Category: Programming

October 10, 2010

The wonder of open source software

by Nori — Categories: Programming, Wising upComments Off on The wonder of open source software

If you aren’t a geek, you probably don’t know there’s a world of software out there written by voluntary communities of programmers.  The open source software often works better with fewer problems than the software designed and programmed by paid programmers.  Part of this has to do with the collective mentality of the open source programming communities.  They work together without mandate to achieve perfection, a labor of love versus a labor for pay.

Companies like Microsoft produce their product aimed at the non-geeky mainstream consumer, but there’s a whole world of people out there who use an open source operating system (Linux), and many many more who, though using a Microsoft operating system, eschew the majority of  Microsoft’s other products.  They opt instead for open source software like Open Office and Mozilla Thunderbird.  I tell you this as an introduction to a piece of open source software I used this morning to change the partitions on my hard drive.

On my desktop computer I’ve been using the same system hard drive for quite a few years.  Just so you don’t think I’m trying to run everything off this little 36 gig drive, I also have a second newer and much larger drive on which I store my personal stuff and things I download from the net.

I had originally partitioned my 36 gig drive into a 17+gig partition for my windows system and the remainder in a partition for my client files. For years that worked great but I’ve been adding a lot of extra programming lately, things to help me manipulate and manage my growing digital library.  As a result, I ran out of room on my system drive and began installing some of the extra programs on my personal drive space.  Ack!  If I didn’t reorganize so I could keep all my little boxes tidy, I was going to go nuts.

If you’re marginally geeky you know that repartitioning usually means you have to reinstall everything.  Not so!  After a few unsuccessful endeavors using commercial software, enter GParted.

I bought my laptop used about 2 years ago.  Laptops usually come with a single drive with a single partition in which the user is supposed to stick everything.  I don’t use my laptop much, but I hate the single big drive.  I like having my stuff divided according to type/use.  I want my email on a separate drive/partition.  Same for my personal stuff and downloaded files.  I definitely want my client files on a separate drive.  On my desktop computer, that equals more than one drive and four or five partitions depending on how anal I choose to be.  While I don’t want that many partitions on the laptop, it’s definitely my ideal for my desktop.  I know I’m organizationally anal, but I find multiple partitions/drives less confusing.  I think there’s nothing worse than slogging through one big drive trying to find a single file or image.

Knowing I didn’t want to lose all my laptop stuff in my efforts to improve organization, I started looking for software that would let me repartition without losing everything.  I found GParted Live, an open source program that allows changing partition size without losing the data therein.   Wahoo!

This morning, using GParted, I moved my client files (second partition on system disk) to space on a second drive, deleted the partition and increased the size of my system partition to the full size of the drive without losing one byte of data or programming.  It took much less time than composing this post.  How brilliant is that?

Are you ready for a comparison between open source and commercial software?

When I first started this process on my desktop I thought I would clone my system partition onto a second drive and switch to that drive as my system drive.  I downloaded *free* HDClone from Miray only to discover HDClone Free would only do slow like to like cloning.  I bought HDClone Basic so I could clone the system partition to the drive.  This whole process proved to be a waste of time and money.  The company says it can/will clone, but the result proved not to be bootable. Given the dismal performance so far and the “hold hostage” mentality of the programers, this was $23+ down the drain.  I would waste no more money “upgrading” in the hopes the software would fulfill my very basic needs.

In comparison, GParted performed flawlessly.  I did more in less time with no $ expended using this open source software.  Miray’s software came with zero integrated help and each added feature you wanted to use cost extra (price difference between free, basic, standard, professional, enterprise).  In comparison, GDParted has copious help available and did everything it claimed just as seamlessly as advertised.  Go open source!

October 5, 2010

The hubris of programmers

by Nori — Categories: Government, Programming, Wising upComments Off on The hubris of programmers

It appears we aren’t yet ready for internet voting. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened an Internet-based voting system for a week-long test period only to shut it down a few days later.  Hackers were invited to take a whack at the security and some bright soul was able to “improve” the programming, having it play the University of Michigan’s fight song at the completion of voting.  Oops.

