Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Minimum viable product?

31st October 2022

While I have done my styling for websites that I have, this one has used third-party themes since its inception. This approach does have its advantages because you can benefit from the efforts of others; it can be a way to get added functionality and gain an appearance that is more contemporary in feel.

Naturally, there also are drawbacks. Getting the desired appearance can be challenging without paying for it, and your tastes may not match current fashions. Then, there are restrictions on customisation. Where user interfaces are available, these cannot be limitless. A fallback is to tweak code but ever-increasing complexity hampers that and an automated update can erase a modification, even if child themes are a possibility on at least one content management system.

For me, the drawbacks now outweigh the advantages so I have created my own design and that is what you now see. Behind the scenes, there is a back-to-basics approach and everything should look brighter. As the title of this post suggests, this is a start with further tweaks coming in time. For now, I hope that what you find will be sufficient to please.

Turning off Advanced Content Filtering in CKEditor

3rd February 2015

On one of my websites, I use Textpattern with CKEditor for editing of articles on there. This was working well until I upgraded CKEditor to a version with a number of 4.1 or newer because it started to change the HTML in my articles when I did not want it to do so, especially when it broke the appearance of the things. A search on Google revealed an unhelpful forum exchange that produced no solution to the issue so I decided to share one on here when I found it.

What I needed to do was switch off what is known as Advanced Content Filtering. It can be tuned but I felt that would take too much time so I implemented something like what you see below in the config.js with the ckeditor folder:

CKEDITOR.editorConfig = function( config ) {
config.allowedContent = true;
};

All settings go with the outer function wrapper and setting the config.allowedContent property to true within there sorted my problem as I wanted. Now, any HTML remains untouched and I am happy with the outcome. It might be better for features like Advanced Content Filtering to be switched off by default and turned on by those with the time and need for it, much like the one of the principles adopted by the WordPress project. Still, having any off switch is better than none at all.

Setting the PHP version in .htaccess on Apache web servers

7th September 2014

The default PHP version on my outdoors, travel and photography website is 5.2.17 and that is getting on a bit now since it is no longer supported by the PHP project and has not been thus since 2011. One obvious impact was Piwik, which I used for web analytics and needs at least 5.3.2. WordPress 4.0 even needs 5.2.24 so that upgrade became implausible so I contacted Webfusion’s support team and they showed me how to get to at least 5.3.3 and even as far as 5.5.9. The trick is the addition of a line of code to the .htaccess file (near the top was my choice) like one of the following:

PHP 5.3.x

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php53 .php

PHP 5.5.x

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php55 .php

When I got one of these in place, things started to look promising but for a locked database due to my not watching how big it had got. Replacing it with two additional databases addressed the problem of losing write access though there was a little upheaval caused by this. Using PHP 5.5.9 meant that I spotted messages regarding the deprecation of the mysql_connect function so that needed fixing too (prefixing it with @ might be a temporary fix but a more permanent one always is better so that is what I did in the form of piggybacking off what WordPress uses; MySQLi and PDO_MySQL are other options). Sorting the database issue meant that I saw the upgrade message for WordPress as well as a mix of plugins and themes so all looked better and I need worry less about losing security updates. Also, I am up to the latest version of Piwik too and that’s an even better way to be.

Changing to CKEditor from FCKEditor for WordPress Content Editing

25th April 2011

The post editor that I have been using on my WordPress-powered outdoors blog has not been TinyMCE but FCKEditor. My use of that editor has meant that WordPress’ autosave and word counting features have not been available to me but that was my choice, as strange as it will sound to some. However, there have been times when I have missed the autosaving functionality and lost work. Since FCKEditor has been replaced by CKEditor, there are plugins available for adding that editor to WordPress’ administration interface. Recently, I got to replacing the old FCKEditor plugin with a newer CKEditor one and that has gained me post or page autosaving. The more cosmetic word counting feature is not active until a draft is manually saved but I can live with that. Other than that, the interface remains familiar with all (X)HTML tags on show in the source code view without any being hidden away from view like in WordPress’ implementation of TinyMCE. That isn’t to see that WordPress is doing something wrong but just that there are alternative way of doing things that are equally valid. After all, why would there be choices if there only ever was one right way to do anything?

