Blog makeover


Just a quick note to describe some recent changes to this site.

I’ve changed the template from the attractive but not easily configurable “Feather” theme to Chris Pearson’s “Cutline 3 column” one. The initial advantage of this was it was easy to set up my own header images to be my own photos rather than someone else’s. All the headers are my own.

While it was nice to have each individual page type (posts, archives, pages, about etc) have their own header image, Chris posted a simple mod to the header PHP file that randomly selects an image from a set. Every time you visit the site or refresh a page you’ll get a different header. I intend updating the image set as often as I can. If you read further down this post I have described the header images currently in use.

But there have been more changes than this.

I have also updated to the latest 2.5.1 version of WordPress – I was at 2.2 previously. The update was easy to do, so kudos to the authors of the program to make it idiot proof.

The cool new feature of 2.5.1 that I could use was widgets – the bits you see on the side panels. While they did exist in 2.2, they are much better and easier to set up with the newer version. I may have gone a bit widget mad, though. Here’s what you can currently see:

  • Flickr sidebar – I’m turning into a massive fan of Flickr, and this widget lets me show an image selection.
  • PicLens Slideshow – The Piclens plugin is worthy of a whole post of its own. It is simply a stunningly good plugin for Internet Explorer and Firefox that provides a fantastic way of browsing image libraries. The dynamic mini-slideshow adds a nice touch to any blog, and by default just cycles through all the images in the blog. It should let you point it at a Flickr feed too, but I can’t get this working. There’s a support query in with the authors, but nothing back yet. Once this is fixed, though, then I can get rid of the Flickr sidebar.
  • Site Vistor Cluster maps – not actually a dedicated widget, but rather simply a bit of HTML in a generic text widget. This shows a map of where in the world people are who have been reading this blog. See the Cluster Map homepage for more information. It’s really easy to set up.

The plugins I have currently installed are:

  • Akismet comment anti-spam – I wish I had this earlier. The most popular post on this blog is the one about streamlining your PC for games, but it keeps getting spammed. Since installing Akismet, however, I’ve not had to deal with idiotic comments advertising various unsavoury products.
  • Flickr Photo Gallery – provides a neat link between images on Flickr and blog posts.
  • Google Maps for WordPress – already described in an earlier post.
  • WP Piclens – Provides a direct link to the Piclens image browser from any picture on the blog

Header Images – updated 24th May 2008

Here is the current set of header images along with descriptions of where they are from. Click on any of them to see bigger versions in Flickr – or just keep hitting different pages in this site until they get randomly selected:

header_3 No prizes for guessing! A scan of a photo taken in 2003 while on holiday in Australia.
header_2 Harbour of Roscoff in Brittany, France. Taken in 2007.
header_1 Photo-stitch of 4 images taken from the top of Mount Stinson in New Hampshire, USA in 2004.
Ribblesdale viaduct Ribblesdale viaduct in the Yorkshire Peaks.
Yorkshire Dales View from a walk in Yorksire Peaks near Ribblesdale viaduct, on the way down from Whernside.
Rapeseed field View of, I think, rapeseed field. Taken near Darley Abbey in Notts.
Mont Major, New Hampshire Photo-stich of four images, taken from Mount Major in New Hampshire.
pebbles Pebbles on a beach in Sidmouth, Devon.
Canal Lock Canal Lock, converted to black & white as a post process.
Darling Harbour Darling Harbour, Sidney Australia.

All these images are also geo-tagged in Flickr, so if you do click on them to see in Flickr you can access a map of the exact location they were taken. This is a neat example of the integration of online albums, blogs, and mapping – all for free!

To fit nicely with the Cutline theme, these images have to be long and thin at 970×140 pixels. Luckily this is easy to do in Photoshop – just set the custom crop size to 970×140, and interactively select the area wanted. The challenge is in finding sections of images of this aspect ratio that are good and/or interesting in some way. I make no claims to being successful in either of these aims for all of the images. But, as mentioned earlier, I will periodically update the image set.

Leave a Reply