Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/22/2014

WordPress – Blogging, CMS and more

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

So, my “Tools for Tuesday” posts are getting a bit more challenging for me time-wise and quality-wise.

That’s why I missed last week, actually.  I was just too busy to get a good review post done and shared in time.  And, I think maybe it’s time I start scaling that feature back, just a bit, to one post every other week.  I hope it will let me maintain both the quality and quantity of “Tools for Tuesday” posts.

And, now that bit of house-keeping is out of the way, on with the big show!WordPressThreePointNine-2
Or, at least the main post.  This week, I’m sharing something that is probably familiar to many, if not most, of my readers; WordPress.  WordPress is the blogging software that I use to run this blog, not to mention my other old blog at Fantasist.net, as well as the entire site at JKHoffman.com and my wife’s site at OrganizingDecorator.com.  It will also be what I use to run two other projects that I’m working on developing, Find My Photographer and Find My Decorator.
As you fellow devotees know, this past week saw the release of WordPress 3.9, but I’ve been using this free, open source software since version 1.2!  Before that, I used MovableType like many early bloggers, but with their “great license debacle”, many of us jumped ship and found our way to WordPress.  I know one reason I, personally, chose to go that route was because the lead developer of the project is Matt Mullenweg, who happens to hail from Houston, where I live currently.  I liked the idea that I might run into him at one of the local computer groups that were around at the time.  I never did, but I did go to DEF*CON with someone he used to play in a band with back in 2012.

In any case, I’ve used WordPress for a long time, especially in “internet years”.
Back in the day, it was really only a blogging platform, but it was super easy to setup and maintain.  And, perhaps more importantly to me, especially back then, it was easy to extend.  I haven’t written any plugins lately, but WordPress is so easy to use and code for that even I could write add-ons for it.  I’ve even done some pretty significant modification of themes, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as far from a designer as you can get.
WordPressThreePointNineSince those early days, though, WordPress has really grown up!  Now, not only can it handle simple blogging, but it can run your whole site.  There are detractors, of course, who say that it’s not really a full-featured content management system, but they’re wrong.  WordPress has built-in features that make running an entire site easy, like the ability to set a static home page and super-simple page management.  Add to that a completely customizable appearance through themeing, limited only by the designer’s vision and ability and you can see why WordPress runs about 19% of the internet and has been downloaded at least 46 million times.  But, what’s even better is that there are so many people doing add-on development in one for or another that there is a theme, widget or plug-in that will pretty much do anything else you could want that’s not already rolled in.  And that’s really saying something because WordPress “ships” with a pretty robust gallery and media management system already rolled into it.  Other important features include good, reasonably secure user management, a commenting system and an easy to use interface.  Granted, the interface is always being worked on and improved, so it’s always changing, but it’s never been a distraction for me.

WordPressFourPointZeroOther features include autosave, spell check, automatic upgrading, built-in plugin installation, sticky posts, comment threading/paging/replies, bulk management of posts and comments, image editing, a Trash/Undo feature, bulk plugin and theme updating, a multi-site option allowing multiple custom blogs to be run from the same installation, it comes in at least 70 languages and it’s even pretty optimized for search engines!  But, it think what matters most to me is that WordPress has a huge community around it, supporting it going forward, developing for it and making it better, even though it’s free.  I can download the latest version of this beauty any time I want, install it on the webserver of my choosing, and make my voice heard on the internet.  I can build with it or I can build on it to make it do whatever I need or want and anything I create with it is all mine.  No one owns a piece of it and, as long as I write my own posts and pages, I keep and maintain all rights to all the data that I shove into it.  That’s pretty incredible when you think about it.

And, yes, it really is easy to install and use, so if you’re thinking about starting a website, I highly recommend using WordPress to do it.  Don’t listen to the nay-sayers that claim WordPress isn’t up to the task either, because a lot of really incredible websites use WordPress.  You can check some out at the WordPress Showcase.  You might be surprised at some of the high-profile sites that you have already been to that use WordPress!  All that power can be yours, too, if you just take the time to download, install and use WordPress!

