Feature
Post

Category
General

WordPress 2.0.4

Just a few hours after release WordPress 2.0.4 Beta 3 to the public, the WordPress camp jumped along and released a final of version 2.0.4. The release is being called a security release, with around 50 bugs fixed. It is important that you download and upgrade to the latest version.

You can’t even tell, but we’ve made the upgrade to 2.0.4 without any problems.

Get the latest release now.

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Code

Customizing Vanilla

Since the recent launch of the Devlounge forums*, I have been receiving countless emails and requests asking me how I integrated WordPress and Vanilla. I decided what better way to get the word out then provide a quick instructional guide on how to do such a thing.

Devlounge Forums

What is Vanilla

For those of you that don’t know about Vanilla, you’re missing out on a great thing. In a world were (good) free forum software has almost became non-existent, Vanilla steps up and shows its strengths. The great thing about Vanilla is how easily extensible it is, and how straight forward, clean, and compact (the download is under 400kb!).

Understanding the skin system

Like most forum scripts, Vanilla support multiple styles (or skins, themes, whatever you’d like to call them). These styles can be selected from the admin panel, and changed on a site wide basis.

The difference of Vanilla is its use of one group of centralized files. These files are used with every theme, and theme colors and layout are controlled by individual stylesheets, rather than a group of template files with each theme.

For example, after you download Vanilla, you will see a “themes” folder. Inside, you’ll find a folder called vanilla and a bunch of different vanilla based template files. Take special note of head.php, foot.php, and panel.php. These are the three main files we will be editing.

If you continue into the Vanilla folder, you’ll find a folder inside called styles, which then leads to more folders, in this case after a fresh download, default. You besides a whole bunch of folders, who do you customize this baby?

The concept is actually a lot easier then it appears. Vanilla is all about organization, which is why even a themes folder is broken down into so many sub-folders. There are two sets of ways to customize different aspects of vanilla:

CSS Customizing Only

  • Copy the “default” folder and rename the copy to something else, say “myskin”.
  • Now, it is safe for you to edit all the css and images. Keep in mind that Vanilla will use this skin on it’s default group of template files, so the css tweaks do have their limitations depending on what you want to accomplish.

Template & CSS:

  • Copy the “vanilla” folder found inside “…/themes”. Rename the new folder to something, say “mytheme”.
  • Now that you’ve created a copy of the vanilla folder and all it’s content, you are now safe to go ahead and customize both the template files found inside and the stylesheets used for the theme.
  • The main files you will find yourself using to get the theme to match your site are head.php, foot.php, and panel.php.
  • Once you customize a template file, upload it to the newly created theme folder, such as “mytheme”. Vanilla checks to see if any template files exist inside a theme folder, and if they don’t, it uses the base template files.

Integrating Vanilla & WordPress

One thing to make clear here, Vanilla & WordPress are not fully integrated, it is simply the design. In the future, there will probably be a way to integrate WordPress & Vanilla fully, included users.

Anyways, how did I get vanilla to match devlounge? Let’s first open up the head.php in our “…/themes” folder and in our current WordPress themes folder (header.php).

Upon opening Vanilla’s head.php, down towards the end (lines 31-35), you’ll see some php with references to “body”. This is where vanilla is calling style information for the sites body, and where Vanilla will begin.

In our case, here we wanted to wrap the forum script with our sites background, as well as include the logo, header, and site navigation. A quick switch to the wordpress header.php, and look below the body tag, and the code we saw looked like this:

<div id="wrapper">
<div id="logo" onclick="location.href='http://www.devlounge.net/';"></div>
<div style="clear: both"></div>
  <div id="header"><img src="urlhere" alt="Devlounge" /></div>
<div style="clear: both"></div>
  <div id="nav">
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net">Home</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/about">About</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/articles">Articles</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/interviews">Interviews</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/features">Features</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/forum">Community</a>
<a href="http://www.devlounge.net/feedcenter">Subscribe</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/contact">Contact</a>
  </div>

To give the board the same width as a header, we added a new css class and inserted it just below the code above, along with a div clear just to be on the same side. Back to Vanilla’s head.php, we added everything above right below the last line of head.php. It looked like this: (the first few lines are the last lines of Vanilla’s head.php.)

