Font Rendering in Safari

Browser Logos

There’s definitely a difference between Chrome and Safari due to Safari’s font rendering. In Safari text tends to be a bit bolder due to the anti-aliasing algorithm and can sometimes take up a few extra pixels on the screen.

I was getting very frustrated earlier because of a menu bar that was wrapping in Safari and not in Chrome. The Safari window had to be 200px wider than the Chrome window for the menu not to wrap before switching to the mobile menu.

Making the menu font size .1em smaller fixed the problem. It doesn’t even really make sense mathematically, but it worked so I am not inclined to figure it out right now.

Thanks Stack Overflow!

Placeholder Text Generators

HodorIpsum---Hodor-hodor-hodor

I generate a lot of Lorem Ipsum text when I am laying out websites. Usually I use a keyboard shortcut or the old standby, lipsum.com. I also like Fillerati. Those are nice because they include the option to add different HTML tags, such as  <p> ,  <li> , and headings.

Today while I was being very distracted from work, I did a little googling to find some new placeholder text generators. Below are the ones I bookmarked for future use.

  • Whedon Ipsum – Quotes from Joss Whedon movies and TV shows. This one has a “hidden” link back to the website of the company that (I assume) runs it. The link is not hidden at all in the code but is inside a div styled with  display: none;. There are options to choose the number of paragraphs to generate and to add  <p> tags.
  • TV Ipsum – Generates text from TV theme songs mostly from shows that aired in the 70’s. Option to choose the number of paragraphs.
  • Picksum – Generates lines from the movies of these actors: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Michael Caine, Jim Carrey, and Clint Eastwood. Options for number of paragraphs and  <p> tags.
  • HodorIpsum – Generates Hodor text. I would probably only use this one for personal projects, but it is my favorite by far. Options for number of paragraphs and  <p> tags.

Happy 10th Anniversary WordPress!

WordPress 10th Anniversary

WordPress will be 10 years old on May 27th, 2013. Hard to believe it has been so long! Dougal Campbell had a great idea to start the WordPress 10th Anniversary Blogging Project. I have been using WordPress since v 0.71 and it is still my favorite way to build a website. What better way to celebrate than to write a WordPress post?!

When I first started using WordPress in May 2003…

  • I was 36 years old
  • I lived in Oakland, CA with my partner Karen
  • I had been building websites for 8 years
  • I was an open source PHP/MySQL software junkie
  • My business site was built using a Template Monster template with a Flash header (shhhh… don’t tell anybody) , which was soon to be replaced by Mambo
  • This website (formally called LBnuke) was built with PostNuke, a PHP/MySQL content management system that was forked from PHPNuke
  • I had played around with b2 (project that WordPress was forked from), but liked PostNuke a lot better
  • I was in love with CSS
  • I was a beginner PHP programmer
  • 90% of my client sites were static HTML/CSS/JavaScript

Since I started using WordPress…

  • I moved to Baltimore and legally married Karen
  • I have been building websites for 18 years
  • I am still in love with CSS
  • I am a much better PHP programmer
  • I do a lot of custom WordPress development
  • I went to the WordPress 1.5 Upgrade Party at Matt‘s apartment in San Francisco and he helped me fix my “theme” (aka index.php and stylesheet in root directory)
  • I have been to many WordCamps
  • I am still an open source PHP/MySQL software junkie
  • I converted my business site to WordPress in 2007
  • This website was converted to WordPress in 2006 after being inspired at the first WordCamp in San Francisco (and being jealous of how easy my clients’ sites were to manage compared to my own)
  • I have occasional flings with Drupal and have a huge crush on Laravel, but still like WordPress best for most sites
  • 90% of my client sites are built with WordPress

I am hugely thankful to Matt Mullenweg and all of the other people who have helped develop WordPress over the years, and to all of the awesome people that I have met in the WordPress community!

There will be plenty of celebrating going on all around the world. Find a celebration near you!

RIP Steve Jobs, Derrick Bell, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
(Photo: David Shankbone/Wikicommons, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

I am sad that Steve Jobs is gone. I didn’t know him, but like many other people, he changed my life. There have been many tributes to Mr. Jobs in the past week and it is easy to see how widespread his influence was. There is also some negative sentiment in which people are furious that so much attention and honor is given to the death of a corporate billionaire while the deaths of race scholar Derrick Bell and civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who died on the same day, were much less prominently noted. I definitely agree that the deaths of Derrick Bell and Rev. Shuttlesworth deserve at least as much attention as the death of Steve Jobs, but it is Steve Jobs’ influence on my life that I will write about here.

