Posted Monday July 6, 2009 —
Here’s a list of apps and tools I use on a daily basis when developing websites in a Windows environment. I’m currently looking for a better XML viewer/validator if one exists, let me know if you have any recommendations.
gVim – vim for windows, need I say more? Freeware.
Oracle SQL Developer – Database administration tool for management of databases and writing queries.
WinSCP – Combined with a good editor, this application is a must have for connecting and modifying files on remote servers. Supports SSH/SCP, FTP, and STFP.
PuTTY Connection Manager – Consolidate multiple PuTTY windows into one window with a tabbed interface.
Liquid XML Studio – View XML documents and schemas with visual representations. Supports schema validation. Free if run in Community Mode.
The Regex Coach – Simple app that lets you write and test Perl compatible regular expressions. Freeware.
Total Commander – Takes awhile to get used to, but is much better than having to use Windows Explorer for file management and navigation. Shareware with onload nag screen.
Virtual Dimension – Multiple desktop/window application management software. Good for keeping your workspace organized. Enables window transparency, hotkeys, etc.
Taskix – Allows you to reorder and move applications displayed in the taskbar. Helpful when constantly switching between applications.
Workrave – Avoid overworking yourself and causing RSI with this app that allows you to set intermittent breaks. Includes several exercises.
Posted Sunday June 14, 2009 —
A room mate of mine loves the TV show The Simpsons and would always remark that he’d love to have the sailboat painting that the Simpson family keeps above the couch in their living room. After hearing it for the umpteenth time, I decided enough was enough and with the help of Shannon Gibson, we were able to recreate the painting using this real painting as a guide. Check it out…
The title of the painting is revealed as “Scene from Moby Dick” in one episode. It’s also in that episode where the small yellow plaque is shown which I decided to keep even though it’s not normally displayed in other episodes.
Make your own
If you’d like make your own, just download this vector PDF version.
Take it to any decent print shop and you can get it printed in any size you like. I had ours printed out at 16×22 for about $40 at FedEx Kinkos.
Posted Friday May 22, 2009 —
Having worked with Textpattern 4.0.8 and Wordpress 2.7 back to back within the last two months, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the biggest differences I noticed between the two content management systems.
I hate to say this, but I think Wordpress beats Textpattern as far as functionality goes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Textpattern’s simplicity, but it does seem to miss alot of features that come standard with Wordpress like versioning, WYSIWYG editing, and public user registration which may not be needed (or can be added with plugins), but are nice to have out of the box.
I used Textpattern more heavily for organizing content than I did Wordpress, but I’d hazard to guess they’d be pretty close in this regard with just differences in implementation.
Textpattern uses its own txp markup for creating templates which works surprisingly well. While initially a little more difficult, once you pick up how things work, it’s a lot of fun to work with. One sore point is that the templates are stored in the database so you need to work from within the Textpattern backend to make changes rather than with plain files like Wordpress.
Wordpress uses PHP for it’s templating which can be a double edged sword. Yes, PHP is easy to use and offers infinite options for templating, it does end up getting kind of messy if you’re not careful.
Both support plugins, but have slightly different methods for plugin installation. I only used one plugin for Textpattern (hak_tinymce) while I ended up using several more for Wordpress (Contact Form 7, Theme my login, and a few others). I found many plugins for Wordpress to be either buggy or unsupported while a few plain did not work at all.
Wordpress takes the cake here with new releases available almost quarterly which include useful features and advancements. Unfortunately, Textpattern seems to be a standstill in terms of development. I hope this isn’t a sign of trouble within the development team over at Textpattern, but rather a sign of mature product.
My preference is still lies with Texpattern for blogs and simple websites just because it’s so simple and easy to use. If I need more flexibility and functionality I’ll consider Wordpress, but be more inclined to use MODx, Drupal, or Joomla as there really isn’t alot that differentiates Textpattern and Wordpress in most cases.
Posted Saturday May 2, 2009 —
A custom themed Wordpress profile page that is seamlessly integrated with the rest of your site is actually possible with a little hackery.
There really wasn't a plugin available (CYC wasn't an option) for me to create a custom themed profile page so I looked into the Wordpress 2.7 core and came up with the following solution which I'm sure a few people are using already. While not the best solution since it involves modifying the core, it really only affects one file and just requires a few lines of code changes.
All you need to do is edit the file /wordpress/wp-admin/user-edit.php and comment out the following two lines:
Once those two lines are commented out, navigate to the user profile page within Dashboard and you'll notice that the page is now style less. Now it's just a matter of customizing and removing any fields you like along with applying your own theme to this page. Easy stuff if you're familiar with themes in Wordpress.
Posted Sunday February 15, 2009 —
Two months into the new year I’ve experienced many new things, one of them being the first time I quit a freelance project.
It started out well. I was able to win over the client with my ideas and most importantly (to the client at least) agree on the cost. The next step was to create a design which is where the first signs of micromanagement appeared. Despite hiring me for my ability to develop pretty and robust web sites, this particular client felt the need to reduce me to a pixel pusher.
Now I can understand having a preference for how you want your website to look and providing a critique, but requesting changes such as “make the titles white” and “make the logo larger” are plain ridiculous.
As a client, you hire a web developer for their skill and ability. Good web developers will design things a certain way for a reason according to established design principles such as colour theory, grids and balance. If clients could do these things, I’m sure they would, but they can’t! Please, please, trust us. We know what we are doing (most of the time).
Being micromanaged doesn’t feel good either. I felt resentful and no longer enjoyed what I was doing. I could have given in and soldiered on or been a good designer and communicated to the client why I was doing things the way I was, but felt this was going to fall on deaf ears. In the end I felt it was best for myself to drop the project and move on.
I’m happy to report that the client has launched his new website and surprise, surprise, it’s yet another ugly, table-based, non-standards compliant, search engine unfriendly, unmanageable website. Is it wrong that this makes me happy?