The Facts of Life (politics in a coding blog??)

First things first, I am not a politician, and frankly, I am uninterested in changing anyone’s opinions on how to run this country.  In fact, I’d prefer to be staying out of this field entirely.  However, large numbers of otherwise intelligent people have been making statements recently that have no basis in logic, and I needed to weigh in on this intellectual dishonesty.  We need to talk about the two-party system.

Let me set the record straight for some of the voters out there, especially those considering who the “lesser of two evils” is. I am not going to talk about the qualities of various candidates, because that is shouting into a hurricane. Instead, I’m gonna give you some cold, hard, irrefutable facts about voting.

Do you live in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, or Florida? If not, your vote will not have any effect on the presidency. Your state is not contested, and you are not an elector. You are utterly and completely meaningless to the overall election.

I say this because many people are going to tell you that this is the one year when you need to hold your nose and stick to your party (just like it was 4 years ago, and 4 years before that…) so as to not be a “spoiler”. However, the hard truth is that your vote is not going to effect the election. This is a fact, not political rhetoric.

As such, the only thing you can have any effect on is the general election numbers. So, if you want change, don’t vote “against” anyone. Vote for someone you actually support, no matter what their political party is. Show an increase in support for their viewpoint, and show the politicians in power that their are other viewpoints than theirs.

The second fact is that there are NOT only 2 candidates for the presidency. There are hundreds of registered candidates for the 2016 presidential election, as of this moment. Here’s a list of a few of them ( You may be thinking “sure, but there are only two that matter…”

That brings us to fact 3: Bernie Sanders is NOT a Democrat. Despite running in the Democratic Primary, Bernie has been an Independent socialist since 1979. Consider that for a moment: by calling himself a Democrat for a couple of months, without changing any of his policy points, an independent socialist from Vermont came within a single percent of gaining the Democratic Nomination. This is cold, hard proof that third party candidates can have the same level of support as the two de-facto parties. The only thing holding them back is people, just like you, who say “I can’t vote with my beliefs this year” or “It doesn’t matter that s/he’s right, s/he can’t win”.

This leads to a single conclusion: for most of you, voting democrat or republican will be meaningless to the election.  It serves only as a crutch that lets you say “I was on the team that voted against X”, without causing any change.

To finish with a single personal stance, I believe that this sort of tribalism should have no place in modern politics, and I believe that most young people are ready to finally end it.  Personally, I’ll be voting with whichever third party candidate is polling highest on the day of the election, but that’s just my opinion.


Introducing WP SmartCrop – Intelligent, Responsive Image Cropping for WordPress

I’ve been taking another look at old code recently, and I dusted off a couple on-the-fly smart cropping demos that I wrote, years ago. At the time, they relied on questionable hacks and ran extremely slowly, making them impractical for real-world use.

However, with the rise and widespread adoption of CSS3, and the recent incorporation of Responsive image srcsets into WordPress 4.4, The timing seemed right to finally complete the toolkit, and offer WordPress users truly responsive images.

WP SmartCrop is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to specify a ‘focal point’ for the images you upload.  Then, when the image is used in a post, or as a featured image, it will automatically crop the image to any dimensions set by the site’s stylesheet.

With this new feature, you can (for the most part) decouple your media from your design, without sacrificing the impact it has for viewers.


Use category interface with non-hierarchical custom taxonomies

When creating a custom taxonomy in WordPress, you get a different default interface for hierarchical taxonomies than for non-hierarchical taxonomies.  Hierarchical taxonomies get a checkbox-based interface, like Categories, while non-hierarchical taxonomies get an auto-complete interface, like Tags.

taxonomy callbacks

You can select the metabox interface used with the ‘meta_box_cb’ attribute of the ‘register_taxonomy’ call.  By default, hierarchical taxonomies use the callback ‘post_categories_meta_box’ and non-hierarchical taxonomies use the callback ‘post_tags_metabox’.  Unfortunately, the two options aren’t compatible with each other.

For some reason, when a post is saved or updated, non-hierarchical taxonomies expect to receive an array or comma-separated list of term names (as strings), while hierarchical taxonomies expect to receive an array of term ids (as ints).  Luckily, it is fairly trivial to translate between the two formats.

Here’s the code to make a non-hierarchical taxonomy that uses the category-style metabox:


Fix Broken images after WordPress 4.4 update

WordPress 4.4 brought an awesome new feature to the CMS system: Responsive images. As of 4.4, WordPress automatically adds the HTML5 srcset attribute to the image tags that it auto-generates. These srcset attributes define other sizes of the image, to be downloaded on devices with other screen resolutions and orientations.  Using responsive image tags allows sites to load faster on mobile, use less data, and be optimized better for the viewer’s screen.

Unfortunately, because of the way WordPress implemented the feature, these new srcset attributes can cause trouble on some sites.

If you are using Cloudflare, with Universal SSL, or if you are serving your site over both HTTP and HTTPS, you may see broken image tags in Chrome, or receive security warnings in other browsers.

The problem is pretty simple.  Wordpress expects your site to be served at the address stored in the ‘siteurl’ option, including the protocol stored there.  The new srcset image urls are built from that assumption, without running through the usual filters.  So, HTTPS sites can end up serving HTTP images in the srcset tag, causing all kinds of trouble.

Lockily, I’ve come up with a simple fix for the problem.  Just add the following code to your functions.php file, and your srcset images will all be served as protocol-independent urls:

This same approach can also be used to fix CDN urls in srcset tags, by using a different replace function.


Add Auto-sensing File Type Icons to lists of downloads, with FontAwesome and CSS

[column lg=”8″ md=”8″ sm=”12″ xs=”12″ ]
Recently, I needed to create a downloads area that was going to be managed by a client.  It’s a reasonably straight forward task, except for one snag: They wanted icons next to the links, denoting what filetype the download was.  I could have created a few custom classes to add to the links, but the client is not at all technical, and I wanted to involve as little manual editing as possible.

Instead, I wrote a quick set of CSS selectors that filter the links by their href attributes, and provide the proper icon.  I still provided override classes, in case it doesn’t always detect properly, but so far, it seems to be working perfectly.

I’ve included the CSS below.  If you want to use it or modify it, feel free to do so.  To use, just include FontAwesome in your project, include the css below, and add a “link-icon” to any link you want to display an icon for.
[column lg=”4″ md=”4″ sm=”12″ xs=”12″ ]
(note: the links below are fake, but you can inspect them to see how the icon is selected)

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