Christopher Merle

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Anniversary

Well, I missed the 10th anniversary of my website. I’ve been using WordPress all that time. I haven’t posted as much on this site since I started using LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus (mostly Facebook and Twitter).  I like LiveJournal. It’s quiet over there.

WordPress has improved dramatically over the past 10 years but I’m looking for another platform. Python is my preferred programming language, but there simply isn’t a CMS/blogging platform written in Python that is as ubiquitous as WordPress. Because of my experience with WordPress I have become a freelancer setting up WordPress websites for people. Most of my clients are individuals: authors, artists, musicians, and small businesses. Another reason is that I hadn’t found a Python based platform that could replace WordPress for me. Until now.

I’m currently investigating Wagtail which is a Django based content management system. I’m going to conduct an experiment in converting my site to Wagtail and if I like the experience I’ll see what else I can do with it. I’ve also set up a few websites using Plone which is a Python based CMS but it’s overkill for most of my clients. Also it’s hard to develop for. It’s great out of the box, but I have found it difficult to write extensions for. Now it may have changed with the most recent release of Plone, version 5, however, I’ve done enough Django development that I prefer it for developing web apps. My goal is to see if I can replace both Plone and WordPress with Wagtail.

That being said I will continue to support my clients who use WordPress and unless there is a compelling reason to switch them to Wagtail, I won’t. WordPress has a great community, there are a large number of developers who create themes and plugins. I like that I can empower the end user so they can manage their own sites once it is set up. I liken my job to customizing a car. I set up and customize the website, train the client how to use the website, but if anything major needs addressing, I can take care of it like a car mechanic.

So why switch? I am not a fan of PHP. It’s harder to maintain and harder to read that Python. I will tweak PHP code as my clients need but I don’t write plugins or create themes for WordPress, but I do customize the themes as WordPress makes it easy to create what are called child themes. And I’m a fan of Python. It has a gentle learning curve and it’s much easier for me to read and maintain the code I create. So I’ll see how this Wagtail experiment goes.

Podcasts Archive

Thanks to the new features of WordPress I don’t need to use PodPress plugin anymore. You can check them out under the Podcast parent page in the menu across the top. I do not have an active podcast. This is an archive of a two podcasts, one I did for a now defunct science fiction convention, the other was related but not not tied to any convention. They were recored between 2006 and 2009 and are there for posterity.

I need to some additional cleanup and rearrangement of this site, but I’ve made a good start.

Site Cleanup

I tried and failed to update my site to WordPress 4.6. I did update it by uploading 4.6 files via FTP. It overwrote all the bad files and now the site is running again, but I noticed my admin is slow. I’ve deleted a number of outdated plugins. I’m in the process of deleting other material as well. I’ve deleted my photo pages, and once I download all the pictures I’d uploaded I’ll be deleting the gallery plugin. It’s not needed anymore. I plan to keep my archived podcasts, but I’ll see If I can reformat them in a way to not use the podcast plugin.

WordPress 4.5

I had a client contact me this morning that their site had crashed. They received an email message from their host provider saying their version of WordPress had been upgraded. I saw the error message and most likely the upgrade failed, hosing the site. This can only be fixed via FTP. Even the login screen gives the same error message.

I won’t know until I have access to the client’s server to determine what the actual problem is. It could also be a plugin or theme conflict.

Anyway, before warning or advising my other clients about upgrading to the just released WordPress 4.5 I thought I’d go ahead and upgrade this website. I backed up all my files and database and then I updated all my plugins and themes. I then ran the WordPress update and it updated successfully.

It does happen that updates fail and it could be WordPress, a theme or a plugin. You can manually deactivate themes and plugins via ftp access by renaming their respective folder. This breaks the connection and sometimes the error goes away. If it’s not a plugin or theme then WordPress is hosed and you’ll need to manually reinstall the files via FTP.

Update: I checked their site and it was missing files from the WordPress install. I replaced them and their site was happy again.

Is it time for Python 3?

I’d known that someday I’d have to start using Python 3. In fact I’ve wanted to but never got around to it. Part of it was the Python software I’ve been using, Plone is still in Python 2 and even with the most recent release of Plone 5 it’s still not there yet. They do plan on porting it to 3, but unsure of their timetable. Django on the other hand has been Python 3 for a little while now. Although I’ve wanted to move away from WordPress I hadn’t quite found a Django based CMS (content management system) that was as fully developed as WordPress. Plone is an awesome CMS but it is overkill for most of my clients, as they are individuals or small businesses.

Anyway, Python 3 was released in 2008, so it being 2015 I think it’s time. And I believe I have found a Django based CMS that will make it possible for me to move away from not only WordPress but also Plone. Both of them are ready go out of the box. This one isn’t and some assembly is required. Nor is it an exact replacement. It’s called Wagtail. I’d looked at some other Django based CMSes (including Django CMS), and I’d settled on Mezzanine for a while, but when I migrated to a new server on a python friendly host, I ran into some difficulties in re-installing Mezzanine. I’d resolved those difficulties but using Python 2.  There is no difficulty in using Python 3 though.

I’ve been making my development process more rigorous than I had in the past. I wasn’t so rigorous with WordPress which is written in PHP.  I need to be more so with Python as my work needs to be repeatable and better documented. I don’t develop in WordPress, I just customize child themes and add plugins if need be (which I try to avoid because updates wipe out  changes). There’s so many add ons and themes available, very little programming is necessary and many host providers have one click WordPress setups now and offer managed services (which is great).

To make my Python development process more rigorous I use virtual environments. This way I’m not polluting my OSes Python. And virtualenvwrapper is so much nicer than plain old virtualenv. I hadn’t forgotten about using version control. I’ve settled on git and I may write about that in future posts.

To use Python 3 make sure it’s installed on your computer whether it be Linux, MacOS or Windows. At a command prompt just type python3 –version and hit return. If it’s there you are good to go. You can make sure pip for 3 is installed by issuing the command pip3, though it’s not necessary when using virtualenvwrapper.

It’s fairly straightforward to getting virtualenvwrapper to create a python3 project just issue the following command:

$mkproject --python=path_to_python3 project_name
(project_name)user@ubuntu:~Devel/project_name$
$which python

to verify you are indeed using Python 3. And then you can pip install your little heart out.

Note: I’m not abandoning my existing WordPress customers. It’s a good platform and I’ve been working with it for over 10 years. It has a large development community and large user base. I don’t plan to take any new clients on for it, but it doesn’t mean I won’t. Since Wagtail requires more work I’ll have to seek out different clientele for it once I’m ready. This is a transition period for me. I plan on converting a few sites, the first of which is this one. I want to do more programming and I’m more productive in Python than PHP. It’s also easier for me to maintain my code and understand it. I don’t have to do a lot of programming with WordPress.

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