Marcos Placona Blog

Programming, technology and the taming of the web.

Category: Misc (page 1 of 6)

Everything that doesn’t fit properly on the other categories

A change is always welcome

Reading time: 6 – 9 minutes

Wordpress GoodiesPhoto by: Huasonic

I’ve been procrastinating for too long, and somehow trying to avoid the inevitable. As must of you might have noticed, it’s been a long time I don’t blog about anything.

It’s mainly because I have been tto busy at work, and am not even having time to read blogs. If I can’t read blogs, you can pretty much guess where all the writing goes.

In fact, another reason why I kind of “lost interest” on blogging, is because I have a huge urge for perfection, and it would “hurt” me any time I wanted to write something, and had to deal with my set-up (trust me, there was a lot involved).

As you know, I’ve been using Mango Blog for nearly two years, and I trully think it’s a great blogging engine within its features, but it lacks on some other aspects. It’s great with all the templates and everything, but I still felt it was missing something, and with my usage, I ended up customizing my template so much, I got pretty tied-up to it.

Changing templates was still viable, but not straight forward as it should be. Also, I got myself writing loads of internal plugins, or hacking away with the core, which although not ideal, would quickly suit my needs and get me “out of trouble”.

Whilst I think it’s an excellent exercise to “hack away”, I’ve always wanted to really have to care about the content, and leave the CMS to do it’s own stuff. Blogging must be about blogging, and I strive to achieve perfection (although I rarely do).

It’s all about time, maybe if I had time, I could update Mango Core and submit my changes to it’s repository. Perhaps I could have made some of my plugins open source. Thing is, most of them were hacks to get me out of trouble as mentioned previously, and would probably cause more damage than benefit on anybody else’s blog.

As an example, I’m probably the only Mango blogger who had a publishing system in place. I was also publishing the homepage, and only using ajax calls to get the number of posts, so the page would be as light as possible. As mentioned earlier, when it comes to my own website, I want YSLOW or Google Page Optimizer go give me A’s or B’s.

Most people who know me, also know that I’m a real CFML advocate, and would try to use it instead of anything else for as long as possible. This time though, I decided it should be about using the right tool for the job.

Come WordPress:

WordPress is an excellent content management system written in PHP, which I’ve been keeping my eyes on for a long time. It makes changing templates and mange plugins as easy as 1-2-3.

I’ve only been playing with WordPress for about a week now, and can easily say it’s gotten my attention at the first minute I saw its admin interface. It’s really intuitive, and managing your content is a doddle.

My main problem with the move, was that I had all my content on a Mango Blog style database, and had to move everything. Although not having really that many blog posts (I’ve always been lazy you see?), I found manually moving 300 odd posts would just be too much, so I decided to write some migration scripts from Mango Blog to WordPress. I’ll post the scripts here at some point, but I’d like to make it clear that I DO NOT intend to maintain them, and they are provided “as is”, so if you come saying “you forgot to var something” or “your code sucks and doesn’t work”, I’ll most likely ignore you, as I simply wrote this script for my own benefit.

It currently migrates posts (including syntax highlighted code), comments and categories from a Mango Blog version 1.4 to a WordPress version 2.9.

To be brutally honest, what really caught my eyes with wordpress, was the facility to add or remove features, as well as re-skinning, plugin installation and mostly important, how good it is to write a blog post using it. I had never used WordPress before, and have to admit I was a bit sceptical about it. As soon as I started using though, the “blogger” feeling came back to me, and I think I finally enjoy blogging again.

It MUST be all about fun, as there is hundreds of other people out there doing the same thing, and you really need to enjoy writing stuff, and letting the world “judge” your thoughts.

It’s all about me:

Well not really, most of the times I write new entries on my blog, I write them thinking about what will attract other people’s interests, and what will be useful. I could go on and on “re-publishing” stuff I found on the web (as I do sometimes), but a blog in my opinion, must focus on creativity, and I expect people to enjoy reading my entries. If you are also a blogger, and keeps saying you write entries only for your own pleasure, and that you don’t expect people to read your blog, you should really be writing a diary, and not publishing it on the web. Every single bit we publish, will build (and sometimes make) history, so lets not fool ourselves.

Why are you saying this, one may ask.

Well, I want readers to feel home here, and want to have as much input as possible to make this a great place to look for information. I already try to post about many different things, so everyone taste some of the knowledge this blog holds. Right above, you will find a contact form, and you… Yeah, YOU! are more than welcome to drop me a line if you’d like me to talk about anything specific.

The comments are also open (once I’m convinced that you’re reliable, and will not be posting spam), so if you feel like your input is valid anywhere in this blog, be my guest to join the discussion.

Hey, I like it, how can I help?

There’s a few ways to contribute, and I’m sure most are aware of the notorious famous

Error: No donation cause selected for this widget. Check widget settings.

Well, this is one way to help. Hosting a website costs cash, and no matter how much I say the fine guys from KickAss VPS are great (they really are), they still keep charging me (well deserved) every month. So any form of cash contributions, is always welcome.

It doesn’t stop there though, you can contribute by suggesting articles or topics you would like me to talk about, submitting articles (or book reviews) you wrote yourself, and I’ll give the respective credit, along with a pat on the shoulder if we ever meet in person.

You can also do something much easier. you can link to me, and tell your friends about this website. It’s easy, and will help with the website’s reputation, therefore making me want to improve it even more.

