New theme planned for the blog and possible use of CDN

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  • #33091

    This current WordPress blog theme is quite old and it is getting harder to keep it working with each new release of WordPress. We’ve been looking for a while at alternative modern “responsive” (auto resizes for mobile devices etc.) themes but recent issues may force us to have to change at short notice. Google is already down-ranking the site in some mobile search results but that’s just one issue.

    Now don’t worry – all the posts and your valued comments will stay, nothing is going. it’s just the page layout will change. We may run some brief tests of some new themes we are experimenting with on the live site to see how they perform under our normal traffic load. So don’t worry if the site looks “weird” for a bit. Basic functionality including the ability to comment should be maintained at all times.

    If anyone has any input or happens to be a good WordPress Theme/php coder then we are open to offers of help! Similarly if you have advice or questions, please comment here.

    A related issue is that we are likely to test the blog out with a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to increase our capacity. Again any queries or suggestions then please give us feedback here.

    Thanks for reading.


    Funny you should mention TOR. We were all set to test with Cloudflare when a fight broke out between them and TOR developers. Cloudflare served sites had suddenly started blocking TOR or giving never ending captchas. So the test was put on hold. May be resolved by now.

    Google search results due to non mobile friendly theme is one of the least of our problems with the theme to be honest and we hope to kill several birds with one (or two) stones. No real birds harmed during the course of the comment 🙂


    Another amusing fact is that ddos for hire websites are usually signed up with a major CDN partner such as Cloudflare themselves to prevent return attacks against them. How cosy…

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by Darth.
    Ba’al Zevul

    Whoever put this forum up – well done! And thanks!

    YKMN – I had the Captcha endless-loop syndrome myself last week. Turned out that someone had hacked the site, placed a nasty little Javascript (connecting to a well-known Ukrainian black hat’s IP) in an authentic-looking box, and was looking for my logon password until I realised what was going on. Fortunately it was a slow Internet connection, and I noticed the activity before he’d had too many tries, as well as the fact that I was unable to register to the site. I’d had to disable NoScript to access the genuine Captcha script, of course. Word to the wise.

    Phil the ex frog

    “ddos for hire websites are usually signed up with a major CDN partner”

    Ah, a good old protection racket.


    Even google make it too easy


    Re ‘new look’ – I’m finding it VERY hard on the eyes.

    I prefer good old-fashioned legibility to the latest fad in web design.


    Could you be a bit more specific? What bits are particularly hard to read? Happy to take any suggested changes to make it better.

    Phil the ex frog

    The new theme is a fine responsive layout. But I have to agree with Pan about it being demanding to read. The orange and light grey font colours do not contrast enough with th background colours. Small orange font (such as breadcrumbs) make my old eyes squint.

    Phil the ex frog

    Orange links in text are hard to read. Which is a real pain that needs remedying. Just change the orange to something bolder.


    Thank you for asking, Darth.

    I believe the main problem is the lightweight sans-serif font (the current fad) being overwhelmed by too much transmissive white space.

    The retina is being bombarded by white pixels and is receiving very little in the way of visual ‘cues’ from the poorly designed font.

    I recommend checking out Matthew Butterick on the subject. His own fonts are masterpieces as regards on-sreen legibility.

    Alcyone (Simple: Truth, Goodness, Beauty)

    Agree with Phil.

    Miss the aesthetics and elegance of the old site, although Craig doesn’t seem to have aged much! We are all vain!!!

    Ba’al Zevul

    @ Darth –

    1. Re Blair/An Apology: Yes please, and thanks for asking. “Blairmiles”?
    2. I can see where Pan’s coming from. Or rather, I can’t when my aging eyes are tired. A larger, bolder font would certainly be an improvement. Otherwise it is very clear and clean. I like it.


    I also agree with Pan, its hard on the eyes the contrast is harder to assert with all the white.

    But my hat off for the changes, well done and thanks, an edit button planned at any time? some people do like to provide grammatically pristine copies (not moire).

    Good In Parts

    Re the Al Hilli thread – the current page number seems to have changed from 61 to 203 which breaks bookmarks – selecting a saved link takes you to a different page, which does not contain the comment, rather than using the comment number to recalculate the ‘new’ page number.

    I appreciate that the number of comments per page may need to change, so is there a way to go directly to a post via the comment number?

    Pan has made the font readability points better than I could. Generally sans-serif is much better for me than ‘noisy fonts’ – but in this case the size, weight and whitespace area seem to combine to make me snowblind!

