All posts by Troy

Camp Out Colorado

CampOutColorado.com is a website I created to review campgrounds and give outdoor enthusiasts tips and tricks to enjoying beautiful Colorado. There are a number of WordPress customizations I have done to this website. 

Campground Data Custom Plugin

For the camping reviews I created a custom campground information plugin. It pulls up-to-date information for campgrounds through a REST API. These help campers see important details as well as know if there are any up to date details they need. 

Camping List Custom Plugin

To help campers be prepared to go camping I have created a number of camping lists for them to reference.

This is implemented through a custom WordPress plugin which stores all the information in a custom MySQL database. These camping lists are broken down into three categories of need. The items in the lists are linked to searches on Amazon so they can easily get the an item them are missing. 

http://www.campoutcolorado.com/camping-lists/general-equipment-camping-list/

Custom Template for Solunar Table

Hunting and fishing are a regular activity with campers in Colorado. I have created a few useful tools for them. One is a solunar calendar to figure out good activity times. This was created as a customized template in WordPress. 

This solunar calendar takes the moon cycle, rise and set times of the moon, as well as the sun and uses an algorithm to calculate good times to go fishing or hunting. It then displays these times, the moon cycle and a number of fish depending on how good the day looks. In the example below the solunar calculations suggest a bad day fishing, so go for a hike instead!

Custom Fish Stocked Plugin and Database

Another one of the tools I have created to help campers enjoy their time in the great out of doors is a fish stocking report with the quality of stocking in the body of water.  This a nice add-on plugin that also enhances the campground details plugin. 

This is updated weekly from the data that the Colorado Division of Wildlife releases. I created some search capability within this dataset so a user can find the area they are looking for.

Within this plugin I added the ability to calculate the quality of fishing at any particular spot depending on the date and frequency of fish stocking. 

The best part is that it ties into the camping details plugin and adds extra information to the details if there is water nearby that the campers can enjoy.  

Technologies Used

  • AJAX
  • Bootstrap
  • cPanel
  • CSS
  • Dreamweaver
  • HTML
  • jQuery
  • JSON
  • MySQL
  • Photoshop
  • PHP
  • REST API
  • WordPress
  • Workbench

I’ve used a wide variety of technology and techniques on this website. Starting at as little more than a camping blog it has become something that has a lot of really cool features and is very useful to anyone who enjoys camping, especially in Colorado. 

http://campoutcolorado.com

Fyxt RPG

The Fyxt RPG is a game I have developed fashioned after a traditional tabletop role playing game. I combine the feel of this type of game with the digital tools and convenience of the internet. 

Enjoy the traditional tabletop gaming experience while being able to pull up your character, the rules, generators, and more from any connected device. 

Technology Utilized

  • AJAX
  • Bootstrap
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • WordPress

Software Backed Game

The game is supported by a wide range of tools for the players to utilize.  Users are able to use premade content or create their own custom content for their game. 

There is a memberships system which allows different access and storage capabilities depending on the user levels. These include both paid and free memberships. 

Online tools I have created for this website:

Along with the game itself I have developed many tools for the Fyxt RPG system to help players easily accomplish a wide variety of things. Here is the page that lists all of the current tools for the Fyxt RPG. These are things like character generator wizards, search tools, and ways to edit the various game elements.

Custom Dice Roller Plugin

This is a custom plugin I wrote for this game. It adds a shortcode that can be used to insert a jQuery/Javascript dice roller that the players can use. This helps them calculate more complex rolls or allows them to play the game if they don’t have any dice handy.

Custom Character Template Example

Here is an example of a character sheet custom template for the Fyxt RPG. This is largely built with Flexbox and Bootstrap to pack lots of information on the screen. This allows users the best view of their characters whether they are on a desktop, table, or their phone.

These are just a few examples of the extensive programming and customization I have created for the Fyxt RPG.

There are custom templates, theme modifications, custom plugins, and a large customized database that all work together to let people play the Fyxt RPG anywhere on any device.

