Our new used Discovery 2

What we got and what needs to be done

As mentioned earlier we have got ourselves another Discovery 2. This one is a 2002 model, it’s an automatic with a lot of “stuff” that we didn’t have in the old one. It has leather heated sets, a six stacker CD player/radio, two extra fold up seats in the rear luggage area and it’s an auto. The previous owner has installed a second battery with a Voltage Sensitive Relay as well as the wiring for an Anderson plug at the tow bar. He’s also got rid of the Self Levelling Suspension (air bag springs) and installed coil springs. As soon as I am able the springs go and SLS will be reinstated as currently it has King Springs coils and rides like an unladen truck. He’s also put air helper springs in the rear suspension, probably in an effort to overcome the shortcomings of the coils.

At freeway speeds this car is a lot quieter and is a lot less tiring to drive, probably because of the noise reduction. The previous owner has put a “bull bar” on it as well as an LED light bar which improves the below par performance of the normal hight beam headlights a lot.

For those in the know it has a EU3 16P engine which is an improvement over the 10P engine in the old car. It seems a lot more refined and less clattery although being a Td5 it’s still quite loud.

Cosmetically it is in brilliant condition and all in all I think we have got a good car at a very keen price which makes up for the couple of issues that it has.

Poppy’s Big Car Mk II

It does have a few issues though

The biggest issue is with the gearbox. When we test drove it it worked perfectly. As with any second hand car it has had all of its oils and fluids changed. The engine oil was a bit old and thin but tested OK for no fuel in the oil. Diff and transfer case oils were in good condition as were power steering, ACE (automatic cornering enhancement), and brake fluids. The gearbox was serviced and the auto specialist stated that it was all working properly. Changes nice and smooth and torque converter lockup worked perfectly.

Lockup has now started to misbehave with it only working intermittantly so I took it back to the auto specialist for diagnostics and he said that it was either the torque converter or the valve block. After further diagnostics and a test drive he is of the opinion that it’s the valve block that’s at the heart of the issue. When lockup occurs it happens nice and smoothly with no juddering and not a hint of slip. It’s now booked in for him to have a look at the valve block.

The fuel pump also seems to have issues. When fuel is low it screams a bit which is always a bad sign with a D2 Td5 pump. The fuel gauge, which is integral with the pump,  is also very inaccurate. I had rescued the pump from the old car which was less that 20k km’s old so it’s nearly new. That will replace the one that’s in the new car.

The throttle pedal potentiometer is also faulty and gives “driver demand” faults. I have a spare, known good, one here so I’ll replace that too.

Strange Behaviour

Panic buying

This is what the toilet paper shelves at our local Woolworths supermarket looked like.

Too bad if you want toilet paper.

Why do people think that they need so much toilet paper ?

ABC Tissue and Kimberly Clarke have done a whole lot of market research, as all companies do, to find out how much they need to produce to satisfy the market. What they have both found is that the average family of four uses about eight to ten triple length rolls every two weeks.  That’s around thirty single length rolls a fortnight or about fifteen per week. A 48 pack of single length rolls is about three weeks supply.

So the question still stands. Why do people think that they need so much toilet paper ?

Toilet paper is only the tip of the iceberg. People seem to be determined to denude all the supermarket shelves although in our local supermarket the fresh fruit and veg seem to be immune to panic buying. Meat shelves have been denuded and I can only surmise that there are a whole lot of big freezers out there and in a couple of months or so a lot of people are going to find out just how much electricity it takes to run a big freezer.

Hand sanitiser is another item that it is quite senseless to stock up on. Leading specialists, many of them, have said that plain old soap and water is probably more effective than the expensive sanitisers that people want to stock up with.

Food. The Minister for Agriculture has said that we are a nation of twenty five million or so people and we produce enough food to feed about seventy five million people and therefore there is plenty to go around. Why panic buy ?

I think I understand the reason. We are facing uncertain times and, in general, people want to be prepared so the knee jerk reaction is to stock up. Generally people probably don’t understand why they feel the need to buy in bulk – it just seems like a smart thing to do in uncertain times. Maybe they are worrying about needing to be isolated or if the rules change such that they aren’t allowed to go shopping.

