Managing Projects

Much has been written the last few years about project management, GTD (getting things done) and productivity on the web, I personally subscribe to probably a dozen feeds that are specifically geared towards the subject, and have tried probably every conceivable idea, all to little success.

For my paying work, I work with a company that exclusively uses Basecamp, and have come to be quite familiar with the system, but can’t rationalize paying for the service for my own needs. I do have a backpack account, but never quite have gotten a system in place there to do basic project management. Now that I have 2 themes released for Habari, and several other small projects I’m working on, mulling over, I went looking last night for something that resembles Basecamp, but was under my own control, and if I ever wanted to collaborate with someone, could easily add them in. I then remembered, Active Collab, an open-source clone of Basecamp. (Active Collab is now closed source, and a commercial product. Their old, .7.1 release is still available for download. If you want an interesting read about how open source goes bad, read the blog post and comments regarding the new structure.)

Realizing it was now commercial, and priced completely towards businesses, I read through some comments and saw reference to Project Pier, a fork of Active Collab. A new .8 release fixing some bugs and adding a few features to the .7.1 release of AC was out, so I snagged a copy and installed locally. Very easy to install (assuming you meet the server requirements), and after a quick read of how to change the god awful default theme, I was up and running, in a familiar PM environment. I set up projects for my two themes, added some milestones, todo lists, poked around and decided that though I’m the only one using it, I could easily use the messages for personal notes. And if I ever decide to put it on my own domain for others to collaborate with, I can easily migrate the database, and keep my current work intact. It also seems powerful enough that a small design house or programming team could use it for real projects, as it supports file uploads and RSS feed for recent activity. I haven’t explored email notification, however I believe it handles that ala Basecamp as well. (Like Basecamp, I don’t think you can reply to a message via email however)

All in all, a very useful tool, and I’d like to applaud the team behind Project Pier for picking up and forking in light of the changes in the development of Active Collab. I’ll be keeping an eye on it’s progress, and am looking for good things to come.

Harvest Field – A New Habari Theme

Update: New versions now available. See bottom of post for details.

Wanting to work on mzingi, I found myself a little unmotivated, so instead, I thought, maybe I can find an open source design to port to Habari, and that would get me motivated to look at the underlying code. So off I went, googling, and browsing the many repositories of open source designs, looking for something I might want to use on a personal site, and would be a nice (albeit one of few currently) available themes for Habari. I stumbled upon styleshout, and their numerous, well done themes. Ideally, I’d liked to have found one that hadn’t been ported to other platforms, but Harvest Field so caught my eye, I couldn’t help but choose it.
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Habari 0.3 released

After roughly 3 months, the new developer release of Habari is now available for download. I just saw the 0.2 release was downloaded nearly 11,000 times, which I personally think is great, I’d hope to see double that for the .3 release.

This release has many bug fixes and features added, for both the coder and user. Personally, I contributed a fair amount of work on documentation, including my continued work on the manual, as well as getting my coding hands dirty a bit working on the first steps to overhaul the admin interface.

Participating in this community has been one of the few bright spots in my otherwise gloomy year, and I’d like to personally thank all of those who participate. I’ve also expanded my “tech” knowledge, specifically in relation to using more of the CLI and subversion. I actually managed to move a repository the other night from my local machine to a new repository on my Media Temple server that they provide. I’ve now even ventured into using macports to set up my old laptop to be a better mobile development environment, as MAMP for Panther doesn’t support PHP 5.2 (but that’s for a future post).

Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the Habari community growing, and great things to come. Even if you aren’t ready to switch blog platforms, I’d highly suggest downloading and checking it out, and by all means, keep abreast of development. It’s a fun and inviting community, with a lot of excitement for what it’s future holds.

Also stay tuned for a soon to be updated version of Mzingimy Habari theme framework, to leverage some of the new features available to themes.

Prism for Mac

Prism for mac is out. Those not familiar, it’s Mozilla’s Webrunner app, which basically gives you a stripped down browser to run web apps in, so that you don’t have to keep multiple tabs/windows open in your browser, perfect for things like gmail, Basecamp, insert your favorite web app here.

TextMate and Projects

I really, really, really love using TextMate, but I one feature I feel is missing, is the ability to set a project to open on launch. More often than not, I’m using TextMate in conjunction with Transmit, and have a project set up to keep temp files from Transmit collected together, using tabs, vs 12 open windows. I’d love for that project to be set to open on launch, vs the preference now of just being able to open a blank file.

Thunderbird and Gmail IMAP

With the recent buzz around the ‘net about gmail adding IMAP, I was anxious to finally give it a go. I’ve read a bit about IMAP, but had never had the opportunity to try it out. My work requires almost constant monitoring of email, and since I employ Google Apps for your domain to manage my email account, and prefer to use Apple’s Mail, I’d all but stopped using my old, but reliable clamshell ibook. Thus the excitement of being able to monitor my email from my laptop, the Nokia e62, and the desktop computer.
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Installing Ubuntu on my Mac

The “blogosphere” has been abuzz the last few weeks with news of the latest release of Ubuntu, 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon, and curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to see if I could install it on my mac mini, since I didn’t have another machine to try it out on. I’m quite happy with Mac OS, but it never hurts to be familiar with other operating systems. So I thought aloud on the Habari IRC channel if I could use Virtual Box, which I use to run Windows XP, only so I can test websites in Internet Explorer 6. Survey said, “why not”, and I gave it a go.

First step was to download the installer disc from the Ubuntu site, which is in the .iso format. There are many ways to create an actual CD from this, or a .dmg file, however I didn’t want to bother with that step, so after another question to the IRC channel, my friend Christian said Virual Box should load from the .iso, and quickly found a Flickr image showing how to set the VM to load from the .iso. (After you’ve created the new VM, click the settings button, then for CD/DVD-ROM, check the mount CD/DVD-ROM, then check the ISO image, and find the file you downloaded.) I haven’t gone through the steps to setting up a new VM in Virtual Box as I just used their wizard for a new VM. I did give a bit more RAM for the VM than the default setting, as I’ve got 2GB, and won’t be using the VM that often, so figured I could spare some. I’m sure I did the same thing for the XP install as well.

Now that the VM is set to run off of the .iso, I started the VM, and Ubuntu quickly loaded, with a prompt to Install/Boot from disc (I think that’s what it said), hitting enter, Ubuntu booted up. You can run just off of the CD image, if your curiosity is small, however, you can actually run the installer from the icon on the desktop, to get the full experience.

Clicking on the installer walks you through the basic installer, not unlike installing Mac OS or Windows. The installer took just under an hour in the VM from the CD image, I’m not sure more RAM or an actual CD would have sped the process up or not. After the installer is done running, you will be prompted to restart, with a notice to eject the CD, so that you don’t run off of the CD. Since Virtual Box is set to use the ISO, you will need to shut down the VM, change the setting to use the host CD/DVD-ROM, and restart the Ubuntu VM. You should be prompted to enter your username and password that you set up during the installation process, and Ubuntu should now be running in your VM.

My initial reaction to Ubuntu 7.1 is that it’s a mix of Tiger and Windows XP in feel, maybe 75% Mac, 25% XP. I haven’t explored much more yet, but have looked a bit at a tutorial for the “perfect desktop”, and will certainly poke around. I think I’m more interested now in exploring virtual machines, and other operating systems than I am with playing with Ubuntu, however, I don’t see myself leaving Mac OS any time soon. Feel free to comment if you have any problems with Virtual Box, though I only have a basic understanding of it, but I’ll try to share my experience.

ScribeFire

I’ve been quite lazy in posting to my blog(s), and am testing out ScribeFire. I spend so much time of my day in Firefox, it only seems logical to find a solution that would allow me to manage drafts and posts from within the browser.  Particularly for asides and tidbits.  We’ll see how this works out, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually blog, and not just work on them

Powered by ScribeFire.

Mzingi

updated: New versions available. See bottom of post for details.

Mzingi development will no longer done on Bloggingmeta, as it’s now included in Habari’s core theme directory. Any bugs, comments, or suggestions should be pointed to Trac

I have had the idea for a foundation type theme for Habari since I first started working with the platform earlier in the year. After spending time converting k2 to the design for this site, as well as for my cooking site, I knew that if I wanted to continue working on Habari theme design, I would need something else to work off of. No offense at all intended for the developers and users of k2, I have extreme respect for what it has achieved, I simply feel that it’s conversion to Habari was a difficult task, considering the advanced features in k2, vs being adapted to Habari at such an early stage. Andrew (aka freakrz), has done great work in advancing k2 to catch up to where the rest of Habari development is, however, I still felt I wanted my own framework to work off of.

screenshotThat said, I took the initial work I had done here on Blogging Meta, and started working on a purely CSS based theme, that could be used out of the box, as well as be flexible enough to be used as a framework. I still have a long way to go in the design world, but trying to use all of the reading I’ve done, I think the markup is fairly semantic, HTML strict, and though the CSS validator chokes on the YUI font CSS, it should be valid CSS as well. I quite like the simple percentage based font sizing of the YUI CSS, as well as the built in font family cascading. Again, still plenty to learn in this direction, and perhaps at some point I’ll drop it, but it’s a good building block (perhaps after getting some time to mature, as well allow me to spend some time with it, I’ll convert to the Blue Print CSS framework).
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Feeds and Feedburner

Having some issues with feed after installing feedburner plugin. The feed link in sidebar is to feedburner, if you so desire to subscribe, use that link for now, I’ll figure out what I’ve done wrong soon enough.

*editStill issues, so feedburner is deactive for now.

Last.fm and iTunes

For many reasons, I have not used the streaming music from Last.fm. That is, until today. I first read a hint on how to use iTunes and Apple Scripts, however, that solution didn’t work. Another comment on the hint pointed to Amua, which basically streams the music via iTunes. Excellent stuff. I now can stream my last.fm music through my stereo, using the Airport Express. If you are a last.fm user, by all means, add me as a friend, or at least check out my musical tastes. Though still a bit buggy, my Lifestream also tracks my most currently played selections.

UserStyles

A few months ago, I came across Jon Hicks’ Mac inspired Google Reader, but recently noticed the version I was using was outdated, and Google Reader wasn’t looking so hot. Off I went in search of an update, and subsequent posts on Jon’s site, found User Styles. Though the site could use some better search functionality, I really like it in the sense that you can easily add styles via the Stylish extension for Firefox. I’ve employed Stylish for BaseCamp, and have thought more about how it could be used, User Styles gives plenty to think about now.

Differences in Habari Development

It seems that there is quite the difference in how Habari is developed from a PHP standpoint to a design standpoint. Code wise, most major changes that I’ve seen, a patch was sent out to the community, and comments were made about how it worked, and if it worked within the general scope of where the members and community saw development.

This has not been the case, from what I can see, with a current movement to change the entire admin interface. There was some discussion about the possibility of incorporating BluePrint CSS Framework into the admin interface. The general consensus was that it wasn’t a bad idea, but that there were concerns with it’s compatibilities with all browsers. In that discussion however, there was no talk of a “live” redesign of the interface. Meaning, the admin would be changed in trunk, at small increments, without any discussion of the changes, or the effects of those changes on the user experience.

Nokia e62 and the Mac

Recently, a friend with a slightly larger budget than I, bought an iPhone. Subsequently, they gave me their “old” Nokia e62. I’ve been a big fan of Nokia, simply because most of their phones that I’ve owned were well constructed, worked well with Cingular, and, just worked.

So quickly I discovered I can now sync my address book and iCal with the phone, which is nice. I then sought as many means as possible to use the phone with my mac. One downfall with Nokia, is they do not have a native Mac desktop interface, as they do with PC, but at least they’ve recently added a Media Manager, which allows for the addition of a folder in iTunes and iPhoto , in which anything added to that folder is added to your phone. I won’t be using the phone much for these purposes, but it’s a nice addition. Perhaps I can see myself using it for taking a podcast or two with me for listening to while out and about.

Another, not so familiar utility, is the Bluetooth File Exchange application in the Utilities folder. When I was given the phone, I didn’t get a USB data transfer cable, so I was having difficulty adding applications to the phone. One in particular, was a fix for sending SMS messages. They were taking forever to send. After discovering the File Exchange app however, I was able to navigate to the file on the harddrive, send it to device, chose the phone, and the app showed up as a text message. Opening the application allowed me to easily install apps or add new themes (even with the new phone, I’m still suffering from iPhone envy, so I found an iPhone theme, which I actually like much better than the default theme, or any of the other included themes on the phone).

BlogOrlando

I just added a link in the sidebar to an upcoming blogger “unconference”, BlogOrlando. I’ve not been to any type of meetup/conference/gathering of other bloggers, and am really looking forward to it. Not only to just get out of town for a day or two, but to actually meet and talk face to face with other bloggers and web geeks. I’ll probably concentrate on the technology aspects of the gathering, though I suppose I can sit in on other sessions as they are added and interest me. I’m also looking forward to being able to pimp Habari.

If anyone else in the Central Florida area is going, I’d love to connect in advance, and possibly have someone to “know” in advance. There are two dinners, one the night before, and one the night of, so having even a somewhat familiar person to break bread with would be nice, though I’m fairly good at making new acquaintances and meeting people. (Probably from years of sitting in bars and chatting up the person next to me.)

Also, if anyone has advice for attending an event of this nature, I’m all ears.

Experiences with TiddlyWiki

Recently it was suggested that the Habari project think about using Tiddlywiki as a means to ship documentation with new releases. At first, I wasn’t sure about the idea, but after about 15 minutes of working with it, I was hooked. For those not familiar with Tiddlywiki, it’s a very light weight (single file) mini wiki. I’ve seen it described as “guerrilla” wiki, or the “ipod nano” of wikis. It highly leverages javascript to hide and show “tiddlers”, or the individual entries. With lots of available plugins and custom themes, not to mention a very active community, TW is certainly a great contribution to the web community, and something worth checking out. Those that are into the Getting Things Done, there’s a couple of GTD inspired adaptation, GTDTiddlyWiki, and MonkeyGTD. There’s also a FireFox extension, TiddlySnip that allows you to save snippets to your TW as a scrapbook of sorts, though I haven’t tested this extension yet.

The formatting in TW is different than MediaWiki, though it’s fairly easy to get used to. There’s also a MediaWiki formatter, which allows you to use that formatting in your TW (which is handy if you are copying info from a MW page. The same plugin author is working on an importer, which I am investigating, which actually allows you to scrape MW entries right into your TW.

All in all, I find TW a great tool, and something I will continue to work with for a variety of uses, and hopefully will open my eyes to learning more javascripting along the way.

Habari DR2

I’ve already mentioned, this blog is powered by a new blogging engine, Habari. A second developer release is out the door, and can be downloaded now.

As a developer release, it’s still not guaranteed for everyday, production level blogging, however it’s stable enough that you can certainly install it and get a feel for how far it’s come, and where it’s going. For the less faint of heart, you certainly can follow along using SVN.

This release among opening up many new features that have been in core for some time, also realizes a goal of having docs shipped with the release. It was a primary goal of the project from the start, and recent discussion about using the aforementioned TiddlyWiki as a means of distributing the documentation brought me into the fold on that aspect. Thanks to the initial work by Khaled, including customizing the CSS to match Habari’s proposed new admin interface, I was able to incorporate the basics from Habari’s wiki, and do some initial leg work on getting license agreements to use some TW community released plugins for future releases.

I must say it is quite satisfying to have contributed in some meaningful way to such a project, and certainly fueled the fires to more actively involve myself in documentation writing for the project, as well as any other positive contributions I can make. I’d really like to thank all of the project members, and additional community members who’ve brought Habari this far, as well as in general thank them for creating such a welcoming community. At this juncture in the development, it’s quite refreshing for there not to be a divide between users and coders, unlike an unnamed project I volunteered with in the past. This certainly is a goal for Habari, and I sincerely believe them when they say it will continue in that fashion. Alienation is the quickest, surefire way of loosing morale support and non code contributions to a community, and as I said, I whole heartedly believe the core of Habari understand that, and will avoid the culture of elitism that I’m sure permeates many other open source projects.

If you are looking for something new to get your thoughts onto the web, I’d seriously suggest considering Habari and getting involved in the community.

8apps Invites

Though there are many ways to socialize on the net (too many), I recently revisited this invite only site, 8apps. They’ve added a few more apps to the planned 8, so there’s a few more things to check out. Not meant as a review, as I honestly haven’t spent enough time on the site to give justice, suffice to say it’s a very slick site, with a lot of potential. It’s simply up against stiff competition.

That said, if you’d like to check it out, I’ve got 40 odd invites available, just leave a comment and I’ll be sure to send one. Only thing I ask is that you after sign up, look me up (miklb) and add me as a contact, as the system doesn’t automatically add invites to your contact list.

Custom Style Sheets and Basecamp

I’ve mentioned that I primarily use BaseCamp these days with the company that I work with to manage the many sites they handle. That’s all good, but whenever I log in, I am overwhelmed with many, many, late milestones and upcoming milestones. Sure, some of it’s relevant to me, however most is not. Even what is relevant, I’m well aware of my tardiness. I don’t need a constant reminder 🙂

Enter a handy little Firefox extentsion, Stylish, that I became aware of after adopting Hicks Designs handy Mac OS styled Google Reader style sheet. (Note, there are instructions for using the style sheet with other browsers).

Another quick use of the Web Developer extension (I couldn’t live without this extension), I was able to determine the class of the milestones on the dashboard (.milestones – go figure), and add a quick display:none to a custom style for the company’s Basecamp dashboard.

The Stylish extension easily offers you the option of using the style for a URL, a domain, or a global style, so I can be sure that it’s only being used where and when I want. The extension author recommends using the !important declaration, however I found no need for that with Basecamp. Certainly worth checking out if you are looking to hide some annoying element of a site you often visit.

Edit: I went ahead and changed my style to only drop the upcoming milestones, and left the overdue ones there, as that seemed more relevant to my job. The class for that is .Dashcal. That way, I can still see what’s overdue, and potentially avoid issues. Upcoming milestones I’ll leave to the project manager to advise on.