SoCO Donor Tracking

This is a private website I created for a political group who needed an easy way to account for contributions, donors, and expenses. This is a very simple website with custom plugins and database work to keep track of all of this information.

Custom Donor Tracking Plugin

This website is powered by a custom WordPress plugin written in PHP. It creates the ability to add custom shortcodes to pages to produce forms and data tables.

Download Report CSV Files

One of the main features requested by the customer was to be able to query contributions in a variety of different ways. Then they needed to be able to download this queried information to use in their reporting. So I created a complex search form so they could filter through all of the information in a variety of different ways. Once they were satisfied with the dataset they could click a button to download the information from the database.

Technology Used

  • AJAX
  • Bootstrap
  • cPanel
  • CSS
  • Dreamweaver
  • HTML
  • jQuery
  • JSON
  • MySQL
  • Photoshop
  • PHP
  • REST API
  • WordPress
  • Workbench

Unfortunately I am unable to share the links to this website as it is a private, login only, website. However, hopefully the information provided shows some of what the project required and how it was delivered.

Dragon Magazine Article – Neverwinter Power Leveling

Dragon Magazine Article - Neverwinter Power Leveling One of the websites that I run is DDMsRealm.com.  This website focuses mainly on Dungeons and Dragons MMOs and other games. I write guides, create walkthroughs, videos, and other tools for gamers to use for these games.

Well, the folks at Dragon Magazine noticed some of the articles I have written and liked them. I was lucky enough to be asked to write an article for Dragon+! Check it out here:

http://www.dragonmag.com/5.0/#!/article/108965/102035145?loadFresh=true&title=08_14_Neverwinter%20from%201%20to%2060

Creating a Link to Custom View of Custom Google Map

So there is a pretty good amount of information out there about how to customize your view on regular Google Maps. However, several of the API methods do not work when trying to view your own custom map. I am not sure why this is, but it is annoying. After some research and some experimentation I found a small set of variables that the API does accept and work as of writing this article. Hopefully this will be helpful for you as I write many things in here simply as references for my own use when working on my many websites.

This works on your own custom maps you create with Google Maps. The idea is to have one custom map that shows many things. In may case a map of Colorado camping locations.  I write reviews of these campgrounds and want to include a link to my map. But that link needs to zoom into the campground and to center it in the screen.

Camp Out Colorado Campsite Map Normal View

To accomplish this we simply build a url with the proper parameters so that when the user is redirected to the map it also zooms in and centers on the specific campsite.

What We Need to Create a Custom View of Custom Google Map

Custom Map ID

This is found in the URL of the base custom map.

Camp Out Colorado Campground Map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?hl=en&authuser=0&mid=1NOd9T5rPujjSZ1h7bQ0CX_x-jEE

What we are looking for is mid. Grab everything that is after the “=” and before the “&” if it is there.

Longitude and Latitude

This can easily be found by opening a normal Google Map and select “What’s here?” This will give you a small infobox with what is there along with the exact longitude and latitude. Copy that.

In my case it is: 39.34385,-106.61257

Zoom Level

This is up to you. I like a zoom of 10-14 depending on how close in you want your map to zoom. I have a lot of campsites on the map and many are relatively close to each other. So I zoom in close to really make sure they know which one it is.

Create Link to Custom View of Custom Google Map

Start with the map viewer;

  • https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?

Then add your map id;

  • mid=1NOd9T5rPujjSZ1h7bQ0CX_x-jEE

Then add your zoom index, make sure to begin separating parameters with “&”.

  • z=14

Lastly add in your longitude and latitude together in one parameter.

  • ll=39.34385%2C-106.61257

So the final URL looks like;

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1NOd9T5rPujjSZ1h7bQ0CX_x-jEE&z=14&ll=39.34385%2C-106.61257

There are other things that can be done but I will not go into those now. This should help to be able to simply create a custom map link that will zoom into the required spot.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions to make this easier or better.

Now, to figure out how to embed a zoomed in custom map into a page.

