Category Archives: Jay’s Notebook

Turning my iOS Dev Diary into a Membership Site

iOS-Podcast-Icon-2014I find it extremely important to document the things I learn on my coding journey. It has saved my (coding) life many times before. I do such documentations in form of websites which allows me to refer to my notes from any device in the world.

One of those sites is my iOS Dev Diary.

It’s on a spare domain I had lying around that wasn’t doing anything, and when I started adding notes to to the site in 2011 I hadn’t intended it to be a public facing project: I would usually add links to my other sites, add social widgets and make sure the site looks nice so that it makes for a pleasant reading experience.

I dispensed with all that for my iOS notes. I didn’t event pay attention to the traffic it was getting – because seriously: who would read scattered notes and ultra geeky code snippets without a context?

Turns out I was in for a surprise.

The site really isn't anything special to look at - but it's functional, human readable, and people seem to like it.
The site really isn’t anything special to look at – but it’s functional, human readable, and people seem to like it.

One day I tried some CSS tweaks and installed Jetpack so that I could easily apply additional CSS styles without the need for a Child Theme. Jetpack also counts the daily visitor traffic which was about 20 users per day when I installed it in March 2013, not including my own visits.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the traffic was steadily increasing to a point that impacted the server the site was hosted on. Today I’m getting nearly 700 hits per day on that site (!), a little less less at weekends, accounting for a whopping 15k visitors per month.

Stats at the end of March 2014

 

Luckily I’m in charge of the server that’s hosting my iOS Dev Diary, so I could use it as a test case for high traffic, and to see how different servers would cope with the load: I tried moving the site to a small Amazon AWS instance running Plesk on CentOS – which promptly crumbled under the load. I increased the power of that instance gradually and found that only a C3 Extra Large instance would hold out – not really an option considering its $300 per month price tag.

Other dedicated servers are more cost efficient, and currently the site is hosted on a dedicated machine at Strato which copes very well. The test provided me with valuable insights on many levels, but at the same time it poses a problem: I still need a place for my notes, and I’m happy for others to use them too. But without locking the site down to “private” I’m still stuck with a lot of traffic and therefore quite a bit of hungry infrastructure overhead.

Unless I find a way to subsidise the cost – which leads me to another exciting adventure: turning my iOS Dev Diary into a paid Membership Site.

Thanks to a couple of WordPress plugins I can partially protect content and ask visitors to join the site for a small fee.

Access is granted instantly after the system processes the payment. The membership protection is live since the beginning of the month and meant quite a bit of work and restructuring for Julia and me. Let me tell you more about the project.

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Play From Your F***ing Heart

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 15.58.44I’ve finished a new website last week for my friend Jerry Hyde. We go back at least 15 years, and I’m excited to tell you that Jerry has written a new book that will be released on July 25th.

I’m not swearing when I tell you it’s title: Play From Your Fucking Heart.

It’s a self-help book with a spin: the author acknowledges that there is no “new wisdom” to be told – instead every piece of philosophy is recycled and indeed old news.

Jerry doesn’t say that this makes it invalid or untrue – quite the opposite: fact is that we as readers already know all these wisdoms, and merely recognise them as significant when we see them presented in yet another package.

It’s Genius! You can find out more about the book here – and don’t forget to put your pre-order in on Amazon!

 

The Website

I’m extremely pleased to have been involved with this project, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out. It makes such a difference when you work on something that you believe in – something I have the luxury to do exclusively these days. Let’s face it: it’s the number one reason that I live where I live today.

Naturally the site is build on WordPress and went live just as version 3.9 came out.

Jerry wanted something “dark” and likes unusual designs. Because the calendar says it’s 2014 we also needed a template that looks equally nice on a phone, a tablet and a laptop. After looking through several options I showed him AppifyWP Single – a theme that’s meant to be used as an App Website.

Not many changes were necessary, however I do make it a habit of creating child themes for my projects in case the original codebase ever gets updated.

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The few things I did change were references to the fact that we’re selling an app: Jerry didn’t want like his book cover hovering on an iPhone so I’ve replaced it with a grubby old book cover – courtesy of Graphicstock.com. I also removed the “Download on the App Store” logo and replaced it with the release date.

One thing I did not want to change about the theme was its App Icon – but because books don’t have App Icons I had a look at the cover image and got creative with the blanked out swearing bit. In case we ever write an App with “Jerry’s Wisdoms” we’re covered already. Imagine a Magic Eight-Ball type app.

 

Site Functionality

The theme is special in that all “tabs” on the left are WordPress pages, but all of them are presented as one long block of text, and each tab is merely an anchor point to a new position. It’s like a bookmark system – thanks to the ingenuity of its designer Cory Show who developed AppifyWP.

Therefore the order of those tabs was important – the pages need to flow, like the book itself: we start with a quick introduction, tell you about the author, give you endorsements, the foreword and a reading sample. The reader doesn’t need to know the techie bits in the background, but s/he can certainly tell when they’re not right.

We also invite readers to have a look at Jerry’s other projects, like his website as well as his previous two books (and where to buy them). While scrolling through all this content, both the menu bar with navigational tabs and the sidebar with Social widgets sticks in one place so there’s always something new to discover.

Jerry also writes a monthly column for Seymour Magazine – so it’s easy to pull in his feed via the wonderful FeedWordPress plugin by “RadGeek” Charles Johnson: every time a new article in Jerry’s category is published by on Seymour Magazine, we syndicate it with teaser content and link back to it on the originating site. Automagically.

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Key Biscayne by Bike

key-biscayne-mapA couple of weeks ago we went on a 32mile (52km) round trip from Miami Beach to Key Biscayne. This whole area is ideal for cycling due to its flatness and reminds me of the North Germany or Holland: no hills, only the occasional bridge to climb.

