Speaking of Flickr and iPhone

the birds

I posted this to Twitter yesterday, but was quite pleased with how it turned out, and just wanted to post it up on this here blog. I used the “magazine” option in the iPhone app Camera Bag. It was just before sunset, when this huge flock of crows flew into the neighborhood and lighted in a big oak tree across the street. The neighbor was cleaning out his garage at the time, and every time he took stuff out of the garage and threw it into the garbage can, the tree would explode with cawing birds that would swirl around the trees. I just happened to be sitting on the porch with phone in hand as it was happening and snapped a few shots. I’m occasionally surprised by the quality of pics a mobile phone, and the iPhone in particular can take. I still remember my first digital camera only being 1.3 megapixel and the size of a small refrigerator.

Food for Thought: Haiti

Louisiana Purchase MapWatching MSNBC this evening, the Haitian Ambassador to the United States reminded me, and declared to the rest of the country it was Haiti who helped the United States make the Louisiana Purchase. The comments were in direct response to Pat Robertson’s despicable comments about Haiti’s “deal with the devil”.

Had Haiti not defeated Napoleon’s army in Saint-Domingue, the course of history would have changed dramatically. We often forget such events, and take our country for granted, not thinking such a small country could have had such a monumental effect on our history and success.

Anyway, this bit of history aside, I can’t believe there’s an American alive who would want to politicize and criticize the rush to help the people of Haiti (cough, Limbaugh, cough). I’ve tried to do my little part after seeing a tweet that Small Dog Electronics was matching donations to Doctors Without Borders. All I could think about is the families of all the people that I’ve worked with over the years in the restaurant business, and what if it was my family. I know they would do the same.

14 Days of jQuery

jquery-logoI will never be a javascript ninja, but that doesn’t stop me from voraciously collecting bookmarks to jQuery plugins and tutorlals. I’ve vowed to myself to become better acquainted with the library this year, and what better way than to follow 14 Days of jQuery? 14 Days of jQuery is launching on, wait, for it January 14th, to celebrate the release of jQuery 1.4, which happens to also be the birthday of the incredibly useful, lightweight library.

What is particularly nice about this event is that it it’s being managed by the actual jQuery team, and not just some people looking to cash in on its popularity, so I look forward to the new releases, videos and tutorials that will be announced over the two weeks.

They are also doing a promotion where if you donate $20 or more to the project, you get your choice of one of several jquery/javascript e-books. Budget permitting, I may cash in on that, as donating to an open source project is always good karma, and a book would go far towards my goal of becoming more familiar with jQuery. I’ve got my eye on the jQuery for Designers, which probably would cover what I’m most interested in learning.

iPhone Apps on the Cheap

I’m always on the prowl for cheap (read FREE) iPhone apps, and finding a simple source for such is no easy task, at least in my searches. Unfortunately, all the sites I’ve found that cover this type of information are so full of ads and poorly designed, it’s impossible to actually find anything useful. I have however recently discovered at dealmac.com a RSS feed specifically for discounted iPhone/iPod Touch apps.. I can’t say that I’ve actually found any great deals yet through it, (I haven’t had a chance to play the recent “Let’s Golf!” game posted today), but it’s a start. And don’t get me wrong, I have no problem paying for a quality app, and do so with perhaps too regular of frequency, but still like finding a deal when I can, especially on games, which I know I’ll only play a few times, or very rarely.

Do you have any sites or feeds that you’d care to share? Tips on finding apps on sale?

Happy 2010

resolution
Perhaps I’m just a sucker for a reason to say things are going to change, but this little flash site to create your 2010 resolution spun one my way that dove tails into the last post I made on this site.

Speaking of the site, to ring in the new year I finally updated Habari, as it was oh, 300+ revisions behind latest commit. Aside from having to upgrade a bunch of plugins from before the XML file as added and the info function removed, it went off without a hitch. I also had to swap out a little code in the tweet template, but otherwise, for a script running off of trunk that hadn’t been svn upped since May, it was pretty damn painless, and a testimony to how stable it really is.

I do have some ideas for my cooking site, inspired by Christian and his 365 days of photos in ‘09. Congrats again for seeing it all the way through!

Perhaps not a dish a day, but maybe one new thing from scratch a week with a post would be a good and realistic goal.

Anyway, may MMX be a shining path of peace and enlightenment paved with prosperity a…I mean, may it fucking suck less than 2009 did, and hopefully we’ll get through it a little less scarred than the last.

Special thanks to Mike Lietz for talking me down from the ledge I was on after I started the upgrade, and especially for showing me the handy svn wildcard command. Most of the plugins I had were already trunk version from the Habari-Extra’s repository, but I thought I was going to have to cd into each one and svn up, he showed me I could do

svn up user/plugins/*

and it would step through the directories and svn them up. Handy!

I’d also like to take a second to thank Rick Cockrum for keeping the ball moving this past summer/fall on the development side of things, I’m really looking forward to digging into the new taxonomy system, especially as I build out the cooking site.

Mzingi Ported

I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon by a comment left here on the site that my first Habari theme, Mzingi, had been ported to another CMS, WolfCMS. Though I’ve since passed Mzingi off to the official Habari project, and is now owned by the community and part of the official download, it’s a bit rewarding to see it deemed worthy of porting. You can see a demo of it in action as a WolfCMS theme.

