Update #2 – New Plans, SSL

Well, that didn’t work. My plan was to post every Tuesday. Just as I was starting to get into a rhythm writing blog posts a whole bunch of stuff got dumped on me. Let me explain.

For starters, as you may already know, I run a little business doing client work creating and maintaining websites for people. On average I spend around maybe 7 – 10 hours a week doing client work and relations. Well the past two or three weeks that number went up to about 30 hours a week. Because of this, my school work, and well life, I haven’t been able to keep up with the regular schedule that I had planned for this blog.

New Plans

Let me try and make up for this failure by making some new plans. One post a week is a little too much for me at the moment. For now I am going to be posting once every two weeks. If I end up having time I may try and throw in an extra post every once in a while.

Expect the Part 2 of the login portal post to be out sometime in the next week. After that I have some cool Raspberry Pi projects coming up and some cool plugin review.

SSL Added

Because I felt like it, this blog is now using SSL. Yeah, that is it really.


Anyway, that is all I have for this update. I should really be getting to bed…

Matthew

WordPress 4.7 – Top 5 Changes to Get Excited About

WordPress 4.7 is right around the corner. Here is a list of the top five things that you should be looking forward to in WordPress 4.7.

  1. Twenty Seventeen
  2. A new default theme is coming with 4.7. Twenty Seventeen is a sleek new theme that is aimed towards businesses. Check out the theme at 2017.wordpress.net.

  3. Theme Changing in Customizer
  4. The ability to change themes in the Customizer will be available in 4.7. This will make it easier and faster to install and preview themes.

  5. Custom CSS
  6. I was a little surprised to here that this was being added into the core. In the Customizer you will now be able to add custom CSS into a CSS box. Cool eh?

  7. Different Language for Each User
  8. Users on your website will now have the ability to change the language of the WordPress admin into whatever language they want. This will make it easier for people who speak different languages to work on the same website.

  9. Bug Fixes
  10. You should always get excited when bugs are fixed. Especially when those bugs have something to do with the security of your website. In every WordPress release loads of bugs are fixed.


WordPress 4.7 is scheduled to be released December 6, 2016. These are just some of the new features that are going to be added to 4.7. You can see a full list of all the fixes here.

Installing GIMP on Raspberry Pi

About six months ago I wrote a post about trying out GIMP. For the people who don’t know, GIMP is a free and open source photo editing software. For more details on what GIMP does, read trying out GIMP.

Anyway, the point of bringing up that past article is because this post is about GIMP. More specifically about installing GIMP on a Raspberry Pi (I am using a Raspberry Pi 3). First we are going to install GIMP on the Pi, and then get into the answers of how GIMP works on the Pi.

Installation

Installing GIMP on the Pi is easy. As always, make sure that you have your Raspberry Pi device up-to-date before installing anything. To update the Pi, open Terminal and do the following commands.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

Now that the Raspberry Pi is up-to-date, it doesn’t hurt to restart the Pi. Either use the sudo reboot command in Terminal, or restart through the menu.

After the Pi boots up again, open Terminal. Now to install GIMP just use the following command.

sudo apt-get install gimp

Since it is downloading and installing a program, this may take a while depending on your internet connection. Mine took about ten minutes to install.

Once Terminal finishes the command, it is a good idea to restart your computer. I found that GIMP doesn’t show in the menu unless the Pi gets restarted.

For the heck of it, I have also created a YouTube video showing how to install GIMP onto the Pi.

How is GIMP’s performance on the Pi?

The results were surprising. A slight lag was noticeable every once in a while, although it didn’t affect regular image editing. It also took a little longer to process things like exporting images.

Is the Pi version of GIMP different from the Windows version?

To my pleasant surprise, the Pi version of GIMP is identical to the Windows version. All the features appear to still be there and work the same.

Conclusion

Overall I was very impressed at how the Raspberry Pi handled GIMP. I was afraid it was going to crash every time I did something, but that was certainly not the case.

Update #1

Hey! As much as this is a fun little blog, I would like to get it organized. Here is what is happening.

It is about time I start pushing myself to write and do more. For starters, I am going to publish a post once every week. The plan is to post every Tuesdays (although that may change). Every four to six weeks I am going to publish a post talking about what is up with this blog, myself, recent projects, Easy Updates Manager, etc. Basically whatever is going on with me at the moment. (Hint: this is one of those posts)

Internal changes are also happening to this blog. I am going to start using the Edit Flow plugin. This will help me stay organized and will prevent me (hopefully) from messing up on my posting schedule. I also plan to write a review for Edit Flow coming up this month because it is an awesome plugin.

