Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pleomax SuperSlim keyboard is pure joy (converting my laptop to a CPU)

I recently converted my laptop to a CPU (haha) because it's killing my neck already. Using the laptop 8hrs a day is really a pain! I bought a 19inch Samsung LCD monitor and this Pleomax SuperSlim keyboard so I can get away from using the laptop directly. I think I'm becoming a Samsung fanboy haha.. so far I'm satisfied with these 2 items, both are worth the money.

I really like how the laptop feels except my posture when I'm using it. That's the only drawback. But I'm so used to the keyboard, touchpad, and even the small screen. I think I've been working around 6 months on just my laptop. Until my neck gave up.


LCD Monitor
The 19inch Samsung costs PhP 6,800. I like it's low resolution (relative to the screen size - 1360x768) which makes everything big. I always wondered why some LCD makers max out the pixel density for the screen size, yes it makes the desktop real estate bigger but you will need a microscope for everything, especially the text. It's just not practical. We bought a 17inch LG before that was just like that. The problem with these monitors is that you have to use their native resolution, or else it the pixels will look ugly. Kudos to Samsung (and others) who make big LCD's with low pixel density (not sure if LG still does it like before).


Keyboard
The Pleomax SuperSlim keyboard costs PhP 1,000. I read about Pleomax before on the newspaper that they were making these keyboards that are like the laptop keyboards. I just love laptop keyboards (especially Lenovo haha) because I can type very fast with no effort at all. My brother says that this keyboard is too expensive, but in my job I use the keyboard like 99% of the time so for me it's really essential. If you have a supercomputer with a generic cheapo keyboard then your computer sucks!!! hahaa no flames please, I just have to say that ;) I've had jobs before where they would let us use a generic keyboard which really irritates me. I mean it's the thing I use all day (!!!), plus it doesn't really cost that much to buy a premium keyboard like this one. The Pleomax SuperSlim keyboard totally feels like a laptop keyboard so that makes it worth the money for me (Pleomax is owned by Samsung btw).

Mouse
Just using a regular A4tech mouse. Haha. No innovation on the mouse department anyway. I'm still wishing I can buy a USB touchpad so I don't have to move my right hand away from the keyboard from time to time.

So there. Laptop users, please don't damage your neck! (at least if you're using it all day everyday).

Photo credits: pchome.com.tw, lacentnetwork.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Building my band's website using Wordpress

Besides coding, my other passion is music. I sing and write songs for the pop/rock/alternative band Nelo at ang Tala. Last week, I decided to recreate my band's outdated website so it can go well with our newly finished demo. I used Wordpress (WP) as CMS for the website so I can edit it with my bandmates and it's easy to post updates soon. Wordpress really rocks, everytime I have a chance to use it I constantly get awed by its new features and very nice interface. I really salute the people behind this project for creating this kick-ass software. Anyway, enough of my fanboyism.



Theme

I copied the whole kubrick folder (default) and renamed it to nelo. Then I wiped the css clean so I can start from scratch (hehe). I'm not really sure if they've updated kubrick since WP 2.0, but the last time I used it, the css file was full of hacks (haha). Not blaming it though, this theme is being used by gazillions of blogs (don't flame me pls ;). I've even used this on some sites before. I just wanted a clean slate because I already have a static design (HTML/CSS) ready. Made some edits to the templates and voila it's good and working! Another nice thing about WP is the excellent semantic markup; it will be just as usable as is, even without CSS.

Content
I wanted to make everything editable on the admin. Offcourse that's not possible (maybe it is, but I don't want to spend forever for something that will change in a year). What I'd like to be editable is the text intro and teaser that's on the header part of the template. I don't think WP doesn't have a snippets feature yet for misc parts of the website (there's widgets, but that's for the sidebar). What I did was created a 'page' for each section of content on the template that I want to be editable, so I created an 'intro' and 'teaser' page. I looked into the codex and found out about this nice function get_posts, what it does is it queries posts/pages based on the arguements given. It's really a charm, here's how I used it on the template:

$intro = get_posts('pagename=intro&showposts=1&post_type=page');
foreach($intro as $i) :
setup_postdata($i);
the_content('More »');
endforeach;

This looks for the page 'intro' and displays it on the part where I want it to show. One disadvanage of using this approach is you can't use WP's function to list the pages for your nav, since it will also show the pages that you are only using on the template (maybe you can use link categories but I haven't tried that yet). On my template, the links on the nav are hardcoded (and I don't mind ;)

Gallery
The gallery feature of WP is just new, so I don't really mind that it sucks right now. It's hard to understand how to use it (attach photos to a page/post to create a gallery). But I've managed to use it on our photos page! It still helped a lot.

Blog
Oh did I mention that WP is mainly a blogging engine? hehe. That's one reason why I really like to use it on our site. You won't see it now but the frontpage is also where the blog posts will appear. (will post updates soon!)

Plugins
The admin interface if you are an admin (sorry about the sentence!) is quite messy at first. I don't want my bandmates to get intimidated by the number of options and features. I assigned them as authors so they can focus on the content. One problem I faced is that an author cannot edit widgets, which I need because our gig schedule (which appears on the sidebar) is using the text widget. To solve this I used the Role Manager plugin which lets you assign custom privileges to a certain user. I just added the 'switch theme' privilege and it worked!

Misc
Wow this is already long. I really enjoyed building our website especially because I used a lot of stuff that are available already for free. If you notice I'm using a flash player (ala myspace). The player is from Premiumbeat and it's free. I like it because it's simple and elegant (and it works quite well!).

Streaming
Lastly, I'd like our music to stream fast so the user won't get stuck while playing it. This is another story but I'm using Amazon's S3 to host the mp3 files, so it will always stream fast. Special mention to S3fox which is a free software to manage files on S3.

That's it. Some people say that our website is simple and effective. I'm very glad to hear that! I'm not really much of a designer but I think I'm good at creating simple and effective user interfaces. Thanks for reading and keep the music playing!