CastleRain

My Online Realm

Tag: Website (page 1 of 2)

It Looks Weird

Denny ConfusedIf you’ve visited in the past couple of days, you may have noticed (and you will notice now that you’re reading this)…  The website looks drastically different.  I was sort of forced into this.  Let me explain.

I use WordPress.  I have for several years.  Way back in the day I did this site in plain HTML.  Then I discovered content managers.  I went from PHP-Nuke to NSN-Nuke.  Then DragonflyCMS and moved to E107.  They all had similar offerings but none had everything I needed.  Then I started messing with WordPress.  It was well known and used on many popular sites.  I really got into it when I started using Artisteer to create themes and learned some about PHP programming.  For years I could make my site look exactly like I wanted.  I could have all sorts of features.

Sadly WordPress does have some major drawbacks.  But it’s not the fault of the WordPress authors.  It’s the community.  There are literally thousands of plugins and themes you can get for WordPress.  Up until recently I could pretty much make my site do whatever I needed.  If a plugin didn’t do exactly as I wanted, I could figure out how to change the code to work for me.  However the problem comes when WordPress updates and breaks old plugins.  Or plugins and themes get forgotten about and don’t get updated to work with new versions of WordPress.  Then things break on my site and don’t work so well.

Like my photo gallery.   Once I had all my pictures on Google and pulled them in with a simple plugin.  That broke one day a few months ago.  Plugin was abandoned.  Google changed their format and I had to find a new plugin.  I hated every plugin I came across.  So I finally gave up and used the built-in gallery WordPress has.  Takes a lot of space hosting the photos locally and it’s not as nice as what I had.  But it works.

More recently a plugin I used to have my short URL’s shown on my site broke.  Caused some havoc and I had to paste some crude code in to get it to work.  I’m still fixing the mess it left behind.  In working the code, my theme is horribly outdated.  Artisteer stopped making their software in 2015.  I haven’t found a suitable solution to replace it.  Their code is very convoluted anyways.  So I had to settle on finding a ready made theme that I could modify to my needs.  Hence you see what you see now.  That’s of course after looking through thousands of themes and not finding anything that looked even close to what I had.

Therein lies another problem with WordPress.  Thousands of free themes.  But they are neutered in functionality unless you cough up $70 (PER YEAR!) for function and support.  It’s a money making racket.  Even this one is holding back on functions unless I pay.  Not paying.  I had to modify the source code to get my short URL’s to show.  Allow zooming on mobile devices.  Do outdated browser detection and a few other things I need.

Of course all these changes causes my security software for my website to go bat-shit crazy because I have modified source files.  That’s another major drawback to WordPress.  Being so popular.  It’s a big target for hackers.  Plus…  All the plugins and themes may have flawed code to also cause security holes.  Sometimes having my own website is a real pain in the ass.  Especially now that I don’t have a lot of time to sit and pick at the code all day.  I have a real job now.

So…  It may change again in the coming months if I find a better theme or have to change plugins.  Or modify the code.  Though I’m doing my best to make it fit me.  Especially since I noticed just now in mobile format, the sidebar widgets don’t show at all 😡

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It’s About the Lock

It's About the LockJust two weeks after changing web hosts, I changed hosts yet again.  Though this time it wasn’t because I was unhappy per se.  It was because of a couple of reasons both relating to security.  Not only for myself, but everyone who breezes by here.  The gator offered me full functionality of my security software, but wanted to charge me serious cash for a SSL certificate.  Even if I had my own, they wanted a fee to allow me to install it.  I wasn’t having that.

You see, recently Google Chrome started… I’m not going to say “shaming” but alerting visitors to sites like mine that they were unsecured simply because they don’t have a SSL certificate and use https to encrypt any data the visitor may share.  Still that’s like going to the neighbors house and seeing a red light on outside their door because they don’t have a video surveillance system installed.  You know the neighbors and you trust them.  But somehow now you have an uneasy feeling going over there just because someone else says boo.  However, I get it.  Plus, it’s only a matter of time that all other top browsers follow that example.

However, when I read this, I was shocked at the insane prices of a SSL cert.  A decent one was between $30 and $100 per year.  Anything free was only good for 1 – 3 months as a trial version.  As I mentioned before, this site makes me no money.  Sure I have donate buttons.  I think they last donation I got was 5 years ago to put towards a Ventrilo server I was renting for voice chat.  That’s fine, I don’t expect anyone to donate unless I do something for them first.  Lately I haven’t felt like fixing anyone’s computer.  Frankly I work too much and am spread too thin.  I try to enjoy my life outside of work.  Not work more.

