I survived WordPress 5.0!

OMG, WHAT HAVE I DONE??

“Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem.”

Translation:   “The one hope of the doomed is not to hope for safety.”

If you haven’t been following the latest WordPress developments lately (and to be honest:  I haven’t), you may not have known that WordPress 5.0 was officially released on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

The big thing about this milestone release:  A new editor named Gutenberg was to be officially debuted, after being in beta testing for many years.

Why the need for a new WordPress editor? In a nutshell, the current editor based on TinyMCE is severely limited when compared to today’s standards. To do anything advanced, you have to code directly in HTML (or PHP or JavaScript or whatever). Contrast this with page builders such as Squarespace and Weebly that allow you to craft a decently looking website quickly through their visual page editor tools, without having to shell out a fortune to hire a dedicated web developer, and you can see why some people who want to set up their first websites may not consider WordPress as their first option given the competition that exists today.

In theory, Gutenberg levels the playing field (or at least, sets the stage for one later on as it matures), allowing WordPress users to better craft blogs and web pages visually through the concept of “blocks” of certain types of content (ex. You write one block of text, post a new block after that’s just a photo, then another block of text followed by a block that’s an embedded Tweet or YouTube video, etc.), without having to delve too deeply into short codes, markup or other kinds of web programming in order to do so. Eventually, you’ll be able to click and drag those blocks all around the Block Editor wherever you like and once you hit Publish, that’s how they’ll appear to your reader.

This new way of composing is a good thing for the platform and the community, as it’ll make things more accessible to those who want to get down to the business of creating great web content without having to enroll in a course to learn basic web development first. That can only help in growth and adoption of the platform in the long run.

Stern finger pointing Granny:  “…BUT!”

In general, major releases with new functionality are a cause for celebration, but not in this case. This release filled many WordPress developers with dread or mixed feelings, even to the point where some people were begging to delay the release.

And understandably so. For example, there are still some major assistive technology issues with Gutenberg in its current state, and developers are recommending that if you need those features, to either wait on upgrading or to preemptively install the Classic Editor plugin to ensure the old interface is used after the upgrade. There are also around 185 bugs still left to be fixed as of this writing, which for some people is simply too many to consider a software product as “stable” or ready for the general public.

As the editor is the core feature that all things such as themes and plugins is built around,  the concern in the community was that things would break all over the place, especially with the sheer number of unmaintained themes and plugins still in use. And considering that WordPress now powers at least 30% of all websites on the planet, some people were concerned about doomsday or apocalyptic scenarios where almost one-third of the Internet would disappear due to botched updates (should have called the new editor Thanos instead, ha!).

All of these concerns and more made people feel that WordPress 5.0 is not ready, or at least, not ready for the general public.

Do what you gotta do, I suppose.

But, WordCamp US 2018 was this weekend, and the more cynical of us out there figured that they’d need something to announce at that thing. Thus, only a few days notice was given before it was released to the masses. And whether or not you agree that the release was rushed for the wrong reasons or question the motivations behind all of this stuff, the bottom line is that WordPress 5.0 and the new Gutenberg editor are now out and we’re all stuck with them.

This is part of the reason why I put tweaking this blog of mine on hold for a bit; I wanted to wait and see what the fallout from the new release might be.

My initial plan was to wait until January or so for a point release or two to come out, fixing some of the major bugs that were missed. In the meantime, I’d clone this site and others onto a local dev VM and play around with the new code.

The problem was, as soon as I enabled the Gutenberg editor on my dev VM, everything broke. While I could still access my dashboard, I couldn’t edit existing posts or create new ones because the editor would throw an error anytime it tried to save.

Suffice to say I was ready to throw in the towel; no need to waste my life trying to figure out where the problem was or who was at fault when there was every likelihood that things might fix themselves if left alone for long enough. Having the Classic Editor enabled worked just fine, so I could just stick with that until this whole thing blew over.

However, I was bored yesterday and on a whim, I decided to update a live WP instance that I had running on a server that I had yet to do anything with (rebuilding that one from scratch would have been quick because there was literally nothing on that site), and lo-and-behold, everything worked fine. Which was strange to me because the exact same set up on my local dev VM did not work properly.