 

WordPress Cron Can Kill a Website

I have run into this several times now so I thought I would write a quick article on it. It seems that WordPress’s cron really mess up a website.  Too many cron events will slow down your website. It can even cause timeout errors and out of memory issues.

What is cron?

Cron is basically a system to run programs in the background operation of your website. For a detailed explanation find out more here: Cron Info.

WordPress cron runs every time someone goes to your website. This is great as many plugin creators design software to do all kinds of fun and interesting things with your website. The downside is that these cron tasks can add up if not properly cleaned up. The average WordPress blog creator may not even know this exists. Worse, it can get full of all kinds of useless or out of data cron jobs.

The trouble is all these cron jobs are still queried, and possibly run, every time someone goes to your website. Over time this will certainly slow down your site. Especially if you experiment with many different plugins as many of them will leave residual cron tasks when they are uninstalled.

Check the WordPress Cron

First check your the WordPress cron and see if there is an unreasonable amount of cron jobs.

What’s unreasonable? That can vary greatly but I would say over 50 and you probably have too many. On my latest website with issues there were almost 20,000! Hard to say where they came from, but they needed to be cleared out!

First and foremost always backup your database when doing anything in it.

I prefer to go directly into the database with phpMyAdmin. Run the following SQL query.

This will retrieve the record of your cron jobs. In the option value field you will see something like this.

The only thing you really need to worry about is the very beginning of this entry. It will tell you how many cron jobs are present. In this case, there are 20.

In my case it looked like this.

19722! Yikes. This was pretty much crashing the website. Good news though. It is really easy to fix. Simply delete the cron entry and because of the magic and quality of WordPress the cron will be rebuilt the next time someone goes to your website. Easy as that!

Now you may need to go though and check your plugins, anything that schedules tasks, and verify that they are still scheduled and working. In most cases they will be. If not, set up the task again. These are things like calendars, auto backups, auto posts etc. All of these are done through cron jobs.

There is also a pretty cool plugin you can use to look at your cron jobs in a more UI friendly way.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-crontrol/

Hopefully this helps you clean up and speed up your WordPress site!

Avoid Google SERP Penalty Make Sure Website is Mobile Friendly

Google is rolling out some changes this week that are going to penalize websites that are not mobile ready. It’s rare that they warn about upcoming changes so I think it is safe to assume that if your website is not mobile ready, according to Google, that you may experience a sharp decline in Google listing.

To check your website use the following tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Even if you think your site is mobile friendly use the above tool. I was using some older themes and had customized them so that they appeared mobile friendly. Such as scaling for smaller devices, but the Google Mobile Friendly tool still saw them as not ready. It’s important that that tool shows that your website is mobile friendly. The best thing to do is to change your website theme to something that is advertised as 100% mobile friendly. Once you change, test it immediately to be sure that it is. Some say they are responsive when in reality they are still failing Googles Mobile Friendly test. Once you find one that you like then go about fine tuning it into what you would like your website to look like.

It’s hard to recommend a specific one, because each website has its own needs. So the best thing to do is search for “Responsive” web themes.

Here are a few I am testing out on a couple different websites. I run websites that are cookie cutter pages to fully customized.

  • Twenty Fourteen – WordPress Basic Theme
  • Customizr – Free version has some customization, premium has more.
  • evolve-  Free version has lots customization, premium has more.

Here is the alert sent out by Google.

Is your site mobile-friendly?
Starting April 21, Google Search will be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Double-check nnnnnnnn.com and your other sites are ready for this change by testing pages of your site with the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Take Mobile-Friendly Test

This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in Google Search results. Users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results optimized for their devices.

By being mobile-friendly, you’ll benefit too by growing your audience and revenue across all screens.

Responsive Display
My site’s already mobile optimized: do I need to take action?
Even if you already have a mobile-optimized site, it’s worth taking some time to double-check your site’s pages using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Also, check out the AdSense Multiscreen Implementation Guide, which covers AdSense implementation best practices to improve monetization on mobile.

