WordPress 4.9 Released

WordPress 4.9 has been released! This release introduces some big improvements to the customizer, the code editors, and theme switching, along with a new gallery widget!

443 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Mel Choyce and Weston Ruter. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.9 has been out for about 17 hours, and has already been downloaded 2,075,053 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

WordPress 5.0 is next, and it sounds like the promised fully rebuilt editor is still on schedule. If you want to try it out or contribute to its development, please feel free to start with the Gutenberg plugin.

Moving to iCloud Photo Library

A few years ago, I said goodbye to my mid-level digital camera and just started using my iPhone as my camera of choice. After all, the best camera is always the one that you have with you, and I always have my phone with me. It wasn’t until this year’s Automattic meetup that that I realized I was transferring photos from my phone to my computer manually via AirDrop, as if I was still treating my phone like a separate unconnected camera. “Surely there is a better way?” I thought, and that better way was right in front of my face the whole time.

Enter iCloud Photo Library, a cloud-based library which is accessible by all of your Apple devices. If you take a photo or video with your iPhone or iPad, or add one to your library on your Mac, it’s immediately sent to the library in iCloud and visible across all of your Apple devices. It’s simple, it’s magic, and it reminds me of having wallet photos. If I want to show someone a photo or get the urge to publish one online somewhere, I don’t have to explain how sad I am that I don’t have the photo on me, because I already have access to my entire library on my phone.

I had heard great things about iCloud Photo Library, but had resisted because I knew I’d absolutely have to buy more iCloud storage since the free 5GB just wasn’t going to work out. Fortunately, Apple recently launched a 200GB plan at only $2.99/month that I could share with my wife for her photo library too, and that was exactly what we needed. After buying more storage, I switched on iCloud Photo Library in the Photos app on my Mac, and the upload of everything completed in about 6 hours. Now, the 2,471 photos and videos I have worth keeping are accessible on both my Mac and my phone.

If you do choose to switch to iCloud Photo Library, and I very much recommend that you do, please keep in mind that it is not a dedicated storage solution. Deleting a photo from the library on any connected device will remove it from the iCloud Photo Library and any other device using it too. Also, keep in mind that each device allows you to choose if you want to download the originals to it. My originals are being downloaded to my Mac’s library, like a second backup, while I save space on my phone by not having it download any.

If you aren’t an Apple device user or you aren’t a fan of iCloud, there are many similar options to choose from, like Google Photos and Amazon Prime Photos. Either way, do consider some sort of cloud-based photo library, so you can always carry your memories with you wherever you go and not have to worry about how you’re going to get your new photos to your computer.

Net Neutrality Day of Action

net neutralityNet Neutrality is a big issue that everyone should be concerned about. When you request a website, or any information over the internet, you expect your ISP to deliver it as requested with no interference. This is what the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules protect. Without Net Neutrality rules, your ISP could block sites they don’t like or slow down access to sites that don’t pay a fee, and those rules are in jeopardy.

The FCC is considering repealing the Net Neutrality rules, but there’s still time to stand up for what’s right. The FCC is currently requesting your feedback, and the first comment deadline is July 17, so make sure that you send your feedback to let them know what Net Neutrality means to you. Next, join the Net Neutrality Day of Action protest tomorrow (July 12). There are many ways you can participate listed there, and if you have a WordPress site, use the Fight for the Future Alerts plugin.

Millions of people spoke out in 2014 to establish the Net Neutrality rules, and hopefully we can do the same this year to save them.

Gallery

Help Test the Future WordPress Editor

Last week, WordCamp Europe 2017 was filled with lots of opportunities to make WordPress better, including the announcement that the future WordPress Editor (codenamed Gutenberg) is now available for use as a plugin. The future of WordPress editing will be built on positionable blocks, where each block can be pretty much any kind of content, like this gallery:

There have already been plenty of great posts that go in depth on the current state of Gutenberg, so I won’t bore you with the details here, but the short version is that folks who are new to WordPress may find this to be an intuitive experience while long-time WordPress users may encounter a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, Gutenberg won’t replace the existing WordPress editor until WordPress 5.0, so there’s plenty of time to install that plugin and start contributing.

P.S. This post was originally written with Gutenberg 0.2.0 on WordPress 4.8, but required a few tweaks after publishing, so please help us test this and contribute to make it better. 🙂

WordPress 4.8 Released

WordPress 4.8 has been released! This release introduces new widgets for images, videos, audio, and rich text, as well as new link boundaries to cure editor frustrations and a new Dashboard widget which displays nearby WordPress events!

346 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg and Jeffrey Paul. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.8 has been out for about 9 hours, and has already been downloaded 1,315,250 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Internet Archive: No More 404s

Just a little bit over a year ago, I wrote about the Internet Archive’s Smart 404 Handler, which aimed to help site owners put an end to useless 404 Not Found errors on their own site by offering a link to the content (if available) on the Wayback Machine. Now, the Internet Archive has set out to solve the problem of useless 404 Not Found errors for everyone with a new extension for Firefox, for Chrome, and for Safari!

