Wednesday, 24 February 2010

I Must Get Into That Spot

I must get into that spot.
I'll wriggle and I'll worm,
and I'll squiggle and I'll turn,
for I must get into that spot!

It's only six inches by four,
but between you and me, this is war!
I'll knock over your drink,
and push by in a blink,
for I must get into that spot!

I know I'll be blocking the door,
and really there's room for no more,
but I'll step on your wife,
don't give us no strife,
for I must get into that spot!

I must get into that spot.
I'll charge like a Bull,
barge you into the wall
for I must get into that spot!

I suppose you'd consider it rude,
but that's my imperative mood,
I'll stamp on your feet,
and I won't keep it neat,
for I must get into that spot!

O what do you expect me to say?
"I'm sorry I got in your way"?
No, I'll laugh and I'll snort,
Shout - "You're a venerial wart!"
For I must get into that spot!

I must get into that spot.
I'll climb and I'll choke,
I'll slime and I'll poke,
for you see;
one simply and absolutely,
most definitely
and emphatically
determinedly and positively,
without questions of morality,
get into that blasted spot!

Mortus Illumina 1st Incarnation

Next Tuesday evening, at Temple Works is something called BettaKultcha and I have my name down to be one of the presenters.  As my film Mortus Illumina is now showing signs of finally finishing,(click here to see some of the VFX progress) I am getting a bit more confident about talking about it and drumming up some interest in my film. As such, my five minutes will be about the making of Mortus illumina, or how not to make a feature film.

Mortus illumina, is the bastard child that has been growing up with me for the last nine years, its fair to say, it's been a love hate relationship, with many a frayed nerve.

Preparing for next Tuesday, I have started to go through my archives and I came across a making of diary, kept in the first six months of production (so nine years ago), which has made an interesting read over my morning coffee and kicked off this post.

Mortus illumina as in the film itself, has had three reincarnations, The first incarnation was the hammer horror.

I had finished shooting my first short film Deadlights and was filled with over enthusiasm and cockiness. Reading through the original diary, I proudly boast of getting drunk at the Lemon tree pub in Convent Garden whilst realming through my head the story elements that would make up "Nunning Things" - The working title for Mortus illumina. I then proudly boast of the 48 page script I wrote in one night and how I had visions of lesbians vampire nuns, ridiculously low budget and lots of blood.

Mortus illumina, in its Hammer Horror stage was going to be a salute to the old hammer film, and feature lots of Nuns, or all shapes and sizes. Below is a very early piece of concept art I came up with, so I could get the mood when pitching the script across. 
Over the next six months, it was a wonderfully enthusiastic, but utterly sham attempt at pre-production. We had decided that the first shoot would be  in April 2001 no matter what. From a very hung over wrap (fire escapes and smoke grenades anyone?) party from deadlights and ad-astra(short film by britmic)  I pulled together the initial crew and cast and began to add to that. In fact, by the time April came, the number was about 40, with 27 people going onto the first shoot. Phrases such as "Kick arse Nun" and "Nun-Steaming" were becoming apart of everyday vocabulary.

One thing that was woefully neglected during this incarnation was the script, which went up from 48 pages to 76 - and that is about it.  Oh it did get its name changed from Nunning things to Mortus illumina (for the record; Mortus:Translates as dead, taken from the past participle of Old French Latin Mortuus - to die, illumina - Lights, from vulgar latin) . I was actually searching my hard drive for the original script, to post up an example, and I came across instead, the first email I sent out for the project. I think this captures not only the  tone  of the first incarnartion, but also my attitude at the time as well.

This trailer consists mostly of the footage from the first shoot, which did indeed take place in April as planned. Whilst the beach footage is more second carnation. The above should give you an idea of what I was originally intending Mortus illumina to be.

For those of you, who are going to be at the event at BettaKultcha event next Tuesday, I will be mentioning what changed (and what went wrong!). Those of you not attending, you can wait till I write up the Mortus illumina the 2nd incarnation this blog

Click the Read more below, to see the original email

Sunday, 21 February 2010

How to Jump on the iPad BandWagon

Hello my AWESOME readers, It's Guest Blogger Paul O'Shit, CEO of Clog The Internet PLC. Here once again, to tell you how to boost your site ratings, like a 50 year old with a weekend supply of VIAGRA in a CHEERLEADERS dressing room.

