Upgrades, Learning, and Stuff!

First, Merry Christmas! It's that time of year! Remember that it isn't all about the presents and money, Christmas is a great time to remember that Jesus was born to save us all. That's where the real joy of these Holidays comes from. :D

 

Anyway, if you visited this site before, you will notice things have changed a lot. Well, all you see is the new theme. I've been busy playing around with different configurations of Drupal 7 beta and now RC. As part of that, I found the theme Pixture Reloaded. It's a handy starter theme to fill in on sites like this one until I can create my own theme. Lot's of options.

The other changes are on the backend. My Slicehost VPS was getting really slow. As in unworkably slow. So I went and found Linode. They offer more bang fo the buck. And this site is now hosted on their cloud. 'Course, after I go to all the trouble to move stuff, I realize that I could try changing the realpath_cache size on my Slicehost VPS like I did when I was using WAMP on my desktop. That actually did fix my slow down... *sigh* Oh well, I still moved over here to Linode. For one thing, their documentation is light-years ahead of Slicehost... I learned a ton just setting this VPS up. If you need to learn some stuff about server administration, a VPS is a great way to do it. You can do whatever you want, and just wipe it and start over very easily.

 

Oh, and if you notice the pinkish background on the WYSIWYG editor, it's a wierd quick of Pixture Reloaded that I haven't fixed yet. Their default color scheme is hot pink... Hence one of the first things I did was change it to blue...

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Drupal Tip: Drupal slow on WAMP

So, I've been doing a lot of my Drupal development at work on Windows XP. For some reason Drupal was running extremly slow. After searching off and on for a few days, I finally stumbled across the right key words to find this: http://drupal.org/node/348202 Solution: increase realpath_cache_size in php.ini to something larger. I set it to 20M. I might make it bigger, we'll see. But at least Drupal is usable for now. Oh, and I should note that when I am developing on Linux or on my server, Drupal is plenty fast. So this was a problem specific to my WAMP install.

Thoughts about Google Maps API

My current project at work is creating a map of campus using Google Maps API. So far the experience has been decent. It's taken me about two weeks to get most of it working. Could have been less, but there were a few things I had to do to work around the API's limitations. So, here are a few of the pro's and con's I've found.

Pro's

It's really easy to draw overlays, and paths, and all kinds of stuff using Google Earth. You then can pull the resulting KML files into Google Maps. It's a slick way of creating maps. As long as you don't mind the few limitations that come with it. More on that later.
The API has good documentation. It's way better than many other API's documentation I've seen. It's not perfect, but it is good.
The Google Group for version 3 of the api is decent. I got enough help there to push me through some of the issue's I had.
It's free! I believe that if you are going to use it in a product that makes money in a certain way, you have to do something to license it, but for my use, and most others, it's free!

Con's

The satellite photo's are not up to date for my campus. They are over 5 years old, and a lot of things have changed. That said, I understand why. It's hard to get good satellite pics.
You have to have your KML files on a public server for Maps to process and show them. This means that you can just test them on your local machine, it has to be a server. It was annoying having to upload things over and over...
There is no build in method of adding labels to anything. I think they assume you are going to use an infowindow or pushpin marking. But that's not what I needed. I needed actual text on top of different buildings. As far as I could tell, there's no way to do that. I ended up having to create images of my text, and then create image overlays to display them on the map. Clunky. I really don't like it.
There is no simple method to tell Maps what order to z-index/stack your polygons/overlays/paths/etc. The only thing you can do in that area is when you have multiple infowindows open, you can set their z-indexes. I did find one persons example map that managed to do it for some polygons, but I wasn't able to get it to work. Thus, my text labels were initially displaying underneath the polygons and were hard to see. I had to create a custom overlay to get them to show up on top. It's just clunky and wierd.
That's also why I ended up not using KML files to define all my map objects. I had to use the javascript functions for everything. Which resulted in a javascript class that manipulates the Google API. That just doesn't feel right to me, but it was the only way I could get the labels to show up right.

Conclusion

In spite of the fact that I have more con's than pro's, I really like Google Maps. It's an excellent service. I did check out both MapQuest and Microsoft's mapping services. From the documentation, they don't have nearly the power that Google does. So, if you need an interactive map, Google Maps API is a good tool to use.

Windows hardware changes vs. Ubuntu Linux hardware changes

I just upgraded my graphics card. I had been using an onboard GeForce 8200, but my brother had a Radeon 4350 HD that he wasn't using. So I brought it home with me, and installed it tonight. Here are some impressions between my Vista 32 bit install, and my Ubuntu Lucid Lynx install.

Ubuntu:

The initial window saying you have changed hardware is pathetic. It just says that it couldn't load the former nvidia driver, then gives you a box with a few options. It took me a couple tries to figure out the correct option. "Start once in low graphics mode." Or something like that. I was expecting a low resolution desktop after that, but it dropped me into a full 1400x900 desktop. After that, I just installed the correct drivers by going to the 'Drivers' option under System->Administration. Then I restarted my xserver by logging out and back in. And I was done.

Windows:

Booted up into a 800x600 resolution. It didn't automatically figure out what drivers I needed. So I had to search the web for the correct drivers. Fortunately AMD/ATI have a decent site and I found what I needed quickly. I also have a fast internet connection, so downloading the files wasn't noticeably different than on Ubuntu. I installed the drivers, restarted to activate them, and I was pretty much done. Just had to tweak my dual monitor displays a bit.

Conclusion:

Ubuntu's initial dialogues and having to search for drivers were the only problems I had. So, both Windows and Ubuntu came out even.

Thanks Drupal Gardens!

Hey! Yet again, DavidReagan.net get's a new look. Drupal Gardens is giving away free beta keys to their Drupal site building service. I signed up for one, and a few days later they were nice enough to send one to me. It's pretty impressive what they've created. They make the creation of a Drupal site practically painless. Go check out this video. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what else they add as time goes by.