Ready For New Submissions

Now, onto the theming portion of the website. While the live site greets new authors and submissions, Ill be theming Nista to something slightly more suited to this website's desired look and feel. So far, I have gained lots of experience on managing the back end functions of the site though. I'm also getting more familiar with errors pertaining to Drupal having a conflict with the server's php.ini settings. In fact, after 3 or so migrations, I'm getting better at doing live>staging>live server migrations. In fact, I didn't grit my teeth this morning when I took the live site and cloned it back onto my staging server.

In other news, I did get a part time job at a local confectionery wholesaler. Ill be working as an independent contractor in giving some new looks to the company's packaging. There is a diverse amount of candy that comes through there so that means lots of label design and templates. I cant wait to start work there but for now, I'm channeling new designs according to my boss' references of designs he likes.

As the winter snow comes my way, I get ready to hunker down. I dream of a snow day where I can actually get my workaholic self to break away and just study Drupal all day with the 2 books I purchased this last summer. Today I shall be wrapping presents for my family and friends. Next week, is backup time, which I must plan my work schedule around. Holiday celebrations in the 2009 Recession is getting off to a slow but fantastic start.

Concerns Regarding Frankness and Professionalism

One reasoning that my marketing may be a weakness for me, is my inability to really write about myself. I find myself an awkward teenager forced to present something about him/herself in front of a class of very easily bored and unimpressed people. Job interviews probably also suffer because of this.

So, the bio of the website remains unwritten. I wish I could be like this guy and explain myself casually and feel secure that my statements aren't too casual. Talking about myself passionately seems to posses a finer line between passionate and over-the-top, than other web designers who keep the creativity more low key. I know there are other orange haired web designers out there who have probably struggled with this. Trust me, Im debating and shuddering to think about what my bio picture would be.

Its a fine line between giving people an idea that you are a colorful human being outside of what you code, and giving out enough information that creates more of a problem and obscures the very skillset you are trying to display.

Freelance Follies/ Link Mania!

Im back into having more free time to code what I want, having only the XC project on my plate. Here is what I have so far:

I also did finish the Lost Trekker project, pretty much on time. However, communication was not always in the best balance. Until this client, I had only heard about the kind of incidents that can make freelancing a nightmare.

Most of it was my fault because, in a moment of expensive car repairs, I had to break 2 business-oriented principles--lowballing myself and not having it all done in writing

As Im further realizing that my freelance business can have online prescense again (due to the contributions of a friend for server space), I have been going over some sites that give me an idea of how I want to present myself both visually and how information is displayed. Here are a few sites with designs that inspire me:

  • FictionalHead Design
  • Shape Shed - They are also using the Portfolio Extension in Joomla and have good ideas on how to utilize everything for what it is worth

As well, I am also finding articles that cover more of the marketing side of things....

  • Jonathan World Pricing Info - A part-time template designer's rates. Listed with some extensive detail to ensure proper communication
  • Van SEO Design - Another good guide that gives me an idea of how people with higher skillsets than I are putting some detail into figuring costs.

I will continue to get more ideas about marketing, presentation of information and how to give the best pricing for what Im worth without over or undercharging. Until then, I leave you with this:

Article: What Web Designers Can Learn from Print Designers

Restructuring Deadlines

No sooner did I get some of my working groove back, and my personal life presented me with many challenges. Namely, very bad luck with cars and a sick dog. Im not a big believer of astrology but I sure wondered about Mercury in Retrograde having anything to do with my car woes.

Shortly after getting back, I did come across a job. Its going to pay me far less than I normally would take for a Wordpress Template, but this is one of those times where any money is good and so I was willing to lowball myself. :(

Things are almost done. After this one is done, I am going to make a point to look up what other good self-hosted gallery plugins can work besides NextGEN Gallery. I really like NextGEN but sadly most adblocker browser plugins do not like the slideshow part of things.

Im determined to make some headway with other projects but, I admit, Im a bit behind.

In the Meantime

Back from my vacation and slowly getting back into some productivity flow, Im finding myself with new projects already. Money is tight for a freelance web designer I suppose. It is sort of a letdown. This time should be used to work on my portfolio at some point now that I got some hosting for it.

