When I’m too smart for tech support…

This isn’t the first time I’ve contacted web hosting tech support only to find out they couldn’t help me and managed to fix the problem myself. This time the support on the other end was HostGator.

To their credit, the rep I talked to seemed to genuinely want to help. However, after 40 minutes it was determined that he couldn’t help, because the plan my client was on was an unmanaged level 1 VPS, and they only provide support for level 3 or higher. Or something.

The issue was with mod_rewrite — an Apache module that makes urls look like http://this.awe/some/url/ as opposed to http://this.ugh/?p=123. I was setting up a WordPress multisite and mod_rewrite just wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. I checked the httpd.conf in /etc/httpd/ (as opposed to /etc/apache2/ where it usually lives) and it was enabled. I checked and double-checked and triple-checked my .htaccess file. I even (later) went in to make sure the mod_rewrite.so file actually existed. It did. After their support was unable to help, I started looking at installing mod_rewrite. It was through that search that I found this post on installing mod_rewrite, which ultimately led me to this line that needed to be added to (in my case) the httpd.conf:

<Directory>
     Options FollowSymLinks
     AllowOverride None All
</Directory>

In my case, the Options FollowSymLinks was already there. AllowOverride was set to None. All I needed to do was add All. Done. URL rewriting fixed.

Thus far, I’m relatively happy with this HostGator server, but lacking the slightest bit of support for this issue (in my case, merely adding All to the right directive in the httpd.conf) was a major inconvenience (and a waste of time).

SublimeText — I think I’m in love

I’m not one to gush about text editors. Pretty much they do their job and that’s about it. I respect the amount of work that goes into something like, say, OpenOffice.org Writer, but I wouldn’t say I’m in love with any particular aspect of it (except, perhaps, that it’s free — as in beer — and open source). My main reason for switching from Dreamweaver to Notepad++ was economical, but also to get away from the code that Dreamweaver liked to automatically insert into documents. For the most part, I was only using the source editor anyway, so it seemed a waste to use an application with a graphical editor that I never used and Notepad++ filled the gap nicely.

About a week ago, I found SublimeText 2. After using it exclusively for my web development projects for this past week, I can tell you I am never going back to anything else. Here are a few reasons why:

Theming

SublimeText 2 with Soda package, Monokai Soda color scheme, and Meslo font

Okay, so it’s pretty superficial of me to put aesthetics above everything else, but try and tell me that you aren’t like me and the first thing you do when you open a new program that has any kind of customization abilities isn’t find the perfect theme that works for you. SublimeText comes with 22 different color schemes and each one can be hacked if you so desire. You can download new color schemes. You can use any font installed on your system by adding a line to a configuration file (easily accessible through the Preferences menu). And thanks to a package (we’ll get to packages in a minute) called Soda, the entire UI can be customized in a smooth light or dark scheme (without Soda, the sidebar is not customizable).

Extensibility

You can extend the functionality of SublimeText through packages. Each package is based on a GitHub or Bitbase repository and repositories are checked for updates everytime the application is loaded. Functionality enhancements include things like bracket highlighting, PHPdoc capabilities, autofilling, support for various languages like javascript and HTML5, you get the picture. With PackageControl (which can be installed via an internal console just by copying and pasting the command in the readme file on the GitHub repo — pictured right), you can easily install new packages into Sublime without having to worry about where they need to be saved — everything is handled automagically.
[clear]

