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Blog design Highlights Internet Journalism Open source WebTech

Using WordPress as CMS of news, magazine sites redux

My redesign of Cebu Living, an online magazine on Cebu, is now live. Check it out. It’s using a WordPress theme for news and magazine websites. The new theme still needs a lot of work but if you want to try it out, you can do an anonymous svn checkout: svn checkout http://svn2.assembla.com/svn/cebulivingmagazine. Just go through the template files and see what needs to be changed for your site. I promise a commented version of the template files soon.

Unlike the previous Cebu Living theme, which I ported from an open source CSS/XHTML design, I built this new one from scratch. And it shows. I’m not a designer, in fact, I’m bad at designs. But the new theme incorporates elements I, as publisher, wanted from a site run as an e-zine and using WordPress as content management system (CMS).

I will be releasing the theme as soon as I finalize it. If you have comments on the new design, please leave it in this post or send it as an e-mail so that I can consider incorporating it in the theme.

Categories
free software Highlights linux Open source WebTech

Installing Ubuntu Linux Gutsy Gibbon

It’s been four days since I’ve switched my main blogging tool, an MSI s260 laptop, into the beta version of the next Ubuntu release—Gutsy Gibbon or Ubuntu 7.10. This next version of Ubuntu is scheduled for release in the coming weeks but I couldn’t wait for the final version. I wanted it now.

After the beta was released, I started preparing to upgrade. I downloaded a disk image of the installer via Bittorrent while backing up files in my laptop. Since there were many seeders, the download took less than two hours.

Ubuntu restricted extras RESTRICTED EXTRAS. Among the packages in the repositories of the next Ubuntu Linux version is “restricted extras,” which comes with Microsoft fonts, MP3 playback support and the Flash plugin. Click on photo to enlarge.

You can upgrade to Gutsy Gibbon from Feisty Fawn, the version prior to it. I chose to do a fresh install partly because I was reared in a Windows world and that’s how I installed new operating system versions—starting from scratch.

The installation was easy and went without a hitch. The installer detected my built-in dial-up modem, which I haven’t used since I bought the laptop, and informed that “restricted drivers” were available for it.

Categories
Free services free software Highlights Open source productivity WebTech

Goodbye activeCollab, hello ProjectPier

The project management application I use extensively for some of my tasks has turned its back on the open source beginnings that attracted me and, I’m sure, many others to it during its initial versions.

ActiveCollab is a clone of the popular Basecamp project management application. The main difference is that while Basecamp is a hosted service with various account levels, activeCollab is something you install in your own server and on which you have full control.

ProjectPier PROJECTPIER. The ProjectPier installation that replaced activeCollab in my webserver. I’m using the goCollab monochrome theme that came it.

The project management application appealed to do-it-yourself type geeks who wanted to host the data on their own and deal with less restrictions on accounts. Plus, it was free.

When it was first released, activeCollab came with an open source license and that was what attracted me to the project. I thought it held promise of being a very powerful and useful project management application if developed by an active community of users.

But the developer has decided to stop open source development on the project. Development will now be closed source, at least on the core features. The next release, version 1.0 due out next week, will also not have a free version. Your only options for activeCollab 1.0 are SmallBiz ($199) and Corporate ($399).

Categories
Blogs free software Open source Photography WebTech

Upgrading WordPress Lightbox plugin

I just upgraded the Lightbox 2.0 plugin I use for my WordPress installations. I use Lightbox 2.0 extensively for snazzy image loading effects in my blog and all the other sites I run. The script loads images in an overlay window and dims all the other parts of the page.

Lightbox plugin LIGHTBOX FOR WORDPRESS. The Lightbox plugin I use for my WordPress installations now works with the WordPress post editor. Click on photo to preview Lightbox effect in loading larger version of image.

You can try it out with the photo that comes with this post (it won’t work, though, if you read this on an RSS reader or in your e-mail, you have to go to my blog).