So at this point, I had things working perfectly fine on my production instances, but absolutely horribly on my development instances. Usually, it’s the other way around!

And because I was feeling bored and just a bit adventurous, I shrugged and said to myself “Una Salus Victis” while taking another backup of the live version of this blog before clicking on the “Update” button on the production dashboard.

The inspiration for today’s blog post.

And everything still works just fine! All the old posts still render correctly, and I’m even writing this post using the new Block Editor rather than the old Classic Editor.

Of course, I didn’t do so without preparation. I made sure to switch to a theme that was still maintained and guaranteed tested to be compatible with Gutenberg, purged stale and unmaintained plugins and/or found more current alternatives, etc. So that certainly helped things. And yes, I did make sure to have the Classic Editor plugin installed prior to upgrading, just in case.

My impressions?

I don’t mind it. I can see where they’re going with this, and I can see the potential once they develop and add in more block concepts. I’m a visual person too, and the main reason why I’ve struggled so hard in wrapping my head around web programming is that using markup language to lay things out visually was never intuitive to me (I mean, seriously I’ve had to resort to using tools such as Netscape Composer in order to build websites in the past!). But a Block Editor that lets you click and drag things around until you’re satisfied while still offering you the functionality needed to offer your guests the rich new media experiences that they expect? Sign me up!

A friend of mine who’s a pro with WordPress said that it feels like he has to click five times now to get anything done compared to the old editor, but a) No one’s stopping him from using the Classic Editor or coding directly in HTML, and b) he is probably not the intended audience with this new editor.

Personally, I’m glad that I don’t have to switch to something like Squarespace anymore, just to get a website looking the way I see it in my head without having to spend a ridiculous amount of hours coding and testing and coding again. I actually like WordPress and think the new Gutenberg editor is exactly what the platform needs. The Classic Editor will continue to be maintained until at least 2022, so those who prefer the old way of doing things have nothing to worry about. And the great thing about the Classic Editor plugin is that it allows you to switch between it and the new Block Editor  as many times as you want. That’s what I’m doing at the moment as I start to modernize bits and pieces of this site over the next few days and weeks, but honestly, I’m tempted on making the new Block Editor my default editor (while leaving the Classic Editor plugin still installed and active).

Granted, I’m probably one of the more lucky ones as my WordPress needs are very basic (as in, I only use it for a personal blog). Others who’ve put in a lot more custom development work into their sites (or their clients’ sites) will need to be more cautious.

Time will tell if this was a wise move for WordPress. In the meantime, if you’re looking to learn more, here is a collection of Gutenberg Conversations, Resources, and Videos, and a good discussion on all the various viewpoints that make Gutenberg’s inclusion so divisive among the WordPress developer community.

https://twitter.com/polevaultweb/status/1038546868790329346
ZING!

And if you’re super pissed at how all of this went down to the point that you’re looking to do something about it in protest, check out ClassicPress, which is a fork of WordPress without Gutenberg, aiming to modernize the codebase through community input. In fact, you can switch right from WordPress 4.9.8 directly to ClassicPress almost seamlessly!

Introducing: “The Guy with The Camera”

As I alluded to in my previous post, I’ve been working on setting up a personal blog dedicated to photography. While it’s still a work-in-progress, it went live this week, and I’m now ready to announce TheGuywithTheCamera.com.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I’ve been working on setting up a personal blog dedicated to photography. I figured that it would give me some focus in figuring out what to write (as, admittedly, I’ve been stuck in a little bit of a writing rut for the last little while), while at the same time, I could use this blog over here as a random soapbox for whatever comes to mind.

While it’s still a work-in-progress, it went live last week, and I’m now ready to announce TheGuywithTheCamera.com.

For now, I intend to use it to write about what I learn as I make my way through the journey towards mastering the art and craft of photography. In the hopefully-not-too-distant future, I’d like to add video reviews and other multimedia to it, and eventually, would love to see it evolve into a general photography site with tips and tricks and other content of value once I’ve mastered everything (kind of like FroKnowsPhoto.com).

