American West using less water despite more people

Oh the horror

Water usage has dropped steadily for years in the American West and California, despite many more people and increased agriculture. This includes Las Vegas and its casinos with water fountains. Oh the horror, what horrendous water pigs they are, some howl. Except it’s not true. The fountain water is reused. In fact, all indoor water in Vegas is cleaned up and reused. It’s been toilet-to-tap for years.

Conservation is working. People are learning to use less water. More people does not inexorably mean increased water usage. Yes, this is and will continue to be an ongoing process.

Despite the rhetoric of imminent doom, the math is inescapable. From 2002 to 2013, the greater Las Vegas metro area grew by 34 percent to a population of more than 2 million people. During that same period, its use of Colorado River water—its primary source of supply—dropped by 26 percent.

The same is true of California agriculture.

When Bart Fisher returned home from college in 1972, his family’s alfalfa fields outside Blythe in California’s southeastern desert produced 7 tons of alfalfa per acre. Today, the Fishers get 10 tons per acre from the same land. They do it with the same amount of water as a much younger Fisher and his family used four decades ago.

In cities too, water use is going down. Every one of the region’s major urban areas that once depended on unsustainable groundwater mining has turned the corner. Conservation and shifts to relatively more sustainable sources of supplies have led to aquifers beneath Los Angeles, the sunbelt of Central Arizona, and Las Vegas that have stabilized or in some cases are rising.

Big Vegas casinos: Why your Twitter so lame?

Fremont Street Experience gets more retweets, likes, and comments on Twitter than big Vegas casinos do despite having vastly fewer followers (20K vs 150K or more.) Why? Because Fremont Street on Twitter has personality. It wants to engage followers and have conversations instead of just blankly broadcasting. It deliberately retweets from other accounts. It posts fun historical and quirky stuff. It’s fun to read. Contrast this with the big casinos who tweet at you, giving an overwhemling impression that you are a consumer who is expected to appreciate their awesomeness then spend money with them.
Scott Roeben, who runs the Fremont Street Twitter account talked about this last night at a blogging meetup last night here in Vegas. The big casino Twitter accounts are an example of how not to do social media. They just push content at followers. MGM, which owns multiple Strip casinos, often posts the same content on all their accounts. Yawn. There’s no attempt to get conversations going.

He says a great way to build Twitter traffic is to find much bigger accounts, find content they’d be interested in, then tweet about it, including their Twitter handle in the post. He used magician Penn Jillette, who has 2 million followers, as an example. Scott will tweet something of interest to Penn, who sometimes re-tweets it, bringing lots of hits and interest back to Fremont Street Twitter. The key here is it has to be real, something the celeb would be genuinely interested in. Don’t spam or annoy them.

Compare Fremont Street @FSELV to these biggies: @MGMGrand, @WynnLasVegas, @PalazzoVegas. Fremont has way more personality, is much smaller, yet get as much if not more retweets, etc.

Blocking Skype spam phone calls and messages

Oh lucky me. Just in the past week or so I’ve been getting unsolicited Skype phone calls and messages from Perki McBreasty and her friends. According to their bios and messages, they are hotties, smitten with me, and want to get up close and personal.

Or they could be a den of thieves in Russia looking to scam the unwary. Oh dear, is it unfair of me to say Russia? Actually, no it isn’t. I manage multiple WordPress sites. There are constant attempts to login and hack the sites. The vast bulk of the attacks are from Russia (and Ukraine.) So, that’s probably where these Skype attacks are coming from too (and they are attacks.)

Really Skype, you can’t block obvious spam like this? Because you need to.

After a few days of manually blocking them, I set Skype to only accept calls and notifications from Contacts. This cuts down on, say, a potential overseas client calling me because he got my Skype name from my website. Now we have to be Contacts first. However it does avoid spam call and messages. (I’ve gotten four in two days…)

Notification Settings
Instant Messages from: Contacts Only

Allow Calls From Anyone: Off

Time, tide, and WordPress wait for no one. Gutenberg is coming

Sometimes change happens incrementally and within an existing framework. Other times though, change requires a new way of doing things where old ways become irrelevant and are replaced. WordPress is about to go through such a change. This means, among many other things, that my favorite theme, Canvas, is being retired.

Canvas was developed in 2010 by Woothemes. It allows the look and feel of a site to be customized in hundreds of ways from the theme control panel rather than with code. WordPress bought Woo a few years back, renamed it Woocommerce, and just announced Canvas was being retired. Why? Because WordPress is embarking on a huge new project called Gutenberg which completely alters the core of the WordPress editor and customizer. Canvas was made for a different era and can’t be updated to work with upcoming versions of WordPress that have Gutenberg. Canvas will slowly become obsolete because it can’t take advantage of these new features, which start with a new editor in WordPress 5.0.

