Multi-site Drupal Install

While there are many online tools to maintain websites, after messing around with several, we’ve found two that seem to lead the pack for our needs. For singlar websites, WordPress is still one of the easiest content systems for individual users. The significant advantage there is the ease of updating the content in place through the Administrative interface. This includes installing plugins without the need to download and ftp packages.

For more complicated services, Drupal is one package that seems to have drawn an active community. While not having the simplicity of managment of WordPress, it does provide an economy of scale by serving multiple websites with a single install. So while you will spend a little more time with each update, up can keep a single code base of the core system, modules, and supporting files. <Drupal:Run multiple sites from the same code base>

In short the creation of multiple sites goes like this:

  1. Single Install in a web directory
  2. Point all domains to the same web directory
  3. Add seperate setting files for each site
    • sites/www.site1.com/settings.php
    • sites/www.site2.com/settings.php 
  4. Run the installers but browsing to each domain

Its then possible to move the core configuration data to a seperate location to make updates with minum need to move files around. See links below

(with thanks to @mysty for the links to @buddaboy’s multisite symbolic links tip )

Video:http://www.archive.org/details/DrupalCampUK

slides: http://www.ixis.co.uk/blog/drupal-multisites-session-slides

Coding for OS X and iPhone – Part II

After fighting with Dashcode for about 24 hours, I quickly discovered that most of my problems involved overthinking the problems. For example, after scouring Google for solutions to load and reload images from the web into a image containter the answer was so trivial that I missed it several times.

URL = “http://www.example.com;
document.getElementById(‘picture’).src = URL;

Where “picture” is the name of the image container in the layout.

After fighting with Dashcode for about 24 hours, I quickly discovered that most of my problems involved overthinking the problems. For example, after scouring Google for solutions to load and reload images from the web into a image containter the answer was so trivial that I missed it several times.

URL = “http://www.example.com;
document.getElementById(‘picture’).src = URL;

Where “picture” is the name of the image container in the layout.

After looking at XMLrequestHTTP and other procedure calls, this was a rather trivial answer to something I beat my head against for 3 hours. It is clear the single issue about dealing with multiple types of object oriented programing is correctly identifying the object properties and there Getters and Setters.

BC Ferries WebCams Dashboard Widget available for download

BC Ferries WebCams on you iPhone can be reached by browsing to http://maxwest.net/releases/BCF/

Further developments on these and other projects will be posted to the Software Forum

Questions and comments to customer@maxwest.net

Coding for OS X and iPhone – Part I

While there are a massive number of environments, scripting languages, and APIs that are designed to make programs lives ‘easier’, it is impossible to even keep up with more than a couple.

While you can get involved in several they all fall into a a relatively few categories

  • Application Programming – full blown implementation for desktop operating systems. Using a common programming language like C and yypically relying on the OS APIs to manage the user interaction

While there are a massive number of environments, scripting languages, and APIs that are designed to make programs lives ‘easier’, it is impossible to even keep up with more than a couple.

While you can get involved in several they all fall into a a relatively few categories

  • Application Programming – full blown implementation for desktop operating systems. Using a common programming language like C and yypically relying on the OS APIs to manage the user interaction
  • Web Application – Server side coding where the user interaction happens through a client usually a web browser.
  • Scripting – the use of a language that can apply to one or more environments to provide automation handle small process, lives within other environments
  • Widgets – programs that live within a reduced environment such as Adobe Air, Google Gadgets or Apple Dashboard

For those working in Mac environments (including iPhone) there are a host of common tools that meet those functions

  • XCode is the GUI tool for the primary Programming environment in Mac OS X, it uses Objective C as its language
  • DashCode is the Widget environment for both OS X and the iPhone
  • Automator is the GUI tool for scripting within the Operating systems and Applications

Provided you have a computer and operating system that supports the current tools. All of these are availble freely from Apple’s Developer Connection (subject to free registration)

In addition there are several good getting started sites

Resources

Stereo Bluetooth – iPhone 3.0

Hands up if you have had your iPod earbuds ripped out of your ears when you are walking, running, working out, or trying to get something out of a pocket or bag? Hate it? Well this is worth a try.