I’ve also added an RSS widget to the sidebar on this blog that should highlight the most recent posts I’ve done over there so you’ll be kept up-to-date no matter where you come from.

Like I said, right now, it’s all a work-in-progress so features may come and go and things may still change in terms of design and content, but it should be fun and (hopefully) interesting for you readers as well.

Let me know what you think! You can find the first post here.

Beware the Pretenders!

I opted to use iNove as a theme here back when I chose to re-vamp the old blog as I thought it was a very clean and functional theme and not very many people were using it (at the time).

These days however, I’ve found more and more blogs using the distinctive header, implying that more and more blogs are starting to use iNove. In fact, just checking the numbers, it seems that it’s been downloaded close to 300,000 times since it’s been offered at WordPress.org (which is incredible! Congratulations mg12!).

Today, WordPress.com has started to offer iNove as a free choice to their users, which is probably going to increase its usage on the World Wide Web as it was a popular request by their users and going by the comments on the announcement, an instant hit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against people using a really great theme, it’s just that I don’t want this blog to look like everyone else’s. I just recently put in a lot of time to make it look and work the way I wanted it to, and if I start to implement my plan to take over the world (heehee) and start to really drive traffic over here, I don’t want the user to be greeted with something they’ve seen before.

Which leads me to a conundrum: Do I find (or design) a new theme, or do I stick with this one?

It’s a conundrum because I REALLY love this theme. It’s clean, it’s functional, it looks GREAT for a technical blog.

But now, it’s going to start looking like a lot of the other blogs out there as WordPress (both .com and .org varieties) has taken off as one of the most popular blogging platforms around.

I guess I’ll be sticking with iNove for a while (as I’ve got no fallback plan on this one), but now that I’ve played with the back end of WordPress and gotten a bit more knowledgeable on how it works, I probably will be considering other options. iNove has some shortcomings and perhaps if I go the custom route, I can avoid them or create a theme that can look like I want it to and do the things that I want it to (plus, I’m really partial to themes that involve the color red).

Then again, I’m pretty lazy so don’t be surprised if iNove sticks around for months and years to come. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? 🙂

Ah well, it’s hard being a trend setter 😛

Reggie vs. Copyright: Some Rights Reserved

One of my long term plans for this blog is to post some really cool things here or elsewhere (which would either be originally posted here or highlighted here in addition to where it would also be posted) to share with all of you (rest assured that it would indeed be stuff that was written by yours truly).

The problem is, I’m always worried about someone stealing stuff and then either not giving attribution or publishing them in their own thing, charging people for it, and then making money off of it while I don’t see a dime.

Realistic? Who knows. After all, when you think about it, what are the chances I’d ever have anything of value on this particular site? 😛

Paranoid? Probably. After all, on the World Wide Web, information is shared and linked to freely and for the most part, people are pretty good with quoting original sources (except when they’re not). And most of the time, the Internet doesn’t forget, which can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes bad (good in the fact that you can use tools like the Wayback Machine to find out the truth, bad in the fact that sometimes embarrassing things can be archived for posterity for the entire world to know).

That being said, I also want to give people the ability to share what they find here elsewhere, as information sharing is a fundamental part of the Internet today.

Still though, I’m all about due diligence and best practices, so I’m trying to learn about copyright, fair use, fair dealing, and be explicit in spelling out the terms of what people can and cannot use the information here for, mainly to cover my own butt.

I know that the Creative Commons people have excellent licenses that people can use when sharing their work and you can see them being used all over the web. As of the 3.0 version, they have six different licenses to choose from, each with varying restrictions, and I’m leaning towards choosing one to use over here.

The most basic license allows for sharing for whatever purpose, with the only restriction being attribution (i.e. quote the original source if you’re going to re-distribute) and the most anal allowing for sharing with no derivatives (i.e. can’t modify it in any way), and can only be used for non-commercial purposes.

My current issue is trying to figure out which one to use. Continue reading “Reggie vs. Copyright: Some Rights Reserved”

Plug in to Win!

