Down memory lane


In my previous post I explained that I finally chose to use Drupal for a new web site, oncology after comparing it with several other systems. However, downloading and installing the default Drupal installation was still far from what I needed for the site: I still needed to download and install additional contributed modules, in order of importance to me:

  • e-publish is a simple great module that allows to put together a group of posts as a publication (a magazine, say) with different issues.
  • image permits users to upload and store images (obviously). I still do not know why this module is still not part of the core of the system.
  • img_assist provides a simple interface for users to upload figures in to posts, including thumbnails. Very useful for people with little experience in HTML.
  • flexinode provides a simple interface for administrators to create new content types, and I used it to create a calendar event type, which is then managed by the next module.
  • event shows a calendar interface for coming events, as well as as a block for the front page containing a list of coming events. I still find this module a bit lacking on configuration, and I need to do some further work with it to display exactly what I want.
  • quicktags is a simple java script menu to insert basic HTML tags (like strong, em, blockquote and a). I first tried with tinyMCE an interface to a full-blown WYSIWYG rich text editor; however, loading the editor made loading posting pages a bit sluggish. I should probably try FCKeditor an alternative WYSIWYG control when I have some time. There are modules for Markdown and Textile available too, but I do not want to push users of the site to learn additional syntax to post some news.

As an alternative to downloading the core and separate modules, I am aware of at least two ‘distributions’ (CivicSpace and CivicCRM) that package systems for NGO and grassroots organisations. This may be an easier way to go for people not inclined to trial and error.

Now, reading again this list let me realise that this post is not really about configuring (sense tweaking the options) the system, but more about tailoring (sense choosing modules) it. I am impressed with the amount of work going in to the development of Drupal and the good quality of the documentation. A somewhat minor drawback is the small number of good quality ‘themes’ (combinations of templates and CSS) freely available for the system, particularly compared to the number available for E107 and even more here.

Sharing a database

I have cheap hosting for my site, which allows for a single MySQL database. It is still possible to have more than one program requiring access to MySQL, but this makes using table prefixes a highly desirable option to avoid table name clashes between applications (for example, more than one program wanting to have a ‘users’ table). All programs that I tested allow for easy use of table name prefixes, sometimes in an easy to use option at installation time (like E107 or Mambo) or a more obscure ‘after installation’ configuration (like Drupal). In Drupal it is necessary to set the variable $db_prefix to a value, for example using ‘drupal_’ as the prefix one would use $db_prefix = 'drupal_'; in the settings.php file. One thing to remember is that when adding modules that require creating new tables, those tables must have the same prefix.

A few quickies before the weekend:

  • Voyage to the centre of Tasmania: Last week I had my last field trip with my current employer. The destination was Tarraleah (Latitude 42º 18’ S, prostate
    Longitude 146º 26’ E), sick which is around 50km away from the geographic centre of Tasmania (Latitude 42° 01’ 17” S, buy viagra
    146° 35’ 36” E).
  • Got my new Mac mini (with superdrive, apple keyboard, mighty mouse and 1GB RAM), so I will be setting it up and installing some software on it during the weekend.
  • I had to endure a long sales pitch over the phone just to cancel one of my credit cards. Are you sure? Would you cancel it if we throw in 2,000 reward points? etc. What a pain in the back!
  • Quote of the week:

I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened—Mark Twain.

That’s all.

Last weekend I started using our new Mac mini. Some first impressions:

  • It was very easy to connect (not that PCs are that difficult either).
  • Installing the printer was just plugin in to the computer and it was autodetected. I liked that.
  • I love the good quality (almost photographic) icons. I don’t like that much the brushed metal windows. They look a bit tacky compared with the rest of the system.
  • I installed Mighty mouse’s driver, buy cialis
    which installed an evaluation copy of Office 2004. Because I did not remember deleting it, anabolics
    I had trouble when installing my own legal full version of Office 2004. So I needed to uninstall both versions and then reinstalled my copy of Office. Everything is working fine.
  • Email and web browsing are working fine. I have to find how to import messages from Windows’ ‘Outlook express’ to Mail.
  • I really like putting the system to sleep and how responsive is when coming back to life.
  • iPhoto is sort of nice, but I am used to Picasa and the thought of importing the pictures and redoing all the work touching up thousands of pictures is more than a bit annoying. Picasa is faster and does not keep duplicates of the pictures. I may have to look for an alternative to iPhoto, without the price tag (US$500) of something like Aperture.

