Sheryl Canter

Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category.

The Best WordPress Theme Ever: Atahualpa

I don’t like to build my Web sites completely around blog software, and yet I want them to have a consistent look and feel. I want the blog to look like the rest of the site. The blog on this site isn’t integrated – it looks completely different from the site’s home page and other pages. But the blog I just installed on another one of my sites looks exactly like the rest of the site – the theme is consistent throughout.

If you go to and click on the Blog button, you will see that the look-and-feel of the blog and the rest of the site are identical. This site contains much more than a blog. There’s a forum with a chat, a newsletter, various content pages (sample chapters from my book), a testimonials page, etc.

How did I get the blog to look like the rest of the site? The Atahualpa theme. (I can never remember that name. What does it mean?) This theme gives you a menu-driven interface to just about every WordPress theme option so you can make your site look exactly like you want. I had no trouble at all duplicating the layout of the rest of my site, and it was a lot easier to do in Atahualpa than it would have been manually. It takes a little time to set up because there are so many options, but none of it is hard. All you need to know is a little basic CSS.

Now that I’ve found Atahualpa, I’ll never use any other theme. I was so enchanted with it I sent the author a donation.

phpFreeChat for Drupal 6.x

I’m the maintainer for the phpFreeChat module on Drupal. Which is to say (lay person’s translation), I maintain the software that allows people using the Drupal content management system to add the excellent phpFreeChat instant messaging program to their Web sites.

People have been nagging me to update the module for Drupal 6.x. But, you know, I’m busy and trying to make a living. I like open source philosophically, but it takes a lot of time to do this work. Then someone took the highly persuasive tack of depositing some money into my PayPal account. That worked. phpFreeChat for Drupal 6.x has just been released.

If you use phpFreeChat with Drupal and have feature requests, consider the PayPal approach. I’m open to any reasonable offer.

Integrate FlashChat in Drupal 5 or Drupal 6

FlashChat is a mature, full-featured chat program that is free without source code, $5 with. It can be integrated nicely with Drupal, but it’s not easy to figure out how. Here’s how.

The current version of FlashChat (5.0.10) contains a configuration file for Drupal integration (drupalCMS.php) that doesn’t work. So for starters, download the Drupal 5 & 6 Integration Kit.

That solves many problems, but not quite all.

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phpFreeChat in Drupal

If you’re running Drupal on a Web site and want to integrate chat software, check out the phpFreeChat module, which integrates the standalone phpFreeChat program into Drupal 5.x. I’m the current maintainer of this module, and just uploaded v1.3.

There’s a copy of the phpFreeChat module on my own Web site because I shared it from there while I figured out CVS, and don’t want to break the link. There’s also a phpFreeChat-compatible theme on my site that I haven’t uploaded to Drupal yet.

phpFreeChat is a great program (I added an “away” feature in the Drupal version), but has a limitation that may be a problem for some people: it conflicts with jquery if it’s on the same page. For most people this isn’t an issue, but if it is for you, you can use FlashChat – another feature-rich chat. I figured out how to integrate this with Drupal 5.x, and will post the configuration file and instructions shortly.

2 Elegant Little Programs

I’m still trying to decide how I will use this blog, now that computer technology is no longer my main focus. But yesterday I installed the latest WordPress software, imported posts from my old MovableType blog, and wrote an .htaccess file to preserve the old MT links, so I have computer technology on the mind. Here are two great utilities – one for programmers, one for everybody.

What Color Is That?

"Color Cop" color pickerI use Dreamweaver 8 (Macromedia version) for Web development and while I like it a lot, it’s a resource hog – so much so that I can’t launch my bitmap editing program at the same time to access its color selection feature.

I wanted a color selection program with a tiny footprint – something that does everything I need but nothing more. After looking at over a dozen of them, I finally found one that’s just about perfect – all the more so because it’s free: Color Cop. (Voluntary donations are accepted.)

Color Cop lets you identify any color on the screen, enter a color code to see what it looks like, use a standard Windows color selector to find a color, determine whether a color is Websafe, snap to the closest Websafe color, and sample colors using multi-pixel averages. It’s nicely designed, intuitive to use, and the entire executable is just 96K.

The elegance of Color Cop reminded me of another very elegant program I found that has nothing to do with programming.

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Creating an Online Store

To select wisely from the blizzard of options, you must understand the basics.

This is an expanded version of my article in PC Magazine on creating an online store, posted here due to popular demand. I received many requests from readers for additional information.

Online stores have become an essential element of doing business, but selecting wisely from the blizzard of options is difficult without an understanding of the basics. Depending on your choice, you can pay anywhere from 2% to 20% of each sale, not to mention monthly, annual, and startup fees.

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How to Install Movable Type

This article was originally posted in a MovableType 2.661 blog – now imported into WordPress, which is much easier to use.

The Web Log you are now reading was created with a server-based publishing system called Movable Type. Installing server-based software isn’t difficult, but it requires many more manual steps than installing a program on your local computer. Before you can run an installation script, you must first put the files in the correct places on the server, set the correct permissions, manually create any necessary databases, and correctly specify configuration parameters.

This is not hard to do if the software comes with precise, complete, and clearly written instructions. But unfortunately, the Movable Type installation docs are not as good as the software itself. So my first blog entry is a tutorial on how to install Movable Type, focusing on the parts that were unclear to me when I was doing it.

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