It’s also nice they gave attribution on the official site. I’d not heard of the project before, seems like a young project that is a fork of another CMS project, but their site describes the project as something akin to Habari.

Procrastinating to Get Things Done

Ironically, I’m writing a blog post about getting things done, yet my blog has languished in purgatory since early summer. If it wasn’t for the three dozen or more daily spam comments crashing my database and clogging my inbox, I’d probably still be thinking, “man, I really should start blogging again…”. I do have a new design working in my head, so perhaps writing new content is a subliminal way of moving the design from within my head onto the screen.

So not only in my personal web space is getting things done a struggle, like a lot of web workers, I endeavor to be better organized and consistently productive. Lately, I’ve been working on a concept that I’ve been calling (in my head) procrastinating to get things done. Today, Merlin Mann posted a video touching on attention and creativity, which helped me solidify some of the core tenets of my theory.

When I first started working from home, I started collecting RSS feeds for my reader. Aside from ones that were obviously informational in nature, like the National Hurricane Center, most everything else I thought was vital to being a modern web worker. 43 folders was one, along with several dozen other “Getting Things Done™”/productivity sites. I hung on every list. Likewise, I subscribed to every buzz word worthy site that was announcing the next great startup. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these sites taken at face value, but my problem was that I hung on their every post, telling myself that I needed to read these sites, as soon as they published. That somehow by being up on who had posted the latest Moleskine hack, or which Google Map mashup was freshly released (along with signing up for the ubiquitous beta account!) , I was going to be a realweb worker. That these things some how validated me, made me cool. Truth was, I had no idea what the hell I was doing jumping into this profession, other than I was completely burned out by cooking, and needed a new home.

It has taken me a long time to shed all of these sites (some more than others), and accept who I am and where I fit into the web’s ecosystem. It has also taken a fair dose of following Merlin around the web hammering the mantra, “make shit.” OR maybe I paraphrased that, but isn’t that the essence of the message? Or is it “make great shit”? Anyway, I no longer try to validate myself by knowing who’s who and doing what. I’ve moved beyond the guy lying on the couch watching the golf tournament, and am out there hitting balls, playing rounds of golf. I’ve relegated to the fact I’m not going to be Tiger Woods, but I’m damn sure going to be club champ, or get on the Nationwide Tour, or, yeah, enough metaphors.

Too belabor the metaphor, sure, I’m not lying on the couch anymore, but when I go to the range, I’m don’t always wind up hitting all the balls in the bucket, or it might take all day, I still allow myself to find timesinks. Twitter is one that comes to mind. Just as I had begun to cure myself of the feed reader ailment, Twitter came along, and I suffered a similar ailment. I’ve since pruned my follow list, however it’s still easy to get caught in just monitoring Nambu,waiting for the next 140 character nugget of wisdom.

Which brings me to the point of this post, and my latest theory. Allow myself to procrastinate for a period of time. (For the two people who’ve read this far, you’re starting to wonder how you’ve made it, huh?) My thinking is that if I just let go and allow myself to go read TechCrunch, or spend a half hour reading tweets and following links, then I’ll run out of potential distractions and be able to really focus for a block of time. As simple and obvious as it may sound, for me, excepting this has really worked. I’m no longer trying to steal time to check anything when it’s time to get down to what ever it is I need to do that day. I also don’t try to schedule my procrastination time. I’ve read of people who try to do “rewards”, or work 45 minutes, do what ever for 15. That concept doesn’t work for me. When I want to just read and click sites and links, I don’t want to be under a timer. I also do always have the right mindset to do it. For me, I allow it to happen fairly naturally. If I wake up and sit down at the desk, but don’t feel like starting to code out that design, as long as it’s not due that afternoon, and maybe even if so, I’ll allow myself to read through all my feeds, and open any of the really interesting ones into tabs on the browser. By the time I’m done skimming through, I often find myself excited about something I’ve seen, and will actually want to get down to marking up a design. The next lull, rather than force may way through , I might then read the really interesting posts from the morning skim that are now in tabs, which again, chances are I’m inspired to take things to the next level.

What all of this means to me at the end of the day when I get up from my desk is that I’ve made some shit without feeling like I’ve had to chain myself to the desk. Much as I used to love working in the kitchen, and it was nothing to work 16 hours a day without it feeling like work.

My procrastination isn’t simply relegated to things I can do at my desk either. Depending on the week, I may tell myself that I can go fishing one morning, or leave early during the afternoon to go, without guilt. I’ve also recently forayed back into keep a fresh water fish aquarium. I may take a long lunch and drive to the local fish store to grab a piece of equipment and just browse the fish and plants. When I come back, since I had given myself permission to go, I’m not wrought with guilt, which just induces stress, which in turn leads to lack of productivity. Rather, I’m fresh and chomping at the bit to tackle the next task.10gal 10-17-09

As I’ve gotten further along in my experiment, I’m finding that I can actually stay focused for longer periods of time to deal with tasks that used to prompt spontaneous anxiety attacks which used to result in complete meltdowns.

Merlin’s video touches on these down times, and explains them as necessary distractions for the creative worker. They allow to be mentally occupied just enough, but not so much as to prevent some higher thinking to go on, which can very well be a bigger part of the process of thinking about the stuff you are going to make.

