Watch this documentary: The End of Oil

I spent the better part of last week traveling to Los Angeles on business. Julia and Katie came with me so we decided to drive and turn it into a mini vacation. As we drove down I-5 and then onto the 405 in Los Angeles I could not help but think about what that place would be like after we run out of gas. I really try not to dwell in negative stuff like this but I think it’s important to understand the issue and then turn to positive actions.

I found this great documentary on YouTube produced by ABC Science. Most of the Peak Oil stuff you’ll find online is heavily biased with survivalism and end of the world fear mongering. The net effect of this fear-based communication strategy is that the general public turns a blind eye to the issue. This is a problem if Peak Oil is upon us because too many people will be caught off guard.

I’m not going to blab on about my personal take on Peak Oil. Instead I’m going to encourage you to watch this documentary. Below are all the segments.

Basic Simplicity Theme Header Height Tip

I got an email from Jason about how to edit the header height in my WordPress theme, Basic Simplicity.  I tired to reply but Jason’s email address was wrong so I thought I’d answer he question here since it could help other people control the look and feel of Basic Simplicity.

Here’s his question:

My question:  I’m trying to use my own header file but want the picture to be bigger.  I’ve rifled through the edit pages to see if I can change this but can’t find it.

Example:  Your comment says optimal size is 1000 x 140 and I want it to be 1000 x 300.  When I plug in my header picture it cuts off and remains 140.

Can you give me any tips?

The header height is actually not defined anywhere. The 140px I suggest on the admin screen is just a rough height for an image that would most likely fill the background of the header. The height is auto defined by the text that’s there. The image is a background image and is auto-positioned left and middle vertically.

To control the header height you could add this bit of custom code to your Custom CSS field on the admin form. Adjust the height with the pixel amount. The example is 80px.

#header{
min-height:80px;
height:auto !important;
height:80px;
}

Jason… I hope this helps!

I’m giving WP Super Cache another try on Tiny House Design

Tiny House Design, my busiest blog is getting more and more traffic everyday. This is a good thing for lots of reasons but I have it hosted on a shared platform at Media Temple and the cost is starting to inch upward. So far it’s very little money but I want to nip it in the bud.

I really like Media Temple and their ability to scale-up on the fly on extremely heavy traffic days but they charge more if you use more than your fair share of CPU time. They call these system resource units GPUs. This seems fair and most people won’t ever get an overage charge.

The Problem – The problem is that if you move past about 100,000 impressions a month with a WordPress blog you begin to tread into the territory of overage charges with Media Temple. The reason is that WordPress blogs uses a lot of database resources.

If you run logging and stats plug-ins on top of that you load up your database server even more which not only slows down your website but could easily drive the hosting cost up.

The Solution – To solve this problem I’m going to try using WP Super Cache again. The first time I tried it I didn’t install it correctly and it crashed my site. This time I think I have it installed right and now theoretically when visitors come to Tiny House Design the cached pages will be served up by Apache (the web server software) and not MySQL (the database software).

You see Apache is very efficient at serving up images and flat html files, which is exactly what WP Super Cache provides. The load on MySQL should now be very light and the CPU overage charges should drop.

If you want to try WP Super Cache I suggest that you keep a copy of your original wp-config.php file handy in case you miss an install step and crash your blog like I did the first time. WP Super Cache rewrites part of your config file and when you disable the plug-in you might run into trouble with that modified config file. To fix a crashed blog and remove WP Super Cache just disable the plug-in and upload your original config file.

Basic Simplicity is now in the WordPress Free Themes Directory

The other day I submitted Basic Simplicity, my new WordPress theme, to the WordPress Free Themes Directory and it got approved today. You can see it in action on all my blogs.

It features a control panel that lets you edit colors on the fly, change the banner background image, add your Google Analytics code, and a bunch of other things. If you like it please give me a good rating :-)

See Basic Simplicity at the Free Themes Directory

Here are a few of my blogs that use Basic Simplicity; you can see what a cameleon it can be.