Like any WordPress plugins, those replacing the default content editor in WordPress can be vulnerable to changes in the publishing platform and there is one of those in the pipeline for 3.2: a minimalist post/page editor that is billed as being non-distracting. That planned new feature is drawing inspiration from the likes of QuietWrite, where you can write content and transfer it over to WordPress or leave it where it was written. Even with bigger changes like this, my experience never has been that design decisions made for new WordPress releases have restricted to any great extent how I use the thing. That’s not to say that my usage hasn’t changed over time but I have felt that any decisions were mine to make and not all made for me. In that light, I can foresee CKEditor continuing to work on WordPress 3.2 but I’ll be doing some testing ahead of time to be sure that is the case.

Turning off the admin bar in WordPress 3.1

25th October 2010

Work on WordPress 3.1 is in full swing at the moment though I initially though that they were taking a little break after 3.0. From what I can see, many refinements are being made to the multi-blog functionality and behind-the-scenes work is ongoing on the administration screens too.

Another under-the-bonnet change has been to make WordPress less tied to MySQL since the possibility of dropping in support for an alternative such as PostgreSQL is now a reality even if it isn’t part of the default package. For now, it looks as if this is going to be plugin territory rather than default multi-database support though that may become a sensible development in the light of Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL and its sabre rattling with regard to Java patents. So far, the change to WordPress has affected my use of its database engine to power an offline version of my online photo gallery but a quick spot of code editing sorted that issue.

One more obvious alteration is going to be the addition of a WordPress.com style administration bar to the top of all content and administration screens for a user who is logged into the system. It is going to be turned on by default but there will be the option of turning it off for those among who prefer things that way. All that will be needed for this is to add the following line near the top of wp-config.php:

define( “WP_SHOW_ADMIN_BAR”, false);

The chance to see new additions like those above and be ready for is my main reason for following WordPress development. It’s best to be ready than surprised though it has to be said that the blogging or CMS platform is a very polished one these days.

Solving an upgrade hitch en route to Ubuntu 10.04

4th May 2010

After waiting until after a weekend in the Isle of Man, I got to upgrading my main home PC to Ubuntu 10.04. Before the weekend away, I had been updating a 10.04 installation on an old spare PC and that worked fine so the prospects were good for a similar changeover on the main box. That may have been so but breaking a computer hardly is the perfect complement to a getaway.

So as to keep the level of disruption to a minimum, I opted for an in-situ upgrade. The download was left to complete in its own good time and I returned to attend to installation messages asking me if I wished to retain old logs files for the likes of Apache. When the system asked for reboot at the end of the sequence of package downloading, installation and removal, I was ready to leave it do the needful.

However, I met with a hitch when the machine restarted: it couldn’t find the root drive. Live CD’s were pressed into service to shed light on what had happened. First up was an old disc for 9.10 before one for 10.04 Beta 1 was used. That identified a difference between the two that was to prove to be the cause of what I was seeing. 10.04 uses /dev/hd*# (/dev/hda1 is an example) nomenclature for everything including software RAID arrays (“fakeraid”). 9.10 used the /dev/mapper/sil_**************# convention for two of my drives and I get the impression that the names differ according to the chipset that is used.

During the upgrade process, the one thing that was missed was the changeover from /dev/mapper/sil_**************# to /dev/hd*# in the appropriate places in /boot/grub/menu.lst; look for the lines starting with the word kernel. When I did what the operating system forgot, I was greeted by a screen telling of the progress of checks on one of the system’s disks. That process took a while but a login screen followed and I had my desktop much as before. The only other thing that I had to do was run gconf-editor from the terminal to send the title bar buttons to the right where I am accustomed to having them. Since then, I have been working away as before.

Some may decry the lack of change (ImageMagick and UFRaw could do with working together much faster, though) but I’m not complaining; the rough of 9.10 drilled that into me. Nevertheless, I am left wondering how many are getting tripped up by what I encountered, even if it means that Palimpsest (what Ubuntu calls Disk Utility) looks much tidier than it did. Could the same thing be affecting /etc/fstab too? The reason that I don’t know the answer to that question is that I changed all hard disk drive references to UUID a while ago but it’s another place to look if the GRUB change isn’t fixing things for you. If my memory isn’t failing me, I seem to remember seeing /dev/mapper/sil_**************# drive names in there too.

