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Watching from the sidelines

VR has not just arrived, but it finally arrived for me and the masses ;)

I have been watching VR evolving from the sidelines for the past few years. Its been a fun ride, from the first prototypes to what we have now.

The biggest problem in the past, has been image quality and the huge upfront investment for me. With the latest generation all of this has completely changed.

As a developer …

I am constantly keeping up with new technologies and have been diving into WebVR for some time now.

Its so easy to export your own simple Unity VR project into WebVR and integrate it into your own web projects.

Unreal Engine also provides options to work on VR projects. Or build upon the WebXR API.

Microsoft also has a foot in the door, with MRTK (Allows to integrate teleporting easily / Releases).

Oculus Quest 2

With the announcement of the Oculus Quest 2 last year, I finally decided to dive in myself. Standalone VR allows me to concentrate on WebVR and experiment, while still having the option to expand into the linked PC-universe in the future as well.

PC Link / PC Rig

I have no plans to invest into a beefy gaming rig yet, but have been trying out cloud solutions using Shadow and Paperspace Gaming / Paperspace $10 Coupon (KS4Q2TA).

Update: Latency is the biggest problem with these solutions and it can be a hit & miss! My Paperspace experience was close to perfect for pure desktop experiences, for VR sadly not :) Can not testdrive Shadow right now, as the waitinglist is already showing September 2021 LOL CRAZY! Local latency can be greatly optimized by using Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi Direct.

With the current GPU prices, building a machine makes hardly any sense. I would love to build a small form-factor PC with a Shuttle XPC for example ;) Maybe later this year ….

I invested in VR-Comfort for now ;) I transformed the Oculus Quest 2 into a FrankenQuest with the DAS-Mod (HTC VR VIVE Deluxe Audio Strap). Loving the new look, audio and perfect weight balance :) Perfect for longer sessions.

Interesting Platforms

There are many new platforms providing access to new tools and often an easy access to a broader community. Some of them with nice build tools in VR.

Open Source

OpenXR is an open, royalty-free standard for access to virtual reality and augmented reality platforms and devices. It is developed by a working group managed by the Khronos Group consortium.“

You will find a bunch of efforts on the way, to build the next open multi-platform VR solution.

Building experiences in VR

Building with Unity is always an option, but not the best solution for those that are just getting started or for those that just want a simple starting point to experiment ;)

  • Zoe – Immersive 3D Creation Platform
    Create content directly in VR or using Unity :) Zoe is a perfect tool for Educators & Institutions.
  • A-Frame. A web framework for building 3D/AR/VR experiences. Make 3D worlds with HTML and Entity-Component For Quest, Rift, WMR, SteamVR, mobile, desktop
  • OpenSpace 3D – OpenSpace3D is a free and open-source platform, designed to create virtual and augmented-reality applications or games. If you are a 3D artist, a designer, a lab researcher, or just someone with a lot of passion and curiosity, you don’t need software development skills to use our platform.
  • Amazon Sumerian is a set of tools for creating high-quality virtual reality (VR) experiences on the web. With Sumerian, you can construct an interactive 3D scene without any programming experience, test it in the browser, and publish it as a website that is immediately available to users.
  • Mozilla Spoke – Create 3D social scenes for Hubs

VR Office

Another evolving area is the office space. Some of the platforms above already dive into that area, like XRDesktop. But Oculus / Facebook itself is working on its Infinite Office integration.

Other solutions help to mirror your PC within VR and open new ways for collaboration:

The biggest problem is the mirroring of the keyboard. As soon as that is solved, this might become usable. Immerse VR provides an option to overlay a virtual representation of your keyboard, by mapping your real-life keyboard in VR.

Here to stay

VR is here to stay, I would have never though it would take off 2020 / 2021. But we all face new challenges and technology is evolving to make space for new possibilities.

Not all gaming

While gaming / fitness / social are the entry point for VR currently, this whole market will expand quickly in 2021.

Really looking forward to new possibilities and another facet of my developer life.

Looking forward meeting some of you in the VR-Multiverse :)

Enjoy coding ….

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„Klaro [klɛro] is a simple consent management platform (CMP) and privacy tool that helps you to be transparent about the third-party applications on your website. It is designed to be extremely simple, intuitive and easy to use while allowing you to be compliant with all relevant regulations (notably GDPR and ePrivacy).“

The tool is developed by KIPROTECT and can be found on Github.

Black & White

As I integrated Klaro on a couple of websites so far, I decided to make my work a bit easier and start building some basic clean themes for it.

