Favourite Plug-ins

Plug-ins are elements that can be added to WordPress that allow elements of the page look and feel to be modified.  Not all plug-ins are compatible with all WordPress themes and the same function may be provided by many plug-ins.  Like themes plug-ins can be paid, free or nominally free but with advanced features that you pay for. Here are some plug-ins that I have used and stuck with: Google analytics allows page access to be tracked giving a fair idea of how busy the site is. The bounce rate is poor here, only 15% of visitors stay more than a few seconds.  A 12 in organic search means that 12 people actively searched for the site in the last 7 days.  Each user viewed 1 and a bit pages.  As I oversee several blogs I also have all the analytics statistics on a single Google page. Custom CSS allows CSS to be added to specific pages (not posts).  It is not the solution where a whole site needs to be modified as the same code would be needed for every page.  The specific plug-in chosen is WP ‘Add Custom CSS‘.  Here it has been used to modify the image positions as[…]

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Paid themes

It is against my natural instinct to pay for what can be had for free. There are plenty of WordPress themes freely available. Each year brings a new ‘official’ theme, unimaginatively named 2015, 2014, 2013 and so on. The site admin can swap to the new theme (with a new layout that could mess up the current look and feel) or keep to the existing theme. There are also a host of free themes from other sources. Some design houses provide a free theme and other paid themes or provide ‘free’ themes with additional customisation options that can be unlocked at a price. This site has been through several themes as one of its purposes is to provide a sandbox to try out a look and feel for other sites without having to modify those sites. Here the site is running the paid Dolce theme; This theme was set up to duplicate the theme on the ‘no opencast coal‘ campaign site.  The theme itself was created by css igniter, who offer themes on a yearly subscription either individually or as a bundle.  In WordPress the functions on the dashboard menu vary with the theme and plug-ins installed, some allow more[…]

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Leaving moodle

This site used to link to a Moodle content management system full of teaching resources. I have removed this as it was rapidly filling up the server space. The total number of files and their sizes were modest but they ate up over 700MB of server space. In exchange for all that space I got a snazzy way to display files with nice menus and expanding bits. I was not using any fancy student upload or chat features. I have replaced the system with a set of file directories and a php script that displays their contents. There is a loss of visual appeal although I can still tidy up the code a little. I conclude that with modest coding skills the Moodle functionality can be modelled with a massive reduction in file hosting size and easier administration. To display files a FTP server could be used although the php approach is tidier and more secure. I have put all the files in pdf format as most other formats will download rather than display when clicked. If the user does not notice the download they get the files but nothing appears to be happening. Quizzes were always more trouble than[…]

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Playing with themes

I have gone through 4 themes so far here, Halitanis Lux, Raptor, Mustang Lite and Twenty Fourteen. All are front ends to CSS files that could be edited, with possibly unexpected results. The themes vary in the options that they allow in the ‘appearance’ tab. So you may or may not be able to change images and colours. The Raptor theme has its major colour changes from the Themes menu not the customise menu. You need to click on theme details not the more obvious customise button to get here. Then theme options has to be selected. A choice that when seen makes some sense but I spent some time playing with customise and changing the background colour. As this colour is hidden by images it will only show up on a slow page load. Overall this Raptor theme is worth playing with for a short time. The major current issues is what appears to be a non-editable post labelled ‘uncategorised’ at the bottom of the page. Not surprisingly there is no clue as to how to remove this. I have instead cheated by renaming ‘uncategorised’ to computing so that this section appears to have a purpose. I then swapped[…]

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Early WordPress thoughts

On the good side this WordPress engine is a lot easier to get along with than TextPattern. There are menus of things to do along the side and top of the page with those that make most sense at the top and right. As you go down the list dangerous categories such as Plugins and Tools show their face; thankfully the system will work without having to use these. Images such as the above are forced to a width of 300 pixels and the appropriate scaled height. The automated ‘add media’ selection will place the file on the page and create the code to show the image together with a hypertext link to the full size image. Luckily this is all in html so can be customised on the page. The novice page builder should note that the full size image will be stored and loaded on clicking the small image shown on the page. There is no thumbnail, the image is simply crunched down in physical size. There are 2 issues to contend with here. If the image has a large storage size (as images tend to do) the page will still be loading this hefty file and can[…]

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A brief introduction to social or family gaming.

The ZOCo section of this website assumes a familiarity with a certain type of board game. These games are certainly not Monopoly. They can be complex, 16 pages of rules would be regarded as light, Advanced Squad Leader has a rules manual thicker than the thicker sort of telephone directory. In general the rules are not unduly complex. The problem for a new purchaser is often not what do the rules mean but how should I use those rules to play the game. Rolling a dice hoping for 6s and getting to the last square first may not be an option. Here follows a brief description of games that increase steadily in the player involvement required. This is a mixture of price and the effort needed to get them off the ground. The sections link to longer descriptions of each game on the website boardgamegeek.com. These links are not necessarily the latest or best version of each game but are a starting point for further reading. I have added images to most of the entries to prove that I own them. The exception is Werewolf where any counters or markers can be used. Werewolf (or mafia) This game lasts about[…]

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What’s it all about

Having paid for another year’s hosting with QIQ I have been inspired to rework some of the content here and a lot of the way that it is presented. This part of the collection of things is being done up in TextPattern; another content management system. These are designed for casual users, there are boxes to fill in and buttons to click. With a bit of luck we end up with a nicely organised set of pages that can be updated without a lot of dangerous code. Part of my problem is that I like the code and prefer to know what is going on under the hood. I do not have a problem understanding the HTML and get some satisfaction from thrashing CSS layouts into place so that they look OK on more than 1 browser without resorting to hard coding numbers for all the dimensions. This is just like banging your head against the wall, it is so nice when it stops. From a reader’s point of view you get some minimum standard of content with these management systems. I can lay out the stuff to some degree but have a limited sense of style or colour so[…]

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WordPress takes its stand

I am trying out different content management systems as a way of displaying thoughts and comments. Unfortunately my web host only allows 5 MySQL databases and each content management system wants its own database. I also require some MySQL use for experimenting and developing my own code. The upshot is that I need to delete unwanted systems to make room for others. It is not a great hassle to cut content out of 1 and save it for use with another but if the database is first dropped then that data is gone, gone, gone. Now we have a WordPress box of tricks, installed through the most useful Softaculous aspect of CPanel from my web host provider. I have kept the old ZOCo pages in their raw HTML. I tidied them up with CSS and cleaned up a little of the code some time ago but will not be making any further changes. These articles still get enough hits to make it worthwhile keeping them. I have set up Moodle as a site to host files from education. These are largely word documents. I have had bad experiences with Moodle, slow, slow, slow. So far this installation has gone OK,[…]

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