Upgrade Your Drupal Skills

We trained 1,000+ Drupal Developers over the last decade.

See Advanced Courses NAH, I know Enough
Apr 20 2006
Apr 20

Jeff Robbins of Lullabot posted a podcast interview of me here. I babble on for an hour or so about the Dean Campaign, DeanSpace, and CivicSpace.

Apr 11 2006
Apr 11

Drupal is an open-source Content Management System (CMS), which is particularly suited to customization through use of blocks, themes and modules. Drupal's innovative use of taxonomy and its unique menu system allow for effective management of content as a site grows or evolves.

Driving the ongoing development of Drupal is the desire for a simple and powerful framework which developers can work within to create custom web applications without having to build the pieces that nearly all websites have as a foundation (user authentication, content creation interface, layout managment).

And unlike other similar CMSs, Drupal takes its role as a framework very seriously. Take a look at the database structure of any other CMS that has been around for a while, and you'll almost certainly find a labyrinth of tables with mysterious names and seemingly redundant purposes. Drupal's database design is clean and constantly being re-factored. Tables that have outlived their purpose are removed from the schema and the code. Table design is very generic, allowing different types of content and modules to share the same table space.

Drupal also has an actual API. It too is refactored on a regular basis as the web and user needs change. Drupal 4.7, for example, has a completely redesigned Forms API which now allows developers a much broader reach into the entire Drupal framework, allowing her to tweak parts of Drupal that were previously pretty much set in stone.

From a webmaster's point of view, Drupal may not have the most eye-candy or largest feature set when compared to other CMSs. However, there's virtually nothing that can't be built into Drupal, making it the most flexible CMS out there.

Go with Drupal, and you will have no regrets.

Apr 11 2006
Apr 11

A few weeks ago we held our first ever "Drupal Camp" in San Francisco at Compumentor's office. I blogged about this previously when we were hashing out the idea. Today I posted a pretty lengthy report back about it on Drupal.org:

http://drupal.org/node/58182

Apr 05 2006
Apr 05

Yes, conceivably within a few years Ruby on Rails could emerge as a dominant web application development environment. But I am betting strongly against it. Why all the hype then? True innovation, great presentation, lots of screencasts & brilliant marketing. But in the end, RoR is fighting an uphill battle. E.G. LISP has a much greater market share than Ruby (.721% vs .2%).

Programming language market share numbers are taken from this study. It covers the languages in general and is not specific to web application development. If anyone has any better analysis please let me know.

*Update*: There is a great blogpost from a Ruby on Rails devotee here that comes away with much the same conclusion but instead of just numbers he provides a well reasoned argument.

Apr 01 2006
Apr 01

Frustrated with the never-ending betas of the imminent Drupal 4.7, I have decided to switch to a better project, Drup.us.

Mar 28 2006
Mar 28

Today, I woke up and decided that I will give my drupal modules away, in the hope that they will be better maintained. If you’re a Drupal developer who would like to take over the Captcha, TextImage and Similar modules, please contact me. Note, I’m not unmaintaining them, I’m only looking for a person who has more time and energy than me to work out the kinks and make the modules work for every Drupal version and not bloat the features and prefers to make things more efficient. If I do not find such a person, I’ll just keep sporadically maintaining them like I was. Interested? Just send me your drupal.org username, and what module you’d like to take over.

Mar 27 2006
Mar 27

Recently, I've had the pleasure to try out something new - reviewing a book before it is published.

I have been acting as technical editor/reviewer (or whatever that's called in English) for the first German book about Drupal, written by Hagen Graf: "Drupal: Community-Websites entwickeln und verwalten mit dem Open Source-CMS". The book covers the Drupal 4.7-beta series and is a good introduction to Drupal and it's concepts. It's a nice book for people who want to learn more about creating websites with Drupal. More details in this post over at drupal.org.

Reviewing books is a lot of fun - I might do that more often in future ;)

Mar 25 2006
Mar 25

Ok, ok, maybe there actually is something to this Web2.0 business. A lot of the Web2.0 hype stems from the maturation of blogging, the software that helps people blog and RSS. All of these are good and bad things. Good in that there's more information available to more people today than ever before. Bad because there's more information available to more people today than ever before. Even before the term "blog" was coined, people were publishing personal journals, ramblings and general rants on the web. It was as true ten years ago as it is now, most of this content is... well... not very interesting to most people. Maybe it's poorly written blather about why someone hasn't posted poorly written blather recently. Or maybe it's well written content on a very specialized topic that is only relevant to a small number of people.

Good, bad, relevant, meaningless, it's all out there somewhere. The key to finding it is RSS. I used to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. I'd poke through it every day and read a sentence or two and then tossed it in the recycling bin. The fact is, my interest in polotics, world affairs, sports, gardening, real estate and used cars is pretty limited, and that's all you're going to read about in most newspapers. My interests are elsewhere. Software programming, guns, literature, skiing, and so on. The best way to feed my desire for information is to turn to the web. But turning to the web for information is like visiting Niagra Falls for a sip of water. It's just too much. You need something like Google, Yahoo or now RSS to filter the information for you.