$BodyId = "";
if ($this->BodyId != "") $BodyId = ' id="'.$this->BodyId.'"';
echo $HeadString . '</head>
   <body'.$BodyId.' '.$this->Context->BodyAttributes.'>';
?>
<!-- Begin Site Integration -->
<div id="wrapper">
<div id="logo" onclick="location.href='http://www.devlounge.net/forum';"></div>
<div style="clear: both"></div>
  <div id="header">
<img src="urlhere" alt="Devlounge" />
    </div>
<div style="clear: both"></div>
  <div id="nav">
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net">Home</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/about">About</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/articles">Articles</a>
<a href="http://www.devlounge.net/interviews">Interviews</a>
<a href="http://www.devlounge.net/features">Features</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/forum">Community</a>
<a href="http://www.devlounge.net/feedcenter">Subscribe</a>
      <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/contact">Contact</a>
  </div>
  <div style="clear: both"></div>
<div id="theboard">

Now we needed to open Vanilla’s foot.php to close our two open divs, the div “wrap” and “theboard” div. Once you open the foot.php file, you’ll notice there is no reference to the end body and html tags. These are included in page_end.php, which we’ll leave untouched. To close off the two open tags we had, we added this to the very end of foot.php:

<div style="clear: both"></div>
<div id="feed"><span class="icon">Keep your feedreader happy. <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/Devlounge">Subscribe now to our site feeds</a> or visit our <a href="http://www.devlounge.net/feedcenter">feed center</a>!</span></div>
<div style="clear: both"></div>
  <div id="footer">
   The Devlounge forums - A beautiful combination of Devlounge and Vanilla, creating the tastiest treat around.
</div>
<!-- Close off Wrap & Main Div -->
</div>
</div>

Once we had this all taken care of, the devlounge forums were now matching the site, making it seem like everything was perfectly integrated. One thing you have to remember is to insert whatever css you need for your site into the vanilla.css for whatever theme you’re using. You can also take this one step farther and customize the people.php to match your site, as we did. This makes registering also match your sites interface.

This doesn’t have to be just for integrating Vanilla and WordPress either. By following the same basic rules, you can edit Vanilla to match your site as long as you have basic code and css knowledge. Hopefully this guide is useful in the customization process. Please use the comments for any questions, comments, or thoughts on this guide you may have, or some of your own customizing tips.

* Note: As of August 15th, the Devlounge Community was removed to allow expansion before we pick up with a community again. This guide is still accurate and current.

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Homepage News

A few minor updates

Hello everyone! The redesign of devlounge has been a great success, drawing a boatload of new visitors who all love the layout. One of the great things is the focus on content rather than all site wide news such as this, which can now only be read by selecting the category from the sidebar or by being subscribed to the feeds. A few things of note of late:

Forums are open:
The forums are open, please head over to the community to signup and begin participating. We need you to help spread the word and turn the dl community into an active one.

New Staff:
We have new staff members who have begun contributing to our articles and interviews databases. I meant to add them to the authors page this past weekend but ran out of time, as soon as I get the chance (probably this weekend), they will be added.

Still Looking for more:
We’re also looking for more staff who can write about php, ajax, and ruby. We want to start expanding our articles database to cover more, as so far we have focused mostly on design and strategy. If we start spreading out the content, Devlounge can become even more popular. If you’re interested in joining the team, give this form a try.

Ad slots still available:
We still have site wide banner advertising slots available. Send an email through the contact page to disucss prices, or watch the advertising page (located under about) to be updated in a few days with new stats info and pricing.

Prebuilt 2 Launched:
Prebuilt two went live a few days ago, and it’s off to good response. In just a few short days since launch, Prebuilt is at 271 downloads. Take a look if you haven’t yet.

That’s our short monthly rundown. Check back often :)

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Interviews

Tim Dorr

The founder and owner of A Small Orange Software gives us an insight into his life.