Removing a column from a MySQL data table

19th April 2010

My trying out WordPress 3.0 in advance of its final release has brought me errors on the links management page. After a spot of poking around the TRAC, I found that the bug already has been reported and that the cause is an extraneous column in the *_links table called link_category. The change in taxonomy handling over the years seems to have made it redundant so I removed the said column from the database using a command like the following from both the MySQL command line and MySQL Query Browser:

alter table wordpress.wp_links drop link_category;

That seems to have made those errors go away and I hop that their upgrade code takes care of this before WordPress 3.0 is let loose of the general blogging public. Taking out the coding brittleness would do too.

Another look at Drupal

20th January 2010

Early on in the first year of this blog, I got to investigating the use of Drupal for creating an article-based subsite. In the end, the complexities of its HTML and CSS thwarted my attempts to harmonise the appearance of web pages with other parts of the same site and I discontinued my efforts. In the end, it was Textpattern that suited my needs and I have stuck with that for the aforementioned subsite. However, I recently spotted someone very obviously using Drupal in its out of the box state for a sort of blog (there is even an extension for importing WXR files containing content from a WordPress blog); they even hadn’t removed the Drupal logo. With my interest rekindled, I took another look for the sake of seeing where things have gone in the last few years. Well, first impressions are that it now looks like a blogging tool with greater menu control and the facility to define custom content types. There are plenty of nice themes around too though that highlights an idiosyncrasy in the sense that content editing is not fully integrated into the administration area where I’d expect it to be. The consequence of this situation is that pages, posts (or story as the content type is called) or any content types that you have defined yourself are created and edited with the front page theme controlling the appearance of the user interface. It is made even more striking when you use a different theme for the administration screens. That oddity aside, there is a lot to recommend Drupal though I’d try setting up a standalone site with it rather than attempting to shoehorn it as a part of an existing one like what I was trying when I last looked.

Going mobile

20th October 2009

Now that the mobile web is upon us, I have been wondering about making my various web presences more friendly for users of that platform and my interest has been piqued especially by the recent addition of such capability to WordPress.com. With that in mind, I grabbed the WordPress Mobile Edition plugin and set it to work, both on this blog and my outdoors one. Well, the results certainly seem to gain a seal of approval from mobiReady so that’s promising. It comes with a version of the Carrington Mobile theme but you need to pop that into the themes directory on your web server yourself for WordPress’ plugin installation routines won’t do that for you. It could be interesting to see how things go from here and the idea of creating my own theme while using the plugin for redirection honours sounds like a way forward;I have found the place where I can make any changes as needed. Home made variants of the methodology may find a use with my photo gallery and Textpattern sub-sites.

Sometimes, things do get missed…

18th September 2009

Being a user of Textpattern, I should have a vested interested in any developments in that venerable web platform. However, the latest release came out at the end of August unbeknownst to me and that’s with an entry on the Dev Blog. Those blog entries come irregularly so that might have been how I missed it but there were other things going on in my life like the installation of new windows in my house and weekends spent in Scotland and Ireland.

Still, the whole release was more low key than, say, a new version of WordPress where many would be shouting how important the upgrade would be and with messages turning up on blog administration screens too. There may be good reason for this given the recent problems experienced by those who fail to keep up with progress. Of course, WordPress is a major target for unwanted attention so it’s best to keep your wits about you. The low key nature of Textpattern might be an asset when it comes to warding off miscreants and its greater compatibility with more technically minded folk may help security too. Saying all of that may be pure speculation but you only have to look at the world of operating systems to see how the idea came into my mind.

A later posting on the Txp blog tells you about the new goodies available in release 4.2.0 but here’s a short selection to whet your appetite: themes for the administration area, multiple sites and new tags. Upgrading proved painless though I did try it out on an offline version of the microsite where I use Textpattern before making a move on its online counterpart. All went smoothly but it’s alway best to look before you leap or a site rebuild might be in order and no one needs that.

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