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We have just finished a new web shop for Goodwood Antiques at goodwoodantiques.co.uk. The shop features a Joomla CMS front-end using a traditional template from Joomlashack. The on-line shop is provided using the well-respected & integrated Joomla shopping cart Virtuemart. Goodwood Antiques has a unique product range of champagne and wine racks.
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New website created - Savoy Singers of Camberley PDF Print
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We have just created a new website for the Savoy Singers, an operatic
society in Camberley operating at the Camberley Theatre. The new website
is an information portal providing rehearsal, membership and show
information for society members and public visitors alike. The site has
been built using Joomla CMS technology and the assistance of the Savoy
Singers has been indispensable in getting the site up and running in
pretty quick time. The new site is live now at
http://www.savoysingers.co.uksavoy-medium-450.jpg . Please feel free to visit.


Last Updated ( Friday, 16 September 2011 )
 
Downloads off line for a day or two PDF Print
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truecrypt.pngThe downloads were offline for a couple of days, apologies for this. I
was trying to integrate Walter Cedric's SecurityImages component with
JDownloads by modifying the final download so that it uses a form rather
than a link. SecurityImages successfully displays a captcha but it does
not yet validate correctly so it is just there for eye candy at the
moment. It will work soon, I just have to take a break from it for the
moment as it took me quite awhile to get it thus far... this programming
lark does take a lot of time.


Last Updated ( Friday, 16 September 2011 )
 
steampunk icons available for download PDF Print
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Here are a set of steampunk icons I've created for use in a software
application called Rocketdock, Many of these are just work in progress
so excuse any that are incomplete. Feel free to download. Each PNG image
will be made into an icon shortly and will be made available on the
download page.




FTP - This one looks much better when it is a small icon




Shutdown
(If anyone wants to know how to create the guttering flame then just see
here:

Web HTML Editor (in my case frontpage, could be dreamweaver or similar)



Thumbwin / Minimize - application to thumbnail your apps on the desktop


Explorer or in my case I use File Explorer2 as one of the Explorer alternatives.



realplayer recorder/player/ripper (winamp or similar)


The same without the recorder for a program manager (Stack Docklet)


More on the same theme - VLC or other player


Netscape Navigator?


Control panel


This is the icon I use for the 'evil' MS File explorer, it could be used
for anything Microsoft, Windowes (sic) update or possibly Outlook?


Editor (could be notepad, in my case I use the Context editor)


Diary /Journal (Lotus Organiser)


Firewall (Sygate)


Photoshop - Not happy with this one, I use the one below,


Much happier with the camera above...


Opera - the web browser



Difference Engine no.2 - I'm not sure what you could use this for...


I use this padlock as the icon for Truecrypt


Firefox (poor, poor thing) - I now use this for the sandboxed version of
firefox using sandboxIE.


File Manager (in my case FreeCommander and/or Explorer2)


Internet Explorer


File Explorer ... Doh!


Word Processor, Word, Open Office


Skype



Task Manager


? - you've seen this before but it could be used for something...just
added a glass cover to the gauge


another under construction, it is actually the dial from the candlestick
phone above


Web browser, the world wide spider spinning the world wide web


Recycle bin (still working on this one)


Control Panel or something. I use it for opening the Computer
Administration window thusly:

Target: %SystemRoot%\system32\compmgmt.msc
Start in:%HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%
Arguments: /s


Email, on her majesty's service


Yahoo widgets startup


Anti-virus tool



Anti-virus tool


 

I am using this one as a replacement for the start button - the image
is not particular indicative of its function but what can you replace a
start button with if not another start button, so I've gone for something
more ethereal. It calls a useful start menu replacement called Jetstart.

I'm working on using this zodiacal image for something else too, forgive
the fact that it is rough at the edges. I'm sure someone can find another
use for it. I really like this one and in fact I am working on turning it into
a widget.

 


Typewriter with screen -more dieselpunk this one, I use it as the icon
for the program 'console', this provides a transparent 'DOS' window for
performing command line tasks that is almost infinitely better than the
Windows DOS box.



Basically take your pick... each getting slightly more steampunk


 


A nice one for your wireless, this one looks much better when shown as an icon.

Goodsync or similar backup/synchronisation tool

 

martian-photo-179.png

martian-photo-179.png

 

They are all transparent PNGs images that Rocketdock can easily use.
Just right click/save as and copy them into your Rocketdock icons
folder. Rocketdock will handle the sizing automatically. When I am
complete I will save them as multi-size icons that can be used anywhere.

It is really nice to have a set of your own unique icons. I hope you
find them useful.