Apple IIe
Apple IIe

Like many computer geeks, Steve Jobs was a hero and an inspiration to me. He changed ‘thinking different’ from a reason to get beat up to a reason to be respected (at least as far as nerdy computer geeks go). I have been in continuous awe of the things he has created since the day my dad brought home an Apple IIe in 1983. That, along with a Commodore 64 and a VIC-20 that we used in the high school Computer Club, were the first places I learned about programming. BASIC. Loved it!

To a person who thinks of things in a very literal way and finds it hard to get along in a world where logic does not always dictate reality, programming provides a comfort, a world where actions and consequences are dictated by logic alone.

Aside from learning some PASCAL in college, I was out of the computer/media loop until 1995, when my dad told me about Windows 95. I got my first PC, a Compaq Presario 100MHz mini-tower with 8KB RAM, and read “Windows 95 For Dummies” from cover to cover. Over the next 10 years, I learned to build and fix PCs. I learned to build websites using FrontPage Express, a program that was included with Internet Explorer 4. It had a split view where you could look at the visual web site on one side and the code on the other, making it very easy to see how changing one would affect the other. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Windows operating system.

By 2004, I was sick of the constant problems with Windows and had decided to switch to Linux. 2004 was also the year that the San Francisco Apple Store first opened. Lured by the promise of shiny electronic things, I wandered into the store and was completely blown away by what I saw. The operating system of the time was OS X 10.3, aka Panther. It was simple and beautiful, yet had the power, stability, and security of a UNIX based operating system behind it. That was it. The bar was raised forever. My first mac was a 12″ PowerBook 1.33GHZ PowerPC with 256MB of RAM. Somehow, that little thing ran circles around my 3GHz Pentium 4 PC with 1GB RAM.

I knew almost nothing about my new mac, which was a little disturbing considering that I could troubleshoot Windows in my sleep. Luckily, Karen knew how to use a mac and showed me the way. Before long, I realized that I was so confused at first because everything was so easy to do! I expected everything to be more complicated and unstable like Windows, but it was not. There was no need to troubleshoot in my sleep anymore. Like programming, macs made sense to me.

I currently use a 24″ iMac, a 15″ MacBook Pro, and an iPhone to do my work, learn new things, play games, and communicate with the world in a way that was not possible for me in the past. I am thankful to Steve Jobs for thinking differently and for the amazing contributions that he has made to the technical world. I am thankful to him for his inspiration and vision. I will miss him and the contributions he surely would have made in the future had his life not been cut so short.

Steve Wozniak remembers Steve Jobs

Minesweeper Madness

The best version of Minesweeper I have played so far on the mac.

Favorite minesweeper app for iPhone :

Both of these apps are free.

2011: The First 9 Days

Baltimore

Baltimore

Even though we are only 9 days in to 2011, this year has been pretty crazy so far. So crazy, that 2010 is already kind of a blur. Karen and I are trying to get ready to move to Baltimore in April and there are so many things to do, it boggles my mind. We are both crazy busy with work, cats, packing, cleaning, and about a million other things.

I have not had much time or energy to post here on LBnuke other than the ‘Please vote for AWN’ series. Thank you so much to everyone who voted! We came very close a few times, but did not win. As it turned out, we made lots of good connections and will be able to do many of the things we wanted to do with the contest money. I think 2011 will be a great year for the Autism Women’s Network 🙂

2010 was the best year ever for BeeDragon, my business. I have been crazy busy and am now working on 2 large projects that were not supposed to overlap. It seems to be common in this business for clients to be very late with their content. Thankfully one of the projects has been sticking to the planned schedule. I still dream of having some kind of  partnership, network, whatever, where I am not a one person shop. My ideal team consists of me doing general web development, an awesome graphic designer, and a business manager. I don’t know anything at all about the local Baltimore web dev community, but hopefully I will find it quickly!

