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Open Source means that users have the freedom to see how software works, adapt it for the own needs, fix bugs and limitations and contribute back to the community.

Notes from Manchester WordPress Meetup, 16-Oct-2013

The Manchester WordPress Meetup met at The Farm restaurant (Elm Street, Manchester) on Wednesday October 16th. Their regular meeting night is the 2nd Monday of the month, which they’ll resume November 11th.) A smaller crowd that usual made it to the event, but it just gave us each more time to talk, get our questions answered, and quiz the speaker.

Craig Fifield (www.craigfifield.com) was the featured speaker, talking about Google Authorship. (A second speaker had an accident and was unable to make it. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!). Google Authorship is a means of tagging your written content on the web and linking it to your Google Plus profile. Craig has a lot of experience in the SEO space, as he’s worked with the web since 1995, “before SEO or Google existed.” Craig was very fired-up about the Google Authorship concept, and showed us how to to link our WordPress posts to our Google Profile. Like many Google processes, it’s a two-way operation: establish a Google Plus profile and point it to the publications you’ve written, and edit the publications and include a link that points back to your profile. While there are several WordPress plugins that claim to support this feature, Google Authorship is still a moving target, and none seem to follow the current guidance.

Craig also emphasized that it’s important to test your setup once you get it in place; it’s not enough to embed the links and assume everything works. He recommended using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool on several of the pages to ensure your author information was showing up correctly on individual articles, but not on streams of articles (front pages, archives, etc.) or places where a byline would be inappropriate (About Me or Contact pages, for example).

We had some time for announcements and Q&A as well. Meetup organizer Jonathan May will be teaching Advanced Topics in WordPress at the Nashua Adult Learning Center. Jeff (missed his last name) spoke about the Fossil Fuel Age Challenge Ecosite Competition: a nonprofit effort to promote sites with a green focus by holding a competition and promoting the ecological movement as well as a bit of self-promotion for the developers. Things are still coming together, but it looks like one WordPress site would be selected at random and the winner would get a dinner with Matt Mullenweg, while a winning Drupal site would get a dinner with Dries. It sounds like good fun, and a good chance to get soem promotion of your authoring skills. More details can be found at EcoEnlighten.com and EcoSiteCompetition.org.

Also mentioned: several upcoming meetings: GNHLUG meets at The Farm on October 22, lots of good meetups like the Web-Developers group and the Seacoast WordPress group at AlphaLoft in Portsmouth. And tickets are getting scarce for WordCamp Boston, held October 25-26-27 — get yours soon!

Thanks to Craig for presenting, Jonathan for organizing the meetup, and all for attending and participating!

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Seacoast WordPress notes, October 2, 2013

The October meeting of the Seacoast WordPress Meetup was held on October 2, 2013, at the AlphaLoft coworking space. Thanks to owner Josh for encouraging groups to use the space!

Of course, you never get techies together when they don’t just jump into talking about what they’re up to! We had a question on using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to improve responsiveness for an international site. David talked about his experience with CloudFlare. A quick Google showed that there were a number of plugins that claim to offer some CDN functionality, and that initial offers the member had gotten might have been inflated.

David also showed the Dynamik theme add-on to the Genesis theme that generates a set of media queries to support mobile devices.

We started off the more formal meeting with a round of introductions: Amanda, Chris, me, Jim, Laurel, Dylan, David, Andy, Tina, and Tom.

Off we go into questions and comments. One member did some troubleshooting of a plugin-laden site using P3, the plugin performance profiler. Others offered their opinions that excessive plugin use can be the source of a lot of compatibility and/or performance problems.

The main presentation of the evening was from Amanda Giles and the Canvas theme from Woo Themes. Wow! This theme can do a lot, lay out in a number of different ways, and has great administrative functions off the dashboard to make lots and lots of changes from within the interface, and not having to fork off a child theme and mess with the code directly. The Premium theme is $119 for developer version or $99 basic. Both include a year of support and upgrades. The Developer version includes PSD files for designers to customize the theme in PhotoShop. A yearly upgrade is obviously what Woo would like everyone to do (who wouldn’t?) but Amanda indicated it’s okay to stick with the version you buy in perpetuity or until they come out with a compelling feature you want.

The number of features were remarkable. Here are a few I remembered to record: easy file structure, lots of hooks, extensive admin functions, support for short codes. Amanda set up a website for attendees to follow along with the various pages of the dashboard and do a little experimenting. Obviously, the access can’t be made public to the entire internet. See www.canvas.client-look.com. We worked our way through many the Canvas options, for an hour! If you don’t have Photoshop, check out pixLR.com for an online utility that will do many of the basic functions.

