When free becomes a PITA

It has been ten years since I made the decision at home to move from Windows to Mac. I had grown sick of the six monthly cycle of wiping my hard drive clean to re-install Windows and apps in order to regain my system’s performance [geek requirement!]. Back then I purchased myself a 15-inch MacBook Pro, by today’s standards it was HUGE, it came with a traditional hard drive, a superdrive (aka DVD burner) and the most minimal amount of RAM.

Another reason I enjoyed the move to Mac was one, rather stupid, experience I’d had after an install in 2002 when doing one of those six monthly re-installs. On this occasion I had idiotically forgotten to unplug from the internet, I wiped my desktop, spent the requisite time installing Windows XP and several application suites only to have malware self-install and take over my machine; you learn the hard way sometimes in life, don’t you. Whilst that was my only such experience, I grew sick of the constant need for annual anti-virus subscriptions, constantly shelling out funds to McAfee, Symantec or Kaspersky in order to protect my machine as Microsoft certainly wasn’t doing so out of the box.

Thus in 2009, I decided to purchase the MacBook Pro. Back then, Macs were not yet on the radar of hackers, at least not in any great way. Coming from a Unix-based foundation, OS X (now macOS) was better prepared to ward off threats. Despite this I was forced to eventually seek out some measure of protection and recommended sources suggested the free version of Sophos was worthy of installation.

Initially this worked well, however there have been a few issues along the way over the years. About five years ago there was an issue where key files had been identified as potentially infected files – yikes! Thankfully they resolved that quickly. There has also been an ongoing niggling issue that affects Time Machine backups, it really slows these down considerably and I was always forced to disable whenever I remembered to connect my backup drive [I’ve woeful for a geek at doing so].

Tonight, I have been forced to uninstall Sophos as it was blocking all web browsers from accessing the internet. I was near pulling my hair out trying everything from restarting, quitting mDNSResponder, deleting my wireless networks, deleting caches, and even considering re-installing macOS Catalina.

Before re-installing macOS, I decided I’d try removing Sophos. Poor design of this app requires your connection to the internet and a functional web browser in order to manage its features, thus removal was my only choice. I don’t feel I can go without protection these days, so I may need to look at alternate options now, at least my web browsers are restored to me.

Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching

As I’d spent most of my web development career working in the higher education setting, I’d never had occasion to do certain things my peers working within the commercial sector might do, like eCommerce sites. Overnight I finally got myself a small taste of this, connecting friends existing WordPress-based website up to Woocommerce for their first item they’re needing to sell online.

I’d love to say all was smooth sailing, however it wasn’t. It was not the install that let me down, but rather an old version of PHP that was causing me problems and leaving me with the WordPress ‘white screen of death’, that is, a plug-in is ‘Not. Happy, Jan!‘. I’m not sure why hosting services insist on installing bog old, and insecure v5 PHP, when they have available v7.x for you to use. Once my friend provided me the hosting creds, I logged in and swapped over to v7.3. This seemed to work for a bit, however the Avada theme was having issues and couldn’t save, so I was forced to downgrade to v7.2 which proved more stable.

Once all was looking hunky dory, I could finally get around to testing and finalising the two pages and associated form. I ended up having to create a password protected page with a form, as this event required personal details to be provided, after they submitted I then had the form redirect to the Woocommerce product page. All worked quite nicely once it was determined the product page must be a public not a private page or a 404 was generated; we were wanting it to not be visible but restricted.

Hopefully people’s orders go through okay, pity I can’t attract a commission per ticket though 🤔

A little blue, a little green

I have to admit, my experience working with WordPress themes leaves me looking a little green. I am used to developing and designing that which I work with, so when I have to start working within other environments and other’s code it’s suddenly a bit of an up-hill climb. Thankfully though, I do adjust quickly.

I recently assisted a friend who referred her coaching client to me for a small website development project. She needed help to redesign her website and enhance its functionality. Little did I know when taking on this project her website was in need of some viagra, it was suffering from performance anxiety, it just didn’t like staying up (sorry, couldn’t help that one haha). I would never approach a new client with immediate effect of trying to move them from their chosen hosting, in this case she was with Wix, but every time I was attempting to surf her current website it was down; I needed to convince her of the need to move.

After determining that her website had been suffering this problem regularly, I convinced her of the need to move, presenting her with three options for WordPress hosting. Whilst it would mean busting her original budget when factoring in my own development costs, which I was going to keep low to help out, she understood the importance moving would mean to her business in the end – visibility.

Bluehost was chosen as the preferred hosting platform in the end. After a few weeks of my developing part-time (nights and on the weekend), Karen signed-off on my efforts and was happy to launch. I swapped over the DNS entries at her domain registrar from Wix to Bluehost, and then the fun began.

The WordPress site had been developed using a temporary domain, thus all the images and sliders were using this address. Unfortunately updating the relevant URL and site address within settings didn’t update everything across the site, I then needed to update links throughout all the web pages and update sliders too. Then, once the SSL got fixed (OMG! painful), I had to fix once more. I was never more grateful that Karen’s site was a small one, had it have been a larger one I’d’ve been crying out for a better solution to update things.

A should out to the Avada theme, version 6 is just a dream to work with. As I said, I was a tad green working with WordPress and themes, and working with Avada I have learned so much. I still have so much yet to learn, they have a great site to reference. I totally recommend this theme, it made building this website so much easier, especially the responsive development.

Cuttin’ it with Avada

I’m currently developing a WordPress site with one of the more popular WordPress themes, Avada. The client didn’t have much of a budget, so initially I was looking at free options, I thought Gutenberg might allow me some measure of being able to develop her site nowadays without the need for a commercial theme. How wrong I was. I apologise to my neighbours, for their ears heard were bashed regularly at my utter frustration with those free themes and Gutenberg.

I relented and paid for Avada, I had helped a friend last year with an earlier version of this theme to develop her business website, my first time ever using it, so I wasn’t entirely experienced using. Thus, developing my client’s site this time around using the latest and greatest release Avada with a live editor has been a much better experience. All the frustrations I’d been experiencing with the free themes quickly melted away and suddenly progress was being made, designs were being realised and I was moving forward.

That being said, considerable time has still been expended working on implementing things for what is just a small site, really highlighting how little time I have spent working with WordPress. I have quite enjoyed crafting responsive solutions to problems I have faced, I do wonder if others implement in quite the same way. Due to my using different backgrounds depending on the background, and laying content out differently, I am having to replicate structures and content for each mobile/tablet/desktop and specify container is for which device.

The lessons I learn on this project I will hopefully be able to translate to a larger project I’m being considered for later in the year. Thankfully the budget there will be much bigger and plug-in options greater.

Watch gets an upgrade

Is Apple planning to notify Apple Watch Series 2 owners their services will be end of life? watchOS 6 has been delayed for this and Series 3, and today watchOS 5.3 received a point release update instead.

This concerned me as a series 2 owner, enough to relent and upgrade myself today to a series 5 GPS model. I had wanted to upgrade this year anyway, however wasn’t that impressed by the series 5 update, it didn’t have much differentiation over the previous model. I had intended to then wait till next year expecting my watch might continue to be better supported, seems it’s coming to end of support soon.

Now upgraded, the experience is off a watch that is certainly faster and responsive to my input. The increased screen size is nice making use easier over my older model. I did have issues with sync of exercise tonight, some 10k missing steps not going through until I restarted the watch. Glad that was sorted as the activity was going nowhere, I knew I’d move but was seeing no increases in my stats; I ended up with 23k steps once all was resolved.

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