LBnuke 2011: I am in the process of adapting LBnuke to be a little more Tumblr like so that it will be easier for me to post things here. Right now, I am running an early release version of WordPress 3.1 so that I can play around with ‘post-formats’ and learn how to work with them in theme files and templates. As usual, WordPress makes this pretty easy.

Time to get back to work now. 2011 will be a big adventure for me and K. My current plan is to avoid going insane while so many things are going on at once. So far this is going ok except that I fall asleep a lot. At the end of March, either me and Karen or just Karen will go to Baltimore to find a place to live. At the beginning of April, we will pack up our cats and drive across country.

BeeDragon.com 2010

BeeDragon Web Services

BeeDragon Web Services2010 has been the most successful year yet for my business, BeeDragon Web Services. I have been getting a lot of work from other web developers and designers. It is very exciting getting to work with talented people who do similar work. When each person combines their unique skills, we make each other’s work shine.

With the growing popularity of open source software, I have been able to focus on building sites with WordPress and Drupal, and to greatly increase my skills in taking these platforms to the next level for my clients.

Once again, my business site has become outdated. The web development business is incredibly fast moving. One of my favorite things about this job is that I am continually learning new technologies. 2010 has been an especially exciting year for web development with the growing browser support for HTML5 and CSS3, as well as new releases (or near releases) of both WordPress and Drupal.

I am still working on the site, but for the most part it is done. I would like to thank Sallie Goetsch (aka The Author-izer) for helping me with much of the copy that fills the site, and as always, Karen, for being supportive, helping with the words, editing, and helpful suggestions.

An Updated History of BeeDragon.com* (Original History):

  • 1995 – version 1.0 – No layout at all, not even a table. All text is centered. Animated GIF of a dragon flying across the screen repeatedly.
  • 1997 – v2 – Table based version of the same site. Graphic page title images. Presentational CSS added. <FONT> tags removed.
  • 1999 – v3 – Template Monster template with Flash header. Need I say more?
  • 2004 – v4 – Mambo/Joomla CMS. Nice for 2004, but too boxy and modular for 2007. Very web 1.0. Hardly anyone has ever heard of a blog, so long detailed explanations were necessary but confusing.
  • 2007 – v5.0 – Customized WordPress site. Reflects what I do. Updated prices. Simple. Pretty. Tables for data only.
  • 2010 – v6.0 – WordPress 3.0. Once again, updated to reflect the work that I do. New design, focus on WordPress development, All-in-one website and hosting packages added, Portfolio updated.

* Fine Print: Technically, this is not really a history of BeeDragon.com. BeeDragon.com was registered in 2002. Before that, my “web design business” sites lived on aol, compuserve, and home.attbi.com.

First Annual Distraction Awards

I have been very distracted lately! Too many things going on and I can not focus on any of them. Luckily, I have had no problem focusing on distractions. I would like to give recognition to the distractions that have proven to be most entertaining in the ‘First (and possibly last) Annual Distraction Awards’.

Best Web Standards Video to a Bob Dylan Tune


More info and lyrics @ Molly.
Continue reading “First Annual Distraction Awards”

Computer History Museum

I have been at the She’s Geeky conference this weekend at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Got to go on a tour of the museum today. There are lots of old computers, some restorations, handheld video games, abaci, calculators, adding machines, and software.

The conference has been very fun. It is well named. Definitely have never been around that many girl geeks before! Tomorrow is the last day. There is a session about asperger’s which I would never have expected, but it was subtitled “the geek syndrome”, so guessing that is the connection. I am very curious. There is also one about Drupal called ‘Show me your back end’. Hopefully they are not both at the same time. Drupal will win. Some pix from the museum:

Autism Women’s Network

Autism Women's Network Website

After 3 months of complete immersion, the Autism Women’s Network site is live and open to the public. I am still adding features and fixing the occasional bug here and there, but for the most part, it is done.

Autism Women's Network Website
Autism Women's Network Website

Building this site has been an amazing experience for me. I am happy to get to contribute something to the AWN, which is an awesome organization that “provides effective supports to autistic females of all ages through a sense of community, advocacy and resources”. This site is open to all supporters including men and non-autistic people.

The response has been amazing! After just 3 days, we have more than 150 registered users and over 1000 forum posts! I would like to extend a big thank you to all the beta testers and other people who have been helping to get this site up.