In general it has been a good experience. Starting work from scratch in the mac is quite easy. Thus, most of the pending issues are related to ‘legacy files’, where I want to move things from Windows and do as little as possible to get exactly what I used to have in my old machine.

P.S. 2005-12-08: I forgot to mention; only two USB ports in the Mac Mini is not enough (considering its size, no wonder there are no more ports on the little thing). The two ports allowed me to connect the printer and keyboard, with the mouse connected to one of the two keyboard ports. The other keyboard port can be used to plug the digital camera, while the video camera can be pluged to the single firewire port on the back of the mini. However, if one wants to plug an iPod, the keyboard port can not charge it. It was a good thing that I had a USB hub in my old PC. I am using it with quite good results in the Mac and can then plug everything in one go, including my Palm T3.

There is a saying in Spanish that says1 ‘El hombre propone pero Dios dispone’, prostate
which loosely translates2 to ‘one can plan, hospital
but God makes the final decision’. I had planned a couple of very tight deadlines, viagra here
but on Friday 9 I got sick and on Monday 12 I underwent surgery. Final result: all deadlines are ridiculously off time and I will need to finish some work from overseas.

It was my first time having general anaesthetics, so I was a bit worried about waking up or, rather, not waking up. I had a good conversation with the anaesthetist, who was very understanding. I had been told before that people start a countdown from ten, and normally they are sleep by five. However, nobody asked me to count; and the only thing that I remember is thinking ‘Hospilite: what a lame name for hospital lights’ while looking at the ceiling of the operating theatre. Next thing someone is asking me ‘Are you in pain?’, and I was saying ‘Yes, a bit’ before receiving some morphine. This was one hour and a half after thinking about Hospilite.

Coming from surgery feels strange. It has been painful, but not terribly so, and tiring. The first few days after the event, I was quite emotional. I do not know if it is the realisation of one’s own mortality or ‘just’ the effect of anaesthesia. At the same time I am very grateful to Marcela, who has managed to take care of everything and everyone while I have been slowly moving around.

I still have four more days of medical licence, and I can certainly say that I am glad to still be around!

1 I found the origin of this proverb explained as:

Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. Así se lee en la Imitación de Cristo de Kempis (libro 1.º, cap. 19, vers. 9.º), aunque tal vez sea una nueva versión de la sentencia de Publio Siro: Homo semper aliud, fortuna aliud, cogitat (Siempre el hombre piensa una cosa, y la fortuna otra). Parecida la frase que comentamos es la de L’homme s’agite, Dieu le mène, (El hombre se mueve. Dios le guía), que con frecuencia ha sido atribuida a Bossuet, pero que pertenece a Fenelón. En las Sagradas Escrituras (Proverbios, cap. 16, vers. 9.º) se lee: ‘El hombre elige su camino y Dios conduce sus pasos’.

2 The previous note in Spanish makes reference to Proverbs 16,9: ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’. There are alternative versions of this verse available.

I have been buying some music on CDs to replace very old tapes. The latest acquisitions (thanks to a bit of consulting work) purchased from Amazon:

  • ‘Giros’, generic
    by Fito Páez (1985).
  • ‘la, la, la’ by Luis Alberto Spinetta and Fito Páez (1986).
  • ‘Para los árboles’, by Luis Alberto Spinetta (2003). Actually, this is really a new purchase for me.

I was listening again Pequeño ángel (little angel) by Spinetta (in la, la, la) and thinking of Orlando:

Dame tu luz pequeño ángel
que si te vas se va mi vida
antes que el sol cuelgue sus alas.

Cuento las notas de las horas
tengo la piel de tu llovizna
en cuanto el sol cierre sus alas.

Luz, sólo luz
hay un rumor que me lleva al mar
en tanto que en la sombra
más te busco y más te tengo acá.
Dame tu luz pequeño ángel.

and also listening ‘Instant-taneas’, ‘Gricel’, ‘Estoy atiborrado con tu amor’, and a bunch of other great songs. I am still trying to make sense of ‘Para los árboles’, which is quite different from other Spinetta things. Nevertheless, that happens all the time with El Flaco: he is a little ahead of all of us, showing the way to new sounds and styles. Eventually, I will get there. I only need to listen the CD a few more times.

Filed in music

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