Blank WordPress pages, but no errors? Do you have a theme active?

Did you know it was possible to not have a theme active in WordPress? Seems like it shouldn’t be possible, or something that should throw an error but apparently you can accidentally wind up in this state.

The Symptom…

After attempting to replicate my current website site locally I found myself faced by an especially fun problem: an empty white void where my website should be.

What made it even more fun was: there weren’t any errors. Nothing going into logs, E_ALL was enabled, etc. Intentionally adding errors to index.php or other places worked like a charm; errors appeared! Perhaps stepping through execution via XDebug would help but, alas… getting PHPStorm and XDebug to talk to each other was turning into a 2 hour job this time around (devilbox docs, unfortunately, not helping this time) so I needed to consider other “turn a knob and see what happens” diagnostics.

The Fix…

I guessed that, perhaps, the local version of my theme had become inconsistent with the live version somehow and I should just switch to something else. Since using the site directly wasn’t working, I grabbed the ever-so-useful WP CLI to switch it.
So, I took a look at what I could pick from, and….

… apparently had no active themes?? That would certainly be a good reason to have no visible page!
Would activating my theme really fix it, though?

Yes… yes it did. My website was back. But I ultimately have no idea why this happened to begin with.

This isn’t the most informative blog post, but I thought maybe this would help someone else out there with a similar problem. I can only assume my export of my database was incomplete or got truncated in some relatively harmless way. Not sure how that happens, though!

Oregon Measure 114 is a clear “NO”

Like many Oregonians I am concerned about gun crime and, what can feel like, a new mass shooting occurring every week. My initial thought about introducing a gun permit is an immediate “yes, please!” It seems like common sense to me that gun owners should prove they have the necessary skill and knowledge to use one, similar to the the way many of us do in order to legally drive a ton of metal around. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re getting.

Out of the many flaws with this measure, the most significant one to me is that this measure ensures that the most vulnerable populations in this state will have their gun access limited. Gun nuts, particularly right-wingers that pose an existential threat to minorities, get to keep their arsenals and even ignore getting a permit because it’s a “purchase permit” and not an “usage permit.” It’s also another transfer of power to the State Police, and that shouldn’t sit right with anyone these days; they should have been left out of the process completely!

Here are my problems with this measure…

  1. The power to deny a permit application is given to the State Police, rather than establishing a new government agency akin to the Oregon Department of Transportation. The last thing we should be doing is expanding the responsibilities of the police; we already rely on them for too much the way it is. We all kinda collectively agreed this is an issue less than 2 years ago! This is another lazy “push stuff onto the police and let them sort it out” approach to a complex subject that can only lead to more problems down the road.
  2. The criteria for rejection is vague and has been abused by police before. The criteria for denial, “a danger to self or others,” is vague nonsense that has already been abused by authorities to unjustly lock away critics or kill innocent citizens. A politically influential (and violent) portion of this country is also in the midst of a nationwide crusade to paint transsexuals and homosexuals as mentally-ill and dangerous to children, so accepting this criteria seems like a guaranteed way to keep guns out of the hands of those who might need them most.
  3. Fingerprints are required for the permit. This is an absurd infringement on personal information that will go into a database with no guarantees it won’t be submitted to some other nationwide fingerprint registry. As if the FBI is going to agree to not hold onto all the prints they’re sent (how do we enforce this part of the measure??). Never forget, all information given to police can and will be used against you, including fingerprints; you shouldn’t volunteer information unless you have to. Lastly, fingerprinting is pseudo-science and has been used in false accusations, leading to Oregonian Brandon Mayfield being “disappeared” for an entire month by the FBI in 2004.
  4. It expands police power within the state. This related to point 1 and 2, but needs to be emphasized. This is a problem because the Police already have cart blanche to ruin people’s lives with little oversight to begin with. We need to be figuring out a solution to the dangers posed by the police force before we come up with more ways to give them power; until cops stop being bastards, all attempts to give them more power to have to be reconsidered!
  5. Individuals in police and military are exempt! This part could have been worded in such a way that allows for job-required ammunition of any size but instead a broad exemption is used instead. This should be obviously bad; the enforcers of our laws don’t even have to play by the same rules here.
  6. Poor folks basically won’t be able to get guns at all. Guns are already extremely expensive. All that required training is great but, unless it is free (and it won’t be), we’re guaranteeing that many of the folks who need guns the most won’t be able to get any because they can’t pay for it.