You know, I was at a school reunion the other day, and some of my former classmates, through hard-work and dedication, had found considerable success. One friend had a successful surgery, another a partner in a law firm, and another running a successful manufacturing business. After the reunion, I was thinking about their success, and you know what ? I have something much better than that, I have the illusion of success

Listen to me ranting away here, its time to get on with this month's SEO Advice. Today my awesome readers, I am going to tell you how, you can boost your website awesomeness by jumping on the bandwagon of the iPad.

If you have been following my advice so far, no doubt you have a blog/s over loaded with how to how to and how to state the bleeding obvious. Now, some of you more awesome readers (don't worry, if you keep reading my posts you will all become awesome) may be asking me, why I have waited for now to tell you about how to monetise on the back of the ipad and not two weeks ago. Well, that was to wait for the so called edited websites to get out of the way, I mean, who really wants to read engadget ?

Now onto, how you can turn the iPad into a success for YOU!

Firstly, you don't need to buy one, I am certantly not going to waste my money on what is essentially a high tech tea tray. You can say, you are an expert on the iPad. I will be opening up all my posts with the fact, that I have been using it for three years.

Before continuing, I would like to point out, I normally charge $900 for this kind of advice, but beacuse you are awesome. YOU CAN HAVE IT FOR FREE - but please, keep it a secret.

Remember where I said before, that if you have been following my advice you should have by now, blog/s overloaded with tedious crap ? well, take a look at my how to how to post, and now look at the below

How to Write the How to, How to for the iPad

1. Firstly if you are going to write a How to How to for the iPad, academics and the rest of the world might argue that it takes at least 10'000 hours to become an expert. They are wrong, you too can be an expert by simply googling the subject you have choosen for your blog and copying and pasting the results. This works especially well on the ipad. If you really want to sound like you know what you are talking about, you can even use wikipedia.

Remember, you should spend at least a whole five minutes rewording what you have copied and pasted so that content is ORIGINAL. iPad readers, love original content. I often find copying the opening paragraph from one source and the second from another can speed this process up.

2. Next thing is KEYWORDS, these are vital so your blog appears high on people searching the terms iPad.....

See what I am doing ? I am recycling all my old posts and dropping in the word iPad where I can. Look, heres the opening paragraph from the How to state the bleeding obvious post rewritten.

Hello, its Paul o'Shit here again on his iPaid, SEO Bollocker for Clog the Internet PLC. I hope you are looking at the picture on your iPad and thinking - gosh Im SEX in my new clothes, and how successful does that Jacket make me look!

The key thing is to just just randomly dig out your old posts, stick the word ipad in there every few lines and repost with iPad in the title. Don't worry about the danger of someone reconising the content, no one comes back to your blog anyway.

Keep thinking you are AWESOME!

Paul O'Shit
SEO Bollocker
Clog the Internet PLC

Ps. If anyone in the San Francisco area needs babysitting, grocery fetching, dog walking etc. please get in contact.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Getting the Brother HL 2170W working on a Mac

I was beginning to pull my hair out, and doing a bit of googling, noticed quite a few other people have had problems setting this up on a mac.

I did, however find a simple solution. ignore the main installation program, its crap. On the installation disc is a program called BRAdmin Lite.(a mention of it, is buried in the manual). First of all, you need to create a wireless network called SETUP, which you can do by clicking on the airport icon in the toolbar. Then open up the BR Admin lite program and click search. The Brother printer should appear along with its IP address. Open up your browser and type in the IP address and hey presto! a sensible (well, almost - maybe not quite) configuration page.

Go to network configuration, configure service and wireless and you can enter in your normal wireless network details here (Bthome hub in my instant). It will print a test page to let you know you are successful.

Then, from there disconnect from the SETUP network you created and rejoin your mac to your wireless network.

Finally, under system preferences click add printer, and it should appear as bonjour printer

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Firstly, the title "The Tibetan Book of The Dead" is a western invention. The Tibetan title is
"Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation through the Intention of the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones".
Next, there is no single title, in Tibetan literature that actually correspondence to that title. Rather there are several collections, and versions of individual texts popular known as "Karma Lingpa's Peaceful and Wrathful Ones."

