Always use a child theme- it’s easy!

Your WordPress installation is made up of several parts:

  • The WordPress software
  • A MySQL database
  • A Theme
  • Plugins

Each does different things. And when it comes to updating, and auto-updating, you want to make sure you don’t break things.

First tip- always backup your site before doing any updates, theme changes or plugin installs. We’ve fallen in love with the UpdraftPlus backup plugin. We consider it an essential plugin for every installation- and you don’t need to buy the premium version, the free one works fine.

So, now that you have your installation backed up, it’s time to make a child theme. What is a child theme? It’s a copy of a few key files from your theme that hold your customizations. This way, when you update a theme, you won’t lose any of your custom files.

Now, that’s not to say updating a theme will lose customizations- many themes come with theme options for customizations and these files won’t be touched in an update, however, best practices still say create a child theme. If you’ve mastered FTP and a file management tool, you could do this manually- but there are plugins that will do this for you faster and easier.

The one we’ve come to like is Child Theme Creator by Orbisius although it’s not always perfect. Some of the “premium themes” have additional files that are required- and even come with their own installable child themes. Carefully look at your themes installation notes to see if yours falls into one of these categories.

Once you’ve created your child theme- you activate it, and go about your merry way modifying your theme in any way you like.

The safety and security of being able to upgrade your parent theme, without losing customizations is now yours.


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Backing up is hard to do?

Hard lesson, expensive lesson. And one you never want to learn the hard way. Do you backup your computer daily? How much would it cost you if your computer crashed RIGHT NOW? What files would you need for that big deal that’s coming up tomorrow?

If you haven’t been backing up then you need to run, don’t walk, to buy an external hard drive that’s at least as big as your computer drive as well as some kind of backup software. We’re a Mac shop, so system 10.7 has Time Machine built in which does hourly backups, but before that: Super Duper and Carbon Copy Cloner were our backup software of choice.
And, while it’s good to have a backup handy right next to your computer – what if your building burned down? Do you have a backup offsite?

There are remote backup services available that can backup your computer over the internet at night, but just remember it will take a while to upload the files.
While tape drives used to be a great option and give you multiple versions of the backup, they are also slow. Besides, with the size of harddrives going up fast and prices coming down all you need a couple of external hard drives to keep your data safe.
Large offices can have a central server to store critical info, and have it all backed up centrally or on a redundant drive.

One neat trick for really important stuff is to e-mail it to your Gmail account, which has lots of space.

Something to think about next time you’re working on a huge project.

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How to downgrade iOS4 to 3.1.3 on iPhone 3G

Frankly, I think there needs to be a class actions suit against Apple- for making a software upgrade that you can’t *officially* revert from.

After “upgrading” to iOS4 my 3G iPhone bricked. Went into an infinite loop on sync- so that my contacts would never load- nor anything else.

To make matters worse- after a few tries- Apple Mobile Sync overwrote my immediate backup of data.

This nightmare started on Tuesday 22 July at 10am. I worked until 1:30 AM to try to restore. In the morning- I called Apple- and spent over 6+ hours on the phone with support. They told me there was no way to go back to iPhone 3.1.3 and restore my data from an older backup that I had from CC Cloner. The only hope was to get iOS4 to play nice with my phone and – then reinstall from iTunes- losing all settings, sms, etc.

From 9am to 11:30 pm I worked on my phone. They tried to tell me it was corrupt data in my Contacts- which I spent hours “grooming” and “cleaning”- yet- the reality is that same data had worked with my old OS- and it STILL worked with my iPad.

After watching many comments deleted on the Apple discussion forums- including people who said it was possible to do the downgrade- recovery- I found the right stuff.

Here are my steps:

Adapted from THANKS!

Step 1) Download iTunes 9.2 version (current version)

Step 2) Plug in the iPhone to PC/Mac

Step 3) Put the iPhone in DFU mode (MUST BE IN TRUE DFU MODE) Screen should be black but still be showing up in itunes with a warning “iPhone is detected in recovery mode” To go into DFU mode- press both buttons for exactly 10 seconds then release top- and hold the home button for exactly 10 seconds- screen will be black-

Step 4) Download a legit version of an older ipsw from Apple untouched,2_3.1.3_7E18_Restore.ipsw

Step 5) In iTunes- Option- click-restore on MAC, or Shift-click-restore on WIN for iPhone and select the Legit Apple firmware 3.1.3 you downloaded in step 4.

Step 6) Watch how Apple confirms that its legit Firmware your trying to restore to on their servers, (HAHA cause its Legit software from Apple so why wouldn’t they let you DOWN Grade to it) The Firmware then gets applied to your iPhone watch as the progress bar moves across and no error pop up.

Step 7) After the restore finishes you should be hit with a 1015 error. That’s expected. Your phone should be in Recovery mode now and iTunes will tell you to restore again. Click OK then hold option + click on restore again – this time you do not have to go into DFU mode – and navigate to the 3.1.3 FW.

At the end- you’ll get yet another 1015 error- you can ignore it.

Step 8) Success! You just took your iPhone3G from iOS4 to 3.1.3 Firmware!!!

Then do backup to your old data from an 3.1.3 backup- from time machine- or a CC cloner copy – hopefully you find it in the same place you have to place it:

put it in LIbrary/Application Support/Mobile sync on a Mac- (Sorry, I don’t know where it goes on a PC) The file will have a super funky name- looks like encrypted code

Do a restore.

The restore will take hours- but in the end- no brick. Hopefully I can save you some time.

Apple really needs to do two things: Make the process easy to revert- and to lock the backup from any major upgrade so you don’t lose it in the infinite loop that happened to a lot of people with this upgrade.

UPDATE: 25 JUN 2010 another option using another software tool, iRecovery: note- this was used with Beta’s of iOS4.

After my revert- I’m still running version 3.1.3 (7E18) and Modem Firmware 05.13.04 Supposedly- the modem firmware is what “can’t be downgraded” and won’t work- however, my 3g iPhone seems to be working fine (thankfully). I won’t upgrade again until ios4.0.1 is released.

UPDATE: Jun 27- here is an illustrated guide via LifeHacker:

and – btw- Apple support still won’t tell you this can be done.

28 Jun: a tip from Apple support forums if you want to be brave before iOS4.0.1 upgrade is up:

1. Full manual backup of iPhone (speed up by removing unnecessary app, music, video etc.)
2. Copy the backup from ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup to (very) safe place - this is for possible fail
3. Uncheck the Address Book sync in iTunes; select Removing contacts from iPhone
4. Sync; after sync the Contacts on the iPhone has to be empty; check it
5. Remove the previous backup and perform full manual backup again; this create fresh backup without data with contacts
6. Install iOS 4 via Restore procedure
7. Restore data from backup - this is THE moment! It should end this time without infinity loop
8. If restore from backup is OK, switch on the sync with Address Book in iTunes
9. Sync; after this sync the Contacts should be restored too

Update- 22 AUG 2010- Apple’s Steve Jobs supposedly says there will be a fix for iOS4 on the 3G

Here is a parody video- and, hey- at least his phone didn’t brick:

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