About this site

How does this site work? Magic, really…

This site runs on WordPress, a blog publishing package popular with builders. It has a number of nice features, including image management & gallery stuff (starting in version 2.5). The interface for publishing & managing is relatively fast and clean. It’s also open-source, and there are hundreds of plugins and themes available to add or enhance functionality.

I use the Blue Wonder theme, but have customized it for the things I want it to do. Several plugins are employed:

  • Akismet – most people run this, which automatically catches and filters spam comments. It is included in the WP distribution.
  • My Category Order – allows drag & drop editing of category order. This is highly useful in a build log, because the categories default to being alphabetically organized. Here, I wanted the categories to show in the construction sequence, so this plug allows that. There are other plugins to do this as well, but this one has the best interface, and some of the others were written for 2.0.x version, and won’t work with the modified DB structure of 2.5.x+.
  • WordPress Database Backup – allows automatic backup of the database file, and will save it on the server, or email it to you as an attachment. You can set the frequency. One thing to know is that this backs up the database ONLY — images, themes, customizations, etc, need to be backed up elsewhere. I create a duplicate of the WP directory on the server whenever I make major changes, and keep full-size copies of all the images and other uploaded items on my local RAID server.
  • Get Custom Field Values – this is part of the trick to tracking your build hours in WordPress, which doesn’t have a built-in feature to do so, but does make it easy. Basically, you can attach any number of ‘custom fields’ (which you define) to each post/page. This plugin is the tool that allows you to retrieve those custom field values from the DB and use them in the pages. It’s not plug & play like some of the other plugins, as you need to edit the code of your theme to include the call that displays the values.
    [Note: as of January 2014, the link above is returning an error message...so I've created a zip file to download if you want this plugin...note that it may be an old version, but it does still work.  Or, see this post on VAF for an alternate method of displaying per-post custom values.]
  • Category Total – this is the display part of tracking hours. Using just the “Get Custom Field Values” plugin will let you display the hours with each entry, but adding this plugin lets you total the hours for each category and display it in the category list. This plugin was originally authored by Dave Parsons at dualrudder.com, an RV-7A builder, for the 2.0.x versions of WordPress. The DB structure changed with version 2.5, and this plugin broke, so the version employed here has been modified by me to work with the new DB. You can download my version, but I make no guarantees it will work for you.
  • Month Totals – this generates some basic statistics on the number of hours logged and monthly/doily averages, and can also show a graph-like table with one row per month, indicating the amount of work done.  I employ this to generate the statistics at the bottom of the Project Status page.  This was also authored by Dave Parsons, and updated for the 2.5.x versions by myself.  Download my version if you like.

There are plenty of build log sites out there, some based on blog software, some based on content management software, some their own thing, and many builders who use static HTML sites. All of these are valid ways of doing it, but using WordPress has been relatively painless once I ascended the learning curve. (And there’s really zero to learn unless you want to tweak and modify…) My inspirations for the function & design of this site were mainly:

  • Dave Parsons (RV-7A) at dualrudder.com – WordPress, and his “making this site” page put me on the right track for plugins. Also the author of runwayfinder.com, a great flight planning tool that lets you plot a route on Google maps, terrain, satellite images, or current sectionals.
  • Smitty (RV-9A) at smittysrv.com – not WordPress, in fact I think Smitty wrote his own system, but I like the look of his site.

If you’re like me, you’ll end up learning some PHP and SQL skills to get around and make fixes and tweaks to your install…think of open-source software as the experimental aviation of web design.

There is currently one response to “About this site”

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  1. 1 On February 9th, 2013, Bill Cherry said:

    Where can I get the Blue Wonder theme, have looked everywhere.

    Thanks,
    bc

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