Will Web2.0 ever mean anything? Absolutely. I believe Web2.0 will eventually become something even grandma can understand. Presentation will be fast and flexible (AJAX, DHTML). Content will be tightly filtered with RSS. Folks can easily take advantage of all this stuff now with sites such as Bloglines, Feedster (update: now dead) and Feedburner. And all of this falls under the annoying label of Web2.0. This site is dedicated to Drupal. One of the things I wanted to provide was an aggregate feed of the most relevant Drupal news available. So using Drupal's aggregator module, I began creating the Drupal news page. You'd think that would be a simple task, but it isn't. With so many feeds, and so many feeds of feeds, and so much information available, pulling down just the right content is still very hard, and I still don't have the desired page I want. But the fact that it is even possible is something I'm very excited about. Here's a link to the story I was going to originally write about before my ADHD kicked in: The bottom line on blogging.

Mar 24 2006
Mar 24

Problem:

You have a "master" database that contains data from multiple Drupal sites and you want to share it among them. Normally, you could use table prefixing to allow each of your sites to point to a single table. But what if you do not want content from one site to "bleed" across to the other sites? Let's say you have a network of Drupal sites sharing a user database. You want to share that user's information across your entire network of sites, but only make the information visible from those sites to which the user has subscribed. Or maybe you want to populate baz.com with users who meet some arbitrary criteria. There are lots of possibilities here, but nobody's paying me to write this, so let's get on with it.

Solution:

Use MySQL5 Views. For our example, we'll use the users table. Our "master" users table (the table that contains all users for all of our sites) resides in a database called "master". The database of the our example site that will have restricted access to our masters users table is called "banana". Assuming you're starting with a fresh instance of the Drupal schema in your database "banana", do this:

use banana;
drop table users;
CREATE VIEW users AS
SELECT *
FROM master.users
WHERE uid IN (
SELECT uid
FROM somedatabase.sometable
WHERE uid = 0
OR label = 'foo'
)

Drupal will use banana.users just as it would a normal users table. No other modifications are necessary. Now only "foo" users will be included in the users table for your banana website. Note: Drupal has a dependency that is not really documented. Every users table must have an entry that contains uid=0. It's a "stub" entry that Drupal needs to function properly when a user is anonymous. A workaround for this dependency is to include "user 0" in the results set that defines your view. See, wasn't that easy? Please post questions here, and I'll update these instructions as needed.

Mar 22 2006
Mar 22

Consider this:

  • My job is to focused around developing web applications that help communities collaborate yet the majority of the day to day collaborative work I am personally involved in is faciliated by standard mailman mailing lists, not community focused web applications. Mailing lists are functionaly no different than they were more than twenty years ago when they were invented.
  • Without a doubt the most pervasive and powerful organizing tool the Dean campaign grassroots groups used beyond Meetup to self organize was Yahoo groups. Yahoo's business is centered around "user produced content" and community. YahooGroups (formerly eGroups) with 50M registered users is their #1 community tool. Yet the toolset has barely changed in the 6+ years since eGroups was bought and made a part of Yahoo.
  • In my experience as a community organizer (DeanSpace, PeopleFinder) I have found that there are only two indespensable tools: wiki's and mailinglists. With both in place 85%+ of your web app needs are covered and groups are more than capable of self-organizing effectively.

So given all this, why does CivicSpace still not ship with working YahooGroups-like mailinglists and wiki support? Good freaking questions. Thankfully, I believe we are finally getting close to an adequate answer....

My first screecast (37 megs 10 min):

This sandbox runs on Drupal 4.7 beta 5. Modules I am using on this site:

  • Og - to create and manage the groups. Thank you Moshe!
  • og2list - to send out mail to group members
  • og_forum - to sync a forum w/ each group
  • og_mandatory_group (4.7 port included below) - to auto-join site registrants with the main group
  • og_intro (in zip below) - to send notices to the main group when users join and new groups are formed
  • Tabs - to draw the fancy ajax tabbed pages on the og nodes. Thanks nedjo!
  • Node Relativity - to handle 'sub groups'
  • Freelinking - to handle wiki-link -> node edit forms and [[wiki link]] fiters
  • Masquerade - to let me test the site as a non-admin user
  • Mailhandler - to post mail to my site off of og email lists (reads a catchall for the domain)
  • Mail Stuffer (in zip below) - my hacky helper module that associates mail sent in to mailinglists
  • Wikipage (in zip below)- to create wiki node types and manage permissions
  • Bookmark - to let users save pages in their bookmarks block

I would highly recommend waiting until og2list is fully baked and until I have a chance to clean up my code before you use this. But if you must I have included all my new modules, slightly hacked modules (ported og2list to 4.7 and added tags support to mailhandler) and my theme .tpl files. This stuff will all make it into cvs some time next week if all goes well.

