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Some of the Best Independent WordPress Theme Shops

For 2019, one of my “goals” if you will is to spend more time noting more of the resources and tools I find valuable. The first category I’m targeting has to do with WordPress. Over the last 10 years of using WordPress in various capacities, I’ve seen, tested, tinkered with, and used more than a few WordPress themes, both free and for money.

In that time, I’ve used a lot of themes from big names like Elegant Themes and Genesis, and they’re fantastic products. This tweet from Tom McFarlin got me thinking about the smaller shops and independent developers:

Here’s my list of some of my favorite smaller/indie (or niché as Tom put it ?) WordPress theme developers/shops.

For every shop I listed, I know there are three more that would probably make the cut. These are just the ones I’m most familiar with and would recommend to WordPress users looking for high quality product.

ThemeForest and Creative Market often have high quality products from indie developers, too, so their marketplaces are always worth checking out, too.

Cloudflare Argo: 228 Days Later

It seems like such a random amount of time to review (and it kind of is) but I wanted to start of 2019 right and review a topic I touched on in 2018: Cloudflare‘s smart-routing product, Argo.

In my previous post about Argo, I covered the vast improvements to response times just by enabling the service. Response times were practically cut in half. Since then, I’ve made some more tweaks to my site so it felt fair to review if Argo is still picking up the slack it claims to. If you’re unsure of how Argo works, my previous post has a good explainer.

Considering Aggressive Caching

One improvement I made was to lean heavy on Cloudflare’s Page Rules functionality. I purchased myself a set of five Rules for an additional +$5.00/month and got to work. I focused on wielding caching for everything that isn’t likely to change often if ever. In this case, most static assets will live on Cloudflare’s servers and in a visitor’s browser for quite a while.

When I first implemented this, I didn’t consider plugin JS, but in reality, most of what’s being caught by that rule is WordPress-related (read: Jetpack), and I haven’t experienced issues thus far.

With the majority of /wp-content being taken care of with page rules, it was time to re-evaluate the now decreased load and its effect on the benefits Argo provides.

Argo Post-Aggressive Caching

There’s a reason Cloudflare recommends Argo regardless of how you cache. Even with aggressive caching in place, I’m still seeing about 25% response time improvements:

The average runs between 23-27%, depending on the days I’m checking, but the 23.28% in the image above is pretty close to “most of the time.” What’s also worth pointing out is the peaks and valleys largely follow the same percentage improvement across the board, and it’s no wonder: 75% of requests end up going through Argo’s pipeline.

With the aggressive Page Rules and Argo, I’m comfortable in saying Argo has a permanent home with this site and any future projects I take on. It’s a no-brainer and still remains highly cost-effective.

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2018 Year in Review

It’s about that time of year when I look back on the posts that attracted the most eyeballs. Some of the most popular pieces of content this year were also the most popular last year, too. Admittedly, not much of this was actually from this year. By my count, half of these posts came from 2016 and 2017. I didn’t get back into blogging hardcore until the last 1/4th of 2018.

Here are the top 10 most popular posts on this blog based on the number of views in the last year:

#10 PowerPort Mini: The Charging Device Apple Should Have Made

When I got my hands on yet another awesome Anker product, I was almost certain I’d enjoy it. True to form, Anker built a charging brick that is a bit larger than Apple’s standard 5w unit but provides so much more power, it’s almost a no-brainer. Each port is good for minimum 6 watts at 1.2 amps or one port is good for 12 watts at 2.4 amps. It won’t break any speed records, especially compared to larger 18 and 30 watt chargers, but for its size and price (2-pack for $16) I don’t know if it gets much better.


#9 Affinity Publisher Beta

It was especially neat to see Affinity coming out with another killer desktop creative application to give Adobe a run for its money. Even though Publisher is still in beta, it’s extremely stable and worth taking a look at if you have some time.


#8 Add RTMP Support to Nginx Installed From Apt

For the third year, this post makes its way onto my top 10 list. There seems to be just enough people out there–especially in the Raspberry Pi community–that want to stream video and ran into a lot of the same problems I have.


#7 Fighting ffmpeg

Also in its third year, my struggles with ffmpeg don’t go un-noticed in the linux/Raspberry Pi community.