Woo Themes also includes “templates” within the theme that allows more complex layouts: Magazine has a full-width slider, followed by full-width article, followed by a grid of articles. Also, a second template, Business, with a different layout.

In the header of the Woo Themes dashboard, “View Theme Documentation” takes you to the WooThemes web pages of documentation, which are extensive!

Amanda reminded us that WordCamp Boston will be happening at the NERD Center October 25-27. Well worth the effort to attend. Seacoast WordPress folks will try to get together for a birds-of-a-feather session or lunch; watch the Meetup group for details.

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Three Lightning talks at Alphaloft: September 2012 Seacoast Web Dev Meetup

An excellent time as always at the Seacoast Web Developers Meetup held at AlphaLoft in Portsmouth on September 25th.

Josh Cyr presented his initial research on Google Drive. Josh worked with a client to develop a workflow process using events occurring in Google Drive to process documents. The API from Google allows you to iterate through files and folders, change properties. up- and down-load.

Paul Finn presented Vagrant, a shell around virtual machines that allows simple and easy download of pre-made images, spinning up the VM and talking to it (ssh) via Ruby scripts. Paul’s slides are here: http://slid.es/paulfinn/vagrant/fullscreen

Ted Pennings (@thesleepyvegan) talked about cryptography: the basic concepts, aspects of concern, best practices and more! A very informative 20 minutes from a man who’s obviously deeply involved and enthused about the subject. Slides are here: http://prezi.com/kplh0mz6ptjt/cryptography-in-20-fast-minutes/

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The Web is about People, if we let it be

I was recently contacted by a company interested in having me consult on their development efforts. As I usually do, I did some background research to figure out who they are and what they do. I was appalled: their web site is one of tens of thousands of generic business sites, pretty but empty. All the buzzterms were there, the generic stock photos of the properly demographically-disparate team meetings, leaning over shiny laptops not wired to anything and pointing to pie charts with no labels. The ‘About Us’ page is filled with slogans and buzz words on how awesome “the team” was, without the single mention of who the team is.  The “Contact Us” page is a generic web-based form, with direct links to “sales@example.com” or “info@example.com.” Want a job? Jobs@example.com or hr@example.com.

What is it “About Us” you don’t understand? If you have a link saying “Who We Are,” you had better be ready to name names. Who are these people and what are they hiding? There’s no excuse for a web site like this. Are these people in the witness protection program? Do these people stand behind what they build? There’s no reputation to worry about losing because they never tell you who they are.

You can have the stiff corporate “Who We Are” of black and white pictures of the “Leadership Team” in suits, “Our Advisors” to name-drop your VCs or Directors, or a more playful site of caricatures and off-beat bios. Kudos go to the sites that include your Twitter and Github accounts, and let folks share their passion for mountain biking, marathons or matchbook collecting. But denying there are people behind your web storefront tells me you’re not proud of who you are, you’re uncomfortable putting yourself out there, or you’ve got something to hide.

And that’s the real problem with a “Who We Are” site like this: the publishers are telling us much more about themselves than they intend. In a customer-facing industry where personal service and attention is a key determinant in the success of the project, they’re stating they are not comfortable with that level of contact.

Food for thought.

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[OT] Hitler, Apple, Gates and Godwin’s Law

Perhaps there is a corollary (if not, let’s coin Roche’s Rule) to Godwin’s Law — briefly, that any discussion is practically over when it degenerates to metaphors of Naziism — that those who call off Godwin are in turn berated as thread police, censors, infringers on some divine human right to drag threads off topic and, yes, with all the irony involved, Nazis. In this response, I make the foolish mistake of not ignoring the troll bait. I am as guilty of overreacting as the hyperbole used by the original poster to compare Apple with Hitler.

Hitler burned, gassed, tortured, shot seven million Jews in concentration camps. Millions more, of all faiths, died defeating him.

The late Steve Jobs charged premium dollars (and sometimes outrageous fees!) to keep his company out there and competing in the tough markets of computers and software. Apple makes beautiful industrial design, often as impractical as Lamborghinis. They sell DRM-crippled music. They have pushed the envelope of consumer computing, much as Microsoft “innovated” back in the days when they had competition. Apple has sold a billion songs. I admire and respect Jobs, as an empire builder, like Gates and Olsen and Carnegie before him, but I don’t spend the money to buy many of his products, as I’m cheap. I have philosophical differences with Apple, too, but I’d probably buy an iPhone if I hit the lottery. They’re shiny. But, unlike some, I’m not betting my business on them.

