A riproaring rollercoaster of a journey through time, space and that side road just over there...

Category: "Web & IT Stuff"

Useful Linux/Ubuntu Commands

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on August 2nd, 2013 @ 19:02:00 , using 25 words,
Posted in Web & IT Stuff

...because I know I will end up forgetting them later

  1. How to find out whether SSH is running or not
  2. $ ps aux |grep [s]sh
  3. next...

31 Day Photography Challenge - August 2011: Day 12 - Heart

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on August 12th, 2011 @ 22:08:52 , using 0 words,

Welcome to the Machine - 31 Day Photography Challenge - August 2011: Day 12 - Heart

Book Review: 'Using Joomla' by Ron Severdia & Kenneth Crowder, O'Reilly Media

Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on April 5th, 2010 @ 21:15:00 , using 1543 words,
Joomla as a Content Management System

"If you're new to web content management systems, or even new to building websites, this book will help you create powerful web applications and high-quality websites with Joomla", so runs the publicity blurb. With copy like that, it must be good, right? With a review copy in my hands courtesy of O'Reilly themselves, I agreed to find out and summarise my findings here at Izdihar.com

For those haven't heard of Joomla before, it's an Open Source Content Management System (CMS) first released at version 1.0 in September 2005 under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). Originally based on the proprietary Mambo CMS, Joomla is currently available for download at version 1.5.15, with version 1.6 expected to be released later this year.

The 'Using xxx' series of books has been part of the O'Reilly range since 1995 and now amounts to 8 books on topics such as Drupal, Google and Samba, with a further book on SQLite due later this year. A first glance at the cover would suggest that the books' content is very much in line with the main part of their output, and is likely to be, both heavily technical in nature and full of lists of objects, attributes and values. My own tendency when trying to learn something new in the IT world is to grab the 'Dummies' guide, or similar, then roll my sleeves up with the real thing from O'Reilly. This isn't that kind of book though and appears to fall somewhere in the middle. The 'Using' in the title is there for a reason, as it's very much intended to assist with the use of an existing product and not to help you code up your latest fantasy solution. As it says in the preface, "if you're a developer looking to build extensions or extend and build on Joomla's framework, this book isn't for you".

Installing Joomla

The book starts with Chapter 1 covering the installation of Joomla, so the the first thing I did was head for Appendix A, naturally. There was good reason for this though, as the opening chapter assumes that you are working with hosted web space using cPanel and the Fantastico installation script library. The book recommends against this installation route though and suggests you take control over your own installation, which it details in Appendix A. Following their advice, I had Joomla up and running on a Netbook running Windows XP and configured with WampServer, including sample data, within a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. I tried the same on a Linux server later, with almost the same result, except I managed to trip over some long standing file permission issues of my own creation - not a 'live' server I hasten to add. So far so good then, a very easy sequence of steps to follow, though it's possible to argue that the simplicity and clarity of the Joomla installation routine, almost doesn't need hard copy documentation on hand.

Administrator Panel & Content Prep/Creation

With a server on hand then, the book moves into describing the Administrator Panel, Global Configuration, Content Preparation and Creating Content. All are well described, though there is a sense that in parts there is a little duplication going on; the method of creating 'categories' is much the same as that for 'sections' for example. Similarly, whilst it is handy to have a ready reference to the purpose of each field on a screen, I'm not sure most will need to be told that when creating a Web Link page, that they should "Enter the full URL here" for the 'URL' field. Still better to have too much explained than not enough.

Joomla Structure

From chapter 7 onwards, the book starts to delve much more into the underpinning structure of Joomla, taking the reader though setting up menus, the use of components, modules & plug-ins, before moving off into a look at templates. Whilst each of these chapters did give me detailed information about each of these structural aspects of Joomla, I found myself having some difficulty trying to relate these items to one another. This was one area where I felt the book could use a little work, fine that you cover everything in exquisite detail, but give me summary of how it all fits together on a real site, then take me into the guts of the thing.

Users, Media, Languages, Managing Extensions & Tools

Chapters 12, 13 & 14 cover off managing users, media content and languages; all very straightforward it is too. At this point it's worth noting that the book is based on v1.5.14 of Joomla where user management is quite a simple affair. As soon as version 1.6 comes out of it's alpha/beta cycle, users will being seeing the introduction of the much anticipated ability to create Access Control Lists, whereupon user management will step up a level in complexity and I suspect the book will be in need of revision in that area.

Next come a couple of short and easily digested chapters on the extension manager and tools; no problems here.