Still, I have taken on a few projects and re-prioritized others. Its giving me more portfolio material so I guess it is not all bad. Still, I had hoped to have my .com site up sometime before this month ends.

Because of the length of my Labor Day Getaway, I used the time to kind of reset myself. It seems like it might help me clear some clutter and balance aspects of my daily fill of tasks and activities.

Mary's Mindmap

Portfolio Site for Rosettes and CSS

Honestly, Im almost never attached to the idea of using this blog to express personal opinion outside of code, layout methods, opinions on CMS tool, etc... Here is one of those rare occasions where Ill be a bit frank. Excuse me.

My portfolio could be ready soon, and Im pretty tongue tied. A portfolio is about showing your work to whomever comes across your site. Trust me, even the audience you are not sending your marketing tools towards could stumble upon your site. Thats why my portfolio project is at a standstill....I dont know what to say!

I am just a bit curious on how I might market myself properly on my professional graphic and web design portfolio site. Marketing is not one of my strengths to be honest. Talking about myself in a promotional way always seems strange when I try it. I never know what to say and, fear giving out too much information. When I have to talk about myself I usually babble and I am not a fan of "filler"/fluff content.

I'm using this Joomla Module and I seem to have room for:

  1. A basic "Hey, this is my portfolio" paragraph

  2. Short intro under the title of each Category.

  3. Footer Content that is throughout the portfolio's sections

  4. Category specific information paragraph

  5. Potential Header Content in each category (what is this for? Title?)

The link above shows how it all lays out and comes together. These fields are the fields that are provided in a CMS extension Im using on Joomla. They are all optional (I could leave them blank). Still I ask, what could I provide for these above areas?

Honestly, when I think about the audience I am attempting to reach/market my services to....I dont have any specific audience that Im looking to market to. Im game for anything. I want to cater to small business, big businesses, people who need a personal website, and any type of person.

For example, I will admit here that I have done some sites that have to do with "fetish" or are on the "adult" side. *blushes* If Ted Christian was to stumble upon my porfolio, how would I keep from alienating him? Should I seperate that kind of content out to keep it getting mixed in with with eveything else (most of my content is very general)? Is disclaimer of "This content does not necessarily reflect my views" necessary to assure a "squeaky clean" client that Im not some perv with code?

Or, am I just reading too far into this? Please comment below if you have a good idea or suggestion. I would love to hear from you guys out there.

Mary's Personal Summer of Code

Among a part time gig as a mascot down at the local ballpark, I am using this summer to start getting a bit back to me. Despite that I had my Drupal project get revoked (again!) I found myself a bit more indifferent to it. Other projects (some overdue) were awaiting me and I had enough of this. Besides, I did gain a contact who may be able to provide a hosting solution for Rosettes and CSS. My week long vacation looms at the end of this month so I can see using it as a time of "breaking character" and rebuilding anew upon a rested mindset.

Due to these things, personal projects are the order of the day when put up against doing work for other people. I wont lie and say that I have enough portfolio material, but I know that if I keep taking on everyone else's projects than none of my stuff gets done and this blog will continue to be stuck on Blogger vs actually having it on my own domain with portfolio.

Im finding out more quirks involved with Joomla modules, components or plugins. In K2, CAPCHA was enabled but without the reCAPCHA registration key set. Thats why stylesheets were being ignored. That still seems like a strange bug rather than human error to me but I guess K2 is that new. I mean, look at the lack of documentation in the backend's Documentation buttion within the K2 sub-sections. Seems the social bookmarking problem also righted itself.

Speaking of K2, 2.0 is officially out. I already was tweaking with the July release and found it to make me feel that much better about using Joomla as my portfolio's site. Stepping outside my comfort zone is important to me, and blogging with Joomla is that much easier with K2 around.

Joomla sure is a different animal. I have done at least one re-install/recovery due to human error. Lots of clunkyness to someone with my background of other programs that I have learned. Joomla must represent a different way of thinking that seems convuluted to other people. It seems that you have to use the Menu system to set what loads in the Front Page (if you dont want to use the standard "load newest article" method of creating the dynamic front page content.

So, all going very well. I have yet to work on a template but I figure Ill do that once I get time in my workweek to put some blog entres there and start on my portfolio. I imagine with Joomla's quirks, that Ill be surprised/confused again and again until I reach the peak of the experience.

