Get it All

The last few weeks have been absorbed in some freelance work for a local marketing company, which is a nice change of pace. But that also means I’ve not been able to get at my new pet project in that time, which has been a bit of a downer.

And since that new project is CakePHP driven and I’m only really learning the platform, time away from the project means knowledge lost or at least deeply buried. That makes getting back into it something of a challenge.

And indeed, I took the better part of the last two days figuring out a problem which turned out to have been rather obvious. Obvious, that is, if you know where to look. But with all that out of the way, I’m starting to make some decent progress on the project and am hoping to get something that at least looks nice by the end of the week.

Because more than one recruiter has said they want something like this to point to as a portfolio item. Everyone seems pleased with the direction I’m going in: they like what the project’s aim is. Sorry I can’t share that on this blog, but until I’ve got my domain name in place, I don’t want to screw myself.

But I really like the layout I’ve chosen for this project: very clean with big, friendly fonts to draw in the less-technical. The project is supposed to be about lowering the bar of participation in government, so it’s important not to cram too much information on any one page.

Hopefully by week’s end: a preview of my new CakePHP-powered web site!

OK, so I’ve completed what is, for all intents and purposes, the first official broadcast of The Flight of the Dragonfly.  How do I think it went?

Well, I had seven listeners during the show.  Considering the fact that I’ve done about 0 advertising, that’s not too bad, actually. arguably did more (thanks, guys!)  There were some technical glitches on BTR’s end (for some reason, I could not call into my phone number for five critical minutes of the show!), but they got worked out and the show started.

Strange, but I felt a bit more self-conscious than I did on the previous flight.  Perhaps its like they say about parachuting: it’s that second jump that’s really scary.  Also, I had a guest, Jon Greenbaum, which added a bit of pressure, even though he and I have known each other for a fairly long time.  Still, I got most (but not quite all) of my segments in where I wanted them to be.

The truth is, I’m still juggling my tools quite a bit.  I suppose this is normal.  I downloaded an “Egg Timer” application to keep track of the time, but forgot to turn it on until far enough into the show that it wasn’t worth the effort.  One irritating bit for me is that Skype will automatically disconnect you if it doesn’t hear you talking, which means that I basically had to call the show right at the start time.  I’m looking into ways around that, maybe I’ll do a bit of experimenting tonight.

Things to improve on the next flight:

  1. My headphone mic was a bit low, and my guest’s phone was louder.  It’s very difficult to break into a caller’s soliloquy that way.
  2. Need to work on being able to dial into the show sooner.  Its a bit awkward to login and immediately hit the intro music.
  3. Oh yeah!  The intro music could stand some work.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not great, either.  I cobbled together all the recording and mixing in about an hour before the show started, recording my overdub with a towel around my head and the mic to deaden the sheetrock ping-echoes. 
  4. I’m looking into getting a cohost for the show.  That would ease the dead air burden quite a bit.  I’ve put a line out to one person whom I know would be great at it, we shall see what happens.

All that, and I have miles of coding to do!  Plus, I’ve got articles that need writing.  Damnation!  I need a partner in this.

Flight of the DragonFly, The Next Flight ||

Interviewing Jon Greenbaum of Metro Justice

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Just popping my head into the blog to jot down a quick suggestion for you bloggers out there.  If you sometimes feel like you’re completely weighed down by the sheer volume of feeds you need to read (or, believe you need to read), I have a potential solution for you: checkout Bloglines and their “Playlists” option for reading your news.

With playlists, you can have a panel of the five most recent posts for each blog you put into a given playlist, which then get arranged into tiles.  You can move your stuff around however you like so that the most important stuff goes on top.  Best of all, you can quickly scan headlines for relevant content and just skip over stuff you don’t want to read.  That’s exceptionally handy stuff, right there, if you ask me!

Here’s how I leverage Playlists to my advantage when researching a topic:

I’ll go out and get custom RSS feeds from Google News or similar news readers, then add them to my Bloglines feeds, usually in a throw-away folder called “Working,” or somesuch.  Each of these is a keyword search on relevant topics for my research, but I separate the keyword searches so as not to make the results too narrow. 

For example, if I’m researching Alexander Litvinenko (the Russian spy who recently died of polonium-210 exposure), I would search for “Alexander Litvinenko” on Google, Technorati, and Yahoo.  Also, I search for “Boris Berezhovsky” and “polonium” on similar search engines.