Still with me ? Next, what we  know in the west as "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" (the Evans-Wentz translation) is in fact only a small portion of the original texts, composed of two works.

The Bardo of dharmate, and the Bardo of existence

AKA Great Liberation through Hearing: The Supplication of the Bardo of Dharmata and Great liberation through Hearing: The Supplication Pointing Out the Bardo of Existence

The two combined are referred to as Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, Great Liberation through Hearing, or just Liberation though Hearing
I will ask you again, are you still with me ?, because if you haven't got lost in the above, then the actual text will get you lost.

Unlike the Bhagavad Gita, which I said in my review had a welcome familiarity to it, was a refreshing read, and whilst I will not pretend to fully understand it, it felt like the start of a beautiful question.

'The Tibetan Book of the Dead on the other hand, left us confused, annoyed and a little scratchy.

I should also point out, unlike the rest of the reviews on this site, there is no link to the copy I am reviewing from. This was because, the copy I bought, cost 99p and I can't recommend it, nor can I really complain about a book that cost 99p.  All I will say, it was cheaper than printing out the ebook version of  Evans-Wentz 1927 translation, but slightly incomplete in the notes and commentary.

So, three hundred words later, and now onto what it actually it is. It is meant to be a guide for those who have died as they transition from their former life, to a new destination.

I have several tabs open in my browser at the moment, as I try and write an introduction to the text. To be honest I am going to struggle, and I would not like to add to what seems to be a mountain of contradiction out there on the web. This book is hard to understand, I think it is deliberately meant to be hard to understand. The only thing,  I am really taking away from it, is where the book says several times about things its explaining, that they are in fact only an illusion - the concept, not the undetstanding.

I did make some notes as I went along, which I will share with you below in the hope, that if you are brave enough to read it, they will be of some help. One final thing to note, there does appear to be a much larger,complete translation availiable and I have not been put off, from wanting to read that. I just want to read a lot more other books first, before having another heavy dose of what the Tibetan Buddhist take on what reality actually is.

Bardo: Transitional-state , or in-between state. Traditionally there are 6 bardos
    1. Shinay bardo - Birth and Life, from conception until the last breath.
    2. Milam bardo  - Dream state, subset of the 1st bardo
    3. Samtem bardo - meditation
    4. Chikkhai bardo - moment of death
    5. Chonyid bardo - moment of enlightment, the final inner breath
    6. Sidpai bardo - the becoming or transmigration

Deva: Supernatural being

Asura - Loka: Regions where the demons reside

Dharmadhatu:The realm of phenomenon, the root of Dharma.

Preta:A supernatural being that undergoes more than human suffering, particularly hunger and thirst. Can be translated as Hungry ghost.  Are believed to have been Jealous or greedy people in a previous life.

Sangsara:the cycle of repeated birth and death in the material world, which is held to be a place of suffering. The particulars of an individual's wanderings in samsara are determined by Karma. samsara is transcended by the attainment of nirvana. *

Kerimas:The blood-drinking deity of the Karmic Order, who appear on the 12th day. There are eight of them, and they are  terrifying female counterparts of the eight male Bodhisattvas (more info here)

Mt Meru: Sacred mountain, considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.

Samadhi:An abiding in which mind becomes very still but does not merge with the object of attention, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of experience.

The Six Realms of Existence:

