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OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #11: WordPress Upgrade & Website Redesign

Broken external links have been removed from this obsolete post.

This weeks quest was almost all WordPress and website updates. It was a pretty complete makeover, from the foundation to the window dressing. As I previously mentioned, I wanted to explore WordPress and web theme design. I really liked my previous theme, Redoable by Dean Robinson, but it needed to be changed to handle WordPress 2.3, mainly due to the changes to categories and tagging. My choices were to either stay at WordPress 2.2, modify Redoable myself, or go in another direction. My experience with Redoable taught me a couple of lessons about WordPress themes and now seemed to be a good time to start practicing what I learned.

There’s some great free WordPress themes out there. Most of them are done by people for the fun of it. WordPress will change, the theme being used may not change with it. In my case I had Redoable which was a powerful, complex, well designed theme. It was built on K2 and was modified to incorporate various plugins. And that was a problem.

In this case a change to the way categories are handled and the addition of tagging was a significant change that broke Redoable.. Not everyone’s priorities coincide with the WordPress release schedule (shocking!). K2 (the foundation of Redoable) is nearing completion of version 1 which is WP 2.3 compatible so it makes sense for Dean to wait for the final release. Even so, he may have other priorities once it’s released.

If I tweak a theme I then need to manually incorporate my tweaks into a new version of the theme when the designer releases it. This isn’t a big deal for the minor changes I made to Redoable. But this could be a daunting task if more changes are made. A lot of changes would be needed for WP 2.3 compatibility. Even if I updated Redoable Dean would probably release a better update down the road (he recently posted about the update plans) and I’d want to upgrade (sidegrade?) again. I’d either have to figure out how to incorporate my changes into his new theme (not likely worth the effort) or modify my site again to accommodate his new theme. That just seemed like a bunch of work I didn’t want to do since there really wasn’t a benefit to anyone.

K2, along with the modifications to integrate plugins makes for a complicated theme to learn on. Even if I fought my way through the changes necessary I probably wouldn’t have a good foundation of knowledge in CSS and PHP. I’d pick up bits and pieces depending on what needed to be changed.

I had planned to use the Sandbox theme and design the CSS from the ground up as a learning experience. But I dumped that idea because it would take too much of my time before I saw results and could upgrade to WordPress 2.3. Plus, I’m not much of a designer. I stayed with Sandbox but took an existing design called Shades of Gray from the Sandbox Design Competition as my foundation. This lets me concentrate on learning CSS rather than CSS and PHP and theme design.

The Sandbox theme is currently a theme available on WordPress.org (although an older version) so it’s likely to be supported for awhile. In addition, Sandbox was created by multiple people and has pretty good community support. It’s not a one-man show.

I also took the opportunity to trim back WordPress plugins I no longer used and to stop using ones that didn’t really add value. I added a couple new plugins and upgraded all the others if they needed it. And on top of all that I rolled in the first security fix for WordPress 2.3.

If you’re interested you can read more about the WordPress theme and plugins used on my credits page.

 

On the content end of things I re-did the pages. The main sections are along the top or all the pages are listed to the right. I mashed the existing content into them so the info pretty much appears where you’d expect but I may have missed a redirect or some links to old pages.

Visitor Stats

One of the features I removed is the poll that asked what OS visitors used. It’s replaced by the visitor stats over there on the right. For the record – there were 32 votes for OS X (60%), 14 (26%) for Windows and 7 Linux (13%).

Software Upgrades

Firefox 2.0.0.8 was released (release notes) and contained 8 security related bugfixes, two of which were rated critical. The release notes also mention it is Leopard compatible, although there are some known issues related to media plugins.

Quicksilver was also updated, although I didn’t receive anything through the programs auto update feature. This is a forum thread that discusses the update and contains a link. The update contains bug fixes, mostly related to Leopard. The update isn’t up on the main website yet. The update is available from the homepage. Ignore the version listed, the link will give you the latest version.

iPhoto Library Manager was updated to version 3.3.3 which contained a couple of minor bug fixes. This was actually released Oct 1st but I hadn’t used IPLM all month and just got the update notification.

Links & News

ArsTechnica.com: iTunes Plus DRM-free tracks expanding, dropping to 99 cents– Competition is good. Looks like Apple is dropping the price of DRM-free songs in response to Amazon.com

ArsTechnica: Windows Home Server in depth– An extensive review of Windows Home Server software.

Brewery offers lifetime supply of beer in return for stolen laptop

Download Ubuntu | Ubuntu– Ubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon” has been released and is available for download.

Even Free Can’t Compete With Music Piracy– Even free stuff gets “pirated”. Bittorrent and other pirate sites are now the preferred delivery method for many, even when there’s no financial incentive. Ease of use trumps everything.

GoogleMac.BlogSpot.com: An Uploader Update– Google has updated their Picasa Web Albums uploader for iPhoto.

Macworld: Secrets: Great Flickr add-ons– Some Flikr add-ons summarized.

SmileOnMyMac.com: TextExpander 2.0 with Features for Organizing and Syncing– TextExpander has been updated to version 2.0. This is a link to the press release.