Last Updated ( Friday, 14 October 2011 )
 
Why choose Joomla as your CMS? PDF Print
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You need to do a lot of research before you can get your head round what
is the right option, in reality there is plenty to learn regardless of
the CMS package you choose.

Joomla is a CMS and therefore has strengths on content delivery and theming.

It can be made to look however you like but bear in mind that by
customising it too much to look like a non-CMS site you can be losing
the benfits of having a content based system.

If you are going to be building a new site then it is best to take a
visual lead from an existing site then make it fit the Joomla model, not
the other way round.

Joomla is the right choice if you decide to go for it. It won't ever be
the wrong choice as you will learn how to create, maintain and optimise
a CMS site. There are better CMS for particular needs, Drupal is better
for content categorisation, ACLs and is more scaleable and as such may
be better suited for big news sites (similar to BBC news). Sharepoint is
better for intranets and project organisation. There are others that
have strengths in particular areas. People will sing the praises of
their own preferred CMS but that comes down to largely the fact that
they started on that one first.

CMS are like cars, they all have four wheels, can be steered, some go
faster than others. Joomla is good because it is open source and also
because it has a massive thriving community, ie. anyone can fix it and
you don't need to keep going back to a main dealer.

Joomla is right for you if you want to be able to make the site
look good, if you want ease of update and plenty of extensions to give
you comments, reviews, forums, SEF friendly pages &c.

Those are some of the pros. Joomla has one significant reason against
choosing it as a solution and that it the upgrade path. Joomla, so far, has
shown that there is no upgrade path from one major version to another.
Each major version is a migration which can mean a site rebuild from
scratch, also the structure tends to change in some major respect so
all your old extensions stop working on the new version. This can lock
you into an old version. Personally I think this is a significant reason for
not choosing Joomla if you want a website that will need minimal work
in the future choose something else. Taking on Joomla basically means
a new site every three or so years

Having said this, all the other competitor CMS may have a similar policy
towards upgrades, the thing to look for here is backward compatibility.

 
Creating a flame effect in Photoshop without Transform > Warp PDF Print
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A quick tutorial for creating a flame effect in Photoshop ver 8.0 CS.

I have seen many tutorials that use the transform > warp effect to create a flame from a pattern. Unfortunately the warp effect is not available in Photoshop ver 8.0 CS. Follow this set of actions to end up with a realistic 'guttering' candle flame without requiring the warp effect:

1. .Select the custom shape tool and make a spikey flower shape, 200 x 200, fill it with red, as below.


 

2. Using the layer blend, give it an outer glow spread of 25px and an inner glow of bright yellow, size 50px, so there is just a hint of red left. Select a gaussian contour, range 50%, as below.



 

3. Use Filter > Distort > Ripple 600%, as below.



4. Extend the canvas to 500px in height from the bottom to allow all the flame to be visible, as below.



5. Apply Filter > Stylize > Wind 700% - storm, as below.



6. Then rotate CCW 90 degrees so the spread is vertical, as below.



7. Then stretch the flame by dragging the image upwards, as below.



8. Use the Edit > Transform > Distort to stretch the flame vertically and pulling the bottom in making a rough triangle shape with the point at the bottom, as below.



9. Apply a Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur, as below.

10. Select an area just above the candle wick point apply filter - render - lensflare 105mm prime 60%. It is not really visible on the image below but it is there.




11. Crop around the flame ensuring you do not cut off any of the guttering flame.



12. shrink and size to fit the candle image of your choice, as below.


 

13. The 'guttering' candle as shown to better effect on a dark background.

That's it, I hope you found this useful.

 
Running Windows without explorer.exe PDF Print
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Or running Windows whilst using as little of the windows shell as possible.

I've been trying to minimise Windows for years, and I don't mean the
little application windows but the windows operating system shell.

I want a lot of what the windows operating system offers but without all
the pain and all the junk that Microsots gives us. One of the biggest
pains for me has always been the Windows file explorer, explorer.exe.

It isn't the file explorer functionality that I dislike, in fact I quite like it. It
is the total integration of explorer.exe into the operating system as part of the
command shell. The Windows shell is a piece of software that provides the
interface to the operating system, ie. the taskbar, the desktop, file explorer
and the start menu.

So why don't I like the Windows shell? Two main reasons spring to mind.
The first is  is personal preference and the second is technical.