A large part of my obsession while working on this site has been in learning Drupal, an open source PHP/MySQL content management system and framework. I have been running a Drupal test site since 2003. About 2 times a year, I dust it off, update it, and try to love it. Usually, I end up hating it, but keep going back because of the large community that surrounds it. There could not be so much Drupal love without a reason.

I am now a Druciple. I will still use WordPress for as many sites as I can, but for larger projects, it is really nice to have the amazing power and endless flexibility of Drupal as part of my web dev arsenal. I look forward to continued work on this site and continued development with Drupal.

All Drupal All The Time – Too Bad I Can’t Breathe

Writing on the iPhone. Hard to breathe. Shaky. Strangely okay besides that. Sometimes writing helps. Been very busy lately. All Drupal all the time. Besides from the insane learning curve and non-intuitive UI, I am in awe of its power and flexibility. After more than 15 hours of video tutorials and reading tons of docs, I am finally understanding how it works and how the code is organized. I am learning while building a site for an awesome organization. Will link to it when it is done. If all goes according to plan, it will launch around Jan. 1st, 2010. Not mentioning the org. because there is a board and I don’t know if things like that have to be decided about, but if someone who knows the answer and wants to post it in the comments, go for it 🙂 I haven’t used Drupal to build a site since version 4.1 other than keeping my test site updated. Been wanting to learn it for real for a few years so very happy to finally get around to it. Still, it makes me appreciate the simplicity and clean code of WordPress even more than I already do. Been having some small jobs besides from that.

Me & K went to Monterey for K’s 40th birthday and had an awesome time. Happy birthday K! We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the seahorse exhibit. It was amazing. We also saw lots of sharks and rays and other random sea creatures. We stayed overnight at a nice bed and breakfast and got home the next day in time to give Halloween candy to kids. Not so many kids this year.

Still hard to breathe but not so dizzy anymore. Sometimes it is kind of annoying to be me but most of the time I like it. Enough writing for now. I think it helped some.

21 Favorite Mac Apps of the Moment

Update (8/3/09): Added SuperDuper! to list and changed title.

World of Goo
World of Goo

Just got my aluminum imac replaced by Apple. The old one was kind of possessed by gremlins or some such thing. After several failed repair attempts, part replacements, and countless hours of phone support, Apple agreed to give me a shiny new computer. Loving it 🙂 The specs are not all that much different from the first one, but the parts are better, so it is faster and the graphics are extra kick ass.

While restoring my data, I was having an appreciation of all the great mac software out there. Much of it is free, donationware, or relatively low cost. Here are some of my current favorites (in no particular order):