And indeed, if I were to classify writing a post that probably no one is going to read, but is something I wanted to do, it could be seen a positive form of procrastination as it free me up to start updating the code on the site, and wireframing the new design stuck in my head.

Clean Home Theme for Habari

It’s always great to see new themes released for Habari, even if they are ports. Florian has ported the WordPress theme Clean Home to Habari. The theme’s name aptly describes the design, a clean, black and white two column design with contrasting red headings. The theme seems to be coded for trunk, that is, using the areas feature. One thing I noticed is that the theme still has some cruft from WP, calling for a dynamic sidebar (widgets) with some text that also references a text widget and and admin options. I of all people can understand though of wanting to get something out before working out all the kinks, so I’m sure he’ll update it as soon as the areas/blocks feature is fleshed out a bit more. I also don’t speak German, so it’s quite possible he references that in the post announcing the release.

How About Giving Me Some Credit Hosers

You’d think “Canada’s best magazine”, The Walrus would at least link back to my bookmarks if they are going to use my graphics in their post about Infinite Summer. Heck, they didn’t even change the name of the image from the 5x bookmark file. Real professional Nav, real professional…

At least they didn’t just hotlink to the image in my post.

URL Shorteners, HTTP Referers and 301 Redirects

I’ll start by saying I don’t know much about the subject, but am posting this in the hopes that someone who does can elucidate the issue. My basic dilemma is that I have a short bit of code on my single page templates that checks to see if a visitor is from Twitter, and if so, show a little message. (Not an original idea, I think I saw it on a post at Smashing Magazine). The code they used didn’t work, but with the help of BigJibby in the Habari IRC channel, I was able to get it working with Habari.

I more or less forgot about it, until a few people noticed it and asked if it was a plugin. When I replied it wasn’t, they asked if I could make it into one. So it went into a to-do list I keep of Habari related ideas. This evening I began working on it, and while troubleshooting how to actually output something to the entry single template (that’s a whole other can of worms), I discovered the code snippet wasn’t working. With the help of Michael, we discovered the problem wasn’t with the code snippet, rather it was with the URL shorteners. Twitter recently started defaulting to Bit.ly, and I recently began experimenting with Tr.im, both of which weren’t sending twitter.com as the referrer. Rather, due to their 301 redirect they return NULL. Which in a nut shell sucks.

Somehow Google Analytics is able to track referrals from Twitter, as last week when I had a huge upsurge in traffic from the popularity of the Infinite Summer Bookmarks, I’m seeing 50 visitors from Twitter the first day (of the 785, by far a record for this little weblog).

At this point, finishing the plugin seems moot, as the only way to be sure that visitors will actually see the message would be to use a URL shortener that doesn’t return NULL, of which, the only one we found that to not be the case was Owen’s Pastoid. I didn’t test Tinyurl, nor was I interested in looking for others. The disappointment had already set in. Besides that, if you are auto posting to Twitter with a plugin, you wouldn’t have the option to use a different shortener.

So kind readers/stumble-uponers, if anyone has a solution to this problem, please enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’ll work out the issue with Habari and my desire to output content on a single entry template within the content output, not above the body tag.

For anyone interested in the snippet of code I am using:

if ( parse_url($_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'], PHP_URL_HOST) == 'twitter.com' ) {
echo "

Welcome, Twitter visitor! If this post is useful, don't hesitate to retweet!

";

Alternative Icon for Shredder

FIXED Thanks to Michael for pointing out the broken link on the download. Now fixed.

Mail_TB_web.pngYesterday over at Hawk Wings they posted an entry on how to roll your own custom Mail.app icon, with a link to a .psd template. I personally don’t use Mail.app, rather I’ve been running the nightly build of Thunderbird 3 for quite some time. The nightly is actually called Shredder and is, quite possibly, the worst icon in the world, so when I saw the Hawk Wings post, I jumped at the chance to customize my icon.

I’m not sure anyone else would care to change their icon up, but you can download my alternate Thunderbird icon. Hawk Wings has a link in that post on how to change icons in Mac OS X for those new to Mac.

Infinite Summer Bookmarks

bookmarkI’m horrible when it comes to reading books and novels. I think it stems from when I began cooking professionally and worked a crazy amount of hours, leaving me with very little free time. What free time I did have was either spent in a bar, or reading cookbooks and trade publications to further my knowledge base. However, it also meant I got away from reading fiction in any form. Today, my reading is solely relegated to reading online, and non-fiction for the most part.

This summer however, that changes. I’m not even sure how I came across it, but a few people put together the idea of collectively reading ( a book club if you will) Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. Infite Summer is really a brilliant idea, and just another example of some of the great things about the internet and “social media”.

bookmarkI’ll be reading along with everyone else, as well as with my fiancée. We ordered our copies a few weeks ago, and it’s been tough to not get started, but one of the premises of Infinite Summer is 75 pages a week, with discussion along the way (the book is 1000 pages, which is how the 75 pages a week idea came about—breaking the book into digestible chunks). The site will have guest writers as well as a forum, so I really wanted to follow the guide. The reading is to start Sunday, which brings me to the whole point of this post.

The “official” schedule was posted on Monday, that is, what page number corresponded with each ending week. It also will mark the cut off for “spoilers”. Nothing beyond that page will be discussed in the posts or in the general discussion area. They followed up with a post How to Read Infinite Jest, which recommends using bookmarks, several of them.

So I got the idea to make bookmarks. My fianceé was looking for a way to save the schedule without having to check back to the website, so I figured putting it on the bookmark would be convenient. A quick Google search turned up Stephen LeQuier’s 2009 Photoshop calendar template. A few modifications later, along with some simple graphics to match the Infinite Summer logo (which itself is a play on one of the edition’s cover), and I had myself a handy bookmark.

I’ll be the first to say I’m not a print designer (some would argue I’m not a designer at all), so apologies in advance if the quality isn’t the finest. My printer is in need of ink, so I’ve only done some tests to make sure the size would be OK. But I’m thinking that printed on some heavy paper or card stock would be sufficient to allow them to last the 3 months they’ll be in use.

I’m offering 2 downloads, both in .pdf format. A single version that might be able to be opened in PS with the layers intact, and a version with 5 on it. Why 5? Well, the guide to reading suggests multiple bookmarks, and well, I was able to fit 5 on a page.

Anyway, perhaps others will find them useful.

Download the single bookmark file..

Download the multiple bookmark file.

If you have any problems with the download, or the .pdf, leave a comment and I can see about offering other formats like .jpg.

Oh, and if you haven’t already planned to join the Infinite Summer, it’s not too late to get to the book store and read along with the rest of us.

UPDATE Matthew contacted me and reminded me that in the reading guide, there’s a pivotal point in the book on page 223. (No, I followed the guide and didn’t turn to the page to read it!) What ever is contained within that page is apparently something that the reader will need to refer back to often and he asked if I could update the bookmark once we reach that point in the schedule, which is July 13th. So on July 13th, check back for an updated copy of the bookmark for your main page that will contain that information. I’ll remove the June calendar to make room, Matthew says the information is quite brief.

Thank you for all who’ve commented so far, I’m quite happy to see so many people interested in the bookmarks and participating in Infinite Summer.

Also, I’ll be writing up a post on how I’m using Evernote to organize my thoughts and keep notes as I read.

Troubleshooting MAMP and Time Machine

Time MachineWell, it’s taken me what seems like forever, but I finally determined that MAMP has been the cause of all of my Time Machine woes. Basically Time Machine would get to a certain point, in my case it was around 29 GB, and simply stall, not allowing me to stop the backup process. I would basically have to restart the machine to get it to stop. I originally thought it was a problem with the formatting of the external drive, however I’d done all of the troubleshoot tips I’ve found on the web, to no avail. Finally let me say, I’m not a Unix expert, nor am I that well versed in file permissions. I know just enough to get myself in trouble, but I believe I understand this problem well enough at this point that I thought sharing my discoveries might help someone else avoid a similar headache.

In a nut shell, it seems that by default MAMP’s Apache instance doesn’t set a group owner for files created by the Apache server. Time Machine chokes on these files, which results in a stalled backup. After much Googling, I came across this blog post about MAMP Pro and Time Machine. I then used the Time Machine options to exclude the directory that I created for my document root (I believe MAMP defaults to /Users/foo/Sites/). Excluding my MAMP directory allowed Time Machine to completely backup my system. In the aforementioned blog post about MAMP Pro, it appears there is a preference pane in the pro version to choose your user/group for the Apache server. The free version of MAMP doesn’t offer this same preference, so I had to do a bit more digging.

What I found was that in the Apache httpd.conf file, around line 327, the group was indeed not set, rather it read “Group #-1”. From what I understand of the Apache .conf file, using the # comments out what ever follows, which is why the cache files were being created as an unknown group, or “nogroup” as the post calls them.

I solved my issue by:

  • changing “Group #-1” to “Group _www” on line 327 of the Apache httpd.conf found in Applications/MAMP/conf/apache
  • moving all the cache files that the Apache server had created in my MAMP document root to the trash
  • restarting Apache in MAMP (there’s actually no “restart”, you have to stop, then start the servers)
  • removing the MAMP directory exclusion from the Time Machine options

By all means, if there is any misinformation in this post, or you can shed further light on the subject, please leave a comment, as I would like to fully understand the issue, and as I said, the information might be helpful to others, as I haven’t found much on the subject in my searches.

Dark Nova: Space Trader for the iPhone

I spent countless hours playing Space Trader on my Handspring Visor, and don’t ask me why, but it was one of the first games I looked for when I visited the App Store. At the time, there wasn’t a single option, though I had run across a blog post somewhere saying that a port was coming. For one reason or another, I started poking around the App Store last night, and did a “power search” for Space Trader. Lo and behold, there it was. However, after a glance at the reviews, the $1.99 app got nothing but panned for not being a true port of the original. (The original game is licensed GPL, source code available on Pieter’s site.)

However, in the search results, Dark Nova showed up. Currently a free download, I grabbed a copy and damned if it isn’t exactly what an iPhone port of Space Trader should be. Even the author of the original Palm version was “truly impressed”.

For those not familiar with Space Trader, it’s quite a complex game with the goal of amassing enough money to buy a moon and retire. In addition to trading commodities (including running guns and drugs), players have the option of going rogue and playing the role of space pirate. However, running illegal cargo and pirating will bring about the wrath of the space police.

Now excuse me, I’ve got some trading to do…

Oh, and I’d love to see a screenshot of a Palm Pre running the original with the PalmOS emulator! That would be a hoot.

Firebug Add-ons

I’ve recently been using Safari 4 beta, mostly because I had been too lazy to get more RAM, and Firefox was just too damn slow with all the apps I’d have open on only 1 gig. Now that I’m at 4 gigs, I’ve been contemplating going back to Firefox, especially with the comments I’ve been reading about the speed improvements of the next version (3.5??). Another reason I’ve been contemplating going back to Firefox is that Firebug is just far superior to Safari’s built in inspector. To that end, I’ve recently come across two add-ons for Firebug.

The first, Firefinder, is a handy tool to “find HTML elements matching chosen CSS selector(s) or XPath expression”.

The second is one that Google previously used internally. Today they open sourced it and released, Page Speed. Page Speed allows developers to “evaluate the performance of their web pages and to get suggestions on how to improve them.”

Habari Theme: thePrestige

Habari theme- thePrestige
This is just a quick and dirty post announcing the release. I hope to publish a more detailed post on the Habari blog detailing more about the the theme and it’s use of HiEngine.
It’s been a long time in coming, but I’m happy to report that I’ve finally released a new theme, thePrestige. Built entirely with Habari’s HiEngine theme engine, the first publicly released (at least to my knowledge.) Many thanks to Rick Cockrum for doing the heavy lifting on the Hiengine code.

Consider this a “beta” release, as there probably are a few bugs/quirks that need to be worked out, but for all intents and purposes, it’s fully functional. Any bug reports or feature requests should be logged at the Habari Extra’s trac installation. Patches certainly welcome!

The theme also features a contact form completely built with Habari’s formUI, as well as uses the jquery tooltip plugin..

One “feature” that I intend to finish up is post author comment highlighting. That is, styling the post author’s comments differently than the rest of the comments on a post. The code is in place, just needs some CSS love. Again, patches welcome!

The theme has only been tested on the latest 0.7 build of trunk, I will work on making a version that works with 0.6.2. Again, assistance welcome on this task. I think the only glaring issue right now would be the use of the jquery tooltip for the comment form.

Download the theme from Habari Extras.

Or you can check it out from the repo at http://svn.habariproject.org/extras/themes/thePrestige/trunk/.

Free Custom Handwriting Fonts

handwriting fontHow cool is this?

Poking around the web this evening, I stumbled upon Your Fonts, a FREE!!! web based font generator. The process is pretty straight forward. You download the two page template (the second page is optional), and write your characters in the corresponding boxes. They recommend using a fine tip permanent marker. I used a fine point Sharpie, though I think a super-fine point might be better, especially if you have poor penmanship like myself. Once you fill in all the characters—there’s even a box for your signature, which corresponds to the carat (shift-6 on most keyboards), you scan the page and upload it via their web interface. The fonts were generated quite quickly (though I do have a pretty fast upload speed), ~1 minute later, and I was able to download the font.

You get the option of naming the font, as well as adding your name to the copyright. Reading through their FAQ, you retain full ownership of the generated font, including the freedom to share or sell the font.

I would recommend reading through all of the steps before uploading, including printing a second copy to practice. My first attempt I didn’t pay attention to the guides, and the bottom of a few of the characters were cut off.

The possibilities of this service are endless. I don’t see why one couldn’t use the second, optional page for creating your own custom dingbats. I could also see it being a quite novel thing if you had children to have them write out their alphabet and save it for posterity. Any family member for that matter. Imagine having your parent’s or grandparent’s handwriting archived.

Anyway, I thought it was a super cool discovery, and well worth sharing. If you create your own, I’d love to see it.

Habari Theme: Aqueous

Updated!

I inadvertently forgot to remove tracking code from the footer from when the theme was deployed on my previous site, so I’m removing the old download link and updating the release. Apologies to anyone who’s already downloaded the theme, you can download the updated version (0.3.1), which also has $theme->footer(); added, which can be a useful plugin hook.

Aqueous screen shotI’m proud to release my fourth Habari theme, the third port, Aqueous. Based on an open source design by Six Shooter Media, this 3 column theme sports a fluid width middle column. The original icons have been redone with custom icons that I created so there’s no issue with redistribution. I also have restyled the comments and comment form from the original design, as well as a few other modifications for a working blog, but it still maintains the original integrity of the design, which I’ve always liked. It has that clean, modern feel to it, despite being several years old now.

I had originally ported this theme for a personal site when I first switched over to Habari, and have just never gotten around to releasing it. Now that I’m not using that site, it seemed only logical to make it available to other Habari users, especially with the lack of themes in the community. I hope that changes sooner than later, hopefully after .6 gets released and .7 starts focusing more on the theme engine. I’m curious to see what people have in mind for it, but that’s for another blog post.

I’m releasing this as an alpha release, because I really haven’t tested it in other browsers aside from Safari 4beta, but wanted to get it out and see if there was any real interest before putting too much more time into it.

One idea that I have for future a release is author comment styling, as it currently styles the comments all the same. Again, this will happen if I see that’s there is actually any interest in the theme.

The original design was released under a Creative Commons license, so there’s no chance of the theme moving to the Habari extras repository, so any comments, bugs, feature requests should be left in the comments on this post. Future posts about releases will direct comments to this post. There’s nothing worse than a site having comments scattered about the same theme/plugin.

Download Aqueous 0.3.1 alpha now.

Habari Theme: Swanky 0.5beta Released

swanky screenshotIn preparation of the impending release of Habari 0.6, as well as getting some to-do items off my list before adding more (I’ve got two theme projects I’m either resurrecting or starting), I’ve decided to update the ported themes that I’ve released.

First up, Swanky. Not that I’ve seen anyone use this theme, but I did use it as a base for my cooking blog, so it behooves me to have some updated code to make sure I’m using the latest and greatest Habari. I’m not quite sure no one has (to my knowledge) used or modified the theme, perhaps the pink and black and sexy silhouette isn’t a big draw. But as I’ve pointed out, it can be a great starting point for modification. Maybe I’m just not aware, and there are scores of sites using it…then again, since I haven’t released a new version in quite some time, that could be a factor as well. Today, that is fixed.

As I mentioned, this update is in anticipation of the impending 0.6 release, so unless you are running from svn, or a nightly snapshot, this version probably won’t work. For an overview of the theme, see the original post.

New in this release:

  • Removed calls to jquery and and a deprecated Stack::out call
  • Properly calling $theme->tag rather than using the potentially exploitable Controller::get_var function
  • updated the calls to check for logged in and added a tab to the top navigation for logged in users to admin
  • fixing a CSS bug on long post titles so they don’t cover the timestamp

This is considered a beta release, any bugs or changes will be addressed before the final release of Habari 0.6.

Download Swanky 0.5 beta now.

Excellent Design Bookmarklet Suite

Lately I’ve been contemplating switching to Safari, as Firefox still seems to be a memory hog, especially since I tend to leave my desktop on for days at a time. With the improvements to the developer tools in Safari 4, there’s less and less reason for me to hang on to Firefox. Couple that with this bookmarklet suite of design/development tools I just discovered, and the excuse of having to use Firefox for it’s superior developer tools flies right out the window.

The suite includes a configurable grid overlay, a ruler overlay, a measurement tool to determine distance between two points, and a cursor crosshair tool (I’ve not found how to use this one effectively, but it could be useful for figuring placement when using position: absolute).

I can’t speak to how Firebug and the Safari tools compare regarding javascript, as I don’t do much with javascript, save using various jquery plugins.

Habari Plugin: Pull Quotes

UPDATE The plugin is now in the Habari Extras repository. There is a branch and tag for 0.6, and a 0.7 branch for the new plugin XML format. Any bugs/issues should be directed to the Extras Trac.

Unlike a blockquote, which is a HTML element meant to offset a quotation from the main text, a pull quote is a technique traditionally used in print to draw attention to a salient point in an article. Pull quotes generally take a small section of text and offset it from the article in a larger typeface. In addition to helping highlight a noteworthy point, a pull quote can add a graphic element by breaking up particularly long pieces of text.

Pull quotes were traditionally achieved in web publishing by appending the selected text to the end of the paragraph and then styling with CSS. The downside to that is that in mediums that don’t adhere to the style sheet (like syndication feeds), you wind up with the duplicate content at the end of a paragraph, which can confuse the reader to say the least.

Fortunately, through the wonders of jquery, Chris Coyier whipped up a way of simply wrapping the desired text in a span that clones the text and floats it. The beauty of this technique is that you’re not duplicating markup. Any medium that doesn’t recognize the class on the span simply ignores it, and the article reads normal.

With the help of Michael Harris who reworked the javascript, I’m proud to announce my first full fledged Habari plugin, simple as it may be. You can see it at work in this post and on another recent post.

Usage

Upload pullquotes to your user/plugins directory and activate the plugin. There is no configuration required. To create a pullquote from existing content, wrap the desired text in a span with a class of either pquote-r or pquote-l.

Example

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Customizing

Pull Quotes has a default style included. To customize the CSS, make sure in your theme’s header file that $theme->header(); is called before the theme’s style sheet. You can then add span.pull-left and span.pull-right to your theme’s style sheet and customize the pull quote to fit your design and tastes.

Download

Pull Quote version 0.2

Note: This plugin will eventually be handed over to the Habari extras repository, however in my exuberance of writing my first plugin, and desire to experience writing up a detailed post for one, I am releasing it on my personal site first. Once I test it against 0.5.2 to determine if a separate version is required, I will add it to the repo, so any bugs or feature requests should be logged in the extras trac. Comments certainly welcomed as well.

IE8 Compatibility Mode

A post came through Twitter from SitePoint regarding a recent decision by Microsoft and the IE team to add a new compatibility mode to IE8. The post they link to is from December, and the IE Blog has updated the blog with a recap of the compatibility view. At first read, this sounded like a stupid idea. Just another layer of crap that would keep sites from getting up to speed on standards compliance.

Upon a bit more thought, I think it’s not a bad idea. One of the biggest reasons I found people didn’t adopt IE 7 was that sites that they regularly visited didn’t render properly in IE 7, so they reverted back to IE 6. I think it’s still one of the biggest reasons people haven’t upgraded. They upgraded once, a site didn’t work, so they stuck with 6. A vicious cycle ensued. Sites saw the stats, saw a big IE 6 crowd, and kept support. The reality of business is going to say that some numbers cruncher is going to say it’s not economically feasible to update the site for IE 8, regardless of the chorus from the web team. These are the sites that compatibility mode is geared towards.

