For much of the last two weeks I’ve focussed on two things:
Redesign my website (garethjmsaunders.co.uk)
Migrate that site, this blog, my SEC digital calendar site, and the NYCGB alumni website to a new web host (SiteGround).
I’ve managed to complete the project three days early… well, kind of.
WordPress… we have a problem
One unforeseen snag has been to do with the media (images, PDFs, zip files, etc.) on this blog.
I’ve been using WordPress since version 0.7 in 2003. During that time I’ve been uploading image after image, and as WordPress changed the way that it stored images I’ve experimented with different ways of organising it—even simply uploading the images to my server via FTP. I must have tried about four or five different arrangements.
For the most part, though, I’ve been uploading files directly into /wp-content. Occasionally I’d switch on the “organise my uploads into month- and year-based folders” option.
In short the organisation of media on this blog has been a mess, and I’ve always shied away from addressing it because… well, it worked.
When I came to consider migrating this blog from Heart Internet to SiteGround I did think about the media: would it be a problem if I simply transferred everything over as is and sort it out there.
I was a fairly tight schedule (it had to be completed by 20 January so that my Heart Internet hosting account wasn’t renewed) and I reckoned that since it worked fine at Heart Internet then it should work at SiteGround.
I was wrong.
cPanel and the mystery of the 1,998 files
SiteGround uses cPanel. As Wikipedia explains, “cPanel is a Linux-based web hosting control panel that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site.”
cPanel uses Pure-FTPd, a free (BSD licence) FTP server which by default shows up to 2,000 files in each folder. I found that out after the event tucked away in the cPanel documentation.
I had 3,688 files plus 10 directories in my /wp-content folder and I couldn’t figure out why it would only display 1,998 files and the previously visible directories, such as /plugins and /themes had disappeared.
I am manually working my way through the media library. Uploading files into the appropriate /wp-content/uploads/<year>/<month> directories and updating the database to tell WordPress where the files are.
For those files that were uploaded before there was such a good media library I’m using the Add From Server plugin to quickly import media into the WordPress uploads manager.
This is going to take a while, so please bear with me.
Monday 19 January 2015
I’m making good progress already. I’ve fixed 360/700 images in the media library. That’s 51%, just over the halfway mark.
I’m finding it strangely satisfying getting this sorted out. A bit of website gardening.
Since having children my album buying has decreased quite considerably—who would have thought.
Another factor is my 195 metal CDs project which sees me reviewing a different album every week—CDs that I got for free a few years ago on Freecycle. I did wonder if I was going to need to dip into that opus to make up my top 10 for 2014 but it turns out that I bought—or made,or obtained—more than enough.
Top 15 artists (Last.fm)
Before launching into my top 10 though, I’ve just taken a look at my Last.fm top 15 artists over the last 12 months. This reflects what I’ve actually been listening to over the last year and now that my Android phone can ‘scrobble’ tracks to Last.fm it’s much more accurate than ever before. I just need to get my car hooked up and the circle will be complete.
The chart is quite predictable, although I’m surprised that Iron Maiden are at #2, and I would have expected both Porcupine Tree and Lamb of God to rank higher, but perhaps I’ve played them more in the car than anywhere else.
Opeth (356 tracks played)
Iron Maiden (285)
Machine Head (173)
Porcupine Tree (161)
Lamb of God (160)
Celtic Frost (159)
Faith No More (155)
The notable artist there is Kyrbgrinder who were from my 195 metal CDs project. I knew that I’d played them a lot, but I would never have thought that they’d rank as my 10th most played artist of 2014.
But then take a look at this chart of the top 15 most-played tracks during 2014:
Kyrbgrinder features in seven of those 15 slots, as does Russian Circles (another of my favourite 195 metal CDs this year).
10. NYCGB Alumni—Live at Spitalfields, London
I’m going to start my countdown remarkably with an album that I’m singing on. In January I travelled down to London for the inaugural NYCGB Alumni singing day at Christ Church, Spitalfields.
This was the first time that I’d sung properly since the choir’s 25th anniversary concert in Birmingham in 2008 and it was blissful to be with such dear friends again and to sing such fantastic music, particularly “O Magnum Mysterium” by Lauridsen. I wept when I heard the recording for the first time. (During the performance I was so focussed on sight reading the score that I didn’t appreciate the overall piece.
I’ve listened to this album quite a few times and while I do appreciate what David Gilmour and Nick Mason have done, and have done very cleverly, there is a part of me that is still a little disappointed.
I loved The Division Bell (1994) and as many of these tracks came from the same sessions I was hoping for something… more. The lack of vocals though, except on the closing track “Louder than words” is probably what I’m missing.