K2 Extension for Joomla

Yesterday I got an answer in the Joomla forums that recommended K2 as a solution for the personalized blog aspect ot my site. The demo video on the K2 site got me intrigued. It had all the kinds of things most blogs need such as socialbookmarking, tag clouds (although not as nifty looking as Joomulous), and commentary complete with CAPCHA. Overall, K2 acts like a mini-Joomla inside Joomla.

Speaking of that, it was nice that the categories I could set for my blogs could be seperate from the sections/category madness of the original in-the-box Joomla. Overall, it helped me decrypt some of the logic behind the Joomla interface that drives me crazy. Yes, Drupal spoiled me with how changes for something are always in one single place.

I am still left with a few questions and things to troubleshoot:

  • Can I promote featured K2 items to the front page? Where does the category template "blog" comes from? How do I add more? (see screenshot below)
  • Glitch: Social bookmarking symbols dont show up even if I have enabled them
  • Glitch: Clicking on a K2 item's individual page leaves me with an entry devoid of a stylesheet. This happens no matter which of the Joomla starter templates that I use. (see screenshot below)

Still want to give this extension a chance. It might be the closest to blogging Im going to get.

Choosing A CMS For My Professional Site: Decisions...decisions....

While Im not short on projects to speak of, I want to still get myself into working on something related to the website that this blog is named after. Rosettes and CSS shouldnt be stuck on Blogspot forever. Since my hosting (when I have the $$ for it) is going to have database capabilities, I want to use a CMS.

....but which one??

Wordpress seems to be the easy choice these days. For sites that are just about blogging and posting a few pages here and there, why wouldnt you use such an easy CMS? However, I am always having desire to step outside the box and go with something else.

Joomla is another CMS installed on my computer after seeing a few friends who used it for thier company website. Since Rosettes and CSS is the company/professional website (between another domain that I own), that seems perfect. On the other hand, some might say that Joomla is overkill for something as simple as a portfolio website.

Showing a big change in skillset by using Joomla or keeping a portfolio site simple with Wordpres (a simple CMS)....

Of course, I have both installed on my localhost so I suppose I could do both and find out from there. Feedback is encouraged.

Juggling/Getting Zen With It

More juggling happened in this past week but its finally over. A little Wordpress content management on one site, Joomla install on my localhost, and even a new Wordpress site which will get some content and theme work done on it within the next month.

Also been doing some 3D work for a mask design that my partner has been commissioned for. Its a bit on the fetishy side, but what do you expect with animal gasmasks? I been a bit more quiet about that here on this blog only because Rosettes and CSS is meant to be very professional overall. I debate how a web designer showcases adult or fetish website/graphic work when building an online portfolio.

...but I digress

After an important Drupal security upgrade (6.12 > 6.13) and a few module upgrades, I ran myself through this tutorial (for 6.x only) about creating a sub-theme for Zen. The result of an untouchedzen theme?....This:

Project - Drupal In Oberlin: More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

Note that as a cat owner, I really hate this expression. I need to find some cool geeky phrase to replace this. However, it is the truth of the matter when it comes to Drupal. Often times, when I find myself looking up info on how I might achieve a type of function or get one thing to interact with another, a few different projects pop up from the module project area of

The same can be said for when you are just tweaking around with various things that don't necessarily have to do with choosing and installing a module. Last week is when I found myself experimenting with a migration of a site on a new install.

Migration Install Method 1

I would be importing the database from the file that Tom sent me. I had changed the first few lines of the SQL file so that it would create a db with a different name. In my case, it would be 'inoberlin', his of 'tom_inoberlin' seemed too lengthy. Of course I created a database specific user for this.

Tom also let me have his site files (images that appear on the events calendar, logo, INC files, PHP, etc..), so I copied almost all of them over to the new folder that I had set up on localhost for this install. Part of me was skeptical that by copying these files, that Drupal install might be more apt to errors and be quite a "dirty" installation. Still, sometimes you gotta try.

With the Drupal install chowned and chmodded appropriately, I ran an install. After entering in the database name, password, and username, I pressed on. That is when Drupal gave me an error:

I chose to merely run the update script and see what happened. Of course, this means I got the access denied error since my settings.php file always has $update_free_access set to FALSE (secure). Changing it to TRUE I ran the update script again.

