» Year in review: 2008

2008 was a pretty busy year — a lot of things happened that made it quite a ride. I thought I would take a moment to go over some of the more notable events that have occurred in the last 366 days.

UPDATE: It took me almost three months to realize that last year was a leap year. My apologies to 02/29!

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» Now Featuring Pretty Permalinks!

In case you weren’t already aware this site or blog, whichever you prefer, is running on Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.2 (not server) and is powered by the WordPress blogging engine.  Because this site is running on a simple Mac mini with Apache enabled the project is extremely “DIY” and as such I have had to figure it out as I go along.  No fancy hosts or one-click installs here, everything has been extremely manual; except, of course, the Famous 5 minute WordPress Installation!

One hurdle I have had to overcome is being able to use pretty permalinks to make my site more friendly.  Permalinks (short for permanent link, get it?) is a static URL to some content on a site.  That content can be a specific page, a particular article/post, or a collection of posts within a certain category.  

By default WordPress’s permalinks follow this format: http://somesite.com/index.php?p=1 and unfortunately that format is just plain ugly.  Having a pretty permalink like this: http://somesite.com/2008/01/01/sample-post/ means hyperlinks on your site and around the web will be more attractive and usable to others.

Read on if you want to know my story about the trouble and success I had with getting pretty permalinks working on my site.

Continue reading “» Now Featuring Pretty Permalinks!”

» Now with more validation!

In case you haven’t been following along during this journey of mine I’ll go ahead and spill it out for you – I have no idea what I’m doing with this whole “blog” thing.  However, I am learning a LOT…  It seems everytime I make a change something breaks and I get to learn how to fix it.

Well, today, I finally passed another milestone; one which I have been tinkering with for quite some time.  My site is now valid W3C XHTML (transitional) and CSS!!  This is something I really wanted and because of my limited knowledge has been slow in coming.  I’m very glad that I have reached this milestone as interoperability is extremely important to me.  I don’t want to learn/use code that only works correctly in some environments, instead I want to learn things the right way!

If you want to run the test yourself and celebrate along with me you can scroll to the bottom of my page.  I have placed links to both the XHTML and CSS validation tests in the footer as a trophy to remind myself of this amazing (to me at least) feat!

» Day 3 – rejoice! more fixes!

I figured out the theme had a built-in search widget that I needed to use rather than the standard wordpress widget. Using that widget fixed my gripe with the search widget being ugly. I also did some more CSS tweaking (mostly just colors).

I also found fixed a bug where empty search results weren’t calling the footer so the whole page looked somewhat off-kilter. Ugly.

Today was also exciting in that I dove into the uncharted waters of PHP! I played around with the post header/footer and was able to finally get what I was after. I moved the post author to the footer and I got the full date in the footer as well.

All in all it was a very productive day!

» Day 2 – some small fixes and more info

Utilizing my EXTREMELY limited (non-existent) knowledge of PHP I managed to create a Page.php template separate from the Articles.php template. This resolved one of my issues with this theme – specifically, since there was not previously a Pages.php template my About and Contacts pages were simply using the posts template – not attractive.

I also dugg into the CSS a little bit and changed a few colors around to suit my liking. While I was doing that I discovered some sidebar stuff that could (possibly) be tweaked to make it (and my search widget) less ugly. I know a TINY bit more CSS than I do PHP so I stumbled my way through rather than commenting-out random lines and crossing my fingers.

Here are some details about the site that might interest anyone who is curious… Since I am not financially capable (broke) I cannot currently afford paying someone else to host the site. It’s another monthly bill and I would rather buy a house. That being said I am hosting the site on my Mac mini using my business DSL line. Until I get a domain set up I’m using the free and awesome dynamic DNS service. It is particularly nice because for OS X there is a dashboard widget that updates dynDNS of your IP address.

I know you’re probably thinking “oh crap, if three or more people are on this site it’s going to crash” – well, you’re probably right. Actually, I have more faith in Apache, MySQL, and PHP on my Mac mini than I do my ISP’s ability to handle the bandwidth.

I consider this quite a feat because of two points 1) I know almost nothing about most web technologies – the fact is I’m a n00b. But I’m proud to admit it and determined to change it. I think that’s important. The reason this is a feat is because it was incredibly easy to set up using OS X.

The UNIX underpinnings in 10.5 make my Mac mini a fairly robust server for a fraction of the cost of an Xserve. Enabling Apache required me to simply check a box – that’s it. Granted there were a few other steps involved in enabling PHP and installing MySQL; but let’s be realistic, one is going to have to dirty one’s hands at some point.

Please pardon me if I’m sounding too much like a “fanboy”. In all honesty, I would install whichever OS made it the easiest – I’m not afraid of using a Linux distro. or installing Windows on a Mac. The fact is that OS X made it the easiest to accomplish the goals I wanted to accomplish.

» Day 1 – Oy vey!

OK, this is my first post that has any real value to it whatsoever… So far I have the following issues that need to be resolved:

  1. Nobody is reading this
  2. Posts do not have the day of month in the date
  3. Permalinks are ugly (as in, without alibi)
  4. About, Contact, etc. pages are using the blog page template and are showing category, date and comment information. Just fixed this one – w00t!
  5. The overall appearance of some of the elements on page do not look very distinguished. This is noticeable on some (read: crummy) LCD displays.
  6. The search widget is ugly (see #3)

I’m sure more will become apparent as I get deeper into this – but for just starting out it’s not that bad.

Future plans:

  1. I’d like to edit my sidebar widgets so they appear to be separate boxes form each other. I want them to have rounded corners, and ideally, be collapsible.
  2. I want some widgets on the bottom of the page. Recent posts, maybe my Flickr photostream, etc.
  3. I need to register a domain as well. I’ve heard good things about 1and1 but right now it’s not in the cards (i.e. bank account = empty)

If anyone happens upon this post please feel free to hit up the comments to offer any suggestions or notify me of bugs you find. I’m taking a kind of continuous improvement approach with this so hopefully with a little luck, a few magic beans, and some late-night geekery I will have a decent site up soon.