Musings of an anonymous geek

December 24, 2006

LinuxLaboratory Overhaul and Relaunch Complete

Filed under: LinuxLaboratory — m0j0 @ 4:06 pm

So it’s all done. LinuxLaboratory.org now runs on Drupal, it runs on a new hosting service, and so far I’m very happy with both. 

The hosting service is a little more modern than my old one, is slightly faster, gives me access to far more resources than I’m likely to ever use, and costs about 70% less. 

Drupal is a CMS. It’s not a wiki, it’s not a blog, it’s there mainly to manage “content”. It doesn’t have a wysiwyg editor, but that’s no big deal, and I wound up having to add two modules, which I really didn’t want to have to do, but it handles things pretty nicely, and it was pretty much a breeze to get going. Moving over content was no problem – just a little time consuming to fix the formatting. Getting a download section in place was a little more of a headache, but once I got the hang of it it was nicer than anything else I’ve used. 

In the end, I think Drupal’s ease-of-use (at least, the way I’m using it is easy) will be a catalyst to doing more with the site. 99% of the content is handled using the Drupal “book” module, so I don’t have to mess with “taxonomies”, for example. I don’t even know what that really is in the context of Drupal, and I’m happy to stay stupid in that regard. 

Anyway, it’s up and running, so go have a look and let me know what you think about it. 

December 22, 2006

New LinuxLaboratory.org Site Live

Filed under: LinuxLaboratory — m0j0 @ 10:35 am

By now, DNS has propagated, and everyone should be able to see the new drupal-ized LinuxLaboratory.org (LLO for short). http://www.linuxlaboratory.org

Just about all of the old content that is still relevant has been moved over, and some new content, and a good number of useful downloads have also been added.

I’ve also added another site administrator named Chris St. Pierre. I’ve known Chris online for some time, and recently we got to meet in person at LISA ’06, where we co-hosted the Fedora Directory Server BoF. We’ve collaborated a bit on some code in the hopes of eventually making the FDS GUI obsolete, and that code is available on the site. It should be noted that the code isn’t FDS-specific – it’s just the catalyst for its creation 🙂

Well, let me know what you think, and happy holidays!!

December 10, 2006

More CMS Requirements Than I Thought

Filed under: LinuxLaboratory,Technology — m0j0 @ 10:43 pm

I thought my needs were simple. When I started LinuxLaboratory.org, it was full of features. User forums, news categories, icons and emoticons everywhere, downloads, interviews… it was really all-singing and all-dancing. It was also too much for one guy to manage.

I decided to trim the fat and get back to basics. LinuxLaboratory.org started as a place for me to keep notes for myself. Others found the notes useful, and I was asked to write an article or two for other sites. Then I started writing my notes in the form of articles. Then I started writing LOTS of articles all the time. I also wrote some code, and saw no reason to keep it to myself. So, what I need is a place to keep articles, and a place to keep downloads that others can get to.

My requirements? Well, I need a CMS that allows me to create navigation that is very article-centric. I want users who come to the site to see the categories of articles so they can find what they want quickly. I want users to click on an article category and see the article titles available in that section. I also want a link on the front page to a download section where people can then see a list of available downloads.

I don’t want much more than that. I don’t want to learn about inane taxonomies, I don’t want things listed chronologically, I don’t want a framework that allows a million people to contribute. I don’t want a wiki, I don’t want a blog, I don’t want a news portal.

What I want, I think, is to be able to structure content more or less like a book is laid out… online. A single-user site with content broken down by chapter and subchapter. When the content contains code, I’d like to make it available, either inline or via a download. As far as I can tell, this does not exist. Let me explain:

I’ve tried PHPX, drupal, dokuwiki, mediawiki, and wordpress, all within the last year or so. Looking back over 5 years, I’ve tried just about everything else as well. XOOPS, PHP-Nuke, Postnuke, Mambo, and the list goes on.