Microsoft’s behavior has often been as outrageous as Apples, having been pulled into court a few times, regularly making their large corporate customers buy computers with Windows pre-installed and then pay again and again for licenses to run their OS, access their machines remotely, or run software on them, switching their license fees and terms and dropping products that are near and dear to all of our hearts. I’m not ABM as much as preferring what works best. Windows DirectX is supposed to be a good gaming platform. I hear XBoxes are great for Netflix. I use a Microsoft keyboard and mouse. I happen to think that Microsoft Windows on the desktop is here to stay, even with the incredible drag it puts on businesses with malware problems, poor performance and high cost. I do not, however, think that “the desktop” is here to stay, as a metaphor for people to do their business, and I look forward to Microsoft’s stranglehold on their clients breaking with some Next Big Thing. Off the desktop, I really don’t see Microsoft having contributed that much to the state of computing through their many (many, many) acquisitions. I prefer other brands for networking, server OSes, database servers, programming languages and technologies, not through some blind hatred as much as hard-earned experience. But that’s off-topic…

[The poster who tripped Godwin’s Law…] ‘s post doesn’t have much to do with the topic of the thread, Linux, and is a really offensive comparison to some of us. Hitler and Naziism was one of the most horrific incidents of modern history and to minimize it by comparing it to shiny overpriced phones dehumanizes us all. Gates is not Idi Amin. The cellphone landscape does not resemble Dafur. Let’s get some perspective here, people.

There’s a difference between policing a thread, trying to manage to stay on topic, and censorship. I invoked Godwin’s Law to point out that the thread has likely run its course. You’re free to say what you want. I’m free to point out you’re off-topic.

So, if you want to keep on-topic on the “Linux Desktop Thread” I have some insight and informed opinions on the matter, having run Linux as my desktop for six years now, supporting a half-dozen clients with LAMP boxes in their offices, and developed some dozen or more LAMP applications. If you want to go off-kilter onto iPhones and Google as “liars and thieves,” why don’t you go start your own thread?

(Full disclosure: as I’ve mentioned before [blog.tedroche.com/disclaimers], I purchased a tiny bit of Apple stock a long time ago. It’s now worth a lot more than I paid for it, through no fault nor skill of mine. I also own tiny bits of Red Hat, HP and Microsoft. They’re still tiny. I don’t think this influences my opinion all that much, but I let my possible biases be known.)

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Keeping up: theme changes

Astute readers (and I know who you two are!) will notice a change to a newer theme. I’ve switched over to the WordPress Twenty-Eleven base theme, with a few of my own tucks, nips and tweaks. I wanted to check out the new theme and test out the new functionality and keep up with the latest stuff.

Child themes are a piece of cake to create, and a child theme lets me override the original without messing with the original source, so updates will not erase the changes. While they are not so difficult to do manually if you are familiar with the command-line, they are even easier with the plugin One-Click Child Theme.

With the child theme in place, I was able to shorten the gap between the site description (the motto) and the header picture, just by adding CSS to the style.css in the child theme (that’s the cascading part of CSS). I added a paper-curl edge effect based on the work of Craig Buckler, published on Sitepoint.

I was disappointed that my site was not valid HTML5, according to the W3C’s validator site. Category tags used in REL links aren’t standard, so I deleted those. The Creative Commons plugins want to use Dublin Core XML namespaces, and there are issues there I’ve got to clean up. And the “generator” REL tag on the bottom of the page isn’t too standard, either. Overall, though, the pages are relatively clean of excessive markup or poorly-formed structures. Stay tuned as I tweak the last few elements into line.

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NH Ruby September 2011: Backbone.js Jason Morrison

Twelve folks attended the September meeting of the New Hampshire Ruby Rails Group. Due to some logistical issues, we moved the meeting from NH-ICC to AlphaLoft, thanks to AlphaLoft member Nick Plante. Jason Morrison of thoughtbot was the featured speaker, talking about backbone.js.

Organizer Brian Turnbull got the meeting started with brief introductions.

Clients want the improved client-side experience of rich-client apps within the browser.

But which framework? Different patterns: MVC2 is what we’re used to seeing in Ruby/Rails. MVC and MVVM (Model-View-View-Model or Presenter).

Choice fatigue (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html) : there seem to be more JavaScript frameworks than JS developers.