Adding this compatibility view will allow people to upgrade to 8, still visit sites that haven’t been updated, but get the standards compliance of 8 for sites that have. Sure, getting blacklisted as incompatible is possible, but a single line of code in the header will remove the compatibility view from visitors, and for those of us that want to build sites that are strictly IE 8 compatible, ignoring 7 (6 is whole different can of worms) is possible. It’s very easy to tell a client, “Just upgrade to 8, and click the compatibility view option, your old sites will still work the same”, versus having to make a site backward compatible to 7 because people won’t upgrade or are reluctant. Worse, having to have 2 or more conditional style sheets to accommodate multiple versions of IE.

I would say this compatibility mode list shouldn’t be built off of how a site renders in a beta version of a browser, and reading through the comments and glossing over the latest post I’m not sure if that’s the case, but again, I’d rather it be an opt in setting that allows people to view the rest of the web in a more standards compliant mode than having to wrestle as as a developer with yet another version of IE.

WhatTheFont for iPhone

””/Perhaps not perfect, but certainly works (I tested it by taking a pic of my latest AT&T bill, it recognized the logo and returned Humanist 777 Bold Condensed). I’ve often seen an advertisement while out and and about and wondered what the font face was, now I’ve got a fighting chance to find out. Currently free and a .1 release, one can only imagine it will improve.

The app basically allows you to take a pic, use your finger to crop the image to just highlight the text, and then it uploads the font to their server. It then does what the web app does, compares the image with some kind of OCR and has you confirm that the corresponding characters are correct. Once you approve the recognition, it returns the font(s).

Pretty nifty little app if you ask me.

Hat tip to Inman

iPhone and Google Syncing

It’s been well documented on the web already, but I figured since I had a few posts on iphone and Nokia syncing, I figured it was worth re-posting that Google announced yesterday that they now supported mobile syncing with iPhones, among other platforms. I haven’t switched from my previous set up yet, but all indications are that it is the same procedure, simply skipping the 3rd party, which is always a plus.

3rd party web services come and go; there’s little doubt in my mind Google isn’t going anywhere. It uses the same Exchange server technology, so the same caveat that the previous solution had still exists. You are only allowed one Exchange server connection, so if for some reason you are using it with say, Exchange, you won’t be able to sync your Google calendar or contacts.

Tunesday: Lucero

I skipped Tunesday last week as I was in a bit of mourning finding out that morning that Langerado, a huge music festival planned for next month had just been canceled. I had been really looking forward to 3 days of getting away, and just seeing live music. One of the bands that was scheduled to play is one of my all time favorites, Lucero.

I discovered Lucero via a jukebox. One of those jukeboxes in a hip downtown bar: dark, smoky, someplace you can both go to hang with friends, or sit and drown your sorrows as you suffer a broken heart. It was during one of those times of broken heartedness that I first heard them. It was soon there after that they came through town, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was sitting at the bar, throwing back a few whiskeys, and struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar. We wound up buying each other a shot, listening to the opening act. As the first band ended, he got up, we exchanged a few pleasantries, and he proceeds to head towards the stage. Damned if it wasn’t Ben, the lead singer. They proceeded to play one of those sets that you just never forget, and set the stage for me not missing another opportunity to see them live.

As with a lot of music I listen to, they have that Alt-Country/Americana edge, think

somewhere between the Pogues, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, and Tom Waits,

with just enough punk influence to not just have a twangy Skynard cover band sound. Their early cover of Jawbreaker’s Kiss the Bottle is a perfect example of that synergy.

I’m also a big fan of Ben’s lyrics, probably due to my propensity for finding myself in those melancholy introspective moments. Lines like

I think I’ll stay right down here on this floor
Cause if I get back up I’ll only fall down more
It ain’t the liquor and it ain’t the beer that keeps me down
It ain’t the sad songs or heartache it ain’t even this town

From the song I’ll Just Fall

Or

The beer tastes like blood, my mouth is numb
I can’t make the words I need to say

She had a weakness for writers
And I I was never that good at the words anyways

From Nights Like These

If I were to suggest albums to start with, certainly Nobody’s Darlings and That Much Further West would top the list, but from my blinders on position, you can’t go wrong with any of their recordings, and as I’ve said, they are a can’t miss live outfit.

All of Lucero’s music is available on emusic.com. If you’d like a invite to emusic for a trial membership and 50 free downloads (you’ll have to give a CC#, but they don’t charge until after the first month), leave a comment with the email address you’d like it sent to, and I”ll send one your way. Shameless confession – you can do a trial membership without the invite from me, but if you were to sign up with emusic after the trial via invite, I’d get a 50 song credit

Consolidating and Focusing

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed resurrecting this blog over the past 2 months, all the while trying to find the motivation to start food blogging again. However, the more I search for that motivation, the more I’m drawn to the idea of further consolidating my blogging efforts to this single domain. It’s not as if I get a huge amount of traffic on my cooking content anyway, and what little there is, should easily migrate over much like bloggingmeta’s traffic did with a permanent redirect.