  1. Deva or 'God' Realm - The Deva realm is the realm of bliss. The disadvantage of this realm is that things are so very comfortable there, that these beings completely neglect to work towards enlightenment. Instead they gradually use up the good karma they had previously accumulated, and so they subsequently fall to a lower rebirth.
  2. Asura or 'Demi-God' Realm - The Asura realm is the realm of the demigods. They are here because of actions based on jealousy, struggle, combat or rationalization of the world. They may be here because in human form they had good intentions but committed bad actions such as harming others.  The Asuras are said to experience a much more pleasurable life than humans, but they are plagued by envy for the devas, whom they can see just as animals can perceive humans.
  3. Human Realm - Buddhists see this realm as human existence. A human rebirth is in fact considered to be the by far most advantageous of all possible rebirths in samsara because a human rebirth is the samsaric realm from which one can directly ensure enlightenment either in the present or future birth (for anagamis, the actual liberation occurs in a deva realm). This is because of the unique possibilities that a human rebirth offers.
  4. Animal Realm - The Animal realm (also known as the Tiryag-yoni realm) is based on strong mental states of stupidity and prejudice cultivated in a previous life or lives. Buddhists believe that this realm is the realm of existence of the nonhuman animals on Earth. Humans can however be seen by the animals, in the same way that the Asura can see the Devas.
  5. Preta or 'Hungry Ghost' Realm - The Hungry Ghost realm (also known as the Preta realm) is a rebirth based on strong possessiveness and desire which were cultivated in a previous life or lives. The sentient beings in this realm are known as "hungry ghosts". They are constantly extremely hungry and thirsty, but they cannot satisfy these needs. In Tibetan versions of the Bhavacakra these beings are drawn with narrow necks and large bellies. This represents the fact that their desires torment them, but they are completely unable to satisfy themselv
  6. Naraka or 'Hell' Realm - The Naraka realm, or "hell realm" is a rebirth based on strong states of hatred cultivated in a previous life or lives. The Buddhist view of Niraya differs significantly from that of most monotheistic religions in that those being punished in this realm are not trapped permanently. Rather, they remain there until their negative karma is used up, at which point they are reborn into another realm.
 * This is  key one to get in your head, before starting reading

Friday, 12 February 2010

At the Village Doctors....

I'll make no secret of the inspiration behind my #fridayflash this week, for it is Captain Flashheart. You can read "At The Village Doctors...." by clicking here

Can you believe that it has been twenty years since there was a series of Blackadder?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Complete Self Educator - On Slang

Taken from The Complete Self Educator, published 1946

Should we, or should we not, use slang?
Slang is a word or a phrase recently coined in common conversation, which by its sheer pity effectiveness has achieved popularity. A Slang word may become an accepted part of the language. It may enter the dictionaries and acquire "respectability". But a very large proportion of slang words have a career as brief as last years millinery or last winters snow. Who now talks of a pretty girl as being "Monstrous handsome"? Or, to come a little nearer to our day, as "stunning"? or her hat as "fetching"? Who nowadays calls a stupid person a "Dummy"? Or threatens to "pop"(smack) a naughty child?

Be sparing, then, in your use of slang, and reject it altogether in the writing which you have pretensions to seriousness. Beware even of using slangy, commonplace idioms. They don't matter in the family circle, but they ruin any thought which demands grace or dignity of expression.

One last word: Do not fly to the other extreme and imagine that good writing is "High falutin". The good writer can get the effect of naturalness and simplicity without pedantry and without recourse to the language of the moment.


A dead shot, a black-hearted scoundrel, the fair sex, the net result, a miserable blighter, a mean skunk, a tough consumer, a perfect day, a confounded nuisance, a forlorn hope, great expectations, double cunning, a fair cop.

Each of the above hackneyed expressions consists of a noun with its almost "inevitable" Adjective. Replace them by Nouns and Adjective conveying similar meanings.

The complete self educator, in its own words;"This book is itself an opportunity. It is an instrument with which to turn yourself into a more efficient being". Published in 1946, the book has eleven sections, including world history, biology and economics. I will be posting snippets up on my blog, under the tag TCSE

I must apologise

If you are reading this, then my attempt to cross the Channel by giant catapult has failed miserably. I would first like to apologies, if my calculations were slightly off and you have had the poor misfortune of scraping myself off the white cliffs of Dover - a most terrible task I would imagine. Hopefully you have instead, retrieved this off my body as it bobs gently up and down in the English channel.

This postcard was bit of an after thought, for you see, I was so confident in my planning, I did not make any arrangements for in case things went wrong. I also apologies for the saucy nature of the card, but it was the only one I could find at 4am in the streets of Calais. If the image offends you, just imagine the lady is merely leaning over that car bonnet to listen out for some engine trouble. Its unfortunate the wind has caught her dress.

