The blog looks different today

Yes, folks, the Ant-Like Persistence blog looks very different today from the way it looked yesterday.

The executive summary is:  Stuff changed, and I had no choice but to deal with it, and I am sorry, but you my loyal reader will hopefully be a good sport about it, and now the blog looks different.  And gradually I will hopefully be able to get the blog to the point where it looks somewhat like the way it looked before.  

The geek detailed discussion is: 

As usual with my tech-oriented blog articles, I have to lay a bit of background.

Most web sites are constructed with things layered one on top of the next.  The bottom layer for most web sites is Linux.  The next layer up is web server software such as Apache or Nginx.  Layered on top of this is a scripting language, most often PHP but sometimes Perl or Python.  The next layer up for most web sites is WordPress, although some web sites use software other than WordPress.  

Each of these things has a version number.  The versions change from time to time.  Of course as a general matter you will want to keep more or less up to date with the versions, because the newer versions represent bug fixes, corrections of security flaws, and things that permit the software to run faster or more efficiently.  

Then as a matter of terminology we might say that there are things “layered” on top of WordPress, that also have version numbers, but in the WordPress world we don’t really say “layered” but instead we refer to such things as being “within” WordPress and we call them “themes” and “plugins”.  Anyway, the themes and plugins within WordPress also have version numbers and the versions change from time to time, and of course as a general matter you will also want to keep more or less up to date with the versions of the themes and plugins.

This blog runs on WordPress.  For several months now, whenever I have logged in at the administrative management pages of this blog, WordPress has been scolding me, telling me over and over again that the version of PHP that is running on this server is an old version of PHP.  It has been telling me over and over again I should get in touch with the system administrator for this server and ask him or her to please update the PHP to be a more up-to-date version.  

Now as it happens, the system administrator for this server is me.  

Anyway, in recent days WordPress’s scolding about PHP being out of date has gotten more strident.  So I finally decided I had better have a serious talk with the system administrator for this server about updating the PHP.  Meaning, talking to myself.  On this server, it means that I need to log in at port number 2087 to reach what is called the WHM (WebHost Manager) interface.  Which I did, and I clicked around, and at my request, the cPanel system on my server ran off and located and downloaded packages for the most recent versions of PHP, and installed them on my server.  Most of the web sites on this server, including this blog, are now running PHP version 8.0.17.  So now I am up to date on this server so far as PHP is concerned.

Which is all fine and good, except that as of that moment, this blog stopped working.  Any visitor to the blog would encounter this error message:

There has been a critical error on this website.

Learn more about troubleshooting WordPress.

Fortunately for me, the troubleshooting resources within WordPress are usually extremely helpful, and in this particular case they were very helpful, and within just a few mouse clicks I was able to learn what the problem was.  The problem was that the particular “theme” that I was using is a theme that broke because of the update of PHP.  

In the world of WordPress, a theme is a body of software that sort of defines the external appearance of a web site.  One of the nice things about how WordPress works is that you can pick a first theme and use it, and then if you decide you want to switch to some second theme, you could do that.  And later if you decide you don’t like that second theme, you could switch back to the first theme, and it would all look the same way that it did before when you were previously using that first theme.

Within any particular theme, there are many customizations that you can make.  You can select from among many color palettes.  You can pick fonts and font sizes.  You can choose what is displayed on the left side of the screen and the right side of the screen and across the top and across the bottom.  You can pick where menus appear.  You can pick whether social media icons are or are not visible.

Anyway the theme that I have been using for this blog is a theme that I brought over with me from Godaddy, from back when I used to host this blog on WordPress on Godaddy.  So anyway, five years ago I migrated this blog from Godaddy to Namecheap.  When I did that migration, I brought with me the theme that I had been using on Godaddy.  This was unfortunately a proprietary WordPress theme provided by Godaddy.  If I had been smarter back when I was a Godaddy customer, I would have avoided using a proprietary WordPress theme provided by Godaddy.  And it is clear that this very old theme, that has not been updated in at least four years, is unable to run on any modern-day version of PHP.

But now is the time for me to finally face the fact that I am never going to get any updates for that theme, and that I need to switch to some ordinary non-proprietary theme that gets normal updates, and that is able to run on modern-day versions of PHP.  So folks this explains why right now the blog does not look very much at all today like it looked yesterday.  The theme that I sort of randomly picked just now is called Twenty Twenty-One.  Maybe I can do some customizations on this 2021 theme to make it look more or less like before.  But if not, I will try some other theme, and another after that, until I find a theme that I can customize to look the way I want it to look.

Thank you in advance, dear reader, for your patience with all of this.

7 Replies to “The blog looks different today”

  1. Looks great to me. Now fix your discussion groups so they are not email lists (“listserv’s”). The emails come through poorly on many email clients. Please change them discussion list software.

  2. Please do not change the e-mail lists to “discussion list” software. Using e-mail lets each participant pick the e-mail client that works for them. Those unable to find an e-mail client that they like can read the content via the Mailman web archive.

  3. Thanks for this update, Carl. Unfortunately, the recent reviews of ForgeRock Authenticator on Google Play are worryingly negative. Nonetheless, the complaints all relate to functionality (not security) so I’ll give it a try.

  4. A few years back I went through a similar process, and settled upon Avada. If you are tech savvy, detail-oriented, and want a very flexible theme, it’s terrific. There’s a learning curve, but it will serve you well. And it’s running PHP 8.1. Good luck – glad to give you tips if wanted.

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