  1. Caffeine (Free) – A one trick wonder. Puts a coffee cup icon in the menu bar that, when clicked, prevents your computer from automatically going to sleep, dimming, or starting screen savers. It is really great for reading long articles and watching videos or screencasts. You can set a default duration for it to stay on so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to disable it.
  2. SuperDuper! ($27.95) – I can’t believe I left this one out! SuperDuper! is a backup program that will make a fully bootable backup, or “clone” of your mac’s hard drive. I clone mine nightly. During my aforementioned computer woes, I recovered my drive several times using SuperDuper! and booted my laptop from the clone while my imac was in the shop so that I could keep working.
  3. DropBox (Free to $199/yr.)- Online storage and file sync for mac, windows, and linux. First 2 GB of space is free and you can get up to 3 GB more by referring other people. If you click the link in this article, we will both get 250G extra space 🙂 Paid accounts are available with 50 or 100 GB storage. One feature I love is that you can create public downloads by right-clicking on a file in your Public folder and selecting ‘Copy public link’. This allows anyone who has the link to download the file.
  4. Komodo Edit (Free) & Komodo IDE ($99-$245) – Both of these code editors are great. Komodo edit has an excellent set of features for a free app. Multiple languages, code formatting, auto-indent and more. Komodo IDE adds debugging, a code browser, source-control systems integration, and other handy tools like a regular expressions toolkit.
  5. MAMP (Free) – MAMP rocks! It is a really quick way to set up a local development environment. Installs and configures Apache, PHP, MySQL, and phpMyAdmin in a self-contained directory that will not interfere with any existing Apache installations.
  6. Transmit ($29.95) – There are some great free FTP clients out there, but I really love the Transmit interface, mac integration, and the fact that it can handle any FTP task I throw at it (SFTP, TLS/SSL, WebDav, iDisk, Amazon S3, server to server transfers and lots more. If you have mobileMe, you can sync your accounts between macs.
  7. Bookdog ($19.95) – Syncs bookmarks between browsers. Amazing. Removes duplicates, sorts, and verifies links. Syncs with del.icio.us and Google Bookmarks and works with tons of browsers.
  8. ImageWell (~$18) – I have had this tiny app for years and use it all the time. Great for quickly resizing images and adding watermarks. Photoshop and other apps will do the same thing, but none will do it as fast or as easy.
  9. ColorTagGen (Free) – Another app I use all the time. Lets you use the mac color picker to generate hexidecimal and RGB values of colors. A closely related app which I also use is Hex Color Picker (Donationware) which adds a tab to the system-wide color panel that allows you to see and edit the hex color code for any color.
  10. Bento – ($49) – Bento (made by FileMaker) is drag and drop easy to use database software. I can never decide if I like it or hate it, but find myself using it more and more. It is great for simple databases like a client list or home inventory, but I often wish it had more relational database features like FileMaker. Bento is also slow to open and I use it for information that I need to access quickly. On the other hand, it does more than a spreadsheet and makes data pretty.
  11. Together ($39) – Junk drawer software. A place to put all that random information that you want to be able to reference in the future. I tried a bunch of apps when it was time to replace my beloved Yojimbo, which was starting to feel out of date and cumbersome. Together came out on top for having the features I needed without being too complicated or too basic.
  12. Text Edit – Basic mac text editing program. I default to plain text format and use this all the time to clean text that was sent to me by clients in Word or copied from a web page. I also use it for a notepad and scratch pad.
  13. LaunchBar (~$34) – Quickly launch applications, access clipboard history, find documents, and much more with your keyboard. Very similar to QuickSilver, which I used to love, but started having problems with, possibly because it is in perpetual beta. Still, it is a classic and it is free.
  14. MenuCalendarClock (Free, $19.95 for advanced features) – I love this tiny app. Lets you customize the menu bar display of time and date (best to disable default time display in System Preferences). Clicking on the menu bar date/time drops down a calendar that highlights days with scheduled events. Hover over the dates and a tooltip appears showing the events for that day. Lots of other cool features. Not really sure which ones are in free vs. paid version, but there is a comparison at the site.
  15. DragThing (Shareware, $29) – Dock replacement. Allows you to create multiple docks, each with multiple tabs, and place them anywhere you want. Along with LaunchBar, this is one of the first things I install on any mac. I wrote a post about DragThing last year.
  16. Default Folder X ($34.95) – Adds many useful features to Open and Save dialog boxes. Choose recent and favorite folders quickly. Assign default folders for applications. Menu bar icon for fast access to favorite and recent folders, open finder windows, and all other folders through flyout menus.
  17. PathFinder ($39.95) – Finder replacement (works alongside of Finder). Adds about a million features that you wish were in the Finder. More sorting and display options, dual pane browser for side by side folders in one window, tabs, drop stack to hold files in a temporary stack, and more.
  18. 1Password ($39.95) – Store logins, passwords, credit card info, and secure notes. Integrates with most browsers allowing you to log into websites and enter credit card information with just a few keystrokes. You only need to remember one master password to allow the browsers access to the stored information. Pretty amazing if you have tons of logins to remember and/or shop online.
  19. TextExpander ($29.95), Typinator ($19.99) , TypeIt4Me ($27)   – Thanks to the many mac software bundles, I have somehow managed to have a license to all 3 of these apps. Currently I am using TextExpander, but I don’t think I have a preference. They all have their pros and cons. Mostly pros. All 3 apps basically do the same thing – inserting text and/or images when you type a short abbreviation. For example, when I type bsig, it automatically changes to my 4 line business email signature. Also great for canned responses, code snippets, email addresses, phone numbers, common typos, URLs, and anything else that you type regularly.
  20. Paparazzi (Donationware) – Another one trick wonder. Takes full page screenshots of web pages. Very handy for designers and developers that need to view an entire web page at one time.
  21. World of Goo ($20) – Not sure what to say about World of Goo except that you should try the demo (mac, windows, linux). Completely original game involving balls of goo with different physical properties. The “dialog” and sounds are funny, the graphics and animation are excellent, and it’s very fun! Warning: May also cause extreme frustration in certain circumstances.