Projects

When I was using Notepad++ and Dreamweaver, my window usually opened with approximately 8,000 tabs for various projects in different states of being worked-on. Navigating between them usually involved using the arrow buttons to scroll through to the beginning or to get a list of the open tabs via the Window menu. More often than not, I would try to open a file only to find that it was already open, hidden somewhere behind tab number 6.753. In Sublime, you can create discrete “projects” by adding a directory (or multiple directories) to a project. This could be a WordPress theme, an entire website, a bunch of related plugins you’re working on, or any other variation (pretty much just listing the sorts of things I use this for). Rather than having every file for every project you are actively working on open in a unique tab, you can easily switch between projects and have the last-opened tabs in that project there for you when you go back to it. Meanwhile, the directories (and files therein) that make up your project are listed in the sidebar, making it easy to open any file in that project. Not only that, but single-clicking on any file will open a “preview” of that file without actually opening the file. Meaning if you just wanted to look at something but not change anything, you don’t need to open the file and then close it, you can just click on it to check it out and then go back to what you were doing. Now that I use projects, anything I was doing before just seems clunky and unsophisticated.
[clear]

Fully featured trial version

Don’t you hate it when you are using a “Freemium” or “Shareware” app and it does everything you need it to do except one tiny little thing that makes it completely useless without actually purchasing it? Like saving, for example? One of the things that instantly earned my respect was that installing SublimeText 2 let me do everything I needed to do without purchasing. After a certain number of saves, a pop up would appear asking me if I wanted to purchase, which could be easily clicked away and I was back doing whatever I had been doing. Some genius thought that programmers might be more interested in getting work done and that, after seeing just how good Sublime is at assisting them in that very task, they would be more inclined to pay for something they had been using for free.

Well, that genius was right. Despite the fact that I could have gone on indefinitely without paying the $59 for a single user license and just gotten an occasional notice to buy, I chose to actually purchase the application because it’s so damn good at what it does. I haven’t regretted that decision. The guys who make Sublime, well, sublime deserve to benefit from what they have created, which is an elegant IDE that is forward-thinking and extensible without a lot of bloat. Just hours after I installed a bunch of packages, I was already using most of them and felt the coding process suddenly become fun again.

New gig

As of today, I have a new gig.

The longer story is that things have been slow in the web design front.  My going theory is that the industry — especially given the economy; that great excuse we’ve been using for everything from health care to what store we shop at — is moving toward customizing existing solutions (say, modifying a premium theme for WordPress — a free software application) rather than completely custom websites.  To be fair, the industry has a point.  WordPress is getting increasingly more robust and easy to use, there’s less and less of a reason to have someone else set it up for you if you know you’re going to use it anyway, especially when your webhost has a little button that says “click here to install WordPress” (of course, this option throws all security out the window, but it’s easy to stick your fingers in your ears and say “la la la la la la la” on that point since it isn’t something that has an observable effect…until your WP database is hacked).

This past summer has been particularly hard and we’re still trying to recover.  Museum Themes is slowly picking up — our sales are increasing every day — but the best it’s able to do at this point is keep itself afloat.  It doesn’t, for example, pay me to build new themes for it, so Museum Themes development gets thrown along the wayside in favor of paid work (when we have it).  And we’ve been needing more of that.

I started looking for a job.  At first, I was mostly just looking to get a job in the Specialty department at Whole Foods again — especially with them opening a new store in a week.  This time, I’d work (or try to get) a full-time position, and focus on Museum Themes on my off-days, do client work as needed, but scale that back quite a bit and put the expected completion times out further.  But that didn’t happen.  (The new store only had 2 positions available in Specialty and I was sort of — naively, perhaps — adamant that that was where I wanted to be.  The Great Salt Lake Whole Foods Store Shuffle, which will undoubtedly occur once the new store opens and everyone starts vying to get into that store, hasn’t happened yet, and probably won’t for a couple months.  Meantime, we need something sooner.)  So, I went to my old standby jobs of helpdesk/tech support and web design.  I actually found a couple (not very promising) web design jobs, but mostly was finding tech support stuff.  Which, of course, I have years of experience doing above and beyond being the guy that rips apart computers and puts them back together again.  I actually had a pretty good week for interviews last week.  And yesterday morning, I absolutely nailed an interview to be a Counter Intelligence Agent at Best Buy’s Geek Squad.  (It’s just, you know, Best Buy.)

