The Definitive “Leviathan of the Ancient Deep” Recording

leviathan album artAfter 8 long years of work, the magic of modern recording and digital techniques have helped Sarah to produce the definitive recording of her Leviathan of the Ancient Deep Concerto! The 25-minute piece was Sarah’s Master’s thesis under Claremont Graduate University’s composition program, and even though 8 whole years have passed, it’s still her favorite. The Leviathan Concerto features a vibrant six-string electric violin lead, backed by synthesizer, electronic wind instrument, and a full orchestra. You can hear a sample on the announcement post.

This definitive recording is available for a limited time, and exclusively for her Backstage Members, but don’t worry, the cost of membership is only $12/year. That’s right, for roughly the price of one album a year, you’ll get this recording and every other new album she produces!

WordPress 4.9 Released

wordpress customizer illustrationWordPress 4.9 has been released! This release introduces some big improvements to the customizer, the code editors, and theme switching, along with a new gallery widget!

443 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Mel Choyce and Weston Ruter. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.9 has been out for about 17 hours, and has already been downloaded 2,075,053 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

WordPress 5.0 is next, and it sounds like the promised fully rebuilt editor is still on schedule. If you want to try it out or contribute to its development, please feel free to start with the Gutenberg plugin.

Moving to iCloud Photo Library

A few years ago, I said goodbye to my mid-level digital camera and just started using my iPhone as my camera of choice. After all, the best camera is always the one that you have with you, and I always have my phone with me. It wasn’t until this year’s Automattic meetup that that I realized I was transferring photos from my phone to my computer manually via AirDrop, as if I was still treating my phone like a separate unconnected camera. “Surely there is a better way?” I thought, and that better way was right in front of my face the whole time.

Enter iCloud Photo Library, a cloud-based library which is accessible by all of your Apple devices. If you take a photo or video with your iPhone or iPad, or add one to your library on your Mac, it’s immediately sent to the library in iCloud and visible across all of your Apple devices. It’s simple, it’s magic, and it reminds me of having wallet photos. If I want to show someone a photo or get the urge to publish one online somewhere, I don’t have to explain how sad I am that I don’t have the photo on me, because I already have access to my entire library on my phone.

I had heard great things about iCloud Photo Library, but had resisted because I knew I’d absolutely have to buy more iCloud storage since the free 5GB just wasn’t going to work out. Fortunately, Apple recently launched a 200GB plan at only $2.99/month that I could share with my wife for her photo library too, and that was exactly what we needed. After buying more storage, I switched on iCloud Photo Library in the Photos app on my Mac, and the upload of everything completed in about 6 hours. Now, the 2,471 photos and videos I have worth keeping are accessible on both my Mac and my phone.

If you do choose to switch to iCloud Photo Library, and I very much recommend that you do, please keep in mind that it is not a dedicated storage solution. Deleting a photo from the library on any connected device will remove it from the iCloud Photo Library and any other device using it too. Also, keep in mind that each device allows you to choose if you want to download the originals to it. My originals are being downloaded to my Mac’s library, like a second backup, while I save space on my phone by not having it download any.

If you aren’t an Apple device user or you aren’t a fan of iCloud, there are many similar options to choose from, like Google Photos and Amazon Prime Photos. Either way, do consider some sort of cloud-based photo library, so you can always carry your memories with you wherever you go and not have to worry about how you’re going to get your new photos to your computer.

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Automattic Meetup 2017

Like like last year, Automattic went to Whistler, British Columbia for our annual Grand Meetup. We had almost 600 employees spanning the globe, suddenly just spanning 2 hotels for the week. It’s great to build things in person with people you usually only communicate with via text. Sure, it’s a little bit overwhelming, but I always walk away with a few new friends.

We built and learned quite a bit this week, and though there are no specific announcements yet, please watch the Jetpack Blog, WordPress.com Blog, and WooCommerce Blog for exciting news. As for myself, and as usual, I have a fair amount of photos to share:

In case you’re wondering, those last few photos are of our very talented band of Automatticians.

For more photos, visit colleagues Lisa Schuyler, Stephen McLeod Blythe, Ryan Cowles, and many more on Instagram. If any of this looks interesting to you, we’re always hiring!