Thus I have effectively, passively searched the Internet for information relevant to my subject, and I only need to check each feed for the needed content as it appears in the searches.  But who wants to go through each feed every day?

Not me.  However, by using the playlist option in Bloglines, I don’t need to.  Rather, I add all these feeds into one playlist and scan it every so often for new information as it happens. 

Cool, eh?

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So, it took nine days, but it finally happened: someone has left a comment on the DragonFlyEye.Net blog looking for my JavaScript Animated Collapsing Categories Widget to be usable for Links as well.  For those of you who are not aware, the new version of WordPress changes the way Links work slightly, by making Links Categories part of the Categories table of the database.

That means that my plugin could potentially be used for Links, but as it sits, that’s not the way it works.  In fact, it works with 2.1, but it’s a bit wonky.  So, I’ve avoided upgrading because I didn’t want to distract myself from other projects to make this adjustment.  Now people are asking for it (and this is a very downloaded piece of code, I can assure you), so I have no choice: I’m “On the Code Again.”

UPDATE: About that whole “Customizable Dashboard,” thing, someone already beat me to it, but I seconded the motion as well.  Good!  I hope this idea gains some traction and we get what we want.  In the meanwhile, I’m about to go check out “Dasher,” a plugin I found that’s supposed to do the same thing.
The WP Development Blog has announced a couple of new features for the WordPress world, WordPress Ideas and WordPress Kvetch, both aimed at more directly responding to the needs of WordPressers of the world. One is to suggest things, and the other is to complain about things, so I guess it’s kind of a question which you need to do more that determines where you post, eh?

Development Blog › Ideas and Kvetch!

If you could add anything in the world to WordPress, what would it be? If you could name the thing that frustrates you the most about WP, what would that be? Now you can tell us. We’re announcing new projects—two sides of the same coin.

Well, as soon as I get done posting this update, I’m going to put my two cents in at both places. Time to plead for a more liberal, less rigid Dashboard, for one.

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Just as I start this new blog, boom! There’s the latest WordPress release. It’s supposed to have a bunch of security holes patched along with a few other bugs fixed, but I haven’t had a chance to look at the update manifest yet. I’m hoping as always that they will fix the header errors when posting, but we shall see about that. Also, I get another header error when trying to delete draft posts, but I haven’t had a chance to look into that too deeply.

Over at the DFE development site, I’ve managed to make quite a bit of progress this week on the new site. It’s not looking like the site’s really going to be released before I leave for my honeymoon, but stranger things have happened. The big thing is: I finally have an RSS feed for the site not built by WP that actually validates. What a chore that was! In fact, there’s still a bit of griping from FeedValidator about illegal characters, but in truth, there is little I can do about that except moving forward with new articles.

Word to the wise, folks: MSWord might seem like a good option for writing your articles in, and indeed the spelling and grammar checks far surpass anything that’s available for web plugins, but freakin’ Microsoft has a habit of using odd characters that don’t fit into the UTF-8 character set. Those characters help make a Word document look more like a professionally printed paper document or book, so you can’t really blame MS for using them. At the same time, they don’t make it easy to get rid of them, either. There is an option to “Save as. . . ” a plain text document, but it is limited in it’s effectiveness.

So, I just need to make sure that any new articles I write from now on are saved as TXT files in UTF-8 encoding, and this problem will slowly disappear.

Other than that, the article viewer code is complete, the home page layout is complete and I only need to layout the sectional home pages and the RSS home page to complete the work. Come to think on it, I might actually be closer to done than I thought!

The new Holistic Networking blog is now officially launched, and I feel like a proud papa!

Well, OK, minor exaggeration.  The point is: I’ve created the new blog.  Why did I do this?  Well, because there are things about webdesign and such that I want to talk about which don’t make any sense on my regular blog, DragonFlyEye.Net.  Sure, there’s a technology section, but that’s meant for tech politics, not just discussing the finer points of code and design.  For that, I’ll need a whole different space.

And here I am!

Plus, too, if I ever get around to releasing WordPress plugins or SharePoint Webparts, this will be the place to do that.  Here’s to hoping a lot more of that happens in the future.

Awesome!  Glad to have this space to get started.