Sayontan

Sayontan Sinha is a technology strategy consultant living in Houston, Texas. Coding is his hobby, as are philately, numismatics, classical music, creative writing and quizzing. He is the author of numerous pieces of WordPress software, including the ultra-popular Suffusion WordPress theme and the versatile Photonic (for Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug and 500px.com integration) and FontMeister.

Feb 122019
 

I had to patch the version of Photonic that I released yesterday. Version 2.20 contains the following changes:

  1. A fix for sites running PHP 5.4 and below. Older versions of PHP were throwing a fatal error due to some additional checks that I had put in. You should be able to safely run Photonic on older PHP versions too.
  2. The video_size parameter was not getting passed to the videos nested within an album if you were displaying a group of albums. That should be working now.
Feb 112019
 

Version 2.19 of Photonic is now available.

One of the big things I had intended for this release was the drastic simplification of authentication for Google. As most users are aware, getting an API key for Google Photos is a lot more cumbersome than newbies bargain for, and authentication is riddled with challenges. The simplification needed Google to approve me as a “Google Photos Partner”. So I followed the process and was granted provisional approval as a partner, however at a later point Google backtracked saying that WordPress users have to download their photos from Google Photos to their WP installations!! This obviously makes no logical sense and violates 3 other core directives they have set, however Google has not responded to any of my repeated follow-ups in this matter.

So I had to scale down my ambitions, nevertheless this ended up being a release with several small things:

  1. RIP Picasa
    About 3 weeks back Google killed off the last vestiges of Picasa by deprecating its API. It is debatable whether the Google Photos API is a better replacement, but it is all we have now. The Google Photos API, while more streamlined, is a lot harder to authenticate, cannot fetch videos and, ironically for Google, sucks at searching. That being said, Photonic has supported Google Photos since July 2018, and the interactive gallery builder should make it easier to build out your galleries once you have overcome the authentication hurdles.
  2. No More API Key for Regular SmugMug Requests
    Most people who use Photonic for SmugMug use it to display their public or password-protected photos. There is good news for them – they don’t need to create an API key any more! What was intended to be in place for Google ended up happening for SmugMug. There is a catch here: if you want to display your private photos, you will need to authenticate … and for that an API key is required. This is because authentication would require me to bundle my API secret with the key, and Photonic being an Open Source application would expose me to risk.
  3. Block Improvements
    1. Gutenberg block “wide-alignment” and “full-width” options are now available for Photonic galleries. Note that the underlying theme has to support these options for them to work.
    2. The interactive block-builder now shows the equivalent shortcode at the bottom for users who are facing Gutenberg conflicts or want to use a shortcode instead of a block while in the Gutenberg editor.
  4. Native Galleries
    1. Performance tracing was causing native WP galleries to not show up if the style attribute was left out. This should be working fine now.
    2. Another issue that has been fixed is that the main_size option was being ignored for the native galleries in favour of slide_size
  5. Miscellaneous Additions / Changes
    1. A few releases back I had significantly streamlined the JavaScript in Photonic. This release I have taken it a step further and minified the scripts by default. You can turn off minification from Photonic → Settings → Generic Options → Advanced → Script Dev Mode.
    2. I have removed the links to the albums and photos for Google Photos, as they almost always point to private locations that cannot be accessed by blog visitors.
    3. Instagram justified grid, masonry and mosaic layouts can now use the tile_size to avoid serving a full-sized image on the main page.
    4. Videos for Instagram, Flickr and SmugMug now display an overlaid “play” icon when viewed as a part of a gallery.
    5. All galleries now get an “end” element to enable linking to the end of the gallery. E.g. if your gallery has an id photonic-instagram-stream-1, the end element will have an id photonic-instagram-stream-1-container-end.
    6. All translation strings have been “escaped” properly. This wouldn’t have caused an issue earlier given that the only translation out there for Photonic was Spanish, but now you have an additional layer of security.
    7. I have added a photonic_helper utility shortcode. The shortcode is eponymous in the sense that it functions the way the Photonic → Helpers page functions. Since the shortcode doesn’t do much, I have provided the documentation in the Photonic → Getting Started page.
    8. I have added options to let users disable the loading of Photonic’s lightbox scripts but continue using the associated JavaScript calls. This will let users load fewer scripts if they have other plugins handling the same lightboxes that Photonic offers.
    9. I have renamed the translation file to photonic.pot from photonic.po.
  6. Bug Fixes
    The following bugs have been fixed in this round:

    1. For some user configurations the more button was not showing up due to end-of-line character mismatches. This has been addressed in the code.
    2. I fixed an issue where the slideshow layout was not respecting the strip-above option.
    3. Safari users were seeing an “empty space” at the bottom of the masonry layout. With Apple no longer making Safari for any platform other than OSX or iOS this was hard to troubleshoot, but it should be working now.
    4. In some cases if PhotoSwipe was the lightbox and the Random Justified Grid layout was being used, the lightbox would start up with an image different from the one clicked. This has been addressed.
    5. I fixed another bug with PhotoSwipe and StripJS where the looping setting was not being respected.
    6. There were some compatibility issues with PHP 7.3, which I have addressed in this version.
Feb 032019
 

This post essentially marks the end-of-life of support for Suffusion from this website.