More About Email

So quickly I’ve discovered (or been reminded), that using a Mail.app rule to move right out of the Inbox removes the notice in the dock. Not a big deal, but if I’m away from the computer when the hour is up, I might not see that I have new work email, so I’ve employed Mail Badger, so that I can create a custom icon notice in the Mail icon in the dock just for that work’s email. So far so good though with the system.

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Speaking of BaseCamp and GTD…

My previous post mentions BaseCamp and GTD, what I’d really, really, (no, really) like is a way to export my todo’s from BaseCamp. Most specifically, to the new Omni Focus, or even better, iCal, which then could be exported to some other format, be it Google Calendar, which supports Remember the Milk, or, as I mentioned, Omni Focus. (Which reminds me, I haven’t been using it as much as I’d like, due to the the subject of this post). Perhaps if my new system works out, I can use the quick add from Mail.app to OF as part of the system…hmm, might just work.

Tracking Time Spent on Email

So I work with a company that uses BaseCamp, which is great. Each project is easily separated, has it’s own todos, writeboards, etc. But as someone who works with all of the projects, I get cc’ed on every message posted. Some require my attention immediately, some will require me to be familiar with the project at some point. I’ve never been able to manage my time recording for this internal activity, and I know I’ve lost a few dollars because of this. SO today, I’m testing out a new system. I’ve set my mail app (Apple Mail), to only check mail once an hour. I then set up a mailbox just for these emails, got a timer on the dashboard, that can be started and stopped, and will start the timer, read the emails, follow up on BaseCamp on any immediate issues, pause the timer, and wash, rinse, repeat the rest of the business day. At some point I’m going to have to decide that this company has business hours, (I work from home), and not read anymore messages until the next morning, where I can track the time. I figure after a week or so, I’ll have a pretty good idea of how much time I’m spending on this, and might actually be more productive, as I’m not constantly logging into BaseCamp to see what new has been posted, and reading messages that have already been sent to my inbox. I also hope that after a week or two, it will be a habit, and I’ll have a pretty good average of the time spent, so I can simply log those hours either weekly based on the experiment.

I read a ton of productivity blogs, (which can be counter-productive, go figure), and it seems little issues like this always trip people up. I know that the GTD ethos is if you can do it in under 2 minutes, then do it, but that’s assuming you’re not getting 10 messages an hour, each with their own 2 minutes.

Hopefully in a week or two I can report back on how the little experiment went.

edit:Funny one of those blogs I mentioned has a little post about email and procrastination, certainly appropriate.

Technorati Update

It seems that Technorati finally was able to index the site, as well as fix the issue with the site regarding new claims for sites not supported with the their quick claim. Not sure why I was actually waiting for the claim before blogging more here, but it worked out, as I was out with a medical issue the past few weeks, so timing is everything. I really look forward to blogging, and now I have no excuses.

Special thanks to Christian(aka h0bbel) for expressing a similar concern about Technorati’s handling of this situation.

Technorati Update

It seems that Technorati finally was able to index the site, as well as fix the issue with the site regarding new claims for sites not supported with the their quick claim. Not sure why I was actually waiting for the claim before blogging more here, but it worked out, as I was out with a medical issue the past few weeks, so timing is everything. I really look forward to blogging, and now I have no excuses.

Special thanks to Christian(aka h0bbel) for expressing a similar concern about Technorati’s handling of this situation.

OmniFocus

I just got my invite for the alpha testing (yes, alpha, not beta) of OmniFocus, and I can say with certainty that I love it, and am ready to buy it now. It just seems to be intuitive enough with just the right amount of features (and it’s not done). I certainly hope that the main interface doesn’t get clogged up like many other GTD apps have done trying to be too many things to too many people. I especially like that you can group projects. I’ll blog more once I’ve really had a chance to dig into it a bit more, but if you are Mac using GTD’er, you really should sign up for the beta-announcement list, especially if you are not happy with the other options out there.

Technorati and Habari

Technorati
Profile

Seems Habari can’t use Technorati’s quick claim process, so I was asked to paste a little code in a post, so the claim process could proceed. Hopefully this will be quick. I will say that Lev with Technorati was very nice and apologetic regarding the issue, and offered any more assistance necessary.

h2 tag inside anchor tag

I’m confused. I set an

< h2 >

tag with an #id, and give it a background image. I want both the image and the text to be a clickable link. Thus, I want to wrap the

< h2 >

tag inside the anchor tag. Validator tells me it’s not valid HTML. I set the anchor to a class of .block, which is defined as

.block {display:block}

. Still doesn’t validate. Do you see the logic? Or, am I just making a mistake?