In my right hand inner jacket pocket, you will find my wallet. There should be enough in there to run the following 25 words in the Times obituary section.

"Quentin Pollock, Inventor, Dreamer and transport visionary, passed away attempting to cross the channel by giant catapult. He hopes, he has inspired, and now passes on the gauntlet.

Really Sorry to bother you with this bruden, but you will also find in my wallet, the money for a pint of ale and a pie, I do hope this is satisfactory enough compensation. Once again apologies.

Quentin Pollock

The above was done for a task of the Leeds Writing Group, entitled "A Life on a postcard...."

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mortus illumina VFX update 3

I have no idea, what exactly is going on this picture, but it is all good stuff.  There were a couple of delays in January. One of them was do with continuity. We realised we were missing a reverse shot/s on one of the VFX sequence (pictured) so we had to arrange to get that sequence captured for the VFX. Then the second, in this high tech digital age, we had a very old school problem.

Finding the time free, when both myself and the person who was capturing the footage could get together.(working off of tapes here- and with the history of the making of Mortus Illumina, I am very reluctant to let these tapes  out of my sight).  This was mainly down to myself being messed about with some meeting dates in  London, which never happened - plus the snow.  We got there in the end, and the tapes were captured and sent off to the VFX guys.

This morning, I got the draft cuts through from the VFX guys on the complete sequence, which I have given the thumbs up to.

Everything else is green, so soon the sound scoring for the film should begin shortly...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Vienna Blood (Liebermann Papers 2)

Firstly, I think I should point out, that I am probably not the best person in the world to review this book. The reason being, is I am not a fan of the detective genre - by a long shot. To be fair, I am guessing some people would love this book. It has all the elements, with the added twist of the story being set in turn of the century Vienna. It also has some early forensic science taking plance and some  criminal psychology analysis going on.

I know you should leave the summary to the end of the review, but I can sum it up as; "Not my cup of tea". I say this, as I do feel I am being a bit harsh in the below.

The book did start off well, but I was getting slightly jarred with the voices of the characters. There is Dr. Max Liebermann, a young disciple of Freud who is asked by his friend Detective Oskar Rheinhardt to investigate a string of murders. I appreciate this is the second book in the series, and as such the first might have set up the relationship more between them, but I felt their dialogue and thoughts, blurred somewhat.

I also think the book went on a bit. It could of done with chucking, say a 100 odd pages. I think the author may have gone a bit overboard in realing off what he had come across in his research of the period and secret societies etc. Just for the sake of including it. My biggest gripe is; from a small bit of dust they are able to determine a whole wealth of information. But when it comes to realising that 'lady of the night' could refer to a prostitute, they spend several pages before coming up with that realisation. Also, a couple of other reference to prostitutes in the book, reminded me of when I was eleven and a friend of mine had shown me the word in a dictionary, as if it was the biggest secret ever.

End of the day, its a detective novel and if you are a fan of this genre, then I'm sure it has lots to offer.
Is it a book that makes me want to read more detective genre books? No.
Is it a must read book regardless of genre ? No.
Is it an insult to Gutenburg and anyone who has worked in the printing industry ? No, not by a long shot, as said I am probably being unfair in the above. Its simply, not my cup of tea.

Vienna Blood: A Novel (Amazon link)

IPhoto not appearing in Itunes - cannot sync to ipod - try this

I had this problem for a while. When ever I went to try and sync my photos from iphoto onto my appletv/ipod, I would get the error message:

An unknown error occurred [-50]

Before I continue, I should point out, that I had moved my itunes library to an external hard disk, but if you are getting this error, might be worth giving this ago.

I had tried several things before to try and get it to sync, such as
Rebuilding the Library
Deleting the Cache
Checking for photos with keywords with ampersands, and removing them.

I then came across this post on macrumours, which talks about the AlbumData.xml file - something I hadn't looked at before. Opening it up, I could not find any error messages or corruption, as other people have mentioned, but I did notice this; In the part which contains information about slideshows, I noticed the filepaths were pointing back to where my itunes library used to be. I opened up iphoto, deleted these slideshows and hey presto! Can now once again sync

Monday, 8 February 2010

Blogger adds Pages

Slightly under the radar, but at last you can now add static pages to Blogger. Wordpress has had the feature for years.

