Living off-grid means every scrap of laundry gets hung on a line, but if you think because the clothes dry more slowly I would be able to stay ahead of the folding, you’d be wrong.
I can wash and hang three hampers full of biohazard-quality laundry in a single day, but the to-be-folded pile only grows. I usually tackle it before Google Earth registers it as a new land mass, and I rarely mind the activity. The rhythm of the sorting always stimulates meditation.
Last Saturday, it stimulated something else.
Hoping to disrupt the strange biorhythms that, only on weekends as soon as I sit down before dawn to write, rouse my children and send them searching for snuggles and cereal, I’ve fled to the nearby country store to work before heading to Hubbard Hall, to help with the tech side of a blogging class. The class has provided plausible cover for my morning escapes, and each afternoon I’ve come home thinking I couldn’t be more thankful for anything else that day than I was for a little grown-up time.
This last Saturday I came home to a different kind of grown-up time. A neighbor phoned looking for computer help. I glanced around our kitchen/great room and at the laundry pile and said, “Come on over!” He would be here in a few hours.
Folding sessions usually occur after bedtime (the biorhythms only manifest when Mom is doing something fun), but with impending company, I made an exception and began my folding dance, aided by my iPod and earbuds.
The couch and table were soon dotted with neat multi-colored piles. My antics immediately drove thirteen-year-old Jack to his room to study. Seven-year-old Thing2, however, remained, quietly dancing over from the TV area.
I sorted and thought about writing and chores. I didn’t really think about the folding aside from which things should go to Goodwill. Thing2 interrupted my ruminations, wrapping his arms around my waist as I was in mid-fold.
“Mommy, can I help?” he asked.
“You really want to fold clothes?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “But I want to help.” He released me and spun around the living room. Then he returned for another hug. “Maybe I can play some music for you,” he suggested. He sat down at the nearby piano and plunked out “Do-Re-Mi”.
I took out my earphones so I could listen. I kept folding, but there was no rhythm now. Thing2 sang softly with the piano. Too small items rotated out of inventory, sometimes taking with them a last tangible souvenir of this family vacation or that event. Jack’s old shirts went into Thing2’s piles. The piles grew and so did the memories.
Well before the to-fold pile was gone and the folded clothes packed into baskets, the task ceased being a burden. It was a reminder of the things that make a life worthwhile. And, for once, I didn’t just make the best of the laundry pile. I was thankful for it.
If you’ve decided to self-host your blog, there are two options for installing WordPress on your host. The first is to visit http://www.wordpress.org and download the free software. WordPress.org does include step-by-step directions for installing the software on your site.
Increasingly, however, web hosts are offering an easy one or two click installation of the software when you purchase your hosting package. Your installation process will be similar to thethe following:
- Most hosts that offer WordPress (or other Platform choices) will present you with a control panel to manage your entire site. You’ll usually see an option to install WordPress or ‘Popular Scripts’ as shown below
- To begin, click ‘Install’. The script installer will try to detect your settings and will let you know if any changes need to be made prior to the installation. Once your host account settings are in order, your installation will begin.
- Some web hosts will do everything for you when you click install, but others may want a little information from you. The second phase of your installation screen will ask you where you want the blog stored – do you want readers to find the blog when they type in your web address, or do you want it to be a subpage on your site. Other things you may need to determine are the name of the installation directory (the installation script will create it), your Administrator user name, and the Admin password you want.For security reasons, it is recommended that you do not accept the default Admin user name ‘Admin’ or the default Installation directory of ‘wp’. WordPress is popular with readers and writers, but it is also a popular target for hackers who tend to exploit those default names to gain access to blogs:
- Click ‘Next’ and your web host will take care of the rest of the installation. Your blog’s web address will be the ‘Base URL’ address you chose. Your blog’s administration page will be at www.yourblogaddress/wp-admin. Your login information will be the name and password you chose. If you forget your password, it can be emailed to the address you provided. Again, choose an email address that can’t be deduced from the name of your web address.
- Your hosting provider will email you with your user ID and password and confirmation of the installation completion. Now it’s time for the fun part of any move-in: decorating.
If you’ve already been blogging at WordPress.com, much of the self-hosted WordPress environment will look very familiar. However, there are a few key differences – even when keeping up appearances – between running your blog at WordPress.com and having your own ‘place’.
When you first login to your new self-hosted WordPress Dashboard, one of the first things you’ll want to do is customize your appearance. To start, click on ‘Appearances’ in the left pane of your WordPress window and then click on ‘Themes:
The installation will include a few default themes, but you can add new themes by clicking the ‘Install Themes’ tab. That tab will let you upload custom themes you design or buy, or you can choose from over 600 free themes.
As with WordPress.com, each theme on your self-hosted blog allows a different level of customization. You can use the links to choose from different appearance options, or, if you know CSS or HTML, you can click ‘Editor’ and tinker with the code. Be aware that, on a self-hosted blog, you can break a theme, so be sure to make a backup before wading in too deep.