So what happens when the collective thinking gets around to realising that there was no need to buy all this excess ? They’ll find that they have enough “stuff” to last years so what are they going to do with it. EBay, not go shopping, what ?

These are just a few examples of senseless panic buying that effectively illustrate what Agent K said in Men In Black. “A person is smart. People are dumb.”

In a few years I think that we’ll all look back and ask ourselves why were we so stupid ? In the meantime let’s just shop normally and buy our usual quantities of everything. That will go a long way towards ensuring that there is enough of everything to go around.

Car is dead

Well that’s it for the engine

After so much crowing about the longevity and reliability of the car it died.

On our way home from a great long weekend  on the Heyfield Tinamba Rd. the timing chain tensioner let go which resulted in this.

Engine kaput

You can see that the timing chain has made an escape bid through the rocker cover and is now quite loose. I should think that the engine would have suffered considerable internal damage. Head, valves, pistons, possibly bent con rods, lots of damage. Pricing a full rebuild caused us to reel in horror. Options of a second hand engine with some sort of recent history and reasonable mileage and with some sort of warranty were both very rare and very expensive. Another car was in order.

After much googling and looking for cars for sale we found two Land Rover Discovery 2’s for sale. Both autos whereas ours is (was) a manual. Lots of reading was done on the pro’s and con’s of an auto and we decided to drive Jenny’s Subaru up to Mansfield to have a look and test drive of one of them. It seemed to be the goods. Reasonable mileage, service record and in great condition. It test drove very, very well too. My biggest concern was the auto but it’s a smooth as silk and does what it’s supposed to.

We got it home and took it to get the roadworthy certificate and all it needed was a new wiper blades and a new windscreen as there were too many chips to make repair viable – far too expensive. After we got the RWC we shot over to VicRoads to get the registration changed into my name. Then came the wrangling with insurance companies, etc., etc. Finally got it all done and behold. Poppy’s Big Car Mk II.

Poppy’s Big Car Mk II

 

Omeo Australia Day Long Weekend 2020

Deciding to go and getting ready

During the 2019/2020 bushfires lots of small communities took a huge hit to their economy. To help them get back on their feet they need visitors. Not to do any work or to donate money or anything. Just visit and spend a few dollars in the town. Things like top up with fuel, buy a cup of coffee or a meal or stay a few days in the local caravan park.

Omeo is a place that we really like and the caravan park is, to us, a pretty special place so we decided on the spur of the moment to head off for a long weekend.

So, here we are. It’s nearly 1.00am on Saturday and we want to hit the road before 11.00am on Saturday. We made the decision to go at around 9.00pm and started getting our stuff together. While Jenny was getting the boxes packed I did a hurried oil and coolant check, pumped up the air helper springs, put the auxiliary battery in the back of the car and got the  pile of general clutter out of the back of the Land Rover.

We’ve still got stuff to do in the morning – drain and refill the camper water tank, do some shopping for food and plonk and stuff for the weekend and get the camper and car packed and fueled up.

Apparently the Australian Army and others are staying at the caravan park and the Omeo Caravan Park facebook page talks about cricket matches and a sausage sizzle for Australia Day so a good time should be had by all.  In this post we’ll be putting up a couple of photos of the devastation caused by the fires as well as pictures of anything that we find interesting or novel.

 

The trip up

As ever the trip from Moe to Bairnsdale was pretty boring but it started to get a bit more interesting after we went through Bruthen. For a start the road gets a great deal more twisty and steep.

It was also where started to see the results of the fires.

In amongst the destruction were peoples homes that were nothing but twisted wrecks. I’m not showing them out of respect for those that have lost everything.

On the way you can see a lot of the Tambo River. Normally it’s crystal clear but not now. It looks more like a latte or hot milk chocolate. The ash piled up around the river bends looks, quite frankly, disgusting. In the past , when we’ve travelled to Omeo, there have been sandy beaches on the bends. Not now though – it looks more like vast expanses of Vegemite.

As you can see by the dashcam screenshots the destruction was quite complete. In a lot of places a mere two or three weeks after the fires went through we could already see green shoots both in the trees and on the ground. The bush has wasted no time in getting the regeneration process started.