I can’t imagine how any progressive coalitions support this thing, when it’ll be minorities and other vulnerable people who get penalized by this proposal more than anyone else. Progress at the expense of the most vulnerable among us isn’t progress at all; this is an increase in persecution dressed up as “baby steps” towards better things down the road.

Lumio/Planar Crystal Touch Manager – A Dangerous Tool

Disclaimer right up front: If you have a reason to believe you should be considering using the Lumio Crystal Touch Manager to make changes to your older Planar (or other Lumio-based) touchscreen, I recommend you don’t even try. If you have a client, convince them a different display or find a way to use the screen as-is. There is NO UNDO BUTTON. If the Touch Manager messes up your device and you can’t get it to work correctly, you are on your own; there is no support out there for you and there is no “Factory Reset.” During my own issues I was forced to navigate archived versions of the Lumio website because they had neglected to pay their hosting for a while!

I especially recommend not proceeding if you are on a non-Windows system and have encountered problems that make you believe the Crystal Touch Manager is necessary. Lumio’s Mac and Linux software completely mis-configured my touchscreen and there was never a way to get it to work, in my experience.

My Use Case

This very brief guide comes from my own experiences and is not necessarily comprehensive; I needed to rotate a Planar PS4660T to a portrait orientation (90 degrees) and connect to to a Mac Mini. Unfortunately, Mac OSX is not as touch-friendly as the Windows 8 and 10 operating systems are. If you rotate a display 90 degrees in the Display settings in Mac OSX, the touch input isn’t rotated with it! This meant I needed to reconfigure the touchscreen hardware directly so that touch input would be provided to the operating system in a way that would match the new screen orientation.

Use the Lumio Crystal Touch Manager on Windows

The software and driver downloads for my planar screen provided me a link to the Lumio Crystal Touch Manager. This software is probably old, and is certainly barely compatible with any recent operating system versions. In addition to grabbing the “vendor recommended” version, I’d suggest digging up a more recent version. Going to directly for Crystal Touch Manager is obviously the way to go… but you might be forced to go digging up an archived copy of Lumio Crystal Touch manager if they forget to pay their web hosting bills again!

However you get to the Touch Manager downloads, please be sure to get the Windows version! Again, if you don’t have a Windows version, I wouldn’t even try. The Mac software totally botched the configuration of my Planar touch functionality and only the Windows version of the software could fix the problem.

Getting the thing to work

Run Crystal Touch Manager. Do the tabs all show information loaded from touch device, or are they blank or filled with weird values? Does the version tab show complete information, or is it partially empty or show gibberish like “384X???92” in the Serial Number field?

Chances are, you’re going to see the weird gibberish. Immediately close the software if you do, taking great care to make sure you do NOT save your changes if you are prompted to do so. Then, try one of the following:

  • Get the app configured to run in compatibility mode. I got my best results from using Win XP Service Pack 3.
  • Remove the lumio touch device from Windows. This can be done from the Control Panel, within the Devices and Printers window. Plug it back in after you do it!
  • Unplug and power off the Lumio device for a little while and then try again.

This isn’t really a comprehensive troubleshooting list, unfortunately, and I imagine there are probably additional sources of problems that I never encountered. Due to time constraints I didn’t get to fully explore this issue, but I hope that if you stumbled here after “breaking” your Lumio-driven touchscreen that this helps you save the day like I did!

Aftershock Evolves – Meet Hazard Ready!

I really dig being involved in projects that can help people, and truly appreciated working with Oregon Public Broadcasting and Hack Oregon to create Aftershock… but it always kind of bugged me that I never had a chance to circle back around to it and make it into the open source project I always felt it should be.

Enter: Carson MacPherson-krutsky, her advisor at the University of Montana, and a small development team. Over the span of only a few months they were able to figure out and refine a codebase filled with shortcuts and hardcoding to meet the challenges of a 3 day hackathon with almost no guidance from the original dev team (aka: me and Brandon Stump). Really impressive!

Check out Missoula Ready and see what they’ve been up to! There’s still a lot of Aftershock DNA under the hood; the core content is still the Story Nugget, also called a “Snugget,” and the look and feel still has a bit of the original flavor there. However, the new generalized codebase can handle a lot more data, more “story nuggets,” and a few new tricks. Maybe it’s only the first of many spin-offs? I can only hope so… more hazard information like this means more saved lives.