If you go by boat it’s only 5 miles tops, but due to the man-made island setup we have here you can’t always go in one straight line.

The way to Key Biscayne has a lot of sights to offer and only mild to medium traffic along the way. Incidentally this is where “Tennis from Miami” comes from: Crandon Park is located there, and at the very south tip at Mile Marker Zero is Bill Bagg’s Cape Florida State Park. It’s so quiet there it almost hurts your ears!

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Projects for 2014 and how they fit together

Social-Compilation

I’ve decided to re-think my approach the Social Networking Scene for 2014. With too many profiles and too many projects, streamlining is the magic word that springs to mind.

And so I won’t forget my reasons 4 weeks from now I thought I’d share with you how I’m doing it.

Current Projects

I’m so glad that every of my idea strands has a different and dedicated website. I’m into very many things, but they don’t really mix or cross over very well. For example, iOS Development doesn’t go together with tips and tricks on WordPress and how to host websites.

Likewise, my sketches have no place in all this techie talk. And my photos don’t mix with creative app reviews either. And how about my company site that keeps track of all my iOS Apps?

Let’s examine where we are right now (2013/2014) and what is posted where:

  • pinkstone.co.uk – my personal iOS Dev Diary, contains code snippets and really complicated stuff. It’s for developers and code junkies.
  • pinkstonepictures.com – all about our iOS Apps and customer support. It’s for humans rather than code brains.
  • wpguru.co.uk – my WordPress Dev Diary, including my own Theme and Plugin releases, a place for support with those, as well as related things such as Plesk, Linux, MySQL, etc. Fairly techie, but less code focussed than my iOS Dev Diary.
  • wphosting.tv – dedicated site for my web hosting customers, specifically for sales and support. If someone wants to buy a website, I no longer send them to The WP Guru, I send them here.

That covers the left side of my brain. On top of that, and o balance it all out, I have several creative outlets too (for the right side of my brain I guess):

  • versluis.tumblr.com – sketches I draw on my various digital devices
  • flickr.com/versluis – pictures I take with anything from a Holga to a Polaroid, and various apps
  • Impossible Gallery – they have a user gallery where I post only Polaroid shots (they don’t have a proper user URL though)

How it’s all connected

How to use an iPhone on AT&T GoPhone – 2nd Edition

Since I travelled to the US last, AT&T have made some changes to the way you can use mobile data on your GoPhone plan. As of April 2012 you can no longer add data packages to the $2 per day plan. What a shame!

You’ll now have to go on a monthly plan to use data (which you can cancel anytime without commitment), everything else remains and works with my previous instructions.

AT&T still do not officially support the use of iPhone on GoPhone plans. The closet thing is a GoPhone Smartphone Plan which comes with a $65 per month commitment… a little harsh if all you need is to not get lost in a foreign country and then tweet about it.

Lucky for us there’s a much cheaper way to do this – so without further ado here’s a detailed “how to get your iPhone working” guide for all those who are spending a few weeks in the US and don’t want to pay £6 per 1MB roaming charges.

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I’m doing NaNoWriMo 2012

There’s an annual National Story Writing Contest called NaNoWriMo. It happens every year in November and participants have exactly 30 days to write furiously to come up with a 50.000 word novel.

The idea is not to finish a masterpiece in this time, but rather to establish a daily routine in which the goal is to “do writing” rather than procrastinate, edit, try to perfect or think yourself out of a good idea. There are even local groups that come together and write in silence, but also to encourage each other to pull through to the magic 50k.

Many creatives have often remarked that there is no special spark that needs to happen for anything creative to happen, it’s rather about “sitting down and doing it” and not about “thinking about it”.

You know me, I’m up for a challenge – and it dawned on me that with such a cool writing tool as Storyist on my hands, plenty of forthcoming time ahead of me, and an amazing story to tell, NaNoWriMo is just what I need in the forthcoming twilight season I’d like to call Stateside.

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Exciting Broadband Connection

Let me test something here real quick: speedtest.net

Yowser… that’s friggin fast dude!

We take speed for granted and that it’s getting faster and faster by the month. This here is the upload and download we’re getting at work in 2012 (and over the last few years). This isn’t even possible with my home “g” WiFi. In a few years we’ll laugh at this of course when our iPhone does 50x this speed and we’re still complaining that it’s not fast enough.

The other thing I wanted to test here are images captions: I’ve noticed with WordPress 3.4 most themes aren’t displaying them properly anymore due to a deliberate code change. We’re discussing this here.

Thankfully Thesis 1.8.5 has a patch that makes it all look smashing again. Thanks, Thesis ;-)

New Logo for 2012

Due to a fluke my logo disappeared from this site. I think it happened because I upgraded a plugin which inserted it via a HTML statement – sadly this plugin now has more functionality, however lost my logo in the upgrade process.

It’s amazing how organized I am with other people’s work, but my own is just the opposite. Not good. So I had to come up with a new logo and here’s the result:

You’re probably asking now “so what – we can SEE it at the top, why on earth are you telling us this”? Well because last time I did not upload the logo to my media library, hence I never saw it again. This time all I need to do is search for “logo” and this graphic will come up. Genius!

I forgot what the font was on the old one – the new one is called Old Typewriter, available for free at dafont.com.

Premiere Pro CS6: the Sneek Peek they’ve shown us at NAB

I’ve seen a couple of demos on the upcoming Premiere Pro CS6 which will become available in a few months. You may recall my earlier post about a hands-on experience with Premiere Pro CS 5.5 so I’m eager to see what else the team have improved.

Not having tried the product myself yet (since that’s impossible) I can however give you a quick opinion on what I’ve seen demonstrated at NAB 2012 at Adobe’s stand.

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