Fourteen and a half crazy frog burpers

5th November 2009

Quick Start Guide to Theming WordPress

Filed under: Web Design,Wordpress — Tags: , , — Alex Holt @ 8:01 pm

It’s taken a while, but I finally revamped the look of my site. Part of the problem, as always, is coming up with a design I can put up with for a while. I think that this red attempt should be OK for a while.

There a number of good WordPress theming guides out there (the one at is especially excellent) , so I don’t intend to replace them and their great detail. This post is merely some simple pointers for those that already know how to create HTML and understand enough about PHP to get by.

Create yourself a design! I’m totally gonna gloss over this part, despite being the major time consuming bit. I’m a big advocate of the multiple stage design process (Image -> HTML -> System Template). Basically – once you have a HTML / CSS version of what you want to achieve, its then time to work on how to get that into your WordPress Blog.

Create yourself a theme directory – this is within your /wp-content/themes directory and should make your theme sound totally awesome. Something like “Totally Rockin’ Monkey Burgers” should be sufficient.

Create your CSS file – Just copy your CSS file to your theme directory and make sure its named stylesheet.css You should also make sure you have something like the following in the top of it:

Theme Name: Totally Rockin' Monkey Burgers
Theme URI:
Description: Theme creation example.
Author: Alex Holt
Author URI:
Version: 1.0
Tags: red,white,fluid-fixed-width,two-columns

Copy the PHP files from the Default theme – these act as a great starting point for your adaptations. You can now adapt these to pull together to create your style. They are split into 5 easy to comprehend areas by default. You don’t need to follow this however, you can simply put everything in one big file – though I find code becomes a lot more manageable when split over a few pages:

Index – the glue of the page, it calls the other templates where required. The key lines are:


Header – has the top part of your blog that is repeated throughout your site.

Footer – similar to the header, the code that appears at the foot of every page.

Sidebar – your navigation bar. For this, you effectively only need a small bit of code. The ‘dynamic_sidebar’ function calls all the Widgets that are enabled. This then basically generates a load of <li>’s, one for each Widget (these sometimes have nested UL’s and LI’s themselves):

<div id="navigation">
    <?php 	/* Widgetized sidebar, if you have the plugin installed. */
    if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') || !dynamic_sidebar() ) {}

It is however worth mentioning that in circumstances that there are no Widgets – the above would output nothing but an empty unordered list.

Comments – Just displays the comments (if set to show), below each post. While there are a lot of bits in here, the main bit can be a touch hidden and is signified by a foreach loop within an Ordered List “commentlist”.

<ol id="commentlist">
  <?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>
    <li <?php comment_class(); ?> id="comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>">
      <?php echo get_avatar( $comment, 80 ); ?>
      <div class="commentmeta">
        <?php comment_type(_x('Comment', 'noun'), __('Trackback'), __('Pingback')); ?>
        <?php _e('by'); ?> <?php comment_author_link() ?><?php comment_date() ?>
        @ <a href="#comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>"><?php comment_time() ?></a>
        <?php edit_comment_link(__("Edit This"), ' |'); ?>
      <?php comment_text() ?>
  <?php endforeach; ?>

Create yourself a screenshot – it’ll make you feel good and will help you recognise the awesomeness that is your style when you are browsing through the hundreds you downloaded that are all tosh when compared with yours!

And that’s your lot.

As I mentioned, I don’t want to replace what is already out there on the web with this guide. In fact, I don’t the word ‘guide’ as it gets me quite excited and I expect something more dramatic than I’ve delivered. I think maybe prefixed with ‘Quick Start’ however, it might become acceptable… Yes. Yes, that seems not to have got my blood pumping!

29th July 2009

PHP Connections to MSSQL & ntwdblib.dll

Filed under: Microsoft SQL,PHP — Tags: , — Alex Holt @ 12:40 pm

One of the systems within my workplace is a PHP5 application (via Apache on Windows) that uses MySQL5.0 as its main database. However, in addition to this, it has a requirement to an old Microsoft SQL7 Server which was running Windows NT. This machine gave up the ghost and was restored to a SQL2000 machine and it began to work again.

Except from the blasted PHP application mentioned above ! The swine!

So, after digging around and debugging and limiting down the dependencies that it could be, we established that:

  • It wasn’t MDB2 which we are using to abstract the DB connections, as mssql_connect would fail also.
  • It wasn’t a change in DB name, Server name, user, password or permissions as we could connect with identical criteria from elsewhere.
  • It wasn’t a networking error, as Query Express was able to connect when ran from the web-server itself.
  • It wasn’t remembering anything about the old server as we reset the Apache instances and rebooted the entire box to see if it would help.
  • It wasn’t the code, as we had EXACTLY the same code running against the live system from our development server and it didn’t even bat an eyelid.

Eventually, we happened across a few posts that eluded to the fact that PHP5 ships with a DLL of suckiness.

The difference between the live Apache web server, compared with the development machine was that MSSQL2000 was actually installed on the development one (along with a bunch of other crap). Because this install is in place, it meant that in C:\Windows\System32 was a working and newer copy of ntwdblib.dll .

The bottom line is that the fix is simply to replace the old version of ntwdblib.dll (which comes with PHP5, noted as version: 2000.8.2.0) and replace it with version 2000.80.194.0 Once we started the Apache instances again – BOOM! Amazingness reborn! Our web-servers could see SQL 2000 instances again! Fantastic!

Theme designed & built for by Alex Holt. Powered by WordPress