As with a hosted WordPress blog, your self-hosted blog includes a Widgets, add-ons to your blog page that can be dragged to your side bar. There are a few default widgets – Custom Menus and a BlogRoll you can add to your blog right away. You can add others by installing them from the ‘Plugins’ section of your WordPress Dashboard.
To add a widget to your blog sidebar, click and drag the widget to the desired place. Widgets can be moved up and down in relation to each other:
This is how a widget looks on the actual blog:
The plug-in is where the self-hosted blog really begins to flex its muscle. Plug-ins are basically neatly-packaged scraps of code that you can add to your WordPress blog and that allow you to add custom Social Networking widgets to your sidebar, shopping carts to your blog, and even forum infrastructures to encourage your readers to engage with each other on your site. If you know PHP programming, you can create your own, but the most common way to add a plug-in to your blog is to choose from the thousands of free offerings.
To add a plug-in to your site, click ‘Plug-Ins’ in the sidebar of your administration screen. You’ll notice that the WordPress installation includes one or two default plug-ins. Click ‘Add New’ to navigate to the search page:
You can use keywords or categories to search for plug-ins, just as you would when installing a new Theme.
Plug-ins shown in your search results are rated and can be sorted by rating or by name. Click promising listings to learn more details and then to install the one you want. Once the plug-in is installed, you’ll have the option to ‘Activate’ it. Some plug-ins, such as tracking programs, operate behind the scenes but need you to custom their settings to your blog. Others, such as shopping cart plug-ins, will appear as new pages or as new widgets to be added to your sidebar.
Because plug-ins are usually free, and because they offer new options for customizing your site, it can be tempting to add a bunch all at once. However, extra gadget you put on your site, visible or not, is like the clutter in your junk drawer – it may be useful, but it takes up space and, in the case of your blog, can slow things down for your user. Only you can decide when that next new widget is one too many.
When setting up a blog – or growing an existing blog – the question of whether to host or have your blog hosted for you often arises. The host is the infrastructure for your blog. You can choose to have a blogging service host your blog for you, or you can pay to host your blog on someone else’s web server. Each option has advantages and disadvantages as shown below.
Hosted vs. self-hosted
A hosted blog is an inexpensive way to get started quickly. A hosted blog is stored on the servers of the blog platform. Blog platforms such as WordPress and Blogger (now owned by Google) offer free sign up. There are a number of pros, but there are also a few drawbacks to a hosted blog.
Hosted Pro’s and Con’s
- Sign up is Free, offering up to 3GB of blog space on WordPress and few limits on Blogger (they limit you to 1GB of photos).
- Getting started is quick.
- The host handles automatic backups of your blog
- The blog host handles software upgrades automatically for you
- The host handles spam filtering.
- The host handles security issues.
- Customization is limited to default themes offered by host
- Most hosts won’t allow you to add plugins
- With the exception of Blogger, you can’t use Adsense
- Most hosted blogs won’t allow features such as shopping carts
- You can’t use Google Analytics (except for Blogger)
- You can move your blog content, but you don’t own it – the host can remove it at anytime or drop support for your blog platform
Self-hosted blogs are not free, but if you like to be in control, this may be an option for you.
Self-Hosted Pro’s and Con’s
- You own your blog
- Complete control over your blog.
- Ability to upload custom themes and plugins.
- No need to know web design or coding, but if you do, you can completely overhaul the look of your site.
- Access to custom analytics and tracking tools
- Freedom to monetize your blog as you see fit
- You’ll need to find a hosting package.
- You are responsible for backups and security.
- You are responsible for upgrading your software when the blogging platform announces updates.
- Costs for hosting range from $3 to $7 per month or more depending on the size and traffic levels of your blog.
The Self-Hosted Blog
Blogger and WordPress.com users have a host built into their platforms and only need to sign up for an account to begin setting up a blog. However, if you’ve decided to host your own blog, the next step in building your own soapbox is to find a host. Here are a few popular and reliable hosting providers:
With hosting starting at $3.99 for up to 100GB of disk space and unlimited bandwidth (traffic), GoDaddy offers excellent support by email or by phone. They also offer free, one-click installation of WordPress and several other blog platforms. You can also register and park a domain with them.
I’ve used Little Oak for hosting websites and my blog for over five years. If you’re a Mac user (and even if you’re not), Little Oak is a great place to park your website or blog. They also offer easy installation of WordPress (and a few other blog platforms). Hosting starts at $80/year, and you can register domains through their site. They do offer Live Chat tech support, as well as support by email.
Offering support by phone or email, Blue Host is another popular web host. As with GoDaddy and Little Oak, you can use their control panel to quickly and easily install your WordPress blog. Hosting starts at $4.95 per month.
Starting at $3.95/ month, Dream Host offers one-click WordPress installation and tech support by email.
These are just a few of the available hosting options, and all of those offer quick and easy installation of your WordPress blog – a process I’ll cover in the next post.