DL: Tell us a bit about yourself

Tim: I’m currently living in Atlanta with my girlfriend and dog. I’m a relatively recent graduate of Georgia Tech with a BS in Computer Science and intend to go back within the next 2-3 years for my Masters. I’m originally from New Hampshire and only migrated down here for college. Afterwards, I figured it was a cool enough place to stick around. Plus, having a 3 year lease on our office sort of keeps me stuck here for a while anyways!

Tim Dorr

DL: When you’re not working, what do you like to do with your time?

Tim: Do interviews… No, seriously, I usual watch a lot of TV and play way too many video games. I’ve got a rather unhealthy obsession with getting my last weapon unlock in Battlefield 2. I also enjoy taking our dog, Hockey, out to the dog park to play around with other dogs in a rather chaotic manner.

DL: When did you first get into computers?

Tim: I first really got started with my parent’s 286 in our basement. I remember attempting to program a BASIC menu interface for all my frequent programs and such. It was sort of a text-mode GUI on top of DOS. It even had a screensaver, although you had to manually start it. I remember I thought I was hot shit because I was able to emulate the classic “Mystify” screensaver from Windows in BASIC. I’ve always had a big affinity towards scripted languages, weakly-typed languages, rather than the one-step-above-ASM style of something like C or C++.

DL: What made you want to start A Small Orange?

Tim: I had my own hosting, but wanted to do some things on a dedicated server that I couldn’t do on shared. However, I didn’t want to pay for it… So, I split one server initially among a group of people, and then later that split into two (Beta and Gamma). Once people started saying how good a job I was doing with the server, I decided to whip it up into a business along with some software I was working on at the time.

DL: Why “A Small Orange”?

Tim: It’s simply my AIM screen name. A long time ago, when I was picking a new name, I wanted one that didn’t have the usual lolomggrrrl1969 style. So, I poked around and found one that was simply a short phrase: a small orange. That’s sort of stuck around since then. Plus, it’s a unique enough company name to get attention solely based on people’s reactions to it. It’s always fun to see threads on WebHosting Talk that say “What do you think of a small orange?”

DL: A Small Orange isn’t so small any more; could you give us some idea as to how big ASO is now?

Tim:That’s actually an interesting question because it’s so relative. Even Godaddy, as the biggest host in terms of number of domains, has only 11% of the domains registered under it’s control. Further down the chain, someone like Dreamhost has 0.44% and Site5 has 0.055%. We’ve actually got 0.0177% of the market right now, but that’s actually very good. In terms of the numbers, we’ve got over 5000 active clients and over 7500 active hosting accounts (some people order more than one). We’re getting right around 20-25 new orders per day. Probably the most impressive part of those numbers is that we’ve done no advertising to get them. Every one of our sales is based on the recommendations of another customer. That saves us a ton of money that can be put to good use elsewhere and let’s us know if we’re doing a good job or not.

DL: Why do you think (most of) your customers are so loyal to your brand?

Tim: We actually pay attention to them! We’ve got a terrific community of people on our forums that help each other out and let us communicate with everyone in a more casual setting than the ticket system. Too many hosting businesses are run with a sort of “set it and forget it” attitude and don’t really interact with their customers unless they have to. We figure it pays to actually

DL: In the beginning, did you have any idea about just how big A Small Orange would be?

Tim: Not really, and I still don’t. It’s hard to gauge the future based on the past at this point. We’ve still got a statistically insignificant amount of data to project beyond a few years reliably. I’m still content with slower growth over ramping up too quickly. I saw how that approach had hurt Site5 with some serious growing pains. It’s funny when people say that we’re getting them, when we’re actually moving very slowly. It’s usually people on a new server and that’s inherently an unstable environment due to all the new accounts on there.

DL: Do you have any plans for the future of A Small Orange?