Attachment Size theme.tar.gz 14.91 KB modules.tar.gz 90.38 KB
Mar 17 2006
Mar 17

I've poured almost three of my life in to CivicSpace waving my hands and willing it into existance. We have a lot to show for it: 30 major software releases, two thousands CivicSpace powered websites, a vibrant and quickly growing user community, and a network of 25+ vendors occupying a solid slice of the marketplace of advocacy / non-profit web technology services. But what we haven't had so far is a solid user facing product - something I can show my mom...

Ten minutes ago I sent a note to our mailinglists announcing that we will shortly begin alpha testing a hosted CivicSpace service and are looking for testers. Three minutes later four people signed up.

The CivicSpace hosted service is almost here and I couldn't be more excited.

Mar 16 2006
Mar 16

Good thing I had a good backup of my www directory and database!

So I tried upgrading Advanced Web Design to 4.7 yesterday. I had all of the 4.7 verions of all the modules and I was all set. One of those moduels was our friend, tax_access. I unpacked the new files into the modules directory and expected everything to be fine.

Tax_access is supposed to use the Drupal update system for upgrades. Right? Wrong. Didn't work here. No big deal. I'll drop the old tables and create the new ones manually. I only have one term restricted, I just re-do the category permissions. But my problem had nothing to do with the tables.

I don't know what tax_access does when you enable it in the settings, but there was some legacy 4.6 version of the module hanging around that I couldn't get past. For whatever reason, it doesn't start using the new module file, when it replaces the old one. Of course this legacy version was not forms API compliant. I could do nothing to get rid of it. So I reverted to my backups.

Anyone using tax_access: Disable the module BEFORE upgrading! Or else the legacy version will come back to bite you in the butt. Apparently this has happened to others, but I didn't find a lot in the forums or issue tracker about it. There's nothing in the documentation.

You have been forewarned.

Mar 15 2006
Mar 15

Today, the folks over at Performancing.com announced the realease of Performancing Metrics, a free new service for tracking statistics for Blogs. Best of all, it's all in Drupal. OK, I'll come clean, I was involved in this project. My primary role was integrating Performancing's existing website with the Metrics tool. The entire toolset runs behind a single Drupal module that acts as a wrapper for what are essentially standalone PHP scripts.

Disclosure out of the way, I've also been using this tool for some of my own websites for the last month or so. When Google Analytics launched, I was able to get an account before they blocked new subscribers due to load issues. I've been monitoring my sites with Google Analytics for about four months. It seems to be a very powerful tool, but to be honest, I don't understand how to use it. There are just too many views and parameters and summaries. Using it, I feel like I did when I first used Vim or MS Word or Paint Shop Pro, overwhelmed and confused. Hey, I just want to write a letter to Mom, and I'm staring what looks like the cockpit of a 747. Similarly, when I look at website stats, I just want to see how many folks are visiting, where they come from, how long they stay, what they like, whether they bothered to leave comments, etc... I don't need a pivot table detailing gross ROI per visitor vectored over a decreasing granular matrix margin. Eeeek! Just show me the big pic and let me get on with my day.

If you're like me, you'll appreciate this new tool. It's light on eye-candy and heavy on simplicity and quick access to what you want to know. It's also somewhat addictive.

To use it, you'll need to sign up over at Performancing.com. Then all you have to do is paste a bit of javascript into your Blogs pages (via templates or footer configuration).

What distinguishes this tool from others is that it's focused on Blogs. The javascript you use will vary depending on which blogging software you're using. This way the javascript is able to glean information from your site that other trackers simply can't. Author names, Comments, Posts, etc...

We're working on making this embedded javascript tracking more effective and specific to the various blog systems, but even this beta version of Performancing Metrics is worth the effort of signing up.

You'll also find lots of cool articles regarding professional blogging. Even if this isn't how you make your living, there is some excellent information that non-professionals can use. Stuff like how to bring more people to your site and how to "monetize" your website more effectively.

Check it out.

Mar 14 2006
Mar 14

Most website's I run will be easily updated once Drupal 4.7 rolls around. In fact, the average website won't need to be updated anytime soon. But for one website in particular, I am already having nightmares. I need to upgrade for a few reasons:

  • I need the extra functionality. There are new features in Drupal 4.7 that will maker certain tasks remarkably easier. For example, the new block regions. More than 1,500 pages all have the same footer in the content area. The owner wonders why she can't change how it reads on all of the pages every now and again (once a month or so). Isn't that the advantage of a CMS? Now it is.
  • My buddy Jeremy is working on a new Ads module. I have been requesting development on the current banner module, which prompted Jeremy to re-write it as an Ads module. The fundamental difference being that ads will be nodes, thereby increasing functionality and enabling the sort of options I am looking for. I am finding myself in GREAT NEED of said increased functionality - the ability for ads to be searchable, and/or matching option, list all option, etc.
  • I am splitting the content (some 1,900 nodes) into two websites and need to do a lot of cleanup. Not a technical issue, but a real one nonetheless. We are facing some real branding and marketing issues which require us (meaning me) to completely revamp the website as a whole. This includes structure, navigation, taxonomy, etc.
  • I want to use some of the new goodies. There are some needed modules and/or module improvements that I see in the repository. I think they will be very helpful to reach my goals for this website.

