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I wanted clean URLs and I learned about httpd’s and PHP processes February 23, 2018

Posted by Steven in The-Web.
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Lately I seem to tell a lot of stories here :-) . Well I hope that’s alright. Let me know in comments if it is to much “storytelling”.

So lately I am avidly using the open source version of OwnCloud. I absolutely value hat it is a very quick and flexible system. You can quickly manage your files and it installs on very many different platforms and hosting environments.

When I recently did set up another OwnCloud instance on a shared hosting provider, I’ve observerd that you can style many things but the OwnCloud URLs look rather messy. They include your domain your OwnCloud path and then a rather messy index.php and then further path to the OwnCloud functions.

So I basically googled: index.php-less URLs.

https://doc.owncloud.org/server/9.0/admin_manual/configuration_server/index_php_less_urls.html

The steps seemed rather straigtht forward:

  • set two parameters in config.php
  • use the occ binary command to maintain your OwnCloud installation
  • or wait for the next update (as I’ve not figured out how to use a shell or a real command on my shared host)

I’ve tried all this but it had no effect. So I realized I’ve made a rather stupid rookie mistake: I didn’t read all the paragraphs, the prerequisites of the manual.

The prerequisites in the above linked document detail:

  • It’s a bit cryptic but I read that your web server or as the pro’s call it: your httpd http daemon needs to be: Apache.
  • And: modules to rewrite URLs need to be installed and active. Such as: mod_rewrite and mod_env
  • Then there is an interesting detailed sentence:  the way Apache interprets php code needs to be relying on the Apache module mod_php -> fpm or fastcgi won’t work

So far I must admit I did not really think through the intricate systems that are your httpd, your php core interpreters and the various modules added.

So I’ve read up on it. And I’ve learned that mod_php is not really the recommended method to use php with Apache nowadays.

https://support.plesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/213372509-Apache-handler-is-not-available-in-Plesk-The-handler-cannot-be-enabled-because-corresponding-Apache-module-turned-off

Also there are tangible benefits and my shared host does not even support mod_php :( . So no clean URLs for me for a while. But lots of interesting things about memory usage and speed when using fpm or other methods.

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/4526242/what-is-the-difference-between-fastcgi-and-fpm

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Toying around with Google Analytics 360 Suite February 19, 2018

Posted by Steven in In-Media, The-Web.
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Today I followed up on a long standing to-do on my list. For a couple of personal projects I use smaller German and American web platform providers. The projects are really small – like your neighborhood cooking bloc or the like – so there is not much traffic and I look at basic built-in statistic tools. Like aw-stats.

What I’ve done now: Cleaned it up nicely, set up an organization in the Google Analytics Platform. Hooked up the respective Google+ profile to make it look nicely (cool feature). Confirmed the domain ownership and created a nice Analytics account and property structure. And in the end I connected the Google Search Console data to Analytics.

The whole Analytics suite is rather impressive. The setup went smoothly and transparently. The UI is clean but powerful. Tracking works in real time – which is also rather impressive as you see marks on a map come in after just very few setup steps.

I must say it’s worth exploring further.

https://www.google.com/analytics/360-suite/

Google giving away HDR images under CC license February 14, 2018

Posted by Steven in In-Media, The-Web.
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Google is giving away a huge package of single shots and combined/calculated images as HDR photos. The package is intended for machine learning and reasearch applications but the license is quite open so other uses are legally possible.

Here are a couple of important links if you would like to learn more:

working excel: how to find employees, reporting to someone in a flat and non-descript hierarchy February 12, 2018

Posted by Steven in The-Web, Work-related.
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Excel got me excited today. This rarely happens so I thought I would share my excitement and my learnings about this great and simple data crunching tool.

The Problem

It’s actually not so hard to explain: Imagine you have an spreadsheet list of employees (so far so good) and in columns further down the hierarchical reporting line of these employees is shown. So in the very simple example (filled with totally randomly generated data!) – column A shows the employees email address and column B the direct boss. Column C would contain his boss’s boss and so on.

As outlined in the above picture the relationships between the bosses levels are non-descript. Meaning that boss “Jon Doe” can appear on the first boss level or on the third and so on. I.e. it’s not clear from the data how the hierarchy works in every case it is just given in these columns on an per employee basis.

Now the core of the problem would be: Imagine you would be given a list of 5 bosses. Now we need to develop a nice and efficient report on this spreadsheet data, which shows all employees reporting in any hierarchical way (i.e. through bosses in the middle) to these 5 bosses. How do we do that (again remember – each of these 5 bosses could show up anywhere in column B, C or D)?