In a great (and overdue) addition to the iPhone – 3.0 adds A2DP support for Bluetooth Stereo Headsets. This allows you to cut the cord on headphones for both Phone calls and Music. Having regularly worn through more headset cords than you really want to talk about … this is an great alternative.

A couple of cautions however. While A2DP is supported – which adds all audio playback to the phone call handsfree functions, it doesn’t seem to support AVRCP – which provides remote iPod control. In trying the iogear Stereo Bluetooth (~$40 London Drugs) with a 16G iPhone 3G there was no problem answering a call, listening to audio, play/pause and volume. However the skip forward and back buttons would not work.

The other challenge of Bluetooth playback is the fact it requires some processing. There is noticable skipping of audio when the phone is doing something that taxes the processor. For example listening to audio and running MotionX GPS caused pauses in the audio for the first 10 min as the application was capturing and refining its GPS data (wireless data was also active). Likewise, if you are surfing the Internet this can happen as well. So in cases where Bluetooth + 3g/Wifi + GPS are all functioning at the same time. You are likely to have audio issues.

So for the serious listener, the wired headsets will still provide the highest quality playback. But if you can stand a odd blip here and there to cut the cord – it has some great benefits.

Doing ‘Local’ right

The fact that the Internet can bring you information from around the world is both interesting and captivating. For example, there is this newspaper in Lawrence Kansas that probably most people outside of the immediate area would never have heard about. The noteable exception is a lecture recorded by IT Conversations. In his talk to Integrated Media Association New Media Summit (another thing most would have never heard about), Rob Curley spoke eloquently about how his local media has specialized in delivering his community to his community. The whole world can read these online resources but the audience is the population (all 88,000) of Lawrence Kansas.

So in a rather circular path, it brings you back to a worldwide resource providing local service. There have been massive dollars spent and huge conferences held to discuss the value of ‘local’. But it really still remains a promise not a reality. In Canada there was an ad campaign to ‘save local tv’ conducted by CTV globemedia yet the British Columbia section of the CTV news site provides about 8 BC stories wrapped in 50% of a page of advertising, international news, and links to a multitude of other sections. They should learn something from Lawrence, Kansas.

Living on the Cloud

Is it worth storing your own data anymore?

That is the question that we’ve been struggling with for almost a year. For any user that buys a new computer and has to ‘migrate’ their data, the question of what all that stuff is an why do I need it has to come up. For me, it has always been the movement of email from one computer to another. This is even tougher when you start using multiple machines. Double-tough when you add an iPhone or other handheld.

Syncing?? – don’t even get me started.

Is it worth storing your own data anymore?

That is the question that we’ve been struggling with for almost a year. For any user that buys a new computer and has to ‘migrate’ their data, the question of what all that stuff is an why do I need it has to come up. For me, it has always been the movement of email from one computer to another. This is even tougher when you start using multiple machines. Double-tough when you add an iPhone or other handheld.

Syncing?? – don’t even get me started.

So the great (and hopefully final) migration has begun. Keeping local copies of data I need in multiple places just doesn’t make sense any more. You need to find trusted respositories, free if you can, pay if you need to and get this stuff out in the ‘cloud’.

Just to be clear, this isn’t about cost or convenience (although those can be benefits) – its all about survivability. When your family photographs have been digital for almost a decade, there is a significant part of your life that is in bits – literally. And with 2.25TB in a desktop, 2TB in a media PC, and a 1TB NAS the cost of continuing to buy storage for backups isn’t trivial – even at today’s drive prices.

The downside, clearly is security and control. But with half your life on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – what the hell are you protecting???

For Me its; Email to Gmail, Photos to Flickr, Shared Data to a WebDav service. Next its going to be calendars and general file storage.

The solutions aren’t perfect, but between Google Apps, Amazon S3, Mobile Me, and so on – the line in moving inexorably towards the day when its just not worth the trouble anymore.