Converting a Site to Joomla

Then comes a chapter on what I suspect will be one of the commonest tasks any Joomla user is likely to want to tackle at a very early stage of their involvement with the tool, that of converting an existing site to Joomla. It's at this point that we come across the first example of a diagram that wasn't a screen-shot (of which there are dozens), in this case a wire-frame of the site to be replicated in Joomla. I was surprised at how short this chapter was to be honest, though having read through it, the set-up of a basic template isn't all that difficult. What will take longer will be styling that template using CSS, and this is given only cursory coverage. To be fair, this book isn't the place for that, CSS being a topic that needs several books all of it's very own. If you want to get into the guts of Joomla, you won't find out how from here, you're going to have to get your hands dirty, analyse the built-in templates, possibly open up a number of PHP files and then work at it with a good CSS reference for company.


The largest chapter of the book is reserved for extending Joomla. Here you find excellent coverage of a range of commonly desired extra features, including a store-front, a blog, calendaring/event management, a discussion forum, a photo-gallery and more. Some of those covered are free downloads, other at relatively modest cost. Clearly the book can't cover every extension that's out there, but I did feel it gave a good sample of commonly desired features.

Chapters 19 and 20 cover off SEO and security. The SEO features for Joomla are quite simple, and therefore the book covers these off in a mere 8 pages. Security as a topic is similarly short, my only question here is "why bury it right at the back?". Wouldn't this be better covered off as the first port of call following installation?

Joomla v1.6

As I read the chapter on Joomla 1.6 and the features it will have within in, I recalled a comment written right up front of the book which said "...the goal of this book is to focus primarily on the functionality and extensions related to Joomla 1.6". Having read then that sections, trash, the front page manager, and integrated article archiving are to disappear from the newer version, I found myself hesitating over whether that goal has been met; all these depreciated features being covered in some length within the book. I did though find a guide to setting up the new ACL and associated user permissions for v1.6. I was also delighted to discover that the later version has also added enhanced compatibility with the now ubiquitous jQuery JavaScript library.

The book rounds off with a discussion on how to get involved with the Joomla Project, before heading into the appendices which aside from the aforementioned Appendix A, covers off how to choose the right extensions, developing for Joomla and a tips and tricks section.


Overall, I found that I had a far greater comprehension of how Joomla functions, as well as gaining a much better understanding of what it can be made to do. As I said above though, there is a need to find a way of making some of the chapters hang together as a whole though, as at times it feels like the book has something of a stove-pipe mentality about it. Also, I still have a sense that this book isn't necessarily going to translate quite as well to Joomla v1.6 as it suggests it will; not having tried to follow it against a functioning copy of that version though, I will reserve judgement for now.

At this point in time, I'd rate this book as 3½ out of 5. There is room for improvement here and my guess is that the imminent arrival of a stable v1.6 of Joomla will provide the catalyst for its first revision.

Book Details:

Title: Using Joomla

By: Ron Severdia, Kenneth Crowder

Foreword By: Louis Landry

Publisher: O'Reilly Media

Formats: * Print * Ebook * Safari Books Online

Print Release: December 2009

Ebook Release: December 2009

Pages: 416

Print ISBN: 978-0-596-80494-7 | ISBN 10: 0-596-80494-6

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4493-7741-0 | ISBN 10: 1-4493-7741-6


Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on March 20th, 2010 @ 00:05:17 , using 830 words,
Posted in General, Web & IT Stuff

I guess at some point, everyone has felt that impending sense that something is about to or has gone wrong, though nothing around them has changed or is obviously amiss. Perhaps there's a feeling that a family member is hurt or perhaps you slow down on a corner where you normally wouldn't because you know there's going to be a slow moving tractor when you power out the other side. That sort of inbuilt tendency to somehow divine what you logically cannot know or see.

Such has been the last week, but not for anything as meaningful as the personal safety of myself or a loved one. No, for me it came in the form of a piece of technology; my PC. For some inexplicable reason, I've been wondering whether I should get the disks cloned off onto some new ones, much as I had to do for the music PC a while back. That was 6 years old though, this one only about 2½, so no real age, but the doubt was there. Perhaps more so because it gets a lot of use. All original 'straight out of camera' (SOOC) original files are stored here, all my iTunes files, Adobe CS4 is on here, as is just about every piece of OU work that AM and I have done is stored here also. More insidious is the rather unsatisfactory nature of my back-up routine. Whilst I've got a very nice WD MyBook sitting alongside me and the Windows backup is set to use it, the PC regularly decides it knows nothing about it and the backup inevitably fails. Neither do I take the precaution of burning stuff to DVD, just in case something should happen. So like the self-respecting IT person I am, I ignore the dangers and pretend to myself that it can't happen to me - after all, in the very finest of ostrich-like traditons, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Muppet alert!

This evening as AM and I are sitting in front of an episode of 'Without a Trace' (don't ask me to explain that one), I hear the tell-tail beep of the boot-up sequence on a PC doing its POST message.

...Shit! Why has that happened?

