June 30

Moving to a new web host

I recently transitioned the host for this website  – including the wordpress blog.  It look a bit of work – but it was surprisingly successful.  Some of the key points were:

  1. I always keep my domain names separate from my hosting provider – so that if I have any issues with the web host (or want to switch) it’s easy.  I simply changed the name servers of my domains to make the switch.
  2. My new host – fatcow – had an automated wordpress install – so I used that.  Part of the plan was ensuring that I re-installed all my various plug-ins and their settings (by going to the old website and printing off configuration screens).  See this article for help.
  3. The key then was to “export” the xml of the old site and re-import it in.
  4. I couldn’t get my theme working quite right – but it gave me an excuse to use a new one (key point – for dynamic sites the theme is separate from the content – which is an advantage).
  5. The only other major thing was that the images didn’t quite work right even though I copied them back up.  The issue was that lightbox was confused as the images weren’t stored correctly (in terms of wordpress understanding them).  Therefore the most time consuming part was to re-do all the images in the posts.

The reasons I went with fatcow were:

  1. A client of mine was using it – so I had a little familiarity.
  2. fatcow allows for multiple sites on the main account – which my existing host didn’t.  Therefore I could split out my domains (andrewluvtrains.com, godlovesandrew.com) into different websites – instead of all making them be a subset of this site (which never worked quite right).
  3. Frankly it was cheaper than my old host – especially as they raised the price of reseller accounts up quite a bit recently.  I didn’t think I was getting the value I wanted – much less what my clients should get (almost 2 to 1).
  4. I’m now liking the automated install scripts – as it’s actually a lot easier than installing myself (and they get the PHP setttings, etc. correct as it’s part of their install script).  They have the ones I mainly use – wordpress, gallery, forums, etc. – so it’s right down my alley.

So again the key points were:

  • Be prepared – backup, research, make lists, etc. of all you existing stuff.
  • Create as much as you can on the new host first.
  • Flip your nameservers from one host to the other.  If something doesn’t work right you can flip back temporarily.
  • Know where your stuff is – so that you can fix (like I had to do with the images).  I kept all the images I had uploaded in a folder for my website – so I knew where they were….
May 24

Yeah – Web Fonts!

I think this is just totally cool – WEB FONTS!  Google has recently released web fonts: http://code.google.com/webfonts.   For years we have been stuck with a limited set of fonts that could be displayed in web pages – Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, Georgia, Verdana, and Geneva.  To do anything more interesting I’ve always had to embed them in images – such as for menus.

I saw a Twitter post about these web fonts and got pretty excited – the concept of having more options natively in a web page – not having to use a graphic or flash to accomplish this.  There are some interesting fonts available – I used “IM Fell Double Pica SC” in my blog for the titles – which I think is just cool.    It took me a little while to figure it out – but I found this article that shows how to use them in a WordPress blog: http://wpmu.org/how-to-use-the-google-font-directory-with-wordpress-and-buddypress/

This is another one of those items that tell me that web content is really about to blossom – in looking at the documentation (http://code.google.com/apis/webfonts/docs/getting_started.html) there are some interesting things you can do with these – such as adding shadows.

Sports Illustrated demonstrated an HTML5 demo of what, to me, is what a magazine on the web should be:http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/05/19/si.html5.demo.shows.flash.not.needed.to.demo/ Make sure you watch the video – as it’s fascinating what they can do without flash or other special apps.  From what I’ve heard the native apps on the iPad just don’t touch this – and this would work on any tablet or PC.   You can tell Google influenced this app – as their vision of the world is more open and based on the browser – so HTML5 takes us much closer to that reality.

December 15

Building a new website

I thought I would document my steps in building a new website for a client.  It’s in the same pattern as some others so it’s almost getting standard for me.

  1. The first thing we did was to reserve the domain name for the site with GoDaddy.  My preference is to have the domain registered in with a different company than the hosting company – so you’re not locked into a hosting company if things go bad (even something like them going bankrupt).
  2. We actually reserved more than one domain name for this site.   I then pointed those domain names to name servers of the hosting company. Continue reading
November 18

From Tables to CSS DIVs

I’ve been doing web pages for some time – back from my college days (Here’s a page about some of my old websites).  The web has changed a lot since the mid 90’s when I started messing with it (anyone remember when graphics were a premium as they slowed things down). I’ve done quite a few web pages over the years – using tables for layout.  I’ve been struggling with making the transition from tables to CSS divs.

I’ve been using CSS for consistent text formatting but not really for layout.  Frankly the tables work fine for most of what I want to do and they make sense to me.  I can split and merge cells and put tables inside of other tables.  By eliminating the borders they just seem to work.  I never messed much with frames – as they drove me crazy – but I’ve been stuck on tables.

So now I’m breaking down and learning how to use CSS DIVs.  This has been an interesting journey – learning how to get things to work.  Here are some of the key techniques I’ve learned to make the transition:

  1. You set a background color/image for the “body” tag – in CSS you can redefine the tags themselves.
  2. The rest of the content is in a “container” div – which usually takes up less than 100% of the width – this creates the neat effect of the outside area on a lot of modern pages.
  3. The content within that area can be a mixture of many DIVs – often with them floating to the left or right.
  4. Your footer is then at the bottom of the “container” DIV – using the “clear” property for it to appear properly.

I know there are a great multitude of items on the web but here’s my simplified picture (if I can teach it I know I understand it better):

October 24

Building the Site

I’m starting to make some progress on the site – I’ve got a menu going now (still probably want to tweak the colors some more) and got some content on the Andrew, Help Me page. I also think I’ve got the photo gallery integrated well – so there is a direct link to the “Trains” photos – in case I want to use the photo gallery for other things. I took some photos of some nice fall colors on the leaves today – so I may put that up.

October 22

Fresh Start

Yes – something has changed – in fact everything has changed.  I’m starting over from scratch on both my anlenterprises.com and andrewluvtrains.com websites.   I do more tech stuff now than train stuff – but I want to keep some train stuff.

I’m working on doing the complete website in WordPress with some plug-ins.    We’ll se how it goes…