What the bush looks like after a fire

As we got closer to Omeo there was less and less evidence of the fires until there was no evidence at all apart from a lot of smoke in the air.

The rest of the trip up to Omeo was uneventful and we arrived at the Omeo Caravan Park safe and sound. Went to see Sandy in the office and she gladly took our money for three nights and pointed out where we could set up.

By the time we got sorted out and and had finished faffing around with the annex and the poles and guy ropes it was time for some cheese and bikkies. While we snacked and reported back to the family as to our whereabouts there was a constant stream of ADF vehicles returning to the caravan park.

When dinner time came around surprise, surprise we weren’t that hungry so we just had salad wraps for dinner and after a bit more sitting around we went to bed.

Thus ended day one.

Sunday

Sunday dawned bright and clear and noisy. The noise came from a bunch of Australian Defence Force Bushmaster vehicles leaving for their tasks for the day. The Army personnel were both Australian from Townsville (3 Combat Engineers Regiment and 3 Combat Signals Regiment) and from Papua New Guinea and they were there clearing dangerous trees from roadsides and re-opening various tracks and roads that had been closed by the damage caused by the fires. There were about 190 ADF and PNG armed forces personnel there engaged in the work.

ADF vehicle parking area
ADF and PNG personnel camp

The next item on the agenda was a trip to the Omeo Show grounds for a cricket match between the “locals” and the ADF / PNG as well as a “sausage sizzle”.

When we got there at the appointed time the sausage sizzle hadn’t quite started and there were a few games of touch footy and soccer going on. No evidence of a cricket match at all. We sat in the car for a while just watching the proceedings and talking to a Chaplain from the PNG contingent until eventually a mower was used to closely crop a cricket pitch sized area in the middle of the oval. Eventually teams were formed and a game of cricket got under way.

And the cricket started

The “rules” seemed a bit strange though. Talking to one of the players afterwards we found out that runs meant nothing – it was about how many times you went out. Whilst the scoring was “interesting” some of the batting and bowling techniques on display were quite bizarre.

We watched the cricket and talked to various people for a while and went back to the caravan park for cheese and bikkies. Again, there was a steady stream of ADF vehicles and personnel returning from their tasks in the bush.

We sat around talking for a while and decided to get dinner at Lou’s Red Food Van. Nothing had changed since our last visit. Big, good and tasty meals at a keen price. Lou’s pizzas, dim sims and doughnuts seemed to be a big hit with the military people and as one of them said, “some nights you’ve just got to have pizza”.

After dinner we sat around talking with Lou, and others, until it was time for a shower and bed.

Monday

This promised to be a good day. As usual it dawned bright and clear and noisy. The ADF and PNG contingent were having an open day. We sat having breakfast and drinking coffee while we watched them get everything set up. When the appointed time came around we wandered off to have a look and a yak.

There was a variety of military vehicles on display ranging from Bushmasters in various configurations up to very large Mack trucks. Lots of M.A.N. trucks too.

The Bushmasters were being used to ferry equipment and personnel to the work areas as well as one providing a First Aid post. That was equipped as a fully functioning ambulance.

Lots of Bushmasters
M.A.N. for carrying very large loads

 

MACK truck for carrying even larger loads

 

The trip home

Our long weekend at Omeo was at an end. Big thanks to Lou, Sandy,Peanut and Pirra for a great weekend.

After getting the camper and the car packed and hooked up it was time for the “big off”. We left at about ten thirty am and headed off. The trip down was uneventful but it was pretty depressing driving through the fire effected areas again. We carried on to Stratford and pulled into a wayside stop and had a bite to eat and continued. We turned off towards Maffra and about half way between Maffra and Tinamba this happened. The car is dead.

That looks ugly and expensive

After a few minutes of wondering what to do we called or a flat top that could get us, the car and the camper home. Lots of money later we arrived home and unpacked.

Now starts the hunt for a new engine or a new car or something.

The importance of backups

What happens when it all goes pear shape

A couple of days ago we had a small power “glitch” here. Apart from the microwave clock going back to zero and the TV going off the Raspberry Pi that this site runs on went down.