Tim: Less hosting, more software. The hosting part is really just a funding source for me to develop software. I’m working on getting myself out of that stuff in a more direct manner and getting back into what I really want to do with my life. The big thing at the moment is working on our clustered hosting system. It will essentially by like Mosso.com, except with two differences: 1) It won’t cost and arm and a leg and 2) it won’t suck. They’ve been having some growing pains with their system, which is understandable. I think they needed more of a beta period, which is what we’ll be aiming to do with a select few. We’ll also be opening sourcing the control panel we’re going to develop for this and be pretty transparent about the entire setup. The best part about this project is we can scale infinitely to handle small sites all the way up to huge, high-activity sites. You’ll simply pay based on your usage, in terms of CPU time, bandwidth, and space. It will be great for those sites that don’t want to move to dedicated and would like a more granular approach to the costs of their site. It’ll also be a big fundamental shift in how we host sites now that will allow us to start making 100% uptime guarantees.

DL: Other than A Small Orange, do you have any other projects on the go?

Tim: That implies that I have free time, which is a silly statement to make.

DL: As the company title suggests, A Small Orange Software is also a software company; could you tell us a little bit about the software that you offer?

Tim: Well, the big thing is ASObill at the moment. I’ve been retooling that lately to strip it down in terms of scope. I was planning a generic billing platform, but I’ve got to strip that down to just hosting billing and automation. We’ll be able to get there eventually, but I want to have something to show in the meantime. Plus, Modernbill continues to shoot themselves in the foot with their new version, so it should be pretty easy to blow them out of the water based on software quality and price (which is free, by the way!).

DL: Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

Tim: Celebrating the 10th year anniversary of you asking me this question! (RIP Mitch Hedberg!)

DL: Is there anything you’d like to say to everyone here at Devlounge?

Tim: Sup.

DL: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Tim: And thanks for taking the time to let me talk to you! Now back to that BF2 game…

Feature
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Category
General

Prebuilt 2 Launch

Now that prebuilt has surpassed 2,000 downloads, it was time to release prebuilt version 2 for wordpress. The new design sports the long awaited upgrade of widget support, as well as multiple color schemes. Head over to the prebuilt page for more.

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Webapps

Harvest

I never would have thought just a few days after discovering Tick, I would run into another web 2.0 for tracking time & budgets. This time, I discovered Harvest, and I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity to review it and compare the two similar services.

Harvest Logo

Harvest is a web 2.0 Internet application built by Iridesco focusing on tracking time logged for various tasks. Using a clean web based interface, administers and users can login to set tasks, and enter time spent on those tasks.

Sign up Process

Signing up was fairly simple, and allowed me to jump right into the app. You start off with a 30 day trial account, giving access to harvest along with the ability to have up to 10 projects and one user.. (Equivalent to their “Personal” account.)

Upon logging to the dashboard for the first time, you are brought to the reports tab with instructions on how to get started in harvest. This includes setting up basic functions, including creating your first project.

Creating & Managing Tasks & Projects

The first tab decided to visit was “Manage”. From here, I was brought to the Manage Projects section. By default, harvest had created a project named after the company name you entered when you registered. It also added a task to this, called internal.

Harvest Projects

A click on the project name brought up options to add more details to the project, for example, name, address, etc. The manage tab also had three other sub-sections: People, Tasks, and Account details.

Harvest Project Adding

The people tab allows you to add users, including their contact information. You can add both employees and contractors, set their email, and timezone, and harvest will create an account for them and send them the login details.

Finally, the task tabs allow you to create new company tasks, broken down into two categories: Common, and Other. Tasks added to common tasks are then added to every new project created in the future. When you add a task, you can also set whether it is billable by default or not.

Harvest Tasks

Timesheets

Next I visited the Timesheets tab. Here, you can select a project and associated task, enter in the amount of time the task requires, and any additional notes you may want to enter. Once you have added time to your timesheet, An icon of a clock appears. You can start and stop the timer by clicking on the clock at anytime.

Harvest Timesheet

By default, the timer does not start until you click the clock for the first time, or leave the duration value blank. The page also allows you to submit your weekly hours for review and acceptance by the admin. As admin, you have the ability to see the timesheet for all your users. The timesheets tab also creates an archive, so you can go back and review your clocked hours.