I hope we can work together in the future.

Auto-Generating DTDs

Reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

I’ve used this DTD generator tool a long time ago, but today I had to use it again, so I thought I should put an entry on my blog about it and keep it archived for future reference.
Download the file dtdgen.jar and copy it to your [java_installation]jrelibext (assuming it’s on your classpath)
Test to see if you can run java stuff by opening a command line and running: 

java

You should get some usage example text.
 
Testing Java Install
 
If you do, you’re ready to generate DTD’s.
Copy your XML file to the desired folder and run the following script:
java DTDGenerator "path_to_my_xml_file.xml">"path_to_my_generated_dtd_file.dtd"
DTD Generator Command
 

Google Chrome OS and e few more changes

Reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

Yesterday the Google team posted an entry on all their blogs about a new operating system that is to come. They are going to call it Google Chrome OS.

The blog entry doesn’t really give away a great deal of details, but it states that this new OS will be open source, and be as lightweight as Google Chrome (the browser) is.
I have to be honest and say that initially I was very reluctant and sceptical about using Google Chrome, and it took me a while (about 6 months) to finally give up and give it another try.

In fact it’s been proving to be very stable, and really much faster than Firefox now. I still use Firefox on a daily basis, as it’s got all the plugins I need, and some of them are really necessary for my workflow, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Back to the OS announcements, I have a very “crude” impression that this is like another Linux distro, but with a Google’s face. I saw this comment on twitter this morning and really agreed with it.

Obviously I might be completely wrong and precipitated here, as I’ve been on Chrome’s release, but that was the impression the blog post left on me.
Also I wonder if it’s a way of Google saying “You tried to compete with us on our biggest tool, now we try to do the same on yours”. What I mean here is that Microsoft recently came up with Bing, which is a search engine aimed to compete with Google’s own search engine, and now it might be payback time.

Also, I really have a feeling that making it open source is not an act of kindness at all, as Google themselves said they will be getting help from the open source community to work on their OS. The reason why I think it’s just an act of kindness is the same reason why I think most open source projects (or at least some of them) do. They can get people to do things for them that they can’t really do.

I’ll give an example. Let’s say Windows has a very nice feature that Google Chrome OS doesn’t have. It would look bad, and sometimes be illegal for Google to go on and copy it. Of course people do it all the time, but wouldn’t it be more “graceful” if somebody else implemented this feature and signed his name? That way you can be exempt of every possible retaliation, as you’re only responsible for the core functionalities, and the ones you release, but you can’t really keep control of versions being released by “unscrupulous” third parties.

That’s more or less how I think things work, but obviously again I might be totally wrong, and this is only my sole opinion and point of view.
I really love Google and their products, and really think they have a great potential, and have some of the brightest minds, so by no reason they would need to copy anything or be competitive in an unfair way. I can really say the same about Microsoft, but still, that’s me.

On a side-note, I would like to say that after *only* 5 years in beta, Google Mail has finally reached a point where it’s no longer beta, and has its final version. It’s really funny and feels weird that they suddenly went from beta to final, as the email software has been stable for almost 4 years now.

The same happened to Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk. It’s as if they suddenly realized that they forgot to remove the word beta of their logos, and did it all in one go.

I’d like to invite people to have a nice discussion and express their feelings on the comments about this whole Google Chrome OS vs Windows vs Linux.

My top favourite twitter tools

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

UPDATEI’m constantly finding new tools that help me to use my twitter account in a better way. Some of the tools are really great, but I can’t be bothered to remember all of the URLs, and bookmarking doesn’t seem to help at all.
So I decided to compile a list and post here. I’ll update the list as I find new tools, so keep an eye on this space, and instead of bookmarking all the url’s, simply bookmark this post.

  • http://www.tweetdeck.com/
    TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that is currently in public beta. It aims to evolve the existing functionality of Twitter by taking an abundance of information i.e twitter feeds, and breaking it down into more manageable bite sized pieces.
  • http://twuffer.com/
    Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release.
  • http://www.tweetconvo.com/
    TweetConvo is a new way to view twitter conversations. Long gone are the days of going through all of a tweet’s @replies to get a grasp of the conversation. All you have to do now is enter a tweet’s URL below!
  • http://friendorfollow.com/
    Who are you following that’s not following you back? Who’s following you that you’re not following back? Find out!
  • http://twitterfeed.com/
    Feed your blog to twitter, identi.ca, HelloTxt or Ping.fm
  • http://twitterfall.com/
    Twitterfall is a way of viewing the latest ‘tweets’ of upcoming trends and custom searches on the micro-blogging site Twitter.
  • http://useqwitter.com/
    Qwitter e-mails you when someone stops following you on Twitter.
  • http://www.twitthis.com/
    TwitThis is an easy way for people to send Twitter messages about your blog post or website.

UPDATE:

Tip of the day: Regular Expression Generator

Reading time: 1 – 2 minutes


I have just came across this very nice service which promises to write Regular Expressions for you.
We all know how painful writing a regular expression can be, and on this website, you can not only have the pattern created for you, but also have it translated into the most common languages on the web.
I’ve tried it myself, and can say it’s pretty darn good, although it’s automatic generator gives you a lot of “functional-crap” sometimes, it’s good for when you’re in a hurry and need to have a pattern up and running, or is not very confident with regexps.
Check it out here

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