Suddenly I found myself at the front page sans all styling information and header/logo images. The front page read "Page not found". It was quite scary and I feared the worst. My suspicions that this install method was too dirty seemed to be confirmed.

Migration Install Method 2

At Tom's suggestion via email, I tried to do this with a cleaner method this time. There was a bit of trickery thrown in since I created a fake database with a chintzy username/password, granting that dB user with just privileges specific to that database.

Using that empty database, I did a clean Drupal install, which was successful. Back in the SQL, I would end up dropping the fake database (and user). Then I imported Tom's database again, creating a database-specific user as seen before in Method 1.

Inside settings.php I would make more changes, both to the database settings and to the $update_free_access section, changing that to TRUE again. I ran the update script, changing $update_free_access back to the secure setting of FALSE when done.

The same problem came up with the missing styles, theming, and prescense of header logo image. I figured there had to be something wrong with it beyond just a "dirty install" so I did a bit of research, finding this jewel of info. I did as instructed, running this command in PHPmyadmin: UPDATE system SET status=1 WHERE name = 'garland'; then UPDATE variable SET value='s:7:"garland"' WHERE name = 'theme_default'; TRUNCATE cache; It worked so I breathed a sigh of relief.

Another thing that was tugging at my suspicions is that the cause of the "page not found" on my front page was that Tom set his front page to something different than the default "node". Since I had not installed any of the modules yet (I wasnt that ballsy), it was likely that if this was the case, it would be set to a page that was specific to one of these not-yet-installed modules. Sure enough, it was set to "upcoming_events" which I knew was tied to a calendar module that I had on my "modules to install" screencap provided.

The night was filled with an install of 15+ modules and a couple themes. It got daunting since I had a few module projects that had recently been updated. I was up for the challenge. At some point, I would periodically check the site after a bit and see how the site was coming back together, now being able to actually call up the database tables created for that module. I even installed the theme that InOberlin uses called Acquia Marina. The site was pretty much ready to go. I cant wait to finally theme some stuff. Not sure which theme set I should base mine on but people are all aflutter about Zen and Studio.

Project - Drupal In Oberlin: Unexpected

Some weeks after my last post, I got in contact with an old friend from back in my San Francisco residency days.  Now out of the real estate business, Tom would find himself back into his home state of Ohio.  In only a brief time, Tom had already begun a community-based project in Drupal.  Using his skills, he has set up a site where Oberlin residents now can find out about ANYTHING going on in town.  Other people can now post events.

While the site is looking really good and very organized, Tom still finds his "design-fu" weak and asked me if I might come up with something.  Without a deadline to this project, it was perfect timing given my current workload at the time and an upcoming convention. Who knew that a Drupal project would find me some weeks after my last post? 

With a completed WordPress site behind me, I decided to bide my time before taking on more projects or starting new ones.  Honestly, with an upcoming weekend away from home (and a performance on that weekend's Saturday night), I didnt want to get involved in any one thing since I needed to get my arse in gear.   I was still idle when I got back, slowly getting back into my pace of household chores and other mundane tasks.  However, outside of a 3D graphics project, I found myself really wanting to get a move on with this project.  My only hope was that I could still learn more about the functionality aspect to Drupal despite that I was doing more of a design makeover rather than anything else.

Tom gave me the database, the site's files and a bit of instruction on how I might do a live site > localhost migration.  First thing I did was get to know the localhost file locations for a couple of server configuration files to help me get a 4MB+ database imported.  In the case of my Ubuntu-based LAMP setup, the php.ini file was relatively easy to find (/etc/php5/apache2).  The "upload_max_filesize" and "post_max_size" were changed to 12M since my file was a little over 10MB.  In addition, I wanted my database to be a different name so I changed the first few lines of the .sql file to create a dB called "inoberlin".  Import went least for now.

No Drupal For the Code Cat, Back to WordPress

After things fell apart with the Drupal project that I was into, I had a week of distraction followed by starting back up on a Wordpress Template project.

