XAMPP, WordPress and the login mystery (featuring ZoneAlarm Pro)

I got up early this morning so that I could get a couple of hours of web development in before Jane rose and we had to get involved in Operation Clear Kadesh.

Which was a nice plan … but it has just taken me 90 minutes to work out why I couldn’t login to my new installation of WordPress on my local PC running the XAMPP all-in-one Apache/PHP/MySQL server.

  • XAMPP package 1.5.3a installed beautifully – CHECK
  • XAMPP Control Panel is working – CHECK
  • Apache server is running – CHECK
  • MySQL server is running – CHECK
  • phpMyAdmin is allowing me to access it – CHECK
  • mod_rewrite Apache module is running – CHECK
  • WordPress installed ok – CHECK
  • Can I login to WordPress … NO!

Thinking that it may be a problem with the XAMPP installation I uninstalled version 1.5.3 and upgraded to 1.5.3a. No joy – same problem. After much prodding, tweaking and peering under the bonnet while sucking on my teeth and saying helpful things like “You see … it’s the parts, innit!” I discovered that the problem lay in my over-zealous firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro.

I discovered this by turning off the firewall completely and lo and behold! I could at last connect. I switched the firewall back on and once again the burly, dinner-suited gatekeeper of my PC barred me from logging in to my own local WordPress installation. After more tweaking and systematically turning off the ZoneAlarm settings one by one I finally narrowed the issue down to the “3rd Party Coookies” setting in the Privacy settings (Main tab):

Zonealarm Pro Cookies panel

Switching off “Block 3rd party cookies” and “Remove private header information” immediately did the trick, allowing me to immediately login to my local WordPress installation under the XAMPP Apache server.

I offer this to you in case you’ve encountered the same problem and couldn’t work out what was going on. Switching off the firewall is often one of my first actions when trying to diagnose web-related problems. Often its well-intentioned desire to protect me from all things nasty also prevents me from accessing exactly the thing that I do want to use. I just wish I’d tried it earlier this morning.

Staying organized while moving

It’s “Move-Day minus 1” before the packers return to load everything else into the back of a lorry and drive it safely over to Fife, and we’re getting organized (you may have guessed that already from previous blog posts).

What still needs to be done?

Living Room list showing what to dismantle or remove, what to pack, and what to clean.

Something we’ve found helpful as we’ve been dotting between rooms is a list blutak-ed onto the door of each room where we can indicate what still needs to be. What still needs to be:

  • Dismantled or removed
  • Packed
  • Cleaned

That way we can see where we are with the whole process, and keep on top of things. Once a task has been completed it gets scored off. Simple!


If you’d like to do the same when you move I’ve saved my signs in PDF format, which you are free to download below:

Rooms at Destination

An A4 sheet that reads Living Room.

Something else that we found useful when we moved in here three years ago was to prepare A4 sheets with the name of each room for the destination property.

When we get into our new property in Cellardyke we’ll attach a sheet to each of the doors (again using the marvellous blu-tak) indicating the removals men which room was which: kitchen, lounge, dining room, bedrooms, etc.


If you’d like to do the same when you move I’ve saved my signs in PDF format, which you are free to download below:

Packing box

A cardboard box with Packing Box written on it.  In front is the contents of the box.

Having moved house a few times now, and being the kind of organized fellow that I am, I’ve found that having a small cardboard box called the “Packing Box” filled with the following items makes for a much easier life.

Into my packing box I’ve thrown:

  • Tape gun and extra parcel tape — having used one of these extensively in a mill job in Selkirk I find this the quickest way to seal up packing cartons.
  • Gaffa tape — Q. What do The Force from Star Wars and Gaffa Tape have in common? A. They both hold the Universe together!
  • Big roll of labels — for adhering to the side of packing cartons and writing important information, like what’s in the box, to whom the box belongs, and which room it will eventually belong to.
  • Black permanent markers — for writing on labels, gaffa tape, boxes, and just about anything else.
  • Electric screwdriver (with various bits) — Much, much faster than a manual screwdriver.
  • Roll of rubbish bags — for the disposal of rubbish. Of which there is a lot.
  • Pliers — for the removal of hooks from walls*. (*Other uses are also available.)
  • Stanley Knife — for, amongst another things, re-opening cartons when you realise that you’ve accidentally packed the car keys.
  • Cable ties — for the tying up of power cables, SCART cables, and prisoners en route to jail.
  • Strong, lifting-gloves — for lifting heavy things and not ruining my nails.
  • A small box — I use an old Memorex box that I got blank CD-ROMs in, for holding the hooks and nails that I remove from the walls, or curtain hooks, or … whatever!

So there you go. That’s my Packing Box™.

Psion / Outlook synchronization tip

I’ve been meaning to blog this for ages; someone on one of the Psion groups pointed me to it.

It’s a small application that I now use when synchronizing my Psion Series 5mx (or Psion Series 7) with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 called Express ClickYes.

Longtime Psion users will remember that synchronizing their Agenda and Contacts with Outlook 2000 was simple: you plugged in the Psion, ran the PsiWin synchronizer and it did its job with no interruptions.

All that changed when Microsoft introduced new security features in Service Packs 1, 2 and 3 for Office 2000. Now when you try to synchronize Outlook gets all paranoid and checks to see if it’s a virus or worm trying to plunder your e-mail contacts list.

Screenshot of Outlook security window, asking for access to e-mail addresses

Which is fair enough, but it can be annoying if all you are doing is trying to synchronize your contacts list and diary, and you are running a fairly tight ship, in terms of internet security.

Express ClickYes is an application that when run (and activated, by right-clicking the Notification Area/System Tray icon and clicking “Resume”) automatically answers YES when the pop-up dialog appears.

I find it really useful for when I set my Psion and Outlook to sync while I go and have a shower in the morning, or when I’m busy doing something else around the house. That way I don’t have to lurk by my PC and wait to click Yes. Express ClickYes does it for me … as the name might suggest. It’s a useful tool to have in your Psion/Outlook arsenal.

Light and labels

A desk lamp underneath my desk, illuminating the back of my PC

Here’s my Top Tip for the day: a desk lamp beneath my desk allowing me clearly to see the (labelled) connections on the back of my PC case.


The lamp is for those moments when I have to crawl down there to (un)plug an audio or USB cable, or when I’ve got the side panel off the box just making sure that everything is okay. I’ve got so many power sockets under there anyway I might as well employ one to help me while I’m guddling about under my desk, like some kind of IT troll.


A muddle of PC cablesAnother thing that I find useful is to label cables. Take a look at the mess of cables beneath my desk (right). The only way that I’m able to determine which cable is which, especially when it comes to power cables and USB cables, is because I label them all.

Power cables

All power cables have a label on the plug telling me what they are, e.g. PC, Monitor, hp 1000 (laser printer), hp 5150 (colour printer), etc. No more accidentally unplugging my PC when I meant to switch off the printer.

USB cables

All the USB cables have a little label flag (simply a label folded round the cable and back onto itself) on each cable at the PC end, telling me what they are, e.g. HP 5150 (colour printer), USB Hub, etc.

At the other end, on my 4-port USB Hub I have little label flags there too: Belkin Media Reader, hp 1000, SiPix Webcam, and IrDA.

This way I don’t have to waste time untangling cables between peripherals and my PC to find out what’s what. I just have to switch on my under-desklamp and read the labels.

(The lamp is really good for keeping my feet warm, too, on cold mornings!)