Photo of Ryan Cowles, Richard, and James Huff, by Lisa Schuyler

Photo of Ryan Cowles, Richard Archambault, and James Huff, by Lisa Schuyler

Shady Oaks Takedown Soundtrack

Earlier this month, Sarah spent 8 straight hours composing the soundtrack for Shady Oaks Takedown, a senior center martial arts comedy, which was completed in just 48 hours. This short film marks the first time Sarah’s music was heard in a real movie theater, and now it is moving on to final voting for the Audience Award this Friday!

You can own this senior center martial arts comedy with an 80’s vibe soundtrack for just $3 and enjoy this new historic moment in Sarah’s rapidly growing composition career!

For more details on the how the soundtrack came together, check out the interview between Sarah and director Andrew Menjivar. You can see the full film, and help it win the Audience Award, by attending the Audience Awards Special in Los Angeles this Friday (August 25) at 9PM. The tickets are going fast!

Update: Shady Oaks Takedown is moving on to the Best Of Los Angeles Award’s Screening and Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre on September 10 at 4PM! Tickets are still available!

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The New DuckTales

I grew up loving DuckTales, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear that there’s a new DuckTales series, complete with a cast of well-known faces. The new series feels both familiar and modern, which is definitely what I want from any nostalgia-fueled reboot. It premiered last Saturday with a two-part special that’s available to watch on YouTube, and will begin airing weekly on September 23.

Reborn

All your life you did the right thing, always putting others before yourself. This is your reward.

Reborn is an imaginative look at the afterlife from writer Mark Millar and artist Greg Capullo. We’re introduced to our hero Bonnie Black as she passes away from a stroke, only to be reborn in the afterlife, younger and apparently the prophetic savior of everyone who had lead a good life. Bonnie is joined by her battle-hardened father and war-ready childhood dog on a quest to stop the forces of darkness.

We’re all familiar in some way with stories of traditional heaven and hell style afterlives, and while Reborn certainly doesn’t deviate from that style, it refreshes it with a vibrant fantasy world and an over-arching examination of life, death, what we leave behind, and what we bring with us. My only complaint is that Millar and Capullo have constructed such a vibrant fantasy world that it seems impossible to cover in this first volume, so it’s filled with imaginative visuals that are accompanied by little to no explanation. I preferred to fill the gaps in myself, as Bonnie’s journey of discovery and acceptance makes it hard not to wonder what we’d do in the same situation.

Reborn is just one volume so far, but according to Millar, there is a strong possibility of four more volumes, a series of novels, and a television series. The first volume has a solid ending and can definitely stand on its own, but I’m excited to see the rest of this world that Millar and Capullo have built.

Net Neutrality Day of Action

net neutralityNet Neutrality is a big issue that everyone should be concerned about. When you request a website, or any information over the internet, you expect your ISP to deliver it as requested with no interference. This is what the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules protect. Without Net Neutrality rules, your ISP could block sites they don’t like or slow down access to sites that don’t pay a fee, and those rules are in jeopardy.

The FCC is considering repealing the Net Neutrality rules, but there’s still time to stand up for what’s right. The FCC is currently requesting your feedback, and the first comment deadline is July 17, so make sure that you send your feedback to let them know what Net Neutrality means to you. Next, join the Net Neutrality Day of Action protest tomorrow (July 12). There are many ways you can participate listed there, and if you have a WordPress site, use the Fight for the Future Alerts plugin.

Millions of people spoke out in 2014 to establish the Net Neutrality rules, and hopefully we can do the same this year to save them.

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Help Test the Future WordPress Editor

Last week, WordCamp Europe 2017 was filled with lots of opportunities to make WordPress better, including the announcement that the future WordPress Editor (codenamed Gutenberg) is now available for use as a plugin. The future of WordPress editing will be built on positionable blocks, where each block can be pretty much any kind of content, like this gallery:

There have already been plenty of great posts that go in depth on the current state of Gutenberg, so I won’t bore you with the details here, but the short version is that folks who are new to WordPress may find this to be an intuitive experience while long-time WordPress users may encounter a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, Gutenberg won’t replace the existing WordPress editor until WordPress 5.0, so there’s plenty of time to install that plugin and start contributing.

P.S. This post was originally written with Gutenberg 0.2.0 on WordPress 4.8, but required a few tweaks after publishing, so please help us test this and contribute to make it better. 🙂

WordPress 4.8 Released

WordPress 4.8 has been released! This release introduces new widgets for images, videos, audio, and rich text, as well as new link boundaries to cure editor frustrations and a new Dashboard widget which displays nearby WordPress events!

346 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg and Jeffrey Paul. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.8 has been out for about 9 hours, and has already been downloaded 1,315,250 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!