That is all I can think of for now. Curious what other people’s favorite apps are. I’ll try just about anything that has a demo version.

Chalkboard Color Scheme for Komodo

Komodo PHP Sample

This color scheme is updated regularly. (View Updates)

Komodo PHP Sample
Komodo PHP Sample

Komodo Edit 5 has been my default code editor for the past week or so. It is much faster and nicer to look at than previous versions that I have tried. I switch default code editors almost as often as I switch default browsers. There are so many good ones out there, but none feels exactly right. Considering I spend most of my days switching between browsers and editor, I like to keep up with the latest that is available for mac.

One of the things I am most picky about in an editor is the color scheme. It is very hard for me to find schemes that I can stand to stare at for long periods of time. Schemes with white/light backgrounds and colored text are usually too bright for me and dark schemes are usually either too high or too low contrast. For this reason, I usually end up making my own.

If anyone else is using Komodo Edit (or Komodo IDE) and is similarly picky about color schemes, I have made it available for download.

Click here to download the LB Chalkboard scheme

Komodo CSS sample
Komodo CSS Sample

I should mention that the only language specific colors I made changes to are PHP, CSS, HTML, XML, and JavaScript. Also, I am still changing things as I come across them.

Update (3/4/09): Changed CSS comment color from green to default grey.

Update (3/21/09): Downloaded the trial version of Komodo IDE 5 yesterday and noticed that schemes switched over automatically. [update: bought Komodo IDE 5 after trial expired. Still loving it (1/17/10)]

Update (3/24/09): Fixed issue with some defaults changing from white to black text after update to Komodo 5.1. Added language specific colors for Smarty.

Update (8/23/09): Changed Common Syntax bracehighlight background color from dark grey to yellow for increased visibility.

Update (9/17/09): Changed Find highlighting indicator background color from yellow to green for increased readability.

Update (1/17/10): Changed Tag matching indicator background color from orange to light blue for increased readability.

Update (4/20/10): Identifiers color added for JavaScript.

Update (5/30/10): Changed colors of identifiers and strings for JavaScript because the orange identifiers were burning out my retinas. Identifiers are now off-white and strings are light orange.

Update (10/14/10): A few settings were changed slightly after installing Komodo 6.0. Still assessing whether I will change them back or keep them as is.

Update (6/1/11): CSS identifier color changed to increase readability, reduce eye-strain, and match other scheme colors better.

Update (7/9/11): All is well in Komodo 7.0-alpha3 except for the new HTML5 scheme not matching at all. Will get to that if I can ever find some time.

Update (12/28/11): This scheme has been included as a default scheme in Komodo 7 and is now called Dark_Chalkboard. Thanks to ActiveState for including it.

BeeDragon on Facebook

BeeDragon Facebook Page

I have been doing a lot of research into freelance networking. My favorite source of information is Freelance Radio, the FreelanceSwitch podcast. It is by far the best of the freelance podcasts I have listened to.

The panel is excellent. The host, John Brougher, does a great job of keeping the podcast on topic while still allowing room for tangential discussions about issues relating to freelancers. John and the other panel members, Kristen Fischer, Von Glitschka, and Dickie Adams, share tips and information based on their years of experience as successful freelancers.

The other day, I was listening to a ‘Super Mailbag’ episode where they answer questions sent in by listeners. One question was about ways to do marketing and the topic of having a Facebook page came up. There were some good points about how it is a great way to get your link out to a lot of people for free without being overly pushy about it (like when people spam twitter with business ads and links).

Facebook is a place where people who may not usually keep in touch with each other can catch up with old friends and have ‘day to day’ type communication with people in a way that time and distance would not normally allow. It is also a place where people share links and other information, allowing word to spread very quickly about anything from a new flower for your virtual garden to a great web business that you know about!

Today I created a Facebook page for BeeDragon. As a start, I posted screenshots from my portfolio to an album and a special offer for Facebook users to get 10% of their next order. I am still researching ways to use Facebook for business. If you know any, please feel free to post them.

If there are any BeeDragon fans out there who would like to share the love on Facebook, please head on over to the new page and click on ‘Become a Fan’.

