algeh: (Default)
[personal profile] algeh
Argh. All I ever post here any more is whiny complaints about how the world doesn't work the way I want it to. This is pretty much the state of my life the past few years, so I guess that's not that surprising. So anyway, me whining. Again. Dammit.

I'm trying to set up a new, professional domain for my math tutoring and petsitting businesses (which I should probably post about here at some point). I figure that a nice feature for the pet business would be if I kept a daily, password-protected blog for each overnight client so they could check on their pets while on vacation. Because I want to get this set up soon and don't want to spend a lot of time learning about various blog/CMS choices I was going to do this with Moodle, which is kind of like killing a spider with a 30-volume encyclopedia set. (Plus, I could then set up practice quizzes and such for my tutoring clients, and easily re-purpose the whole thing if I got a teaching job, as Moodle is a great platform for things like online math homework assignments.) However, the host that's my current first-choice (for reasons mostly having to do with a good customer service track record) will only support up through Moodle 1.9 on their cheap hosting, and the more expensive hosting needed to run Moodle 2.x is a big enough cost differential that it doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense to spend that much more when what I actually need right now is, in fact, less than 100 password-protected blogs rather than a full-fledged learning management system. (Moodle 1.9 will lose even security-fix support next summer, so I'm not going go with that.) Of course, I don't know anything about the various blog-hosting systems. Wordpress is what everyone seems to use for blogging, but doesn't seem to offer much in the way of intrinsic privacy levels, so it looks like I'd have to spend a lot of time messing around with plugins. There are a lot of other blogging/CMS systems out there, but I have no idea where to even start researching which don't suck.

Am now tempted just to make html pages in emacs rather than use a blogging platform and assign each client their own password-protected folder on my domain. I already know how to do that, and it just sounds way easier. I'm pretty sure that's the Wrong Way To Do It, though. I keep wanting the 90s back, which is not the way to make websites not suck.

I wish I were wealthy enough to just hire someone to deal with all of this crap for me, but if I had that kind of money I wouldn't be petsitting in the first place. Computer stuff just changes too fast for me to ever understand what the hell is going on anymore, and I'm just so tired of trying to even find the right way to frame my questions.

Date: 2011-09-29 12:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmmm. I'm not sure if you are referring to CMS here as "Course Management System" or "Content Management System". I believe they are quite different, but I don't know enough about "course management" applications such as Moodle to comment more exactly.

If you are looking to something that manages "content", WordPress and Drupal are the ones that are best known, but there are also Joomla and Zope/Plone and a number of others. [Yes, I am quoting a lot from Wikipedia here, but I still think it's a good starting point. I'll admit bias, as I have edited some Wikipedia pages -- though not these ones -- in the recent past.] Wikipedia also pointed me to this PDF file from "Idealware" comparing the first four CMSs (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Plone) that I mentioned above.

Also, I did some programming in PHP this summer for the local con CAN-CON to set up a Registration Page. It wasn't perfect (and it was my first usage of PHP), but I may be able to help advise here.

The biggest irony is that the Content Management Systems were intended to make things easier than back in the 90s, when everyone was expected to code HTML manually. With the new abilities built into HTML v. 5 [What happened to XHTML 2.0? "Politics" is probably the best answer I can give you; it's dead, Jim], it's actually harder to do this without some help. I wrote HTML and CSS as part of developing that Registration Page, but not everything went to plan; such is life.

Hoping this helps ...

Date: 2011-09-29 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, Wikipedia provides this list of "learning management systems", including Moodle.

Date: 2011-09-29 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

On the one hand, I made my static site with html hand coded in emacs, on top of which I used hand coded css, along with a bunch of css snippets and javascript that I found in various places, and when it got complicated enough that I needed to generate the files from templates, I made templates with PHP and used make to build from them. It works for what I want it to do, which is look like a site from 1998 instead of 1994. It's also a somewhat ridiculous way of doing things if you aren't incrementally improving your site starting from what it was in 1994, and it doesn't do anything fancy, and I expect if I tried to make it do anything fancy, I'd end up curled up on the futon and gibbering.

On the other hand, I just used wordpress when I needed a blog. (Well, there have been a couple of plugins and a tiny bit of manual tinkering.) The world is full of wordpress plugins, and you may be able to cobble some together to do what you want. The world is also full of other systems that are not wordpress that I don't know anything about.

Anyway. I suppose I should just wish you good luck with this thing, and not try to be helpful.

Date: 2011-09-30 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I forgot to mention that the HTML and CSS I used for the stuff this summer were also hand-coded.

I made templates with PHP and used make to build from them.

That trick (of using Make paired with PHP) is not something I've tried, though I can see that it might work. IMake (used in the X11 project) might go even further, though getting those "cpp" macros running together with PHP might prove awkward.

There also are programming tools such as Cake-PHP, but I have not yet used those.

Date: 2011-09-29 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm impressed that the ISP/host you chose supports Free BSD OS fully. Quite a few ISPs won't give support for non-Windows (or, sometimes, non-Mac) software. I wish they provided more support for Linux ... though, with the "blossoming" of the Linux market into dozens if not hundreds of varieties (flavors), that may soon become an impossible task.

There is probably some other kind of thing that I actually want - a Customer Management System or something.

At a guess, that sounds like a "customer relationship management" (CRM) system, particularly one that has customer service and support features. I found this list of CRM systems (in Wikipedia :-), but that list seems to only include one or two with a customer-service orientation, and only a few of them will run under the Free BSD OS (as "cross-platform"). From what (little) I know of them, there should be at least one or two that support this kind of configuring, though you may want to encourage the customer to fill out the form rather than attaching a file. [Natural-language parsing, even for limited subject "domains" as house-sitting and pet-sitting, is still *hard* for a computer to do; the form also may implicitly detect or prevent omission (or, perhaps, over-specification) of the information. In a different subject domain, I am reminded of the house seller who specified a house siding of "CBS", to the total bewilderment of would-be buyers. It turned out he meant "concrete-brick-stucco," but I'd bet most people were baffled what a building siding and a TV network had in common.]

Given that I need to keep looking for work, I probably won't be able to help much beyond this, but I'm perfectly happy to send you some more details for free if need be. [I have been out of the computing biz for years, and miss it badly.]

It's after 2:30 PDT [5:30am local], so I should be fading out here ... :-/

Date: 2011-09-29 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Google docs? Good old fashioned email?

Date: 2011-09-30 07:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have heard of people having issues with accessing GoogleDocs. However, e-mails may be the most straightforward answer to what [ profile] algeh wants to do for her customers.

Date: 2011-10-02 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's a tool called Google sites, which lets you make a site that only some people can view. Google Apps for small business costs something like $50/year, and I think you can make it look like it's coming from any domain.

Date: 2011-10-03 10:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sure. That's why I'm suggesting using a Google Apps account, rather than their regular Google service.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You can have up to 50 users for free! Itʻs what I use for my derby leagueʻs website and we use the docs for internal communication. Itʻd be pretty easy to remove all the content and move if I felt like it - but so far why would I? Itʻs free, people understand it, itʻs free, and I use my own domain name. Also itʻs free, we can edit things collaboratively, and itʻs easy to use. And itʻs free.

Date: 2011-10-03 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh and the people who have issues accessing it? They have issues with most of the internet, especially when log ins and passwords are involved.


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