    Not a dig at you but these days web pages seem to be carrying a lot of excess baggage compared to actual content – just look at the source of this one. By inspection I would estimate a 10 to 1 ratio with all the js files included. I do appreciate that resizing for mobile devices adds somewhat to the size.

    How about keeping the home page as-is but strip out all the under-used links from the comment pages? That should halve the page size.

    I have very little understanding of WP but is there a cut down, purely HTML, theme? Again I am probably talking out of my hat but I thought I read that HTML5 was supposed to be able to do most of the fancy fades without having to resort to javascript.

    Thank you for your efforts to keep this site working and accessible.


    We’ve upped the font size a bit on the blog pages. Font’s themselves are easily changeable and may be tinkered with based on feedback. Colour scheme is based on Craig’s guidance.

    Sadly we can’t do much about comment links. If we’d kept 100 top level comments per page, by the time threaded replies were added the page would be ridiculously long. Displaying 100 comments/threads is also fairly cpu intensive.

    Why WordPress doesn’t have a comment permalink that doesn’t include the page number is beyond me.


    Another bit of feedback we’re looking for. Has anyone tried the site on a phone or a tablet and how does it look there? Can you try rotating the phone/tablet to get both portrait and landscape views?

    We’ll experiment with fonts on the test site and try out some other tweaks. Also any comment on the “sticky” page header – is that fine or should we unstick it so it scrolls off the top of the page like any other content?

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by Darth.
    Good In Parts


    “Why WordPress doesn’t have a comment permalink that doesn’t include the page number is beyond me.”

    Strangely the posts on this page do have permalinks that do not include the page number. Your post above at 16:24 has two elements in the header, firstly “REPLY” and just to the right of this #33238 which has the following code:-


    However back on the Al Hilli page the post headers only have the “REPLY” button (with a different icon). My first guess would be that this was an artefact of the upgrade but since, in my very limited understanding, the pages are dynamicly generated and the post number is known it should be possible to generate the permalink on the fly even if it were not stored.

    Please, please, unstick the page header. I have to increase the font size to read, then narrow the window to reduce the amount of whitespace. This then folds the page header and it ends up occupying a good quarter of the visible page area.



    Page header now unstuck.

    Phil the ex frog

    Here’s a quick script to make this more readable. It uses CSS to reduce layout duplication and increase text/link contrast. For firefox/iceweasel users only.

    -install Greasemonkey
    -click “New User Script”, paste in the below and click “Save”:

    // ==UserScript==
    // @name CM CSS
    // @namespace http://cm.nil
    // @description Quick CSS fixes for CM blog
    // @include*
    // @version 1
    // @grant GM_addStyle
    // ==/UserScript==

    GM_addStyle(“body { color: black; !important }”);
    GM_addStyle(“a { color: #992600; !important }”);
    GM_addStyle(“a:hover { color: #cc3300; !important }”);
    GM_addStyle(“ { display: none; !important }”);
    GM_addStyle(“.featurette-divider {display: none; !important}”);
    GM_addStyle(“.navbar-wrapper .navbar {display: none; !important}”);
    GM_addStyle(“aside#text-10 {display: none; !important}”);
    GM_addStyle(“.entry-meta {font-size: 14px; !important}”);


    Or I could just paste it appropriately modified into the site style sheet 🙂

    Seriously we’ve had some suggested css sent in already and are open to any suggestions anyone else fancies posting.

    It’s a pity WordPress doesn’t support multiple themes/skins to be active at one time. Users could then pick the one they want. WordPress Customizer seems to be moving in that direction and has even more added stuff in upcoming WP 4.5 to allow Admins to play with alternative themes without making them live. I do wonder if an eventual goal of multiple available themes is at the back of their minds.


    Was going to second Good In Parts’ request to “Please, please, unstick the page header”

    Then saw Darth’s comment “Page header now unstuck.” Thank heavens for that!

    Sticky page headers are a total nightmare on widescreen monitors, especially small laptop ones – so much screen ‘real estate’ is lost. The ‘bouncing up and down’ thing that happens while scrolling is also extremely irritating; it might be more accurate to refer to them as ‘semi-sticky’ headers, because they DON’T stay completely still!

    I appreciate it must be a bit of a nightmare these days to design web pages that look good and function well on all the various devices people use now. I would venture to say that that is actually an impossible task – there are too many compromises involved, whichever way you approach it.

    My personal viewpoint is that, wherever serious exchange of information and ideas is involved, the emphasis should be on readability – in other words, please do not make things hard for people who are READERS.

    I suspect most web designers are somewhat younger than many of the end-users for whom they are designing. Young eyes can read anything, even something as atrocious and challenging as 6pt Arial. Older eyes can’t (at least, without a good magnifying glass)!