It is lovely, lovely, lovely though to hear my friend Louise Marshall on backing vocals.
8. Triptykon—Melana Chasmata
Celtic Frost were one of my favourite bands growing up in the 80s. Triptykon is latest project from Celtic Frost founder Tom G. Warrior. And it’s heavy; very heavy. And very dark.
I’ve probably not given this album enough time, it’s definitely one I need to listen to more in 2015.
7. Godflesh—Decline and Fall
This was the year that I was supposed to see Godflesh live. They are one of my all-time favourite bands and their album Streetcleaner (1989) is one of the best albums to code to.
Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Justin Broadrick disbanded Godflesh in 2002 to focus on his new shoegazing/ambient outfit Jesu. But he and G.C. Green (bass) are back together and as Godflesh is on my ‘bucket list’ this was the year to see them. They even played Glasgow twice! But marital difficulties and then viral meningitis got in the way… so it will need to be next year.
Decline and Fall (2014) is a return to form for Godflesh, and this EP was designed as taster for the full album A World Lit Only by Fire (2014) released in October. I have still to buy that one.
6. Machine Head—Bloodstones and Diamonds
This is a late addition to my MP3 ranks given that I only bought it on Boxing Day. But at #9 in my top artists of 2014 I’ve been listening to a lot of Machine Head this year, and this is a rocking album.
I don’t think it’s as good as Unto the Locust (2011) or The Blackening (2007) but with tracks like “And now we die” and “Night of long knives” there are certainly some cracking tunes on that platter.
5. Exodus—Blood In, Blood Out
This year Exodus parted company with their vocalist of the last 11 years, which is a shame as I really liked Rob Dukes’ voice—to be honest I think Exodus recorded their best work with him.
This album, with the ‘classic line-up’ vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza back on the microphone isn’t their greatest, but it’s still pretty darned good.
With guitarist Gary Holt now splitting his time between Exodus and Slayer (following the sad death of founding Slayer member Jeff Hanneman in 2013) it will be interesting to see how that influences the output and activity of both bands.
4. Slipknot— .5: The Gray Chapter
Following the death of founding member, bassist, Paul Gray in 2010 there was some doubt whether Slipknot would ever record and release another album; a doubt that was reinforced again when drummer Joey Jordison was ejected from the band in 2013.
But here it is, dedicated to Paul Gray and it’s a crushing album of riffs and delicate melodies.
3. Opeth—Pale Communion
Following Heritage (2011) which saw Opeth move away from their death metal roots and embrace a more 1970s prog rock path, Pale Communion (2014) follows a similar mellow and retro route.
I know that Opeth have come under fire for their dramatic change of style, compared by some to Spinal Tap’s middle-life-crisis “Jazz Odyssey”, but I rather love it. It still contains the light-and-dark twists and turns of any other Opeth album.
This album is heavy in a different way to Blackwater Park (2001) or Ghost Reveries (2006) but if on their next one Mikael Åkerfeldt happened to stomp on his distortion pedal once or twice then I’m sure it would propel that album to the number one slot that year.
2. Mastodon—Once More ‘Round the Sun
This has been in many ways my go-to album of 2014. It’s the album that I’ve gone to sleep listening to more than any other, and it features my most-listened to song of the year: the opening track ‘Tread lightly’.
This isn’t the Mastodon of Remission (2002) or Leviathan (2004). This is a more laid back and melodic Mastodon, more progressive rock than metal throughout but it is still great music. (Even if the album cover is freaky and gives my children nightmares!)
1. Johnny Flynn—Detectorists
This folk-song theme-tune from the BBC Four mini drama Detectorists written by Mackenzie Crook rather took me by surprise. The writing and acting was exquisite, the theme song was short but sublime.
I wish there had been more—an album—rather than a single song but I’ve listened to this one track over and over again. Last.fm ranks it as joint #14 this year.
In what has been a generally very difficult year, it’s nice to have this gentle, romantic song as its counterpoint.
Bonus: Reuben Saunders—Oh I am a spaceman!
A special word must be given to the song “Oh I am a spaceman!” that my eldest son Reuben and I wrote back in May.
My wife Jane was away and while his younger brothers played a LEGO game on my PC Reuben asked if we could write a song.
Unsure about what we’d produce I said yes: at least it could be great fun. I had no idea that we’d produce something so fun. Most of the ideas were Reuben’s, I just shaped them into a song format and gave it a simple tune.
I’m in the process of illustrating the song to turn it into a self-published book for Reuben. But don’t tell him: shhhh! That’ll be a nice surprise for him next year.