Thanks 🙂

WordPress eCommerce Plugins: Shopp vs WP e-Commerce

Update (10/21/09): Comments for this post have been closed.

Thanks for your comments everyone! It has been nearly a year since I wrote this review. It is based on WP e-Commerce 3.6.9 and Shopp 1.0. Both plugins have had significant upgrades since then.

I bought a developer license for Shopp and have used it in several projects. I still love it.

When I have some more time, I am hoping to give WP e-Commerce another try and post a review the new version.

I have been working on a large project for the past couple of months. It is a custom WordPress site for a client, which includes a store. I have never used WordPress for an ecommerce site. The closest I have come is to create a WordPress site and an ecommerce site with matching themes, so that the end user would have the experience of a single site. This solution is not ideal because the site administrator would have to do store administration separately.

I had been experimenting with various beta and RC versions of WP e-Commerce (WPeC) from time to time. When I began working on my project, there was a relatively working version of the plugin available. After paying $25 for a single site license for the “Gold Cart” files, my nightmare began. The Gold Cart adds multiple image upload, a product search option, and some additional payment gateways including authorize.net.

The first challenge was customization. Making (what should have been) the simple change of showing the product images on the right instead of on the left of the product description involved some pretty insane CSS. And then some more for IE7. And more for IE6. Luckily, I find a CSS challenge to be a fun learning experience.

There were a few bugs at first, but nothing that seemed like it couldn’t be fixed. It is here where I would like to mention Shayne from S-Tastic Designs. Anyone who has had the frustrating experience of working with WPeC has probably gotten help at some point or other from Shayne. He is not one of the developers, but I think he may be a top reason why people do not run screaming from this plugin. That, and the fact that there are were no alternative ecommerce solutions for WordPress that offer as many features and payment gateway options. WPeC seems to get buggier with each new release.

Enter Shopp, a brand new ecommerce plugin for WordPress. So new that it was just realeased earlier today! Shopp costs $55 for a single site license. Payment gateways other than PayPal Express and Google Checkout require an additional $25 module.

I have been beta testing Shopp for a while and have been impressed from the very beginning. The developer, Jonathan Davis, has been amazingly supportive of the beta testers. He has been available through various means of communication every day and always answers questions in the forums. If you have ever had the experience of trying to get help through the WPeC forums, you will know the joy and satisfaction that this kind of support can bring.

So, on to the comparison! Versions tested are current as of today. Shopp v 1.0 with Authorize.net module and WP e-Commerce v 3.6.9 with Gold Cart addon.

Support

As mentioned above, Shopp wins. No contest.

Features

Display Options – Shopp offers a choice of list view or grid view for store pages right out of the box. The customer has the option to change the view. It took under a minute to make the same display change that I made in WPeC.

WPeC has a module called Grid View available for an additional $15. I did not purchase the Grid View module, so can not compare. List view was similar in both plugins: product thumbnails and descriptions. Product links in WPeC were constantly breaking. There is a link in the administration settings to ‘Fix Product Group Permalinks’. Why can’t they fix themselves?

Both plugins offer the option for downloadable products. These are handled very nicely in Shopp. After purchasing the download, the client is sent to an order completion page that includes a link to the download. They also receive a nice looking email with order details and download link.

WPeC’s implementation of downloadable products was so buggy that I am not even sure I can describe what it is supposed to do. Different versions of the plugin contained different bugs, including no download link in the emails received by the client. One place where WPeC wins over Shopp is in the downloadable product administration interface. WPeC incudes a list of available downloads to choose from, while Shopp wants the product path.

The product upload feature did not work for me in WPeC due to the large file size of the products. I did not test this feature in Shopp because the files were already on the server.

Product Variations are included in both plugins, but once again Shopp’s implementation is miles above WPeC’s. Product variations are things like different colors or sizes available for a product. Shopp offered more options for per variation settings, such as different shipping fee, product weight, sale price, etc.

WPeC’s product variation interface consisted of a few blank text fields with the labels of ‘Name’ and ‘Variation Values’.

Promotion handling such as coupon codes and other types of discounts is another place where Shopp shines. WPeC offers the option for coupon codes with a choice of dollars or a percentage for discounts. Start date and end date can be entered, along with additional options to use just once and to apply to all products.