Building Blocks of the Solution

  • First of all I’d like to mention once again: This is sample data (i.e. I went to a place called randomlists.com and generated data)
  • I inserted a real table into the Excel spreadsheet (this makes relative cell links more readable and so on)
  • In order to make later steps like the pivot step work nicely I’ve inserted an artificial name counter (a column filled with 1)

Key steps to build the solution:

  • Do a string addition of all the bosses (just add up the boss-strings to one bigger string)  (my formula: =[@BossLv1]&”,”&[@BossLv2]&”,”&[@BossLv3] )
  • Make sure you can search for the relevant bosses in the hierarchy. I did this with a kind of parameter and an if clause that marks the boss I’m looking for (again this may seem strange but it helps in one of the next steps when it comes to the pivot)  (my formula:   =IF(ISNUMBER(FIND($I$3;[@AddedString];1));”Analysis Found”;”no”)  )
    • Note that in the above you need to catch the number with ISNUMBER otherwise the find function doesn’t help if something is not found.
  • Insert a Pivot. Define the Row data to show the added string of bosses and the users that show up in these string-added-hierarchies. Set a parameter on top of it to only show the boss you’re looking for (AnalysisFound flag is the parameter). And Add up the counter field in the Value section of your pivot.
  • Voila that’s it: and if you now change your analysis boss and refresh the pivot it shows you exactly how many users are attached to a particular boss’s hierarchy

I’ve attached my sample:  Test-pivot01 :-)

spotted Figma February 6, 2018

Posted by Steven in The-Web.
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Very much in line with previous reporting and tipps (i.e. Tipps for UI design; and entrepreneur links) I found another cool tool.

Figma.

Figma is an online and online-collaborative design tool. As such it draws inspiration from inVision. It looks sleek and very minimalistic. Also check out their sleek and dynamic error page: 404.

Wonder workshop cue and learn to code with Blockly January 11, 2018

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Here is a little neat thing I picked up via this year’s CES.

Apparently there is a huge movement (which I’ve kind-of missed) which tries to make coding more accessible. That is a great idea. AI and robotics is everywhere and the skills we need to learn is how to make these technologies work and how to code for our new robot friends and so on.

So two things I read about yesterday: A neat toy which seems really great and really good for teaching kids how to code and a framework or kind-of graphical language which makes it easy to learn and understanding what a programming language is and how to make simple software.

Wonder Workshop cue

cue is the toy robot your kids may want. It is a neat little gadget which you can customize physically and via elaborate software. It can talk to you with several different personalities and you can play games with it as well as teach it new things to do. All the demos I’ve seen looked amazing.

I hope eventually toys like this – triggering coding skills – will become the new ‘Lego’ of our time. Allowing kids to experiment, get closer to coding skills and enabling them to build cool stuff.

https://www.makewonder.com/cue_the_cleverbot

Google Blockly

What is Blockly: in my own words – it is a Google project (open source) which gives you a framework for using visual blocks as a kind-of programming language. In other words it is an easy to learn and purely visual thing which let’s you code or understand code more easily. It is not easy to explain :-) but I would really encourage you to try out some Blockly things.

I started with Googles Blockly Games. A set of playful missions which you need to solve using Blockly “code”. It’s fun and really teaches you how ot use the Blockly blocks.

https://developers.google.com/blockly/

Free stock photo services (royalty free – free use license model) January 11, 2018

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I am involved in a couple of website projects at the moment. One thing I always tell my customers is: An excellent site needs excellent photos. And I usually recommend talking about the structure and goals of the website first and then directly sketch out where to get the media (i.e. collaborate with a photographer or studio).

In many cases or for smaller more experimental projects you may want to search or suggest good stock imagery.

If everything needs to be real fast then here is a list of services / providers which let you download photos for free (commercial) use. To be clear they all provide royalty free images with a nice flexible free (i.e. CC0) license.

  • Pixabay
    That was my original suggestion. A big site offering free photos under a flexible license. Search is decent but the selection can be generic and a bit out-dated at times. Nevertheless a good place to get started.
    https://pixabay.com/
  • Pexels
    This was fairly new for me. I discovered, that the new WordPress editor gives you a Pexel photo search right within the media dialogue. I jumped to their website and I must say it’s a good service. As far as I see it uses standard public domain CC0 license and provides a ton of free and up to date images (for example this sweet happy 2018 graphic).
    https://www.pexels.com/
  • Death to Stock
    This is an interesting one – I actually found out via a Wired article. It is basically a window to a more broad design community and service. How it works? You sign up and then you get a monthly link with 10 stock photos for download. The service tries to bundle images according to topics and tries to give artists a platform and also tries to draw in the customers to seek more images from these artists or get more involved in other services. The images are great, very modern, very unique and high quality in my view.
    https://deathtothestockphoto.com/
  • Pixelio
    This one seems a bit old school and maybe focusing on the German market. Nevertheless it’s a nice little database of good and slightly quirky individual images. It seems there are two licences around one editorial use and one editorial and commercial use.
    https://www.pixelio.de/

Link Collection Jan 2018 – Entrepreneurship January 11, 2018

Posted by Steven in The-Web.
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Entrepreneurship-E-v10I’ve just bumped into a great colleague and after we finished our work business we started discussing some entrepreneurial stuff. And I was really wowed by some of the details I’ve learned.

