WordPress Hosting

While I’m on the topic of WordPress, I found a new hosting provider. I run a small family site. Even though it’s small, it has a lot of specific needs:

  • It’s very image-heavy, so it needs lots of storage space
  • I need to send out email notifications at various events
  • Users need to be able to post by sending email
  • It needs to be robust and reliable, so I don’t spend a lot of time chasing down issues.

We’ve tried various hosted solutions. WordPress.com was hosting it for a while. At some point, they made changes to their user profile settings, and some users were having issues I couldn’t help them with. I moved to self-hosted so that I had enough control to address these issues. Besides, our disk usage was growing and I was likely to get priced out of the free plan.

There are several shared plans that I looked into. They often come with an email serve I can use, but my experience with them hasn’t been great. Running a DigitalOcean droplet works great, until it doesn’t. Then it takes all Saturday to figure out what’s goin on. There is a next tier of plans that help you manage a VPS. ServerPilot and RunCloud are a couple of examples. They help with the setup of the web server and database, but after that, you’re on your own. They don’t have a mail server, and only the foolhardy run their own mail server. Then I found CloudWays. It does all the stuff ServerPilot and RunCloud do, but they also offer mail server add-on. For $1/month, I can add a RackSpace mailbox. I use this for incoming post-by-email traffic. Then for a few cents per 1000, they offer an outgoing SMTP server. I could (and have) patched this all together with a service like Migadu. But having it integrated with the server is a big plus.

New Theme, Take One

Well, here I am, with a new theme. I’m giving GeneratePress a whirl after discovering it on the WordPress subreddit. I want a pretty simple, text-heavy site. I don’t have a store, a shopping cart, or any heavy layout needs. My main interest is fonts and typography, and this gives me enough control. I can also tweak various layout elements as much as I need.

There’s a pretty capable free versions, I paid the $50 for the pro upgrade. That pricing is perfect: it makes me reasonably confident the theme will be supported and upgraded, but it’s cheap enough for a hobby site with no income.

If you looking for more like this, Astra is another one that came up, with a similar pricing structure. I don’t have a particularly good reason to choose GeneratePress over Astra. I think it was partly that the pricing and the product info gave me the impression their market is individual bloggers, whereas Astra is trying to address agencies and WordPress freelancers. Like I said, not a great reason, but they both looked good, and I need some basis to make a decision. Hopefully there is no Take Two sequel to this post, but if there is, it will probably be Astra.

WordPress Theme Search

Every so often I gather the strength and resolve to try to get a WordPress theme that does what I want. I want it to:

  • Not look terrible–mostly minimal, optimized for reading text, but enough photo support for the occasional gallery post
  • Support latest standards like micro formats
  • Responsive, but no hamburger menus in the full size view
  • Use the WordPress content formats to appropriately style an aside as an inline Twitter-style post

Finally, I always end up wanting to make this interop with Twitter and Facebook.

Right now I’m using a theme that hasn’t been updated in years, so I need to find an update. I am not particularly looking forward to it.

West Texas

We went to West Texas in November. Turns out it was an ideal time to go: cool at night, and the midday sun was not strong enough to be miserable.

We stayed at El Cosmico in Marfa for a couple of nights. Here is the inside of one of the tipis. Plenty of space and a fire pit to boot.

The inside of a tipi with two beds, a fire pit, and a love seat.
Inside an El Cosmico Tipi

Finding the desk at Sul Ross in Alpine was harder than we expected. It was pretty far, and we felt lost a couple of times. We pressed on and eventually found it.

A desk sitting atop a short mountain overlooking an empty landscape.
The Famed Desk at Sul Ross

Austin Orange Line Workshop

Depending on the map you look at, the Orange line is either a 21 mile route from Howard Lane to Slaughter Lane, or–if you ignore the parts marked “future expansion”–an 11 mile route that runs from North Lamar transit center to Stassney. In either case, the midsection of the line runs through the center of town via Lamar, Guadalupe, and South Congress.

According to Capital Metro, the 6.5 mile segment from Koenig to Oltorf is under consideration for grade separation, such as subway or elevated. Should it be? That is the question posed to the community.

Some of the tradeoffs presented are construction cost, right-of-way fit, and travel speed. Cost and political viability were not explicitly under consideration by the transportation engineers.

Sticking with the transit considerations: Guadalupe near 29th is particularly narrow and difficult to fit two dedicated lanes of transit in addition to the existing two lanes of car traffic. Even giving up the middle chicken lane and the parking makes things tight.

How sacred are the lanes of car drivers currently on Guadalupe. Mayor Adler has named them a priority. The transit engineers at the meeting seemed more accepting of talking about trade-offs, whatever those were.

So what about the price of the options offered? Jerry Smiley was hesitant to offer a concrete metric. Site-specific was his favorite term to temper desires for specific numbers.

In general, elevated and CNC are more than surface; tunneling is more expensive than any others. But the scale factor was highly site-specific. Sometimes cut and cover can run into problems that it would have been easier and cheaper to just bore underneath.

There was less discussion around route and station selection. In general the route was deemed sane, and far better than the route offered to (and declined by) residents in 2014. The local 1 bus will probably still run the length of Lamar-Guadalupe. The stops will be more frequent, and the bus will be stuck in traffic the way they are today.