Another change will be the category structure. It needs to be updated as I am basically just posting to one category, which sort of defeats the purpose of categories. I am working on changing it right now, so chances are it will be different by the time this post gets out.

As for a little personal update. I am starting up online courses to finish up my school. I will still be contributing to WordPress and will hopefully be able to free up some time on the weekends to do some coding and fun weekend projects. But I am definitely going to have a busy year with my school and client work.

Anyway, quite a few big changes are coming. Pushing myself to write more will be an interesting challenge.

Easy Updates Manager Celebrates 3 Years

Yup, three years ago to this date Easy Updates Manager was released on the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. It is hard to believe that it has been that long since it was released.

Thank you to all the people who download and use Easy Updates Manager. The fact that Easy Updates Manager has over 90,000+ active installs, and is only a few thousands downloads away from passing 400,000 downloads is INSANE! I never would have imagined that a fun little coding project would turn into a popular plugin for WordPress.

On that note, have a great October 3! And I hope to be writing another post very similar to this one in a year’s time.

Matthew

Best Ways To Monitor Your Websites Uptime

Everyone wants their website to be up and running. Nobody likes it when their website goes down. What is even more annoying is when your website goes down and you don’t notice it for a few days.

So I set out in search of a good way to monitor my websites. I had too many cases of a clients website going down and me not noticing until the client contacted me.

Jetpack Monitor

Jetpack Monitor is one of the many features inside of the ever so popular Jetpack plugin for WordPress. Jetpack Monitor is by far the simplest and most basic way that you can monitor your website. It simply sends you an email when your WordPress website goes down and when the website goes back online.

jetpack-monitor

The main disadvantages to Jetpack Monitor are that you can’t monitor non WordPress websites, it doesn’t tell you what is wrong with the website (server side error, gateway error, etc.), and you need to install Jetpack on ever website you want to monitor. So there are a lot of problems that I found.

Advanced Website Uptime Monitor

Advanced Website Uptime Monitor by Justin991q is a script on codecanyon.net that goes for $14 USD. You install it on a server and then access the URL and you are welcomed with a nice login portal.

The advantage to this over Jetpack Monitor is that you can monitor any website you like, you don’t need to load up a monitor script on all your websites, it also keeps track of uptime and tells you what browser error code is going on.

2016-10-02-19_13_52-younginwp-monitor

Although this is still far from perfect, it still is a great solution. If you wanted to use this properly, you would need to get a separate account to host it on that is separate from all the websites you are monitoring. I have a giant reseller hosting account that I loaded the uptime monitor on. Then after a week or so, I realized that all the websites on the reseller plan had 100% uptime over two weeks. This is because of when the reseller plan goes down, so does the monitor.

Online Solutions

The thing to fix all these problems, would be to look for an online monitoring solution. There are many out there like uptimerobot.com and uptrends.com. The problem with these is the price. Most of them can be upwards of $100 per year.

Conclusion

Although non of these solutions are truly perfect, I am sticking with using the Advanced Website Uptime Monitor script. It seems the most reliable and cheapest solution to fit my needs.

Matthew

Main Problems I Have With Hosting Companies

Recent experiences have made me increasingly more frustrated with hosting companies, specifically the cheaper hosting companies (I am looking at you Bluehost). But the point of this post is not to knock Bluehost. Actually, the point of this article is not to knock any specific hosting company. The goal of this article is to list the things that I hate most about what hosting companies do with there hosting plans. So with out anything else, lets begin.

Deceptive Pricing

By far the thing I hate most about any hosting company. I can only find a few hosting companies that don’t do this. Deceptive prices are just horrible. You go to the hosts website and on the front page a big popup appears saying, “up to 50% off all hosting! Limited time offer!”. This stuff is BS.

The truth of the matter is that it is indeed “up to 50% off”, although it is always “up to 50% off”. So you sign-up for whatever extremely low price, and then come renewal the price have gone up exponentially. This happened to me once with a client. Signed up for hosting at like $5/month, come renewal it was $12/month.

Some hosts even go as far as to hide the actual regular price so that it seems like a really good deal. They know that once they get someone signed up for a hosting plan, they are not going to switch to a different host come renewal (in less that person is like me).

It is a tricky tactic that sadly works quite well in the hosting world. It is also something that you should keep your eyes out for next time you get hosting from someone. Even if you need to contact them directly, make sure that you know what the regular price is before you sign-up.

“Enhanced cPanel”

This is something that only the more advanced techies will find more annoying. When the hosting advertises there “Enhanced/Better/Super cPanel Backend”, I run in the other direction. Very few hosting companies out of the tens-of-hundreds of them actually have a good backend that they made. The rest just have modified buggy backends that frankly suck.

