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Site Update – A New Look

I haven’t been able to login to my pro Flickr account for a couple days now. Perhaps after a few days, Flickr support staff will get back to me. They’re just notoriously slow in responding to support requests. Since I can’t post new photos, I spent the weekend updating this site.

I had been wanting to refresh the look of this site for a while, but couldn’t find the time. The last time I did any work on this site was last November. I guess it’s good to change the site’s look and feel once a year.

I wanted to go away from the 2-3 columns templates and to streamline the site a little. I searched for WordPress photoblog templates, but did not like what I found. Some of the photoblog templates I found just don’t work with my current WordPress install, and some are just too boring. I don’t like the plain minimal look, but I also don’t like blog that has too much “stuff” taking all the screen real estate. So I did the following:

  • Installed and modified HemingwayEx theme
  • Added Flickr to the navigation bar (Flickr badge & slide show)
  • Removed the bottom “side” panel
  • Made comment section collapsible/extendable
  • Added dark/light theme chooser (same template, just different CSS)
  • Made a bunch of smaller tweaks (icons, colors, prev/next, etc…)

I also removed the Math comment plugin. Spam bots figured out how to get pass that little challenge, and my Akismet spam count doubled in the last few weeks. I installed a word verification plugin, but decided not to use it. To combat comment spams, Bad Behavior now is my first line of defense, anything gets pass that, Akismet should take care off. Last, all comments are held for moderation. It’s highly unlikely that any spam comment will show up on my posts.

There are still many items left to be done. Here are a few that I’d like to get done sometimes next week:

  1. Add next/prev post to the main page. WP template tag “previous_posts_link/next_posts_link” don’t work on the main page.
  2. Archives/Categories page: not very user friendly. I’d like to have hierarchical listings.
  3. Archive listing: only one entry per page? Quite useless.
  4. Put back the Google AJAX search that I had on the old templates.

I thought about upgrading my WP install, but decided not too. The site is still not 100% functional, but I like what I have now to make the switch. When I get some more time, I’ll continue to update the site. For now, I’ll leave it the way it is. I’d appreciate any feedback on the new changes. Thanks!

[Update Nov 19, 2007]
Worked on the site for a few more hours. Got the following done:

  • Organized monthly archive and categories listing in tree structure.
  • Added Google AJAX search as a collapsible/extendable panel
  • Removed the default WP’s search.
  • Archive listing now shows 15 posts per page.

I’m still not able to get prev/next post to work correctly on the main page – this is quite lame of WP, but I’ll leave it alone for

[Update Nov 28, 2007]
Decided to disable the tree view for the monthly archive and categories listings. The WP-dTree plugin that I’m using has performance problem – the site is noticeably slower with the plugin activated. Will have to upgrade my WP install and use the newer version of the plugin.

[Update Dec 3, 2008]
Migrated my WordPress install from version 2.0.5 to 2.3.1. HemingwayEx theme broke. Google XML Sitemaps plugin broke – newer version works. Replaced the old WP-dTree 2.0 plugin with version 3.3.2. Page load time is still a little slower with the WP-dTree plugin activated. Upgraded Akismet plugin to 2.02. Replaced Google AJAX search with a simpler search. Don’t think I’ll change the site much in the near future except for minor CSS tweaks. Hope nothing else breaks.

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2007 Eastern Sierra Foliage Trip Summary

Returned from my first Eastern Sierra leaf peeping trip. Drove over 1000 miles & shot some 600 photos. The recent storm really shortened up this foliage season for the high Eastern Sierra. Although I came up a few days too late, this area is really that beautiful in the Fall.

Planning to visit the Eastern Sierra this week? I’d skip the higher elevations in the Bishop Creek Canyon. The only exception is Aspendell. Lake Sabrina and South Lake: I wouldn’t bother – they’re done for this season. Convict Lake should be really nice by now. The aspens near Silver Lake were spectacular. McGee Creek was nice. Although most of the colors were gone around North Lake, I spent a memorable sunrise there.

Will get around to posting some photos soon.

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Looking for California’s Fall Foliage

Needing a break, I’m leaving the beach for the mountains, hoping to catch some of the Eastern Sierra’s Fall colors during the next few days.

Last I heard, the Eastern Sierra’s aspens at the higher elevations are about a little past their peak. The colors at the lower elevations have not reached their peak yet. There’s also a storm coming in tomorrow. The wind threatens to ruin my trip; however, I will take my chance and drive up anyway.

I plan on hitting all of these areas: Aspendell, Intake II, North Lake, Lake Sabrina, South Lake, Rock Creek Lake, McGee Creek, Convict Lake and Silver Lake. If I get one printable photo from this three days trip, I’d be happy. Will write a short summary after I get back.

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Rolled My Own “onblack” Flickr Photo Page.

Decided to make my own Flickr “on black” page. I’m fed up with waiting for Flickr to allow users to display their photos on plain black background, so I took Flickr’s PHP APIs and wrote a simple script to display my own Flickr photos on plain back background. Out of laziness, I’ve been using until now. I saw neon green on their top bar, and that prompted me to roll my own version. I added some minor touches such as total comments/favs on mouse over, and next|prev links to navigate through my photostream.

For comparison, here are the two onblack versions.

bighugelabs | photofool

For now, the script only works on my own photos. I might remove that check in the future.

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Nice Firefox Greasemonkey Flickr Hacks

There’re many useful Greasemonkey‘s Flickr hacks out there. Here’re a few that I like:

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Returning to Kauai for a few days

Haven’t been around much for the past couple of weeks. Taking next week off and heading to Kauai for a break. Flying out this Monday and returning on Saturday. Packed all my photo gears. The weather forecast called for rains in Kauai for most of the week. Maybe I’ll get lucky with dramatic clouds and light. Hope to bring back one or two good photos.

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Lens Tags

Went through most of my Flickr photos and re-tagged them with lens info per Canon DSLR user groups (scroll to the bottom of the group’s front page). I’d rather tag my photos with “1740l” than “Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM“, but the idea is to adopt some kind of standard lens tags so public searches on various lenses would be more useful. Right now, a public search on 1740l tag returns >5K photos vs the longer version returns <2K photos. Hopefully, majority of Canon lens shooters on Flickr will use the "official" lens tags more often. The Nikkor group has their "official Nikkor tags” as well.

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