Better, stronger, faster.

Better, stronger, faster.

Still playing around with WordPress plugins and am quite impressed with the variety of functions that can be added to a local WordPress installation. I am concerned though that continually adding to the core functionality of WordPress through third party tools increases the software complexity of the whole thing, which may introduce issues later on with upgrades due to the different combinations of software versions interacting with each other without the same level of rigorous testing that the core stuff goes through prior to each release.

Oh well. If it really starts to become an issue down the road, maybe I’ll just switch to a dedicated CMS with all that stuff (hopefully) built-in already.

Anyways, here are some of the more interesting plugins I’ve added or tweaked:

  • WordPress Mobile Pack: This isn’t a new plugin, but I’ve finally finished configuring it fully. You can now access the mobile version of this site by navigating to http://m.reginaldtiangha.com on your mobile device or desktop. The plugin will also try to guess what theme to serve you based on your browser type, but the domain thing is new. There’s also a QR code that you can scan into your mobile device to be read with barcode reader software displayed on the sidebar. More details about the mobile aspects of this site and how to access them can be found here.
  • WP-Print: This plugin allows you to display a printer-friendly version of the site. To use it, I had to manually add it into my theme, and the plugin offers you different choices on where to put it. I chose to add it to single posts and pages. So if you drill down to a specific blog post or page link, at the top will be a link to a Printable Version. Clicking on that will display a printer-friendly version of the entry which you can then print to your printer. This should come in handy for some technical HOW-TOs that I plan to write and post here in the future so that if people want to follow along, it’ll be easier for them to print an offline copy.
  • Scissors: This plugin allows for quick editing of images for inclusion in a blog post. Before uploading an image to the blog, I usually use GIMP to do the majority of my editing, or ImageMagick‘s mogrify command in Linux to do quick resizing and resampling of an image if I’m happy with it, but if I’m on a shared computer or operating in the field with time constraints, this should allow for some quick and dirty editing if needed with no need to install anything on a computer that isn’t mine.
  • Deko Boko: This is one of many contact form plugins available for WordPress. I chose this one over more popular (and powerful) plugins like Contact Form 7 for the simple fact that it uses and includes reCAPTCHA support. I’m a big fan of reCAPTCHA specifically because it is so effective compared to other CAPTCHA options. I say that if it’s good enough for a high volume and profile site like TicketMaster, it’s good enough for me. If Contact Form 7 ever includes reCAPTCHA support (and many people have requested it), I might switch in the future, but if this plugin continues to be maintained, who knows. This thing works and works well and is good enough for my simplistic needs. I’ve used it to create a simple contact form that people can use to reach me. I wanted to offer visitors the ability to contact me, but I did not want to give out an email address for fear of spam. A contact form lets me get around that, and the reCAPTCHA support will ensure that it’s probably a human who’s trying to reach me.
  • WordPress Video Plugin: This plugin simplifies the embedding of video from various sites into a blog post. It’s sometimes a pain to copy/paste the relevant embed code, so hopefully this plugin will make that stuff easier.
  • WordPress.com Popular Posts: I see many blogs these days highlighting their popular posts, so I figured I’d do the same, mainly because I was curious to see which of my posts garner the most reads. No other reason than simple curiosity. This plugin gives you a widget that you can include on a sidebar.

I’m not sure if I’ll add any other plugins as I’m concerned about bloat. I would like to add an image/photo gallery plugin to help manage and display photos, but there are so many options out there right now and I don’t have the time to evaluate each and every one.

However, I find it facinating that the functionality provided by Scissors, WordPress Video Plugin, and whatever will statisfy my photo gallery needs are functions that were recently voted for inclusion into WordPress 2.9. It could be that soon there will be official versions of software worked on by WordPress developers included in a default install of WordPress, which would make me very happy. I’m ecstatic that WordPress has come so far in such a short time. With one-click upgrades and theme/plug-in installations, it is much more user-friendly than it used to be when you had to FTP files over and use shell access to extract and install them. I’m excited to see what comes next.

Recovered?