The Aquoid Support Forum was the one-stop-shop for Suffusion support as well as for support provided for other plugins I have built over the years. However it was beset by problems, primary among them being the insanely high number of spammers who used to register. Considering that it was on a different platform (phpBB) than the rest of this website (WordPress), it received a different level of attention from the creators of the software. As a result I had moved support for everything except Suffusion to the native WordPress forums. This worked well because I at least didn’t have to worry about managing spammers. Regardless, the forum served as a lifeline for Suffusion users who got to reach out for support after the theme was pulled from the WP repository in June 2016, since that point of time crippled the native WordPress forums for it.

In any case, at this point the energy required to administer the forum is a lot more than I or any of the volunteers can invest, so I am closing it down with immediate effect.

For starters, the forum is still available for browsing, but I have shut down two core things:

  1. User Registration
  2. Posting capability

New users will no longer be able to register there, and old as well as new users will be unable to post to it.

What Next?

There is the GitHub site where I had hosted the last stable version of Suffusion – https://github.com/sayontan/suffusion. New users can consider creating issues there. Regular forum contributors Colin and Drake are set up as collaborators on that repository, so they have privileges to release code / patches there.

This will help / encourage users who wish to fork out Suffusion do so from that website.

Closing Thoughts

Suffusion was created at a time when:

  • WordPress was a platform incapable of doing anything apart from very simple blogs. There was no capability to do custom menus, nothing to support custom post types, no post thumbnails etc.
  • The “premium” theme market had multiple players who certainly charged a premium, but failed to deliver very basic features without requiring a developer.
  • The era of page-builders was at least 5-6 years away

Suffusion offered novel solutions for each of the above and all that for free.

The theme remained a pioneer for several years, but with the ever mounting barriers imposed by the WPTRT it became harder and harder to maintain. Every new whim of the WPTRT would mandate a massive change of code for Suffusion (removal of shortcodes, replacement of theme options with the Customizer, removal of custom widgets etc.).

When finally removed from the repository, what I felt was a mix of rage, resignation and relief. Luckily Suffusion had a bulletproof foundation that several thousands of users still found easy to use, and even 2.5 years after removal the theme still manages to stand on its own for the most part. I had hoped that the theme would die down in the months to come, but it has still lingered on, hence rather than shut it down completely I moved it all to GitHub.

I would recommend, though, for users to pick out newer and lighter themes, because the free themes space is a lot more diverse, and WP itself has managed to integrate many of the features of Suffusion in a native manner. Essentially the niche that Suffusion filled for over 5 years is no longer existent, and you might have a more spiffy blog running something else.

Jan 162019
 

I have just now released version 2.17 of Photonic. The following are covered in this release:

  1. Flickr private albums were not showing up in the interactive gallery builder – this should be working now
  2. There was an apparent conflict with Divi due to Divi overriding some of WP’s native styles. This was causing the WordPress media uploader to disappear behind Photonic’s interactive gallery builder – I have made a change at my end to help out with this

In other news I am working with Google towards making my API key usable by everyone. If I succeed in this, the most complex aspect of Photonic, i.e. creating a Google API Key will go away, dramatically simplifying Photonic’s back-end process.

Jan 082019
 

Happy New Year!

On my second day back from my break I have been able to release version 2.17 of Photonic. This version has the following bug fixes:

  1. Zenfolio photosets with “smart” names were not being pulled up correctly. E.g. If you had a photoset that had an id such as “birthday”, that wouldn’t show. This issue has been addressed.
  2. If the option to display titles was set to none, it was still showing a title upon hovering over the thumbnails. This has been changed so that the hover shows nothing, but the lightbox still shows a title.
  3. If you were using a Masonry layout to show a group of albums, the wouldn’t respect the columns attribute. This should be working now.
  4. I put in a couple of minor changes. The first ensures that the hints in the interactive workflow only show up when required. The second ensures that clicking on the link to share on Pinterest opens in a new window.

Hope you enjoy this release. As always, if you are enjoying Photonic and would like to show your appreciation, please feel free to rate it well.

Dec 292018
 

In the middle of the holidays I managed to quickly code up some improvements to Photonic. This release has the following changes:

  1. I added a “filter” capability in the interactive workflow to generate shortcodes. Particularly in cases where you have way too many albums, the filter will let you rapidly narrow your search results.
  2. I added the ability to specify a thumbnail size on the Instagram shortcode generator.
  3. There was a non-fatal JavaScript error showing up when the “Add / Edit Photonic Gallery” button was clicked. I have taken care to remove the error.

Happy Photoblogging for the New Year!