    One other fact I would like to point out is that the old typographic rule of using sans-serif fonts for computer screens (as distinct from using serif fonts for printed text) no longer really applies.

    Apart from the (in my view, very unfortunate) fashion/trend for ‘minimalist’ sans-serif fonts even, very inappropriately, for printed documents, the fact is that sans-serif fonts made text more readable on old low-definition CRT and LCD monitors – there simply wasn’t good enough screen definition to reproduce the actual serifs.

    (Serifs add important visual cues for the eye/brain system to much more easily (and hence, quickly and accurately) read text, but on low-definition monitors they can actually have a ‘muddling’ or ‘blurring’ effect).

    Modern monitors (even mobile devices, but especially ‘proper’ PC/laptop monitors) now have very good definition – plenty good enough to accurately reproduce those wonderfully helpful serifs.

    One final point concerning modern monitors (on all devices) … most of us now (soon to be all of us) are NOT looking at LCD screens, but LED-backlit screens. These are MUCH brighter than before, which is why large expanses of white space are so tiring on the eyes – it’s like having a bright light shone directly in your eyes. Actually it’s not LIKE having a bright light shone directly in your eyes, it is LITERALLY having a bright light shone directly in your eyes!

    Add to that the fact that factory-default monitor settings are ALWAYS wrong, and nobody except photographers and others concerned (professionally or otherwise) with accurate colour reproduction ‘colour-profile’ their monitors (using a hardware colorimeter such as the X-Rite i1Display Pro together with accompanying profiling software) and you have yet another battle that the poor old human eye has to fight – the ineveitable overly-bright, bluish-tinged colour cast produced by unprofiled monitors (blue being the most physically aggressive ‘tinge’ out there, as opposed to a ‘warmer’ tinge like yellow).

    Hope some of the above helps, or is of interest.


    Go here to learn more about fonts:


    Darth, I’m sorry to appear to be constantly emphasising the negative, but…

    Orange on white JUST DOESN’T WORK! (Not enough contrast for one thing, and the traditional blue hyperlinks work great and everyone is used to them.

    There’s an old saying – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!


    I should NOT be taking it for granted that everyone knows “sans” is the French word for “without”.

    Plus –


    Apologies for the lengthy pause between my last comment and this one – my eyes needed a break…

    I have a number of computers, only one of which is a Mac. I do NOT wish to get into a Windows versus Mac debate (!) – suffice to say I prefer Windows for many reasons (personal, subjective ones, naturally).

    BUT, Mac OS X is unquestionably superior when it comes to text rendition.

    There is a great free software utility called “MacType” (installed on all my Windows machines) which does a pretty good job of correcting Windows’ deficiencies as regards text display.

    Here is a direct download link to the latest version:

    (the above is a shortened url pointing to Google Code MacType download page link)

    Save it to your PC, install it, run it. It’s pretty self-explanatory after that.


    P.S. MacType is for ‘better-looking’ text, NOT more accurate font reproduction.

    If you are into typography, where accuracy is paramount, you already know not to use it, right?

    (The same as you’ve made sure you’ve disabled Microsoft’s “Clear-Type” anti-aliasing feature, naturally).


    “Apologies for the lengthy pause between my last comment and this one – my eyes needed a break…”

    Oh God, Pan is attempting humour once again. When will he learn, one wonders…

    Phil the ex frog

    Pan, thanks for the font tip. The case that serif is more readable is convincing if not blinking obvious when you think about it.

    I’ve added GM_addStyle(“body { font-family: serif; !important }”); to my script above.

    Darth, However you do it you should improve the usability of the design. Such demanding contrast and type will discourage readers. This has been tested over and over. That you retain a terrible colour scheme on the whim of Craig makes me laugh. Is he the font of all wisdom?


    Please change the orange colour! It’s distracting and a pain to the eyes !!
    Not to mention that it reminds McDonald’s stationery!!


    “Is he the font of all wisdom?” – to which I’m sure you meant to add “Forgive the pun”.

    Why Craig would want to see his rather pleasing home page portrait given an orange tint is a mystery to me.

    I’m quite sure our host giveth nay a jot for vanity, but it is far from flattering.


    ‘Strewth, what’s happened? I go travelling for a week or so, and the site’s gone to the dogs!

    Or at least, gone – as in the case of the BBC – “Hideously White”.

    To call this “responsive” is rather a euphemism. It’s not “responsive” at all, it simply is geared to tiny little screens. Anyone using a decent sized screen (as God intended) is faced with a massive glare of overly white blank space, and tiny little lettering making up the content, occupying a puzzlingly small space.

