Archive for May, 2008

Gallery2??? I just don’t know

After a successful Mad Pride gig – from which there are some photos – I realised we maybe needed some kind of gallery software.

There are loads – Coppermine, ZenPhoto – and this one Gallery2.   Dreamhost has this as a one-click install so its going to be good (I’m now trusting Dreamhost’s judgement.

Right – straight away the full install takes 50Mb of space – which is huge for an online app.  That makes me very suspicious this is bloatware.

And it is.  But it is very widely used.  Trouble is when you have a vast army of people working on an app it gets like Windows – more and more things get added – it becomes unwieldy – much more likely to go wrong in ways which are insoluble.

And it is not very fast.

There are some pro’s though.  The carbon theme used here does look nice.

You can have people uploading.   It will embed in WordPress and phpBB.  Plus its not just for photos anymore – but will do video and hopefully flash audio as well – certainly does mp3’s.

Okay keep it under review.  The other one to try out is ZenPhoto.   Much smaller and trades on the fact it isn’t bloatware.

Another plus is that with some hackery – Gallery2 will work with the magnificent javascript tool Highslide.   That is a winning piece of software.

But building the madpride header, menu and footer into Gallery is by no means easy and resultant code is a horrible horrible mish mash.   Gallery uses loads of .tpl files which are written in Smarty.   Smarty doesn’t play nice with javascript, html functions or php.

Have a stylesheet which removes Gallery2’s header and logo by setting display to none.  Sheesh.

However I suppose I have to get to grips with Smarty – because phpBB (forums uses it and editing tpl files is a must.)   Therefore Gallery2 is good practice.


Ahah – now we’ve changed the Home Page from index.html to index.php and deleted the old page – links no longer work.   No real problem but the address of at gets a 404 error (file not found).

So just make a text file and name it .htaccess and upload it to the root of madpride.

It contains a line of Apache code:

Redirect 301 /index.html

And that works because the server always looks for the .htaccess file first.  Search Engines are happy with this too.

(This log is protected by an .htaccess file – in a different place)

To do next

Forums, photo-gallery, soundz and blog entries.

The menu bar

Sheesh I was quite happy with the old one.   But it was in Javascript.   And that is very iffy for menus.   Three reasons.

Quite a few have javascript turned off.   Others may be looking at the site on mobile devices and often javascript just won’t work for many.

And more importantly: search engines list your site by following through its links – and they can’t or won’t when its javascript.   So your doomed to obscurity.

And assistive technologies like text to speech have enormous difficulty too.  A javascript menu is not accessible.

So I tried out a number of open source and costly menu programs and none really worked well.    Eventually I found a dreamweaver plug-in which does the trick nicely.   It’s in css.   The problem with it is that its a bit delicate and  each page is goinf to have to be tried out in 3 flavours of IE, Netscape and Opera too.

But its done.

Turning a Corner

With the all-new Home Page up I sense that we are turning a corner. The rest should be plain-ish sailing.

It wasn’t remotely easy – 2 big problems – the menu. And CSS Stylesheets.

With this sort of website I sail through php and mysql isn’t so bad either (well it needs very little looking-after.

But although I understand the theory – the practice of CSS is something else altogether. My Waterloo. You got browser hacks, loads of peculiarities and layouts break very easily. I’d give it up – but there is nothing else!

But when it works – then it shouldn’t be too bad to maintain. These are still early days for CSS and hopefully new developments will mean it becomes more straightforward.

Email Form done

I’ve never done an interactive form before and it turned out to be quite a big deal. Use Formtools which gets installed on the server and manages answers to forms. I’m only using html whereas entirely php would be slicker. So there is a bit of a learning curve to Formtools.

Mad Pride blog is now live. Must say I do like WordPress. Very powerful and cool.

Big trouble

More endless delays.  Had a big problem testing pages in my browser – as well as surfing the net.  It wasn’t my isp or their dns – I changed DNS server and changed the isp.

It wasn’t the browser – I was using Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer.

It wasn’t the router.  I swapped it out.  Then went onto a modem.  Even dial-up – no good.

It wasn’t the Intel network chip – I bypassed that.

Don’t think it was a virus – HiJack this didn’t reveal anything.

I did a repair re-install of Windows twice.   Installed Service Pack 3 and quite a lot of programs began to crash after a while.   Uninstalled it.

Nothing worked – but it was obviously Windows since the problem didn’t arise in Windows 2000 or Linux.

So had to bite the bullet.  Backed up everything – and formatted the hard drive.   Made a fresh install of Windows XP and everying okay.

But that does mean re-installing a huge number of things.  And Apache PHP MySQL and PhpMyAdmin is never easy.   And it wasn’t.

So big trouble over and sort of back to normal

Todo Next

Mad Pride Blog entries.

A nice contact form – linking into a database

Mad Pride index.html    Update links.  Header is too big vertically – make it smaller.   Don’t like the content space at all – font, size and background colour needs changing.

This was done in a rush using a Dreamweaver template.  Is done with tables and that is a no-no nowadays.   Redo the page using css to lay it out and forget the tables as far as possible.

Still to do

Skin the forums – put them up.

Put up some film and soundz.

Email and Snailmail Mailout done

For the May17th gig, and this new site I’ve emailed – the email database.   One third of the 600 or so contacts are dead email addresses.  So the addresses have been deleted from the Access database.

For email mailouts I am using MaxBulk mailer.   It’s pretty good – much better than 1st Mail sender.  Just output a table or query from Access in cvs format and Max Bulk reads them straight in.  Then I find that the setting that works with my ISP – Bulldog is: 1 connection and send each email with a 5 second pause.   Faster than that and Bulldog closes the connection saying too much mail.

Then for snailmail I’ve finally learned how to print envelopes from a mail merge in Word 2007.   Almost painless but I can’t get it to print a return address.   Instead just do a new document (DL envelope) with the address.  Turn the envelopes over and do loads of copies.

Mailed out 63 to fairly local London contacts.

Technologies used for this site

Basic html pages – I used Dreamweaver.   And Dreamweaver kind of manages the site – although is prone to putting folders in the wrong place.  CuteFTP is a good backup if Dreamweaver goes wrong.   CuteFTP is also much much quicker at file transfers between local machine and the remote site at

Php pages.   I tried Apatana studio but its too buggy.  Ultra Edit and/or UEStudio does nice color-coding for php.

Navigation menu – I used Sothink DHTML menu builder.   Very nice but it is javascript.   If people have javascript turned off in their browser then they won’t see the menu.   If there is any negative feedback I’ll rebuild this in CSS.

Stylesheets – the CSS is edited in Stylemaster – not Dreamweaver if I can help it.

Mysql – the databases are edited in the browser at using phpmyadmin.   That’s fine.

On my local machine I have two versions of the madpride site.   One is on C:\Apache2.2\htdocs\madpride.    And the files there I keep synchronized with the files on Dreamhost.    However this local site doesn’t work on my local server properly because the settings are geared up for Dreamhost (i.e. the databases referenced are at Dreamhost and not my local mysql.

The other version is at C:\vhosts\dev.madpride.   And because I have virtual hosts enabled – I can simply access the site locally by going to http://dev.madpride with the browser  and it works properly.   But because the settings are geared towards local use, these files are not synchronized with those on Dreamhost.   This however is the development site – where I can test out all new pages and new technologies before they go live.

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