9/10/2013

Against Digital Sharecropping

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Pressgram,Rotten Apples — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:16 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I like being free and independent.

I like the idea behind Instagram, but not the proprietary nature of it.
I don’t like giving up my rights to work I create.   Even when it’s just a little photo of a little moment captured with my iPhone.  I dislike, as Nicholas Carr called it on his blog, “digital sharecropping”. And, of course, now the ads have finally started on Instagram, solidifying my discomfort with it.  Why should I let them profit from even the smallest amount of my work without compensation?

Well, now, there’s a new program called Pressgram, that’s a free iPhone app, which allows an Instagram-like experience, but uploads the photos to my WordPress blog. You can upload them to your WordPress.com blog, or, as I do, to my self-hosted WordPress blog.  Word has it that there is an Android version in the works, too.  It’s a new app, so there are some on-going refinements, but it really is a great start, I think.

Obviously, I’ve been using it here and at my other site, JKHoffman.com, so I believe in it.  Yes, it took me a little fiddling to get the setting just the way I want and to sort out a couple other things, but, now that I have, I think this is going to work just fine.  I can already see the difference in my site stats!
Anyway, worth checking out if you’re leary of another ad-supported system that lets you share, but not much else.

8/29/2013

Moveable Type Changes License

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,PERL,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

And becomes completely irrelevant.

Apparently, I missed this last month, but Six Apart is changing their license so that Movable Type will no longer have a free version.  Now, when it was Ben and Mena Trott running Six Apart, when they made a mistake with licensing, which I think they did back in 2004, you can understand and forgive.
Ben and Mena were like us, just two fellow geeks out there coding and blogging.  They came up with a great idea and everyone loved it.  But, then, money got involved and things got complicated.  They did things to make money, and, honestly, I probably would have done the exact same things.  When they first changed things to make the license more restrictive back in 2004, I was, I admit, outraged.  How could they betray us like that?  They were like us!  How could they throw this all over to just make money!  In retrospect, the question is, how could they NOT?

But, then there was WordPress.  Many of us made the jump, including me.  WordPress was a new way of doing things.  This Open Source thing was new to many of us and it was exciting!  Software that was mostly free that the community built!  People who were just like us!  Code geeks and blog geeks and graphics geeks all coming together to make cool things happen.  What could be better?  And, from my perspective, WordPress was easier to extend and develop for in many, many ways.  Also, it seemed to have fewer resource issues than the Perl-based Movable Type.  Better still, as I understood the license, WordPress would always be free and if it stopped being free, we could fork the code and make it free again.

Somewhere back in there, after the 2004 license debacle, Movable Type added an Open Source version.  They tried to get us back, but, frankly, for most of us, it was too little, too late.  After one license change like that, how could we be sure that it wouldn’t happen again?  And what about charging money to be part of the developer’s group who had access to the documentation you really needed to understand Movable Type enough to develop for it?  I know I couldn’t afford that!  Besides, as Six Apart got more and more corporate, I just felt like something else bad was coming, if not soon, then eventually.

Now this.
Well, it actually happened in July, but I just read about it on Mark Jaquith’s blog.
So, finally, after nine years, that other shoe has finally dropped.  Of course, a lot has changed in those nine years.  For one thing, I’ve gotten both married and divorced and am getting ready to be married again.  Interestingly, to me, Ben and Mena who started Six Apart have gotten divorced, too.  Ben still seems to be involved in the day-to-day development of Movable Type and related stuff, but Mena seems less involved.  I can’t imagine the toll their meteoric rise took on their relationship.  It must have gotten truly unbearable after a while.
You know, I hope they made out well.  Sure, this latest license thing is, I think, a final nail in the coffin of Movable Type, but, damnit, Movable Type also launched the blogging era in many ways, and paved the way for WordPress.  And, it was two people who started it.  Just two.  Two good people.