I've had a bit of a quick play around, and added a page listing my waffles and reviews.

Not very tidy at the moment, but it was just a play around. You can add pages, via the posting screen and there are a couple of widgets, in which you can display your pages.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Gwoemul (The Host)

Should I describe The Host as a dramatic nail biting drama, as one dysfunctional family are bought together through a series of tragic events...

No, its a film with a big FRIGGIN MONSTER IN IT!

In recent years, Hollywood has sold short the big rubber monster genre, producing half hearted efforts, which concentrated more on the CGI and shaky cameras than anything else. Thankgod for the Koreans. Here in The Host are all the great elements needed for the genre, and a bit more...

First off, as those of you who attended Rubber Monster Class 101 will know, the best monsters come about either from small children flushing things down the toilets, or government officials dumping toxic chemicals. The creature in the host, is the result of the latter, with an OCD American pathologist telling his assistant to dump a fair-load of formaldehyde down the drain. The Koreans take quite a few swings at the Americans throughout the film, which I believe stems from a real life incident in 2000 where a civilian US Contractor, did dump chemicals into the Han River.

I should also note, that they also take another fair few swings at their own government as well. Which brings us to the black humour in the film, which is delivered in healthy doses throughout. In the absence of anything to compare it to, I think its safe to say has a distinctive Korean touch. - It will make you laugh out loud.

Now onto the star of the show, the Monster. It looks like some sort of prehistoric giant salamander, and according to the director and monster designer, they based it on Steve Buscemi persona in Fargo. One of the things, that stood out for me, was the movement of the monster. It had that old time rubber monster feel. A product I imagine, was a result of the films relative low budget (10 Million USD). Saying that, some of the scenes where it is moving under the bridge is quite smooth, so could it be deliberate design I wonder ? Either way, its a good-un, Far better than anything Hollywood has chucked our way in years.

This film is chock full of memorable scenes ( I don't want to spoil them, so I won't mention any of them here), and if this is what Korean cinema has to offer, let us embrace if fully. Get this film, pour yourself some instant noodles and prepare to be fully entertained for two hours.

Korea, I ask thee; More please!

Official Site
The Host (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) - Amazon Link

Ps. For those of you interested in such things, the cinematography is absolutely top notch, Hyung Goo Kim the DOP has definetly put a stamp on this film.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

5K Run for Barnardos

I am doing a 5K run for Barnardos on March the 14th. The above is an artists impression on me doing the run. Please sponsor myself, which you can do by clicking here 

You can also find out a bit about Barnardos, and what they do here

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Sabotaging Swede

New Tiberius Story up on the DAC entitled "The Sabotaging Swede"

I follow several victorian, Edwardian and history blogs to look out for ideas for the DAC, as well as general interest. One of these, the Victorian Peeper had a post, which mentioned the first body building competition. This was organised by Eugen Sandow  who is called the father of modern bodybuilding.  What struck my attention, was the fact the judges included Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Charles Lawes.

There is an excellent article on the IFBB site, about the competition, which you can read here .

Took a fair time to write this story, so I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A Self Portrait - Work In Progress

Added a few images of the eye to my drawing blog, which you can see by clicking here. One of these drawings, is of my own left eye and last year, I drew my left foot and my left ear. At this rate, I am hoping to have the self portrait finished by about 2056

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A Bit of a Waffle on TikiWiki,Elgg,Xoop,SMF,phpBB and Joomla

I took bit of a wander into the world of opensource on monday. I would like to say it was an eye-opener, but frustrating seems a far better choice of word. I started the day off, with a cup of coffee, a list of requirements and the world wide web. This is my story.

I was looking for a solution for a real world community society I am involved in. Cutting short the requirement's list, I was looking for something that would do the following;

Allow members to join
Set permission levels of access across the site.
A Discussion Forum
RSVP Calendar events
File Section (public/private)
Easy to support

Pretty much what did (8 years ago?), before it was slaughtered by Orange. I do not want to use Facebook, as they just steal our data, and (current service) does not represent value for money. Also, looking to brand our society and host it on our own domains.