In the new version, WordPress Lightbox 2 0.6.3, the lightbox button now works with the WordPress post editor, albeit only in the code view. In previous versions, you had to save the post before the lightbox button appeared. The new version only supports WordPress 2.1 and higher and uses the Prototype and Scriptaculous library that come bundled with WordPress. The new version now allows you to easily enter group names for photo sets.

In upgrading from earlier versions, I suggest you disable the plugin and then delete the entire folder before uploading the new version. I tried just overwriting the plugin and encountered errors.

For more on how to use Lightbox to implement snazzy image loading in your blog, check my tutorial in this post.

Categories
free software Highlights Journalism Newsroom tech Open source WebTech

Going to school—Drupal school

I’ve been studying Drupal these past months. Drupal is a highly-regarded open source content management system (CMS) that can run anything from a single-person website to a community portal. There’s even a Newspapers on Drupal group for people using the CMS for their news websites.

Drupal school NOW SHOWING. I’ve downloaded Elliott Rothman’s video tutorial series on Drupal. Rothman’s tutorials are really helpful for newbies who want to learn how to use Drupal as content management system. Click on photo to enlarge.

Drupal, unlike many other open source CMS, seems to be much more technically challenging to use, especially for non-geeks like me who can’t program.

It took me a couple of months of studying and experimenting with WordPress to be able to confidently make it work for a project the way I wanted it to work. WordPress can be used to run a news or magazine website and I’ve done this for several projects. I am also currently writing a new article on how to use WordPress to run a news website and will be releasing a new theme for it. It’s for a personal project that I was supposed to launch this weekend but got delayed by work deadlines.

While I love WordPress and have been using it for most of my personal projects, I want to learn how to use Drupal extensively because I see it as the better CMS for larger, more complex, and community-oriented web projects. Some of the sites running Drupal are The Onion, MTV UK, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Exposure, and The New York Observer.

The New York Observer’s use of Drupal is particularly noteworthy because its development team discussed how they did it in this article on the relaunch of the newspaper site using Drupal.

Categories
free software Highlights linux Mobile Open source

Open Source phone anyone?

Open Source development has brought the world a stable operating system, reliable web server and thousands of free and very useful programs and scripts. Will it bring us the next great phone?

Last July 9, OpenMoko started selling from their website the Neo 1973 phone, which runs the company’s eponymous open source mobile software package. This is an early version, geared more toward developers and hackers. neo19732

OpenMoko is an open source operating system for mobile phones. It is built on the Linux kernel and various other open source software packages. It even has a software package management system that will allow users to easily manage, install, and remove applications in their phones.

I am an open source advocate so I may be a touch too optimistic about the project. But it’s easy to feel that way. You only have to use software such as Firefox, web content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal, or a Linux desktop (get Ubuntu!) to know that open source is a very viable development framework.

There is no need to list the merits of open source development as these are more than amply covered in a lot of websites.

But what makes the project hold such promise is that unlike in PCs where most people have become dependent on popular closed-source applications, in mobile phones there are no such dependencies.

Categories
free software Highlights linux Open source

Playing with fire? Painting with fire!

Or snazzy Ubuntu Linux with AWN dock and Compiz-Fusion

Beryl, the compositing window manager I’ve been using since I migrated to Ubuntu Linux in April, is now merging with the project it forked from, Compiz. The new project is called Compiz-Fusion and the initial work is great, a few notches above Beryl in some aspects.

compiz-fusion ring switcher RING SWITCHER. Compiz-Fusion’s ring switcher is really a great and eye-catching way to switch between applications. For more Compiz-Fusion features, check out my short video clip below. Click on photo to view larger image.

For a Linux newbie, discovering the extent of customization possible with the operating system is a productivity trap: you decide to tweak one part of your desktop and then you’d read about another cool software or tweak and so you decide to try it and the next thing you know, you’re spiraling in an endless trial of tweaks that you miss several project deadlines.

