Is Sandbox dead?

I had really hoped that Sandbox would see new life when ownership of the domain and it’s assets changed hands (see Scott Wallick’s post on offering plaintxt.org for sale).  The link to the posting on plaintxt.org no longer exists, apparently the new owner deleted the original post.

There hadn’t been any posts on plaintxt.org or sndbx.org in a long time.  There was a small amount of traffic in the Sandbox Forum but nothing substantial.  I really like the simplicity of the Sandbox theme and gone ahead and used it on a couple projects even though it hadn’t been updated in a while.  I figured with new ownership, it was bound to start again at some point.

Maybe I was wrong?  I don’t know.  I have been thinking of revisiting my Soccer theme since after using it for the CASL Ambassadors over the summer, I found a few minor issues with it.  As I thought about updating it I kept thinking I should switch to a framework actively being worked (e.g. the Carrington theme?).  So I went back and took a look at the PlainTxt blog and what do you know?  A post!  A minor security update was added to the Sandbox theme back in July.  Was development active again?  Poking around it appears that no, not really.  Scott Wallick had made the change not the new owner who ever that is.  Other than a couple comments asking the same questions I was pondering (has development started again?)( there wasn’t anything else.  Bummer.

Now what to do?  Continue?  Fork?  Pack up and move on?   Decisions, decisions …

Playing with wp LifeStream

I’ve got stuff spread all over the place and don’t have any one single location where I have everything collected in one spot.  Pictures on Flickr, nonsense on Facebook, posts on NCLTC or NCLUG, my Swim Team Plugin project … lots of stuff.

Recently I was listening to a WordPress podcast and heard a mention of a WordPress LifeStream plugin which sounded interesting.  Today I downloaded it and checked it out.  If does seem to allow setting up a whole slew of feeds into WordPress which is pretty much what I was looking for.  We’ll see how it goes.

Right now I have sticky post pinned to the top of this site – I suspect anything below it will be overshadowed although I don’t expect to post a lot to this site directly.  It is more of an attempt to aggregate all of the other stuff I do in one place.

WPMU – easier said than done …

Over the last couple of days I have been playing around with WordPress MU (aka WPMU), the multi-user, mult-blog version of WordPress.  It has been on my “to checkout” list for a while but I haven’t had a compelling reason to do so until now.

I was asked to help set up some blogs for a group of soccer teams that are traveling to Europe later this year after doing one for my daughter’s team (one of the teams).  This seemed like a good opportunity to try out WPMU since I’d also like to do it for my wp-SwimTeam plugin and make it available to swim teams as a hosted service.

Downloading and installing WPMU was pretty straight forward but getting it to work with sub-domain mode blogs turned out to be a challenge.  I have concluded that without the ability to edit the httpd.conf file, it isn’t possible to make it work.  I did manage to get the sub-directory mode working but that isn’t what I need for the soccer team project.

So for now, I am going to abandon WPMU and set up a series of regular WordPress blogs, one for each team.  I am also looking at wp-Hive to help with this.

Sandbox-Soccer Theme

Sandbox-SoccerOver the last two evenings I have created my first real theme.  I based on it on Sandbox and called it Sandbox-Soccer.  It is a three column theme with two sidebars on the right hand side.

My daughter is playing on a travel soccer team which is going to Sweden later this year and their coach would like to chronicle the team’s activities leading up to and including the trip and he asked me if I could set up a web site for them.  I used his requests as a compelling reason to get off my butt and design a theme.

Since I have little design expertise, I found some soccer related vector art on Wikimedia Commons and purchased some from iStockPhoto.  It is amazing how much art is available for free (Wikimedia Commons) and for a very reasonable price (iStockPhoto).

With my art in hand, I started working in Illustrator to come up with something I liked.  I had found the Watch Football Soccer WordPress theme a while back and I like the look and even downloaded and installed it.  However, like a lot of free themes, it  has some encrypted PHP code in the footer that does something.  I dug through some of it and it adds links to things I don’t want to link to but some of it I couldn’t get decrypted enough to figure out what it did.  Regardless, it was enough to concern me about using it so while I like the look, I didn’t like the implementation.

It turns out the artwork used in that theme is available from iStockPhoto.  There are also several other variations.  I like the silhouettes and found a collection of female soccer silhouettes (important for a girls team) created my own header graphic in a red/yellow/orange color scheme.

At this point it is usable but I will continue to tweak it too.  There are some CSS bugs still in it which I need to fix.  I also plan to do multiple color variations of it and have both male and female header graphics.  I’d like to set up the color and gender choices on a theme options page.

The demo is running on my Theme Demo page.  I will make a download available soon.

