Mobile WordPress Theme

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I have been using the WP-Touch plugin for a while now with my WordPress sites.

WPtouch is a mobile plugin for WordPress that automatically adds a simple and elegant mobile theme for mobile visitors to your WordPress website. Recommended by Google, it will instantly enable a mobile-friendly version of your website that passes the Google Mobile test, and ensure your SEO rankings do not drop due to not having a mobile-friendly website.

The administration panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance, and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your site to your mobile visitors, without modifying a single bit of code. Your regular desktop theme is left intact, and will continue to show for your non-mobile visitors.

What the plug-in does is provide a mobile stylesheet so that when your WordPress site is viewed on a mobile device it is rendered correctly for the small screen, making it easier for the user to read posts and navigate the site.

It means you can have one site without needing to have a different specific mobile site and your users don’t need to specifiy they are on a mobile device. There is a switch on the page if you want to move from the mobile to the full desktop version of the site.

Though the current WordPress version now is more mobile friendly than it was I still prefer and use the WP-Touch plugin as I feel it gives a better mobile experience.

The plug-in was recently updated and there was a change in the appearance of the mobile stylesheet. The old one is on the left, and the new one on the right.

Mobile WordPress Theme

Sometimes I really don’t like change, but in this instance I think it is a real improvement.

So if you run and host your own WordPress implementation and want to provide your users with a mobile experience then I suggest a look at WP-Touch.

Melting the Wi-Fi

The canal in Birmingham

Back in the early noughties I remember attending edtech conferences and the wifi failing to cope with the number of delegates. That wasn’t surprising, they were often using a single wireless access point and when sixty plus edtech delegates hit the event with their laptops and PDAs it wasn’t much of a surprise to find the lone access point failing to deliver any wifi.

Even today I have been to events where the wifi struggles as delegates with their laptops, iPads, smartphones connect to the wifi. It is partly about the number of devices, it is also about how they are using the connection, refreshing twitter, uploading photographs, streaming video like Periscope. I also think that some people may take advantage of the fast connection (sometimes inadvertently) to download updates, podcasts and video.

The canal in Birmingham

At the recent UCISA Spotlight on the Digital Capabilities event in Birmingham, the conference centre wifi, which in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection. I found that if my laptop was connected to the wifi, it not only took time to get a connection, but every so often the connection would drop. I would say that when I had a connection it was fast and consistent. I felt lucky that I could still tweet and upload photographs using my phone on my Three 4G connection. I was getting over 60Mb/s on that connection in the main auditorium. I was quite pleased that the seats in the auditorium had tables and power sockets.

60Mb/s

The thing is, a conference with delegates from the edtech world are probably going to melt the wifi as most conference centres don’t plan their capacity on the extremes. For most events it probably works just fine. Personally since those early days I have come less and less to rely on the conference wifi, using a 3G dongle, 3G tethering, a 4G WiFI Hotspot to my current 4G tethering. This means that not only do I not worry so much about melting wifi, but it frees up the bandwidth for somebody else, and I think I might a pretty heavy user of bandwidth!

The fickle nature of the web

Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0

Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0

The fickle nature of the web is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

I understand that with YouTube videos you can get take down notices and the link no longer works, or you are left with the blank player if you have embedded the video into a blog post

There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

A few years ago I had a Nokia N95 and used the Shozu app to upload photographs to Flickr, it also had another feature of creating a WordPress blog post and embedding an image. This was shut down a few years ago, so now I have lots of posts from conferences back in 2008 or thereabouts that consist of basically a blank post. The post title was left and is merely a filename and then you get the blank square with the red cross. It is for these reasons that I try not to embed content from third party sites if I can help it.

A  good example of this is from 2008 when I posted a video from the mLearn 2008 conference. I used VideoPress rather than a third party site so my copy is still there on the blog. However I also uploaded the video to YouTube and Blip. However the Blip site is now dead and gone….

One aspect that I do find frustrating is when links disappear. A few weeks ago I tweeted (and Google+’d) a link out about #digitalcapability and wanted to use the link again for something else, so looking over my Google+ profile I found the link, clicked it and got a 404, the missing page error. I checked with the author and he kindly pointed out that the URLs had recently changed and there was a new link. No problem, but I did wonder how long before the URLs changed again or the page disappeared!

Sometimes it isn’t as quick and it can be a few years before the site disappears and the link is no longer live.

Sometimes I think, why do people and companies do this? Then I remember I do this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a website and the URL westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site I used the free hosting from the ISP. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site on the ISP, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

Sometimes there are things you can do, so for example when I moved my elearning blog from iBlog, which I was using when I was at the Western Colleges Consortium, I initially moved to wordpress.com, so had the URL elearningstuff.wordpress.com. Due to a variety of reasons I decided to move to my own domain elearningstuff.net and imported all the content. However due to the number of incoming links to the elearningstuff.wordpress.com site I used the domain forwarding service from wordpress.com (and still do) so that any links to elearningstuff.wordpress.com are automatically forwarded to elearningstuff.net. So I do try when possible to ensure that existing content on the web is still accessible years later.

In many ways I wasn’t surprised to read on the BBC News that the BBC are to remove existing web content and in the future only have some web content around for 30 days!