The headaches come in when I figure that I have some 27 contributed modules (Amazon Tools, Flexinode, Simplenews, etc.) and would like to use another 12 (E-commerce, Blog Theme, User Points, etc.) at least. That's not including some modules I'd like to discard (FCKeditor) in favor of others (TinyMCE). At least I don't have to worry about Menu on the Fly anymore.

There are two possible approaches.

  1. Take the site down for a day and upgrade the usual way. Fool around with the terms and menus, un-publish nodes, whatever - as I go along.
  2. Redevelop the site on my local machine using UniServer and swap a clean, brand-new 4.7 website for the other in the dark of night.

I will have to consider this some more.

Mar 14 2006
Mar 14

Web2.0 is now, and it's here. If you're not Web2.0, you're out like 2005. If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand.

Well, I have to admit, I need to ask. In fact, I have several questions about all this Web2.0 fanfare.

Why should I upgrade? How much will it cost me? How come nobody has it in stock when I try to buy it?

I've been making my living doing web stuff since 1996, and I never got my copy of Web1.0. I didn't even realize it had been released. Now I just sit and nod in meetings where people talk about "synergistic solutions", or throw in a "user comprehensible value prop" in such a way that you just scratch your head and think it must mean something. "This needs to be Web2.0" is a favorite of mine. Whatever Web2.0 is, obviously it's critical to the success of new projects. (I need to remember to remember that for my next project.)

Who owns Web2.0? For now, I guess the safe assumption is that Google does. That would explain both all the ballyhoo as well as the mystery surrounding this next generation breakthrough. Ask someone at work what Web2.0 is and you'll likely get the curly brows and a loud "Pffft!", in which case you just give them a, "... I guess some of the folks in this meeting haven't gotten the Web2.1 pre-release yet ..." and give them the reverse curly brows and a subtle sigh.

Look around for Web2.0 and you will no doubt find everyone talking about it, but you're not likely to actually find an example of it. I found no screenshots on Google Images. No info on where to order it or how to install it. However, I do think I'll be able to recognize it once I find it. I know it will have an "API". I know it will also be very clean because it requires Ajax. It will probably involve pastels contrasted with ridiculously bright primary colors.

It will also have a very fancy look to it. I imagine the email icon above probably isn't very Web2.0. (though I'm not claiming to be a Web2.0 authority, of course.

And I'm sure all the experts would agree that this RSS icon is definitely Web2.0.. However, my failure to convert the white background to transparent is probably more web 1.1 or so.

If you know as little about Web2.0 as I do, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If there's anything to it, I'm sure we'll all be getting 3000 free hours of it in the mail from AOL real soon.

Mar 14 2006
Mar 14

New versions of Drupal are out for the 4.5.x, the 4.6.x and the 4.7.0-beta branches which fix 4 (in words: four) security issues from four different categories, namely: access control bypassing, cross-site scripting, session fixation, and mail header injection.

Upgrade now!

Warning: If you're using 4.5.x, the patches for DRUPAL-SA-2006-003 will not fix the security issue immediately. You have two options: a) upgrade to 4.6.6 instead of 4.5.8, or b) upgrade to PHP >= 4.3.2.

Mar 10 2006
Mar 10

Rumor is spreading of some sort of new analytics tool from the blogging experts over at Performancing. This tool utilizes Drupal and is designed specifically for bloggers. It's a tool similar to others like Google Analytics and Sitemeter. What makes it different is that it is designed to track blogs specifically. Read more about it at Performancing, Problogger and Code Professor.

Mar 07 2006
Mar 07

Had to delete the xmlrpc.php file that come with Drupal because my host was getting slammed by hack attempts - some successful, some not. The naughty installation was 4.3.3 and I have since upgraded to the 4.6.5 version. (Gee, how did that one slip by?) Should be safe now...

In any event, I have been asked very nicely to not upload these files in the future. Will comply... As a result, Drupal ID logins are now disabled at my website.

However, it took me a while to figure out that this file was also related to the Drupal ID login feature, not just the website directory ping. That's not really clear in the documentation. Here I am making a fool of myself trying to login in to the Drupal Sites directory.

Mar 01 2006
Mar 01

John Stahl recently gave me some heat for my assertion that Elgg should be built on top of Drupal.

I think that the next few years are going to bring tremendous challenges for applications that do not easily communicate with other applications that are “outside their platform” i.e are written using a different language/framework, run on a different server, etc....The days of monolithic application stacks that try to do everything are fading fast. A new “network-centric” software ecosystem is starting to bloom.

This is wishful thinking. I've spent much of the past few years puzzling over this exact question. While I am personally very much a proponent of web standards and web services I am pessimistic as to how much immediate impact they will have in the evolving marketplace of non-profit/ngo & advocay web technology services.

Backstory

I didn't always think this way. If you told me a year and a half ago that I would be hawking CivicSpace/Drupal as the über-platform that could meet virtually every need of any size organization I would have told you you were nuts....