With the extension installed, if you encounter a 404 (or really any from the range of “unavailable” errors) for content that exists in the archive, you’ll see this very handy pop-up:

As that button describes, clicking it will take you to the archived page, so you’ll never have to wonder about what you were missing. But, that’s not all! Do you feel like a page looks a little bit different today? Are you feeling nostalgic for how pages looked when they were first published? Just open the extension in your browser’s toolbar for even more fun:

Thanks to this new extension, and the Wayback Machine’s hundreds of billions of archived pages, the experience of missing out on lost content could finally be a thing of the past! Also, if you find this extension useful, don’t forget that the Internet Archive needs donations to be able to provide all of that for free.

HTTPS Changes in Firefox and Chrome

For as far back as I can remember, browsers have always denoted HTTPS pages with a padlock icon, a tiny warning to let you know that anything you submit on the specific page will be securely encrypted. As with all never-changing warnings though, I imagine you’ve stopped noticing it as much as you used to years ago, and that effect combined with HTTPS usage reaching over half of all web pages and the popularity of extensions like HTTPS Everywhere, has spurred some changes in how Firefox and Chrome approach this.

Launched this week, Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 have reversed that age-old warning. Login forms over HTTP now display a “Not Secure” warning. This new warning should be enough to catch the attention of those of us who have begun to ignore the time-honored padlock, but I imagine site owners might be caught a bit off guard.

If you own a site with a login form over HTTP, don’t worry (sort of), your login form isn’t suddenly not secure … it has never been secure. If you’re the only person who uses that login form, and you never use it over a public internet connection, you generally have nothing to worry about.

If other people are expected to log in to your site over HTTP, or you often log in over a public internet connection, it’s time to start moving your site over to HTTPS. You’ll need to acquire an SSL/TLS certificate from a certificate authority to being with, and in the past those have been ridiculously expensive, but all of that changed when Let’s Encrypt premiered, offering free SSL/TLS certificates for everyone. Today, you’ll most likely find that your hosting provider either offers free or incredibly inexpensive certificates, like all of WordPress’s recommended hosting providers do (as does my hosting provider, Pressable). If your hosting provider still wants to charge you a ridiculous rate for a certificate, you might as well take this opportunity to check out the rapidly growing list of hosting providers who offer free Let’s Encrypt certificates.

Once you have your certificate, setting it up is generally just a matter of consulting the documentation from your hosting provider (though this is typically automated if you acquire the certificate from them) and your website’s software. If you use WordPress, the process is very simple.

As site owners, let’s do what we can to proliferate HTTPS and thus provide a more safe and secure web for everyone.

Happy New Year! the 2017 edition

2017 begins today, so it’s a great time to start using some basic privacy tools, make sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, and setup two factor authentication wherever you can.

This site’s top five items last year were Modern Aircraft Accident Investigation Equipment and Techniques, Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes, RWBY: Anime Beauty and the Beast?, Fix for Stuck Health App (iOS 8), and Internet Archive: Smart 404 Handler, so I guess those old items really do have some staying power. 🙂

We’ll need more people sharing their voices, the news, and their experiences this year, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

Basic Privacy Tools

A few years ago, I wrote about security, privacy, and resetting the net. We’re still in very interesting times as far as that subject goes, and if you haven’t taken steps to protect your privacy, now might be a good time to reconsider that.

One of the easiest changes you can make is to use DuckDuckGo instead of a major search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your personal information and doesn’t track you, so using it instead of a major search engine is a great way to start cutting down on your digital footprint. Also, if you’re making the switch to DuckDuckGo, but still using Chrome (which is made by Google), now might be a great time to try Firefox instead.

While we’re talking about search engine tracking, you might as well put a stop to all of the other trackers too. If you’re already using Firefox, you can switch on already built-in tracking protection with their Test Pilot program (this can also be enabled manually by toggling privacy.trackingprotection.enabled to true under about:config). Try uBlock Origin for most other browsers, or for more control in Firefox, and try Firefox Focus for iOS devices.

For the communication end of things, consider switching to Signal for your messaging needs. Signal is fully encrypted end-to-end, so the only two people who can read the messages are the sender and recipient. For email, consider switching to ProtonMail, which is also fully encrypted, and hosted in privacy-friendly Switzerland.

Additionally, you’ll probably want a VPN to keep you safe, at least when you’re on public Wi-Fi. This is where things get a bit tricky. You’ll want to choose a VPN that either doesn’t log your activity, like TunnelBear, or one that’s not based in The Fourteen Eyes, like these. You’ll also want to make sure that your chosen VPN supports both your desktop and mobile devices. For added security in extreme situations, keep a copy of Tor Browser around (use Onion Browser for iOS devices and Orfox for Android devices).

These are just some basic steps to protect your privacy online. They’ll provide some layer of protection, but if you want to lock things down even further, visit Privacy Tools and PRISM Break.

If you want to do even more, please consider supporting an organization that will fight for your privacy, like the Electron Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

WordPress 4.7 Released

WordPress 4.7 has been released! This release introduces Twenty Seventeen as the new default theme, tons of Customizer improvements, thumbnail previews for uploaded PDFs, per-user Dashboard language settings, REST API content endpoints, and more!

482 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Helen Hou-Sandí. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.7 has been out for about 4 hours, and has already been downloaded 573,149 times!

All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!