Harvest Timesheet Overview

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General

Matt Brett back in black

In a random turn of events, Matt Brett has brought back the classic black design, with the addition of some css updates and tweaks. I, for one, am glad to see the black back. While I liked the pink and white, the black really gave it the Matt Brett feel. Plus, grunge always looks better in black :).

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Interviews

Paul Scrivens

We go inside the mind of oreoceo and wisdump owner, and of course, 9rules ceo, Paul Scrivens, on topics from blogging to bar fights – and a whole lot more.

Devlounge: What’s up Scrivs? While most of the community already knows who you are from 9rules & Wisdump, mind quickly explaining just who you are?

Paul Scrivs - 9rules Ceo

Paul Scrivens: I’m a 25 year old black and white male from Tampa, Florida who has trouble sleeping and keeping his room clean. I am the CEO of 9rules, Inc, some punk kid who played his cards right and got lucky with this whole blogging thing when it was in its infancy a couple of years ago. I have loved computers my whole life and that’s really all I know or at least the only thing I know how to make money with legally. I’m a Leo and hate long walks on the beach, but love catching the women when they are done walking with some other guy.

DL: Where did the idea for 9rules come from, and how long did it take to put it all together?

Scrivs - 9rules, Wisdump & Oreoceo

PS: Mike tells this story better than I do, but before SXSW in 2005 I was talking to him and went to go take a shower and thought it would be cool to have a Network of sites that helped people get their names out there. I would always get questions about how can someone become popular and figured instead of just replying to emails why not create a Network around the concept of quality content because there were too many good sites not getting recognition. It wasn’t a brand new idea since you could argue it was eerily similar to webrings of the 90′s, but surprisingly it wasn’t anywhere to be found on the web at the time.

Mike flew down a couple of days later and I explained the concept to him and in May we announced our first site so it took a little more than 6 weeks.

DL: With Round 4 submissions ending in May, you guys saw the highest turnout of any submission round for 9rules. You and the rest of team 9rules also stressed how it seems to be getting harder and harder to choose what sites to accept, because content everywhere seems to be getting better and better. Do you think the introduction of 9rules has played a role in the quality found in the blogosphere?

As we evolve we want to expand beyond the blogosphere because the general public really doesn’t care if your site is a blog or a newsletter, they just want quality content coming across their screen.

PS: Well if you read what some people are saying we have had an influence on how some people look at content, but let’s be realistic. With over 30+ million blogs it would be silly to say we are making a major dent in the blogosphere and we are just proud to have effected a small percentage of the sites out there and hopefully we can continue to do so. As we evolve we want to expand beyond the blogosphere because the general public really doesn’t care if your site is a blog or a newsletter, they just want quality content coming across their screen.

DL: It seems much more has surrounded Round 4 than just the new members themselves. You are also in the middle of designing & launching the next version of 9rules’ Communities, conveniently dubbed Communities 2.0. How do you manage to handle 100+ new members while balancing multiple other network needs?

in fact have just now realized I serve no purpose in 9rules. You guys hiring?

PS: By having a great team working with me. Most of what is involved with the new 9rules falls on the shoulders of Mike and Colin, while Tyme has been handling new member duties. I tried to stop doing everything a long time ago and in fact have just now realized I serve no purpose in 9rules. You guys hiring?

DL: You also have two of your own personal blogs, Wisdump (more for business and design) and Oreo CEO, which seems more personal. Of your blogs, is there one you enjoying writing on more than the other?

PS: Oreo CEO is definitely the more personal of the two, while Wisdump is more of my “professional” side. I love to write for Oreo because it is low-key and helps to keep blogging fun for me. Wisdump is a great time due to the discussions that occur, but there is also a certain responsibility to uphold with the quality of the content on there. I think it’s important for anyone involved in blogging to have a site like Oreo where they can cut loose and just have fun with things without having to worry about who is linking to you or if your traffic numbers are on the decline.

DL: 9rules members who frequently visit the member forum know a thing or two about the multiple projects and ideas you and the rest of the 9rules team has up their sleeves. Any upcoming things you may have in store you wouldn’t mind sharing, or would you rather keep things quiet for now?

