New theme and underlying URL

I thought that now I have a Hindu name I should move my blog, which was originally registered as http://chrisqq.wordpress.com/. WordPress made this change very easy, and since most people will access the blog through the URL http://western-hindu.org/ they won’t notice any difference. You can see the underlying URL by clicking on an image.

At the same time I have changed the theme to Ocean Mist. I haven’t decided whether to keep this or to go back to the Mistylook theme, as used on the old site. Both look pretty good but I haven’t decided which I like best.

Edit:

I found the Mistylook theme attractive but a little crowded and difficult to read. WordPress have now released a new default theme, Twenty Ten, which I have now switched to. I like the “footer widget area”, which allows me to put some widgets that are probably useful to some people, but not important enough to put in the right menu. If you scroll to the bottom you will see various ratings and RSS feeds.

Edit 2

Since this WordPress have brought out a new theme, Coraline. I have now switched to using this.

Theme Change

I have changed the look and feel of my blog to use a new theme. This one handles background images better, and scales better for different sized browser windows. I think that the background image is pale enough so that it doesn’t make it hard to read. If anyone has trouble reading posts with the new theme please let me know. Here is an image of the site with the old theme:

The site as it looked with the previous theme

Embedding documents

I had a document to embed in an article on my blog. WordPress.com gives (at least) two ways of doing this. Embeding as a google document or from Scribd. I tried them both, and the results are here:

Google Document Embed

Scribd Embed

As you can see the embedded Scribd document looks better and has user-friendly controls. I will use Scribd for all embedded documents

Ganesh images for ratings

The original image

I decided to change the default “star” ratings on my blog to use images of Ganesh. I started with an image from the “open clip art library”, which is free to reuse.

The WordPress.com ratings help page describes how the ratings need a composite of either three or six images; six allowing different images for the “cursor over” when you select a rating. The largest size of image is 24*24 pixels, meaning that the composite is 48*72 pixels. Rather than work at this size I trimmed the original image to a square, which was 654 pixels per side. I then created a 1308*1962 pixel image, as shown below. I pasted and coloured six images.

Producing the "large" image in Gimp

I used the open source Gimp Image Editor, though any editor could be used. I decided to have different colours for the posts, comments, and pages – once the first image was made changing it with bucket-fill was easy. These images are available in the public domain here

    

To use these images I scaled each one in the Gimp to the required 48*72 images. The resulting images are here:

     

The above images are free for any one to use for any purpose, and can be configured directly in the WordPress dashboard as described in the WordPress help on adding custom ratings images . Note that there is currently a bug in the WordPress dashboard. Adding your first custom image works fine but if you change it then it will preview OK, but when you submit changes the dashboard and the blog still show the old image. However after a few hours the blog custom image will change.

A bolnagri keyboard layout for Windows

I have recently got a new laptop, my trusty old ThinkPad R40e has cracks in the case and doesn’t always load. I’m not sure how old it is, but it is an IBM thinkpad and the brand switched to Lenovo in 2005. I have run Linux on my old laptop for a while, but have not yet successfully installed it on my new one yet.  One of the best things about the Linux release was the Bolnagri keyboard layout. This puts most of the devanagari characters in on keys which have the same or a similar sound on the Latin QWERTY keyboard. For example, the “d” key gives द and the shift D key ध. Vowels are slightly more complicated, as you have to hold down the ALT-GTR key for the independent forms. For example typing “ki”  gives कि and kI gives की , whereas AltGtr+i gives इ , and AltGtr+I  ई. This makes it very easy to use for someone who is used to the QWERTY layout; to type “namaste” I type the keys “nmsxte”, giving नमस्ते. (the x key is the virama character, which suppresses vowel sound).

I have made a couple of tentative attempts to learn Hindi. Thinking that I would try some more, I started by producing a Bolnagri keyboard for Windows. Maybe this was just so that I could stay in my comfort zone. Anyway I am sharing it as free to use for any purpose, of course with no warranty. For many people this will be the quickest and easiest way to start typing devanagari.

The Advantages of Bolnagri

The oficial Hindi keyboard layout is InScript. This has a logical layout with vowel sounds towards the left of the keyboard.  The Bolnagri layout follows the phonetics of the QUERTY keyboard. This means that someone with a QWERTY keyboard can use devanagari immediately, only occasionally refering to the layout images to find the more unusual characters.

Bolnagri keyboard layout

Bolnagri keyboard layout - basic keys

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Free Windows Keyboard Mapping for IAST/ISO 15919

An updated version of this keyboard with some missing characters is now available. See this post for details of the improved layout and links to the new files.

Sometimes it is useful to write Sanskrit and other Indic languages in a form that is unambiguous but can be easily read by people who know the Latin alphabet. The standard ways of doing this are with IAST or ISO 15919. The two schemes are almost identical. An example is ताण्डव which can b written as Tāṇḍava. I have produced a windows keyboard that contains the necessary diacritics (accent marks). The normal keys are assigned the same as the standard UK keyboard, only the characters accessed with the AltGr and Shift-AltGr change.

IAST or ISO 15919 indic transliteration keyboard layout

IAST or ISO 15919 indic transliteration keyboard layout (AltGr)

These keyboard driver can be loaded the same way as the bolnagri layout described in the previous article. Continue reading

I have an updated Free Windows Keyboard Mapping for IAST/ISO 15919

Following a comment from Sivan, I have produced an upgraded version of the  IAST or ISO 15919 keyboard. Sometimes it is useful to write Sanskrit and other Indic languages in a form that is unambiguous but can be easily read by people who know the Latin alphabet. The standard ways of doing this are with IAST or ISO 15919. The two schemes are almost identical. An example is ताण्डव which can b written as Tāṇḍava. I have produced a windows keyboard that contains the necessary diacritics (accent marks). The normal keys are assigned the same as the standard UK keyboard, only the characters accessed with the AltGr and Shift-AltGr change, as do some characters using the caps lock.