Maybe Washington should consider open source programming to problem solve.

May 10, 2009

Xampp the brilliant

by Nori — Categories: ProgrammingComments Off on Xampp the brilliant

As I’m a bit geeky I try a lot of different software, pretty much whatever interests me. In researching an unrelated problem I ran into Xampp and had to give it a try. It’s brilliant. Okay, it’s brilliant for geeks like me who have a tendency to laziness. Let me explain.

Because I program, I’m always writing something that needs tested. Often it involves database access and more than one program that normally could not be tested on my local machine. Testing scrips locally on my modest Windows desktop is doable, but getting all the necessary software installed and working together is a true nightmare, the kind with big fanged winged creatures hunting for blood and definitely not for the faint of heart. Because I rebuild my machine about once a year, and because I’m basically lazy, I did the setup and got it working semi-properly once. Apparently that was enough for me and I never attempted it again. Ya just gotta love Microsoft .

So along comes Xampp. In the time it took to download, unzip and install Xampp I had a working local server with php and MySQL. Less than 15 minutes. No kidding! It took longer to compose this post than it took to get Xampp up and running. No fighting with Microsoft install software and procedures, no arduous steps to get the Microsoft IIS server running, no individually installing php and mysql, no fighting with IIS to get these services talking to each other and running on the IIS server. Download, unzip, run the install file and it’s done. Voila!

Apparently someone more ambitious and geeky than I saw the same shark infested waters and wrote an installer to handle the Microsoft server integration problem. Now local testing is a snap. Even someone ungeeky could benefit from Xampp.

I don’t know if this is an “all things come to she who waits” or just serendipitous fortune. Whichever, picture me smiling.

May 7, 2009


by Nori — Categories: ProgrammingComments Off on WordPress

I don’t know if you noticed, but this site uses WordPress.  If you look at the bottom of the site you’ll see credits for who produced this theme.  I’ve tweaked it a bit, reordered stuff, changed colors and images and added a Adsense Google bar, but it is essentially the template as it was written.  I have two other personal sites that use WordPress.  One template has not been changed at all, the other has had extensive modification as the theme is an old one, originally written for WP1.5.   It had to be rewritten for WP 2.7.  You can tell I’m not totally new to WordPress themes modification.

Now I am working on another personal site using the WordPress engine and I’ve got to tell you, wanting something different exacts a price. I have been fighting the WordPress theme thing for four days.  Because I want a website with pages to which can be added comments, I haven’t had a lot of joy.  I’ve looked at innumerable tutorials on wordpress.  I have now determined the wordpress tutorials and online manual at suck.  I don’t mean breezy disorder-your-hair-a-bit suck, I’m talking tornado, lift-the-house-completely-off-the-foundation-and-move-it-to-the-next-county suck.  Their tutorial pages have horrendous navigation and seem to be geared toward people who already know everything there is to know about WordPress or who learn best through non-linear instruction.

Lest you think all in WordPress Land is lost, take heart.  I’ve since learned there are big changes in store for version 2.8.  Yahoo!  Unfortunately, the world keeps turning and I can’t sit here stagnant waiting for 2.8 to arrive.

So here are my thought after four days of intense frustration.

If you want a site that is abnormal, build the page templates you need in HTML.  Give the files a php extension, then start adding the WordPress entities.  If you need different menus  on the different pages, build the menus and include them in the pages.

Then go hunting for the plugins you need to flesh out your templates.

With this latest attempt I may have to write a php utility that will read the content file and pull the images out and place their thumbnails in a sidebar with lightbox links to the enlarged image in the article.

What I have to do is stop thinking in themes.  I’m not going to be writing themes for public consumption, so why am I wracking my brain?  I want a simple site that does a fairly simple thing.  I should think like the php programmer I am and stop worrying about WordPress themes.

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