So, I found out from submitting a support ticket the other day that Bluehost does not allow LaTeX to be installed on their servers. I’ve no idea why. This may be enough to cause me to start looking for a new webhost again and run a server switch near the time when my annual contract expires. And it’s not just the inability to run LaTeX that’s fueling this; it’s a number of other server limitations I keep running into. For instance, I would really like to set up an openID server for those sites I comment on periodically (like LiveJournal blogs) that allow openID authentication. I’d also like to play around with Habari (still in development), but I can’t seem to get it to install on my server.
So, I’m going to start doing a little research and querying to see if I can find a decent and affordable host that lets me do all these things. Shared hosting is most desirable at this point, since paying the exorbitant monthly fees for a Virtual Private Server is well beyond my means. Trouble is, I’m not sure it’s possible to do everything I want to do on a shared server.
For LaTeX, I need a server that has tetex-extra and dvipng installed, as well as imagemagick. For Habari, I need a PHP5 installation that actually functions like PHP5, instead of being a limited version. And I know something else is needed for openID that I don’t currently have, but I haven’t yet been able to pin down what.
I’m open to suggestions from the community, as well. Anything that will make my research a little easier is most welcome.
As much as I love my hosted version of WordPress and the power I have to customize it however I see fit, there are some drawbacks to the system that I have yet to be able to hurdle.
- openID. I’ve wanted to set up an openID server for my blog for quite awhile now. The idea of being able to use my domain to securely log into other websites that use openID, rather than having to hassle with different usernames and passwords, was very appealing to me. However, the technology was initially so new that it was difficult to incorporate openID into WordPress without some hefty file hacking to make it work. Then plugins started coming out, some of which worked better than others. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get openID to work here, despite a nice little WordPress plugin that’s supposed to take all the hardship right out of installing it. I suspect that problem lies with inadequate support from my webhost, and all my attempts to contact the plugin’s author have been met with the silent treatment. The plugin itself hasn’t even undergone any changes, additions, or revisions since it was first published, so I suspect that it’s probably no longer being supported. This, then, continues to leave me in an openID black hole until something changes either with my webhost or with a plugin developer that can produce an openID plugin that works so well that almost anyone can use it on any hosting package.
- dp.SyntaxHighlighter. I work enough with CSS in the occasional WordPress or bbPress theming project that I do like to share snippets of code when the situation demands it. There’s a host of good code sharing plugins out there for WordPress, but the WordPress.com developers have incorporated a syntax highlighting package into the .com blogs that’s really slick. The thing that I like so much about it is that it has a little button that will automatically copy all the code to your clipboard for easy pasting into a text editor. Gone is the need to highlight and copy and then have to manually remove the numbers from the beginning of each line. Unfortunately, dp.SyntaxHighlighter has not yet been bundled as a WordPress plugin, and not being terribly adept yet at coding in PHP, I’m not sure where I’d even start to create a plugin to incorporate it into hosted versions of WordPress. I may try tackling the project here at some point and learn much more, I’m sure, about PHP in the process, but that will have to wait for another time when I don’t have quite so much on my plate. I suspect, though, it’s only a matter of time before else beats me to it.
- LaTeX. The WordPress.com blogs also have LaTeX installed on them for the uber math geeks. I had a brief introduction to LaTeX when I took Calculus from my father-in-law during my undergraduate education (though I hadn’t yet then met his daughter). I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by coding and markup languages, and LaTeX seemed similar in many ways to HTML and C. The beauty of LaTeX, though, lies in its ability to allow you to easily and attractively put complex mathematical formulas and diagrams on a page. The downside to LaTeX, though, is that the software necessary to make it work is rather complicated to install and somewhat less complicated to use. It’s gotten better in recent iterations, of course, but it’s still somewhat cumbersome to set up. The brains over at WordPress.com actually took the time and effort to make LaTeX work with their blogs and to allow anyone who wants to do so to render LaTeX formulas on their WP.com blogs. There are a couple of plugins that allow you to use LaTeX on hosted versions of WordPress, as well, but they depend heavily on all the LaTeX software being installed on your server. Most webhosts do not have these software packages installed, and it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to install these packages yourself or to get tech support to install them for you. So, unfortunately, I have yet to get LaTeX installed on this blog. This does, however, providing a major driving motivation for me to use my “WordPress.com blog”:http://stitzelj.wordpress.com a bit more, especially since I intend to spend some time working my way through my old Calculus textbook (yes, I did keep it) in an attempt to learn Calculus again and learn it better this time. So, I may end up referring you back and forth between the two blogs, at least until I can find a way to get LaTeX installed here.