So I think I’ve finally recovered from Stampede week (in that I no longer feel exhausted). My sleeping schedule hasn’t quite returned to normal, but I’m sure that’ll fix itself eventually.

One thing I had wanted to do towards the tail-end of Stampede was to upload some more videos that I had taken with my camera on the final days of Stampede and to write about them. I didn’t get a chance to as there was a lot of post-Stampede work to do after the fact, but I hope to get around to doing so once I’m able to transfer and process the video.

In the meantime, I’ve been amusing myself with playing with the back-end of this blog, experimenting with various WordPress plugins to either extend functionality or to make things easier on myself.

Some of the new plugins I’ve installed are Google XML Sitemaps (to auto-generate sitemap.xml files; never had them before), WP Super Cache (to try and reduce the CPU load on this shared hosting account as I’ve noticed that sometimes the serving of pages gets slow), and the WordPress Mobile Pack (to give a better experience to those who visit here using various mobile devices like iPhones, Blackberries, or Sony PSPs).

I also made some changes to the layout and content of this site, primarily adding a couple of links to the top navbar, fixing some pesky typos/formatting, and going back and tagging/categorizing some of the older postings to make searching easier (I’ll probably do more of that later once I get more organized).

The main changes I’ve made to the layout of the site (that are noticeable anyways) are that I’ve added a Stampede page to showcase and keep track of everything I’ve done during my tenure as a volunteer at the Calgary Stampede, and an About page that talks a little bit about me and what this place is about (I’ll probably add a picture to that page eventually, once I find one that I deem worthy).

So that’s what I’ve been up to recently. Hopefully I’ll be able to start posting here more regularly again. Stampede was fun this year, but now I’m ready to start concentrating on other things again.

404s and More

So in an attempt to get out of the dark ages and to make this site more usable, I had configured WordPress to use dates for its links instead of the default and legacy p=? type links a few days ago.

Unfortunately, some of the links got screwed up and would serve out 404 errors instead of the proper pages.

When I migrated version 1.0 of this site from static HTML pages to WordPress, I had used relative links because it made maintenance easier. It all worked fine in the beginning, but when I made the linking change, WordPress automatically substituted in an extra folder in the URL thus ruining all the previously working links.

I’ve switched them all to use absolute links instead and it should all work fine now. If something is still broken, let me know!

Better, stronger, faster? Well, maybe not faster…

OK, upgrade to WordPress 2.7.1 complete. Very different admin interface, but whatever. Decided the old blog could use a new look as well, so figured I’d slap on a new theme while we’re at it. What do you think?

Turns out the problem with comments and my old captcha plugin was that the plugin was too old to work with the version of WordPress that I had before. So this time, I’ve integrated reCAPTCHA into the commenting system.

Yep, it’s the exact same system that the scalpers at TicketMaster use to weed out those who have nothing better to do than to constantly hit the ticket search button. The best part about the plugin is that every time someone fills it out, they’re helping to better OCR technology which can then in turn be used to help digitize various reading materials ensuring that these materials are preserved for all eternity (or something like that).

Been playing around with it and it seems to work fine, so I’ve disabled comment moderation and the need to register to post. Let’s see how this works, shall we?

So there you go. Now, whenever you fill out a comment on one of my postings, you can feel the exact same excitement (followed by the exact same complete and utter disappointment) you feel whenever you want to purchase tickets on TicketMaster, only to find out that the event that you want to go to has ultimately sold out. Neat, huh? 😛

Still Standing…

Upgrade from WordPress 1.5.3 to 2.0.4 seems to be complete. We’ll monitor things for a while to see if there are any glitches, but I think things are good now. I’ll also have to learn how the new interfaces work. That’ll take a while.

Next major project: site redesign.

Better, Faster, Stronger… we have the technology

Just upgraded to WordPress 1.5.1.3. I think it’s helped me achieve an extra 20 MHz on my overclock! Wheee!

(FYI, if you didn’t know, this message is a discreet attempt to see if I can actually post after performing the upgrade. If you’re reading this, I guess everything’s fine. Whew!)