But sometime at the end of last week, Event Espresso — those guys I met at WordCamp last year that do an event registration plugin that’s astoundingly well-built and is doing really well, having been covered on WP Candy a couple of times and in conjunction with their campaign to give all WordCamps a free Event Espresso license to prevent them from having to spend ridiculous amounts of money using Eventbrite instead — created a job board, and posted a couple internal jobs which they then tweeted about; namely, Web Designer, WordPress programmer, and technical support.  All three of which I could conceivably be doing.  I applied immediately.

Yesterday, I met with Garth and Seth — the first time I’ve seen them in person since WCUT, though I watched Seth on his video interview with WPCandy — and we had a meeting at a Wendy’s.  (Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a business meeting at a Wendy’s.  Just a different Wendy’s.)  At the end of the hour, my user account on the Event Espresso support forums was upgraded and shortly thereafter I had an official Event Espresso email address and spot on their About page.

This is an excellent opportunity.  First of all, I get to continue to work at home and more or less do the same stuff I’ve been doing.  I’ll need to buckle down and I created a hard schedule for my weekdays so that I have enough time for everything and can — hopefully — manage my time and be more productive with it.  This means no Twitter during working hours, sorry @Twitter.  Secondly, I’m doing the same stuff I was already applying to anyway.  Third, this gives me an opportunity to really dig into Event Espresso and learn the code, which is something I’ve been wanting to do since agreeing at WordCamp to develop some Event Espresso themes.  Fourth, though the support job is part time, they get non-support related requests for customizations — stuff I’ve been doing a lot of already — and that’s stuff I could potentially pick up as well.  Lastly, these guys are local and they’re cool guys.  It’s good for everyone because we can actually meet in real life if we wanted/needed to and because we already knew each other.  It also makes things a lot easier with the aforementioned theme idea, since I’m now actually affiliated with them.

So, I’m pretty excited and I’m looking forward to it.

adobe fights fire with…teddy bears

Adobe launched a new ad campaign today along with a response to Steve Jobs’ declaration that Flash will never be supported on iPhones, iPads, and iPods last week.  (In fact, they’ve added a whole new Freedom of Choice section on Adobe.com.)  There are a few amusing (and somewhat contradictory) statements in Adobe’s open letter (like this one: “If the web fragments into closed systems…their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force.” Um, seriously Adobe?  You just said that?  After swallowing your smaller rival Macromedia to become a monopoly in web development and design software and — as a bonus — acquire the very technology we’re having this open/closed argument about, you’re talking about closed systems (hint: Flash is a closed system) coming at the expense of creativity and innovation?  Really?), but you can read it for yourself on Adobe’s site.

What I find most interesting about this new love campaign isn’t even positioning Apple as the bad guy and Adobe as the ones really interested in freedom and openness (while authoring — and trying to save — a patently closed and proprietary system).  (Also note: “open markets“, as described in their letter, is entirely different from “open standards” or “open source“.)  I’m interested in the fact that all of this love is aimed not at consumers — who don’t give a crap what powers the stuff they do on the internet and who will, regardless of what comes of the Adobe vs. Apple feud, still buy iPads, iPods and iPhones — it’s aimed at developers.  It’s aimed at designers.  It’s a desperate we-just-made-massive-improvements-to-authoring-Flash-apps-with-CS5-and-we-don’t-want-to-lose-money plea to not abandon Adobe to open standards and HTML5 and everything else Steve was preaching about in his letter.  Apple is not going to change their stance.  Ever.  This letter was designed to get the people who make Flash apps to not reconsider making those apps with Flash and using something else instead.

What’s also interesting is that, weren’t we just talking about a possible lawsuit against Apple?  Now, “We love Apple”?  Really?  What was that thing that one guy who preached all about love said right before he was carted away…something like “Judas, must you betray me with a kiss?”

[audio:devo_freedom-of-choice.mp3]