The changes to the keyboard are as follows. Firstly in the previous version I had placed the ṅ character as AltGr-n. Most other keys used the AltGr to indicate the dot underneath, and this difference was confusing. I have therefore swapped the ṅ and ṇ so that AltGr-n gives the ṇ character. Apart from anything else it makes typing Tāṇḍava a lot easier!

Also Sivan pointed out that I had missed the visarga from the keyboard. This is the h with a dot ḥ. I have placed this as AltGr-h  Here is the layout of keys with AltGr (or Ctrl-Alt does the same if your keyboard doesn’t have an AltGr key)

Indic transliteration layout with AltGr

The Shift-AltGr keys are as expected, showing the capitalised versionsof the same letters.

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Site blanking for SOPA protest

There is a long discussion on the WordPress forums about how you can blank your blog page as a protest against SOPA. This is the code that I used, just put it in a text widget and add it to your sidebar:

<div align="center" style="position:fixed;width:100%;height:100%;top:300px;right:0;background-color:#000;-moz-opacity:0.8;opacity:.80;filter:alpha(opacity=80);text-align:center;font-size:500%;font-weight:bold;padding-top:20px;">
<a style="color:#fff;" href="http://americancensorship.org/" target="_blank">SAVE THE INTERNET
Stop SOPA</a>

<p style="font-size:20%;padding-top:20px;color:#fff;">This site will be blanked from aprox 08:00 GMT until 20:00 GMT 18 January 2012</p>

<p style="font-size:20%;padding-top:20px;"><a href="http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/how-sopa-pipa-can-affect-you/">SOPA will affect non-US sites as well as US hosted sites</a>, the domain name takedown and search engine removal will affect sites hosted anywhere in the world.</p>
<p style="font-size:10%;padding-top:5px;"> This site has been taken down in protest of bills currently being considered in the US House and Senate. Called SOPA and PIPA,
these bills threaten to destroy the Internet as we know it.

If either one passes, your favorite sites could disappear forever.
</p>
</div>

RSS Aggregation: Adding a list of comments from other blogs

Warning

Google is discontinuing reader. I have changed the main blog aggregations to use yahoo pipes, and will do so for other feeds later. I may give updated instructions on this blog, though in the mean time it should be easy to use a feed combiner of your choice instead of google reader. 

I give no warranty that yahoo pipes will continue to be available, I could end up having to change again in the future!

Image showing composite in sidebar

A composite feed rom several blogs

I have recently added a composite feed from a number of other blogs into the sidebar of my Hindu blog. I also created a page showing a summary of these items. To demonstrate how this was done I have decided to add (maybe temporarily) a feed of tips from a number of blogs on WordPress on my Tech blog.

First, I will describe the concept. Like a lot of websites, WordPress blogs provide an RSS feed, which contains information about the latest posts. These can be put into the WordPress sidebar using the RSS Widget. However to show the latest of several blogs in a single widget you need an RSS aggregator. There are several RSS aggregators, but I wanted one that would be around for a long time (how wrong I was!). After some research I discovered that Google Reader can aggregate RSS feeds. 

Multiple Feeds aggregated into one

To create an aggregate feed in Google reader, subscribe first if you don’t use any google services. Next subscribe to the feeds you want to aggregate. Some browsers require a plugin to do this, but for most you go to the blog and click the RSS symbol, and this will give you the option of subscribing with google reader. These will show in your subscriptions.

To create an aggregate we use the fairly well hidden option “create bundle”. To do this select “brows for stuff” then “create bundle”.

Create a Bundle

Give the bundle a name, a description, and drag the feeds into the bundle:

The created bundle

When you save the bundle you will see a list of bundles, including the new one. Click on the “add a link” link, as shown below:

Add a link to your website

This will open a page similar to the one below. The aggregated feed is available by right-clicking the “atom feed” link and selecting “save link as”. Alternatively simply click the link and copy the link address from your browser’s URL bar.

Get the aggregated feed address

Now go to your WordPress dashboard and select Appearance->Widgets. Drag an RSS widget to your sidebar (or any other widget area), paste the Atom URL in and optionally add a title:

Add the RSS Widget to WordPress

You can see the resulting feed in the sidebar, but just in case I remove it, here is an image:

The RSS feed showing in the sidebar

The single page view for the feed was created using Google Sites. I am not going to give full instructions with diagrams unless someone asks, but the basic steps are:

  • Create a Site
  • Edit the page
  • Insert Widget, then “More Widgets”
  • Search for RSS
  • Insert the Google RSS widget
  • Add the RSS url, set the size to 500px high
  • Save

The resulting page can be seen here (I did a bit more tidying for the one on my Hindu site). If you want to link to the page in the WordPress sidebar, use a text widget. I did this on my Hindu site directly under the feed widget.

Showing posts in chronological order on a WordPress.com site

The menu items allowing users to view the blog in reverse order

The Home menu

Blogs are displayed in reverse chronological order; the most recent items are displayed at the top. Some WordPress.com users want a Journal-style site, which starts with the oldest post and continues in chronological order. Some people viewing a blog would like to be able to view in this order.

Displaying posts in reverse order is easy, just append the string ?order=asc to the blog URL, for example:

https://tech.western-hindu.org/?order=asc

Writing a journal site

For people wanting a journal site there is no way to make the blog front-page display posts in chronological order. The best option is probably to have a static front page, which has a link to the reverse order page. This can be a simple “front cover” page with nice graphics and an “enter here” link, or include a synopsis or an index. The archives shortcode can be used easily to produce a basic index, or the more complex display-posts shortcode can give you more control over the result.

Putting options in the menu

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