Brand New Bag: ImpressCMS

August has come and with that, comes the dog days of summer. Its good for a freelancer like me because I can acquire a couple gigs at this time. I have been spending alot of time at home cleaning my workspace and getting ready for the fall season. Rosettes and CSS shall be done by the end of the year, but hopefully sooner.

Joomla was originally going to be my choice for R&C given some of the rich extensions offered for portfolio sites. In addition, I felt it would let me get acquainted with a CMF that I have been feeling very touch and go about. Each CMF is its own beast. Each has its own motivation for its inception and each has its navigation setup for particular website types and from the creator's ideas on how layout might be best optimized.

Due to the latter, I think that is why Joomla continues to confuse me so. I have been open to learning it, as I know there will be a client who desires a Joomla site some day and I want to at least have some facts I can advise them on. Joomla has a method of its madness that I still to this day do not understand. I suppose to many people I speak to, "categories" and "sections" seem to feel like they are the same thing. This forum post shows a good example on how it confuses many not familiar with Joomla's "older cousin", Mambo. I was patient and found myself toiling over it in the last month trying to learn the interface. I cant lie and say that I wont get a client who insists on having a Joomla based website.

That said, I kept an open mind but overall found much disappointment in one of the few well written and opensource portfolio extensions. For some of you who have worried that Joomla is not the most secure CMF, you might be further convinced when I say that I found this portfolio extension to have been taken over by a spam Viagra/Cialis site. At that point, I just simply gave up and searched some more. Sorry, Joomla.

Enter ImpressCMS. It doesnt have nearly the headway that its more known counterparts have, but it is a very promising CMS. Rosettes and CSS does take the mentality of its creator, with the desire to research new solutions and support those creating a road less traveled. A small community develops around it and I am hoping to contribute whatever I can in the near future. Despite its evolution (and seperation) from Xoops in 2007, ImpressCMS has garnered some awards.

A new graphic arts assignment starts this week. A bit of extra pocket money to say the least but Im already finding some fun in the work. Hoping to post more in this blog soon. When I am ready to migrate this blog, I will surely up my blog content quality.

Tempus Fugit

This is a phrase I seem to use more often than not. They say that time flies fast when we are having fun. I suppose that still applies to my "work" of a web and graphic artist. The real work for me is just getting myself started on modifying this theme amidst much change which has happened, both in the Wordpress world and in the world of my home office.

About 60% of my SHM theme was complete before Wordpress 3 released just a few weeks ago. Heck, I even manage to get the hang of jQuery with a few of my jQuery-savvy friends online. It truly is becoming the "write less, do more" solution for me. I see much potential for future projects. Overall its going to be useful for any site that might need content manageable beyond simple pages and blogs. It is true that Wordpress 3 does have new content types that can be added via functions.php but it still cant replace good ol' PodsCMS. I found this video quite useful in getting an idea of the direction that Matt Mullenweg wants to take his creation.

This past week, one of my young laptop hard drives gave out. Just 6 months old, the thing already served me an IO error. With a Linux operating system, the headache was not as great since I didn't need to take out 3 million software CDs to reinstall things on the new drive. My only shortcoming is that the copy of Maya that I have is not compatible with a 64-bit OS so I had to do a bit of finagling on it.

Overall, all is well. In the end, it was a nice reset to get me back on track. Before the crash, I was too caught up in designing The Perfect Checklist for an ever-changing CMS like Wordpress is. It I figured if I could just get an idea of all the Default CSS and CSS that should be included in any Wordpress Template, than I could streamline the process with use of a checklist. While this was written for the version 2.9.2 days, I do like DigWP's Default CSS Checklist that they made. It sort of was helpful but Im still finding myself wanting to start fresh with Thelonious serving as an example.

I still have yet to touch the widgetized sections of my site. One advantage of a pro-bono project is that (at least, usually) no deadline exists. Its about creation "when you can". Most of my pro-bono clients are attracted to me not only out of the idea of getting free work, but because I have a perchance for learning new things if faced with needing to do something a different way than what I have been in the past.

The Layout Factor

While I sure love quality handmade physical items over "pressed out of a factory" items, that doesnt seem to be true for the web design work I produce. Many times when I wish to modify a layout or CSS that I created and/or used for a past project, there is the arduous task of finding it. Worse, if I am not on my home network, I wont be able to grab it since I store my project archives on a MyBook.

I took the opportunity to do this while working on a local business' Wordpress site. Im rather pleased with the results. It was a bit time consuming and will add more time to my projects, at least at first. (Dont worry, this time wont be added to my customers' rates since it is more for my enrichment than benefit to them). In time it is my hope that, with more and more layout diagrams to work with, less of that enrichment time will be needed.

Getting to the Wordpress portion today, I hope.

Tinkering Around

As March begins, I find myself gearing up for sci-fi convention season a bit late. However, in order to fill my duties as a lead there, I found myself at the breaking point of organization. There was so much piled up and going on so I spent a good 2 days de-cluttering my life. I also squeezed in some much needed updates (and fixing) of TGE's site.

Also, my server is up! Slowly but surely I been working out the kinks, tackling the last of the known things that I wanted to fix up/reconfigure. I can say that I am 90% confident that it is set up the way I want it to be. This is a great place to host my images (no need for Photobucket here) and has been the staging server for some trial-and-error projects.

At this time, I'm working on Shadarii again, vowing to get a good glossary up. I still need to track down the fanart and see about getting an interview in. Seems that Ill never get to the templating part of my makeover/takeover, if I dont actually get on the ball about providing and recieving content. I hope I still have passion for it despite that I dont meet alot of of other fans of this book.

My pro-bono project for another person is something local. His page is just plain html/css right now but he wanted to have a revamp. I gave him a bit of something to provide him an idea of where he might want to go. In the process of going along with the simple idea, it gave me time to practice this little bit of CSS.

Mine was pretty successful & I think I will use that in the future for menu rollovers when necessary.

We had also spoken of finding a way that he, someone who only edits a webpage as far as GoDaddy's page authoring tool does, can edit stuff on his own easily, without disturbing the code that makes up layout and design. Thats what CMS/CMFs were designed for, of course. Wordpress is what I would lean to first for a project like this. Still, can I integrate this javascript dropdown (or something else) into wordpress?

The content inside there would be a menu of items and the prices for them. I would like this to be layed out with the template's CSS but make sure that filling out each item and its corresponding prices could still be done in the backend. Drupal could do this with the CCK module easily but I think Drupal is kind of overkill for a website this simple.


This Template Arrives Fashionably Late

While having a part time job has been fun, it has been a bit more part time than I would have wanted. I suppose that gives me more time to do the kinds of projects that *I* want to do, if not for the running back and forth to doctors office and various degrees of administration run-around.

At least now, I have something to show for my Drupal ponderings and discoveries. This project was fun and let me look into functionality as well as design, allowing me to add more versatility to my overall web design portfolio. It may look like the design kind of lacks pizzaz but a simple modification of the Nista theme was what David wished for.

Submissions begin towards the middle of this year, so dont hesitate to submit one of your best stories, prose, or poetry. You know you want to. :)Here is the finished product for my first overall Drupal learning project: 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.