Of course, if you were to visit garethjmsaunders.co.uk right now you might just notice the tiny detail that erm… in the last eight months I’ve not quite managed to do any of the above.
The truth is that I delayed my plans for two reasons:
My web hosting with Heart Internet wasn’t going to expire until mid-January 2015, they don’t offer pro-rata refunds, and I didn’t fancy having to buy hosting twice in a year; and
the little matter of me getting viral meningitis in July in which I lost my sight for a couple of months. It turns out that I often relied on my eyesight for building websites.
So, this is it. Over the next month I’m planning to go through with what I’d sketched out in April.
Everything must go…
One of the things that I realise that I’ve dithered about while planning this is the “delete a lot of content” bit. I’ve got a lot of content on my site that hasn’t been updated in a long, long time (sorry). Some of it is out of date, but a lot of it isn’t but currently it’s too much for me to migrate neatly.
A lot has changed in the lasts 11 years. I no longer use a Psion (although I do still rather enjoy people emailing me about them) and I haven’t written a line of code for one for the last decade. Sadly I haven’t played mahjong much (except on the computer) in the last six years, since writing a book on it and, oh, our oldest children have just turned six—do you see a connection? And nobody really needs to read my poetry from the mid-90s, or essays I wrote at theological college, do they?
So it’s all going. Except this blog, and a few other bits and pieces. Some of it may make a reappearance at some point in the future, in a different format, but for now I need to clear the decks and give myself the space to focus on the projects I want to pursue next year, which is mostly writing. And getting well.
I just want to take this opportunity to especially thank the Psion and mahjong communities for your support over the years. I’m sorry I’m bailing out at this point but my priorities are currently different.
After much deliberation I have eventually decided to retain my blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk subdomain. For a number of reasons:
I was never really happy with my blog moving to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/. If anything I’d want www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blog/ but that’s not possible in WordPress multisite other than importing the blog into the root site, and I wasn’t happy with that because…
I want to keep the designs of my website and my blog different.
I realised that my website and my blog serve two very different purposes and therefore I wouldn’t necessary want to tie both to the same content management system.
My blog has been on the ‘blog’ subdomain since 2004, according to the WayBack Machine. If I moved the blog from that subdomain it would adversely affect search results and existing links to my blog. (I could of course use an .htaccess file to redirect traffic, but… it just seems unnecessary.)
I visited a couple of other sites today who had their blogs on a blog subdomain and I thought that looked cool.
And so there you have it, for now it is settled. This blog isn’t moving… except, of course, it is. Because I’m going to move it very shortly to another server.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed a strange behaviour with Windows 8.1. I have two monitors and whenever I tried to move the mouse between them my mouse pointer got stuck in the middle.
I would have to back up the mouse pointer then move it really quickly to get over the ‘hump’, and reach the next monitor.
Not the charms bar
At first I thought it may be caused by the Windows 8 charms bar. So I switched off the top-right corner navigation under Charms bar > Settings > Change PC settings > PC and devices > Corners and edges.
But it turned out not to be that. The mouse pointer blocking behaviour continued.
My attention then turned to ModernMix™, a Windows 8 application from Stardock that allows Modern (Metro) apps to run in a standard window on your desktop.
I had noticed this behaviour only after I had installed ModernMix, so I reasoned that it must have caused it. And sure enough uninstalling ModernMix seemed to stop the behaviour… until I rebooted the PC.
But I didn’t discover this until after I had emailed Stardock support.
Registry hack fixes it
Stardock support were incredibly helpful. The following day I received this reply:
While I can reproduce what you are seeing, I can do so without MM installed. It seems it is a thing with 8.1:
Over the last few weeks I’ve loved watching a beautifully-written, gentle comedy called Detectorists on BBC Four. Most episodes I’ve watched at least twice.
The show stars its writer and director Mackenzie Crook, who in an interview on BBC One Crook described the story as “an affectionate study of people and their pastimes”.
I love the intimacy and the seeming smallness of the show. There are TV shows that are fast-paced and sensationalist, dealing with spies and the security services, or investigating police cold cases, or hospital dramas dealing with life and death situations. So much TV is escapist, and I guess to an extent this is too, but there is so much real life in this series. It’s a celebration of the subtleties and the goodness found in every day life.
Detectorists centres around the lives and relationships of two friends, Andy and Lance, who share a love of metal detecting (which makes them detectorists) who are looking for the ship burial site of an ancient Saxon king.
The casting is brilliant, particularly Mackenzie Crook as Andy, Toby Jones as Lance, and Rachael Stirling as Andy’s girlfriend Becky. And the music is just sublime, a specially-written song by folk singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn.
