I've gone Joomla 3!

Joomla! 3.0 was released in September 2012, and I've been planning an upgrade of the site ever since. As should be obvious by the change in layout, the migration is now complete. 

There are quite a few changes that have been made at the same time, some obvious, some far less so...


I've gone for a far simpler template this time, though it is fully responsive and so should work well on mobile devices too (something the old site never really handled particularly well). I've stuck with my tendency for light on dark as I find it easier on the eyes (though as I spend most days staring at consoles, it may well be a personal bias), but have also implemented a color switcher for those who prefer to read black on white (See the link at the top right of the screen).

A little while ago, I wrote about my My love/hate relationship with Responsive Web Design. I've tried hard to avoid the pitfalls I've listed, especially the section about removing functionality from smaller screens. I'm sure over time I'll improve the experience somewhat, but I think the site works well on mobile - my only issue being that Adsense isn't responsive and so won't adjust if your viewport shrinks (perhaps because you've turned a landscape tablet portrait)

The old shop is gone (Virtuemart doesn't currently support Joomla 3.x) so if you had purchase history I'm afraid that's gone for the time being. I am planning on importing it into the new system at some point, and if you need in the meantime just drop me an email.

For me, the biggest change though, is that Joomla finally contains the option to not send you your password in plain-text when you first register. So now, when you register for the shop with a nice secure password, the site won't be compromising it by sending it to you via email (I've never, ever, understood the logic behind that behaviour). The only occasion where this happens now, is if you sign up with a social media account and your email address couldn't be retrieved automatically (which essentially means Facebook, Twitter and GitHub - Linking a Google account gives a far more seamless experience).

In summary, I've mad the following changes

There are more changes planned for the future (I'm still not entirely happy with the Shop, for example) but I think it's a good starting point. 

Having detailed the changes present in this version of the site, I'm now going to be a little self-indulgent and look at how my little corner of the web has changed over time.


benscomputernoiporgBenscomputer.no-ip.org was a self hosted site, originally set up purely as a reference for myself - things like Dropbox didn't exist yet, so it was helpful to have resources and documentation in one place. In some ways, the original premise hasn't changed much, whilst BenTasker.co.uk has a reasonably sized readership, most of the content is still added purely to give myself a single point of reference.

Initially the site used some pretty horrendous colors - black on yellow! A year or so in, a couple of my schoolfriends died and I turned the background black to mark their passing. I'd initially planned to leave it black for a month following their respective funerals, but ended up realising that I preferred a dark background. It's a morbid start, but that's the reason my sites almost exclusively use light text on  a dark background!

Originally the site was essentially a documentation repository, then it gained a blog. For quite some time, I was posting pretty much anything that sprung into my mind, but over time sharpened the focus to (more or less) purely technical issues.

Most of the dynamic functionality was implemented using BASH scripts, which worked well, but the complexity pretty much tied it to the server it was on. Eventually the site outgrew the available bandwidth and I was faced with either starting again or migrating the site to a new server. Whilst trying to decide which to go with, the server experienced a hard-drive failure. Rather than attempting to migrate a backup to a new server, I decided it'd be quicker to start again, and BenTasker.co.uk sprung to life.



Having stored much of the Benscomputer.no-ip.org content in a CSV based database, importing content was reasonably easy with a few scripts. The initial site was based on Joomla 1.5 and looked, well, rushed. I didn't really get around to updating the look and feel until June 2012 when I migrated the site to Joomla 2.5. Even then the layout was much the same, just based on another template.

Having realised that I've an inordinate amount of code locked up in private repos (at the time, subversion) I launched the shop area of the site so that I could make better use of it. I've still quite a bit squirreled away, most waiting on 'the last few tweaks' but have been gradually adding.

I'd experimented with Google Adsense on Benscomputer.no-ip.org but had experienced issues with the relevance of the ads, but sections of BenTasker.co.uk became ad-supported (as I was no longer self-hosting, there's a monthly cost involved in keeping the site up - the ads help pay towards this).

I've never fully imported the content from Benscomputer.no-ip.org, some just isn't relevant to the technical focus of it's successor, but have added quite a lot of content since.


Joomla 3

A migration to Joomla 3 has been planned, more or less, since it was released. Rather wisely, I decided to run the migration on a copy of the site in a subdirectory. Not so wisely (it was late at night), I forgot to unset the live_site option in the configuration file and so ended up (partially) updating the live site. I say partially, because the moment of realisation was accompanied by a moment of abject stupidity - I cancelled the upgrade, leaving half the site's libraries at their original version and the other updated to Joomla 3!

One backup restore later, I was ready to go and it was relatively painless from there on out. I did however encounter a few issues


I don't actually use many non-core extensions, and those I do are big enough that they should all support Joomla 3 by now. Except, as it turned out, Virtuemart doesn't, so I needed to find a new extension to run the shop. Happily, that was the only extension I needed to replace (the others, I could afford to lose).


Finding a template was particularly frustrating. I often find it difficult anyway, given my preference for light-on-dark, but adding the requirement for responsive into the mix really complicates matters. I wrote some time ago about Joomla 3 being responsive by default, unfortunately it seems that many of the third party templates are not. Worse, some call themselves Bootstrap templates (which is technically true, they are using Twitter Bootstrap) but don't include the responsive features.

That's not to say there aren't any responsive templates available for Joomla 3, there are quite a few. Unfortunately almost all fell into one of the following three categories

  1. Out of my price range (usually because you need to buy a club membership)
  2. I didn't like the look
  3. Used a seperate templating library

Issue number two isn't the biggest of issues, I'll normally customise templates quite heavily anyway - but the template has to provide a good starting point, especially if I'm going to be paying for it! Issue 3 is more of a personal thing, I've had problems with some of the popular templating libraries in the past, whether performance (which the more recent versions are much better for) or in a few cases, the library removing some of the head items that have been added with addStyleSheet or addScript.

Eventually though, I found a good (and free) starting point in a template released by JoomSpirit. There were a couple of, erm, odd choices in the design but it's provided a great starting point and made it far easier for me to implement a color switcher without needing to maintain two different templates.