When I powered it back up I found that my WordPress site was devoid of content. Further panic stricken investigation revealed that the “wp_posts” table in the database had a corrupt index. After much gnashing of teeth, googling and experimenting (after taking a copy of course) I was unable to fix the problem.

What to do ? Well I bit the bullet and restored a backup I’d take about a week earlier using the “Updraft” plugin. Apart from losing a week’s worth of content all was well. And this is where good fortune stepped in.

During the couple of hours before the power glitch I’d been messing around putting an “RSS Subscribe” in the side bar and testing it on my iPhone. It proved to work well too so on a whim I had a look at the RSS on my phone and it had handily retained all of the content from this site so I was able to e-mail it to myself. From there it was a simple matter to copy and paste the content to the recreated posts. Whew.

The only thing that I lost was about a week’s worth of stats from “WP Statistics” plugin. I can live with that but I’d rather that I didn’t have to though.

OK so I was lucky

So, this time I was lucky ! I only lost a very minimal amount of stuff. The stats and the configuration for Google AdSense.

As a retired large system administrator I know full well the importance of good backups. I wasn’t taking them on a regular basis because “what could possibly go wrong”.

I’m now using a Linux backup package for the whole Pi and I’ve scheduled a backup of WordPress once a day. As well as that I’m taking an Updraft backup right atfer I do anything of any note to WordPress or the system as a whole.

Preparation

Why do any preparation ?

We prepare for our trip in the hope that all our preparation will ensure a trouble free and enjoyable trip.

We need to prepare ourselves and our home base for a possibly extended absence. We need to prepare our caravan or camper if we are using one for the trip. We need to prepare our towing vehicle if we are towing. We need to prepare all of the things that we’ll be taking – portable toilet, clothing, fridge / ice box, etc. A critical one is that we need to prepare our finances.

If we manage to get the preparation right, an enjoyable and trouble free trip, whether it be for a weekend trip or a year long “lap” will result.

The camper

Let’s start with the easiest first. Well, it isn’t easy by any means. It is a lot less complicated than your towing vehicle though.

Simple things first. Connect it to the vehicle and test the lights. If they all work as required then good, that’s done. If they don’t then you need to replace bulbs, check connectors, etc. to make sure that they do.

Brakes. Tow it around the block and check the brakes for correct operation whether the be simple override brakes or electric. Do they work properly ? If yes, then good. If no, then either fix them or get them fixed.

Wheel bearings. How many kilometres have they done since they were serviced. If it’s getting a bit up there then now is the time to pull them apart and clean and re-grease them and put them back together properly.

While you’re doing the wheel bearings you can get under the camper to check and grease the suspension. Make good and sure that all of the fixings are tight and that there are no visible issues with the trailing arms, springs and shock absorbers. While you’re are under there you can check connectors, all fasteners, water tank mounts, etc. Check everything.

The tow coupling. We use a poly block hitch so all we need to do in that department is a bit of silicone spray or grease for the top and bottom and the pin and to check the actual block for cracks. There will be a grease nipple or two on the body so a squirt of grease is a good idea too.

Poly block coupling

Check the bolts that hold it onto the trailer. Don’t just look at them. Use a correct sized socket and a breaker bar and make sure that they are tight.

The electrical system. Check all, and I do mean all connectors are clean and tight. Check your batteries and make sure that they are fully charged and that they have good capacity and will hold a charge. The easiest way to do this is to charge the batteries overnight until fully charged. Let them sit with no load and measure the voltage. If it’s still showing 100% state of charge turn on the fridge or a few lights for an hour or so. It should be showing very nearly 100% state of charge. Reliable batteries are essential. They power your water pump and fridge as well as lights, phone chargers, etc. If you charge the batteries from the vehicle while you’re travelling make sure that works as well. Waking to flat batteries with thawed food and no water pump is not pleasant. While you’re at it check for correct operation of the mains 240V system if you have one. If you find it wanting you must have it sorted out by a licensed and registered electrician.

The same goes for your water and gas systems. Check very carefully for correct operation and leaks. If you find water leaks either get them fixed or repair them yourself. Make sure that the water pump still works. While you’re at it use the pump to empty the tank(s) and remove the bung to drain them completely and refill with clean drinking water. If you find any issues with the gas system then you must have a licensed and registered gas fitter rectify the problem.