    Would anyone like to read a newspaper or a book with such glaringly (literally) inefficient use of space, yet requiring so much effort to read tiny font? Surely a major point in communications is clarity, and making the other struggle to understand you is to be avoided. This requires so much more effort than the old layout, that time spent here is going to be less appealing. Perhaps that was the plan all along.


    FWIW, I agree entirely with Pan’s apparently well informed views on all this, particularly in regard to orange-on-white. I’m always sorry to see retrograde “upgrades”, but imposing irritatingly small text is a curious “upgrade” indeed.


    “This requires so much more effort than the old layout, that time spent here is going to be less appealing.”

    That was my initial reaction on first sight as well, but I’m getting used to it, and I feel confident things will improve.

    Despite the genuinely uncomfortable eye strain I have experienced this weekend on this blog, I think credit is due to Darth and his helpers for the (what must certainly be very considerable) time and energy they have spent on implementing the exciting new features (I have not yet really explored them, but I love the ‘Reply’ button feature.) I suspect they are doing it ‘more for love than money’.

    “Perhaps that was the plan all along.”

    No, Glenn, I think you’re way off base there. But thank you for your comment.


    Darth – I have noticed that some of the comments are missing the ‘Reply’ button.

    Here are two examples:

    Nick Cohen’s Hate Speech

    Dictator Bling

    A glitch, maybe?


    It’s because there can only be 5 levels of nested comments including the top. You can always reply to a less indented reply in the thread and make it clear who you are replying to if context requires. We could up this limit but it is not advised.

    Thanks for your earlier kind words. All the feedback here is being collected and, after a break, we’ll play around with things on the test system this week. If we can come up with some modifications that Craig likes and help readers having a problem with this site then they will be implemented.

    For those especially struggling with the font, be aware that things like noscript etc will block loading of the Google Fonts and a fallback will be used. The actual main font we use is the second most popular web font in the world but I know that doesn’t help for people who hate it 🙂


    I like the new theme. Can’t say I find it too white/bright. Better without the sticky menu which takes up space and the navigation options it offers aren’t useful on a blog. I agree about the orange links, blue would be better.

    The main improvement is threaded comments. I reckon it’s going to put Hababkuk out of business. Next time one of those bickering sessions breaks out, it won’t be spread over the entire thread, it’ll be confined to the comments of those who are daft enough to encourage him. It’ll be harder for him to disrupt and easier for us to scroll past.

    Just one suggestion. If we want to reply to Craig’s post (rather than replying to another comment), we have to make our way to the top of the page. Using the *Home* key still requires us to scroll back down to the comment field. A link below the lowermost comment on each page to an anchor below Craig’s post would be useful.


    Agree, but I like the warmer color, orange.

    I like the softness of the font also. Looking at a commuter screen is not nice anyway imo, often a harsh cold light, hard edges. Mine is a small dim screen. But i’m always after less harsh and welcome this more feminine feel as long as it lasts.

    Ps, sorry for any hassle I caused people, I know you must have big enough issues running this site. It’s frustration, nature of the material etc.

    And yes, any hounding of people by others will no doubt look clearer in the tread.


    For the small percentage of visitors on extreme high resolution monitors, who find the whitespace at screen edges distracting, one suggestion might be to zoom the page slightly. Ctrl/+ works on most Windows browsers as a shortcut.


    From what I understand, the mods get no reward at all from the work they do here – only abuse from people who think they’re treated unfairly here (which they are not), and those who feel themselves above any criticism or moderator action.

    I’ve no doubt it’s been a lot of work to make all these changes, and feel a bit churlish in saying I don’t like it. But I have to be honest, it seems worse than the old system by some considerable way. For instance, I used to be able to sit back and read this stuff from maybe a yard away from the monitor (that’s about a meter for youngsters). Now, I have to sit forward to a foot or so from the monitor and it’s still not easy. The colour scheme was fairly pleasant, now it’s hard on the eyes.

    <i>No, Glenn, I think you’re way off base there. But thank you for your comment. </i>

    A rather tongue-in-cheek reference to some oldies (over 35) where it might be preferred that they clear out, making way for the exciting, dynamic new Millennials who (as any ful no) have all the answers, and are the only people whose opinions matter. Too subtle, sorry.


    It night be an anomaly but percentage of mobile phone readership of the blog has doubled in the last 2 days. I take it you don’t find zooming in slightly in the browser any help? Craig actually got me to change font sizes while he refreshed the page. This is the font size he picked. Maybe we could enlarge a bit more?

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