The PC has been idle for a couple of hours now, there's no reason to expect anything to happen, nothing was left running when I went to help make the tea. I had though spent a fair amount of time during the day messing around with a little light MS Access programming and working on making some changes to the default workspace settings in Photoshop.

I did save everything didn't I?

I get up to investigate and wander into the study to find that the PC has indeed re-started itself and is about half way through booting back up.

A good opportunity to make a cup of tea for myself and a coffee for AM

I get back to find that everything on the PC looks normal. Must have been one of those spurious things people tell me never happen on a Mac {spits}, until I notice a small flashing icon in the system tray. Clicking on it brings up one of those utilities that no one ever uses, the 'Intel Matrix Storage Console'.

Sounds grand, but what's it do...

I open it up to find that it's showing a failed system disk. I go slightly pale I suspect at this point

When was the last good backup taken?

I check - last December, just before I flew home for Christmas. Potentially not everything lost then, and the other disk is still reporting itself good, but one half of the RAID1 pair has exited stage left. The console says replace the disk...

You don't say!

But it's well known that if one disk in a RAID array has died, then there's a good chance the others are not so far behind.

This could get mighty serious...

First things first, get a current back-up; time to sort out the MyBook and get it back on line. I'd suspected for a while that it hadn't liked being connected via Firewire, so a few minutes later, the box it came in was located and the cable substituted for a USB one. All is good at this point and the MyBook is back visible again in the Windows Explorer. A few more seconds and the backup routine is running, though who knows how long that will take. Likely a while, given that the MyBook says it's rebuilding its own array (it's got a RAID1 pair too) - it has its very own obscure utility to tell me this.

As I sit here some 4 hours later, the back-up looks to be about 45% complete and the MyBook array rebuild is only 17% done. I suspect my sleep tonight is going to be a little disturbed, but at least I know where my urge to start replacing disks came from....

...and replacing disks is what needs to happen next!


Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on January 11th, 2010 @ 00:01:41 , using 452 words,

Some days after the return to work and there seems to be a return to the position in which we found ourselves before I departed for the festivities. Things look much as they did before providing a sense of ambivalence - on the one hand things are no worse than when I left, on the other, neither have they improved. Hence the stasis.

I even looked the word up and found an slightly unexpected application for the word

Pathology Stoppage of the normal flow of a body substance, as of blood through an artery or of intestinal contents through the bowels.

I feel a desperate urge to share here, but in the interests of decorum, I shall instead just blame the meds...

Sleep since the return has been at a premium. 02:00 alarms for 03:00 taxis off the back of 30 minutes sleep do not make for good travel companions. When combined with 3 hour waits for aircraft that take-off late, barely getting to the connecting flight in time to wait on the tarmac for a further 3 hours whilst the aircraft sits in the anti-icing queue, you begin to understand the rather disjointed feeling AM and I had on finally making it to Riyadh. It was a kind of an odd weekend where sleep fell wherever it came. It's finally coming right, but the tiredness persists, compounded no doubt by the New Year imperative to exercise.

Reality is starting to kick in though, its inbox cleared of its assorted detritus and evidence of carefully laid plans discarded in absentia. Recalibration is being applied and asserted where needed, concerns assuaged and strategies reviewed. This too will come to pass...

Closer to home there are the inevitable piles of newly acquired gifts stacked on the dining table, the sense of not quite being home and the next escape to be planned. Calls to book flights already as strong as the northerly wind outside - OK, so it is in February, before when I need a new visa, a new driving licence and a new iqama (residents permit). Bureaucracy here is such that these things must align with the precision more commonly associated with a Cruise missile strike if I am to escape these parts in a little over 6 weeks time.

Before then there is the music PC to resurrect, whilst away, it died. It has been resuscitated, fitted with a pacemaker, has died again and must now face surgery. What I really need is for a Gregory House like figure to step into the breach and identify the true cause of the emergency before I undertake a wholly unnecessary (and expensive) procedure with limited hope of success. Time I think to contact 'GomezMan' - where are you Eddie?


Written by:Chris of Arabia
Published on December 8th, 2009 @ 23:51:25 , using 160 words,
Posted in Web & IT Stuff

...of a kind

You know what it's like when you've been struggling with one of those intractable problems that goes on for weeks and then in a flash of inspiration (provided by someone else) you suddenly crack it? The joy, the elation, the butterflies in the stomach moment? Yes you know what I mean. Well I had one of those this evening.

The details are unimportant right now, but suffice to say that something I thought was going to drag out until early next year has suddenly, and almost overnight, be tackled. This makes me feel surprisingly good if a touch edgy right now. The good bit lasted right up until I tried to protect what I'd done, at which point it all seemed to go slightly screwy. Not to worry on that score though, I think I know how to fix things tomorrow.

I would like to say a massive 'Thanks!' to MySQLDumper though. Thanks, whoever you are...

1 2 4