For example he tells me that you can now just open an American incorporated with a flat fee (kind of an all inclusive service to set up your internet business based in the U.S. – brought to us from the fabulous people of stripe). While I have not looked into the proposition and the processes in detail, I must say it sounds like a great idea. For entrepreneurs who just want to get started and work on their idea this sounds like a good and hassle free point to start.

Another input from our little chat – which I cannot stress enough – is how amazed are we about the ways modern little companies make things work. People are located all over the globe and using clever technologies and clever cloud based tools people are seamlessly working together. A couple of links from my notes below:

  • Proto.io a nice little Invision alternative i.e. a cloud based tool that lets you create user interfaces and wireframes. P.S. they have a cute blog as well.
    https://proto.io/
  • Stripe Atlas – that is this all inclusive “inc” service I’ve mentioned above. A nice little service from the makers of one of the internet’s favorite payment solutions (stripe).
    https://stripe.com/atlas
  • If people are really interested in opening their new company then people may be thinking.. well an American “inc” may be too much – and I want to support my local European crowd. So even for this line of thinking there may be a solution: E-Estonia: The electronic citizenship product of Estonia.
    https://e-estonia.com/
  • Then let’s shift gears a bit: Say you’ve successfully launched your company and you have a fabulous idea. Now it’s time to crack on – push down the gas pedal as my boss said. So you may want to hire experts / expert workers to help with your project. So here is an easy to use portal to hire freelance workers:
    https://www.upwork.com/
  • Even using such a platform may be too much work. Maybe you just want to talk about your thing and not deal with individual people & freelancers. So even for that our beloved internet built a solution: Yeeply. You tell them what you want and they take care who to hire when and so on.
    https://en.yeeply.com/
  • And if you would be in the engineering / development business of apps or digital solutions you may need a lot of developer tools. One interesting proposition is the startup Gradle.
    https://gradle.org/

Note: I’ve frequently written about services for entrepreneurs – i.e. see this post here.

Experimenting with WordPress child themes and overriding template-tags.php December 14, 2017

Posted by Steven in Software, The-Web.
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I recently realized a small project with WordPress. If I do get my hands dirty, the projects are really tiny so I usually resort to very simple platforms such as Squarespace, wix.com or indexhibit. Just anecdotally I believed WordPress has become to complex and the time vs. quality ratio of pulling together a good WordPress platform (with different plugins, template configurations and so on) is just not worth it. But as so many sites on the web are powered by WordPress I wanted to give it another shot.

I must say in current version 4.9.1 WordPress feels swift and powerful and also -in my view- the documentation improved and is now really easy to understand. So it was quite fun to set up the project.

Some things did not change: So either you fork $ for really complex and customizable themes or you start with a free theme and will eventually have to adapt it. Really any kind of intimate visual tweaks do require some jumps to the php / css code editor. I learned that my old copy paste approach is not the way to adapt themes. So I created a proper child theme. The procedure works fine but I must say.. again.. comparing it to Squarespace or the like: It is quite an intricate operation for something as simple as adapting an existing theme.

So I got basic custom styles and formats in and .. fast forward .. I needed to adapt some entry-meta-information. This resulted in the need to change php functions in:

template-tags.php

I used the good old child approach and simply tried to override the file in

<theme folder>/inc

But it turns out this approach does not override the functions loaded in the parents function tree. :-(

I googled and this forum post explains it very well:

https://wordpress.org/support/topic/customizing-inctemplate-functions-php-in-child-theme/

So the solution is to take great care in how the classes and functions are loading. And when you really step into this order of functions loading (pls. see the link above) than you can make it work and get your custom tags and stylings in.

Simple and Creative Wireframe inspirations December 6, 2017

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Here is a great blog post by inVision which showcases great wire-framing work:

https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/wireframe-examples/

of course the team promotes their own tool: freehand by invision.

Learn about the CMS used by media upstart Vox December 4, 2017

Posted by Steven in In-Media, The-Web.
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Here is an interesting write-up of the CMS “Chorus” an in house developed super tool for vox media.

https://pfauth.com/publishing-platforms/vox-medias-chorus/

Design Inspirations November Edition November 30, 2017

Posted by Steven in The-Web.
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Showcases and curated visual lists of front-end designs for inspiration purposes.

https://dribbble.com/Stugbear

https://medium.muz.li/ui-interactions-of-the-week-101-72fb2885d477

https://muz.li/join/

 

https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/introducing-design-systems-handbook/

 

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