed on 110 million machines. They want to make that 1 billion machines very quickly and this is a comment provoking way to do it. There are numerous posts around the internet expressing disgust that Microsoft are pushing this without asking although a substantial portion seem to be people who have tried to install and have had issues.

If you want to avoid the download then the only way to do so is to switch off automatic updates. Bear in mind that doing so means that NO updates are installed, including those Microsoft deems to be required such as security patches.

Google pushes ahead with Project Loon

So Google are nearly ready to bring us Project Loon. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it?

Google announced in 2013 that they had an impressive plan to surround the Earth with large balloons which would provide internet access. This was a project designed to bring high speed internet access to places with little or no infrastructure for net access. At the time it was viewed as a fanciful notion that would never get off the ground (pun intended).

Fast forward to the present day, and now they are announcing that the trials have gone well, and they expect to have a global network in place within months. This will allow them to bring on board paying customers, by which it looks like they mean multi-nationals and Government customers.

The concept behind Loon is not really new technology. The balloons themselves are very similar to those developed in the 1950’s by the US Military and NOAA for weather tracking (although I’m sure they had some other uses during the cold war) and are huge structures made from Mylar and filled with Helium. To date, the longest Google has had a balloon stay up is 187 days, but previously the military claim to have had one stay up for 744 days.

They will circle the earth at a height of approximately 20Km and rather than being stationary they will be allowed to float where the weather takes them. They will be tracked by GPS, allowing them to sync with the rest of the balloons in the network. Each balloon will carry three radios. One each for data upload and download, and a backup should one of those fail.

The benefit for places with a good infrastructure will be negligible. The types of place which should really benefit are places like Indonesia, where a chain of rugged islands has meant building the usual cable based network is extremely difficult and expensive. Google hope that Loon will be a simpler, cheaper option for Governments in areas like this to provide a network which is available to all.

Such areas have missed out on opportunities the rest of us take for granted. Most readers probably won’t remember a world pre-internet, but it wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t have Google, or Amazon or news sites to make life a little easier. Anyone who lived through that era will tell you of the amazing changes that have taken place in the past 15 years or so. The world has suddenly become a much smaller place, with business able to be conducted in real time when the parties are thousands of miles apart. Those parts of the world who haven’t had the same opportunity will explode into life when they finally get the access they need, and the tapestry of life will become just a little richer.

Renault Digital Speedometer – Ever wondered how to change the units of speed?

Change your Renault speedometer from kilometres per hour to miles per hour and vice versa. If you own a Renault with a digital speedometer (odometer) then you will have realised by now that it does not follow the old norm of having a nice dial with both Miles per hour and Kilometres per hour around the edge. You will only have MPH displayed if yours is a UK model so when you cross borders you have to guess what the equivalent KPH speed is. This has obvious implications when you realise how many speed enforcement options are in use these days. It’s in the handbook though, isn’t it?

Well that’s what I thought, but actually it isn’t mentioned anywhere. The handbook covers the display itself, but doesn’t mention how to change between the two options. So I believed that it wasn’t an available option. Just something they forgot to do and we had to put up with it. Quite a lot of searching has changed that for me. And it’s really simple to do!

  1. You must ensure that the engine is completely switched off. Take the key card from the slot, open the door and then close it.
  2. Hold the top button on the wiper stalk (don’t let go until you reach the very end).
  3. Insert the keycard into the slot, and at the same time press the start button briefly.
  4. You will see the mph reading start to flash. Keep holding the top stalk button, allow it to continue and you will see it change to KPH, BUT DON’T LET GO YET!
  5. Once the KPH has stopped flashing, let go of the button on the stalk.
  6. That’s it! You have now changed the display to Kilometres per hour.

Obviously, you just repeat the steps to get back to your original configuration.