PS: Hard to keep track ourselves sometimes of what we have planned in the future. With the launch of the new 9rules you will see that we are really going to put a focus on making 9rules a new media company (no I’m not talking about Flash). Next week we will launch our first official 9rules podcast: 9@9. This will be a short 3-5 minutes podcast done 9rules style highlighting 9 different items from our members across the Network.

There are plenty of other things, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but with so many different opportunities with all the content that we have at our hands you can guess where we are headed. We just want to continue to give our audience a chance to find the best content on the web and our members the best chance of reaching new audiences.

DL: What you do like to do in your free time, away from the work desk?

PS: I’m a club/bar fiend. Working at home all day I am pretty much guaranteed to want to get as far away from my place at night as possible. If I’m not hitting up the social nightlife I’m probably playing soccer somewhere or leveling my characters in World of Warcraft.

DL: Where do you see yourself in five years, besides from some sweet skyscraper in LA with the 9rules logo gleaming in the sun?

PS: Good question. Hell, I don’t even know where I see myself next week, but I do have a feeling I will still be working with my team in one capacity or another and that’s just fine by me. Of course I will be married to Jessica Alba and live in a sky fortress, but those are details I’m sure you don’t want to hear about.

Scrivs future?

DL: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

PS: Always my pleasure AJ. Now if you will excuse me the club scene is calling.

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Code

Consistent List Markup

Web standards are here to stay, and with this comes the need for semantic markup. One of the main items of any website is the navigation, in essence a list of links, so it is only right that they should be marked up with a lovely unordered list. Every site I work on now has the main navi (and the sub navi of course!) marked up as a list. I have become very familiar with crafting pretty looking menus with the strong underlying backbone of an unordered list. Trouble is under certain circumstances I find my list gets a little out of control with the amount of whitespace it likes to display.

Let’s start off with some nice clean list markup.

<ul>
	<li><a href="#">One</a></li>
	<li><a href="#">Two</a></li>
	<li><a href="#">Three</a></li>
	<li><a href="#">Four</a></li>
</ul>

Im sure you are all pretty familiar with an unordered list, so I will spare you the details, next up let’s add some simple styling, as you would if you wanted to make a nice navi.

ul {
	margin:0;
	padding:0;
	list-style:none;
}
	ul li {
		margin:0;
		padding:0;
		display:inline;
	}
		ul li a {
			margin:0;
			padding:0;
			background-color:#ccc;
		}

Pretty simple CSS there, I set margin and padding to 0 on everything to more easily reveal the extra white space. Now let’s turn this simple vertical navi into a horizontal one. Simply add display:inline; to the list elements. Preview this new horizontal wonder in your favourite browser and you will see some mysterious whitespace between the anchor elements. This phenomenon is also displayed in this screen shot (flickr).

There you have it, space between elements that have no margin or padding!

Ok, so thats all well and good, you might even be able to cope with the extra whitespace that is being chucked in here but I like my CSS to be a bit more precise, so I’ll show you how to sort this problem.

Try out the following code in your favourite browser.

<ul><li><a href="#">One</a></li><li><a href="#">Two</a></li><li><a href="#">Three</a></li><li><a href="#">Four</a></li></ul>

As if by magic, the white space will be gone! Basically all you need to do to remove those pesky gaps is to write your list on one line and one line only. Trouble with writing the code all on one line is it looks awful. As an alternative, you can drop the last angle bracket (>) on each line, and put it at the start of the following line, as shown on the online demo page, make sure you view the source.

So there we have it, a consistent way of marking up unordered lists. I find I use this technique a lot when working with horizontal navigation. It can also help when using anchors displayed as block, where IE has some issues with how much white space it wants to show.

View the demo page of this technique.

Authors Note: This article was originally published at blog.critical some parts of the article have been tweaked for use here on Devlounge.

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Webapps

Fluxiom Review

This week I had the great chance to take a deeper look into Fluxiom, I’ve been waiting to try this web application out for quite a while now and I must say I was totally impressed when I got my hands on this masterpiece of AJAX.

