Teaching & Learning Centre website now powered by Drupal

We just launched the new website for the Teaching & Learning Centre at The University of Calgary. It’s been a long time in the making, with heavy use of themes, custom CCK content types, events, signups, views, and a bunch of other Drupal modules and tricks. King worked his usual magic in putting together the CSS for our theme, which uses the same HTML templates as the official www.ucalgary.ca site.

The new site should make it much easier for us to keep content up to date. We’re also planning some potentially cool community features for down the road a bit, once the dust starts to settle after The Big Website Launch.

Also, it’s currently running on our aging PowerMac Quicksilver dual 1GHz G4 server, so is a bit slower than it should be. We’ll be moving it to a shiny new-ish XServe ASAP.

TLC Website in DrupalTLC Website in Drupal

Second Life Kernel Panics

I’ve been trying to log into the SecondLife presentations (starting with the big NMC Impact of Digital Media Symposium, and then wanting to follow up on some of the blog posts about it).

But, SecondLife keeps throwing my Quad G5 into a kernel panic whenever I launch it. Or, rather, I can launch it, but if I log in, and try to enter SL, it chokes on the caching process, and locks up my system something fierce. Then it drops into the Grey Screen of Death. Oops. Reboot the machine, wait 30 minutes for it to check the drives and files, and try again. Same thing. Doh. I might have to install SL on a spare machine in the lab to try it out…

Trying out Drupal 5

I just grabbed the latest CVS build of Drupal 5, to poke around and see what’s new. I’m really surprised and impressed at how far it’s come. Here are the big changes I’ve seen in about half an hour of playing with a new test site:

  • New theme. Garland feels much more modern than Bluemarine. Nicely done.
  • Revamped admin interface. It’s been reorganized by task and by module, making it easier to find where to modify a given setting. Much of the time spent administering a Drupal 4.7 site is wasted poking around the admin screens to find where a bit needs to be twiddled. “Is it in admin > content > content types? Or rather admin > settings > content types ? etc…” The new “Content Management,” “Site Building,” “Site Configuration,” “Logs,” and “Help” admin sections should make it much simpler to run a Drupal site.
  • Tweaked page cache settings – not sure if the rumoured filesystem cache system is included here (is that the “aggressive – experts only” cache?)
  • Includes a lite version of Content Construction Kit, making it easy to create simple content types (title + description/body). Why is that cool? Because you can assign different taxonomies and access controls to the various simple content types, so different users are able to create different types of content, classified differently. I’ll have to see what the potential issues may be with running the full CCK module for managing complex content types. Our new, soon-to-be-released TLC website makes extensive, obsessive use of several complex custom content types, so I’ll be spending some time checking this out.
  • Separate “main” and admin themes. Instead of trying to shoehorn admin functions into a production custom theme, you can pimp out your site’s theme while retaining a fully functional admin theme. Yay.
  • Lots of little improvements, making the admin interface more task-oriented. Things like the Clean URL setting have been moved into more appropriate spots, rather than dumping them all into One Giant Config Screen.
  • Support for multiple image libraries. It was there in previous versions, but required adding a secret file to support Magick. I’ll have to install ImageMagick on my PowerBook again to try this out.
  • Site installer. You still have to manually create the database, but Drupal will now install the tables and a default set of data automatically. I’ll have to play with the profiles feature to see how that might tie into the Provisionator.

I’m looking forward to the release of Drupal 5. I’ve got a LOT of compatibility testing to do before going live with it, though. I’ve got several sites running older versions of some modules, because the module versioning system is confusing enough that they break a little if updating them to “current” versions. That’s one area I’d really like to see get some loving. Tagging a module as “4.7” and then making changes to it that break things depending on exactly which version of the 4.7 module you’re running (or have run). Very confusing and frustrating.

Domain squatters suck

I’ve been trying to move domain registration and DNS hosting for darcynorman.net from GoDaddy to Dreamhost for a couple of months. It’s been a long and frustrating process, involving faxing my driver’s license to Arizona to somehow prove I am who I say I am.

I just logged into my Dreamhost account to check on the status (still hasn’t finalized – they sure did set it up in a hurry, but it takes a looooong time to switch off of GoDaddy). On a lark, I tried adding registration for darcynorman.com. But Dreamhost’s registration utility complained that the domain was already taken.

Mwaaaah? Another D’Arcy Norman out there? Lemme check that out. A quick whois darcynorman.com turned up this:

   Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
   Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com
   Updated Date: 16-mar-2006
   Creation Date: 16-mar-2006
   Expiration Date: 16-mar-2007

Oh, wait. No. It’s a domain squatter. Sitting on my name, assumedly hoping for a portion of the mad cash this blog generates. Mad cash, I tell you. Some lame squatter leech decided to register my name in the hopes I’d pay a ransom to get it back. At least the squatter is using a Canadian service provider to park the DNS for the domain. I guess that’s better than having it offshored to Moscow or something.

The combination of cheap domain registrations and “secure/private” registrations where you can hide behind a proxy make this practice possible. When I register domains, I need to go through CIRA verification, accept agreements about usage, etc… But these roaches can register other people’s names and park them for ransom. Rules (like locks) are for the honest people.

Screw you, squatter. I just went and registered darcynorman.ca – the only other variant of the domain I’d care about. Go ahead and squat on the rest, you rat bastage.