The show has such beautifully written dialogues, like this one between Andy and Lance who are trying to decide where next to look for treasure.
Andy: This farm here… I don’t remember anyone going there before, do you? Look, this is the original Roman road running up the side. And where you’ve got Roman, who’s to say you haven’t got Saxon as well. We all know there’s a Saxon ship burial somewhere in this part of the county. We’ve just got to find it first.
Lance: Saxon hoard? That’s basically the holy grail of treasure hunting.
Andy: Well, no, the holy grail is the holy grail of treasure hunting.
Lance: Well, if you’re going to be pedantic. The ark of the covenant is the holy grail. Let’s talk to Terry…
Today marked the end of my second week back to work post-virus. Last week I worked three mornings, this week five—although I stayed until 16:30 yesterday to help move my things to our new office in the former Bute medical building. It’s been a very positive week, although I am now really rather tired.
Since May we’ve been asking to be co-located with the three members of the digital communications team with whom we’ve been working closely to change how we manage and develop digital and web assets at St Andrews, such as the University website.
Today we moved into a recently refurbished and spacious office on the third floor of the Bute.
It’s a really exciting time to be working in the area of web and digital development; it’s an exciting time to be doing that at the University of St Andrews. It’s an enormous task that we have ahead of us, but I’m so looking forward to it.
Hopefully when I return on Monday (for my first full day since 25 July) I will have a network and phone connection and the fun can begin…
I first came across Startup Framework from Designmodo a few months ago and was immediately impressed.
Startup is a collection of responsive and customisable components that can be combined to meet most needs. In the full version there are around 100 components such as:
Both the design and code are clean and simple and the results look professional, without having to put in a great deal of effort. Startup has a similar concept to Blocks which is built on the Bootstrap CSS framework.
Startup Framework for WordPress
Last month I was invited to test drive Startup Framework for WordPress which combines the pre-designed components of Startup within a drag-and-drop interface within a WordPress theme.
I’ve only just managed to find the time to take it for a spin but what I’ve seen so far I’ve liked, even if the price seems a little steep: USD $149 per year for one website (inclusive of support and updates).
Startup Framework for WordPress installs as a theme. It seems to adds one new content type (SFW Pages) and the demo doesn’t give me access to the plugins so I can’t see whether the additional functionality is offered through plugins or built-into the theme itself.
What is added, however, is a new menu item: SFW Pages. This is where the majority of pages using this theme will be created. The default Pages option is still there but pages created using this appear to be simple and entirely centre-aligned, which seems odd.
Editing a page
When editing a SFW Page you see very little until you click the “Visual editor” button.
That opens up a new drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG interface:
Along the top is a link back to the SFW Pages screen, the name of the current page, and three buttons on the right than enable you to reorder the blocks, preview the page or save the page.
On the left is a list of components (more about those in a moment).
But the most space is given to the content of your page. Here, almost everything is customisable. When you hover over a component block a settings cog appears at the top right giving you access to edit the HTML and CSS, reset the block to default settings, or delete the block completely.
Clicking on any text drops in a text-insertion point enabling you to edit the text. Double-clicking or highlighting text reveals a context menu offering three options: bold, italic or create a link.
It is all very intuitive so far.
The bread and butter of this theme, however, is the collection of pre-designed components which is available at any time from a list on the left. (While you are editing existing components this shrinks to a ‘hamburger’ icon.)
On the demo that I’ve tried these components are collected into the following categories:
Hovering over each category reveals a number of pre-designed options for that category, for example Headers:
These can then be dragged and dropped (or clicked) to be added to your page design, and then edited as appropriate.
Some components are more editable than others, such as background images, image fading or colour tinting, social media buttons, etc.
Reordering the blocks is a simple case of clicking the “Reorder Blocks” button, then drag and drop in the new view:
I have only a couple of criticisms about
The first is that, personally, I would like to see a few more simple header components. For some pages, you don’t need a massive image or a lot of white space at the top. But I do recognise that this is a design decision.
My second, any main concern, however is the price. At USD $149 (approx GBP £93) per year for a single site that is more than twice what I currently pay for Divi.
That said, I do recognise that a lot of work has gone into this framework and theme, and that it’s aimed primarily at business rather than for personal blogs.
Overall, I’ve been really impressed with Startup Framework for WordPress. If you need to create a beautiful, modern-looking and responsive website very quickly then you would be hard pressed to find anything to get the job quite as quickly as Startup, even if you used Divi from Elegant Themes which is my current favourite.