#6 MacPaw’s CleanMyMac X Review

There hasn’t been a day when I wasn’t a fan of keeping my computers fresh and clean. MacPaw makes great software, and their newest version of CleanMyMac is no exception. It’s entirely worth the price, and if you’re a Setapp user, download it right now. If you’re not, go pick it up anyway.


#5 Linode vs Digital Ocean: A Three-Round VPS Benchmark Showdown

This was a fun post to write. I’ve hopped back and forth between the two providers a couple times over the years, and it was good to see just how each of them shined. Since both are equally priced, a lot of it comes down to one part workload and one part personal preference. Take a look at some of the benchmark results for yourself and see what makes the most sense for you.


#4 Phone, Wallet, Keys

Adam Sandler was never one of my favorite comedians, but sharing this video seemed to be a hit with a lot of folks.


#3 Fixing Browsersync Not Reloading

I posted this in December 2017 so it never had the opportunity to make its way to the top that year, but I imagine had I shared it many months earlier, it would have.


#2 Live Streaming with Hardware Acceleration using a Raspberry Pi and RTMP/HLS

The third of four of my posts to make this list for the 3rd time. This is one of the series on my struggles in figuring out how to stream video from a Raspberry Pi to a couple different locations. Specifically, this part involved tackling hardware-accelerated streaming.


#1 Attempting to Stream a Webcam to an RTMP Server

This was my original attempt at streaming video from a webcam to an RTMP server and the fourth of my 2016 posts to make it on this list for the third time.

Some thoughts on the 2018 Macbook Pro

I have been a Macbook Pro owner since 2011. I bought a 15″ model then, another one in late 2015, and my third iteration landed in my lap last week. Unsure of the experience I would have, I took the plunge and snagged a 2018-era 15″ Macbook Pro with Touch Bar. I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts after a week of usage every day.

On the plus side, I actually enjoy the keyboard. I know not everyone does, and I think I might be in the minority, but as a light typist, the short travel keys actually feel really good. They’re a bit loud, but not so much that it bothers me.

The slightly smaller form-factor is also nice, too. I had started to think that a 15″ might be too big for my needs, especially after staring at the massive bezels for the last 3 years. Now, I’m back to thinking it’s just fine. 

The onboard storage is stupid fast, benchmarking at something like 2500MB/s for both read and write. Hot dog. 

The Touch Bar is strange. I never noticed until after getting this unit that I liked to rest my hand where the now-touch-sensitive Escape key sits. I’ve hit it a few times on accident. I have since corrected my ways, but it was definitely a bit of a surprise. As far as the rest of the touch bar goes, I’m still unsure of its ultimate value. 

Touch ID is super fast and is a great method for accessing the computer from a locked state. 

Battery life is pretty dang good, too. I spent an average day of work and managed to crank about 7 hours out of it with no care about how I was using the device or micro-managing its energy consumption. If I had spent more time dimming and throttling, it’s not unreasonable to have expected 9 or 10 hours. 

Weight is fine. It’s definitely lighter than my outgoing 2015 model. I haven’t had an opportunity to push the graphics card in any way. I spent 99% of my time on Integrated. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Getting into the USB way of life has been hard, though once I got my Thunderbolt 3-enabled dock up and running, I joined the “single cable club.” I’m also now a member of Dongle Town, too, so it seems like a wash.

Overall, I’m super happy with my purchase. 

WordPress 5.0

As someone who has followed WordPress’ progress for several years–I remember deploying WordPress version 2.5–seeing version 5.0 make its debut was exciting.

It’s just as fast as version 4 and the new editor is pretty slick. My current theme structure doesn’t seem to mind it, which is great. I’ve pared down so much of WordPress’ functionality in my theme, I’m not sure I’ll see a whole lot of difference, save for the same in-app post editor–named Gutenberg–that made its formal debut. 

I am using it to write this post now, and it feels totally fine. The block functionality reminds me of Medium. In fact, if I knew nothing about Gutenberg’s release, I can see how I’d be mistaken if I thought WordPress patterned with Medium.

The drop-cap functionality is kind of cool. My styling doesn’t allow for it, but that’s okay. It’s never been something I’ve felt was important to implement with a sans-serif font.

Crazy times, these are.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography