Thursday, September 23, 2010

WordPress Gets Good Press

I have been around the HTML block a few times, from straight coding in a text editor to using PageMill, GoLive!, Dreamweaver (always makes me think of the song), and open source software like Joomla! (what's with exclamation marks in product names?) and Drupal. There are also the web-based alternatives too, that allow for the creation of websites. But I have got to tell you, I have been working on a project for a client in WordPress (WP), and I have to admit, I like it a lot.

Blogging software was typically a link from an existing site that provided supplemental information for the end user or used solely as a means of publishing discussions on various topics. Now it is becoming more common to use the software as your primary site. Many, if not most, web hosts offer one-click installation of WP through their hosting control panel. It is also offered as a download from the main WordPress site.

And the software is free. Don't you just love open source software?

At it's heart, WP is powered through the use of PHP scripts and MySQL, but for most users, this is not usually something you need to mess with unless you're doing a manual install or making some significant alterations. It's Admin home page is nicer looking than many web hosting control panels and easier to navigate, grouped on the left hand side in useful categories.

The program has built-in search, menuing, archiving and RSS feed, it practically builds itself. Add static pages and group them into menu and sub-menu items, set their visibility and even the URL naming architecture for optimum SEO adherence.

Where I think the software shines is in its extensibility. Adding features is as easy as pie. Go to Plugins, click Add New, search on what type of feature you are looking for, pick one out of the search results, click Install, then Activate. Don't like it? Deactivate it, Delete it, then pick another option. The Dashboard and Plugins page show you when there has been an update to a plugin and you have the option of installing it or not.

What about design? WP is themes-based, and you can go crazy with all the sites that have WP themes available, or do what I did and pick up a copy of Artisteer and use it to generate one based on a provided design, roll your own, or let the application pick for you. In any case, you end up with a theme folder you upload to your WP theme directory and then choose it from the Appearance menu. That's it.

Support is as wide-ranging as your plugins. Most of the plugins have their own support sites, and if not, WordPress itself is a repository of useful information. Mind you, I didn't crack a single manual or electronic document to get up and running initially, and I had only a single issue I couldn't resolve, which I was able to find help with online. Remember the old slogan from Boston's Museum of Science, "It's fun to find out."? WordPress is just such an application. It's fun to play around with it. Go ahead and try it yourself.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lost in Transition (Part 2)

So there it was – a nice, new, shiny, silvery monstrosity on my desk, ready to be activated. I prefetched the Firewire cable I knew I would need to move the contents over from my elderly iMac and groped behind the left bottom corner for the power button. The familiar startup sound greeted me and away it went into the overly self-indulgent introductory animation.

It inquired whether I wanted to move the contents of the previous Mac over and I said yes. Then I waited for it to calculate the amount of storage required. And waited. And waited. Nothing. I started over and tried again. Still nothing. Oddly, I remembered having this same problem on my previous iMac. So I ignored the file transfer and proceeded to the desktop.

For the uninitiated, the transfer of information from one Mac to another is handled by the Migration Assistant found in the /Applications/Utilities folder, and can be used after the setup of a new Mac.

A note for those who choose to use this method: If you think you are smart and setup the new computer with the same user account name, then be prepared, the Migration Assistant won't allow you to overwrite the same named account if it is the currently active account. You will need to create a second (temporary, if you wish) admin account in order to run the application.

So attach your previous system via Firewire, and start it up holding the "T" key down, which starts the system up in what is called Target Disk Mode. If successful, you'll see the Firewire symbol on the screen. It should also then appear on the desktop of the new Mac under the icon of the internal drive. Then you can run the Migration Assistant application.

A second note for smarty-pants consultants (like me): Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you are using Time Machine to backup your system and want to continue using the same backup drive for the new Mac, then when the application prompts you to choose what you want to transfer, touch nothing! I thought I didn't need to copy over the Network settings, so when I did this the first time, the new computer didn't recognize the external drive as an existing Time Machine backup, it wanted to create a new backup on it. No, no, no. Make sure to not deselect any item unless you are sure you don't need it, and if you have the space on the new system, go ahead and leave it, you may be able to delete it later.

Ok, now we begin the transfer and go away for an hour or so...

I'm back! See how fast that was? Now my new iMac is like the old iMac except bigger, stronger and faster. Now let's see what applications I have broken. Inevitably, when transferring files from one Mac to another, applications will stop working. The best thing to do is to make sure that you take some preventive actions in advance to curb their number prior to the data transfer.

Adobe Creative Suite: open one of the applications in this suite and run the Help -> Deactivate command.
QuarkXpress: open the application and run the QuarkXpress or Utilities -> Deactivate command.

Some apps are going to just need the license codes re-entered. You are using a license tracker, aren't you? If not, this is a good time to start. Try LicenseKeeper or 1Password, both excellent options. If not, you're going to need to rummage around your shelves or back room to find all those software packages, or your old email messages. With one of these apps, it's as easy as Copy/Paste.

Other apps I had issues with: Savings Bond Tracker (only allows a certain number of activations), SWF 'n Slide Pro, SWF Lock 'n Load, Text-Osterone (who comes up with these names?), Suitcase Fusion (lost track of the Font Vault location), Microsoft AU Daemon (needs Rosetta installed, which you'll be prompted for).

If all else fails, try to remove the application. This can best be accomplished using the application installer itself (if it's an option), an app delete program, or by dragging the app and associated files to the Trash. Make sure to remove the app's preferences in /Library/Preferences and /homeuser/Library/Preferences as well as files in the /Library/Application Support and /homeuser/Library/Application Support folder. There may be stragglers left behind, but they should be fine to leave, since you are re-installing anyway.

Whew! That's all there is to it. Now I can begin using my new machine. You have no idea how cool it is to play Call of Duty on a 27" display... or watch a movie. Even working on it is nice... see ya next time!