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!

Presenting: I Support New Music

leviathan600Do you like hearing new and original music when you go to orchestral concerts, rather than the same works from years gone by? Then head on over to I Support New Music, where we have the crowdfunding campaign you’re looking for!

We’re crowdfunding for a full professional recording of Sarah’s 25-minute concerto for 6-string electric violin, EWI, Synth, and orchestra: Leviathan. We have lots of rewards available at various levels and are running the campaign ourselves, so there are no fees and no end date (the campaign is done when we get what we need for this project).

The site is powered by WordPress and Give, hosted by Pressable, and so far everything has gone smoother than expected. I’d also like to offer a huge special thanks to the folks behind Give for offering some help, and for featuring us in their Stories. They’re great to work with!

Assuming this current campaign does well, we hope to find some way to extend this to other composers looking to crowdfund their projects, but most importantly we’re learning a little bit more each day and having fun while doing it. If you’re a fan of new music, don’t miss out on I Support New Music!

WordPress 4.6 Released

WordPress 4.6 Streamlined UpdatesWordPress 4.6 has been released! This release introduces a streamlined plugin and theme update process, native system fonts in the Dashboard (no more remotely-loaded Open Sans), improved link validation, browser storage content recovery, and more!

272 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Dominik Schilling. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.6 has been out for just a little over 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 150,337 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!

WordPress 4.5 Released

illustration-short-inlinelinksWordPress 4.5 has been released! This release introduces inline linking and more formatting shortcuts to the editor, responsive previews and custom logos to the customizer, and more!

277 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Mike Schroder. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.5 has been out for only 4 hours, and has already been downloaded 415,873 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!

Internet Archive: Smart 404 Handler

internetarchiveContinuing our series on the Internet Archive, you may recall the last part on the Wayback Machine. Well, today we’re going to go over one more extension of its power that was big enough to get its own part, the smart 404 handler!

If you have your own site, you have probably deleted a page or post by now. Whether on purpose or by accident, you can control what’s on your site, but you can’t control the links to it that already exist elsewhere. When those links direct to your deleted content, the visitor sees a boring 404 Not Found error. But, what if I told you that you could use the Wayback Machine to offer those disappointed visitors a glimpse of the content they missed?

A few years back, the folks behind the Internet Archive debuted their smart 404 handler for free use, and it still works great! Simply add the code from the earlier link to your custom 404 page, and it will work like magic. If you have a WordPress site, your theme more than likely has a 404.php file. If you have not already, now is a great time to start a child theme, so your changes aren’t lost if the theme is updated. Now, simply find where the content of your 404 page ends in the 404.php file (the content you visibly see on the page, not the entirety of the code), and add the code right below it. Here’s how the relevant section looks in the Sorbet theme’s 404.php file:

sorbet404

You won’t see anything if the former page or post wasn’t archived by the Wayback Machine. If you did it right though, and you land on one that has been archived, you’ll find a welcoming message with a link to the most recently archived version. It will look something like this:

404

Thanks to the smart 404 handler and the Wayback Machine’s over 462 billion archived pages, the experience of missing out on lost content could be a thing of the past.

This bring us to the end of our series on the Internet Archive, for now. If you enjoyed your brief tour, don’t forget that they need donations to be able to provide all this for free. Until next time, enjoy everything the Internet Archive has to offer!

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

internetarchiveContinuing in our series on the Internet Archive, we have the one thing it might be known best for, the Wayback Machine! There are over 462 billion web pages saved in the Wayback Machine, which leads to some powerful options.

The Wayback Machine is named for the WABAC time machine from the Peabody’s Improbable History segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and like a time machine, everyone has played around with the most basic usage of the Wayback Machine. Want to know what WordPress.org looked like in 2003? No problem, the Wayback Machine has it. How about what Apple.com looked like in 1997, or what Mozilla.org looked like in 1998? The Wayback Machine will be hours of fun if that’s what you’re looking for, but what else does it offer?

The power of the Wayback Machine is in what it stores: everything. The entire source of the page, along with any available media, is stored. First of all, you might be thinking, “I’d better block that immediately!” Don’t. No one is going to purposefully visit your site through the Wayback Machine instead of just normally visiting your site, that’s silly. Allow your site to be archived for history, there’s no reason not to.

So, what does this “everything” get you? Quite a bit actually. Ever wonder what would happen to your site if you found out your backups were bad? The Wayback Machine is here for you to copy and paste whatever text you need to, and to re-upload any media it was able to archive. Does something seem odd in your site lately, something you can’t quite identify? Instead of fully restoring an old backup, compare your site to last month’s archive on the Wayback Machine. If you can identify what’s different, you can even view the source like you would on any normal web page to dig into the deep details.

As a true story of its power, we use the Wayback Machine almost every day in Jetpack support. When you connect Jetpack with your blog, it ties everything to your blog’s URL, and assigns that URL a unique blog ID. If you’re running the Stats module, you can find that ID in the source output towards the bottom. Just look in the source for “blog:’number'” and that number is the blog ID. Sometimes people move their blog to a new domain, and Jetpack will get confused and think it’s a new site (we’re working on ways to improve that). If we can find the old site in the Wayback Machine, we can find the old blog ID in the source, and then we can fix everything.

The Wayback Machine has a lot to offer, and you only need to start digging to get a good grasp of just how much there is. Storing so much data isn’t cheap though, and the Internet Archive needs your donations to keep it running. Dive into history with the Wayback Machine and see what you can uncover! Next time? Smart 404 handler!