After the Dean campaign ended and we started work on CivicSpace our assumptions were:

  • Drupal wouldn't be able to "scale" to meet the needs of large organizations
  • We would not be able to develop the platform quick enough to meet all the core needs of organizations any time soon
  • We would integrate third party service providers to fill the functionality gap organizations required

Then some interesting and unexpected things happened:

  • It turned out Drupal could scale
  • CiviCRM showed up and filled the functionality gap
  • Lots of vendors established quickly growing businesses servicing the technology. The top half dozen firms now employ ~ 50 people between them and each are looking to hire.

This reshaped my thinking on the future of the web-technology marketplace quite a bit. We have an immediate opportunity to commodify the core web-technology organizations need to a single integrated and scalable open-source application stack and this is a very good thing for the marketplace. Over the next few years I believe the advantages afforded by this stack of technology (CS/Drupal/CiviCRM) will far outweigh the benifits realized by the integration of applications accross web-services in terms of costs saved and passed on to technology owners and innovations in technology and services.

Integration accross web-services and web-standards is relatively costly

  • Web applications that are not built from the ground up to be integrated will never play nicely with one another. Let me repeat: if an open-source application is not built to be integrated with your web-application it probably isn't worth the effort to try to integrate it. This renders 95%+ of open-source web applications useless for those looking to leverage the work of other communities.
  • If an application has a strong API it is still tricky to integrate. Even integrating with CiviCRM, an application that was built from the ground up to interface with CMS's and shares the same web-app environment as Drupal, it costs us 2-10X more to integrate with it than it does to integrate with a standard Drupal module.
  • The most cutting edge private sector web-service and web-standards are not that advanced. We still don't have workable single sign-on solution, the cutting edge of semantic information interchange across the web is to embed it in XHTML, the hottest API's from SalesForce and Flickr haven't made much of a dent in the marketplace, and please don't get me started on the semantic web.

The market currently prefers a single integrated stack

  • The majority of the market for web-technology services is owned by companies like Kintera, GetActive, and Convio that serve as one-stop shops for virtualy all an organizations web-technology needs. They have trained technology owners to make purchasing decisions under the assumption that they can cut a check to a single entity that will provide and support a complete "solution". I.E. there is not much point to shopping around for "best of breed" services to integrate, "just give us your business and all your technology problems will go away". This creates an uphill battle in the marketplace for vendors selling what will be seen as "piecemail" solutions created by amassing various web-technology providers products across web-services.
  • There are huge unanswered usability concerns created by integrating together two different applications. This is espcially felt in functionality that is presented to an organization's contituents. Technology owners demand a seamless user-experience across their user facing application space (CMS, event tools, community tools, etc). In the future as more and more functionality moves out of the back-office and onto the web these concerns will only increase.
  • Open-Source vendors eat costs when integrating third party services, mantaining integration, and licensing software, so they have economic incentives to service a complete pre-integrated stack of technology instead of servicing a suite of other providers products integrated over web-services.

The future of the application stack and the role I think webservices will play

I hope and expect that in the next year the CS/CiviCRM/Drupal stack will evolve to a point where it can compete head on with the likes of Kintera, GetActive, and Convio. When this happens open-source vendors will grow into full blown ASP's that will be able to sell services that undercut the current market of proprietary service providers and will be able to grow downmarket to smaller organizations and horizontally to for-profits with overlapping technology needs. With so many organizations and vendors based on the same codebase it will create a very efficient marketplace that supports application development and services. It will also open up the marketplace to anyone wishing to specialize their services towards a vertical, sell data services, or offer 'best of breed' applications. Since the majority of the vendors business will be based entirely around customization and hosting / support and not licensing fees to support product development and sales, they will be much more likely to partner with 3rd party providers or create specialized services themselves. Over time as web-standards evolve the third party services and specialization will grow increasingly important in the marketplace. And then we can all live happily ever after....

Feb 21 2006
Feb 21

Russell Beattie figures out MySpace, in component terms. Funny how every sentence of his reminded me of a specific Drupal module that provides that feature.

Then of course, we’re not counting the sentences that talk about hotties and risque photographs. I don’t think there’s a module (yet) to provide that.

Feb 14 2006
Feb 14

The Yahoo! UI people just opened up their widget library, complete with graded browser support. Hmm. Maybe we would use the calendar widget for the Drupal archive.

Jan 31 2006
Jan 31

Recent versions of Drupal have the oh-so-cool feature that allows you to host many websites off a single Drupal codebase. The coolest part about this is that you can share some tables accross multiple websites; which means you can do things like have a single username/password table accross all the websites. This can easily be done, as specified in the settings.php comments as:

* $db_prefix = array( * 'default' => 'main_', * 'users' => 'shared_', * 'sessions' => 'shared_', * 'role' => 'shared_', * 'authmap' => 'shared_', * 'sequences' => 'shared_', * );

Now here’s an important thing to note: The first table you have to share is the sequences table. This is the table that handles all the id counters, so if you don’t share this one, something like this can happen:

[you shared only the users table]

1. User 1 signs up on Site A, gets user id#1
2. User 2 signs up on Site A, gets user id#2
3. User 3 signs up on Site B, gets user id#….? The correct answer is not 3!