Quad boot – Octo Mac Pro, Part IV

To paraphrase Sean Connery (from the Hunt for Red October) … “once again we play our dangerous game against our old adversary” ….. Installing Windows Vista on the Mac Pro.
Apple install

To paraphrase Sean Connery (from the Hunt for Red October) … “once again we play our dangerous game against our old adversary” ….. Installing Windows Vista on the Mac Pro.
Apple install

The basic install of Windows Vista was uneventful, althought it did required about 4 reboots and about 1 hour to complete. Once the install was complete the functionality, including things like Aero Glass were there without any special work. To get the drivers specific to the Apple hardware (especially thing like wireless and bluetooth) I did install the drivers from the current version of the Boot Camp Assistant

The Vista installation was based on the 32-bit version which still is likely the common version deployed. The benefits of the 64-bit version (other than addressing the memory issue mentioned earlier is not really clear.
Not enough RAM

Vista does recognize the 8 processor cores and appears to use all reasonably well.
Vista Task Manager

After running the Performance test under Vista the score ended up at 4.0. This actually went down fom 4.3 after initial install due to poorer graphics performance. Leading me to believe the native Windows drivers did better with the 7300GT NVidia card than the Apple drivers installed by boot camp.

Performance

So with Mac OS 10.4, 10.5, Windows XP and Vista the Mac Pro is now capable of the Quad booting operating systems. It will be interesting to see which one (if any) produces better performance.

But next … OS madness with Parallels and VMware in the OS within and OS department.

Quad boot – Octo Mac Pro, Part III

The installation of OS X 10.5 was without drama. Unfortunately , the post-installation was also without any drama – you kinda wanted Zing after a new OS. The result was a slightly slicker version of 10.4. There are a couple of noteable additions to the interface. The menu bar now boasts an eject button. Just to the right of the ‘Spaces’ (Virtual Desktop) selection
Leopard w/Spaces

The installation of OS X 10.5 was without drama. Unfortunately , the post-installation was also without any drama – you kinda wanted Zing after a new OS. The result was a slightly slicker version of 10.4. There are a couple of noteable additions to the interface. The menu bar now boasts an eject button. Just to the right of the ‘Spaces’ (Virtual Desktop) selection
Leopard w/Spaces
I guess the ‘dragging disks to the trash’ metaphor finally wore a little thin.

The Desktop shows a use of 3-D effects all over, most notable in the dock Leopard Dock

So without revisiting all the items that have been covered elsewhere, on to the Boot Camp stuff.

In preparation for the Windows Vista install I ran the BootCamp assistant. I specifically wanted to try the partitioning utility.
Boot Camp3

This did successfully partition the 250GB drive to allow a 75GB parition for the Windows install. Then boot the installer for Windows.
Boot Camp3

Quad boot – Octo Mac Pro, Part II

The inital installs of Windows on the Mac Pro was successful. Unfortunately the Windows XP installation only recognized 2 of the 5GB installed. Apparently this is a known issue in Windows XP. Other than that issue Windows XP recognizes most of the hardware on the Mac Pro including all the Windows readable partitions on the harddrives attached to the system. The video, keyboard, DVD burner, and all connections; network, USB, and FW are supported.

The inital installs of Windows on the Mac Pro was successful. Unfortunately the Windows XP installation only recognized 2 of the 5GB installed. Apparently this is a known issue in Windows XP. Other than that issue Windows XP recognizes most of the hardware on the Mac Pro including all the Windows readable partitions on the harddrives attached to the system. The video, keyboard, DVD burner, and all connections; network, USB, and FW are supported.

Since the goal here is to create a full multi-boot system, the next step was to look for the next generation of OSes. The Mac Pro is now running OS X (10.4) and Windows XP (SP2). So what’s next …. Vista and Leopard

So while I’m in Windows XP, I thought it would be fun to run the Vista Upgrade Advisor.

The upgrade advisor didn’t have much to say about my hardware, as much of it didn’t seem to be recognized. It complained about Nero but the rest was viewed as okay.

Again the upgrade advisor (like XP) only sees the 2GB of memory. But even under Vista my 5GB of RAM is wasted

From http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929605/en-us Title: The system memory that is reported in the System Information dialog box in Windows Vista is less than you expect if 4 GB of RAM is installed

“The reduction in available system memory depends on the devices that are installed in the computer. However, to avoid potential driver compatibility issues, the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista limit the total available memory to 3.12 GB.”

Next …. installing the next cat