bookmark_borderXAMPP

In my copious spare time I have been known to design and build websites. The first website I ever built was for the first company I worked for, back in 1996, so I’ve been at it a while.

However it’s only been the past couple of years that I’ve started to get some larger clients with grander ideas, and that has meant getting a bit more organised. As such I now have a standard questionnaire that I ask all prospective clients to fill in, a standard design proposal document which I use to present back my ideas based on the answers to the questionnaire, and I have a nice little area of my PC which is dedicated to building websites.

The key part of which is XAMPP.

I discovered this marvellous application about 3 years ago, and if you are building websites, or installing and customising anything that requires MySQL and PHP then you must give it a look.

Many people know from their own experience that it’s not easy to install an Apache web server and it gets harder if you want to add MySQL, PHP and Perl.

XAMPP is an easy to install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and Perl. XAMPP is really very easy to install and to use – just download, extract and start.

It really is that simple. Once you’ve downloaded it, start up the Control Panel, start Apache and MySQL, then head to http://localhost. Done!

A lot of my web design work is creating custom themes based around WordPress, sometimes it is just a look and feel but more often than not custom code is required. Now, rather than having to upload a file to a test web server somewhere, I can work locally on the php files, and just refresh the browser to see my changes. Much faster.

XAMPP is one of those applications that, after you’ve used it once you think “how the hell did I manage without this!”.

Given that a lot of technical communicators are looking towards other distribution models (blogs, Wikis and so on), then XAMPP is an easy (and free) way to get a test system setup, allowing you to run short proof of concept projects. I hope you find it as useful as I do.

bookmark_borderWhat of Scottish Blogs?

But first, a cat update: Ollie is fine, no cone as, apparently, they don’t use stitches any more? He was a little groggy last night but was up and hungry as usual this morning. And I said this wouldn’t become a ‘cat’ blog. Hmmmm.

And so, onto Scottish Blogs. The website lost hosting late last year, and whilst I have a backup of the database that was only a week old, most of the site details in the directory are safe. However I’m now faced with starting over from scratch which, from a coding point of view, is a good thing. When I built Scottish Blogs it was largely done piecemeal as I was learning PHP as I went, leading to problems later on that, with my lack of knowledge, I couldn’t have foreseen. So, a clean slate is a good thing and would allow me to ‘get it (more) right’ from the start.

However, to be frank, I’m not sure I have the energy, inclination nor desire to rebuild and relaunch the site and, judging from the paucity of emails bemoaning the death of the Scottish Blogs website, I can only presume that no-one else is missing it either. So why am I bothering?

At present I’m not sure what, if anything, will replace the Scottish Blogs directory. Whilst I harbour grand plans of growing an online community, I’m not entirely sure I have the bandwidth to do so at present. With that in mind I’ve quite deliberately not done anything with the website since it died late last year and the overwhelming silence confirms that it was probably about time I killed it anyway.

Yet somewhere, in the depths of my brain, I am sure the site was useful to some, so I remain unsure as to the final fate of the website. Perhaps I need to co-opt some volunteers to help get it back off the ground, perhaps I need to hand over the entire thing to someone else (unlikely, but possible), or perhaps I need to make more of an effort to illicit some feedback from others.

Regardless, this isn’t something I’ll be looking at anytime in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure.

bookmark_borderMooo.. scellaneous

Nature is a wonderous thing, offering us such beauty and inspiration that sometimes it boggles the mind. Be it a particular cloudscape, a shimmering lake or the steaming placenta lying next to a just-born calf…

OK, it wasn’t ideal to see such a sight first thing in the morning but it certainly woke me up. Thankfully I hadn’t had breakfast (I’m munching on my All Wheat Muesli as I type this). However as spring rolls on, it seems that new-borns are in the air, so let me pause here to congratulate my mate Bill and his lovely wife Fran on the birth of their son, Gregory. I’m sure that, with the many years of loving and careful nurturing that they’ll give him, he’ll soon be a rampant alcoholic likes his Dad. I’m kidding of course, it’s his Mum that’s the alcoholic…

~

Since returning from Spain we’ve done little of note. That makes for a dull blog, but of course I can always fall back on techy stuff. Which is just as well as the ‘human interest’ side of life is a little flat at the moment, unless you allow me to rant on about the various arseholes I deal with every day on my daily commute. Ohh go on… BMW drivers aren’t all that bad, van drivers can be the most maliciously dangerous wankers, and don’t even start me on private taxis!!

~

Of course I’ll have human interest overload come Saturday as it’s blogmeet time again. For anyone travelling through from Glasgow, aim to take the 12noon train (GNER to London Kings Cross). The train stops at Motherwell, where I’ll get on, and Edinburgh Waverley. Let’s meet on the last carriage (the back of the train).

If you are still interested in going but are unsure of directions and whatnot then drop me an email (gordon AT gordonmclean DOT co DOT uk).

~

Which reminds me, a couple of people have tried to contact me using the contact form on this site. Unfortunately, since moving hosts it’s not been working. I think I know why (I need to check if my host has PHP mail() installed) but until then, you can use the email address given above.

~

On my last day of work before my holiday a calamity occurred. I dropped and broke my mug! This week I’ve been using the bone china, company branded, mugs but they are too small in both handle size and coffee holding ability, so the hunt for a new mug has begun.

