Child of Twenty Fifteen

I’ve gained a new respect for the people who work on WordPress, WordPress Themes, and general web monkey work. I’ll tell you why.

I’m not a web monkey. That is, I do not make my living by writing HTML, CSS, or JavaScript to run in browsers. Ten years ago, I rebooted my blog. I’ve actually had a personal website since 1997. It has undergone several incarnations, including being 404 for a while when I had no hosting arrangement. The 2005 reboot was hand written using XHTML 1.0 and CSS. There was no JavaScript. Well, perhaps a little. But it was code inserted from a third party.

Back then, there was no iPhone. There were no tablets. There wasn’t even Chrome. Safari was pretty primitive back then. When I endeavored to build my site, I stuck with the W3C standards of the time. I had no patience for working around browser bugs or other glitches. There was a purity to my site. I was actually quite happy with it.

Over time, I lost interest in it. I wasn’t making new entries. I just let it sit. Time passed. While other things did happen, I’m going to fast forward to 2015. Things have changed. They’ve changed a lot. I wanted to reboot my site again. This time, I didn’t want to write HTML or CSS. I certainly didn’t want to write JavaScript. I also wanted to have a proper Content Management System (CMS) like the big guys use. I ended up choosing WordPress.

This lead me to a bit of a quandary. Choices. WordPress is customizable with Themes. And there are a heck of a lot of them. Some are free. Some cost money. I didn’t want to pay more money. I had just spent money on a five year renewal of my domain and web hosting. I won’t go into the wonderful options that are available for someone who wants to create their own website in this post. Suffice it to say things have come a long way. I even have a free TLS certificate so that I can run HTTPS instead of HTTP. That doesn’t work for hot linking from an HTTP only site (the padlock disappears due to mixed content).

I settled on the Twenty Fifteen theme packaged with WordPress. It’s a nice theme that reformats the content when smaller screens are used. It does clever things that I couldn’t imagine doing ten years ago. I can add widgets. Search is one of them. As I add content to this site, search will probably become rather more useful.

The theme you are looking at is not the Twenty Fifteen theme. It is a Child Theme derived from Twenty Fifteen. Twenty Fifteen is a good theme. Unfortunately it is very liberal in use of white space. I did not want to let this precious screen real estate go to waste. I had several options. One was to simply choose another theme. Did I mention there are lots of themes out there? I didn’t want to spend more money either.

At first, I tried hacking away at the style.css file for Twenty Fifteen. That was a disaster. I ended up reverting all my changes. I needed help. Fortunately, WordPress has support forums. So I asked for help. In a very short time, I had the exact help I needed. The solution was to create a Child Theme. No matter how much I screwed that up, I could always switch back to the default Twenty Fifteen theme with no harm no foul. Beautiful.

I set about aggressively reducing white space consumption. So much for not messing with CSS. Even worse, I also had to do a tiny bit of PHP. Fortunately not much. Although even the little bit I did managed to screw things up. The support forums came to my rescue again. A stephencottontail gave me the help I needed.

I still have a little bit more work to do. The left side menu, (About, Privacy, Blog Roll), uses too much vertical space. Obviously I need to add some more CSS to fix that. I will be creating my own custom footer when I figure out what I need to put there. I’m sure I also missed some bits too.

The important thing is that the site is now working properly. Or mostly working properly. Whether I have good taste or not is another matter. I’ve placed my Child Theme under source control on GitHub. It is free to use. Hopefully I can get a bit more feedback on improvements.

It would almost certainly have been easier to simply locate another theme. On the plus side, this has proved to be an educational exercise that leads to me tweaking my site to look exactly how I want it too.


Grumbles on the Internets

This is just going to be some stream of consciousness stuff. Hopefully it will be tl;dr. 🙂

I installed WordPress on this site so that I can have a decent CMS system. Largely, this has worked better than expected. I used to hand code my HTML and CSS. I must say, using a CMS is a huge improvement. But it’s not perfect.