I have a basic white and black&white theme so far. The download includes a testdrive folder, to showcase the themes. The white theme is also used on this website ;)

I really hate those standard consent management modals, that integrate badly into the website native design.

Klaro does a good job allowing to override its core theme and makes it a bit more pleasant. We do have to live with those modals from now on ;)

The themes are Sass-based and provide easy configuration options.

Enjoy!

cubicFUSION Themes for Klaro! @ Github

Klaro! Tweaks

Klaro is still missing some things, will collect some workarounds here for you to play with.

Missing events for consent modal open / closed …

Updates: Github Discussion
– 0.7.10 also adds custom callbacks to services (onAccept, onDecline, onInit) NICE!

Used a simple MutationObserver to do some magic for now, without diving into the core Klaro code for now. I am sure they already have an event listener or watcher setup.

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What’s new / What changed ?

Admin Enhancer is the first free plugin released under the cubicFUSION brand. The plugin is still work in progress, but a tool that is already used within some of my client projects. I am using this  plugin to centralise things I love & need, when sending out a finished website or project.

NEW: DASHBOARD GUTENBERG / DASHBOARD TEMPLATES
NEW: ADMIN TOOLBAR
UPDATE: SHORTCODES

Addons included …

This version includes a new addon “GUTENBERG DASHBOARD“, that allows you to build a White-Label Admin Dashboards using the Gutenberg Editor.

It integrates with the SHORTCODES addon and allows to drop in the dashboard widgets via its own Gutenberg Block.

The Block provides settings to overwrite CSS from the admin widgets, allowing you tweak them a bit — for better visual integration. The Dashboard template itself can be tweaked using CSS and Sass via SCSS now 😉

I am also releasing the first integration of the “ADMIN TOOLBAR” addon, which allows you to tweak some of the admin toolbar and footer options (Hide WP Logo, Hide Toolbar on Frontend, Hide Menu Items ..)

Already working on 0.3 … ENJOY!

cubicFUSION – Admin Enhancer
WordPress Repository

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I am always looking for easy ways to white label the WordPress administration for myself and my clients. A nice personal touch for each project and an easy way to declutter the interface.

These are my personal favorites, that I use on a regular basis.

Admin Themes / Login Page

There are a lot of solutions out there, but many break easily and are really heavy to load. Some of these solutions I tried also break easily on new WordPress Upgrades. The first two below are currently my favorites.

  1. Slate Pro ( Commercial )
    „Slate Pro is a powerful WordPress admin theme plugin that reimagines WordPress with a clean and simplified design. White label your WordPress install with custom colors, a custom login screen, custom admin branding, and more. Slate Pro is now multisite compatible! Network activate to control the look of all sub-sites.“

    Slate Pro is a clean and simple admin theme, that does not try to alter the interface completely. Small changes that make a difference. Color adjustments, logos, simple menu & widget enhancements and login page tweaks. Compared to other solutions it has been a stable experience, even after multiple WordPress Updates.

    This is an install and enjoy solution!
  2. Kodeo Admin UI ( Free – Open Source )
    „Kodeo Admin UI turns your WordPress backend into a clean and modern user interface. All elements are well designed and arranged for the best user experience.“

    Kodeo is another clean interface, that goes further than Slate Pro. Many areas of the admin theme have been changed. It works well with most 3rd party plugins, but I have had problems with some plugins doing their own little interface tweaks.
    With Kodeo your WordPress Admin completely transforms and gives it a really modern & clean look.

    This is an install and tweak solution! You might need to trim certain CSS properties to make it work for everything.

  3. Material WP ( Commercial )
    „Material Design version of the WordPress Admin Interface“

    I have used this once or twice in the past. Its more of a honorable mention. The admin theme transforms the interface completely, but can feel sluggish on slower servers. It has an impressive set of options and gets regular updates.

    This is again an install and tweak solution! It works with most of the 3rd party plugins and Gutenberg, but some things might need to be trimmed by hand.

Menu Editors & User Groups

When sharing the administration with your customer, you often need to make it as simple a possible for them. Depending on your setup, the menu becomes cluttered and overwhelming really fast.

I often trim menus for each user role, to make only those options accessible that are really needed.

