random thoughts to oil the mind

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Return to Monolingualism

Over the years I’ve run through a number of plugins on this blog, many just for fun, adding non-essential little features for giggles or purely for show. Often the plugins run their course within a few years, going through a period of rising popularity with improvements, additions and occasional feature bloat, before ultimately overwhelming the poor one-man development band who subsequently goes silent and drops all support for their once pet project. Sometimes the functionality is superseded by happenings elsewhere – another plugin, an external service offering their own widgets, added functionality in the core – but othertimes the plugin just slumbers by the wayside and it falls to the community to pick up the pieces and carry on the torch.

So it is with the demise of the latest multilingual plugin. I’m honestly unsure how many different plugins I’ve used over the years, but certainly watched the demise of Polyglot, Language Switcher, qTranslate and most recently qTranslate-X. A new champion has started up a project to continue the crusade, but I honestly don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to mount up and join. For a blog with a readership slightly smaller than its authorship, it hardly warrants the effort.

The current plugin, qTranslate-X, seems doomed to break with the integration of the Gutenberg editor at the latest, but as ever with any unsupported software, it will fall on its heels sooner or later, so I’m determined to deactivate it and return to a monolingual setup. That will mean cleaning a lot of SQL tables and perhaps duplicating some contents for a few posts, but long-term it’s an easier prospect than hunting for another horse to back and watching it flogged to death like all the others.

[Photo by Lucas Gallone on Unsplash]

The WordPress 3.0 Milestone

Although it’s only slated for release sometime in May, the first beta of the new WordPress 3.0 is already doing the rounds. Blog Oh Blog has a nice summary of the changes and additions in the new version: most of the updates are fairly innocuous, perhaps the largest mention should go to the integration of WordPress-mu, for setting up multi-user blogs and networks.

However, the announcement that really put the cat amongst the pigeons has been that the core development team may now be promoting what were formally called canonical plugins, now known as core plugins following the unpublished results of a poll in December. It appears that whilst attempting to address a genuine issue, the very idea of having plugins that stand in the limelight with an official stamp of approval has incensed many community plugin developers.

Some really excellent debate has been held which has, amongst other things, revealed that the initial go ahead for core plugins will be very limited; just three plugins, including an old, out-of-date plugin, a chunk hived off from the core, and a newly developed plugin. Nevertheless, the potential for these core plugins to have wide-reaching effects on the plugin development pool, create stagnation in the community and a greater top-down hierarchy is something that in the eyes of many developers and enthusiasts, has not been addressed.

Another WordPress Blank Page

There are plenty of examples out there of WordPress installs suddenly displaying blank pages—on admin pages as well as frontend posts—after changing themes, adding/removing plugins or updating the WordPress backend. Whilst there is plenty of good information out there covering most of the usual suspects, I just came across another which was fairly difficult to track down given the lack of information, though pretty easy to solve once I’d found it. If like me you’ve at any point tried to streamline your WordPress install by cutting down on a few unnecessary services, and reducing the number of calls to the database, you may have added some lines to your wp-config.php file like so:

define('TEMPLATEPATH', '/path/to/theme/directory');
define('STYLESHEETPATH', '/path/to/theme/style.css');

Fairly innocuous, until you actually change your WordPress theme, in which case those long forgotten about resource savers will leave you with little more than a blank page to diagnose your problem. If this is the case though, just updating the lines or commenting them out will leave you with a workable system once again.

Playing with the WordPress Database

After initially solving my database character encoding problems by ignoring the specific strings in the wp-config.php file, I was finally forced to alter the characters in the database during a recent reshuffle. Whilst there are two automated solutions available via plugin, namely g30rg3x‘s UTF-8 Database Converter and the Modified UTF8 Sanitize Plugin, sadly neither worked in my particular instance, and indeed the former is no longer supported for current versions of WordPress, though reports on the WordPress support forum suggest there should be no issues.

Fortunately, an excellent guide was available on Alex King’s blog. For more information and follow-up comments, you should definitely read the full post, but here’s a summary of the method that worked for me.

WordPress 2.8 Roadmap

With the latest 2.7 release barely out of the door, the WordPress team are already looking to set out the roadmap for 2.8. The recent update had an impressive mix of tweaks, fixes, features and a nice interface overhaul, and their little survey has a list of tasks to prioritise for the next release. Unfortunately, however, the one thing I should really like to see doesn’t make an appearance, that being some simpler ways to create a multilingual blog built into the core. At the moment there are a number of plugins out there that offer to do just that, and whilst they may do exactly as they say on the tin, the potential for a plugin to become outdated and fall behind the current WordPress release could create a lot of work sometime in the future, not to mention the fact that each plugin goes about creating a multilingual environment in its own unique way. Whilst I’m not alone in calling for at least some standardised framework, I can’t see any progress being made in the near future.

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