Shopp’s promotion options are pretty impressive. Promotion types are dollar or percentage discounts, free shipping, and ‘Buy X Get Y Free’. Options for start date, end date, and whether the promotion should apply to the catalog or order are provided. The best feature is the conditions for the discount. They are “booleanesque” for lack of a better word and work similarly to setting rules in most common email programs. An example of this would be ‘For products where (all/any) of these conditions are met: (Name, Category, etc.) (is equal to, does not contain, etc.) CD.’

Shipping Options were similar for both plugins except that the options actually work in Shopp. Some of WPeC’s shipping options are broken and seem to break even more with each new release. I have been trying to get support for shipping problems for a while now, along with other folks having similar problems. No reply from the WPeC developers. Stores remain unusable.

Administration

I like Shopp’s administration interface better than WPeC’s. The WPeC admin interface is unusually wide. I have a 24″ monitor at 1900 x 1200 resolution, but I like my browser windows at a more manageable size.

The WPeC admin is a little clunky, but overall works pretty well. One feature I really liked is that on the Products admin screen, editable product details appear on the right when you click a product link on the left. I do realize that it is the wide interface that makes this possible. This made switching products and adding or changing details very easy. As far as the actual Product Details section goes, I found it cluttered, but usable.

The Shopp admin is much cleaner and for the most part, more intuitive. One thing I found confusing is that you need to select a product type of ‘Shipped’ for items that are not donations or downloads, even if they do not require shipping. It is easy enough to use since all you have to do is uncheck the Shipping box to make shipping options go away and remove shipping references from the cart and checkout.

Conclusion

Shopp wins. Do not use WPeC if you value your time and/or sanity. Up until now, WPeC has been the only game in town, but not any longer.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Shopp after finishing the beta testing. Other than that, I have no affiliation with Shopp and do not receive commissions on sales. Since I have been using Shopp for a shorter period than WPeC, I will update this article if any undiscovered bugs pop up. I am also currently biased against WP e-Commerce due to the weeks of irritation, frustration, and annoyance that it has caused me. It would really be a great plugin if it wasn’t so buggy and had better support.

WordPress 2.7

Earlier today, I updated this site to WordPress 2.7. It was a completely smooth upgrade, even though I forgot to disable my plugins and 2.7 is only a release candidate. I have been using the beta version, and now RC1 on a website I have been building for the past couple of months. It has been amazingly stable since even before it was in beta.

The administration section is completely overhauled for the way better, in my opinion. The main admin links are moved from the top to a sidebar with dropdown panels for each section. Here is a screenshot of the ‘Add New Post’ page as it appears while I am writing this:

WordPress 2.7 Add Post Screen
WordPress 2.7 Add Post Screen

One of the most exciting new features is the automatic core upgrade. Amazing! Better than that. For someone with a single site, it is amazing. For someone who is responsible for many WordPress sites, it is a dream come true. It has been working, but behaving strangely on the site I have been building. For some reason it always fails on the first two tries and works on the third. No harm is done on the failed attempts. I will see how it goes with this site.

Another handy new feature is the ‘Install Plugins’ page where you can search the WordPress Plugin Directory by keyword, author, or tag, or browse by tag, featured, popular, newest, and recently updated. You can also upload .zip files of plugins you have already downloaded.

There is much more to say about WordPress 2.7 but I am too tired to say it now. Maybe I will post again when the final version is released. I was kind of impressed with myself for holding out this long before installing it on LBnuke. Don’t think I would have made it if not for having another site to play on. I mean work on.

Pictures Without Words

Today I found FFFFOUND! FFFFOUND! is an invitation-only web image-bookmarking service that also dynamically suggests other images that may be of interest to the user based on their tastes and interests. It was hard to get away from it even long enough to post this.


Image credit: Design You Trust

There were a few things that made FFFFOUND! stand out from other image-bookmarking services. The first was the quality and interestingness of the images. I am pretty sure this is due to the invitation-only nature of the site. My favorite thing about the site is that there is no text other than the linked title of the page containing the original image and the usernames of other folks who have also bookmarked the image.

When viewing an image, thumbnails of other images that may be of interest are shown below. There are no descriptions or comments about any of the images. The experience of using the site encourages a very ‘free association’ style of browsing. Seriously mesmerizing.