Woo did the right thing. They announced why they are retiring Canvas, are providing a free upgrade path to another theme, Storefront. They admit Storefront is for commerce so might not work well with blogs and magazine-style sites. I have multiple sites using Canvas and am looking at TagDiv Newspaper and PootlePress 18tags themes as possible replacements.

We’ve come to a difficult decision: as of today, we’re no longer selling Canvas.

WordPress is constantly evolving, and Canvas is no longer a good option for site builders using newer versions of WordPress – we don’t want to recommend a theme we don’t think will serve you in the future.

The WordPress theming world will experience a new wave of innovation over the next two years. The rise of page builders and the many multipurpose themes means more and more people expect easy-to-use customization tools for WordPress. Current work on the WordPress core Editor and Customizer will evolve how we build and use themes, and the Gutenberg plugin will fundamentally change how themes and content within WordPress are created.

Canvas isn’t built to keep up with the changes

While still early, we believe strongly that Gutenberg is the future. We’ve decided to invest our resources in preparing our products for it in order to bring you the best experience. Unfortunately, that won’t include Canvas.

We will keep Canvas compatible with the latest releases of WooCommerce and WordPress until all existing Canvas support subscriptions have lapsed. Lifetime subscriptions will end on October 24, 2018, and all other subscriptions will end at their currently scheduled date.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg on Gutenberg, which starts to roll out in WordPress 5.0. It’s big. Everything is based on blocks, it’s modular, so changes, editing, plugins, themes, blogging, stores, become easier to create and maintain for everyone, not just developers.

When Johannes Gutenberg’s press came out, people mostly used it to print the same religious text monks had been copying. It wasn’t until ten or fifteen years later that people started innovating and trying their hands at new kinds of writing, and the wheels of change started to spin faster. Now it’s WordPress’ turn to do the same. Gutenberg meets our challenges and opportunities head on while simultaneously benefiting everyone who makes a living working in the WP ecosystem. It’s about a lot more than just blocks. Our Gutenberg moves every part of the WordPress ecosystem forward:

Plugin developers will be able to completely integrate into every part of WordPress, including posts, pages, custom post types, and sidebars without having to hack TinyMCE or squeeze their entire feature behind a toolbar button. Today, every plugin that extends WordPress does it in a different way; Gutenberg’s blocks provide a single, easy-to-learn entry point for an incredible variety of extensions. Some folks have already begun to port their plugins over, and are finding that they’re easier to build and have a much improved UI. I’m looking forward to highlighting those stories as we get further along and more people write about them.

It’s big. It moves the WordPress ecosystem forward, but it also moves the whole web forward.

Which is scary! Because change always is, and this is a big one. But a scary thing is usually a thing that leads to growth, if you can push through it.

Gutenberg will be a sea change for WordPress. I’m looking forward to it even if all my sites with Canvas will need new themes.

Computer security is a continuing process

While on vacation recently, I left my laptop backpack on a train and got it back 12 days later from Lost and Found. Everything was fine. However, I took many precautions to ensure security in case it had been stolen, and as a result is my security is vastly improved. Here’s what I did.

First off, I took the laptop off all lists of known devices used by Microsoft and Google. These are also known as trusted devices, meaning Microsoft and Google allow you to log on to them easily, without doing two-factor authentication each time. TFA means if you log onto a device it doesn’t know about, it will send a text or alert to your mobile device, and you authorize the new device by entering a number or clicking something on the mobile. (Entering numbers is getting old school and less secure. Clicking something on a mobile is more secure.)

I use Win 10, so it was essential that the laptop no longer be trusted while it was missing. You can do this on another computer or on your mobile. That way, if someone somehow guessed the Win 10 password, they still couldn’t get in because the laptop now sends a message to the Microsoft Authenticator app on my iPhone asking me to confirm the new device.

Ditto for Google. It also has trusted devices and auto-logins to trusted devices. So, I removed the laptop from Google’s list of trusted devices too. They also have an Authenticator iPhone app. Google also suggested I change my password, so I did. For most of us, Google is the key to many things. If a hacker get gets a Google password, they can access Gmail and change passwords on multiple systems by using password hints going to the Gmail account. They can of course also change your Google password, in which case you are probably screwed.

However, by using 2FA and Authenticator mobile apps, all that goes away. It becomes much harder to hack accounts because the hacker doesn’t have the mobile to authenticate.

I also decertified the Kindle in the backpack, on the off-chance Amazon might not ask for a password when accessing the account itself. I re-certified the Kindle in less than a minute once I got the backpack.

To be absolutely safe, I also changed the password for LastPass, my password program, because it is possible to recover a password if that device had used it.

Yes, all of this is a big hassle. However it is way less work than trying to get back important accounts that have been hacked. 2FA is important. If you don’t use it, you are much more vulnerable.