  1. Admin Menu Editor Pro ( Free / Commercial )
    This tool has been part of many of my projects and has been a solid solution for years. You can hide & move menus, create new menus, tweak menus by user role, hide plugins and also tweak the admin toolbar with an extra addon.
    Worth every penny! There is a free version available, that might just provide enough functionality for your next project.
  2. Groups ( Free )
    „Groups is designed as an efficient, powerful and flexible solution for group-oriented memberships and content access control. It provides group-based user membership management, group-based capabilities and access control for content, built on solid principles. Groups is light-weight and offers an easy user interface, while it acts as a framework and integrates standard WordPress capabilities and application-specific capabilities along with an extensive API.“

    This plugin allows you to add new user groups easily and can tie into the plugin above.

User Profiles

When sharing the administration with multiple users, its always nice to add some personality to the user profiles as well.

WP User Profiles
„WP User Profiles is a sophisticated way to edit users in WordPress.“

The plugin provides other small addons, like WP User Avatars. Neat plugin to tweak admins, editors and other users.

Admin Dashboard Replacements

  1. cubicFUSION Admin Enhancer (Free)


    This is a new plugin I am currently working on. The current shortcodes addon can help you integrate dashboard widgets into the dashboard builders below.

    I am also working on my own dashboard builder, that requires none of the solutions below and builds upon WordPress core functionality.

  2. Dashboard Welcome for Elementor (Free)


    “Dashboard Welcome by PowerPack Elements gives you full control over the WordPress welcome panel using Elementor.

    You can personalize the dashboard with content and design built with Elementor. You can add heading, contact information, form, video, images, affiliate links, etc.

    While the above plugin is free, you need a Elementor Pro License to use it!

  3. Dashboard Welcome for Beaver Builder (Free)


    “Welcome by Beaver Addons gives you full control over the WordPress welcome panel using Beaver Builder.

    You can personalize the dashboard with content and design built with Beaver Builder. You can add heading, contact information, form, video, images, affiliate links, etc.”

    Even though the plugin above is free, Beaver Builder is a commercial plugin!

  4. Divi Dashboard Welcome ($22)


    “Divi Dashboard Welcome gives you control over the WordPress Dashboard Welcome screen …”

    The plugin requires the Divi Page Builder. Both plugins are commercial!

Enjoy
Alex

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18. November 2019

Structured Data – I love it!

You might have heard about Structured Data, Schema.org and JSON-LD.  

Search engines read structured data and use it to enhance search engine results. Structured data helps search engines to understand and categorize page content.

Example

This structured data, in JSON-LD format, describes a simple Article.

Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet. But not all structured data endpoints are actually used by Google, Bing or other search engines yet.

Allowed Structured Data

Google provides a detailed overview of structured data allowed and used for search results.

There are basic enhancements you can use, like the Article structured data above. There are also many other more specific uses, like Video, LocalBusiness, Events, FAQ, Job Postings, Recipe and so on. Bing also provides a basic overview, but their documentation is scattered and feels incomplete.

How to integrate Structured Data

If you use a modern CMS, many structured data endpoints are already integrated out of the box (Article, Website, Logo, Person …).

Also modular content management systems often offer additional functionality through plugins, those help integrate structured data directly. Some do it better than others!

But if you really want to dive deep and integrate all those little things, structured data is still far more powerful when added manually. Especially things like events, products, job listings, courses, Q&A can greatly be enhanced by hand.

Alex@portalZINE

Validating Structured Data

Google and Bing offer validation tools for structured data. Both integrate it into their Webmaster Tools. You can also use the JSON-LD Playground to validate the JSON-LD itself or RDFa Play, Structured Data Linter, Facebook Debugger, Schema.org Generator and many other tools.

Need help?

I am a huge structured data fan and have been working with it for years now. I am constantly looking for new supported structured data endpoints, to enhance my own or customer websites & data.

Google constantly updates their documentation and highlights experimental structured data endpoints. Like Speakable for example, that highlights sections of a websites that are best suited for audio playback.

Fresh structured data helps to promote your content and enhance SEO, directly enhancing your discoverability and your search engine position. Your content becomes more meaningful for search engines, making it easier for them to promote it to the right potential user. It also ties into the GO GREEN concept, as you are reducing bounces of your website for users getting offered the wrong content.

Things like recipes and how-tos are already pushed to the top of the search index. A perfect way to promote your website and get noticed.

Have fun using or discovering structured data!

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16. November 2019

Building Low Carbon Websites

I signed the Sustainable Web Manifesto a couple of weeks ago. The manifesto perfectly reflects how I have been handling my business and my projects.

I created a special „GO GREEN“ subsection to talk about the topic in more detail and give you some more context about the areas I can help you with.