Anyway, Bob alerted me to an organization who was out to help secure the web by offering free (and donation backed) SSL certificates.  However, you really need a web host that supports the system automatically as they renew every 60-90 days.  They’re called Let’s Encrypt.  So two nights of research and review scouring.  I settled on a web host here in Michigan.  Spent the weekend moving files and fixing non-secure links.  I have most of my websites they way I want them.

However, I’ve had CastleRain since 1999.  This iteration of CastleRain has been around since 2006 and contains over 500 posts.  That’s a lot of my life documented 🤔  It’s going to take me a few weeks to tweak each post and page to make sure they all get that nifty lock.  So if you see anything I miss, copy the URL link and send it to me please 🙂

So now if you use my contact forms, or click my donate links.  You can feel secure that the things you do here are encrypted so only I get what you share with me.

Sadly it kills all my social media share counters.  Nothing I can do about that but suck it up 😕

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A Reintroduction…

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to reintroduce the all new and redesigned CastleRain Web Design & Computer Services!

CastleRain Web Design & Computer ServicesClick Image to Visit Site

I offer the same mobile friendly web design services, and have added my computer skills as well.  All in a brand new, pretty website!  Granted, this is NOT a business.  Just a hobby that I do to make extra money on the side.  It has no relation to either of my current places of employment.  I’m a low cost Evil Genius.  At least until I find and breed flying monkeys 😈

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Bar, Pub, Tavern or Restaurant Demo

I did this based on a favorite hang out here in town.  Unfortunately they didn’t bite and I am not going to let good looking, hard work go to waste.  So a little Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo and the O’Mally’s Pub Demo is born 😀

Another full functioning, mobile friendly demo from yours truly.

O'Mally's Pub Demo

This demo and more are available at my design site.

CastleRain Web Design

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Live Streaming Demo Site

Today I’m presenting another web design demo site.  The thing people are into today is showing off their own skills and talents using live streaming via the internet.  Many have YouTube channels, but for those wanting more or wanting to have a more personalized space on the internet, here’s a great way to show your stuff!  Not only does this website look slick and is mobile friendly, but it also shows off the the owners passion for whatever they love to do.

Live Streaming Demo SiteClick Image to View Actual Demo

When you check out the actual demo website, it also shows off my ability to give it a dynamic header image when viewed in desktop mode.  This happens when you refresh the page or visit other pages.  Currently it only has one page, so refreshing or pressing F5 will change the header image.  In mobile mode it switches to a red background with just the logo for faster loading on mobile devices.  I did a lot of image manipulation based on the game of World of Warcraft and then allowed the images to show through without compromising the readability of the content on the site.  The image above states that Twitch requires an app to view it on a mobile device, but shortly after I made the image, I found that some of the newest phones will play it without an app!

This example would be for an individual or team of gamers what want to showcase their skills using Twitch. I can redesign it to fit any streaming website needs such as personal or professional internet broadcasts using a number of streaming service available today such as Ustream, Streamup and Vapers to name a few.

CastleRain Web DesignIf you’d like a live demonstration with a Twitch stream running to show off how it would behave, contact me and we’ll set something up 🙂

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Giving away a Free Website Design

Free Web Design x1In the interest in building up a customer base for my side project (not yet a business), I am giving away 1 free website design (or custom WordPress theme) to a random person or establishment.  The party chosen must provide thier own domain name (e.g. yourwebsite.com) and website hosting.  If you don’t have a domain name yet, I recommend GoDaddy to secure one.  If you need affordable, reliable website hosting, I suggest the company that hosts all my websites, Hostwinds.  If you need to really go on the cheap, 000webhost isn’t bad for being free and does not impose active advertising on your website.  Of course, it’s limited, whereas Hostwinds is unlimited.

The chosen recipient will also need to provide the necessary content to go on the website or  add the content themselves to their WordPress installation.  Content being text, best provided by simple .txt files or MS Word documents (or opensource documents).  Pictures and logos as well.  If the chosen recipient is in the local area, I will be happy to meet with them and we can hammer out the design details together in person.  Or we can do it over the phone.

To enter the giveaway, simply comment to this post, comment on the Facebook link to this post or send me an email.  I will pick the recipient at random.  Enter by August 26th to be considered.

In return, I will leave a very small ad link at the bottom of the website in hopes your website sends business my way.

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Brushing Up My Skills

Web DesignI’ve spent the past few days buried in HTML code, PHP, Javascript and doing a whole mess of Image Manipulation.  I’ve done over 40 different websites and themes for WordPress.  Either recreating them from scratch or updating and modifying them.

