Kubrick Headers, Part One

If you’re like me, you like noticing that new blogs are using WordPress. If the dead give-away is the Kubrick theme, that’s fine. It’s a kind of thumbprint and as more people come to recognize it, the strength of WordPress increases.

However, blue just doesn’t suit everyone the same. If we had some sort of header gallery where users could simply select a new header image whenever they wanted a change, but the theme would still be the highly recognizable Kubrick, that would be marvelous. And if they could do all of this from within the admin screen, it would be accessible to absolutely everyone.

I’ve been working on a total solution to what some people might call “the tired default theme problem.” WordPress 1.6, which is still in development, will support a theme-specific plugin file named functions.php. Each theme can have one, and it will be loaded whenever that theme is loaded. It may contain functions used within the theme’s code and it can provide an options page in the Presentation section of the site admin pages.

My Kubrick lets me select from several albums of custom header images I have created from photos and color gradients. It also lets me change the header text color from the admin screen. The only difference between my Kubrick and the standard version is the addition of a functions.php.

I’ll be submitting my functions.php and several new images for inclusion in WP 1.6. With the options page and ready-made images, new users will be able to customize their Kubrick in seconds and get down to the business of writing!

Now, I’ve done nothing but tease you all through this post. I think it’s time to give you something you can play with. I created this Adobe Photoshop template for making my own Kubrick header images. It has four horizontal guides to show the position of the site name and the tagline, and one vertical guide at the center.

Using this process and a lot of photos from my travels around the United States, I was able to create more than fifty header images in just a few hours:

  1. Open the template
  2. Open a photo
  3. Press Ctrl+A to select all of the photo
  4. Press Ctrl+C to copy it to the clipboard
  5. Press Ctrl+Tab to go to the template
  6. Press Ctrl+V to paste the photo into the template. It should go into a new layer, between the Background and Wrapper. Wrapper has a feathered transparent area where your picture will show through.
  7. Press Ctrl+T to show the Transform bar so you can move and resize the image until it is nicely framed by the Wrapper and press Enter when it looks good.
  8. Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S (Save for Web) to save the new header image as a jpg.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 to make another header image with the same photo.
  10. Press Delete to delete the middle layer, leaving the template ready for another go.
  11. Press Ctrl-Tab to switch back to the photo
  12. Press Ctrl-F4 to close the photo, then go back to to step 2 to make another!

I made about twenty-five more header images using the Gradient Tool instead of pasting photos. Maybe someone would like to start up a Kubrick Header Repository where artists can share and users can download gazillions of original Kubrick header images… or else I might. 😉

Danger: Publishing

Let’s see if I can post from my handheld, or hiptop, or Sidekick II, or whatever Danger is calling them these days. On my WordPress 1.5 blog I can save a draft but it won’t go into Publish status until I use a regular browser or update the database entry.

I am standing outside right now, enjoying the sunny Kentucky day and looking forward to a 5-day trip to Vermont to see family and, I hope, friends. I am really looking forward to martinis with my grandfather.

WPMU Day 2

It’s true: when I don’t have anything to tweak, I have no choice but to publish.

I asked someone last week at a coffee shop, “do you publish?” What I intended by that was to find out if he blogged. The word “blog” is so ugly and faddish, I can’t bring myself to use it in public. In fact, I don’t ever want to use it as a verb for the rest of my life. I could be alone in this feeling but I doubt that I am.

I started bl publishing on Blogger about fourteen months ago. My condition in life was pretty poor and the people I knew were not receptive to discussion about it, so I found other channels. When the inspiration to write would ebb, I would delve into the Blogger templating system and try to do tricks with my blog. When I ran out of template tags to play with, I looked around for a more complex blogging tool.

Enter WordPress, stage “hell yeah!” Here was a tool that led me to learn PHP, MySQL, some Apache tricks and a fair amount of Linux. Today, I operate four publicly accessible WordPress sites (personal, testing, BOTD and this) and a few local copies for development on my laptop. Scripts I have written or hacked (especially this) are downloaded several times daily and if I ever saw how many times they ran each day on different servers, I would probably have to go outside and lie down in the grass.

Today I am working on several projects, some new and some old. The older scripts and plugins need maintenance, optimization and new features. The new ones get more ambitious each time. Right now I’m trying to wrap all of PHP into a secure, form-based package so that non-programmers can customize their sites without risk of corrupting data or exposing critical system functions to untrusted users.

I haven’t even mentioned the best part of this whole story: I get so much pleasure out of what I am doing, I can hardly tear myself away to sleep after a 16-hour day of it. The downside is that because I fend for myself at home, I must find time for things like folding laundry and cooking meals. One day I’ll find someone to watch over me.

Being a Multi-User user

I am not the first person to write on this topic but it bears attention. Moving from WordPress 1.5 Strayhorn to WPMU is like moving from a stunt plane to a locomotive. Where before I could tweak and break any part of my blog, now I am barred from editing any PHP: the theme, the plugins, all are out of my reach. Some folks might not like that but for me, it’s a blessing. My Strayhorn admin pages would dance around my screen like little devils taunting and tempting me to tweak one thing or another. Now it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” Now it’s all about blogging and it’s full steam ahead!