While I know many Wordpress Template creators that base their template off of someone's pre-existing one, I wanted to start from scratch since I only need a very simple template anyway. Besides, I never know how to gauge how original your template is from complex one you based yours off of. After a while all Wordpress templates probably can start looking alike from one artist to another's.

Almost everything of mine is done. Now all that remains is cleaning up the CSS before getting it transfered to a live website. CSS cleanup can be like cleaning your room. You have to clean out the code you dont need as well as get some of the like objects to be placed together. I have found some useful links that discuss this very thing:

5 Steps to a More Organized Style Sheet
11 Useful Tools to Check, Clean and Optimize your CSS file
10 Best CSS Practices to Improve Your Code

Dropping Stones into the Path

Been on vacation for close to a week and a half.  Motivation to do much work has been hard with the concept of play is in a new context than what I am accustomed to in SoCal as of late.  No worries.  I did take my work with me and I got a few other unrelated projects out of the way.

So, as you know, the live site is up and so Im trying to go through processes all over again, learning them a second time and further drilling important keynotes into my repretoire.  Also am keeping the few modules updated on the live site (about 9 less modules than on my localhost version).  Admittedly part of my procrastination has been just the diverse learning experience that Drupal can afford since, well, Drupal can make all sorts of website types out there.

Im also going to use this "second time round" to get a good idea of how my workflow adapts to the Drupal environment.  There are common methods and sequences no matter if Im doing an html/css site or doing something such as wordpress.  Still, depending on your framework, it may differ.  This might be the first time that I fully write down my methods to madness.  Maybe this is a good way of taking my own advice since I tell people to write things down all the time.  Does writing something out make it more significant than being part of the trains that chug about in your head?  Hmmm.....

Step one was to make a site map on paper.  I did about 2 revisions, the first one just taking what sections/pages that this site had in its old incarnation and recreating them.  Then the elimination came, producing Version 2 which condenses defunct pages and elaborates on the section linking hierarchy will be.

Assessing your site's needs will determine modules you might need now or in the long run. Its important to work through things step by step.  You can always add, change and remove modules as needed so dont get too caught up by this.  Drupal's many options are what enhance your learning experience but can also deter you by overwhelming the part of your mind which innovates.

Now comes section-specific brainstorm time!  Focus on the main aspects of the site, starting with the most important one.  In this case, my site's number one purpose is to display products in a catalog form.  With Drupal letting one create content types with any type of field (with any kind of display type), it is probably best to brainstorm all the fields you will need. 

While most would suggest some of the ecommerce modules (Ubercart is a very popular choice), simple taxonomy is the method i am using for splitting my products into categories.  I need to get an idea of that category hierarchy and then create a product vocabulary.  Categories and subcategories will go under that vocabulary as a term.

With the brainstorm sheet(s) in hand and taxonomy created, start adding those fields.  At this point, one might want to install any further field display related modules.  ImageField is one of the most popular ones for product driven content such as mine. For me, some fields are going to be hidden to annonymous/guest users and others might be hidden to particular roles that authenticated users could be assigned. So, for "step 5b", I'll create those roles and set up permissions accordingly, including specifying fields which only certain role types  should be able to see.  Another optional step will leave me defining field groups for the product content type since I want to use fieldgroup tabs.

Once content types are set up with fields and/or respective taxonomy applied, you are nearing the end of the functionality part of things (but dont quote me on this, kiddies.).  Now you can get closer to the theming aspect of things. This includes determining layout aspects such as your menu's hierarchy and placement, colors, and overall placement of body content as well as dynamic blocks of content.  Ill leave it up in the air as I figure that part out myself.

My Current Challenge

Simple and sweet, this is my goal for the individual product page. Was hoping to use fieldgroup tabs module but it baffles me on how it will be done. JQuery and JQueryUI are my next stops. I see some explanation on it but it covers Views, which is a bit foreign to me. Maybe I should look at that first.

Will be doing a manual recreation of my work on a live server in the next few days before and during my vacation/excursion. Yeah, I could of imported/exported the database but it would keep me from getting what I already learned further set into my head by doing it all over again.

Wiring It Up

While not every day leaves me pouring over internet texts like a information hungry vampire, I did get a decent chunk done in a 2 or 3 day period. I can see how this project could have alot of potential but it may die before it leaves the ground. Of course, I know the value of recycling so I suppose I will find a way to make something out of it anyway. On that, we will have to see.

