Category Archive for ‘Blog’

Gazing into my crystal ball

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Ok, so there hasn’t been as much activity on here in recent months as I would like, but finding time to do all the things I want (and need) to do is the problem. With a bit of luck I will be able to recapture some time to work on projects in the next month or so. I am now inside my final month of University (finally), with a handful of fairly large assignments to complete, but no end of year exams to worry about. However also over the next month I also need to find somewhere to live which will no doubt consume a fair amount of time. But then, hopefully, I should be able to get back to work on my side projects. Lets have a quick look at those projects.

Redoable

I have received so many requests for me to update Redoable, initially for Wordpress 2.2 (which only introduced a couple of small issues) and more recently for Wordpress 2.3 compatibility. This one is a bigger issue since the way that categories are handled has changed completely. Then there are all the little bits and pieces that were never really “just right”, most probably due to Redoable being my first Wordpress theme, or in this case theme modification (Redoable is based on the code of K2). Mind you these ‘issues’ haven’t stopped over 30,000 downloads.but with the last update way back in April it really is time for some progress to be made.

So where do I begin. Well, it just so happens that Michael Heilemann and co are into the ‘release candidate’ stages of K2 1.0. K2 has become even greater over the last 10 months, and it is already Wordpress 2.3 compatible. Tyler Longren (creator of Unwakeable, another K2-based theme) recently announced that he planned on basing the next version of Unwakeable on K2 1.0 when it was released. A couple of months ago I had planned to do Redoable 1.3 and fix some of the main issues that had come up since the release of 1.2, but I simply couldn’t find the time that I wanted to spend on it. I can now say that there will be no Redoable 1.3.

Nope, I will be jumping straight to Redoable 2.0. Again I’ll be using K2 as the base, and although I have started some initially work, the main body of work on 2.0 won’t begin until the final stable release of K2 1.0 is available. While its not going to be exactly the same as 1.x, it will keep a lot of the ‘flavour’ of it since that seems to be what people want. I’m still thinking through about which additional plugin support, and other features I’ll add to the K2 base, but hopefully before Christmas there will be a new version of Redoable for you all the play with.

Wordpress Plugins

I am well aware that just about all of my plugins need to be updated to work with the latest Wordpress 2.3. In particular Ultimate Category Cloud, which no longer works due to the previously mentioned category changes in WP2.3. Other plugins just need a tidy up, and general bug fixing. I will hopefully get at least some of the plugins updated to go along with the release of Redoable 2.0

More Wordpress themes

I didn’t take long for people to start requesting a download of the ‘Pipedream’ theme that I am currently using. The thing is that Pipedream was designed for my site and my site only, its not really ready for a public release (yet). It doesn’t really work like a normal theme, due to the number of customisations that are built in. Beside the idea was that I wanted my site to be unique, which I had lost while I was still using Redoable. However I have begun thinking about a ‘Public’ version of Pipedream, but as far as a release date it probably won’t be until the new year.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sick of doing uni work one night and just started playing around with a magazine style layout which has kind of progressed into the beginnings of another new Wordpress theme. Unlike Redoable and Pipedream this new theme is going to be much lighter and brighter, with a slightly different approach to the way that posts are arranged and displayed. More about this new theme in the coming months.

Hahlo

Although I’ve only just rolled out the new version of Hahlo I’ve still got a list of things “to-do” which just didn’t make it into 2.0. Most of them are minor behind the scenes things, but there are also several things that have been requested by users. Things such as an quicker way to refresh the current timeline, currently it takes two ‘taps’, one would be ideal. Another thing I would like to try and get working is some form of user options to allow people to customise their Hahlo experience. For example some people would like to login and be taken straight to their friends timeline, other would like to be taken to their favourites list, I would love to be able to implement this.

I also have plans to release a very simple Hahlo desktop application, still using the webapp but in a standalone webkit-based application. I had considered turning Hahlo into an Adobe AIR application, they seem to be all the rage at the moment, but since just about everything in Hahlo relies pretty heavily on php and the functions within, and AIR doesn’t support php that pretty much canned that idea. In the meantime if you really want a Twitter app running on AIR, I suggest trying out Snitter.

Others…

And on top of all that I’ve got a couple of other things that I’m working on, one of which I’m working on at the moment as part of a University assignment. Plus no doubt I’ll run off on a tangent and end up working on things that aren’t on the list above as well.

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Hey Presto!

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Ok, so that didn’t go anywhere as bad as I thought it might.

So, everything is different isn’t it. New colours, new layout, new plugins, pretty much everything is new in some way. I was expecting bad things to happen when I changed over to this new theme, but quite amazingly most of it seems ok.

There are still several things that I haven’t quite finished, or will need to tweak now that the theme is live, but thats the fun part. I’m just glad that after about 4 months I can finally show this to the world.

I won’t go into detail about some of the changes and improvements I’ve made, I’ll save that for a bit later, for now I’ll leave it to you to look through the posts and pages and see for yourself.

Now I want to know what you all think, what you like, what you don’t (hopefully not too much in this column). I’m open to suggestions, so suggest away, keep in mind though that I’m now in “live redesign” mode, so things will keep changing around for a little while longer, but then again a good design is never finished…is it?

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A change is a brewing

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Followers of my twitter status may have noticed that I (finally) upgraded my Wordpress install earlier tonight, why? Well apart from the fact that I probably should have done it a while ago, it is an important step in my redesign process. Ok, maybe not super important but its best if my ‘live’ blog matches my ‘development’ blog.

You will probably also notice a bunch of things seem to have disappeared, don’t worry most of them will be returning soon. Tags are gone, as is the big cloud of all tags that was in the sidebar, the reason for this is I’ve switched from Ultimate Tag Warrior to Simple Tagging and as yet Redoable doesn’t have support for Simple Tagging built in. I’m really liking the features in Simple Tagging, and I’ll probably knock together a post soon to talk abit about why I changed.

Also gone are the category cloud, latest comments, live archives, noteworthy, related posts, recent links. Yes I know that seems like a lot of important things that have just been shuffled to the side, but all will be good in a couple of days (fingers crossed).

Why am I doing all this, well… I’ve been working on my redesign for about four months (time got away…) and I think its ready for me to move from development to what Ben Gray calls “live redesign“. In other words my redesign is not complete, its very close, and the best way to work out what I haven’t done is to shove it out and see what does and doesn’t work. Sounds stupid doesn’t it…

So there you have it I’ve cleared out some plugins (some which I didn’t even know I was using) and made some changes behind the scenes in preparation for a planned launch (or at least the beginning of one) tomorrow. Stay tuned, the fun begins in a few hours. (For the impatient few you can sneak a peak at some bits of my redesign on flickr.)

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Blueberry for Sandbox

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As some of you might recall I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I was putting together an entry for the Sandbox Design Competition, well I finished mine off a couple of days ago, and now that entries have closed I can share it with the world. I present you my entry, Blueberry for Sandbox.

Blueberry for Sandbox

Blueberry is not a theme itself, but a skin for the Sandbox theme. The parameters of the competition were that it was a pure design thing, you couldn’t mess around with the php code of Sandbox. Only CSS and images, which sure makes things a whole lot simpler.

For the moment I have got a live preview online, this is the same preview that I’ve been using for the past couple of weeks while working on Blueberry. So if you would like to have a play around with Blueberry in the wild please do so, I’ll leave this up for a couple of weeks, or at least until the previews are online at the Sandbox competition site.

Live Preview

We’ve also been advised that we may now provide a download to the world so you can try it out for yourself. So here you go.

Download Blueberry for Sandbox 1.0 Now!
Downloaded 1679 times

Installing Blueberry is really simple. Note that you must have Sandbox installed to use Blueberry, if you don’t have it you can get it here.

  1. Upload the sandbox-blueberry folder to your Sandbox folder in wp-content/themes/.
  2. You will need to edit the default style.css file that comes with Sandbox, so that it loads the Blueberry skin. to do this replace everything after the header in the default style.css with:

    @import url(’sandbox-blueberry/style.css’);

  3. In your Wordpress admin, go to the presentation tab and select the Sandbox theme.
  4. Enjoy.

Thats about it, judging starts now, and runs for a week then the winners will be announced. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what other participants entries are like. I think I probably could have done more with mine if I’d wanted, but I chose to keep it fairly minimalistic (or in other words…completely different to Redoable).

I’d love to hear what everyone thinks, so please let me know.

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iPhone development and blog neglect

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Its always the same. I almost always find that I try and do too many things at once. As a result some things get neglected.

Hahlo

The last time I posted anything here was when I launched Hahlo, and that was almost three weeks ago. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time chasing bugs, and trying to improve it. You have no idea how much I wish I could get my hands on an iPhone, beause trying o develop for a device that you can’t get near is very difficult.

Who knows exactly when they will release the iPhone in Australia, but I don’t see it arriving until mid next year. I’m kind of hoping that we might benefit from the delay by getting an updated version. Even better would be if they release new iPods with similiar functionality (obviously without the phone bit).

Following the launch of Hahlo, I asked for (useful) feedback. I got a little bit, but for the most part it wasn’t too useful. I also did some searching (yes I googled my own app) and found plenty of ‘interesting’ comments. One person who shall remain nameless made a less than complimentary comment about Hahlo and its design… I’ll keep what I think about one of their iPhone app designs to myself…

Due to the rushed nature of Hahlo’s development there were some areas where I kind of coded myself into a corner, with no way out other than to start again. To a certain extent thats what I’ve started to do. Using the super nifty iUI library developed by Joe Hewitt I’ve started work on what will be Hahlo 2.0. A simple thing like switching to processing the JSON feed server-side has allowed me to easily add a couple of the things I had originally wanted in my original version, such as parsing url’s in tweets so they become clickable links. you can have a look at the new bea here: http://beta.hahlo.com/iui

Other iPhone related stuffs

I couldn’t stop at just one iPhone ‘app’, so I started work on another. This time I thought of something that would be truly useful on the iPhone, a mobile interface for Lighthouse App. If you’re looking for a simple online bug tracking app then Lighthouse is really worth a look. I haven’t made a huge amount of progress on it as yet, but I will eventually find some time to spend on it.

A couple of days ago Steven Frank (from Panic) released a super simple wiki designed specifically with the iPhone in mind. W2 has the basics, you can create and edit your wiki pages, you can even use markdown for formatting. Theres no login management at the moment, so everyone will have access. but if thats a problem you could always just use htaccess to restrict it.

I spent a couple of hours last night mashing together the W2 wiki with the iUI library to make a wiki that looked like the rest of the iPhone interface. Theres a few buggy bits but overall it works ok. I had to play around with the W2 source code a little, but nothing too complex. You can have a play with my work-in-progress version here: http://beta.hahlo.com/wiki/

Keep in mind that the wiki is designed to work best on the iPhone (although I can’t test that…) or Safari. However… it looks completely different in Safari 3 to what it looks like in the latest Webkit build. Check this out. I’ll have to look into why exactly that is.

Blog neglect

I’m still working on my redesign, its along time coming, but like everything else I will eventually get it finished. I’ve got all the major parts done (I think) but its all the fine tuning that takes time, and I want to get it just right before I make it live.

Also in the works is my entry for the sandbox design comp. Again the major bits are done, I just need to sit down and finish it off. Entries close in a little under two weeks time, so I guess I should get onto that pretty soon.

Well, thats probably the longest blog entry I’ve written in a while. And its probably a good indication that I should post more often.

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Sandbox Design Competition

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About a week or so ago, a new competition was first announced on weblogtoolscollection.com, to design a ’skin’ for the Sandbox theme. For those that don’t know about Sandbox, you can find out all about it over at the official page. The challenge involves designing a skin (not a theme) to be used with Sandbox. That means no PHP changes or additions, its all got to be done with CSS and images.

Perfect. This gives me the opportunity to play around with a ‘lite’ theme, but without the need for me to spend countless hours messing around in the (at times intricate) inner workings of the php code. I can just focus on a clean, nice layout. CSS and images, nothing more, nothing less.

Regulars might recall I was considering building a ‘lite’ theme myself earlier in the year. So lets think of this as the opportunity to cross that off my todo list. The rules of the competition mean that I can’t release or show the theme until the competition closes, but rest assured on the 2nd of August (I think thats the date) you will get a look at what I have come up with. Who knows I might even win something.

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Custom fields in Wordpress

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In my spare time I’ve been working on the second incarnation of deanjrobinson.com and I planning on making it more than a fresh skin over the same underbelly. First time around I was trying to build my site AND make the theme ‘releaseable’ at the same time, which meant I didn’t want to mess with the way certain things worked (yes, I know there were still some “weird” things that got through).

This time I’m building just for me, so I’ve been thinkin of new ways to go about some things, and to better use some of the functionality that Wordpress provides. One such feature is the custom fields that you can attach to posts and pages. Currently I use a few plugins that make use of them such as post ratings and post views, but I’m looking at using them more in ways that will speed up my posting and make updating certain content items much simpler. This is what I’ve got in mind.

I’m using the wordpress download manager plugin to track my downloads, and at the moment I have to add the download link, counter etc using there supplied quicktags whenever I include a download in a post. What I’m planning to do (and I already have this working in my local test) is to build the download ‘block’ into my templates, and just store the id of the download in a custom field.

So if a page has a download ‘associated’ with it the block will be displayed, if theres no download, theres no block, simple as that. This removes the need for me to remember the little block of code that I’ve been using to display the download links, and all I need to put in is the id of the download. I think its pretty neat.

An early example of what the output of the download ‘block’ might look like.

New style preview

So that was the first thing I thought of and tried, then I got to thinking what else I could use these custom fields for. So far these are a few of the other ideas that could potentially be very useful to me.

  • Storing the link to a support thread/topic for relevant posts
  • Storing the link to the related ‘project’ page for things like Redoable and Twitt-Twoo
  • Storing the link for the external url for my sidenotes

Not only will these changes make things a little quicker and simpler in the long run, they will also give me a little more flexibility in how I display the content of my posts and pages.

Does anyone else using these custom fields in strange/interesting/useful ways, if you do, it would be great to see what you’ve done.

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Share the love

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At least until I finish setting my ‘proper’ donation page I thought I should at least put this up somewhere since the code has been sitting on my desktop for a couple of weeks.

So if you like Redoable, Twitt-Twoo or any of my other stuff, and your feeling generous, then why not donate a little towards the future developement of my themes and plugins.

I tried to add the code to this post, but it doesn’t seem to work, so I’ve manually added it to the sidebar for the time being.

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Wordpress Download Monitor is go!

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Ok, so it wasn’t exactly a week of testing, but I tested it yesterday afternoon and last night, and figured that it couldn’t be any worse than what I currently had. So I’ve just finished changing all the download links over to the use the different ‘tags’ that Wordpress Download Manager uses to display its links.

I have made a few small changes to the plugin as wll, mainly where it stores the files on my server, and some of the text it displays with the downoad links, nothing major just a few tweaks to suit my needs.

It also gave me a chance to fix up the download counts that have been messed up by the not-so-reliable nature of the last plugin, and the numbers were somewhat surprising.

As of now the main download counts are:

  • Redoable 1.1 - 7389 downloads (since 29/1/2007)
  • Redoable 1.0 - 1483 downloads (since 31/12/2006)
  • RedoRecentLinks 1.0-beta - 955 downloads (since 4/2/2007)
  • Ultimate Category Cloud 2.0 - 885 downloads (since 29/1/2007)

The numbers for Redoable 1.1 alone work out at roughly 150 downloads everyday since it was released. Not bad at all.

Please let me know if you come across any issue with this new download plugin.

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its always the last thing you try

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Having a website crash is annoying, having it be down for a week is very, very annoying.

I have spent the last week trying to work out what had killed my blog (for the second time in a month). Initially I thought it was connected to the file server issues that Dreamhost was having, and their first support response suggested the same. But when they eventually got their issue solved my blog didn’t come back to life.

Its was strange because all my other Dreamhost hosted sites were working, and even my support forum was working and its under the same domain as this blog. The next suggestion was that it could have been the WP 2.1.1 exploit…but I hadn’t install 2.1.1. Anyway I upgraded to 2.1.2 in the hope that it would fix the problem…no.

Next step, and the one that I wanted to avoid, was to backup everything and do a fresh install of Wordpress. While in the process of backing everything up, I noticed that the wp-content/cache folder was rather large (about 59 mb)…which didn’t seem right considering my whole site is only about 10MB.

So….I delete the 800-odd cache files, and guess what. Now my blog works again. Shit hey? I have left wp-cache disabled for the time being, at least until I’m sure that I have the absolutely latest version. It would appear that the Dreamhost file server issue was not the problem afterall. Although the timing has to be more than just coincidence, perhaps the file server problem corrupted something in the wp-cache folder, thus brining the blog down.

Either way I’m back (again), lets hope this ends the bad run of problems experienced in the past month.

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