Busy with computing-related work. Got to get the Elfin Diary for next year finished pronto, which means spending days keyboarding in stuff. I really wish now I was better at programming – a bit of (relatively) simple VB or C++ magic would probably get the whole job done in hours instead of weeks.
And I’m changing the look of this blog. The success of the new design for my main site has made me go looking for a similar ‘responsive’ WordPress theme for this blog, so that it can be viewed in a variety of devices. I’ve found two free themes so far – Whiteboard and Responsive TwentyTen.
I spent the whole of yesterday afternoon customising the Whiteboard child theme, only to find it had a bug (the sidebar was forced below the main content on a normal-width screen) which would have required more hours work to correct. Sorry guys, but I haven’t the time for that. So now I’m going with the other theme.*

Finding a good design is hard for me – just cannot seem to do it from scratch. My usual method is to find a design that I like and bugger it around until it resembles something that I like. That means looking through design galleries for inspiration, which often makes me feel inadequate – I keep having to remind myself that I have all the skills for it and that if I had all day to spend on a computer that was equipped with the latest hardware and software, I too could produce something as striking. One web designer that I follow on Twitter has boasted about how he sometimes works straight through for 15 or more hours at a time. If I had that amount of spare time, I’d get the whole Elfin Diary finished in a fortnight!
But, as it is, there is shopping and housework to do (here, a drive to the supermarket means a 30-mile round trip), there are decent TV shows to watch, books to read etc etc. plus I need to spend time with t’other half, or he gets all complainy!

So I’d best stop meandering here and get on with some wurk!

* Well, the Responsive TwentyTen theme works as advertised – if you haven’t got a smartphone, iPad, blackberry etc to view this on, try narrowing your browser!

…about techie web development matters in this post, so pass over if you’re not interested.
Transferring a complete WordPress blog from one server to another is supposed to be pretty simple – WordPress has an Import/Export function that makes it almost a one-click operation.
Having got the new WordPress-based Transit site almost complete on my local server, I decided to try a dry run, transferring it all (after backing everything up, of course) up to a folder on the Oakleaf Circle site. Lucky that I did. Most of it worked; unfortunately, some of the database tables didn’t transfer. These were the links and the events tables – the ones that I spent hours keyboarding in, with hundreds of entries. I can’t see what the problem is, unless it’s to do with the fact that the OC server has an older version of MySQL than my WAMP server – this may be why there appears to be no way of easily importing tables into the OC database, whereas my own MySQL database has a one-click import function. Hopefully, the server for the new site won’t have this bug – I don’t know MySQL well enough to import tables manually, and keyboarding in about two hundred entries for the second time is not my idea of a fun way to pass the time.
However, I’m still waiting for news about it – my query email about it a few days ago has gone unanswered so far. It’s got to be up and fully running by the end of the month; I’d like at least a week to sort out the bugs.
Additionally, I’m waiting to upgrade my computer – the new memory chips arrived the other day and there’s a huge new hard drive sitting on my desk, just begging to be plugged in, formatted and filled. But I can’t do any of that until Transit is all bedded down on its new server.

OK, I’ve now changed the design for this blog. I’d spent hours and hours over the weekend trying to put together a new design from scratch without much success, then thought “Why try to reinvent the wheel?”
This is a WordPress blog; there are hundreds of free WordPress themes out there, most of them readily adaptable. So I quickly found this very simple gridded design – appropriately named Simple Theme One – and just changed the header image and twiddled with the fonts and colours. Took me about thirty minutes and most of that was taken up with putting the header image (a montage of a few of my photos) together.

….to prove it, I can spell BANANAS!
I thought I had polished off all my banana wine last night, but I’ve just discovered a bottle hiding away in the kitchen, trembling in trepidation. Never, fear, little bottle, you shall remain virginal – for the time being….
I’m now brewing a further two gallons – a big bucket of it is now bubbling away in the utility room behind me, smelling quite tempting already. But it won’t be drinkable until at least midsummer. So that bottle in the kitchen won’t last!

Ah well… since today is a normal day for us (apart from everything being shut), I’ve been getting on with some work. A walk would have been pleasant, but B is quite tired today – maybe tomorrow. Mostly, I’ve been tweaking the new Transit website, which is getting along very nicely; most of the work now will be adding and formatting content. It probably won’t be online until the end of February, but I’m so excited over it that I’m spending time now getting it right. It’s all good practice, anyway, as I intend to concentrate on WordPress-driven CMS sites, and I’ve been getting down and dirty with the coding.

