Mobile content developers Mobile Pie wins the New Mobile Game Developer Award
Friday, November 30, 2007 3:23:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This has taken me a while to post but kudos to our mobile content development partners Mobile Pie who have managed to win the New Mobile Game Developer awards sponsored by Channel 4 and EA Mobile.
Read more about it here: Mobile Pie Wins 4Talent Mobile Game Award
Changeable headers using the media picker
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 6:26:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
A project we’re currently working on needs to have interchangeable header images. The theory is to set the header image on the parent page and then unless a template is specified for the page, it should use one of it’s ancestor’s.
Umbraco as a nice control called a “Media Picker” which I felt was perfect for the job as it meant you could easily share header images across the site and it also made sense from a user perspective to have a “Header Images” folder to choose from. The issue from my point of view was how to traverse up the tree until it found a header image to use. Imagine the following site map:
-Product details (Custom header image)
If you’re on the products/category page it should display the header image from Home but when you’re on the product details page it needs to show the specified header image.
So how do you do it? It turns out it’s (fairly) simple using XSLT. The first issue I ran into was getting the URL of the media file from the media picker control, Umbraco offers a useful function to do this for you (well almost!). Using the function umbraco.library:GetMedia you are able to get the details on the file based on the media item id but it includes everything so you then need to use a little XSLT to select the attribute “umbracoFile”:
umbraco.library:GetMedia([XSLT TO SELECT THE FIELD],'false')/data [@alias = 'umbracoFile']
That should give you something along the lines of “/imgs/somefolder/somefile.jpg”
Now how can you traverse up the tree to get the data? Thanks to Morten Bock/Casey Neehouse for helping me understand this XSLT, but the following code should give you the URL of the nearest media item in the tree:
Then add a macro to your project and you’re done :). You can see it in action on the new Lucy Switchgear website if you're interested, it's currently being written so it's bound to be a little rough around the edges but do let me know what you think. Our remit was to improve the CMS they had in place making it easier to manage the site and also sort out a few major issues from a SEO perspective. Although altering the design wasn’t part of the initial brief I think you’ll agree the facelift we’ve given the site is for the better (even if it’s just from a usability point of view).
Naming conventions for Umbraco
Monday, November 26, 2007 10:30:56 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Having only recently started to use Umbraco I've taken a couple of days to familiarise myself with the way it works and try and get a few best practices in place, I expect these will be updated over time but you've got to start somewhere ;)
As with any code, I think it's very important to follow a consistent naming convention -whether it's the same one everyone else follows or not, you need to be able to pickup code you wrote months/years/decades ago and still understand it. Your styles will no doubt change over the years but you get the idea.
I've chosen to follow the following "style":
- Document Types: Lowercase the first letter of the aliases followed by capitals for the new words (similar to Hungarian Notation). Use descriptive names i.e. Home Page for the document type as it'll be client facing. Suffix with "Page" if it is a page document type (as opposed to i.e. a screen shot)
- Templates: If the template is specifically for a document type, use the same name for the template, if it relates to multiple document types name it logically i.e. "Master Template" or "Left Menu"
- Macros: Prefix the macro alias with uppercase TSD to avoid conflicts with other macros. Prefix the name with [Source of the macro] i.e. [XSLT] or [User Control]. This is something I picked up from the sample package created by Warren Buckley that I think makes it easier to understand what's going on
- XSLT Files: Prefix the name with the site's abbreviation i.e. for www.thesitedoctor.co.uk it would be TSD or for www.wineandhampergifts.co.uk WAHG if it's a site specific XSLT file otherwise name conventionally i.e. CamelCase
Let us entertain you! Our new cinema room
Sunday, November 25, 2007 6:44:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Stacey's been wanting to decorate the house, when we did we swapped the two rooms around which seemed logical at the time, but when we did, even though it was only a 32" the TV took up most of the room and seeing as we didn't watch it that much it seemed to be a bit of a waste. After some discussion (and using my powers of negotiation) we came to the conclusion that having a projector really would be a good idea...
The main advantage of having a projector is it'll be up on the roof and the screen out of the way when we're not watching it saving a load of floor space. Knowing that they can be somewhat of a ball ache to get working so the brief was simple -it has to be as simple as using a TV.