One idea I had was to see if I’d do more food blogging by simply posting them to this site first, without migrating the old content, but if I were to succeed in my experiment, I’d find myself in a similar predicament in that I’d have no way to migrate back to the food blog, not to mention I’d potentially be penalizing myself in regards to search engine stuff.

The primary obstacle is how to migrate the content. I highly doubt my code-fu would allow me to write a Habari-to-Habari importer by myself, though I’ve not even looked at any of the importers. I’m not as worried about comments, so I’ve got some too-ashamed-to-disclose hacks I’m contemplating to overcome the importing dilemma. If anyone wants to help with this goal, I’ll contribute as much as I can to making a formal Habari migration plugin.

Once I were to overcome that obstacle, the goal then would be to design a magazine-ish style theme that would allow for sections based on tags. As I find myself blogging more and more about the iPhone, I’ve been concerned that it might turn off the few readers I have. Building on the tag based sections would also allow me to better offer tag based feeds—though I don’t know if it’s possible to create a feed by excluding a tag ;-). I’m sure I could easily redirect the feed from the cooking site to a /atom/tag/food (or what ever the structure is).

So I’m hoping that one of the 25 odd subscriber/readers might have an opinion on such a move in both how it might effect me search engine wise, and what your opinion would be on having such a diverse amount of content.

Free LED Football for iPhone

mattel_footballI must have worn out at least 3 of Mattel’s little hand held football games when I was a kid. Probably had another 2 confiscated from teachers for playing it during class.

So it’s no surprise that I’m stoked to see that there is a game for the iPhone heavily influenced by said handheld, and it’s free this weekend to boot. TouchGrove is offering their version based on the game, (oh yeah, there was a sequel that was kick butt) until February 2. Normally only $0.99, this seems like a great marketing plan, as they offer several other games based on similar hand held devices. For instance I wouldn’t have known that they are working on a baseball game based on a similar handheld which I totally will buy!

Download LED football from the App Store.

hat tip MacAppers

Freshbooks, Getting Customer Service Right

FreshbookFirst off, this isn’t meant as a review of Freshbooks. Suffice to say, I’ve tested many of the online services for billing and time tracking; Freshbooks provides me the best solution for my needs. Often though i’ts the intangibles that allow a business to rise above the rest. For Freshbooks, their customer service certainly is the case.

Some time during this past fall my Paypal credit card number changed, probably due to losing it, I’m not exactly sure of the circumstances. Subsequently, many of the services that I use for business, (hosting, domain registration, etc) were effected. In the case of Freshbooks, I was in an arrangement where I was sub contracting with an individual, getting paid flat rates for the work I was doing, so I didn’t have an immediate need to update the account, unlike say, hosting. Plus, I tend to be lazy and procrastinate, so it was easy for me to put it off. Each month, I’d get an email saying that the card had been declined, and I’d say to myself, “I really need to update that,” and then forget to, blow off logging in and updating.

I ended the previous arrangement earlier this month, around the time I got another one of the reminder emails. They really are reminders, not nagging or harsh in the least. I went to log in, and was redirected to a page where I could change/update the contact info, as well the CC#. However, I didn’t know exactly how much I owed, and since I’m trying to stick to a budget for my web development endeavors, I wanted to know exactly what I owed and plan accordingly—pay it all off or make a couple installment payments. Never did I entertain the idea of just starting a new account or moving.

First thing the next morning (I sent the email to support around 9pm EST, which they are on also) I received an email from Laleh informing me that she had removed the suspended status from my account, rolled me back to their free account in which I could upgrade to a paid plan, and deleted my client list. Mind you, clients and projects are never really deleted, rather it’s like a super-archived status. At any time, you can undelete the client/project, and all of the information remains intact.

They could have easily charged me for the months since the last payment or some portion there of, after all, they were storing my data and settings. I was fully prepared to pay for this, as my time is valuable, and re-entering client information and setting up the payment gateway again would take a fair amount of time. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with the outcome, and an even bigger fan of Freshbooks.

Ironically, Sunir, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Barcamp Orlando (which Freshbooks was a sponsor of, yet another reason to be a fan) posted an article on their blog today about the difficulty of Saas.

SaaS is not just a new distribution method for software with a lovely revenue stream. It’s a new social contract with the customer that we all have to live up to, whether we’re companies big or small.

Freshbooks more than lived up to their contract, and continue to set the bar for how companies do business on the web.

Free Tracks from Amazon

Kottke points out that Amazon has free music for download, and checking out the list, I see that the title track from my favorite album of 2008, Gaslight Anthem’s ‘59 Sound is among the tracks available for free. Also on the list is a track from another of my top albums of the year, David Byrne and Brian Eno’s Strange Overtones.

All in all, there are over 500 free tracks, though at quick glance, the bulk of the list are lesser known artists.

Posting With iPhone

screenshotSo I was looking at mobile blogging apps, assuming I couldn’t post directly from Safari on the iPhone, but alas, it seems I can!

Holy cow, I can even post from the Flickr silo!

This kinds blows my mind. Certainly not a primary mode of blogging, but to be able to take a photo with the camera, upload to Flickr, then write a blog post is kinda amazing.

Edit (not via iPhone) To be clear, my amazement isn’t in the iPhone, rather, in the quality of design and code of Habari that it just works, even in the mobile Safari browser.