I’ve been tinkering with website design since 1997 and started putting my skills to use when I first put CastleRain online in 1999.  Since then, I’ve built and rebuilt this website numerous times over.

Up until a couple of years ago, I never really took my web design skills very seriously.  Even then, it took getting better tools and perfecting my skills with tools I’ve been using for a long time, to get to where I am now.  I’m kicking some incredible ass!!

Just to show off what I’ve been doing:

To top it off, all the work I’ve done and everything is now mobile friendly!

I’m seriously considering doing this full time.  It’s a blast and I don’t have to teach people things.  They just give me a place to upload the files and databases.  Maybe I will start getting into web development, but one thing at a time for now.

Check all my stuff out and tell me what you think!

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Life’s Little Evil Grins

Sometimes I get just enough satisfaction out of the stupid decisions people make.  Take today’s case.  A customer who has had their website hosted with us for many years, but decided a few years ago they wanted someone else to handle the email.  Due too their lack of making themselves aware of their decisions then, the decision they made today has interrupted their business.   All because they didn’t think through the consequences of their actions.  This is especially satisfying when they send me a snarky email from the domain in which we happen to control.

I’ll try to help explain what happened using a simplified chart (click for larger image), as many of you also don’t know how web hosting works either.  However, I want you to see why my grin is so evil.  See, the customer bought a domain name and got hosting with us some time ago.  A few years ago, they decided they wanted a different company to host their domain email, but keep their website with us.  In order to do this they did the following:

  • First they pointed their domain to our servers.  This makes it so our servers answer for any requests for a website or email.
  • When they wanted to have another company handle their email, they asked us to point all mail to a different server.  This means all email requests come to us, but are redirected to a different server that we don’t control.

Today I get a nasty little email stating they stopped using us nearly a month ago and that they insist we cancel their service.  The email came from their domain.

Doing my job as I do.  I check to see if their domain is still pointed to our servers.  It is.  So once I stop the service, all services will stop as well.  Which means I can’t reply to their email as it won’t work.  Even though their email is with a different company, all requests have to go through us to get to the other company.  So now, none of their email works.  I’m sitting here waiting for the call asking why their email doesn’t work.  When they do, I will simply refer to the nasty email stating that they stopped using us nearly a month ago, and then point out I guess they still were using our services after all.  I’ll also ask if they would like to continue service, or give them the option to go to wherever they got their domain from, and work out the DNS there.  However, that option will take a few hours for it to fix their broken email.  All because they didn’t think before they got snotty with me.

Ah.. Justice 😈

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Back Under One Roof

Metaphorically speaking that is.  I don’t know why I love to torture myself so.  This website is enormous as it is.  Why I keep wanting to flirt with other websites is beyond me.  It’s just more code I need to update, more content I need to come up with to keep the sites somewhat fresh.  Honestly, you’d think I would’ve learned by now that one is enough for one person.  I can publish my updates to all the hot social networks from one place and just keep it simple.

With that thought, I’ve moved everything back to CastleRain.com, and if my sanity lasts, it should stay.  I like working on websites and designing new themes.  I just need to do that for other people.  All that’s left is the tweaking.  It’s always been my online blog, journal or diary.  Whichever you prefer to call it.

Besides, I’m not as much of a gamer as I once was.  Now that all I come home to is the dog, I really crave social interaction.  Need to make me a small circle of real life friends and go chill with them.  Get away from the endless hours of pixel filled fun.  I love my games, but I need conversation and interaction more.  The walking is helping that too.  Managed to find a new friend just by saving her from a flat tire 🙂

With that, my Gamers Den site is closed.  Back to my beloved Castle.  Whatever I decide to do from here will keep all my friends and family up to date in one easy to remember location 🙂

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CastleRain is now Gamers Den

Gamers Den LogoWelcome to the new Gamers Den.  As mentioned before, CastleRain is coming to a close.  This is one of the final steps.  It’s time to move on and take my life in a bit of a new direction.  Over the next few months I will close out all of the CastleRain domains.  As with any move, things can become lost, bent or broken.  So if you see anything that looks out of place or you encounter some sort of error with the website, please do not hesitate to contact me and let me know so I can fix it as soon as possible.  I take a lot of pride in my work on websites and this is quite possibly the best design yet.  (Yeah it’s a bit heavy but damn it, it’s so cool!)

If anything take the time to vote in the latest poll.  (lower right side of site)

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