My Recommended WordPress Themes and Plugins

After having used WordPress for a number of years, I’ve really started to get into more plugins that help me present and share my content the way I want. I’ve also gone through some themes and picked one I like, including versions for desktop and mobile. Here’s my recommendations for WordPress themes and plugins…

Themes

Twenty Eleven

twentyeleven2Twenty Eleven is still my WordPress theme of choice. It’s feature-full, clean, elegant, and problem free from my experience.

Please note it’s not actively updated so you may need to Google around for fixes. For example, I wrote a post on how to fix the featured image that is buggy in the default Twenty Eleven theme.

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Race 07 NVIDIA Anti-Aliasing

Update 2014-07-19: I found the solution. My original fix wasn’t even doing anything it was just using the 4x AA I set in Race 07’s Video and Language Options application. The real fix for me was upgrading drivers and then things started to work. Before upgrading my drivers NVIDIA Control Panel changes to AA didn’t appear to do anything and NVIDIA Inspector wouldn’t save my changes either. It just wasn’t sticking. After upgrading NVIDIA drivers it all started working. I used NVIDIA Inspector to set: Antialiasing – Mode: override; Antialiasing – Setting: 8x CSAA; Antialiasing – Transparency Multisampling: Enabled; Antialiasing – Transparency Supersampling: 8x Sparse Grid Supersamping (Sparse Grid is important, some things will still look jaggy without it); Toggle FXAA on or off: On; Anisotropic filtering mode: User-defined; Anisotropic filtering setting: 16x. Now even Monza 06 looks great which still looked poor after my previous fix. Good luck!

Race 07 NVIDIA Anti-Aliasing

I finally found a little bit better anti-aliasing for Race 07 from this post on Race Department explaining that you can achieve slightly better anti-aliasing by using Race 07’s Video and Language Options application and setting 4x AA there and then also using the NVIDIA Control Panel to set: Antialiasing Mode: Enhance. I also set Antialiasing – Transparency: 8x; Ansitropic Filtering: 16x; Antialiasing – FXAA: On. It seems to look better. Still, some tracks like Monza 06 have a lot of jaggies. I suspect it’s just AA-unoptimized old track code. If you have a better solution I’d be glad to hear it!

Anti-Spam Done Right

Blog comment spam is a big problem. I started out with no protection on this blog. I found out rather quickly that wouldn’t do.

So I implemented a CAPTCHA which requires you to enter a random code to prevent automated comment submissions. Then I found out actual humans were submitting comments (or perhaps very smart anti-CAPTCHA programs).

My next step was disabling auto-approval unless you had one pre-approved comment. But that only resulted in me clearing out spam every day and discouraging real-time discussion because comments wouldn’t show up immediately. After a long time, I finally found Akismet.

Blog comment spam is a big problem. I started out with no protection on this blog. I found out rather quickly that wouldn’t do.

So I implemented a CAPTCHA which requires you to enter a random code to prevent automated comment submissions. Then I found out actual humans were submitting comments (or perhaps very smart anti-CAPTCHA programs).

My next step was disabling auto-approval unless you had one pre-approved comment. But that only resulted in me clearing out spam every day and discouraging real-time discussion because comments wouldn’t show up immediately.

After a long time, I finally found Akismet.

Akismet is anti-spam done right.

Comments get automatically submitted to a blog anti-spam service where, first, they are submitted to hundreds of tests to see if it’s spam.

The second part is the key, though. Because Akismet is a service anyone can use, thousands if not millions of people use Akismet for the same reason, and this is where its power lies. The second part of the anti-spam checks is to compare the comment with millions of other blogs that also use the service. More than likely somebody already has gotten your comment, or one like it, and marked it as spam. So when it gets to you, it’s already considered spam and not published. You can decide what to do with it in your admin interface.

Google Mail also does anti-spam right. They operate on the same principle as akismet (who were probably inspired by gmail in the first place). Basically, tests are run on the sender of your email, the email itself and then the email is compared with the billions of other emails that other users of Google Mail also get. If it looks like spam based on any of these checks, it goes in your spam folder.

This is the beauty of distributed effort.

When so many people are pooling into a system you really can make spammers largely ineffective – to the point that it’s no longer worth it for them to spam.

What we need is a distributed system for anti-spam checking at the smtp level for regular system admins. Imagine the entire world pooling into this system. I have yet to try Distributed Checksum Clearinghouse. It does something like what I would like but not quite. It’s not exactly like Gmail or Akismet’s mechanisms to tag spam.

It should be clear: In a world of anti-spam done right, spam largely goes away.