Archive for November, 2007

30
Nov

Slow progress

   Posted by: Mark    in Tech

I worked for a bit tonight on the blog, attempting to understand how the templates all fit together in Movable Type. My biggest stumbling block was that the templates in a default installation of Movable Type 4 completely ignore Widgets. I started tonight moving things around so that the templates can use Widget Sets while still maintaining the use of the variable switches at the top of each template.

For users of Movable Type, the obvious and immediate advantage to this is a graphical interface for moving content around on your pages via the Widget Manager. I still have not found any drawbacks, and am puzzled at SixApart’s decision to not take advantage of this.

Another accomplishment tonight involved the addition of a dynamic “latest images” from our Flickr feed, now displayed to the right on the main page. This involved both phpFlickr and help from Jesse. There is nothing fancy in this implementation, but one of the nice things is that the feed is set up as a Widget, and contains only six lines of functional code (plus five for variable declarations)! Jesse mentioned plans to outline his excellent implementation on Movable Tweak, and I do not want to steal his thunder (as if our readership looks at all alike). Once I figure some more things out in the templates, improve the Flickr integration on this site, and glean from Jesse’s upcoming post, I will post some details of how I put things together.

19
Nov

Houdini Starving Artist

   Posted by: Mark    in Tech

A year ago I spent countless hours in Houdini’s incredible Apprentice edition, learning the interface, concepts, and terminology. It was much different from the old RayDream 3D I had purchased years ago: RayDream was at best a toy and Houdini is a world-class studio-level application (thing Harry Potter, Spiderman 3, Meet the Robinsons, The Last Mimzy, Superman Returns, etc.), and Houdini handles objects and concepts completely differently than most 3D applications, using node-based hierarchies. Houdini was refreshing and a pleasure to work with, but I eventually abandoned it because I knew I could not afford or justify the full version of the program if I decided to move up from the watermarked Apprentice version.

Well I received an email today from Side Effects Software announcing the release of Houdini’s “Starving Artist” edition. Side Effects has taken their astounding Houdini application, pulled out the ability to render to 3rd-party renderers (you can still render to the excellent native Mantra renderer), and set a price of $99. Unbelievable.

Thank you, Side Effects!

3
Nov

Lite dinner

   Posted by: Mark    in General

My sister has this thing she does with her family on a rather regular basis that involves a dinner of popcorn. Yeah, that’s it, just popcorn. We do a similar dinner occasionally with popcorn and smoothies. And we make some of the best smoothies on the planet, since my parents got us a VitaMix many years ago. Oster and crowd can’t touch the VitaMix (though this guy may be able to). Our basic smoothies consist of a banana, an apple, an orange, some frozen fruit, a few scoops of plain or vanilla yogurt, and some ice. That’s it!

During the summers this is a great dinner, since the popcorn is light and the smoothies are cold and refreshing. But we have a rather significant problem, which was evidenced tonight in all its glory. We snack while we make the smoothies. So dinner tonight was not really just smoothies and popcorn. There were some fresh snap peas with ranch dressing. And some tortilla chips with ranch dressing. And a little of this and a little of that.

So this relatively healthy dinner turns into something worse than Beer Barrel Burger and a side of pork rinds.

But it sure is fun!

3
Nov

What’s the point of the MT Asset Manager?

   Posted by: Mark    in Tech

I have been installing the beta releases of Movable Type 4.x, and recently installed the final release of this great update to the Movable Type platform. The new interface is very clean, and easy to use once you have worked in it a little. The updated templates seem to be very usable and modularized, making customization easier than in previous versions. And there certainly are a lot of great features.

Today I finally took some time today to work in the system and see what I could learn. I got the Media Manager plugin working (in beta from Byrne), which was a nice accomplishment. (On a side note, this is a great foundation for some powerful integration with external systems, but seems to be lacking in “integratability,” probably because of the limitations mentioned next.) In the process of this I got to play a bit with the new Asset Manager. I added and removed Amazon and Flickr content, looked at the code, read a bit, edited some code, and really tried to bang on it for a little while.

I am still very much a newbie at it all, but I came away wondering what is the point of this super-special, sparky-new Asset Manager? Yeah, it does allow you to “Create a Flickr” asset, but for what purpose? It is a very handy file manager, but nothing more. You can’t add that asset to a post after creation (can you?). You can’t edit it. You can’t move it. You can’t to anything with it except view it.

I am hoping I am just missing some very basic information, and once I get that info, it will all snap into place in my head. I anxiously await insight from Jesse, since he is certainly the foremost non-Six Apart Movable Type guru on the planet. Well, maybe second, behind Arvind.

3
Nov

Relaxing, enjoyable evening

   Posted by: Mark    in General

This past Thursday we arranged for a babysitter and enjoyed an evening with Paul and Suzette. We joined them for dinner at the Fish Grotto in Portland, which is an intimate little restaurant that seats about 40 people. Our server was friendly and diligent, and the food was delicious. Tami and I have not been going out much lately, with her going to be early and not feeling well all the time, so this was not only a chance for us to invest some time together, but it was also a wonderful chance to invest some very enjoyable time with Paul and Suzette.

After dinner we decided to walk the cold, windy streets of Portland in search of a coffee shop. Finding an open one after 7:00p can be difficult in that part of town, so we wandered into the Wild Oats to see if they had some coffee. They were busy and in the middle of some dinner promotion, and it was too busy to find a place to sit and enjoy a cup, but on our way out to continue our search we ran into Matt and Sara and the boys! They had eaten just up the street from us, and were getting ready to find a coffee shop themselves. So our eight-strong party headed a few blocks away to a Starbuck’s we thought might be open. Indeed they were open, and we sat in the noisy warmth of the ubiquitous roasters, enjoying fellowship, pumpkin lattes, and sweets.

It was refreshing being able to talk to a couple of other guys for longer than the few minutes before and after church services, and humbling to hear that some of the struggles and dreams I have are not uncommon. Matt and Paul and good men, and two I greatly respect.