So, it’s sad, to me, to see how things have gone.  I’m sad to have been right about Movable Type all those years ago.  I wish they had proven me wrong.
But, with this, I think they proved me right not to trust the Movable Type license any more.  And, honestly, they taught me something about how to treat my audience and my customers.
And, yes, it makes me sad.  It’s the end of an era, of sorts.
I’m sorry to see you go, old friend.

8/25/2010

WordPress Promotion

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

It’s no secret that I love WordPress.

WPCertificate I mean, seriously, I really, really love WordPress as a blogging platform and as an easy-to-understand Content Management System.  But, did you know that I’m one of the three most important people in WordPress? No, for real! And, I have a certificate from Matt Mullenweg himself to prove it!

Okay, so, yeah, I know, I’m not really one of the most important people in WordPress, outside of being one of millions of users who do, in fact, make WordPress a force to be reckoned with. But, we only manage that as a group, as a community. No, that certificate is a joke. Literally. It’s a joke from Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress, regarding an incident some weeks back involving a theme developer who didn’t want to use the GPL, which is the software license that WordPress uses and all theme developers are required to use. I know people will disagree, but, based on my understanding of the GPL, any derivative works of a product that uses the GPL must also use the GPL.  So, really, for most of their code, theme developers are required to use the GPL.  Honestly, I’ve never worried about it.  I mean, mostly, it’s a bunch of legal speak that means very little to the average end-user.
One of the things that this theme developer claimed, erroneously, was that he was one of the “three most important people in WordPress” because he felt that so many people used his theme.  I think he may have been surprised at how many of those folks jumped ship when they found out there was something wrong with that theme and its license.

WPFreebies In any case, what does matter to us about all this is that Matt took that attention and made a marketing opportunity out of it.  For starters, he started buying people premium themes that didn’t violate the GPL as a kind of protest and a way to draw attention to how serious he is about supporting the GPL.  And lots of people took him up on the offer.  But, apparently, someone griped about not wanting a premium theme or something and so, instead, Matt made a second offer to those of us who didn’t want, or couldn’t decide on, a premium theme.  He offered us free t-shirts.

Well, I’m always up for a free t-shirt, especially one that advertises something I believe in and use, so I was on this offer like white on rice.  Now, I can only imagine how many people also took advantage of this, too, but I went to his website, and filled out the form and sent off my e-mail like a kid sending in his box-tops for his toy surprise.  And, then I forgot about it.  I try to do that, frankly, when I enter contests and such.  Like casting my bread upon the water, I do what I need to do to enter and then forget it.  That way, if something does arrive, I’m pleasantly surprised.  That’s just what I was this past Friday when I found the package from Matt in my mailbox; pleasantly surprised!

As you can see from the picture, the t-shirt came with a few other things.
First of all, there were all kinds of stickers, which I love.  It reminds me of the old days when you got swag at the conventions and covered your laptop in stickers.  But, there was also an iPhone skin and pencils and, of course, the certificate, which made me laugh out loud.
I’ve already worn the t-shirt, which, as you can see, says “Code is poetry” on the front.  What you can’t tell from the photograph is that the t-shirt reads “WordPress.org” and has the official WordPress logo on the back.  Frankly, that’s the part I love.

Now, all I need to do is actually read all those books I’ve gotten on WordPress theme design and get working on it…
Anyway, thanks for all the stuff, Matt!

1/8/2010

Make a WordPress Test Area

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, so this may not be of interest to many of my readers.

But, for the two or three people who do find it interesting…
Have you ever wanted to test some PHP code in your blog’s theme? Well, Jon Dyer has posted a tutorial on how to do that over at his blog, Dyers.org. It’s a cool idea for testing something on your site or blog to see what it would look like with your particular settings and style. I’d thought about how to do this, too, but the way Dyer does it is pretty clever.

Go check it out!

9/14/2009

WordPress iPhone App Beta Test

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I found out Friday that I got accepted into the WordPress iPhone app beta test group.

