Out With the Old, In With the New

As you might have noticed – I took a week off from blogging in order to focus on something else – cleaning up Jappler.com. Over the past few months I have learned so much more about WordPress, web site optimization, and what I really used this web site for – so I decided I needed to take some time to redo this site.

From a design perspective, I decided to darken the colors quite a bit in order to remove some of the drabness of the old design. I also added a background pattern to give some depth, and also added in some new pictures in the header that represent changes/additions in my life over the last few years. I love working with greys – so I added more grey elements. I also simplified the layout and got rid of a number of image based elements to keep everything minimal.

From a UI perspective, I decided to focus on the content I have created over the past 4-5 years instead of a few static pages here and there. I moved all of the blog content into the main navigation so it is easier to find/navigate. I also used Jappler Menus in combination with the WordPress function to list all categories/sub-categories.

From a functional perspective, I started from scratch with this new version. I created a number of custom functions that make presenting content a lot easier. I dropped the YUI library and went with all jQuery based AJAX functionality. The code is leaner, faster, and easy to modify for any future needs. The comments are now using WordPress’s threaded comment functionality, and a number of other WordPress 2.7 additions. I also went through and got rid of almost 50% of my old plugins (replaced the functionality with custom functions, WordPress built in functionality – or completely removed unused plugins.

From an optimization perspective, this site uses far less javascript, CSS, and images and will load much faster than the previous site. I also increased the use of title tags, alt tags, and other easy tricks to help with search engine optimization.

All in all – this was something fun that I enjoyed and look forward to adding even more new design/functional elements in the future.

Busy Busy…

I have not been a very good poster lately – and I apologize. I have had a lot going on. We got our new dog Colby last weekend, been busy with all the WordPress 2.7 update/compatibility issues, preparing for Evan’s 2nd birthday, re-organizing my office space and development environment, getting ready for holiday travel, and just trying to take a break. I also have started the process of updating my web site Jappler.com from the ground up. I am not sure when you will see the new version – but it is in the works.

Colby is doing good. Triscuit was my first dog ever so there are a lot of things I thought all dogs did – but I can definitely see a lot more of Triscuit’s personality vs. generic dog vs. Colby and that has been pretty cool. Colby hangs out with me in my office for most of the day and like his sister Triscuit – is not a fan of the dog crate. I have been working with him on that as well as teaching him how to go up and down the stairs, how to walk on a leash, that the window is glass and not a hole for him to jump out of (windows really confuse him), and how to take treats from my hand. It has been both rewarding and sad to see him in action. Rewarding because he is such a good dog that is so curious about everything…and he loves just being around you. Sad because he is four and does not understand treats, toys, or a treats/peanut butter in a kong. I will be sure to work on that.

I have not seen him run yet in a sprint, but I am sure in the next few days I will be able to get him to do a sprint in the yard (he was an excellent runner and I want to see him in action).

Other than that – life has been pretty crazy/hectic. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will be able to take some time off and really enjoy just being. 😉

Quick CSS for WordPress Images

If you install WordPress and use the media uploader to manage your images in your posts – you can easily style your images quickly by adding the following code to your theme’s stylesheet.

img.alignright, img.aligncenter, img.alignleft {padding:4px;background:#efefef;border-color: #aaa #ccc #ddd #bbb;border-style: solid;border-width: 1px;}
img.alignright {float:right;margin-left:5px;}
img.alignleft, img.alignnone {float:left;margin-right:5px;}
img.aligncenter {display: block;margin-left: auto;margin-right: auto;}

This code will set up your images to float appropriately, as well as give a nice border as seen below.

Christmas in DC

Note* This information is now updated: Updated CSS

WordPress 2.5 Beta 1: One Click Plugin Updates!

On my company blog, I blogged about my initial thoughts on WordPress 2.5 beta 1. I have since then updated to WordPress 2.5 beta 1 and have been pretty darn happy with it so far. All my plugins on jappler.com made the upgrade without any issues and this morning when I logged into my web site, I noticed that one of my plugins had been updated since I last logged in and with WordPress 2.5 – you now have the ability to do “one click” installs. You need to provide WordPress with your FTP user name and password, and with that, you can have WordPress manage your plugin updates. No more manual downloading, uploading, etc… Nice work WordPress team! Stay tuned for more WordPress 2.5 related posts.

New Paint, Old Color

It is funny how you sometimes seem to always return to the same color. I recently decided to repaint my office (the only room we did not repaint after buying the house) from a boring beige to something a bit richer that would of course look nice with my desk and most importantly – my Apple equipment. I wanted something that would really give some life to the room as well as make the brushed metal of my 23″ Apple display really stand out. I combed through a number of paint samples and came out with a can of paint that I later realized was extremely close to the jappler.com background color…with a tad of thebareminimum.com mixed in….which is extremely close to the desktop image I have been using on my main computer for a few years. All in all, I really like blue!

Tabs With the Yahoo User Interface Library (YUI).

I have recently been asked to create a tabbed interface for a few projects which does not require any page reloading. I am familiar with working with the Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI) and decided to use their tabview component to make this happen.

What you need:

  1. Yahoo User Interface Library
  2. CSS
  3. HTML (View Source)

A simple example:
Check this code out in action (reusing the tabs I created from the jappler menus).

You can easily “View Source” and use that as an example. The possibilities of customizing the “tabview” component are endless and can also be seen on jappler.com’s home page.

Moral of the story
Check out the YUI library, look at the examples and start using and reusing the code! This speeds up development and will make your life easier!

repairing a mysql table

I have run into some database problems over the years, but had to do something different today when I saw that this site had a problematic table (wp_posts). When I looked at the issue first, I got the message “MySQL error code 145 = Table was marked as crashed and should be repaired”.

To repair a table, I have run (at a mysql prompt in the command line): REPAIR TABLE wp_posts; but today that did not work. After doing some research, I finally was able to fix the table by using: myisamchk -r wp_posts (see documentation. This was a lifesaver!

Welcome 2008

I return to blogging a year older and a little more relaxed now that the holidays are done. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and are ready for a great year! I am in the midst of catching up with work, and getting everything back in order. I learned that the holiday time is more stressful and needs better planning now that we have 2 birthdays (me and Evan) and Christmas and New Years all within a little over 2 weeks. I figure by next week I will be ready to get back to posting more. Happy New Year!

apache, mysql, php update.

Finally after two years of contemplating the updates to Apache 2.x, MySQL 5.x, and PHP 5.x, I finally updated my server to the latest version os Apache, MySQL, and PHP. I was not too concerned about custom work or any of my WordPress sites, but I was concerned XOOPS and/or XOOPS modules would have some problems, but it is now a week later and everything is running smoothly. Why finally? Well, as of the end of this month, support for PHP 4 will be discontinued. Better late than never. Time to update your servers too?

jappler.com Update 14.8

After working on clients’ web sites all day long, I often realize that this web site could benefit from things I learn while working on other projects. In the past few months I have put together some pretty amazing web sites that really bend WordPress so that the users can do just about any update to any text via the WordPress admin. I also have put together some other pretty advanced sites which rely heavily on template logic and really neat CSS. I had a few moments last night to update this site (cleaned up a lot of the templates, changed the home page, re-arranged the page content for the main pages, put in an archives section, and started thinking about how I could improve this web site to make it more useful for others. If you have any ideas – please let me know! For now – enjoy the changes, and optimized code.