As I’m sure you’ll all know by now, I’m a right fussy bugger, so I need a mug with a decent sized handle, and a nice design. My last one was a good size, and a solid dark blue colour with white interior. I’m thinking of going for stripes this time, but have to admit that I’ve yet to find a mug (online) that really catches my eye.

Anyone else tried shopping for mugs online? Any pointers?

And no, I don’t want one of those insulated ones, can’t stand them as … and remember, I’m fussy … the lip of the mug is usually way too thick to be comfortable. Yeah, I know, I know. I’m a freak.

~

Right, I’m off to price a wireless card for my PC, a DVI to HDMI converter, and a tub of Vaseline. The latter is required after wearing a slightly coarse top under my running jacket on Wednesday night; 45 minutes of friction is sore on the nipples!

bookmark_borderPost of the Week Launches

As mike says (and from where the bulk of this post has been lifted) Post of the Week is ready, and open, and waiting for YOU.THE MISSION.

  • To highlight great writing on personal blogs.
  • To draw attention to blogs that you might not have heard of before.
  • To point you to one absolute guaranteed humdinger of a blog post, once a week, every week.

Finally, and almost a year after the idea was first mooted, Post of the Week is ready for public display. I bet you never thought you’d live to see the day, did you?

Absolutely everyone everywhere is heartily recommended to do any or all of the following:

  • Nominate cracking good blog posts for inclusion, via the comments box in the “Call for nominations” section.
  • Volunteer their services as a guest judge, for one weekend only.
  • Publicise the site on their own blogs. Pimp it, kids. Pimp it HARD.

For those of you who don’t know, I (with my one man hat on) had the privilege of designing the site, and I HAVE to say a huge thanks to the ever helpful and hugely generous Lyle, without whom the site simply wouldn’t work. What that man can do with PHP boggles the mind. Cheers mate.

And many congratulations to The Overnight Editor for writing this week’s inaugural featured post.

So, what are you waiting for, get over there and get involved!

bookmark_borderWeekender

Ahhh holidays. Well two days off at any rate.. better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, right?

Busy weekend saw me out on Friday night for a leaving do, always nice to enjoy a few shandies in the sun. Met a couple of interesting people as well, which is always good, one of whom had actually heard of blogging! Such a small world. Or not.

Saturday was a bit blurry until the afternoon when I enjoyed a stroll to the station on a glorious afternoon. Thankfully there were no “confrontations” to be had on the train through to Dumbarton where I met up with Louise and headed to her cousins for a barbeque. Sunday was a bit lazy but still got a few bits and bobs done before settling down to watch Sideways —wonderfully poignant— and Mystic River.

Sideways was truly a joy and I’ll definitely be watching this again. Both quirky, awkwardly funny, and genuinely moving all at once, it’s my kind of movie. Well worth a quiet watch. Unfortunately Mystic River wasn’t as good as I’d been led to believe, not that it was bad but it certainly didn’t make a huge impression. Fairly emotive topics granted but beyond that it seemed a little too single paced, too methodical and because of that lost a lot of punch.

And that brings us to today. Today I’ve watched the Lakers come from behind to steal an overtime win to go 3-1 up in the first round of the playoffs, Kobe the main man yet again. I’ve also spent a few hours cursing and swearing at some PHP and I think it’s finally given up the fight and decided to play ball.

I’ve also eaten an entire box of dark chocolate Tunnocks teacakes. Delish. But now I feel bad. Guilt is a terrible thing.

bookmark_borderToday…

… I will mostly be meeting met “BritBlog” Mark (he’s organising a blogmeet dahn sarf by the way). It was Be good to finally meet him having exchanged so many, and some heated, emails in the past year or so.

We chatted about this and that but mainly, obviously, the plans for the merger of Scottish Blogs and Britblog. Over the past couple of months since the first announcement we’ve been round the house with the design and now we both agree that we’ve got a good model to take forward. We’ll issue an update soon, but I have to admit that I’m getting a little excited about things.

Mark’s a great guy, very self-effacing and I think meeting face-to-face will make a big difference from here onwards. You get so much more from body language than you can ever expect to be conveyed in email or IM conversations.

But you all know that right. It’s the same for blogs.

Anyway, I’m hoping to ramp up my involvement very soon, just need to get ONE LINE of PHP to work and I can knock a certain site on the head. It’s missing some features that I’d wanted to implement but time constraints mean I’m just glad to hit the 80% mark (well maybe closer to 90%) and I can leave the remaining “nice to have” items for another time (possibly in the autumn).

I also need to follow up with a few people who I emailed several weeks ago on various topics. If you’ve been waiting for me to get in touch then stand by your PC…

So, I’ll leave you with that Tammy Wynette chiclete de ouvido crawling into your brain shall I?

Ohhh a Sing-a-long!

Sometimes its hard to be a system
Giving all your love to just one file
You’ll have bad times
And it’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand

But if you love it you’ll forgive it
Even though it’s hard to understand
And if you love it
Ohhhh be proud of it
‘Cause after all he’s just a computer..

[do de do de doooo]

Stand by your peeceeeee
Give it two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely

Stand by your peecceeeeee
And tell the world you love it
Keep giving all the love you caaaaaaaan

(sorry)