Back in action

Right. I think I’m back. For good this time.

For the last year, if not more, I’ve been plagued by mysql dropouts. I tried disabling themes and plugins, but nothing made any difference so I assumed it was my old hosts – Textdrive. Unfortunately the problems recurred after moving to my new hosting with Damian, and he worked waaaaaaay harder than one would reasonably expect of one’s webhost to track down and fix the problem.

It turned out to be something in the WordPress database itself. The mysql server would sporadically go mental with hits to the wp_options table, to the extent that it brought down the entire system. I’m not sure whether this was the result of some broken plugin hooks or just corruption (can you export/import corrupted tables?), but whatever the cause, rebuilding the database from scratch and re-importing posts/comments seems to have solved the problem.


RSS feeds will probably go mental as a result of manually re-importing posts from the last week – sorry about that – and I think the database of ‘subscribe to comments’ has gone away, but neither are anything I’m too worried about. I’m back on rather than due to redirects having fights, but that’s no big deal – I’ll have to get over my irrational hatred of the www, though 🙂

‘Into the past’ is broken currently as I’m scared of pages that make massive database queries – hopefully it’ll be back at some point. Other than that, please let me know if anything seems awry…

Not so much with the comments at the moment

They do everything they’re meant to, except appear. Working on it. Thanks for the heads up, L.

Update: This a caching problem on individual machines. If your comment doesn’t appear, a force refresh (before submitting) on the comment page – Ctrl-F5 on IE and Ctrl-Shift-R on Firefox – should clear it up. Thanks, Damian!

Email problems

I thought my inbox was a bit quiet, and since midnight I’ve had 20 emails from (roughly) the last two days arrive in dribs and drabs. Apologies if I haven’t replied to you – hopefully I’ll have everything by morning.

First time I’ve had anything like this with Gmail, although I guess it could be my domain hosts.

Gmail workaround for Orange/Freeserve/Wanadoo customers with email problems

A few months ago it became apparent that people with Freeserve/Wanadoo/Orange accounts were having problems with email. My post on the subject has had a lot of attention. The company’s email servers were repeatedly listed on spam databases, and email providers all over the world were therefore rejecting all received email. F/W/O showed no interest in fixing the problem. I don’t know whether it’s working yet, but I don’t really care – their service was appalling and I don’t recommend anybody use them again. Unfortunately there was little that could be done at the time without changing email address, a process which is never fun. Recent updates to Google’s Gmail service, however, have provided a way around the problem without changing address.

It works by replacing your current email system with Google’s free Gmail service. Gmail can now automatically download your F/W/O emails, as well as make it look like all email you send is coming from your old F/W/O address. It means moving to a web-based email system (or not, with a little more configuration – see optional section) and giving your email password to Google (I personally don’t think this is anything to worry about), but email recipients should notice no difference and it should work exactly the same as before, except that all email is actually coming from Google’s servers, which won’t be rejected as spam.

Initial experiments suggest this should work:

  1. Go to and sign up for a free email address
  2. Log into your gmail account (called Google Mail in the UK), then go to ‘Settings’, and the ‘Accounts’ tab
  3. New users should have a “Get mail from other accounts” option (if this option isn’t there try changing the display language to ‘English (US)’ in the ‘General’ tab). Click ‘Add another mail account’.
  4. Enter your F/W/O email address and click to continue.
  5. Enter your F/W/O username (this is your email address, as far as I know) and password. The POP server is ‘’ on port 110. You might want to tick ‘Leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server’ while everything is getting set up, then remove it later. People familiar with Gmail can apply labels etc.. When all details are entered, click to continue.
  6. It will ask if you want to be able to send email as ‘[your address]’, click ‘Yes’, and then ‘Next Step’
  7. Enter the name you want emails to appear to come from, and click ‘Next Step’
  8. It will need to send a verification email to ensure you’re who you say you are. Click ‘Send Verification’, go check your email as normal, and follow the instructions.
  9. Once you’ve verified the address, go back to ‘Accounts’. ‘Send mail as’ will contain a couple of different addresses. Click ‘Make default’ next to the F/W/O address.
  10. That’s it! All email you send via Gmail will now appear to come from your F/W/O address, and Gmail will deliver all replies into your Gmail account.

I think this will do the trick. Please let me know the results if you try it…

To use Outlook Express / Outlook:

People who are using Outlook or Outlook Express (or Windows Mail, for that matter) and want to keep all their emails in one place / don’t want to use webmail can try this:

  1. In Gmail’s settings, go to the ‘Forwarding and POP’ tab. Next to ‘POP Download’, click ‘Enable POP only for mail that arrives from now on’, then ‘Save changes’.
  2. Follow the instructions here to configure Outlook / Outlook Express (here for Outlook 2003). It’s probably wise to write down the existing configuration before changing too much over.

Email sent through Outlook/Express will appear to come from your F/W/O address as long as you’ve set it as Gmail’s default address in #9 above.


This also lets you take advantage of Gmail’s formidable spam filters.

The changes were Google opening up to all users and releasing their POP3-fetching service, if you were wondering.

This would have been possible months ago if Orange provided an email forwarding service like normal ISPs.

XP, USB Drives and Mapped Network Drives

For more than a year I’ve been coming across a problem with Windows XP, USB drives and mapped network drives. Each computer here has four mapped network drives, which are assigned the letters F:, G:, H: and I:. When I plug in a USB key Windows tries to assign F:, fails and gives up. Disconnecting the network drive and reinserting the key (or going into device manager and hitting ‘populate’) was the only way to fix it, and this was tiresome. However, it’s one of those problems that you forget about as soon as you’ve solved it.

I finally remembered to look up a solution today, and there isn’t one. The official Microsoft response says that you should use as high letters as possible for mapped network drives. I’ve moved them to W: onwards, and the USB key can now happily use F:.

The problem apparently occurs with all types of removable media, so hopefully somebody will find this useful.