  • Capuccino – PowerPoint in the browsers, 270North
  • SproutCore (1,x,m 2.z) ricu Ui widget framework,.0 from the ground up rewrite, less widgets
  • Knockout.js: useds the HTML5 Data- elements
  • Batman.js – from Shopify, ActiveMerchant, using Node.js server-side component
  • JavaScriptMVC – mature, uses jQuery, filterable grids, lots of power
  • Spine.js – CoffeeScript, asynchronous front end, does full validation on client-side
  • Backbone.js – tonight’s featured framework, well-documented (in Doc-O)
  • Angular, Coherent, PureMVC-js, AFrameJS, TrimPath Junction,

Moving parts:

  • History
  • Router
  • View
  • Model
  • Collection
  • Sync
  • Underscore
  • $

Jason wowed the crowd with an excellent demo of an app under development and spoke eloquently of the power, and the dangers, of deploying MVC (or MV-something-else) into the client. His slides contained a great many good references. My laptop gave out at this point, so I didn’t take additional notes, but you can find his slides at http://jayunit.net/backbone-js-on-rails-talk and source for the slides at https://github.com/jasonm/backbone-js-on-rails-talk/blob/gh-pages/slides/index.md

One of the little things that got the crowd all excited was the line numbering on Jason’s Vim session: the current line was numbered 0, and line numbers incremented both up and down the screen. “Oh, that” Jason said. ‘set rnu’ is the command (see :help rnu within vim for details.)

Michael Tomer talked a little bit about his project, rocket.io, which is an interesting project trying to solve similar problems: “real-time” (no http lag) page updating, background sync between client and remote server. You can find his work at [updated link] https://github.com/actsasbuffoon/rocket-io

Thanks to Jason for an awesome presentation, to Nick Plante for hosting us at AlphaLoft, to Brian Turnbull for organizing the meeting, announcements and logistics, and to all the attendees for their participation.

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NH Ruby meeting, 15 August 2011: Brian Turnbull, Rails 3

Brian Turnbull ran and presented to the August meeting of the New Hampshire Ruby Users Group meeting, held at the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center. Over a dozen attendees turned out for the meeting, despite the inclement weather.

Brian presented an introduction to Rails 3 using a small application he had built for  work. He gave us an overview of the problem to be solved, skipping the irrelevant details, and explained how that fit into basic MVC concepts. We touched on the idea of design patterns. We examined or discussed many facets of Rails development, including rake tasks, migrations, fat models – thin controllers, using HAML for view templating, creating your own custom validators, deployment using Capistrano and more.

Brian mentioned several useful resources, such as Google, the Rails Guides, the API reference,  and more. He mentioned that he’d read Metaprogramming Ruby and thought that it changed his perspective on using Ruby.

As always, there was time for folks to get their questions answered. There were questions on stack dumps in rake, unobtrusive JavaScript, new features of Rails 3, Capistrano deploys to non-git-clients, and more.

Thanks to Brian for a information-packed presentation, and to all for attending and participating. Brian is always looking for ideas for future meetings and volunteer help in organizing.

 

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Seacoast WordPress Developers Group, April Notes

On April 6th, the Seacoast WordPress Developer’s Group met at the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center to talk WordPress. Networking and casual conversation started around 6:30, with the meeting formally starting at 7 PM with a round of introductions:

Dave – former Cold Fusion, ETL, new to WordPress,
Carl Eric Johnson – web developer, WordPress instructor and eveloper, fan of Thesis framework.
Amanda – BIL doing Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress
Sharon, Rye Public Library, Technology Coordinator, just launched a freshened site on April 1st using WordPress and Atahualpa theme/framework.
Will, a graphic designer in a print shop who’d been encouraged to learn web design and now WordPress.

Book recommendations:
Amanda praised the Wrox Professional WordPress book.
Carl Eric has enjoyed WordPress: Visual QuickStart Guide to get up and running, and WordPress Bible(Aaron Barzell) from Wiley as a reference.

Main Presentation: Carl Eric Johnson: talk about themes and frameworks
Sitepoint.com Wicked WordPress Themes book has free sample download chapter. Table of contents points out the choices of custom themes, child themes, building a framework.
Child themes: load with parent’s theme files, in your child file, you import the parent, then override what’s different.
In WordPress 3.0, theme TwentyTen has a lot of options built in. Thesis and Atahualpa have a number of pages of options: sizing, features, colors, styles, etc.

Amanda talked about file structures and “the loop” – directories of wp-admin and wp-install are pretty much off-limits, containing the installed WordPress files and overwritten up updates; wp-content contains most everything else, including the stuff you customize. Add your own functions.php and copy the functions you want to override. A theme consists of index.php and style.css as a minimum; you can add as much as you want from there. See the Codex for the hierarchy of theme files WordPress looks for in order to render your content. Consider starting with a “blank” theme if you’re building your own, such as Starkers or Boilerplate themes – essentially stripped-down skeletal themes with all of the style removed.

See http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Hierarchy for a description of how WordPress selects the correct template(s).

See http://codex.wordpress.org/The_Loop_in_Action for an overview of the loop.

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