What is Fluxiom? Fluxiom makes it easy to organize and share your digital assets within your company, your colleagues and friends. Manage any kind of file like corporate media assets, marketing materials, product folders, contracts, images, text documents, logos or artwork – you name it.

Getting Started

Obviously the first thing that has to be done with your Fluxiom account is starting to upload all sorts of media you have. Fluxiom makes it very easy to upload your files, there’s no need for an external application and it works with all browsers.

Fluxiom-2.jpg

Furthermore, unlike other sites where you just have the upload button Fluxiom makes it easy to track the progress of your upload, it has a nice little animated progress bar displaying how much has been uploaded and at what speed its uploading.

Fluxiom-3.jpg

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Category
Interviews

Ryan Sims

This time around, where discussing design, music and more with Ryan Sims of Neubix Studios and Justwatchthesky.

Devlounge: Hey Ryan, thanks for sitting down to talk (type) with us, you’ve been pretty requested lately around here. Now let’s get right into it with our usual first question – give a brief introduction to anyone unaware of justwatchthesky and Neubix.

Ryan Sims - Interview 1

Ryan Sims: No problem. Thanks for the invite. I am a Midwest transplant now living, working and playing in Boston, Massachusetts. My best friend Brad Smith and I co-founded a design studio back in 2001 called Neubix, where we achieved acclaim most notably for our website design projects and our award-winning blog, The Big Noob. In the summer of 2005, we moved from Missouri to Massachusetts to head up design at Unborn Media, the company behind purevolume.com.

DL: How did you get into the field of design?

RS: Mainly through music. Music was always my first love and design was a close second. Throughout high school, I was always designing and drawing things. Whether it was t-shirts for our high school or typefaces while I was taking notes, it was always in my nature to “make things look nice and neat”. Music really served as the biggest catalyst because being in a band presented lots of design projects – album art, stickers, t-shirts, posters and a website. Since our band was dirt poor, we were very DIY and a lot of those projects fell right in my lap. That’s right about the time that I started getting really interested in design and shortly thereafter got hired by Brad for my first design job. Since then, I’ve relied heavily on design community sites like K10K, the FWA, Styleboost and Stylegala, as well as individuals like Eric Jordan, Arnaud Mercier, Dan Cederholm and Shaun Inman to show me what good design can be and to push me to become better at it myself.

Music really served as the biggest catalyst because being in a band presented lots of design projects – album art, stickers, t-shirts, posters and a website. Since our band was dirt poor, we were very DIY and a lot of those projects fell right in my lap.

DL: Neubix was recently responsible for the Purevolume redesign, which really cleaned up the PV design (which wasn’t very bad to begin with). With the latest addition, the cleaned up media player, what do you think about purevolume and the direction it’s heading in?

RS: Well, how do I answer this without sounding completely conceited? Of course, I was thrilled with the opportunity of working on purevolume.com a second time and yes, I am very pleased with the final results. I had designed the previous version of purevolume.com as a freelancer and was basically only responsible for designing the homepage and a mockup of a subpage. This time was much more hands on for me and Brad and it was nice to iron out a lot of design kinks that had been plaguing the site for a couple years. Our biggest triumph was the new player and the functionality of listening to an artist’s music and browsing their shows/blogs/photos pages simultaneously without refreshing the page. It makes for a pretty spectacular and totally uninterrupted listening/browsing experience.

Ryan Sims - Interview 2

DL: Any future purevolume updates on the horizon, and is Neubix behind Virb as well (If so, mind giving us some inside-information if it’s allowed ;)).

RS: Neubix, as an entity, is really in a state of hiatus right now. When we moved to Boston, Brad and I officially joined the Unborn Media team. Since we’ve been there, we’ve been able to hire 2 more extremely talented designers and big things are definitely on the horizon, the biggest of which is Virb.com. While I can’t give you too much information as to what it’s about, there will be a public beta coming very soon. As far purevolume.com improvements go, we recently launched store.purevolume.com which features apparel designed by myself and the other designers on our team. Providing exclusive content and more videos will be a high priority for PV in the next year. Our next big overhaul should see bands uploading music videos and live footage, not just music. There is a lot of cool stuff brewing in the lab and 2006 should prove to be a very big year for our company.