A while ago I helped a mate buy a projector for his gaming system so with his help I started looking around at our options. We set a budget of £2,000 for the entire setup but I was adamant I would get a full HD projector, screen and something to play the videos.
I figured I'd need to spend something around £1,500 for the projector to get something half decent and after a fair amount of looking around settled on Epson's (then) new TW-1000 but that was nearly my entire budget so I got shopping some more. After a while I found a website called Price Japan which imports electronics from Japan for a small fee. I managed to get it imported for around £1,200 including all taxes etc. I'll write another post about buying from them but if you're thinking about buying electronics they're worth a look.
Gladiator Computers supplied the hardware (specs below) which is more powerful than my dev machine but still fits in the room as the case (a Antec Fusion Case Media Center Case) looks like a standard separate -though it's a little deeper).
The player and projector were sorted, all that's left now I thought was the screen. Not having a lot of space I followed the instructions and worked out that the biggest I should have the screen was 2.2m wide. It's actually quite difficult finding a screen that "small" but to make things easier for Stacey I wanted an electric screen -it would also make it a little cooler ;) Looking around I found they ranged from £100 to well over £1,000. In the end I found one from Germany that had received a number of good reviews so thought I'd give them a chance. As I saved a few quid importing the screen I was able to spend out on the MASL unit which makes the screen automatically drop when power goes to the projector (or other power consuming unit) -gadget-tastic!
The only thing I hadn't sorted was the mount, on testing the roof for joists I couldn't locate any where I wanted so I ended up going for a wall mountable projector mount by VivoMounts so I could fix it wherever I wanted. It came in a somewhat broken cardboard box but the build quality is excellent for the money.
It took a few weeks to source everything but last weekend I got it all up and running. I have to admit, I didn't think about it at the time but because of the position of the projector/media PC I had to buy a 10m HDMI cable. It wasn't an expensive one in comparison to some but boy is the quality impressive.
Luckily you can't really see the cables (though they're a little more obvious atm than I'd like) because they were wound and need a little time to stretch out, but I've lain them across the top of the picture rail. I've screwed the speakers onto the wall at the bottom of the screen and hidden the cables along the underside of the windowsill/door frame.
And that's there all to it! So what's it like? As I said, we don't watch a great deal of TV but watching HD films on it is awesome, even playing the Wii is a whole new experience. The thing I really like about it all is that Stacey can use it (it all runs using a remote control). The screen is pretty big admittedly but it's not too big for the room and when it's all turned off we've got the use of the entire room...
What I forgot to mention is that while this was all going on, I managed to talk Stacey into letting me get a bean bag. I'm not talking the sort you had when you were 10 (though I was winding her up that I was seriously tempted by Spiderman beanbag!). I've had my eye on the Fatboy bean bags for a while but then heard about an alternative to the Fatboy bean bags the Sumo Omni. It's unbelievably comfortable and is a great place to sit and write long blog posts ;). At under half the price forget the Fatboy bean bags and go for the Sumo Omni instead! I ordered it on the Sunday and it arrived on the Wednesday -from the states! Pretty impressive if you ask me...
Photos of our new home cinema
The gritty details of the system
Florame organic aromatherapy hits the press
Saturday, November 24, 2007 11:23:50 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Having one of the business owners work in PR can't be a too much of a bad thing for a company, especially not when you manage to get your name into Sunday Times. I'm not sure whether this is something they pushed for themselves or whether it was just the editor happened to come across it but I thought I should share :)
The response from getting into something like the Sunday Times is quite phenomenal, there was a very noticeable shift in the number of sales put through the website and searches performed so if you ever have the chance of a mention, jump at it!
Fasthosts fail to amaze again
Friday, November 23, 2007 9:22:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I don't know if any of my readers are familiar with Fasthosts' recent security problems that hit the press a couple of weeks ago but I couldn't help but laugh at a conversation I had with them the other day. Baring in mind they had a breach in their security which meant that all passwords had to be reset I was astonished to get this email about an FTP login issue.
Is it just me or is that a little nuts asking a user to send their username and password in clear text just after a major breach in security? I thought my response was very measured:
The office to end all offices
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 6:31:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Some of you have already heard about my miss fortune with the office flooding. It's thrown things up in the air somewhat at a time when I could really do without it.
