Sunday, August 19th, 2007

18 Till I Die!

Sorry if you came here in search of Bryan Adam’s famous song. I have often wondered why people chose only particular numbers.

Funny thing is even I chose 18, but I have no idea why I did so. All my last three posts were on the 18th of each month. And I didn’t do it intentionally…

Does it have anything to do with the number 9? 1+8=9. Beats me!

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Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Indianorthodoc – Not yet there!

With great fanfare, I started out doing this and this. A little browsing through the Drupal site to pick up a few points, tweak the site to make it look different, and I thought I would have it ready for a show …but it was not meant to be! On looking back I realise how naive I have been.

So what did I learn from the whole process:
Its not as simple as buying a domain name and installing drupal. Then it will be one among thousands of other sites. If you want to be the one site, then it needs to be distinctive. Two components that most people overlook are content and design. You must have something to offer to the visitors, not something you gathered from the web through feeds which drupal easily accomplishes. Content must attract visitors and keep them coming back for more. I had a rough idea on what the content of indianorthodoc.org would be. I had decided that it should be driven by user contributions. But when I looked at sites like The Morning News it became clear that quality was more important than quantity. A magazine would fit my requirements more easily than a CMS. The periodical nature of output would give me time to acquire and publish articles that made sense.

Its amazing how one thing leads to another. The same paper had an excellent design feel to it unlike the usual paper like say The New York Times . Both of them were powered by Drupal but TNYT was crammed up while TMN was more easy on the eyes. I learnt later from this book how whitespace can make a big difference in designing a site. But how could I achieve white space? It required the art of layout and layout in website is achieved by manipulating CSS.

You have to look at a few CSS websites to see what I mean. People can really great creative with css. csszengarden had been one of the early sites to effectively demonstrate the use of css in designing sites. But take a look at others like cssbeauty and cssmania. One thing that struck me was that most of these sites belonged to the creative kind of people …artists, a different league all together. I didn’t want to stretch my site all that far. But I was certain about one issue now, I couldn’t just use the default css design that came with drupal. I had to have a design that I could call my own. Two sites that had some interesting articles on css were Sitepoint and AListApart. Both the sites practised what they preached, excellent design with relevant articles and plenty of white space.

So until I get an idea about what css is and how I can exploit its use in designing my site, indianorthodoc.org will have to wait.

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Monday, June 18th, 2007

White screen of Death

Oh! The last couple of weeks have been really dreadful. I have had ubuntu go crashing down …my website host had several outrages and I was left in the lurch trying to recover data. The latter has got a simple and elegant solution. You might have heard it being repeated several times before …and I will do nothing less than the same. The three steps to keeping your data safe on a hosted server are: backup, back up and backup. But better still to have a look at the tao of backup.

On the other hand I had the fortune of facing the white screen of death on ubuntu. Though wikipedia has a small write-up here, its nothing compared to what I faced. Although I am not sure why it happens ( I think it is to do with the display system – X server), I think I have got the solution to it. I had a really lengthy post out there in launchpad and two guys did their best to help me out. If I hadn’t chickened out and gone for the easy way out, we would have probably solved the problem. If this has got you curious you read about it here. But trust me when I say it will bore you to death. That brings us back to the white screen of death…

You have got three ways to sort this problem out:

  1. Option 1: If you have a Nvidia graphics card then simply,
    • Open up a terminal by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1 (you could use F2 to F6 instead of F1) to enter a TTY session
    • Then log in with your username and password
    • At the prompt type the following:

      sudo apt-get install nvidia-glx

    • Remember that you will be prompted for your password and that you need a valid internet connection for this method to work.
    • After the installation is done, you will return to your prompt.
    • Now hit the combination of: Ctrl+Alt+F7 to return to your gnome session.
    • If you still face the white screen, then log back to TTY session.
    • Type at the prompt: sudo reboot to reboot your pc and see if this helps.
  2. Option 2: If oyu don’t have a graphics card installed then,
    • Open up a TTY session by hitting Ctrl+Alt+F1
    • After you are logged in, typ the following at the prompt:

      sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

    • A blue screen will open up and run you through various options. Hit enter to choose Yes and move on to the next option. Occasionally you may have to hit the TAB button to choose the OK option. For all of them the default options will suffice.
    • Stop at the section that mentions about Xserver loading modules when starting up. Run through the options using the UP and DOWN arrow buttons. Deselect, repeat deselect the glx optiion by pressing the spacebar (There should be no star between the parentheses next to the option.
    • After running through all the options you will be back at the prompt.
    • Try first Ctrl+Alt+F7 or sudo reboot to log back inot your ubuntu session.
  3. Option 3: Sometimes if you had enabled desktop effects enabled without having a graphics card aor having the restricted drivers then you are faced with the same white screen:
    • Again, enter a TTY session by typing Ctrl+Alt+F1
    • Run the following command

      sudo killall.compiz.real

    • Then reboot.

If all of these options do not work then you can post your problem in the ubuntuforums or in launchpad. There are many in the community who will get you out this sticky situation.

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Friday, May 18th, 2007

Subdomains

For a long time I have not been able to access the google servers. When Google started offering the Google apps bundled with a domain, I fell for the offer. I had the servers configured and the apps running within minutes. But the meagre amount of 100MB space and inflexibility of the web page building process left me quite high and dry. So I went ahead and brought web space from Computing Host. Used the ever popular Fantastico script to install Drupal.

So I changed the name servers at the domain host (GoDaddy) from google servers to Computing Host servers. Drupal was up and I was on my way to configuring it. In this context the Drupal cookbook, which is listed in the Drupal website is a no-frills documentation of getting your feet wet with Drupal.

At this moment the mail, calendar and the docs became inaccessible. So what I did was create sub domains at the web host through cpanel. And had them redirect to the google servers. It seemed to work. I modified the earlier picture to one with the new logo.

However one major problem still persisted. I did not have a user sign up page for the google apps services. Secondly I am not sure if drupal and the mail service of google will be compatible. In other words users may have to sign up twice, one for the user id on the drupal site and another for the google servers. I am sure they will find it very annoying. So that issue will keep me preoccupied for the weekend!!

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Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Logo Search!

Inkscape is a wonderful tool to create vector images. Vector images are scalable unlike bitmap or raster images., which means they still look sharp when magnified. No blur or pixelated edges. And yes it works wonderfully on my ubuntu!! The windows version is the more expensive Adobe Illustrator. I have been working hard to get a site up for the last couple of weeks. So the first thing I wanted to set up was the logo …something to identify my site with. I started to play around with inkscape. I looked at a few screencasts at youtube.

And this is what I first landed up with:

It looked fine with me, after all I didn’t want to spend too much time on a silly logo. But my wife couldn’t stand it. What does it mean?? It looks funny, that’s what she said. So I modified it a little bit more:

trying my best to convince myself that it couldn’t get better than this. I even got a favicon working.

I was using drupal for my site, another open source CMS. It just didn’t match the drupal icon.

I noticed how the icon was small and yet so large. Being spherical in size it seemed to occupy all the 64×64 icon space. So I changed my mind to work on a spherical model. I had been working on the crooked tree picture

sometime back and had saved it in png image format. Gave it a try and this is what I came up with.

But then the site background was also green, and there seemed to be no contrast between the two. It just didn’t stand out! So I played around with the background and finally settled for lemon yellow.

The icon was finally beginning to shape up. I enlarged the central image to fill up my icon. I was also having trouble adjusting my site name. It seemed too long to be a title. So I decided to include it in the logo. Wanted the title to be more clear so added shadow and made it bold to improve its appearance. And this is what I finally came up with:

It still doesn’t look perfect to me. For one the title is crowded and secondly it seems to be going beyond the equator. But for the moment I am going to use this logo. My site has got an identity now! Hooray!!

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