Would it not be easier for everyone if they all just used cPanel. It has all the options and functionality that you need to maintain and run a website. cPanel is simple and very stable. I just don’t get it.

Outdated Versions of Software

Once again, I may be one out of only a few that find this annoying. But why don’t hosts seem to support the most recent versions of PHP, MySQL, and MariaDB. WordPress 4.6 requires you to use:

    • PHP version 5.6 or greater
    • MySQL version 5.6 or greater OR MariaDB version 10.0 or greater

Source wordpress.org/about/requirements/

Most hosting companies default configurations well fall short of these requirements. You need to search through the “Enhanced cPanel” 😉  in order to find the random page that allows you to change the PHP and MySQL versions. And when you finally find that hidden page, they don’t even have the most recent versions.

First of all, please PLEASE PLEASE make your default PHP version something that wasn’t released 5 years ago. Especially WordPress aimed hosting companies, do your customers a favor and do this for them.

Next, make supporting more recent versions of PHP and MySQL more of a priority, instead of spending all your time on enhancing your cPanel 😉 . At the time of writing this article, PHP 7 should be at least an option on all hosting companies.

Searching for Support and Documentation

Make your support and documentation simple. Have a link in the menu to support, where there is a phone number, email form, support forum, and/or live chat. Then have another page for documentation that is well organized and relevant. Don’t make me have to look in the footer, sitemap, and “Enhanced cPanel” 😉 (ok I will stop). This information should be right in the open, easy to find. It is like hosting companies don’t want you to use the support. Instead they want you to bother us WordPress.org Forums people.

😛

Conclusion

Make sure that when you are choosing your first or next host that they don’t pull one of these on you. I speak from experience having fallen into many of these traps. And trust me, changing hosts is not a fun weekend project.

Which Hosting?

All this is why I chose Web Hosting for Students. You need to shop around for hosting a lot, and at the time I found WH4S to be the best for my needs. They are one of the handful of hosts that actually don’t pull all these tricks and stupid things on you. Check out this article that I wrote a few months back about WH4S.

Making YounginWP.com

There are many things that need to come together in order to make a website good. Below are some of the things I did to make the YounginWP.com website better.

Speed

Studies show that 40% of visitors will leave your website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds. Because of these stats, I felt that my main focus for the website should be speed.

Now WordPress, as awesome as it is, is really not that fast. So for the main page of YounginWP I coded up my own HTML, CSS, and JS page. Using tools like Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights, I was able to target the slow parts of the website and speed them up.

Below is a before/after comparison of the YounginWP.com webpage test on Pingdom.

As you can see, huge improvements across the board.

So here is what I found out as I was doing this. Compress and combine EVERYTHING. If you have three CSS files linking to the page, combine them into one. If you have a background image, compress it to its max. Every kB can slow down your website. That is why I went for a HTML landing page, to get you on the website as fast as possible.

Now as for the WordPress side of the website, that involved installing a cache plugin. I went with WP Fastest Cache as it is lightweight and super easy to setup. I played around with the settings and kept doing tests until I found the configuration that worked best for me. I also tried to minimize requests on each page by disabling plugins that were slowing it down and finding alternatives.

I must say that I am quite pleased with the final speed result of YounginWP.com.

Responsive

Next up was responsiveness. Responsiveness is important to reach a wider audience that use all different devices. Below is the final responsiveness results of YounginWP.com.

Home Page

What’s Up Page

To test the pages responsiveness, I used the built in Firefox Responsiveness Design Tool. This is a great feature in Firefox that I wish I had discovered a long while ago.

For the landing page responsiveness I made it have zero scrolling. This gives the webpage a much cleaner feel. Also thanks to some @media (min-device-width: ) CSS, I was able to resize the text to make it perfectly fit on all screens.

Lastly, for the WordPress part of the website, I picked a simple theme that is fully responsive and looks similar to that of the home page. It did require me to make a child theme and edit out some stuff, but in the end it turned out to be the perfect theme.

Configurations

The third and final thing I encountered while making this website was configuring a WordPress and HTML site to work together as one. This involved me reading through some Codex articles until I figured out what I needed to do. Turns out just changing the URL in the WordPress settings, and organizing the files in the back-end properly was all I needed to do.

Now I am not going to list all the big and small things I needed to do to make the website work smoothly, although I will say this. Google and the WordPress.org documentation are your friends when creating WordPress websites. Even me, who has made countless websites in my four years of using WordPress still can’t live without using online documentation.

Conclusion

In the end, YounginWP.com turned out to be a fun and mostly useless project. I learned a lot from designing and developing it. Hopefully I get to do some more fun projects on YounginWP.com later on. Maybe I will try and combine it more with my blog. Or make a fun client portal or something on it. We shall see!

Matthew