WordPress Themes, and Other Web Hosting Chalenges

I’m going to take a short break from the aquarium to show off how geeky I really am…

A couple of weekends ago I spent a long time fixing up my WordPress theme.  One of my sons helped me find a good public theme to start with, named Bloxy.  It looks nice, and is primarily blue (a nice color for a blog about an aquarium).  But, as I was browsing the site and testing stuff, I started to see some problems with the theme.  In some views, the metadata area, which describes the author, tags, and categories of each post, was writing over some of the formatting graphics.   Thumbnail pictures at the end of an article were writing over the metadata area, and even sometimes part of the next article.  Nothing was really terrible…  But, it was bugging me.

You guessed it, I decided to fix the theme.  At first I started out with easy stuff… I updated style sheets (css) to change font sizes and colors.  I changed some inconsistent data in the metadata area.  I fixed the shading in the title area – specifically, the boxes that say “Blog” and “About”.  I noticed some German text, and translated it to English.  At the end of about two hours I was feeling pretty happy with the theme, and ready to do something else.

I decided to searched for the Bloxy theme again.  I don’t recall why I did this – I think I wanted to compare the Bloxy theme before I modified it with what it was like after I finished.  But, instead of finding Bloxy again, I found Bloxy Two!

Sigh…

Well… Bloxy Two has some interesting extra features.  The search field looks better.  It has icons for the RSS feed.  The design of the  metadata area ensures that it won’t overwrite anything else, and has cute little icons to represent tags, categories, author, and comments.  My only complaint was, it wasn’t blue – at least it wasn’t all blue.  So, I decided to combine Bloxy and Bloxy Two into a hybrid.  The hybrid was to use the general colors and background images from Bloxy, and add the cool visual features from Bloxy Two.  Easy, right?

Wrong! The two themes look almost the same.  They are even written by the same person, Arcance.  Yet, Bloxy and Bloxy Two are written very differently.  Without getting into details, I wound up spending another 4 hours getting the Bloxy hybrid working properly.  I think I updated every single php file.  If you look at the page source, you’ll see comments like “<!- index.php ->”, and “<!- articleMeta ->” all over.  That was me, trying to find all the php files and make sure all the <div>’s have corresponding </div>’s.  Bloxy was a little sloppy about closing <div> sections.  Oh – you’ll notice in the footer that I left the credit going to Arcance (give credit where credit’s due) but, I also noted that it’s a little modified.

I’ll probably change the theme a bit more in the coming weeks.  I think I’ll keep the same structure.  But, I’m considering grabbing a picture or two from Wikimedia Commons of a real reef, with perhaps a few fish.  Why Wikimedia Commons?:

  1. The price is right
  2. By definition, all content in Wikimedia Commons is public domain, so no copyright infringement
  3. I’m too cheap to take Mrs Salty Geek scuba diving in the tropics so that I can take my own pictures

Well, 6 or so hours working on a web site is enough for one weekend day, right?

Once again, wrong! After I finished fixing up saltygeek.com’s theme, I decided it was time to do some work on my other web sites.  My father had complained about a bug in the calendar Mediawiki extension I wrote for www.plychurch.org and www.gilroyscouting.org.  Also, the scout master from Gilroy Scouting had suggested a change to the way calendar events printout, to make them easier to read.  I spent probably another 4 hours working on that.

The bug was the hardest part to figure out.  The problem had to do with repeating calendar events.  If you set up a repeating weekly or monthly calendar event that went long enough (usually three or four months), it would eventually go bonkers.  Either the events would show up on the day before or after the day you wanted them on, or they would not show up at all.  I was using the standard php time / calendar functions, but for some reason they weren’t acting right for all days.

It turns out it was Daylight Savings Time that was messing me up.  The php time functions are automatically using the local time of the host computer (where ever that is).  I was calculating the day at midnight, and then incrementing by a fixed number of seconds to calculate the next month or week.  When the repeat moved past the DST shifts in the fall or spring, the time shifted by an hour and shifted my calculations to the wrong day!  I adjusted my time calculations so that they used 3:00 AM, and solved the problem.

If you are interested in using either my Bloxy hybrid theme, or my Mediawiki calendar extension, I’d be glad to share.  Just add a comment to this post and I’ll contact you with details.

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  3. I am Papa Geek. Nana Geek and I live in a Motor-Home and travel full time.

    I am the Webmaster for our church’s Wiki site at http://www.Plychurch.org. I am using the Calendar program on that web site. I am very pleased with the functionality of the program.

    WikiGary

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