As you might imagine, a geek like me was so excited that I just about plotzed right there. Or, at least you would if you were a regular reader. I’ve been a huge fan of WordPress since I started using it back during the big Moveable Type license debacle. And, frankly, I’ve been hooked on the iPhone since almost the first moment I started using it. So, naturally, when I saw that there was an iPhone app that would let me blog no matter where I was, as long as I could get a cell signal. Combine that with the Flickr app and, well, I think I may well have found the perfect phone for me.

When I saw that the people who created the iPhone app were looking for beta testers, well, I jumped on that like white on rice. When I got the news I was accepted… Well, I already mentioned how excited I was. As soon as I could, I tried to install it. I had a little trouble getting it set right to install onto my phone, but once I did, it’s been working fine. Now, I did have a small problem when it tried to connect to my blogs where I had no signal or wifi, but, I suspect that the problem had more to do with my impatience than with a programming issue. What’s more, I haven’t had a problem since. Of course, I’ve only used the app when I’ve had a good connection since then, too, so that may have something to do with it.
I have to admit, the tiny, virtual keyboard on the iPhone is far from the ideal tool for a long post, but it certianly seems to get the job done. Also, the auto-correct feature actually seems to work in my favor. Of course, that does say
something quite terrible about my spelling or typing or something, doesn’t it?

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, this entire post was, in fact, written entirely on my iPhone with that WordPress beta app that I’m so happy to be testing.
How cool is that?

So, if you have an iPhone and use WordPress, either on a self-hosted blog or on WordPress.com, I highly recommend getting this app. When they upgrade the current version to the one I’m using, you’ll love it.
Trust me.

6/11/2009

Upgraded to 2.8

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Sorry there wasn’t a post yesterday, but I was pretty beat from a tough week at work. Also, I upgraded to WordPress version 2.8 on most of my sites last night.
Hopefully, you’ll be enjoying the extra speed it’s supposed to give me.

5/4/2009

Nine Years Old

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I made my first, primitive blog entry here nine years ago today.

Back then, I coded every page by hand, often in a text editor and uploaded the pages. That was back before blogging was cool and everyone was doing it, too, so there just wasn’t any blogging software to speak of. Everyone who had a blog, which is short for “web log”, wrote their posts and pages by hand. Of course, I was mostly out of work back then, too, so I had lots of time to code it all up and link everything by hand. Thank God that all changed! First MovableType and then WordPress. Who knows what else will be coming next?

Of course, a lot has changed in my non-digital life, too. Married then divorced again. Changed jobs four times. Moved once, after buying a house. Survived cancer.
Sometimes, looking back on it all, it sure does seem like a lot happening in a short amount of time. It’s crazy, crazy stuff.

Anyway, I noticed that the date was coming not too long ago and I thought I’d point it out.

3/27/2009

Web Design Sketchbook

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,GUI Center — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Oh, this is cool!

Now, you have got to understand that I am a total office supply junkie. I love interesting pens and notepads and all that junk. I have a bunch of Moleskine notebooks, for instance. And, I’ve been trying to sketch out a new WordPress theme in a sad sort of design notebook I’ve been keeping. Obviously that hasn’t been quite as well as I’d like, but this Web Design Sketchbook may inspire me a bit more.

It’s from a site called HuntingLodge.no, which is in Norway, and there is a store, but it was being upgraded when I wrote this. It maybe working now, though. Basically, it’s just a regular sketchbook, but with printed graphics on it that are like a browser window. So, when you’re sketching the design, whoever you’re sketching it for can sort of see how it would look in a browser window. How cool is that!? I know I’ll end up having to get one of these from them when their store is working again, but, until then, enjoy their “review” of it.

3/2/2009

WordPress Theme “Stuff”

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,GUI Center,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So, you ever want to design a WordPress theme?

Well, I’ve been thinking about theme design for WordPress for a while now. I mean, I’ve done some small stuff, taking the basic themes and customizing them to make them my own, as it were, but I’ve never done anything from scratch. I’m working on it though. And, as I think about it, and work on it, I’ve been finding resources that might come in handy. Here are a few:

Feel free to add your own in the comments!

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