Tech.co.uk: Mac OS X 10.5 goes GM, launch date confirmed– Still no news on the Apple website. But this site says they’ve confirmed 10/26 as the Leopard lauch date.

Webware.com: Intuit vs. Web 2.0: Entry-level QuickBooks software is now free– Has the web made software cheaper? Quickbooks Simple Start Edition is now free, down from $100. Not completely altruistic, it servers as a gateway to their other services.

news.com: Google ups storage for Gmail, Google Apps users– Google has boosted the free disk space available for some of their services while promoting their paid add-on storage.

Categories
OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #10

Obsolete/broken external links have been removed from this post.

I decided to take the plunge and dive into learning CSS. This is in the lead-up to upgrading this site to the latest WordPress, which I decided to do as part of a complete redesign of The OS Quest.

So this week I deleted all the posts on my WordPress.org hosted blog and put up a few test posts and switched it to the Sandbox them. The Sandbox theme provides no CSS (or just a basic skin). While it will take longer I decided to start with no CSS and start building from the the ground up. There’s not much out there yet and I password protected the site, but you can follow the progress on Flikr.

I also spent a lot of time over at the Internet Duct Tape website where Engtech has a wealth of great tips and information. His article on Creating a Link Post was used to create the links in the Software Updates and Links & News sections below. In addition I used the information in his article about settings up a sandbox for the sandbox theme to set up my sandbox dev environment. There’s lot’s of other good reading there, but instead of me telling you about it just head on over and subscribe to his feed.

I went on a mini-buying spree and added the following software to my collection this week. All of it revolves around video.

Quicktime Pro from Apple ($30) – When I got my first Mac everyone said this software should be the first thing to get. I survived this long but needed to edit some video quickly and this was the quickest way to do it. Worth the money for the time and aggravation saved but not exactly a researched purchase.

CSS Edit 2.5 by MacRabbit Software ($30) – Like the name says, a CSS Editor. Helpful, especially for a beginner like me. Nice to be able to make a change and see it right away in a preview. I use the Milestone feature and like the non-destructive editing. I tried Firebug but found it hard to use and quirky since I’m new to this. Trial download available.

SnapWeb by Brain Tickling Software ($18) – I use this to capture images of web pages. I tried a couple free products but they didn’t work on one of my sites, this one does. There are also free ways to do this (print to PDF is one) but these require some setup or hacking. SnapWeb just works which saves time. I was in a “time is money” frame of mind this week so I bought it. Demo available (with watermark).

Thirty dollars seems to be my pain -point for buying software. I saw the three apps above met my immediate need and I didn’t spend much time looking for alternatives before buying them. On the other hand SnapZ Pro meets my needs for creating videos but I’ve held off buying it since it’s $65.

Software Updates

Path Finder 4.8 was released by Cocoatech as a free upgrade for Path Finder 4.x users. I upgraded immediately and like it so far. Path Finder is my main GUI interface, replacing Finder on my Macs. My favorite new feature is the “per-folder” settings for the view options. They were smart and don’t save these setting to a file in the directory, they use Core Data to save the settings in a database. The UI is also more Leopard like. Click the Path Finder 4.8 at the beginning of this paragraph for the complete change log.

While I don’t use the software, the following updates caught my attention:

FoxitSoftware.com – Foxit Reader updated to 2.2.2129 – The free and fast PDF reader was updated. The anti-Adobe Acrobat Reader. Small and fast, for Windows. A good replacement for the ever more bloated Adobe Acrobat Reader.

TheDigitalStory.com – Photoshop Elements 6 Available Today, For Windows Only – Also mentions that the Mac version is expected in early 2008. By then I’ll be ensconced in Acorn.

Links & News

Apple – Mac OS X Leopard – Finally gets listed for as “Arriving in October” on the Apple website. No pre-orders through Apple yet.

Apple.com – Startup key combination from paired Bluetooth keyboard may not work on a PowerPC-based Mac – News to me that it would every work. Even on Intel Macs the BT keyboard wouldn’t take startup keys from me.

ArsTechnica – Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing” – According to Sony BMG I’ve stolen almost my entire music collection by moving it from CDs to my iPod. Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she (Jennifer Pariser) said.

Blogs.Technet.Com (Windows Home Server Blog) – New and Updated Windows Home Server information – Links to some tech docs about Windows Home Server.

DiveIntoMark.org – If wishes were iPhones, then beggars would call – Commentary on iPhone brouhaha. 100% on the mark in my opinion. (As a non-iPhone owner).

Lifehacker.com – Taking Puppy Linux for a WalkPuppy Linux is a small 97.6MB OS meant to run from a bootable CD or USB drive. They give it a spin.

News.BBC.co.uk – Coppola plea after computer theft – Backup people. And if it’s the only copy you have calling it a “backup” doesn’t make it one.

OldApps.com – Old Version Downloads – Get old versions of software.

TUAW.com – notMac Challenge winner declared – The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) – Winner declared in challenge to create a free alternative to most dotMac functions.