18 Mar

Open Source Web Development – Vista Style

Yep. Stupid title–and that’s what one feels like, sometimes, working on new sites inside Vista. So why do it?

Well, there are three things really:

  1. I’m not a programmer–C, .Net, or otherwise. We aren’t counting scripting like batch files, Perl, and VBS. Neither are we counting markups like HTML, and for that matter, PHP. For all the wildly fantastic functionality, the learning cliff may never be scaled by the likes of me. 🙂 Hi, Chris!
  2. And, thanks to Meestah Bryan, I have access to a great open source server with full cPanel authority. For roughly zero cost. Hard to argue with that…
  3. Lastly, I’m a bit spendthrift (read: cheap). With the open source Content Management Systems (CMS) the only expense is time for the first one or two. Now that I have a pretty solid understanding of how PHP and MySQL work together, I’m free to try out anything that catches my eye.
  4. Don’t taze me, bro!

taze_me_bro

Please don’t misunderstand–I actually rather like Vista. Or at least I would far prefer to use it over XP. Honestly, I think that the rants complaining about things like the User Access Control are indicative of inflexibility to change rather than an issue with the functionality. Why, in this world of malware, wouldn’t you want to know when some process is trying to install something?

On the other hand, there are some things that are obviously broken. Why does it take 45 seconds to move a 30k file to a new location? Yes, I know the technical changes from Windows XP in this aspect–but does that make it better? And, apparently, SP1 isn’t as hot at fixing this as I’ve hoped. It’s the little files that get ya.

And we are about to move around tons of little bitty files. More’s the pity.

I personally just live with it just to have access to a few required applications in the Windows world. Here’s some software, that if it ran on Ubuntu, might make me leave Vista behind. Macromedia Fireworks, for example, in addition to Photoshop make an unbeatable, two-fisted, graphical ecosystem. Full, native VST support on Ardour would allow me to consider it rather than the Cakewalk Sonars and Ableton Live studio softwares of the world.

And world peace.

As you might be able to tell, I’m a bit of a WordPress fan. The 3rd Party Plug-in community is incredibly vast and deep. I’ve never had a need that couldn’t immediately be filled by some plug-in. Usually in a only a few minute of searching.

I also love Joomla–the extension community isn’t quite as large as WordPress, but I still haven’t run up against a single brickwall (save for some version 1.0 to 1.5 problems). Check out this site that I did with Joomla 1.5 for the local ISACA chapter we are attempting to form: www.isaca-ozarks.org

On the same site, I used a really light-weight Wiki engine, called WikkaWiki. I have used the full-blown (as in Wikipaedia) MediaWiki in the past as well.

All are easy to setup and easy to use.

Another great thing about WordPress, Joomla, and the rest are all of the free templates that can be used to customize your site. All of which are great, but I like to do something a bit more customized. So, I need to be able to edit and test locally rather than breaking my production (giggle) website. Also, with Joomla, you will probably need a healthy assortment of extensions to get your job done–these will need to be tested to make sure they all play nicely with the version of Joomla and with each other. The point is: You will need an easy way to do this locally on a development installation.

This is where the WAMP group comes in–bénissez leurs chers petits coeurs!

logo-anaska

A quick download of WampServer and an install, and voila, you have an PHP development server. So, go and grab a copy of Joomla, unzip it into the www folder, and…uh…go to bed. Yeah, there are zillions of tiny php files inside the Joomla archive. It has taken one of my Vista machines up to 4 hours to extract it. Seriously.

However, once it is done, you can setup your MySQL database inside the WAMP control panel and follow the Joomla documentation to install.

tortoisesvn_logo_hor468x64

Let me also recommend TortoiseSVN for managing your development. I use it to roll back changes (read: goofs) and for version creation. Can save a lot of headaches, like when you accidentally overwrite the final version of your CSS with a bum one.

Not that it has ever happened to me personally. Just saying.

Here’s some ideas for WAMPServer, even if you don’t need an Internet site:

  • Host a Wiki on your home network so the whole family has access to notes, projects, collaboration, mindmaps, Christmas lists, etc. If you setup a good firewall (read: Endian 🙂 ), then you can even securely access this via the Internet.
  • Host a Joomla site on your home network with jEvents installed so you can have a family calendar. Use a Joomla iframe Wrapper to give the kids access to only certain websites.
  • Learn how to create quick and easy sites so you can give your development time away to non-profit organizations.

Have fun!