PHPX was just plain flaky, but was damn near perfect in terms of what I wanted to do with my content. The numerous bugs made me leave it.

Drupal is really nice too, and I’m still testing it, but the article formatting isn’t wonderful, and I’ve found that if I insert PHP code inline, if I use a ‘pre’ tag to insert it, the PHP gets parsed. If I use the ‘code’ tag to insert it, I lose any notion of indentation. This is no good, but I’m still searching for a solution because otherwise drupal seems kinda nice so far.

Dokuwiki is nice, too. I really like that you can have syntax highlighted code inline in your articles. I *don’t* like that you have to pick a string representation of your article that is not the title of the article. So, in other words, instead of seeing Linux->Scripting->More Power With Bash Getopts, I’m forced to live with Linux->Scripting->bash_getopts. It also wasn’t obvious to me how you’d link to a download without using an absolute “External” link, which, in the context of something that already does so much, seems like a hack.

Mediawiki is what LLO currently runs on, and I’ve learned over the past year that doing downloads and structuring things the way I want them in mediawiki also involves hacks.

WordPress is nice, but again, no obvious way to do downloads cleanly, and chronology in my content is really pretty irrellevant. I’m happy to date my articles, but the articles I’m posting relate to eachother in ways that have nothing to do with their creation date. PHP and Shell articles written two years apart should still appear next to eachother in the “scripting” section.

In the end, my recommendation to others is this: if you’re not hosting a blog, don’t use blog software. Not hosting a wiki? Don’t use wiki software. Not hosting a news portal? Don’t use news portal software.

Also, before I get flamed, note that I’m aware that I can probably load my site down with plugins to accomplish what I want. However, I’ve been doing this for a while, and I know that, while using a plugin will work for a while, there is also often a lag between the release of a new version of the base software and the release of the plugin for the new version of the base software.

If anyone has a clue about what I might use to accomplish my goal of basically providing categorized articles online with as little bloat as possible, let me know.

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November 17, 2006

Yet another LinuxLaboratory overhaul in the works.

Filed under: LinuxLaboratory,Technology — m0j0 @ 4:50 pm

Well, it’s that time again. Time to suck it up and come to terms with yet another “conent management solution” that doesn’t fit the bill as far as Linuxlaboratory.org is concerned.

The latest system is MediaWiki, and it’s not working out. There’s about a million things built into MediaWiki that I don’t use, and then some of the simple things I do want to use are either hacks or don’t work right, or both.

For example, MediaWiki, to my knowledge, doesn’t have *native* support for providing downloads through your site. You can do it using a hack that utilizes the “Images” tag, and I’ve done that on LinuxLaboratory, but recently, and without warning, the wiki markup stopped honoring my request to hide the hack in the actual title of the download, so now my downloads all say “Images:Downloadname” instead of just “Downloadname” as my wiki markup indicates.

Anyway, MediaWiki doesn’t really aim to satisfy the needs of sites like LinuxLaboratory. I just tried to repurpose it, and it hasn’t worked as well as I would’ve liked. I still actually use it for other projects that are more wiki-like, and it’s great, but not for this site.

So what’s next? I’m not really sure. There seems to be an unclaimed niche in content management. I can’t seem to find a solution that doesn’t consist of either some arbitrarily convoluted framework, or a bunch of hacked PHP scripts with no real flexibility. I don’t want to run a news site, I don’t want to run a blog. I run, primarily, a HOWTO-style documentation website that also provides downloads of various bits of code.

I’ve looked into handling this with WordPress, but there’s not a really good way to handle category navigation, or downloads, that’s *native*.

Why am I obsessed about native features? Well, because I’ve been shot in the foot in the past by installing whiz-bang extensions written for one version of the CMS-of-the-day, only to find they’re unusable when the CMS is upgraded, and they’re in no big rush to update their code.

I’ll be testing out a few systems, now that I’ve basically given up on wordpress. Open source projects use systems to host their software downloads and documentation, so I’ll look into some project home pages and see what they use.

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