I was determined to avoid that.

After I installed Beryl and configured it to my liking, I made a pledge to limit customization of my desktop appearance to changing wallpapers and the configuration of my panels.

I failed.

Categories
Blog design Open source WebTech

Announcing WP-Subdued WordPress theme

I have just released WP-Subdued, a WordPress theme based on the open source Subdued web template released by Free CSS Templates. I regularly check Free CSS Templates and when I saw the Subdued template, I immediately knew it was perfect for a site I’m helping to launch.

wp-subdued WP-SUBDUED. My WordPress port of the Subdued template released by Free CSS Templates. Click on photo to view larger image.

To preview the original template, click on this link. To view how it looks in WordPress, check this working version in my sandbox.

The template was released as an open source design under a Creative Commons Attribution license and the designer said he’d appreciate if you somehow link to his site.

Save for changing the header to not use images, styling the sidebar list, and adding comment and search forms, I kept most of the design elements.

Categories
free software Highlights linux Open source WebTech

New Aptana IDE version makes Linux installation easy

I use Aptana whenever I have to edit a web template or convert one to a WordPress theme. Before I found Aptana, I used Dreamweaver. I wrote a post earlier on how to use Dreamweaver to edit edit WordPress themes.

Aptana in Linux EDITING WITH APTANA. Porting an open source web template into a WordPress theme using Aptana. Here, Aptana is showing a preview of the design. Click on photo to view larger image.

When I found Aptana, however, I dumped Dreamweaver. I found Aptana, an open source integrated development environment or IDE, to be a better tool to edit CSS and HTML files. I sometimes use it to edit WordPress .php theme files although my editor of choice right now is gedit.

While Dreamweaver is easier to use for non-geeks like me who are not as adept in coding, using Aptana allows me to improve my HTML and CSS skills. You can’t drag things around to re-arrange web page elements as you do in Dreamweaver. You have to do the changes by code.

When I migrated to Ubuntu Linux in my laptop, I knew I had to install Aptana or else I’d have to go to my Windows desktop to work on web templates. Installing Aptana in Windows is painless. You just need to download the installer package and run it.

In Linux, installation used to be complicated, at least for non-geeks like me. To install previous Aptana versions, you need to execute a couple of apt-get commands, CHMOD the installation file, and then set environment variables. When I first read the instruction, the first thought that formed in my non-geek brain was “God, please let there be a .deb file somewhere.”

Categories
free software Highlights linux Open source

Installing Photoshop on Ubuntu Linux

Now, what do I do? That was the first thought that formed in my mind when I first opened Gimp about 5 or 6 six years ago in an Internet cafe on F. Ramos St. in Cebu City.

I was given the grand tour on Linux and open source software by Mike Schmeisser, a chain-smoking German geek, in his Internet cafe. His Internet cafe ran, save for one unit, solely on Linux. I interviewed Mike for a story on open source software and Linux and he invited me to his cafe to check his units.

Photoshop in Ubuntu Linux PHOTOSHOP ON UBUNTU LINUX. Adobe Photoshop 7.0 running in my Linux laptop using Wine. Click on photo to view larger image.

Having been reared on image editing with Photoshop, I couldn’t find my way in Gimp. I’m not really a graphics person but I use Photoshop often for editing photos, editing images of screen activity for tutorials, and creating blog and website headers.

I tried various open source software after Mike’s introduction and even stuck with using many of them. But not Gimp. I once tried Gimpshop, a modification of the program to replicate the look and feel of Adobe Photoshop but then I found myself using Photoshop after a few days of playing with it.

More than a month after I switched to Ubuntu Linux in my laptop, I found that I missed having Photoshop in it for certain tasks. I did manage to create a blog header using Gimp but it took me at least ten times longer than it would have taken me in Photoshop. I had a hard time even resizing images in layers or removing backgrounds of photos.