When XP was shipped it came with a look and feel  (luna) that I can only
describe it as "windows for teletubbies". As well as being a waste of resources
it somehow manages to be condescending in graphical form in a way that only
corporations can be. It has ended up imposing a corporately-neutral GUI on
all desktops throughout the world. Windows theme-ing is not its strong point
and the O/S does not allow easy transfer of functions to another method or skin.
The end result is that most windows XP desktops are the default luna theme
and most vista boxes use the aero skin. Boring, boring, boring. If you are going
to waste resources with a GUI then at least make it interesting.

The technical reason is the most pressing, there are faults built into explorer.exe
that can make your system inaccessible. For example, when you
have a file on the desktop that is too big it can cause explorer to
consume 100% cpu. When you use explorer to open a CD or device that is
faulty or unwritten it can lock up the whole GUI.

Killing explorer.exe can be a regular task and a chore.

I have resorted to alternative file explorers like Freecommander or Explorer2
Neither are as good as the in-built windows file explorer with regard to
functionality but they have the significant benefit of not causing the 
the whole o/s to lock up when it has a 'wobble'. These file managers can be
deleted easily enough when they go 'rogue' and there is no further impact.
When you kill explorer.exe you lose the desktop, taskbar, start menu and then
you are stuck. 

So, what is my solution? Well, I have previously installed
RocketDock as a replacement taskbar along with a suite of customised
icons. This gives me the ability to initiate my processes without using
the windows taskbar.

I also have the yahoo widget engine which runs without needing explorer.exe,
giving me access to a whole raft of operating system tools for showing the
date/time, cpu temperature and usage &c &c.

I use the Microsoft coolswitch task switcher allowing me to alt+tab between
processes with an image of each process. All these apps give me functionality
over and above what windows explorer provides.

I had installed these tools to enhance the windows GUI, to provide a customised
look and feel to the O/S but there was a unexpected and positive side effect.

Something happened while I was using my laptop, explorer.exe had another
wobble and hung - again - and it using 100% cpu and was locking up the whole
GUI. I could do nothing. I typed a CTRL+ALT+DEL and up popped the task
manager and I killed it just before it overheated my laptop.

Just before I restarted it I realised that with all these tools running I might not
need explorer.exe anymore. I tried running all my apps from RocketDock
and the whole shebang worked. The realisation came, I don't need it, I can
run without explorer.exe executing, I do not need the explorer shell. Many
people know this already but it is a realisation that I had not quite been
willing to accept or try.

My desktop is now far more like the Mac desktop, clean and tidy and free
of windows clutter. It seems more reliable and it works, so I am going
to give it a go for a while. I will even kill explorer.exe the next time
the laptop starts and see how it goes then too. I may even do some
research on running an alternative shell...

Limitations, the desktop is gone but the wall paper is still there, the
side effect is that it leaves a clean desktop. The windows key does not
work, meaning you can't minimise to the desktop as easily. Ctrl/esc does
not fire up the menu bar. I am working on getting the system tray
working. That's all I have encountered at the moment and I aim to have
workarounds in place for most if not all.

mmsblog_00128_01.png

Last Updated ( Sunday, 11 September 2011 )
 
phopteron facelift to the colour picker widget PDF Print
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I've just given a steampunk facelift to the colour picker widget from
Merlin ('arry Whitfield). Harry has created loads of gorgeously
efficient Yahoo widgets that range from enigma decoding machines to
resistor calculators. Harry's widgets are always fascinating, well-coded
and do the job, however none of them are quite steampunk enough for me!
So, I have taken on the challenge of steampunkifying one of Harry's
widgets, the colour picker widget. This widget is a simple interface to
the standard colour picker as provided by Windows or the Mac OS. A
single click on the colour ball causes the colour picker to appear. When
you have chosen the colour to use, the widget displays the hexadecimal
value of the colour so that you can copy/paste that value into your
website development IDE or other tool.

I have added a phopteron-style brass wrap to the colour ball and have
added a brass pop out to display the hexadecimal values. It is as simple
as that.

I hope to have the widget working soon and as a demonstration here is a
small piccie.

mmsblog_00127_01.png
Last Updated ( Sunday, 11 September 2011 )
 
Jdownloads really needs captcha PDF Print
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Jdownloads really needs captcha, in the last few weeks my download page
has been hit by bots that are downloading every one of my 100+
downloads. I have disabled the ability to download all simultaneously
(no checkboxes) each download occurs within a very short space of time
of the previous and all from, the same IP address. This happens
regularly and I have to ban the IP addresses because the bots return in
a week or two. My bandwidth is being used up by these bots.

I do not have registration enabled on my site for downloaders as the
registration function is dedicated to another function. Turning on
registration for downloads is not an option for me.

I have tried to implemement Cedric Walter's security images and although
I can get the captcha code to show it has to work with a form.
Unfortunately Jdownloads provides a link but not via a form which
defeats the captcha.

Jdownloads needs the ability to integrate captcha tools or at the very
least some modifications to allow 3rd party developers to implement
their own captcha. The developer Arno made the suggestion that I
use a list of blocked ip addresses but this is not so helpful as I have a
list of blocked IP addresses already. The trouble is that the bots are
hitting me from various ip addresses and are disguising themselves by
changing their ip address ranges. Also, I can only take the action after
the event, as they have already hit my site and I have already incurred
the bandwidth penalty. I am constantly updating the bot list which is a pain.

I have Cedric Walter's security images up and running and it displays
the captcha on the download page. The trouble is that the download page
does not use a form and so the captcha cannot intercept the form and
interact with it. You can see it partially working here:

http://lightquick.co.uk/downloads/steampunk-cpu-gpu-temperature-monitor-yahoo-widget.html

The captcha displays but does not interact with the download link. I
think it is time for jdownload to have a decent captcha facility, or a
change to allow 3rd party captchas to integrate with it. Perhaps the
download link could take the downloader to an additional simple
confirmation form that the 3rd party captcha could work with? This
means the developer would have minimal changes to do, just the
addition of a form.


{mmsimg mmsblog_00082_01.jpg test-captcha.jpg}
 
steampunk thermometer goes 3D PDF Print
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I am just commissioning a 3D version of the steampunk thermometer using some of the 3D tools, such as Autocad and 3DMax. Initially I was not sure how it would work out but it has turned out a treat! I thought that if it was only half-way successful I'd post an image of it here - but I am so happy I have posted the lot.

Here it is, on the way to being the finished article and in various stages of completion.

 

The thermometers were designed by me using a Photoshop 2D design. An un-named 3D designer  known under the sobriquet of "Faintly Macabre" took the 2D design and extracted the third dimension from it. Still a work in progress but it really looks the part.


 
Is it time to upgrade to joomla 1.6? PDF Print
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I don't think it is ever really time to upgrade. It all depends upon the
situation. If you have a heavily customised site that is built on J1.0
that works really well, is on a secure server, well backed up and does
the job, what's the point? There are many 000s of J1.0 sites out there
and joomla 1.0 has been forked by others and is till supported by them.

Joomla 1.5 was definitely slower than J1.0 in real use, even with
cacheing enabled, and the justification to the client to upgrade was
never really apparent. Joomla 1.6 has some good features like the nested
categories but still not enough to make my clients take the leap. They
are the ones who need to pay for the work.

For your own site then it is a good idea to move to J1.6 if it is not
heavily customised, if all the extensions are available and all your
URLs can be replicated exactly and you can spare the time. Note that I
said "move to Joomla 1.6" and not upgrade.

The move from J1.0 to j1.5 was a migration and a pretty big one. Bear in
mind my clients had 2-3 J1.0 sites each, each might take quite a few
days to migrate, it was often deemed easier to create the site from
scratch. Lets make it clear - that is a new site that the client has to
pay for or you absorb the time and do it for free.

J1.5 to J1.6 is another migration...not an upgrade.

When I first decided upon Joomla 1.0 as my platform of choice I wish I
had known that the devs were going to break the upgrade process and
create a new CMS instead of upgrading the old in steps. I like joomla, I
don't love it. The pain that is encountered during migration means that
many if not most of my client's sites remain in the main version of
Joomla that they were created in. If I had known this I might have
chosen a different tool from the outset.

I have since created Joomla 1.5 sites as a lot of good extensions work
with it and I can create a fully featured website. I was hoping that the
'upgrade' process would settle down but it hasn't and those sites may be
left in the same state. I am not planning to migrate to J1.6 for a long
while. All my new sites will be in Joomla 1.5 (known technology already
built, tried and tested). I will move to J1.6 when the majority of
extensions are available and support for J1.5 and the extensions becomes
patchy.

I think the upgrade strategy for Joomla is a mistake. There should be no
migrations just upgrades, full backward compatibility should be
maintained, improvements should be made available in small bites, and
the migration tools should be part and parcel of the upgrade. By all
means add functionality, new tables and such like but don't break the
old or give them a workaround. This is evolutionary and I think it is
preferable and justifiable to clients.

Anyhow that's the end of my rant. It's done and dusted now so what I
said is largely irrelevant. It is just nice to get it off my chest.

However, for the future I suggest that you could wait until the next
full stable major release of Joomla (which has been mooted as one that
will not be subject to any future major upheavals requiring further
migrations). But who knows though?

 
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