This happens because you didn’t share sequences… Site B uses it’s own sequence generator to render a duplicate userid… which the user table would not accept, and this would go on till the Site B sequence catches up with the Site A sequence, and then things would be normal. The code quality in user.module helps protect the user table from data corruption, but you will have many signups disappear into thin air with a set up like this. Hence, all you need to do is share the sequences table along with the users… and you’re all set!

Btw, hello Planet people!

Jan 30 2006
Jan 30

FINALLY finished the captcha.module for drupal. This is ONLY a first draft, lots of improvements to happen. Features:
* ability to protect any drupal form
* captcha API – make your own challenge response! (math and image are included in package)

(use cvs checkout to get)

Jan 25 2006
Jan 25

I've spent the last 40 work hours or more trying to figure out how to get Drupal to display a right side bar box that says "Ann's Class - 4th Grade." It gives one pause. 40 hours? Forty hours? Well, er, yes. But that's what happens when you get sucked in by a program like Drupal. You're fascinated and intrigued—then challenged and stimulated—and finally, wild-eyed, defiant and obsessed with beating the damn thing at its own... Ah-hm. So anyway, there I was, side-bar-boxless. I tried displaying bits of the post information from node.tpl.php in a custom block, and actually got a little box that said "Ann's Class - 4th Grade," as nice as you please. Problem was it continued to say that on Mary's 3rd grade class pages and Joann's 2nd grade section. It was back to the drawing board. I tried snippets, taxonomy modules, and a number of hacks of Taxonomy Context. I wrangled and wrestled code, ripping it out here and jamming in it there, and after all that work, I still didn't have a box that would display correctly on the various sections of the site. Oh, I had a box. I even had the text I wanted. I just couldn't get the text to display in the box. I ask you, what was a girl to do? That's right. I cheated. At pretty much the end of my tether—and way past my rudimentary knowledge of PHP—I popped open the CSS file, gave the box a little padding to prop it open, and absolutely positioned the text from one side of the page to the other. Job done. Yet even as I grinned and wiped my hands with satisfaction, I found myself glancing around a little furtively. Would anyone notice? Would anyone realize that my clever coding was nothing more than a clumsy, cloddish PHP fake? A CSS imposter. A pile of smelly coding do-do. I considered going back to the module and trying again to hack it into shape. But the memory was still too fresh. The pain too recent. I would live with it. Shamefully, yes, but I would get by. Then this afternoon on the drive to pick up the kids from school, I suddenly realized that CSS had, once again, come to my rescue. And who was I to spit in the eye of a champion? Maybe a PHP purist would rather slit her wrists than hack a script with CSS. But so what? I bet a PHP purist knows a lot of PHP, too. In my world, a hack is a hack is a hack. And until I can learn to harness the power of Drupal and PHP, the power of CSS will just have to do.

Jan 20 2006
Jan 20

Has anyone ever put

<?php
 
die(var_dump($GLOBALS));
?>

up at the top of their Drupal template page.tpl.php? If I were to print my var_dump source, it would be 181 pages. Granted when you var_dump $GLOBALS, there is some recursion, but that still seems like a lot of variable generation.

I can think of a couple things to do, namely more aggressive unset use, more discouraged use of the global keyword, or just putting to RAM what is actually needed.

AFAIK, Drupal loads every variable stored in the database to memory on every page load. I hope I'm wrong about that. It seems to me like a properly indexed database would be quicker if it only pulled variables it needed on every page load plus what a specific module needs for its operation. Someone should benchmark (which will probably end up being me if I want to know the answer) to see if storing Drupal core vars as a serialized string would be faster to unserialize or to pull from several database rows.

Is it an issue? I can't tell from just the preliminary var_dump output, but perhaps spending some time with APD will uncover some waste I can submit a patch for. I doubt developers are spending a lot of time comparing alternative scripting implementations for speed improvement.

Jan 17 2006
Jan 17

I have recently converted a few article "groups" into books. I basically went through certain taxonomy lists and used the "outline" tab for each one to add it to a top-level book page. The result that I found was that I got a much higher percentage of click-throughs with the book navigation than from a taxonomy listing.

Drupal Book Navigation

Taxonomy Listings are Boring?

The original reason for converting from a listing to a book was because a client of mine was unhappy with the "text heavy" appearance of the listing - she wanted the feel of a portfolio. I had a hunch that the book module might be the answer when I noted that another area of the same website (Wedding Packages), which was a book, was doing well. Meaning that over half of the visitors were navigating from beginning to end.

Book Module to the Rescue!

So I converted the Wedding Gallery to a book. See the before and after here:

Everyone Seems to Love Drupal Books...

The client and her staff reported that they thought it was now "fun" to click through the pages. Visitors seemed to like it as well and the traffic through the Galley increased. It was so successful that I grouped a several of my articles book-style:

Jan 11 2006
Jan 11

The new year has started and, with it, my resolve to find time for this blog. Between keeping up with clients and trying to spend more time with the family, this site got put on the back burner. Also, I have to admit I was tired of writing it—a little bored with reading and writing, talking and thinking so much about CSS. I needed a break from it.