The bonus however is that I get to have a nice new office fitted (hopefully on the insurance) but that's turning out to be a saga in itself. As with any large expenditure we've gone out and got a few quotes from companies such as Sharps, Neville Johnson and some other smaller companies to get an idea of costs etc. To say there is a wide range in the price is an understatement -they range from £1,000 to over £16,000! The office is only 9ft x 9ft which means it'd be £1,777 per square foot! How nuts is that!!
Anyway, I thought people might like to see what I'm thinking about having fitted atm.
Now that Stacey is soon going to be working with me we ideally I need to cram (and it is a matter of cramming) two people into the office space and I think the solution of having the two terminals sitting back to back but offset like this will work nicely. The other problem I have is the size of my screens, at the moment they measure 115cm wide and my old desk meant I was sitting too close to them and would end up with screen burn but this design should allow me to sit far enough away.
I'll probably remove it shortly but the program that I used to layout the room has a 3D export that you can checkout at: www.thesitedoctor.co.uk/office/
25% discount at Florame organic aromatherapy
Monday, November 19, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ahh Christmas is fast approaching again -and for once I've actually got a few presents (I usually buy them all on the 24th of December) -not that I can take any credit for that, it's all down to Stacey. Anyway I wanted to share this 25% discount for www.florame.co.uk with you all just in case you were in the market for organic aromatherapy gifts this Christmas :)
And if you're thinking about treating someone to a hamper full of luxury food and wine why not check out www.WineAndHamperGifts.co.uk. Oh and don't forget Miss Mays for some festive fun ;) haha, ok that's all the pimping I'm going to do this year.
Well perhaps not!
Yey 2007's first snow has fallen!
Sunday, November 18, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This is one for Cyan over at FreelanceSwitch more than anything else but I thought I'd share Birmingham's first snow with the world :)
Doesn't look like much there but it started this afternoon
Slowly but surely it fell over a few hours until there was this...
It's only November and it's snowing...
...I think it's going to be a cold one this year. That and the Russian swans are already over ;)
The morning after the day before
Saturday, November 17, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
So it's done :) Stacey's out, though it wasn't easy. Her boss made her explain her reasons for leaving to the Finance Director and basically justify herself for leaving.
After talking about it we think that's because there's more to this than they're letting on as it seems really odd she needs to justify leaving but that's not for discussion here :) so YEY the clocks ticking! We're waiting for a leaving date at the moment but be sure there'll be a ticker at the bottom of my blog soon!
Good on Stacey for sticking up for her cause! Now to tell the friends and family who'll be more than discouraging I'm sure.
Friday - crunch time
Friday, November 16, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
So today's Friday and saga of Stacey's rejected resignation is about to climax, I don't know about you but I'm excited ;)
Who thinks she'll cave in and accept their silly offer? And what'll that wizard be I wonder ;)
Tune in tomorrow for an update!
I don't think she'll cave in, I think she'll stick at it...
Amy Winehouse - the Birmingham gig
Thursday, November 15, 2007 10:53:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ever since Amy Winehouse hit the UK music scene Stacey, her father and I have been wanting to see her live because there's no doubt she'll be entertaining so when the opportunity to go see her just down the road from here came up there was no turning it down!
If you're like me and don't have enough time to follow the latest celebrity gossip headlines you'll not know that her husband has been jailed, I'm not entirely sure why still but I think it's got something to do with her beating someone up and then him trying to pay them off to drop the court case. Anyhow I digress.
I spent the entire week looking forward to the gig as we don't get to see many gigs (the last was a superb gig by Jack Johnson in the NEC) though despite my celebrity news ignorance even I knew the gig would be controversial as the first time I saw her on Jools Holland's show she was wasted out of her mind swaying on the stage and the second time she was just as wasted at Glastonbury but I wasn't expecting what we got.
After turning up 40minutes or so late for her performance she was clearly in pain. She started rushing through her set, from past sets I've seen her perform she tends to introduce her band before starting but that didn't happen and even her songs seemed to be rushed. Within two songs I had a feeling was wrong.
After 4 or 5 songs she stormed off stage without any explanation and we were left wondering whether that was it or not -a few people got up and left but after a while she came back on stage and started again but she was in tears though most of it. I can't say her words were overly legible and at times it sounded like a bag of cats.