On the personal front, I can tell you that I will be unveiling a new Justwatchthesky.com by summer’s end. After nearly 2 years of splash-pagedness, I will be trying my hand at a full-blown site again.

DL: Where did the idea for Justwatchthesky come from, and deeming yourself the “Go To Splash Guy”?

Ryan Sims - Interview 3

RS: As far as the name goes, it comes from one of my favorite songs by Jimmy Eat World called “Just Watch the Fireworks.” I was looking to buy my first domain back in 2000 and thought that “fireworks” was a little too long, so I shortened it to “sky”. Justwatchthesky. The self-proclamation of the “Go-To Splash Guy” is really just a hyperbolic statement. I’m kind of haunted by a bad habit of coming up with ideas and never really seeing them through to completion. In most cases, these ideas mainly manifest themselves in splash pages.

DL: Back on the subject of music, what are some of your favorite bands, both major label and independent?

I’m listening to a lot of Muse right now. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands. Thom Yorke’s “solo” album and Fair, a Tooth & Nail band, are also in heavy rotation. My favorite artists, in no particular order, would have to be Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, Jimmy Eat World, Muse, Radiohead, Jenny Lewis, Death Cab for Cutie, Mae, Pedro the Lion, etc. etc. Check out my Last.fm page for more: http://www.last.fm/user/justwatchthesky

Some of my indie favorites would include Confident Years, David Bazan, The Professional Americans, Elevator Division, Rediscover, Eli Chambers, Jets Under Fire and Nathanael Mehrens, which can all be heard at purevolume.com.

DL: Any other hobbies & interests you wouldn’t mind sharing?

RS: I’ve been playing a lot of tennis lately. There are a couple of really good players at the office who have been helping me improve my game. I also love to read. I’m a sucker for a Dean Koontz book. I’d really love to have more time to read. My biggest hobby, as of late, is video. Brad and I recently bought the same digital video camera and are looking forward to shooting some short films together once Virb.com is live. And I can’t forget the Xbox – I’m still trying to talk my wife into letting me get a 360. We’ll see, though. ;)

DL: Any last words?

RS: Thanks again for the invite. Good luck to Devlounge and your new website!

DL: Thanks for answering some things for us. Keep up the great work for Neubix and PV.

RS: Thanks. I’ll do my best.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated with the happenings on Virb and Purevolume.

Feature
Post

Category
Webapps

Tick Preview

Tick is an upcoming web 2.0 app with a different flair. Once again, it’s another tracker, but this time, it helps you manage time. In an exclusive insiders look at the current pre-release version, we’ll let you know if Tick has a future as a successful web app, or if it should be swept away in the web 2.0 craze.

Tick - Logo

The Interface

Upon joining Tick (currently invite only, lucky for me being the admin of a site like this, I get into all this private previews ;)), I was immediately greeted with a beautiful looking login screen. It was just a sample of what was to come.

Tick - Login Screen

Logging in took all but a few seconds, before I was greeted with a web 2.0 app familiar dashboard. The three main dashboard tabs included timecard, projects, and reporting. The initial login view lands you under “Timecard”, with a faded away background to represent what the page would look like if you had something there yet (37signals like).

Tick - Dashboard

Creating a project

It took me a few minutes to have a look around the interface and figure out what was what. Once I was settled, I took the advice given on the homepage view and created a new project.

I was presented with a “Create New Project” screen, with a few options such as Client Name, Project Name, Total Project Budget (time, not money), and Email Notifications. Once again, Tick allows you to have multiple users included in a project, so you can notify them of updates and deadlines.

Tick - Create new project

From the project screen you could also add Tasks, using some simple javascript slider / dropdown effects, the task menu appears, allowing you to add individual tasks and assign amounts of time to work on them.

Tick - Task Creation