Remember that if you don’t use a licensed gas fitter or electrician and your camper or caravan has anything untoward happen you may be giving your insurance company an easy way out.

And last but by no means least your wheels and tyres. Wheel nuts done up to the correct torque, tyres have good tread and are at the correct pressure and check the condition of your spare(s).

This is probably not a good spare

The car

First things first. Wash it. Clean the outside and the inside.

You can take the easy way out and get it inspected by a competent mechanic. Tell them what you’re about to do and ask them to make sure that the vehicle is in tip top condition and that they do a full service. It will be expensive but it will repay the expense in peace of mind and reliability.

A full check is beyond the scope of this article as there are many different makes and models, all of which have their own needs and quirks. As a minimum you need to have reasonably new oils – all of them. Engine, gearbox, transfer case (if you have one), differential(s), brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, etc. Your wheel bearings, ball joints, drive shafts, CV joints (and boots) all need to be checked and greased or oiled as required. Belts, all filters and all suspension components need a thorough checking.

If you intend to travel along one or more of the iconic tracks (Oodnadatta, Birdsville, Gibb River Road, Tanami, etc.) the suspension and running gear is going to cop a pounding so get it all checked.

Remember that while you’re towing the whole car is put under a lot of stress and strain. Making sure that it’s in tip top condition will enable it to cope and give you peace of mind.

If you’re very familiar with your vehicle and are capable and confident then by all means do it yourself. If you’re not then get a mechanic who knows what they are doing to do it for you. As I said at the outset, it will be expensive but well worth it.

Ourselves

What do I mean by preparing ourselves ?

Before we set off on an extended trip we need to have everything at home sorted out. It’s no use setting off on a long trip having nagging doubts about what’s happening at home. I’m not going to make a list here but my wife has a few that we would be lost without. In the near future I’ll post a spiel about our lists and what’s in them.

What else do we need to do ? Well, for starters we should really be prepared for an extended time together with very little time apart. We’ll be cooped up in the car for a number of hours on most days. When we’re not in the car we’ll probably be in the camper or engaging in some activity together. Be sure that you’re both mentally prepared for that.

Do you need a house sitter ? Have you organised someone to collect the mail and papers ? Can someone water the garden and mow the lawns if required ? What about getting your mail held for you ?

There are lots and lots of things to consider before you leave for an extended trip. If you make a list and tick off everything then you need not be worried about what’s going on at the home front.

What to do when Plan A goes to the dogs

The grand plan

It’s probably happened to all of us at some stage. You’ve at last, finally been able to schedule your four weeks annual leave with your employer and you managed to coordinate it with your partners annual leave and as a bonus you’ve managed to get it all together at a time when you, your partner and the kids can go away for the whole four weeks.

You’ve got everything serviced and have packed enough of everything to last for however long it needs to last before you go shopping. You’ve got the camp site, or motel or cottage or whatever booked and confirmed and paid for. The scene is set for a great holiday. Wrong.

The spanner in the works

Well, the planning and packing and stuff is all done and dusted. You’ve pulled out of the driveway and the trip has started. From this point on you can bet that there will be something that doesn’t go to plan. Ninety nine percent of the time this won’t matter a bit. It’ll probably be something that’s not absolutely necessary being forgotten and can be picked up at the first fuel stop – our favourite thing to forget is insect repellent. The rest of your trip may well continue on with no stray spanners finding their way into the works. But then again….

A few years ago Jenny and I decided that we’d do a grand trip from Moe to Marla to Oodnadatta to Marree to Birdsville and back home via central NSW. We got to Oodnadatta just fine and we were having a great time. Our first night in Oodnadatta we went to the Transcontinental Hotel for a couple of quick drinks before we made dinner. Lots of drinks and about seven hours later we staggered back to the caravan park, had a sandwich and went to bed. Sometime during the night we were woken up by rain and we just rolled over and went back to sleep. Next morning we were confronted by this.

That put a bit of a spanner in our works. We were stuck in Oodnadatta until a road opened.

Just before lunch the next day we were told that in about an hour the road will be opened for anyone who wants to leave and then it’ll be closed again. We packed up quickly and waited for the road to open. At this stage we didn’t know which road though. It transpired that it was the road to Marla so off we went.