Basic Simplicity 1.3 (new version of my WordPress theme)

I submitted my minimalist WordPress theme to the Free Theme Directory the other day and got a note back from them with a few suggestions. It didn’t take long to implement their recommended improvements and now Basic Simplicity 1.3 is available.

[download id=”1″]

Continue reading Basic Simplicity 1.3 (new version of my WordPress theme)

Julia’s New MacBook Pro Just Arrived

Well here it is, the new 13″ MacBook Pro. We ordered a normal MacBook for Julia the other day not realizing Apple was about to release this new MacBook Pro. A few days after ordering it they sent us a note saying they were sending this instead. We’re definitely happy campers; more computer for less money is always a deal. We’ve always been happy Apple customers and now we’re even happier :-)

13-inch-macbook-pro1

It’s really amazing how much power they can pack into so little space too. This little laptop has 4GB of RAM, 250GB storage, and plenty of speed for her photo and video play. We also bought a 500GB Time Capsule to backup all those precious photos and videos of Katie.

Ordered a MacBook… getting a MacBook Pro instead for less money. Nice!

Julia’s MacBook finally crapped out on her and it’s loaded with photos and videos of Katie. I backed it up and tried to fix it but it seems to need a complete wipe. So I ordered new MacBook for her.

Last night I got an email from Apple saying that a new MacBook Pro was just released and instead of getting the computer we ordered we’re getting a new 13-inch MacBook Pro for less money instead. It’s a lot more computer for less money and it shipped this morning.

13-inch-macbook-pro

Had I been paying any attention to Apple news I probably would have suspected a new MacBook was just around the corner and held off until the announcement but the truth is I had no intention of buying a new computer until we needed one. I guess we’re just the recipients of some dumb luck, good timing, and what should be a great new computer.

I’d also like to point out how smart Apple was to hold off a couple days and send us the upgrade instead of yesterdays news. More companies should adopt customer centric practices like that.

Theory: Uncluttered Designs Decrease Ad Revenue and Increase Readership

Recently I simplified the look & feel of my busiest blog by installing my new WordPress theme, Basic Simplicity. In the past when I’ve changed themes on Tiny House Design but I’ve never noticed so much noticeable effect in user behavior. The only real difference I’m aware of is that I’ve never used such an uncluttered design before.

Ad revenue has dropped and readership, stickiness, and total page views have increased. It’s too early to be able to provide any meaningful statistics but it seems that by focusing on content and allowing it to take center stage the ads are just getting overlooked.

Normally my knee-jerk reaction would be to move some ads back into the content itself except I like the increasing readership numbers too much so I’ll hold back and watch the trends for a while.

My suspicion is that a clean theme is better for increasing readership and cluttered designs are better for ad revenue. So if you are making a living from blogging be careful about switching to an uncluttered design, but if you’re still in traffic growing mode consider a simple theme.

In a month or two I’ll post some charts after I have some real data to prove of disprove my theory. In the mean time I’ll continue to watch and learn.

Updated WordPress Theme – Basic Simplicity Version 1.2

Over the last few nights I whipped up a simple administration screen for my free WordPress Theme. Now you can make very quick style changes right in the WordPress user interface; there’s no need to edit the stylesheet. You can also add your Google Analytics code, Google site verification code, and custom CSS.

These will be the last few edits for a while; I think I have it working well enough to start using basic simplicity on all my blogs. I have a few more features I’d like to add but I’ll hold off and give this version a careful test drive. If you give it a try too and run across any bugs please let me know. If you have any suggestions for future versions I’m all ears as well.

Basic Simplicity WordPress Theme Updates

I just uploaded the next version of basic simplicity, the WordPress theme I created. The biggest changes are the addition of four more widget areas (for a total of 10) to make it easy to add advertising to the top right and bottom of posts and pages.

I also added a mini-stylesheet to the bottom of the main stylesheet. This is bound to cause a little confusion so in the next iteration I’ll create a theme admin screen to allow quick color and style edits right in the WordPress interface.