It was one of those historic gigs that was awkward to be at but I'm glad I was even if it was just to see what everyone was going to talk about the next day. I really hope she sorts herself out (or as much as possible!) but I really disagree with her management who IMNSHO were out of order getting her up on stage.
If you ever get the chance to go see Amy Winehouse I really would because the band alone is worth seeing and her two dancers come backup singers are great. If you want to see photos of her gig you can check out my photo album of the gig here.
Day 2 - Did she or didn't she?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 11:12:11 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ok, so the attempt at drama failed! Believe it or not Stacey had the guts to do it, she handed in her resignation so it's only a matter of months/weeks before she's working with me full time right? Well we're not sure...
Turns out that when she handed in her letter of resignation her boss refused to accept it (being the diligent worker that she is I can completely understand that!) and instead he told her that he was going to put it in his drawer and not mention it to anyone to give her time to re-think and discuss it on Friday.
So the question is, will Stacey give in and chose the route of more money and/or less working hours over working with me? Well the suspense is killing me -probably more than you but I doubt she'll stay as she's already made up her mind and has started to get excited.
As far as the risk element goes -which is what I think would put her off- she's realised:
- There's enough work for her to do here
- If there isn't she can get another job
- She's chartered which means companies are screaming out for her skills so she can do agency work...
All good in my books but we'll have to wait until Friday to find out!
I can only imagine how the conversation went:
Stacey: "Please accept my resignation, here's a letter explaining why"
Boss: "No, sorry, I won't. Nope, no way, you can't"
Stacey: "Well I am, it's not you, it's me"
Boss: "Tell you what, lets hide this letter and pretend it wasn't written, I won't tell if you don't"
Stacey: "I'm still leaving"
Boss: "Tell me what you want that'll make you stay -more money? Fewer hours? Less work..."
Stacey: "Nothing, I'm leaving"
Boss: "Well, have a think, lets not rush into anything"
Stacey: "I've been thinking about it for months, I'm leaving"
Boss: "Lets discuss it on Friday, have a think about what you want/need and I'll sort it"
Stacey: "Fine whatever makes it easier for you. I'm still leaving"
TOP SECRET - Today's the day!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 9:49:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ok so today's quite an exciting -and pretty scary day. After a few months of speculating, Stacey has finally decided to hand in her notice and come and work with me full time. It's scary because although I know it'll make her much happier and drive the business forward but it also means that the business will now be the bread winner (main household earner) so there's no more time for messing around!
I think it'll be quite an interesting time both for us and for others worried about doing the same sort of thing so I'm going to try and keep a fairly up-to-date diary of the events, trials and tribulations here.
The main concern from Stacey's point of view is that as it's a web development business she can't add anything to it which I personally think is tosh as there is a lot of non-specialised work involved in running a business which she will be able to do and there are many paid aspects of our work that she can get involved with as well.
Anyway, here goes, lets just hope she remembers to hand in her notice ;)
A show of hands -why are you in business?
Monday, November 12, 2007 5:05:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As part of the company's branding overhaul, I'm currently reviewing The Site Doctor's business plan to make sure it still fits in with where I want the business to go and what I would like to achieve and Stacey (our latest and greatest employee yet) asked the simple question "Why are you doing it?".
It's a good question and one I wanted a witty but honest response from but I couldn't think much further than "To make money" and "To improve our lifestyle" -both of which are perfectly valid I know but I would have liked something like "To make the world a better place through a variety of events aimed at improving people's outlook on live", complete tosh of course but hey.
So why am I in business? Why did I setup The Site Doctor -other than because I felt it was my calling and a quicker way to a better life? It's certainly not the money otherwise I would have given up a long time ago and it's certainly not the social status being a web developer brings so why do I do it? Personally part of it for me I think is to prove people wrong, this isn't the main motivator and I realise may not be the best reason but a part of me wants to be able to show all those people that told me I was mad when I first started talking about it they were wrong and they're the silly ones for suggesting otherwise...
Are you in business yourself? I'd love to hear why you do it, why you get and work hard -often for little initial reward. What drives you?