Sounds like BBC iPlayer, no these are recipes from BBC food programmes. This is from the BBC News item (and I expect like other BBC News links this will be around for a long time).

BBC Food news item

The BBC Food website carrying more than 11,000 recipes is to close as part of a plan to cut £15m from the corporation’s online budget, a BBC source has said.

All existing recipes are likely to be archived, though whether some could  move to the commercial BBC Good Food website is still to be decided.

TV show recipes will be posted online but only made available for 30 days.

I can just about understand a future policy doing this, but why on earth are they going to remove the existing web archive of content? What is the point of this exercise? There are, as the report says, thousands of recipes online that can be searched, found and used. I use this a lot myself for finding recipes and inspiration.

For me this is a mistake, sometimes you can’t avoid losing or deleting web content, sometimes you make a mistake, but in this instance I think that it would be mistake to lose the web recipes from the BBC.

Your thoughts? Is this a good idea? Will it help other publishers provide content now? Or do you think it’s a mistake by the BBC to do this and they should keep the food and recipe content online?

The printer is dead again…

Canon MP600r

After ten years service, my Canon MP600R finally had to be retired after the print head failed. Back in 2012 my HP Photosmart printer failed for a similar reason.

I liked the MP600R for many different reasons, printing photographs, fast printing of documents, printing CDs and DVDs. It was a decent scanner (not the fastest) and I also liked the ability to print direct from the Compact Flash memory cards that I used in my Canon DSLR.

The main symptom of the failure was the main black cartridge would not print. Despite replacing the cartridge, cleaning the print head, both using the printer utility and even following some obscure guidelines from YouTube washing the print head under the tap as a last resort.

I would have been happy to replace the print head, but the cost of a replacement was around £150 and even then I wasn’t sure if it would have fixed the issue.

So in the end decided that the only real option was to replace the printer.

Looking over what printers were available, I started to make a list of features that I wanted and needed when printing. I realised that my printing needs have changed quite a bit since I bought the MP600R.

For example, printing CDs and DVDs which was quite a high priority back then, is still an useful feature, but not as much as a priority now for me.

Whereas AirPrint or the ability to print from iOS devices, which at the time I got the MP600R we didn’t have the iPad or even the iPhone. Today using those devices much more for communication means the ability to print from my phone or iPad is now a key feature I need from my printer.

I certainly wanted wireless printing (and scanning) for other devices too.

Looking over the products available I in the end went with the Canon MG7752 all-in-one Wireless Printer.

Canon MG7752

This had the key features I needed as well as some nice features that I didn’t. It has two paper trays, one for A4 paper and one for 4” x 6” photographic papers. It also had NFC capability, which I believe works great with Android phones, but not with iOS, typical! I also managed to get £30 off too, which was nice. Oh and yes it is that colour too!

The printer was much easier to install and configure than MP600R and I was even able to do that from a mobile device. It was also really nice to be able to install the printer on a range of Mac and Windows devices around the house.

The only issue I did have was that the Canon My Image Garden software wouldn’t work with the default OS X Canon print drivers, even if the printer would print. This means you can’t easily scan or print printable CDs and DVDs. The solution is to install the Canon drivers from the Canon website, once done everything worked as expected.

Print quality was excellent as was speed of printing, so much faster than the MP600R.

Overall the Canon MG7752 is an excellent replacement for the MP600R and I hope it lasts nearly as long as the printer it replaced.

Well, that’s a surprise…

Weston Village

So those who follow my trials and tribulations with getting better broadband, will know that following a move in 2012 I lost my FTTC connection and had to revert back to an ADSL connection, a slow ADSL connection at that generally getting between 1-1.5 Mbs. This was because my house was connected to cabinet 25, and this was the only cabinet connected to the Worle Exchange which was never upgraded to FTTC. My expectation was that within a year it would probably be upgraded, it never was…

I have written previously about my woes with fibre before, when we first moved house and lost fibre and then my initial investigations into why I couldn’t get FTTC and back in 2012 writing about the confirmation of no plans to upgrading cabinet 25.

When I first approached BT Openreach about this issue, they said it was not commercially viable and that they wouldn’t be upgrading the cabinet. The only alternative I was told, it would probably be upgraded by Connecting Devon and Somerset as part of a public private partnership.

Their first response was that it wasn’t part of their initial roll out. I wasn’t too surprised by this, as I was sure they would focus on the rural areas away from the places that already had FTTC to show real impact.

When they updated one of their maps I discovered that we were no longer part of their plans, it followed that we were now part of a commercial roll out and wasn’t

BT Openreach still wasn’t providing any sensible or details.

It was apparent that there was no solid information on when, or even if, we would be getting fibre…

In a side story, on the other side of the railway tracks, on the other side of the village, Virgin Media were laying cable. Now there was very little information on this installation, the Virgin Media site was giving even less away than BT Openreach!

Then some news…

Weston Mercury News Report

According to the report in the local Weston Mercury, BT Openreach had changed their mind and would be upgrading cabinet 25 to fibre so that we can get FTTC.

So what changed?

Personally I did wonder if the Virgin Media installations were getting them worried?

Who knows?

Well in 2017 I may finally be getting a faster internet connection, until then I will have to contend with slow ADSL and 4G for my connectivity.