Multi-instance Widgets

There was a thread today on Wp-Hackers regarding multi-instance widgets.  While I don’t need this right now, I was curious because I expect to do something with widgets for my wp-SwimTeam plugin.  If and when I do, I want to make sure I don’t design myself into a corner.

The discussion referenced an interesting article which outlines how to develop a widget to ensure it will support multi-instances.

Dashboard Icons

This weekend I decided to start working on the Dashboard Menu.  WordPress 2.7 changes the Dashboard quite a bit and the way I had done the menus previously still worked but wasn’t very intuitive.  As familiar as I am with the plugin, I still found myself hunting for several of the items.

I used to have a top level Swim Team menu but had removed it because it didn’t play nicely with some of the Admin Menu plugins.  2.7 cleans up that problem (I think) and I have added the top level menu back in.  2.7 also supports adding a custom icon for top level menus.  I found a couple of SVG images on Wikimedia Commons that I will probably use with the plugin.

Right now I am using the diver as the icon for the plugin and it looks pretty good!

There is a pretty good write up on how to Top Level Menus and how to Add Icons to the Dashboard on WpEngineer.com.  I found one other explanation but this one is easier to follow.  I had posed a question on the Wp-Hackers mailing list about how big the icon should be but still don’t have an answer.

Back in the saddle

Last night I got my wp-SwimTeam development environment back up and running.  Since I last worked on the plugin I have gotten a new computer (Dell E4300) and changed how I was using VMware Workstation to manage the various things I am working on.

Because my computer actually belongs to my employer, I keep my hobby projects running under virtual machines (which I also use for a number of things at work which is why I have VMware).  I used to have a separate VM for each project but they tend to consume a lot of disk space so I have moved to using SnapShots (see page 189 of the VMware Workstation Users Guide) and they are really working well.

I had migrated all of my projects over to my new VM with various SnapShot configurations (PHP4, MySQL 4, PHP5, MySQL 5, etc.) with the exception of two – my wp-SwimTeam development and the MacDolphins web site development (which I still need to do).

Once I got it all moved I needed to figure out where I left off.  I still had a few files uncommitted so I simply committed them and started running the plugin through its paces.  I found a few issues right away (e.g. I removed the ability to add a new swimmer – oops) but that was quickly fixed.  Starting with an empty database turned out to a good idea as it exposed a couple mistakes, one of which I am still chasing – the roster isn’t showing everything it should and I am not sure why.

I fixed a few other odds and ends and now that WordPress 2.7 is released, I know for sure how the plugin behaves with the new Dashboard.  It isn’t too bad but I definitely will create a new top level menu with an icon.  This will almost certainly mean that 2.7 will be required to use the plugin.  The 2.7 Dashboard also changes the background on the #wrap DIV from white (#ffffff) to a very light grey (#f9f9f9).  To integrated the ActiveTab widget properly, this color change needs to be accounted for so I am opting to do it in the 2.7 color.

Swim Team season is just around the corner!

Before I know it swim team season will be here again and it has been a while since I worked on the plugin.  Uh-oh.  This fall has been busy, busy, busy with other stuff and I put the plugin development on the back burner for a while.

Since I last worked on the plugin, WordPress 2.7 has been released.  WordPress 2.7 is so much better than any of the prior releases, going forward I expect it will be a requirement to continue to use the plugin.  The Dashboard integration will be much more elegant if I require 2.7.

Look for some new updates in the very near future.

More WordPress 2.7 Impacts

I updated one of my development areas to the current bleeding edge version of WordPress 2.7 this morning to see how things look.  Everything with my plugin still seems to work just fine – if you can find it!

I am torn with the new menu structure in the Dashboard.  I like the icons and how much cleaner they are but at the same time, it isn’t obvious where the menus for my plugin should live.  I expect I will have to make a new top level menu and icon.  I am glad the plugin still works but am a little concerned about the way it will integrate with the new WordPress Dashboard UI.

Windows Live Writer

A while back I installed Windows Live Writer but then didn’t use it.  Yesterday I decided to give it a try, why it cropped back into my mind I am not sure, and I am very pleased with how easy it works.  While I like WordPress a lot, I find the Dashboard interface a nuisance when all I want to do is write a post.  It is fine for doing admin work but when all I want to do is post, having to wait for the Dashboard to load is annoying.

It is particularly bad on the Wp-SwimTeam site I have hosted on SourceForge.  For what ever reason, it takes a very looooong time for the Dashboard update services to time out (SourceForge doesn’t allow the remote connections) so it isn’t uncommon to have to wait a minute or so before being able to post.

I can really see the value of Windows Live Writer for a user like my wife who needs to post updates to our Swim Team web site but doesn’t need to be burdened with the WordPress Dashboard overhead.  Based on my initial testing, I like what I see.