Growing your business - Simon Farnsworth from Floors-2-Go
Friday, November 09, 2007 12:23:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Recently, I've had the opportunity to go to a couple of interesting talks on business courtesy of CIMA and every time I've jumped at the opportunity as you never know what nugget of information you may pick up.
Last week I went to a talk by Simon Farnsworth on how to grow a business -something I'm very interested in at the moment. Simon Farnsworth was the CEO of Floors-2-Go and helped the company grow from a small family run business (which I found out was started in the West Midlands) to a PLC and then finally to a management buy out in 2006.
The talk itself was interesting buy not quite what I was expecting (which seems to be the theme of many of these talks at the moment) as it focused mainly on his career since leaving school rather than how to grow a business but it was non-the-less interesting.
One thing that he said amazed him was the fact that many of the businesses he has got involved with didn't even have cash flow forecasts before he started. He said this to a room of chartered accountants, most of whom were aghast (as to was he) to hear this however I for one have rarely had an up-to-date cash flow forecast and in fact it's only been within the past 6 months that I even bothered working on one. Why do I not have a cash flow forecast I hear you ask? Well that's simple; time.
A cash flow forecast is something that as a sole trader you don't really worry about if you've got a good head for figures you should have a pretty clear idea of what's in, coming in, and going out so the sums are easy. Ok as you grow your business and have other employees working with you the going out part may be a little less under your control but you should still have a good idea of what's going on so the time required to keep an up-to-date cash flow forecast is better spent else where i.e. making sure the "coming in" part is growing as large as possible ;)
I can understand why an accountant finds it incredible that an SME doesn't have a cash flow forecast as it is something that's very useful and more importantly allows you to see how much money you can draw from the business. Perhaps it's something you should look at doing once a week or month alongside saving your tax ;)
One thing I felt sorry for Simon about though was how he talked about the business. Since the management buy out he has been removed from the position of CEO and told us about how he had been made to remove nearly the complete board of directors because when you remove a company from being a PLC you have to replace all the non-exec board members (another thing I didn't know). Simon has clearly put his life and sole into the business only to be thrown to the wayside without even so much as a thank you.
There were a number of amusing ditties however from the talk including how Floors-2-Go managed to acquire the renowned orange Ferrari that I've seen around a few times (these were taken at the cinema):
Or how he had an ASBO against him for littering the streets with all the Floors-2-Go balloons and leaflets.
Simon Farnsworth is now CEO of Amber Windows which I couldn't place at the time but I realised there is a big bill board just up the road from here with it on. He seems a nice chap and I hope he can move on from Floors-2-Go but I get the feeling that'll take some time.
Umbraco and Ghost/Cached/Deleted pages appearing in menu
Saturday, November 03, 2007 1:31:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm currently investigating a new Open Source ASP.Net CMS system called Umbraco. It looks very promising as it can be fully accessible and has full support for XHTML among many other interesting features. I met with a couple of the guys that are developing the system in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and they've got big plans so keep an eye on it.
Anyway yesterday while setting up the new The Site Doctor site on Umbraco I ran into an issue where by I had "broken" the menu. Basically I had deleted the template from the system which should have deleted all copies of the pages that use that template but instead a cache remained somewhere. I ran through a number of steps to re-create the cache but nothing worked.
If you run into the same issue as I did, follow these steps:
- Find out the ID of the page in question (easiest way is just to add the ID to the output of the menu XSLT)
- Search the database for the ID using the T-SQL I posted in "How to search every table and field in a SQL Server Database"
- Download and install a Unicode and UTF-8 search program such as Text Workbench and search for the ID (I only found it in /data/Umbraco.config)
- Reset the applications cache -the easiest way to do this is to simply re-upload the web.config file
That should sort it :)
How to search every table and field in a SQL Server Database
Friday, November 02, 2007 1:28:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Update: I have corrected the original issue with this script. Please see Search every table and field in a SQL Server Database Updated.
Today I had an issue with Umbraco and a copy of a deleted page appearing in the menu, I'll post how I fix it if I ever do find the answer but while trying to track the issue down I came across a really useful piece of T-SQL from Narayana Vyas Kondreddi (Vyas) that searches each table in a database and then each field in the table. I had to expand it to include integers etc but all credit to him! For reference here's a copy of the code: