Archive for February, 2008

Django – a slight maybe

Django is a framework like Ruby on Rails.   But instead of using Ruby or Php, it uses the scripting language Python.
I only mention it because some professional media sites do use Django as a base.  Y
Hence I have installed it locally just in case this development gets into trouble, and we could solve some problems using Django.
But there may be some hurdles to using Django on Dreamhost.  Apparently some users have succeeded and others have failed.  Dreamhost does not officially support Django.
Most Django applications use the database engine Postgresql.  Dreamhost definitely does not support Postgresql and there is no way of using it.   It is MySQL only.   But Django does support MySQL.
Installing Django on Windows is by no means a breeze.  There are many steps and components needed – and therefore many opportunities to go wrong.  I’ll try to get competent with it over the next two months.

Here’s some good media sites using Django:  Ellington is a CMS built on top of Django.  Apparently it costs $25000

Porting sites to Django would be a fall-back option.

Drupal – probably not (slight maybe)

Have installed this package on my local computer – but at this stage I’m not going to put it online even as an example.  There is something of a learning curve to it.

On the face of it Drupal probably prefers to be a master portal – like Joomla.  Anything else like WordPress or phpBB (forum) or a media player – I imagine you embed those in Drupal.

So what is it?   Seems like a string of html pages.
But Drupal constructs html on the fly from information held on its databases.  Hence content is separate from presentation.
Drupal is not simple.  Out of the box it constructs 46 tables in the database.
Seems excellent for multiuser working.  And the ability to control user access and group permissions is excellent.
Can also use it as a portal for multisites.
One way of thinking about Drupal is that it is a highly configurable server-side front end to database-held information.
It is somewhat reminiscent of that rather mysterious desktop application – an Outliner.
And I’m sure outliners – like OneNote – would have been more successful if they were better able to be described.  An outliner is a way of organizing information in a highly configurable fashion with databases involved.   Sorry still doesn’t tell us much.
So Durpal is a bit mysterious but might be useful for large amounts of information which can be accessed by and contributed to a lot of users.
In the mad walk of life, we might want a knowledge base – not out the question.  (But for that, why would you not use MediaWiki, when most people know what a wiki is?)

So I am not convinced – as comprehensive as Drupal seems to be – that we would need it because
1) usability – admins and even end users would have to become familiar with Drupal and its terminology – books, stories, nodes etc.
2) limited options – when you invest in a cms which wants to be your master structure, you are limiting your options for other interfaces to the databases i.e. plain html – php scripts, javascript etc.
3) Indifferent media support. I’ve looked at some Drupal sites and although some do have audio and video – I don’t like the player – the look of it and its limited functionality.  And some clearly just don’t work.
4) Overkill – many of the sites I’ve looked at are quite simple and I would have thought easier to construct by traditional means.

So not forgetting Drupal altogether – its fanbase is considerable and growing, I can’t immediately see a place for it here.

Where next? Drupal

Before installing a forum – it might be good to take a close look at Drupal to see what it can do.

NB might go to alpha04 or install Drupal here.

Check out how easy it is to move a WordPress installation.

This log is now in real time

Previous posts were of course all taken from notes.   Not all that work was done on Feb 4th – that was a month’s worth.

next up alpha03 with WordPress.

this log will appear on WordPress.

And very good it is too.  Not too complex – well it’s just fab really.   Don’t have to look any further.

alpha02 – Joomla No No No

alpha02 is simply an installation of the much vaunted thing – Joomla.  And I stopped right there because this is not for us.  For a myriad of reasons.

Firstly this is a top-down approach whereas my approach to web building is bottom-up adding the best of scripts, writing a bit and adding modules as they are needed.  Joomla wants to be the front end of your site and also the framework – you install it without anything else in your space.

Okay it is easy and quick.  And that is good for others to come along and help or take over.

Joomla is a popular manifestation of – buzzphrase – a content management system.  A CMS.  But what is that exactly.  A filing cabinet?   A bunch of shelves with a card index?   Yes.  But we’ve got that with MySql – the databases.  I’m clueless as to how this adds anything at all.

So what have we got with alpha02?   A lot of spaces for news items – that’s a newspaper.  There’s a blog and users can sign in – although why would they want to?

There are loads of plug-ins for Joomla, but you are probably in the hands of joomlese folk when it comes to the still cutting edge technology of media streaming.   And as joomlese people obviously like off-the-shelf solutions they may not be the most radically inventive.  Like the Ruby on Rails folk.

Bottom line is how it works.  On the server – Joomla feels kludgy and sluggish.  It is sizeable and has for us unnecessary features.  So no.

Incidentally Journalness has the identical installation screens so I guess it is a clone of an early build of a Joomla which would have been its predecessor (and now its competitor) Mambo.

Nonetheless an interesting exercise.  Not least because it points to a system which might be useful to us – Drupal.   Drupal is more technically configurable than Joomla – it has much better support for community websites and it is reported to play nicely with other applications.   So Drupal is happy to be one component among many.  It is often used with WordPress as the blogging application.

A Journal system

I wanted a simple journal system in which I and others could post logs and comments.  The log page would show links if we made them.  And the messages would be listed in reverse date/time order.   Not much to ask eh?

I did not propose writing this application myself in php – but just take something off the shelf?   Was there anything?    Well on and other php sites there are just thousands.  Choosing would be difficult.

More or less randomly I selected about five to try.  Three did not begin work out of the box.  Discarded.   Installed xataljournal.  Nice but just a bit too simple.  No comments facility to posts and no ability to make links to other pages.   Installed journalness – and yes that what we needed.

But it turns out all these things were current about 2 years ago.  Most are no longer in development – and I do not propose developing/debugging these myself.  A shift happened and everyone decided they would not use little journaling applications but choose a big one and go with that.   Better to have the support of an army of developers than one man a dog.

Dreamhost offer two blogging thingies as “one-click installs” (yeah I bet!) – WordPress and Joomla.   So I’ll install Joomla and see what that does.   It is probably massive overkill for what we need here.   But can’t hurt to try.

Going to discontinue alpha01 site soon

(Well now that’s done.)

But it will be left on the server for now.   In case we need to go back to it.
New site will be alpha02 of course.   Then alpha03 and so on.   (That will be the strategy for development)

We needed a much better way of logging development than just posting endless html files.  The information would have been a real mess real soon.

Next steps – getting the software assembled

So now a refresher course in php-mysql on apache.   Everything is easy except maybe multimedia which is still a black art.

Need a working application of php-Flash remoting.  I’ve done it before when this was just starting so
I know it can be done – and there will be more technologies to choose from 2 years later.

Another cuppla weeks to refresh my knowledge – Feb 3rd.   Should have a media player working online by then.

Update: JEROEN WIJERING’s player

This is the Flash player which Dreamhost offers as a one-click install.   It looks perfectly fine to me.

Here it is at

Dead cool eh?

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