Well, I caught the Wallace & Gromit film this afternoon, then the Doctor Who special. Now it’s almost time for the new Wallace & Gromit special! So toodle-ooh!

….meeping about web design and stuff.
Getting on with the design for the new online Transit, I’ve been looking at CMSs that are specifically for online magazine/newsletters. WordPress, once again seems to win hands down, with at least three themes that are suitable. I’ve looked at a standalone Drupal spin-off called Prosepoint, but its still in beta and lacks a lot of features; also it still has a Drupal backend, and I really couldn’t get to grips with Drupal when I was trying it out earlier this year. (Ironically, the Prosepoint site appears to have copied a popular WP layout.) Joomla probably has a magazine skin, but it’s an application that I’ve not taken to at all – the backend is needlessly complex and customising any part of it is grindingly slow. Plus, it has surprisingly few CSS-only W3C-compliant themes.
So I’m sticking with what I know – WordPress. Not that any of their magazine themes has proved all that easy to customise – it is still basically a blogging application, although great strides are being taken with turning it into a full-fledged CMS. The latest version comes with all sorts of bells and whistles that, while undoubtedly useful, are making it steadily more complicated.
I’ve been using WordPress since version 1.1 – you can see what that was like here; making your own custom theme then just meant playing around with the single stylesheet. Now WP themes themselves are getting far more complex and I’m seeing signs of WordPress ‘forks’ developing; for instance, one of the magazine skins I’m considering comes with it’s own structure theme that you have to install first. Not much of a step from there to a separate standalone application, ala Prosepoint.
In fact, I can see a real demand for these open-source online magazine and newspaper applications, now that print newspapers are in decline. People are getting used to reading their newspapers online – more and more people will want to put out online newsletters and magazines. And they won’t want just flat, online copies of print papers, they’ll demand interactive content – commenting on articles, plenty of links, video content and so on. It would be fun if the online Transit were like that – but, hmmm, would the greybeards want it that way?
But anyway, I’ll get on with pushing one part (at least) of the Astrological Association into the Web3.0-enabled 21st century. That’s if they’ll let me.

The drugs do work! Well, so far. I’m feeling cheerful and energetic, and generally much happier and healthier than I’ve been for bloody ages. I’ll have to tell Doc G about it – he’ll be pleased that something he’s prescribed for me is finally working.
So I’ve really been charging ahead with work – I’m setting up a CMS for a customer, using WordPress. Yes, it’s a blogging application – heck I’m using it right now – but it’s terrifically easy to turn it into a non-blog CMS. It’s PHP-based and open-source, so you can fiddle with the source code to your geeky little heart’s content if you’re so inclined. Even if you’re not much good with PHP, there are lots of useful plugins you can install to do the work for you. For instance, you can customise the entire admin section, with your client’s logo and whatever sections they need to use.

So, I’m cheerful again. Just hope it lasts……

I’ve spent the last three days doing almost nothing but test out various Open Source CMS packages.
Fot a long time, I’ve been thinking of using CMS for the WordPress. I’ve used WordPress for over five years for my blog; it’s very flexible, extremely customisable and it can be used as a CMS. However, getting it to work for a pure directory site requires more hacking and template rewriting than I’m prepared to do. So, with great reluctance, I’ve had to abandon WordPress for that particular project.
of the programs I’ve tried so far, only three stand out for me – Drupal, e107 and CMS Made Simple.
Both Drupal and e107 are in the running for the Oakleaf Circle site – they’re well-supported, have lots of modules and plugins and have fairly intuitive admin interfaces. e107 is the easiest to operate, but Drupal has completely customisable stylesheets (which is what a CSS maven like me demands), plus more themes. So I’ll be playing around with both of them for a bit longer.
I’m impressed with CMS Made Simple – it does what it says. Very much suited to small personal sites (although there are modules for blogs and forums), it’s easy to operate and highly customisable. I won’t be using it for Oakleaf, but it’s certainly what I’ll use for clients who ask for a CMS.

Now that I’ve got a local server up and running on my machine (thanks to WAMPS – easiest local server install ever), I can now easily design WordPress themes. This new look is one of the first results – the other is Hyde2612.net. It’s not finished yet – quite a few things, like the sidebar links, need tweaking. But I’m generally happy with it.
If anybody wants this theme for their WP installation, bung me a line.