Don't get me wrong. I still love CSS. (Yes, I actually typed those words. Can you believe it?) And I still think web standards are important. In fact, the more I learn about the web, the more convinced I am that they're crucial. I just felt that was all I was writing about. The web doesn't need another Jeffery Zeldman wannabe. Not when it has the real thing.

So, I needed a hiatus from the blog. I needed something new. And boy, did I get it! I can tell you in one word: Drupal. However, since I'm constitutionally unable to be brief, I'll elaborate. One thing I've noticed this past year is the increasing prominence of content management systems, or CMS. Most large sites and a lot of small ones use some sort of CMS. This blog runs on one, Moveable Type. They seem to be everywhere. But MT has been my only experience with CMS. Up until now I knew nothing about them. They sounded complicated and scary. A little out of my league. So, of course, I had to find out all about them.

But where to start? Then I read somewhere that Drupal was the most difficult but also the most configurable of all the open source CMS. Well, that clinched it. The word configurable has always been a favorite of mine—ranks right up there with mod, plugin and hack. If you ask me, there's not much that's more fun or fascinating than fiddling with a program to see what you can get it to do. What can I say? It's a personality flaw. The inner geek in me struggling to come out.

So I downloaded Drupal and spent a week picking over the files, completely bewildered and lost. Drupal is written in PHP, which I don't know, and that certainly didn't help. So I bought a book or two on PHP, got on the Drupal forums and read the manuals from cover to cover. Slowly I began to make sense of the program, and I have to tell you, I am thoroughly impressed. In fact, I'm hooked. Drupal is powerful, well-designed and highly customizable. Yes, the learning curve is a little higher. But once you get over that hurdle, there's not much you can't do with Drupal. And you don't have to do it completely alone. The support forums are pretty helpful, and the documentation is superb.

By the Way

You may have noticed the change in the subtitle of this blog. I've only been in professional web design for a year now, but "breaking in" just didn't feel right anymore. I'll always be a newbie. I just can't resist trying and learning about all the new stuff that pops up on the web every 3 minutes or so. But I don't feel as new to the web, itself, anymore. After all, I've been casually playing around with web design for almost ten years—and taking it seriously for one. I've got my web legs now. But there will always be a new regions to explore and discover...as long as there is someone to think them up.

Jan 10 2006
Jan 10

Just a quick note: Drupal 4.7.0 beta 3 is available now, fixing more than 100 bugs since the last beta. If you have any further issues or suggestions for 4.7 — now is the time to speak up, file bug reports, post patches etc.

I haven't had too much time for Drupal development recently, but I guess I should really start updating the poormanscron module now (finally!) and help with getting the German translation up-to-date...

Jan 08 2006
Jan 08

I recently made my first cron contrib module for Drupal, DB Maintenance. Since the DB Maintenance OPTIMIZE TABLE query locks the database tables it queries, I don't want just anyone to access cron.php anymore. The restriction I added was for the Apache .htaccess file that manages the clean URL rewrite rule.

<Files cron.php>
  Order deny,allow
  Allow from 207.7.108.211 127.0.0.1
  Deny from all
</Files>

207.7.108.211 is the current IP address of deekayen.net, which is needed instead of 127.0.0.1 when you run cron.php with lynx or wget as the documentation strongly suggests, which means 127.0.0.1 isn't the remote IP when Apache receives the request. I only put in 127.0.0.1 so in the future, if I need to access from localhost for some reason, I can.

Jan 07 2006
Jan 07

Langemark's Cafe is Gunnar Langemark's personal/professional website. It syndicates content with a focus on Information Architecture, Semantic Web, Web2.0, User Experience - and Drupal!

Langemarks Cafe - Drupal Information

He features quite a bit of Drupal related news, inlcuding this story mentioning Advanced Web Design. Thank you, Gunnar!

As you would expect, his website is powered by our friend Drupal. His Drupal category has an XML feed available for those who are interested.

Jan 07 2006
Jan 07

After I was back from a short vacation without Internet access, I was surprised to see a post by Robert Douglass titled "Uwe Hermann's Drupal article in PHP Solutions is out" on the drupal.org main page. At that point I didn't even know that the article had been published ;-)

Robert wrote a short review of the article which outlines the main content. In contrast to my last article which was a general introduction to Drupal, this one concentrated on some specific (probably more advanced) topics instead: multi-site install, l10n+i18n, search engine optimization, and AJAX(-like) user interfaces of the upcoming Drupal 4.7 release.

The printed article should be available in multiple languages (German, French, Polish and Italian, at least). There might be a free online version as soon as the next issue of PHP Solutions is published, but I'm not entirely sure.

Thanks a lot to Robert Douglass for the review and to Drupal's Benevolent Dictator for Life Dries Buytaert who reviewed an early draft of my article and provided helpful suggestions!

Jan 04 2006
chx
Jan 04
Posted by chx on 4 Jan 2006 at 16:15 UTC

Someone under the pseudonym "Liz0ziM" sent a false security alarm to BugTraq without first contacting the security team:

http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/420671/30/0/threaded

This vulnerability is fixed in Drupal 4.5.6, 4.6.4 and onwards. Drupal's new XSS filter mechanism takes care of all vulnerabilities listed on http://ha.ckers.org/xss.html (and even more).

If you have already updated to at least 4.5.6 / 4.6.4 then you are safe and you do not need to take any action. If you have not updated yet, then we advise you again to do so ASAP.

Dec 21 2005
Dec 21

CNet is running a story about GoodStorm, a site built on Drupal and the open source ecommerce package I authored. Very impressive indeed! Way to go Team GoodStorm.

Dec 13 2005
Dec 13

Yay. Ruby on Rails 1.0 has been released 39 minutes ago. I will probably check it out for real now (although I usually use Drupal for web development work, of course).

They sure have some funny quotes on their website ;-)

“Ruby on Rails is astounding. Using it is like watching a kung-fu movie,
where a dozen bad-ass frameworks prepare to beat up the little newcomer
only to be handed their asses in a variety of imaginative ways.”
--Nathan Torkington, O'Reilly Program Chair for OSCON

Dec 01 2005
Dec 01

You might have already noticed, but I'll re-iterate nevertheless: the Drupal project has released Drupal 4.6.4 and 4.5.6 which fix three security vulnerabilities. Everyone running a Drupal site is advised to upgrade, as always.

Multiple people were mighty busy yesterday preparing, finalizing and testing the patches and advisories. I was one of them, although I was more like lurking around trying to look busy ;-) Anyways, I have sent the respective advisories (DRUPAL-SA-2005-007, DRUPAL-SA-2005-008, DRUPAL-SA-2005-009) to the "usual suspects" today: Bugtraq, Full Disclosure, and the php-sec mailing list. The advisories have already been picked up by Secunia and a bunch of other security sites...

Btw: I finally received news that my domain was transferred to my new web hoster today, which led to a short downtime. Everything should be fine now. If you notice any problems, please drop me a note.

Oct 24 2005
Oct 24

I never thought I'd be doing what I'm doing right now. I'm at work in my underwear, pillow marks on my face and am eating breakfast while posting a blog entry. Yup. I'm a work-at-home freelancer now.

There's nothing about my university job I didn't like. My peers were great to work with and had a real collaborative spirit. I had a kick-ass office that allowed my inner-introvert to hide and crank out Drupal code. And of course the job security and benefits would make any family man sleep soundly at night. So why the job change?

Last weekend Cori and I jumped in the car and saw our friend Stuart once again rock the inner chambers of the Omaha Healing Arts Center. If you've never seen Stuart play, besides performing he'll purposefully and obviously try to connect with you during the show. He doesn't stare up at the ceiling or close his eyes when he plays. He looks at the audience. He looks at you.

During the performance all I could think about was here's a dude who's living the way he wants to live: intentionally and aligned with the Bodhisattva vows. It blows me away when I think of the courage it takes to sometimes perform in a bar full of drunk people and sing songs of mysticism and love. That's some serious Buddha nuts.

Which leads me back to my resignation from the university. Sure my job has the tangible perks but I want to be closer to the Mystery. I want my heart to be as happy as the rest of me was at the day job.

So, here I go. Into less comfortable territory but with more conviction then I've had before. Let's see what unfolds, shall we?

Oct 22 2005
Oct 22

Here's a bunch of smaller updates which probably don't warrant extra blog posts, but might be interesting nevertheless:

  • On the right-hand side of my homepage you now have three new blocks which should simplify site navigation. Each contains a weighted list of tags (tag clouds) for my blog, my podcast, and my photoblog, powered by Drupal's tagadelic module. Of course, the "traditional" navigation menu is still there.
  • There's also an RSS feed for comments on this site now, courtesy to Drupal's Comment RSS module.
  • On the lower left-hand side of my homepage, there's another new block. It shows where the visitors of my site come from in (almost) realtime. This is a service provided by MapStats (I already talked about it earlier).
  • I have uploaded updated versions of my bashrc, vimrc, and muttrc config files.
  • My podcast is now listed in iTunes (thanks Daniel Reutter for adding it). You can subscribe by clicking on this button: Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes!. The amount of people who subscribe to my podcast have almost doubled, figures went up from 30 subscribers to more than 50 today! If you're reading this and subscribed through iTunes: thanks ;)
  • My video iPod will (probably) be shipped on October 31, and it'll take a few more days until it arrives. Arghh, /me wants it now!
Oct 06 2005
Oct 06

The annual report from usability expert Jakob Nielsen:

  1. Legibility Problems
  2. Non-Standard Links
  3. Flash
  4. Content That's Not Written for the Web
  5. Bad Search
  6. Browser Incompatibility
  7. Cumbersome Forms
  8. No Contact Information or Other Company Info
  9. Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths
  10. Inadequate Photo Enlargement

I agree with all of them, especially number 3 (Flash). I'm starting to like most of the AJAX sites popping up around me, but I have yet to find a Flash site which I really like.

Pages

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web