Getting down and dirty on the Oodnadatta Track

It was a pretty muddy trip but we managed to avoid getting bogged.

Once back in Marla the question was what now ? Out came the map and we decided that we’d head on down towards the Flinders Ranges and have a bit of a poke around there and then head off to Broken Hill and from there meander homewards.

Our second big spanner in the works was this.

Oh dear – that worked out well didn’t it ?

There we were about thirty kilometres from Hawker with no mobile phone coverage and a busted camper. So what to do ? We unhitched and drove to Hawker and organised recovery of the camper whilst hoping it was still there. I had the inevitable screaming match with the insurance company that got me nowhere of course. While the camper was being recovered we organised a motel room for the night. When the camper arrived we found out that the damage wasn’t extensive and it only needed and new brake drum and six wheel studs. We retired to the pub for a very nice meal and the next morning we continued on our way.

 

Plan B or flexibility ?

As you can tell from both of our episodes we had no plan B.

What we did have though was flexibility. This is an attitude thing and not a planning thing. When things go pear shaped as outback travellers we need to be able to just deal with it and make the best of the situation. In both of our cases in spite of the spanners we had a great time.

So. Plan B or flexibility ? I’d go for flexibility every time. Remember that your plan B is still subject to spanners in the works. Flexibility isn’t because you’re, well, flexible. It is what it is is a saying that annoys me but in outback or remote travel it’s worth keeping in mind. With flexibility you can just go along with your circumstances. The important thing is to not panic or get stressed – just go with it.

It’s worth noting that the roads out of Oodnadatta didn’t reopen for over a month after we left. If we didn’t take the chance when it was presented we’d have been there a long time.

Now, I’m a planner. If you know about the MBTI you’ll understand when I say I report ESTJ. But once the planning is done and you’re on your way remember anything can happen and it’s up to you to make the best of it and have fun regardless. Flexibility is the key.

Raspberry Pi and TVheadend

How to turn a standard definition TV into a HD TV

What you’ll need.

A Raspberry Pi 4 and a Raspberry Pi DVB TV Hat or a DVB-T/T2+C+FM+DAB dongle. You’ll also need a TV with HDMI input to plug the whole shooting match into.

The first thing to do is to get Raspbian installed and updated to the current standard. I didn’t pay any attention to secure passwords, etc. as this Pi is not going to be connected to the internet directly. Access is only going to be from the home network.

The next thing to do is to plug in either the Pi TV Hat

TV Hat

or your dongle.

DVB-T/T2/C+FM+DAB dongle

 

Next step is to install TVHeadend – “sudo apt install tvheadend” will get the job done. Before you start on the next step a very important step is to plug the antenna into either your TV Hat or dongle.

 

 

Getting it configured

When you are installing TVHeadend be sure that you select a username and a password combination that’s dead easy to remember.

When you’ve got it installed break out your trusty web browser and go to http://x.x.x.x:9981. The x.x.x.x could be localhost if you are doing it from either a TV or monitor connected to the Pi or it could be another system connected to your home network. In either case you’ll be prompted to supply the username and password that you specified during the TVheadend installation. You’ll be presented with a configuration page which is easy to work through. There’s a wealth of info at tvheadend.org which will see you right.

At this stage you should have an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) visible in your browser and now’s the time to test it to see if it all works. If at this point if you have no success go back to the TVheadend configuration. It took me a few iterations to get a handle on how it works. Once you can see the EPG you’re home and hosed.

Be aware though, you really do need a decent TV antenna to get it working. I don’t think the receivers in either the dongle or the Pi TV hat are very sensitive. Another problem that I ran into was getting the correct region to scan. I started out using “au-other” which was incorrect. When I used “au-Melbourne” it worked as advertised. Like all of my other issues, it was my faulty configuration.

Testing and Job Done

At this point yould be able to select a programme in your browser. You now may have problems getting your browser to support the stream from TVheadend. Don’t worry, salvation is at hand in the form of VLC which can play network streams.

Just install it on the system that uses your old, slow, standard definition TV. Open it up and go to “media -> Network Stream” and enter the followung “http://username:password@x.x.x.x:9981/playlist/channels.m3u” where “x.x.x.x” is the network address of the system that uses your TV as the display. Or any other system on your local home network. You may have to select “View -> Playlist” from the menu to get the playlist. From there you just select the channel that you want. Double click on it and hit full screen mode.

Be aware though, you’ll need a high speed network connection between the system with TVheadend and the system with the TV attached. Of course if the system with TVheadend is directly connected to the TV then this is redundant.

With this setup I can take my tablet down the back yard to the BBQ area and kick back with the cricket and a glass of wine or two. I can’t watch HD TV there though – I’m only just in range of my 2.4GHz wifi which doesn’t quite cut it but hey, it does the job.

Sit back with a glass of your favourite and watch the programme of your choice in HD whilst congratulating yourself on a job well done.

Taming WordPress

Installation and testing

This is the easy bit. There are any number of good web sites that describe how to get Apache2 installed and running as well as MariaDB and PHP. With the benefit of hindsight I’d also get SSL happening as well but I didn’t and now I’m faced with the prospect of retrofitting it which is something I can’t be bothered with right now.

The sites that you want to make use of are php and apache2 for getting apache and php up and running. The simplest way to get good documentation and HOWTO’s for getting things installed and running is to just google search for eg. “raspberry pi apache” and “raspberry pi php”

Installing WordPress is as simple as downloading the latest version from WordPress and unzipping it to the folder (directory) of choise. Usually /var/www/html on a Pi.

As ever with this sort of endeavour just remember “google is your friend”…

Configuring WordPress

Before you start adding any content to WordPress get it configured. Get your database name and stuff sorted. Get your WordPress folders sorted. Don’t be tempted to start downloading themes and plugins. Just get the basic configuring done.

If you, like me, manage to wreck everything you can always go back to a freshly created SD card and start from scratch without losing anything apart from some time that can be written off as a learning experience.

The WordPress web site is chock full of useful informtion and documentation. They spent a lot of time writing it so it behoves me to spend a lot of time reading it.

Getting it all togther

By now you should have WordPress up and running and configured and it’s time to start adding a bit of content, right ?

Wrong. Now that you’ve got it all working it’s time to take a backup. Right now. It may save you a heap of time in the future.

The Raspbian Buster installation provides a handy SD card cloning tool. Using another SD card and a handy SD card adapter or a multi card reader use the cloning tool and when it’s finished test the card by booting you Pi from it. You will have two identical cards if it all went well.

Now it’s time to starting adding a bit of content.

Adding content.

This where the fun really starts.

The first thing to is to pick a theme. Any theme. This site is based on the 2016 theme and is one of the themes in the distribution of WordPress. It’s pretty simple and easily customisable.

There are few plugins that will help with adding content too. I have a few that I wouldn’t be without.

  • Back Button Widget
  • Contact Form 7
  • Display Posts
  • Email Subscribers & Newsletters
  • Page Builder by SiteOrigin This one is a must have. It makes building pages dead easy.
  • SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle Also a must have.
  • Page-list
  • Updraft a must have to backup your site.

Other plugins that I use to make life a bit easier are :-

  • WP Sitemap Page
  • WP Social Sharing
  • WP Statistics.

One thing I’ll say about plugins and themes is get rid of them if you aren’t going to use them. If you have a change of heart they are easily downloaded and installed again.

Now to actually adding content. For starters I used any old photos and documents. I played around with tags and categories until I got a handle on how they work. If you use an iPhone get BIRU-WP as it’s a very handy tool for resizing and uploading photos directly from your phone.

Once you have your theme and plugins knocked into shape you can get rid of your test content and start on the real stuff.

The BIG thing to remember is to get rid of the themes and plugins that you don’t use otherwise you’ll end up in some sort of plugin and theme hell.

 

The end

From the outset this isn’t to be considered a complete step by step HOWTO but rather a bit of a guide as to the order to do things. I would recommend that at the end of every major step you clone your SD card so that you have a known good point to go back to when you screw it all up.

After I got LAMP and WordPress configured and working properly I moved the “/” partition off to an SSD and I make use of the SD cloning utility and RSYNC on a regular basis because I really don’t want to lose what I’ve created.