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.

Following Up on GTD

Well, two months into the year, and I’m still struggling with a good GTD system. I am using Actiontastic still, but for work, I’m using Fresh Books to time track and invoice clients. (For those that care, I’ve gone full time into web work. Mostly WordPress, but I’ve done a fair amount of non-WP work. My working site is Bishop Blog Works. Please understand the design is in flux).

Fresh Books is great, but I can’t get my clients to use the ticket system. Email is still their method of choice for notifying me of needed changes, for both active projects, and site tweaks. Fresh Books says they will have an email to ticket system, but if that doesn’t materialize sooner than later, I may have to look at another option. In the meantime, I try to take the email, add it to iCal as a todo using Mailtags, then sync iCal with Actiontastic, and THEN add those as tickets/tasks in Fresh Books.

Not working out so well.

On a positive note, I’ve streamlined the home office, clearing out a lot of clutter, which I believe makes it easier to get started in the morning and stay focused.

If anyone has a suggestion for converting emails to a time tracking system, I’d love to hear about it. I have started looking at Alex King’s Tracks , as it has an email to task ability, but the demo doesn’t seem to allow for that. It requires running a cron job on your server, and since Alex is setting the demo up on his, I don’t see a way to test that feature. If it works, I could have clients send an email that is picked up by Tasks, and then time track straight from that. But then I’m back to either having two “apps” for time tracking/invoicing. Hopefully Fresh Books will roll out that feature soon, and I’ll be good to go. I then simply forward a copy of the ticket to Mail.app, add it to Actiontastic, and it’s automatically added to a ticket. Or at least that’s how I’d draw it up on paper.

New Year and Getting Things Done

This is the first of probably several posts for, primarily my own benefit, documenting my implementation of the GTD system

Well, a bit late in getting a “New Years” post up, but I’m fighting a heavy does of procrastination and a head cold, so I thought “no time better than the present”. Several months ago, I discovered Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders, probably via a link from a Mac site. There I found my first introduction to the concept of “Getting Things Done”, which is a book and much more from David Allen. Like most people, I find myself constantly feeling unorganized, confused, and wrought with anxiety as I’m not “getting shit done.” So I began reading some posts, exploring the multitude of applications discussed, and “lurking”.

The first application that I explored, which isn’t directly a GTD app, but one meant to provide more productivity in using your Mac was Quicksilver. This free application really is something that should be built into the OS, but that’s for another discussion. Suffice to say, once you get a hang of the app, you may never really touch your mouse or use the dock again. (Well, not really, but it is safe to say you will use the mouse much less, and the dock, well, that can be eliminated.)

From there, I began reading more and more about the GTD concept, and decided it was time to get the book. My frugal nature led me to my local library, however, the waiting list for the book was 57 people (I’ve yet to be notified by the library that a copy was available for me). So procrastination took over, I blew off several trips to the book store, and I continued my struggle with knowing what I needed to be doing.

Finally, on New Years Eve, my muse purchased the book for me, and I immediately began reading. It was as if the book had been written for me (I’m sure most people feel that way upon first reading). I’m not going to try and explain the concept, I don’t think I could do it justice, but a brief overview is that it’s intended to get ALL the things that people generally keep in their head, be it work, home, or personal, and put them into a system that allows to track them. It also introduces the idea of breaking “projects”, that is, anything that has more than one step, into “next actions”. So instead of having a to do list with “landscape yard” item, you have a project, and then steps to accomplishing the task. The goal is to remove those from your head, those nagging, “I know I should be doing…” type things, and allow you to concentrate on the “doing”. This should alleviate the stress and anxiety from the daily routine. Sounds perfect.

The next step is to find a system that works for you. David Allen doesn’t necessarily have a specific system, just a concept. Many, many systems exist, some paper based, some electronic, some a mix. As I work completely on the computer now (crossing fingers that sticks), a computer based system seems most logical. So off I went looking for a system.

My first stop was a FireFox extension GTDGmail, which hacks into your gmail account, and provides for project creation, contexts (that is, “where” or “how” you do the task, @phone, @errands, etc). It was a good primer on the concept, and has helped in managing my many emails from clients. However, soon it became clear that wasn’t sufficient enough for me for the entirety of the GTD system.

I’ve looked at ideas for using BackPack, which I like, but ultimately, didn’t seem like the best solution for me. I’ve also looked at several of the wiki hacks, as well as the Kinkless system. Which, seems well done, but as it requires Omni Outliner Pro, I wasn’t ready to invest in more software. Apparently Omni Group is working on OmniFocus, a full fledged app implementing what Kinkless does with Omni Outliner, and worth keeping an eye on.

Which leads me to my final decision. Currently, I’m using Actiontastic, which is still in beta, and will be an app that will have to be purchased at some point. It integrates with quicksilver, so I can easily add items to my inbox without actually moving to the app (for instance, while typing this, if I remember I need to buy TP, I can easily send that to the app with a few keystrokes). I’ve also looked at Tracks, a Ruby on Rails application that can either be installed locally on my Mac, or hosted on my server. Hosting it on my server would give me the ability to access it from any computer, and though I haven’t explored it completely, I’m guessing now that I have internet access on my phone, I could add items from the phone’s browser (or at least via email/SMS). If you are interested in testing Tracks, you can visit a free hosted version at Tracks Train.

No matter which I choose, the bottom line is I need to now actually implement the system, so I can actually start “doing”, which is a caveat of sorts. It really is a matter of dedicating time to do it. It’s really not something that can be done in spurts, or half way. I think that is the real reason for blogging it, a challenge to myself to really get it in gear. I intend on blogging more about the process, as both a way to share, and a means of archiving the process for my own benefit, especially if a new, or better “system” comes along. I’ve all but decided to go with Actiontastic, so the next step will be to nail down the contexts for my system.

» Silver Mac

» Silver Mac a great Mac tips site, with several recent tips I didn’t know about. I really like the recent tip on using a dashboard widget on the desktop. As much as I like the idea of widgets, I rarely use them as it requires a few keystrokes. Perhaps if I learn how to use Quicksilver with them…

Super Cool Mac App

If all the other nifty things your mac does isn’t enough to impress your friends, then the next time you have a party and the music is pumping out of your computer to the stereo wirelessly via the airport express, have this little app running on the desk top, and tell your friends to go pick out an album.
Cover Flow takes your album art from itunes, and makes a virtual CD rack, where you can move from one album to the next looking at the cover, just like the old days :D. You can click on the album directly in the app, it launches in itunes, and you can can continue to scroll through the collection.

Hat tip to Macnewbie for the link

Favorite Mac freeware

A last minute entry into freemacware.com’s contest, listing your 5 most favored freeware apps. Their list is quite extensive, and I’ve found several apps I didn’t know about, but for the most part, these are the ones I use day in and day out. (I can’t say these are in any particular order)

  1. Cyberduck – a super great FTP client, that works hand in hand with several text editors and CSS Edit to allow editing files directly on the server
  2. Smultron – my text editor of choice. As noted, it works flawlessly with Cyberduck
  3. Growl – A sytem wide notification app, that works with numerous apps, including cyberduck to notify you when a file’s been up/down loaded, in itunes when a new song plays, can set up a gmail or mail notifier, and numerous other apps all with an unobtrusive faded in box in the upper right corner
  4. Adium – my IM app of choice. I don’t do IM with a lot of different people, however, I do a lot of work with people all of the world, so having AOL, yahoo and gtalk all in the same app makes it quite easy to connect with a client in their IM of choice
  5. VooDoo Pad lite – A fantastic note app, that works like a little wiki right on your desktop. I really love how I can make a table of contents type page, and then create “links” to new pages. I can really simply, and quickly organize a project this way. Also supports drag and drop functionality too, so I can drag an image to a page, a link generally anything. I’ve seriously thought about purchasing the “pro” version, or what ever they call it, simply because I use the app so much.

Some other apps I use/recommend are obviously firefox, as well as vienna and flickr export an iphoto plugin that allows quick and easy sharing of your photos via flickr.

If I’ve missed a great app, I’d love to know about it.

Letter to Apple Support (kottke.org)

Letter to Apple Support (kottke.org)
How often did I hear this lament during the short time I worked at Apple. “I just bought my iPod 5 weeks ago…Why didn’t you tell me that a new powerbook would be out 2 weeks after Christmas..” All of which you couldn’t tell customers, even though you were reading the rumor sites, and knew an update of some kind would be forthcoming, but company rules forbade you from discussing that with customers, because, after all, “they’re just rumors”. Occassionally, Apple will allow for a return if it’s within a time frame, and the customer can then pay the difference of the new product and the old.
But regarding Kottke’s dilemma, the macbook pro is taking orders starting today, but the question is when will it ship. He, like many others who found a powerbook on the shelf, or got one shipped, probably knew the intel laptops were on the horizon, whether or not they were going to be a “pro” level release first may not have been leaked, but by summer, most thought. Which is when I’m guessing most who don’t order this week will get their hands on the new machine anyway. So as I said, the question is, did they need the machine before, say, April? Or could they have squeaked out 6 more months to see what happens. And though I’m a firm believer in Apple’s products, I’m not unfamiliar with the chances that a bad egg can come down the pipe at anytime, and those who purchase the the macbook pro will be bitching they wished they had bought a G4 powerbook. So it’s a gamble, and Apple’s been fairly straightfoward with running out new machines or updates every 6 months. So chances are, by June there will be a macbook home with similar specs as today’s announcement, for $600 less. And on a side note, I’m guessing someone of Jason Kottke’s stature just might get their exchange.

And if not, Jason, we can talk when you’re ready to sell that g4 used….

When Things Are Going Good…

When things are going good, they are really good. I can’t say a bad thing about my life right now, looking forward to my classes, have a great paying job lined up that starts in a month, doing some cool stuff on the web, just over all good. So my printer went out. An Epson 5400 all-in-one. Bought it about 16 months ago for $130 after rebates. But we bought the 2 year warranty. So, I go to trade it in today, and obviously the 5400 is an older model. They’ve got the 6600. Ok, they credit me the $150, the 6600 is $189 after instant rebate. Eh, $39 isn’t bad. But wait. There are some mail in rebates. How much you ask. $110 worth!!! So, I pay $80 out of my pocket today, will get $110 back within 6 weeks, have a brand new printer, and a 2 year no questions asked warranty. Sweet!
Even without the trade in deal, you can get that printer for $79 through the 26th of August at CompUSA. Still not a bad deal.

“Blank” WordPress Theme

I’m offering up an updated, beta version here.

So, as I’ve begun designing WordPress themes, I found the tutorial over at Urban Giraffe invaluable. They walk you through the dissection of the default Kubrick theme, how to strip it down to bare bones, and start with a blank style sheet. Now that I’ve done that a couple of times, I decided it would be nice to have all the work done, and be able to have all the template files cleaned, as well as a style sheet with all the divs and classes there, simply without the style.
Continue reading ““Blank” WordPress Theme”