Dec 212018
 

Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I will be taking a break for a couple of weeks, traveling internationally. In the meanwhile I have released version 2.14 of Photonic. Like the previous version this one too has minor fixes:

  1. In some scenarios Flickr collections were not showing nested collections. This should be working fine now.
  2. I fixed the following problems in the lightboxes:
    1. Fancybox3 social media icons were not getting linked correctly
    2. Photoswipe images were flickering on mobiles
    3. The option to allow resizing of Lightcase images was not working.
Dec 112018
 

The last few days have been interesting. Ever since WP 5.0 has released, I have watched, bemusedly, as the ratings for Gutenberg plummeted at unimaginable speeds – before the release of WP 5.0 the plugin had around 960 single-star ratings, but once the new version landed, this number shot up to 1120+. It managed twice as many single-star ratings in 5 days as Photonic has managed total ratings in its lifetime! Obviously people have not taken kindly to a radical new paradigm being shoved down their throats. And while “radical new paradigm” sounds cool, “shoving down their throats” isn’t. Has WP missed the oldest trick in the change management playbook? Only time will tell.

In more mundane news version 2.13 of Photonic is now out:

  1. Bug Fixes
    1. In my last post I had joked about Photonic supporting 13 lightboxes, and how the number 13 might be handled superstitiously by people. As it turns out, the thirteenth addition did break something in Photonic. Fancybox3, PrettyPhoto and StripJS lightboxes were broken for gallery transitions (only one photo would show) because I had to change something fundamentally for Magnific Popup, the thirteenth lightbox.
    2. In the interactive workflow for creating native WP galleries, if a “tile size” was being passed, it was being read as a “thumb size”. This behaviour has been fixed.
  2. New Additions
    1. I have added multiple new options to the lightbox settings screen
    2. I have added an explicit check within the interactive flow to ensure that the calling user has the capability to edit posts
Dec 062018
 

If you haven’t heard, WP 5.0 featuring Gutenberg is here. If you haven’t had a chance to form your opinion about it, do ensure that you download a copy of the “Classic Editor” plugin to recover from any shock caused by Gutenberg. Displaying behaviour that has been symptomatic of Gutenberg all along, I will move my sites to WP 5.0, but I will keep my wife on 4.9.8 before things stabilize. I will additionally install Classic Editor because the new WP 5.0 text editor is just too crippled, and Gutenberg suffers from an exceptional amount of bloat.

Having said the above, here is Photonic version 2.12 to go with WordPress 5.0.

  1. Magnific Popup Support:
    People are usually concerned when they have 13 of something. Well, for those superstitiously minded folks, here is cause for concern: Photonic has added support for its thirteenth lightbox – Magnific Popup. Unlike PhotoSwipe (which is also from the same developer), Magnific was a lot easier to code for, and was reminiscent of some of the easier coding I have had to do for Photonic.
  2. New Features / Changes:
    This release features a number of small additions / changes:

    1. I have moved the “Lightboxes” options from under Photonic → Settings → Generic Options to its own header, Photonic → Settings → Lightboxes.
    2. Consequently I have added a lot of customization options to the lightboxes, and I will continue adding more over the next few releases.
    3. I have added the capability to launch a lightbox from a slideshow. Currently this works only if your lightbox is LightGallery or Magnific, but I will be expanding this feature.
    4. There is a new option to remove the photo count from Google Album displays, under Photonic → Settings → Google Photos → Hide Photo Count in Album Title Display.
  3. Bug Fixes:
    1. In some cases slideshows were not stretching to the full width. This should be working now.
    2. There was a bug in the interactive flow that was causing a zero-impact JavaScript error while trying to create a new gallery. This has been patched.

Hope you enjoy the new release.

Nov 262018
 

I have released version 2.11 of Photonic with the following changes:

  1. JavaScript Optimization
    When Photonic started out in September 2011 it only had support for two lightboxes – Colorbox and Fancybox. About a month later I added support for PrettyPhoto, and then for a long period of time I didn’t add anything else. About 4 years later I added support for Swipebox, and I haven’t looked back since then, adding multiple lightboxes and amping up the capabilities of each script. During this process though, the core JavaScript file for the plugin kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally when I added support for PhotoSwipe last month I realized how big the JavaScript had become, and at that point I had to take stock and do some rewriting.

    So, in this version I broke down the core JavaScript and primarily separated each lightbox script into its own file. The net result was a reduction in size of almost 45%!

  2. Bug Fixes
    1. In the previous release I had made a change to have Flickr calls within a collection be executed in parallel. This had a side-effect: the sort order of albums in a collection stopped being respected. This should be fine now.
    2. There was an undetected bug since a long time: Instagram image sizes were being hardcoded, resulting in weird displays. This has been addressed.
    3. The interactive gallery creation flow had a bug that was causing it to crash for PHP versions < 5.5. This too should be fixed now.
  3. A small change I have made is to make the “display link” for Flickr be a little more “specific”. E.g. If a photo is in an album its link in Flickr will be specific to that album instead of the user’s photostream

Hope you enjoy this release. As always, if you are enjoying the use of Photonic please leave me a good word as a plugin review.