We all share and use the web, just as we all share and live on this planet. This manifesto is a public declaration of a shared commitment to create a sustainable internet.

https://www.sustainablewebmanifesto.com/
  1. CLEAN –  The services we provide and services we use will be powered by renewable energy.
  2. EFFICIENT –  The products and services we provide will use the least amount of energy and material resources possible.
  3. OPEN – The products and services we provide will be accessible, allow for the open exchange of information, and allow users to control their data.
  4. HONEST – The products and services we provide will not mislead or exploit users in their design or content.
  5. REGENERATIVE –  The products and services we provide will support an economy that nourishes people and planet.

„If we embrace sustainability in our work, we can create a web that is good for people and planet.“

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Together with my partners in crime (Dorit & Micha), we have finally opened our own personal online store.

We have been selling our single origin coffees (1st Single Malt Whisky Coffee, Basic – Single Origin Arabica, Kill me Quick Espresso -Single Origin Robusta), teas (Kräuterschorle – Kräutertee, Feuerkieker – Schwarztee) and rum (Fortune Teller – Double Aged Barbados Rum) using the Amazon Marketplace for the past 2 years.

No more Amazon

GreenApe has been a side project for the past years and I never wanted to deal with the maintenance of our own store. But its time to move on and do our own thing. Amazon has removed so many useful features over the years or added a new fee on top of other fees. Even though Amazon provides access to a large amount of customers, for small companies the fees build up quickly.

Our own

With our own store we can finally do bundles, coupons again and better optimized shipping. It will also allow me to better testdrive some new interesting features for my customers ;) Yeah its kind of my new toy or shopping lab! Its fun being able to work on untested new SEO features, structured data, merchant tools, shopping ads and tracking of all of those.

Locations

We have been selling in Germany for the past 2 years, but that might be changing in the future depending how well the new store shapes up :)

If you live in Germany, love good coffee, tee or rum … say Hi!

GreenApe – Makes Your Life Better
Homepage
Shop
Contact us

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Gatsby is a free and open source framework based on React that helps developers build blazing fast websites and apps.

What they have to say

  • Go Beyond Static Websites. Get all the benefits of static websites with none of the limitations. Gatsby sites are fully functional React apps so you can create high-quality, dynamic web apps, from blogs to e-commerce sites to user dashboards.
  • Use a Modern Stack for Every Site. No matter where the data comes from, Gatsby sites are built using React and GraphQL. Build a uniform workflow for you and your team, regardless of whether the data is coming from the same backend.
  • Load Data From Anywhere. Gatsby pulls in data from any data source, whether it’s Markdown files, a headless CMS like Contentful or WordPress, or a REST or GraphQL API. Use source plugins to load your data, then develop using Gatsby’s uniform GraphQL interface.
  • Performance Is Baked In. Ace your performance audits by default. Gatsby automates code splitting, image optimization, inlining critical styles, lazy-loading, and prefetching resources, and more to ensure your site is fast — no manual tuning required.
  • Host at Scale for Pennies. Gatsby sites don’t require servers so you can host your entire site on a CDN for a fraction of the cost of a server-rendered site. Many Gatsby sites can be hosted entirely free on services like GitHub Pages and Netlify.

What I have to say …

While researching some popular static site generation tools, GatsbyJS comes up often. I have played with NuxtJS and Hugo in the past, but what I REALLY like about GatsbyJS is the plugin / modular system. You can build your website with plain-old React and CSS styles, but make your development more efficient by adding node_modules.

Also being able to import any data source with ease, using GraphQL, is amazing. And when it comes to content management, you can easily hook a headless WordPress or Drupal setup into the mix and consume their REST APIs :)

I am not switching my own website to GatsbyJS anytime soon, but its another tool in my toolbox for future project consideration !

There are many tutorials on Youtube about getting started, maybe something to consider for the next freetime testdrive ;) Enjoy …

GatsbyJS @ Github

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A nice set of CSS3 Animations that can be easily used to spice up your design.

The animations can be triggered through Javascript, jQuery and the timings can be tweaked through pure CSS. The package also provides gulp, so that you can tweak every aspect easily.

Demo
Github

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  1. SPRITEOWL is a Photoshop extension that takes over the boring part of working with sprite images and CSS.
    Retrieves x, y, width and height info of all sprite elements
    Exports retina ready PNG files and required media queries of your Photoshop sprite file
    Supports preprocessors LESS, SASS/SCSS & Stylus
    Spriteowl
  2. CSSOWL is a mixin library that works with Spriteowl.
    LESS, SASS/SCSS & Stylus support
    Open source
    Cssowl

Two tools that can enhance your workflow immensely. Enjoy!

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