Mobile Usability Report
My site isn’t mobile-friendly: how do I get started?
The guide to mobile-friendly sites can help you get started, while you get a full list of mobile usability issues across your sites by logging in to your Webmaster Tools account and using the Mobile Usability Report. You can also check out the AdSense Multi-Screen Starter Guide and post questions to Webmaster Central Forums to get support.

Mobile is critical to your business and will continue to be so. Make sure visitors can have a good experience on your site when they’re visiting from their mobile devices.

See you online,
The Google AdSense Team

Good luck getting your websites upgraded to be Mobile Friendly!

Kickstarter for FyxtRPG.com

I am throwing up this quick post to ask for support on a Kickstarter for on of the websites I have built. Check out the Kickstarter for all of the details. Thanks!

Server Upgrade Kickstarter for FyxtRPG.com

As the Fyxt RPG grows, it needs to be moved to a large and powerful dedicated managed server. Since the Fyxt RPG does all the calculations and storing of game data, it is very important to utilize a server that can handle a lot of traffic and backend calculations. This is the primary reason for the Kickstarter. FyxtRPG.com needs to move from servers that cost hundreds of dollars a year to servers that cost thousands of dollars a year. We also need to ensure the website is up and available 24/7, so we need technical support to troubleshoot any server issues and bring the site back online as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for your support and for sharing this Kickstarter!

Manually Change WordPress Theme to Default in Database

Here is how to manually change the WordPress theme to a default (Twenty Fifteen) in database. Do not use this method if you are not familiar with manually editing your WordPress Database in phpMyAdmin.

The three option_name rows in the database that need to be changed. These are what control which theme is currently active on your WordPress website.

  • template – the “Theme Name” as defined in style.css
  • stylesheet – the actual name of your theme folder
  • current_theme -the actual name of your theme folder

CREATE A BACKUP OF YOUR DATABASE BEFORE YOU BEGIN!

This tutorial on how to manually change WordPress theme to default assumes that the prefix of your database is wp_. If it isn’t, make sure to change the code presented below to match.

SQL to Find WordPress Theme Settings

First, run this to see what the current theme is set in your WordPress website.

Copy this information to somewhere safe. This is so you can quickly revert or change it later if you would like to.

SQL to Change Theme to Default in WordPress

Make sure that you have the default theme for WordPress loaded into /wp-content/themes/. For this example I am using the Twenty Fifteen WordPress default theme.

This works with ANY theme. Just make sure the theme files are loaded into your website.

Run the following code. Change ‘twentyfifteen’ to whatever WordPress theme you are using if not Twenty Fifteen.

Problems Changing WordPress Theme Default Manually

The most common problems are:

  • Typo in SQL
  • Missing Theme Files
  • Cached Page – Purge or Disable Cache

Please let me know if I missed anything or if you have additional tips.

This is a really handy fast trick to use to fix a WordPress website that you cannot access normally. Manually changing WordPress theme to default in the database is a fast and great way to test out and debug your website.

Combine WordPress and phpBB with WP-United

Update 8/1/2014:

Good news! It appears this plugin has been picked back up. This is great as it is really the only thing out there that brings phpbb and wordpress together. I have installed it and am using it on FyxtRPG.com and it is working well. I am not using the more advanced features, just the shared login. But so far so good!

UPDATE:

After some investigation it appears the plugin author for this has not been active in either the WordPress or phpBB communities since March 11, 2013. It does not appear this is supported anymore. It is probably a bad idea to use it now.

 

If you are looking for a way to integrate phpBB with WordPress it seems that WP-United : phpBB WordPress Integration is the way to go. I have only started working with it but it seems to work quite well to bring phpBB into WordPress. It is great to be able to have such a robust forum inside of WordPress.  I will post more when I have a better feeling for it.

For now I am going to post a few of the support files that are needed for it since their website seems to be temporarily down.

You will need to have AutoMOD installed in your phpBB board. That can be found here: https://www.phpbb.com/mods/automod/

Then you will need the mod by WP-United. This can be downloaded: wp-united-release-phpbb.zip

Just upload that file in AutoMOD in the ACP of phpBB and you should then be able to connect and manage your users.