I started off first of all with TikiWiki, a groupware CMS system. I was attracted by what it said on the side of the tin;

Wikis (like in Wikipedia)
Forums (like in phpBB)
Blogs (like in WordPress)
Articles (like in Yahoo News)
Image Gallery (like in Flickr)
Map Server (like in Google Maps)
Link Directory (like in DMOZ)
Multilingual (like in Babel Fish)
Bug Tracker (like in Bugzilla)
RSS Feeds (like in Digg)
Free Open Source software (LGPL)

Sounds good stuff, so I downloaded the files, went to the documentation and started through the initial set up, making sure my server met all the pre requirements. I then ftp'd the software onto my site, went to continue the installation and...  Started to run into permission problems. I should of really wrote down what the error was, but it was along the lines of not being able to access certain directories - chmod to 777. So I did, and then I got myself an internal server error 500.

It was young in the day, and I was full of coffee, so I decided to start again, paying extra attention to the instructions. Again, I ran into the 500 permission error. Now on the installation guide, under step 4. it says

"Too many permissions
If you are getting Internal Server Error 500, blank pages or similar, it could be that the permissions on the files are not appropriate for your webhost.

If you have shell access, you can run:

Great, I don't have shell access, what I am meant to do ? It doesn't tell me.  I did try a bit of googling for the answer, but after about 15 minutes, I was beginning to loose patience.  Having already tried two attempts, I was not in the mood for trying a third.  So it was in the Bin for Tikiwiki

Next up on the list was Elgg which describes itself as a powerful social engine which empowers individuals, groups and institutions to create their own fully-featured social environment.

I downloaded the software, went through the presteps, created a database and uploaded the software. I then started to go through the set up screens and got stuck on the entering in database information screen. Nothing seemed to happen. I entered in my details, re-entered my details and double checked. But for some reason, it was not letting me passed this screen. Again, onto the help, google and not much useful information to be found - except for checking credentials which I knew to be right. I did see people with similiar probems around the database screen, but they seemed to get error messages or a blank screen after this step. Either way, I had enough at this point and chucked elgg into the bin with Tikiwiki

Third up was XOOPs who bill themselves as an easy to use dynamic web content management system - sounds good, so I downloaded the files and got ready to install.

Having a quick look at the files I have downloaded, I see a htdocs folder. That looks familiar, I have a htdocs on my server with some files and folders, which cause problems if I delete them. There is no problem adding files (before someone says it, I know its the root), but before proceeding, I want to know exactly what xoop intends to do in my htdocs folder. I do not want it deleting anything.  Can I find an answer to this ? No, and that was the end of me trying out Xoop.

Moving away from CMS for a moment, I then decided to try Simple Machines which says

Simple Machines Forum — SMF in short — is a free, professional grade software package that allows you to set up your own online community within minutes.

I did have a false start with the installation, which was my fault (missed one of the mod 777's) but pleased to say, on the second attempt it worked - Hoorah! Success and just in time for lunch too. After some healthy rice and some oily fish, I was able to sit down and start evaluating the software against my requirements. One thing that did impress me, straight from the start, was the ease of being able to set up different discussion groups and set permission levels. It also handles files, so that was another tick.

I then started looking into the plugs in and customisation options. I am a bit confused about how you are meant to install them, but I think that will come from further reading - it does not seem to be straight forward. Missing also was the RSVP functionality, but from searching around, I did find a mod that seems to be in development for that.  I say development, as in the comments, I see that it works on previous versions of the board and you can manually install it on the current.  I do not understand why I can't automatically install it on the current version and why I have to go around such a long winded process to manually install it.

Nor, am I prepared to spend the time finding out. The author in the comments has stated quite recently that they are working on bringing it up to date, and upgrade it. By the sounds of it, the planned extra functionality is exactly what I'm after, so I eagerly await that version which hopefully I can install with ease.

After simple machines, I then decided to try phpBB which says of itself;

Since its creation in 2000, phpBB™ has become the most widely used Open Source forum solution. Like its predecessors, phpBB™ 3.0 “Olympus” has an easy to use administration panel and a user friendly installation process, which allows you to have a forum set up in minutes.