CCK and Views are very concrete modules. After adding them, I enabled all the sub modules as well as the main one. Honestly cannot say that I have met a Drupal user who didnt find these insanely useful. Then again, in the case of CCK, who cold be happy with just being restricted to page and story content types?

Delving into the taxonomy, I created my Product Vocabulary and created terms based on the catalog's categories and sub categories. Once done, I went into the vocabulary's settings to make sure that the content type would use taxonomy which referred to the Product vocabulary and it's terms.

As I started elaborating on what kinds of data the Product content would be concerned with, I got curious about what I might be able to do which would restrict certan fields from being viewable by guests to the website as well as certain types of authenticated user roles. I asked Nibbler, who suggested the Content_Permissions module. After installation, I went into Administer>User Management>Permissions and there it was. Thanks alot, dear.

When it comes to layout, Im still avoiding really getting too deep into it with the exception of analyzing it from a functionality point of view. For example, it is important to have an idea of what content might appear where...but I am not going to focus on where in the page it will be just yet. One thing I want to do is get a horizontal tab layout on the individual product pages. With the amount of information that people can see about any given project (plus the images), it could get really lengthy. Tabs would be neat to do.

Found a module that could help with it but it is still in development snapshot stages. Did a bit of twittersourcing and searching around to see if anyone might know what has caused it to be in this status since last October. Looks like it got put on the back burner but no real problems reported. I installed it after a bit of debate about my typical rule of thumb (which is, "If it is beta, stay clear.").

At some point, Ill get into a few other modules I installed which pertain to adding the image content for the products. Sadly the concept of Views still eludes me. I tried a few times to read up on it but got a bit lost. It was late at night and I think I had burned the last of my midnight oil. Ill tackle it later. Sure is a comfort to know that Lullabot has released 2 more DVDs, one of which that covers Views alone.

The Start

Greetings!  I take a break now from the finicky job market to actually blog.  Yes, I now have been rejected for being over qualified on web design.  Thats shocking to tell you the truth.  Admittedly I have also been a bit scattered among things but I allowed for a bit of creative distraction. The sun is coming out and I sure hope to get back out to the outdoor events with my friends as well as bring my "office" out onto my deck.

Amongst some revisions to 2 HTML/CSS based sites, I am slowly changing my gears back towards the Drupal front.  The drupal meeting a few weeks ago was stellar.  I learned alot more about how Taxonomy works which will help me with the "catalog" portion of things. Did a bit with creating an administrator role which I always have to do with a new Drupal install.

There are a few commands Im using more and more when it comes to installing modules and the subsequent need to chown them appropriately.  Of course this wont always be the case for future work but it is pretty much the same whether Im doing this on my local machine or an actual hosting server

Modules Installed:

The House that Mary Built

While I sit in a holding pattern on getting a portfolio site up (I need to spend money to make money but I sure dont have much of it right now), I decided to create a blog seperate from my sordid and silly personal life. Maybe I am just addicted to blogging, I dont know.

One thing I do know is that I finally want to do some better documentation of skills I acquire as well as what I learn about my own methods of thinking and how I go about processes. Take last night's Drupal meeting.

We talked about alot of things. While I picked up some new things about Taxonomy, Creating Content Types and the significance of Image Cache modules, I also came home with a better understanding of how I view the overall design and development of a website.

Being a designer with at least a bit of versatility, I find myself equating a website to a house. In a traditional website, the navigation system would be like the house's blueprints. Add walls to the house with Layout. The lighting and plumbing would probably be things like functional code such as Javascript or PHP which add certain functions such as echoing a statement or conditionals. When it comes to my specialty of the look and feel, that would probably be the landscaping round the building, the house paint job and interior decorations such as wallpaper and those cute checkered kitchen floors.

For Wordpress and Drupal, its pretty much the same thing, except my design is more or less called Templates or Themes. CSS is still used but the theming/template method just a slightly different animal in the implentation of things.

Honestly I never really explained it out like that. However all the questions floating around that people at the meeting were asking me about realy brought me to put things into an analogy such as this. For that Im thankful. High Desert Drupal crew really knows alot of stuff and they arent too gunshy about dealing with someone as new to things as me.