My Weekend, so far

30 Aug, 2004 | WebTdp

Apologies for my complete absence for a few days, with a bank holiday and a week off looming I decided to draw up a to-do list and get on with it.

First up I downloaded a copy of MediaWiki and, now that I have apache and what-not installed on my main machine rather than just my test server (which is about to try out a few new copies of Linux), installed it and made it my default home page so that when I fire up my browser I get pointed straight at my to-do list. I've not used a wiki before, but, after the initial complications of, essentially, learning yet another mark-up language (HTML, BBcode and now wiki) and grabbing a skin (why are the default wiki skins all so ugly? Mind you, I even had to modify that to get it to look right in Firefox) I quite enjoyed it.

It makes adding and removing things from the list easy, no need to fire up an HTML editor, just hit the Edit this Page link, much easier. It also creates new pages and a table of contents automatically, so I've got a couple of links to other pages which have more info and stuff on, it's great. To top it all off, it tracks changes so if I remove something, I can check the history to see what it was.

That led me to task two, an overhaul of a site I've had floating about for a year or more but not done much with. It was on some space for another site, so first off I moved it to my reseller account and gave it it's own space. I was trying to make the site more of a community idea (sort of like a wiki I guess), so I set out looking for a CMS that would do the trick.

Having heard a lot about Textpattern recently and having a copy floating about my system, I installed it and started trying to create a site. Woah, talk about a funky bit of software. You can do pretty much what you like with the site. Most CMS systems I've used before force you to use a single layout for every page (as Wordpress does unless you is an leet haxor like me - I will write this up at some point, because I seem to do it different to most solutions out there). In a word, the system is fantastic. Unfortunately, it't not designed with a community in mind as you can only create users in the back-end, no good for my project, so on I went.

Next I tried a few CMSs, mainly the big boys, though I knew to avoid PHP-Nuke and it's clones, but had heard of plenty of others (incidently, nip over to the excellent open source CMS to try some of these out without needing to install them). In the end I tried Drupal, Mambo, Typo3 and e107.

e107 was basically PHP-Nuke-esque, so I dropped that. Typo3 was so complex it nearly fried my brain, it may be an 'enterprise' level CMS but usability didn't seem to be high up the list if priorities, I would've needed a manual to do anything and I couldn't be arsed. Drupal was interesting, not as flexible as Textpattern, but good, but I didn't get the whole taxonomy crap, I like my sections called sections, not nodes, and categories that are called categories, why change it? And the styling didn't seem to be easy to mess with. In the end I went with Mambo, which looked promising.

After nearly two days of messing about, getting styling right and hacking set-ups to make things work right I can say that might have been a mistake. It too lacks flexibility in layout. I put up with it, but it lacks things like the ability for users to publish content without admin input. Why!? That's precisely what I wanted. The same with web links. Needless to say my copy has subtle changes from the original and now works roughly how I want. On the plus side it does have a lot of plug-ins that I may be able to use for future sites.

The move was compounded by the fact that I decided to change the site style too. This meant learning to style it, trawling through tons of terrible CSS code and putting up with tables being used for layout (not to mention screwing things royally when it came to relative font sizes). IT drove me damn near mad. In the end I gave up and went with what I had.

So that was two things scratched from my to-do list, 15 more to go, and they were two of the easy ones...