Out of everything, this had by far the most easiest installation and I was surprised how quick I had the site up and running. The administration side looks fiddly and from playing around, it was a few false starts before getting forums set up how I wanted. Nothing wrong with that, its a learning curve.  But, when I started looking at plug ins and customisation, this is where things started to get messy.

There seems to be a confusion about version numbers, compatiability and finding plugins. When I did eventually find two plugins which would provide me with what I wanted to do, both of them had a complex install instructions, with an estimated time of 45 minutes each. I was not prepared to spend an hour and half going through fiddly instructions, for something that may or may not work, just to see if it is the functionality I am after. So it was phpBB to the bin.

Finally, I tried Joomla and they say of themselves

Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone.

Installation; firstly I don't like their online documentation, too clicky and all over the place. To be honest I'm being a little harsh as some effort has gone into it, but I feel it could do with an edit. After a couple of read throughs. I was pleased the installation itself went error free. Joomla looks like it can do a hell of alot, and again whilst the administration side looks like it needs a steep learning curve, there does seem to be method in the madness.

 One of the things I read, which was one of the reasons I tried it, was that in with keeping with "Software that is free, secure and of high-quality", that all official third party extensions should be under GPLv2 license for free distribution - sounds great, also the installation of extensions is straight forward.

So, its on to Joomla to look for plugins to cover the functionality I need ... Oh theres one...wait... I need to register to download it - fair enough, now a read through the reviews

This doesnt work yet and it will compromise your users data. There is a bug that doesn't seem to be fixed.

Very buggy and not well supported at this time.

Ok, I'll think Ill give it a miss and its back to the search... few alternatives later, that seems to do what I want... Ah, that is going to cost me $130 - mmm what happened to the GPLv2 ? A bit more searching and I find another one which seems to offer me all the functionality I want, plus it says its free. Great stuff! I download, install and... Wait a second, it says it can do this but where is the option. Oh wait, hidden in the small print, is I have to become a member of a club for that bit of functionalty. Fair enough - oh wait $129 dollars to join that 'club'


This is meant to be the point in the article where I say, I then found this excellent service and it does everything I want, but this is not the case. Instead I found frustration, annoyance and the want to throw something at my monitor. In the end, I am going with simple machines, as it does 70% of what I want to do, and I can fill in the gaps with a wordpress blog on the same domain.

A final rant, before getting to the conclusion. I spent a fair amount of time reading through forums of the developers of both the sofware and plugins for all of the above. This is a seperate waffle, but I would say;

"If you are not prepared to write clear documentation ...."
"If you are not prepared to keep your software/plugin up to date..."
"If you are not prepared to support your software/plugin..."
"If you are not prepared to fully test your code..."
"If you are not prepared to release robust code..."

Please do not bother at all.

Now, the conclusion. I know some people reading this may be thinking, well I should of done this, or spent more time reading the files here. I ask, what is a reasonable amount of time for someone to spend on an install ? how much technical knowledge should the user have before commencing installing the product or adding a plugin. I hate to break it to you geekboys, but normally people have been on, and using the internet for sometime now. Wordpress seems to manage it extremley well.

There is probably another set reading this, saying that I was expecting too much for free, and I would say; well i was expecting a fair bit more than what I did find. This waffle is not about paid for services (which down the line may be  my next move ). This is a waffle about looking at opensource as viable option for a real world requirement. I was expecting at the very least, to be excited about what was out there and have high hopes for the future.  All I have, is the opinion there is a lot of crap out there.

It seems to me, that if opensource is going to enter into the mainstream, then it must focus on the user more. Also, in the absence of any "figurehead', the community behind, not just the software, but any related service such as plugins. Must be aware, that their actions contribute to the image and reputation of the product. As I have mentioned in a previous post of mine, Reputation is not something that has been replaced with a profile, a tag line and a dynamic photo.

Monday, 1 February 2010

So we meet again...

First meet of the rebooted Leeds Sketching Group this sunday just gone and it was an opportunity to meet an old prehistoric friend at the Leeds City Museum

The Megalorceros Giganteus

Here is my sketch from 2009

and here is the sketch I did this sunday gone

You can see the originals over here


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