I’m using the Twenty Fifteen theme. It’s an official WordPress theme for this year. I must say I do like it for the most part. However, as I solicited feedback, there are issues that do need to be taken care of. I don’t really feel like theme hunting. I especially don’t want to pay for a premium theme. I’m actually running this website on the cheap.

I did a five year renewal of my domain name which I’ve had since early 1997. It’s important to me. I also got web hosting from the registrar at a reasonable price for the same duration. The total cost to me is less than a dollar a day to have this site.

Well that’s the positive stuff out of the way. Now for the grumbling. First the aesthetics of the site. I don’t care for the fonts. I’m not saying the Noto family is bad or anything. I just want to use Helvetica Neue with the standard fall back to Helvetica and sans-serif. For code and pre tags, I want to use Courier New with monospace as a fallback. These are easily fixed in the style.css for the site.

Of course, without using the Noto family, I don’t want my pages to insert code to download those fonts from Google. That’s a slowdown issue that I can do without. To do that, I have to create a Child Theme. This would be easier if I knew PHP. I can learn PHP of course. At least enough to fulfill the need. Although that is some extra stuff. I also need to catch up on modern CSS that is used. Hopefully I do not need to also mess with JavaScript.

I’ve actually neglected my domain for some time. This has lead to several issues. The only way to get my site to rank highly on a Google search is to search on my name. Another is that I foolishly allowed my old BlargBlarg account to expire. I’m trying to get a new one. I don’t intend to make money off the content of this site. I just want to defray costs a bit. Trust me, it is damn near impossible to make a living wage on BlargBlarg without somehow gaming the system in a way that would actually fool BlargBlarg.

Getting a new BlargBlarg account has been problematic. I’ve effectively rebooted this site with no content. BlargBlarg wants content so they can serve relevant blargs. They want value. Well, so do I. I created this site to talk about various topics surrounding programming for Apple’s platforms. There are other things to talk about as well such as the state of the Internet in general. I follow the EFF on twitter to keep up with that. I also have occasion to post frivolous content.

The real purpose of this website is to help me get my app submissions noticed. I do have a couple old ones for the iPhone 3G that still work. They are both very simple apps. One is for entertainment, the other is a utility. I’m debating in my head right now if I should bother linking to them on the iTunes app store. They still work. But they have not been updated for the latest iPhones. I have other app ideas in the pipeline that are not so trivial.

As I release new apps, I want them to get noticed. It probably wouldn’t pay off to try paid advertising. So what I’m trying to do is build up a presence in social media. That includes this site. I’m also hoping that GitHub will help me in that area. I don’t have much there at the moment. Hopefully over time I will establish a small presence that gives me positive results. I also do the twitter thing.

Because this website is my face on the Internet, or at least one of my faces, the most important one, I want it to look good. That is, good content. No clutter. No excessive white space to waste precious screen real estate on smaller screen devices. Unfortunately, Twenty Fifteen does use too much white space. As a programmer, I find it easier to simply fix what I’ve got rather than searching through a multitude of themes to find something better.

Creating a Child Theme for WordPress is a distraction from what I really want to do. Although I do hope it is a one shot deal. If it is, then the fact that creating  a blog post like this on a whim is so easy will pay off in time saved. Isn’t that what WordPress is for?

I’m also distracted by the fact that I do want to get BlargBlarg working on this site. I also want it to blend in so that the blargs are not in your face. And I don’t want the blargs to take up too much space either. Hopefully the mere mention of this is not going to be interpreted by BlargBlarg as drawing attention to the blargs and asking people to vomit on them. That is a big no no.

Anyway, if money comes from blargs and not apps, I would have failed. The goal is to sell apps and also deliver some well targeted content to people in my field. I want to be participating in the discussion and have some positive name recognition.

I’m a one man outfit here. I wear all the hats. That goes from conceiving of an app idea through design, implementation, and marketing. The last one is not so easy for me. I have no clue how to market. Nor do I have a marketing budget. I want to make a living wage on apps. That is positive feedback. It would also help with my quality of life.

Oh look! I’ve gone over a thousand words.

My Mascot

The squirrel got away.

I missed the Watch live stream. I’m about to watch the re-run. Meanwhile, I thought a little levity was in order.