Make it like Facebook…or not?! Or: From WordPress to Drupal

My colleague and me had got the task of creating an intranet site “like Facebook”. OK, so we checked alternatives and installed a site with WordPress and BuddyPress.
Guess what, after we showed the result to our boss, friendships had to be removed, groups had to be removed etc. etc.
After realising we had disabled virtually every BuddyPress feature and after struggling with getting some sort of rights system into the site, we finally recognized WordPress was not the right base for our site and went looking for alternatives again. Imagine we had settled on a proprietary platform, we’d been stuck!

Then I discovered Drupal. “Oh look, they’ve got something like a structure. Oh, wow, permissions are in core modules. Cool!”

Drupal just is much more structured and generalized than WordPress. The downside is it takes you longer to figure out how things work. Maybe I should have looked into “Understanding Drupal” earlier but I just “had no time for that”. 😉

Community support is super helpful in irc or managing issues. Translation process is really cool, making it possible to edit translations in-site and (after a little configuration) also giving back to the Drupal community.

So, if you want to hack together a simple page in short time, take WordPress, but if you need a little bit more structure, I’d recommend Drupal!

Side note: As a Python fan I also tried but alas, it’s very hard to install compared to the two other systems. And if users won’t get your system installed, they won’t use it! And no, it isn’t helpful to first give you a toy server and then let you figure out how you turn it into a production system via several unconnected help documents.

Windows 8: Big steps backwards in all categories

At work, I’m bound to use windows machines. Windows 7 seemed to be relatively useable compared to the aged Windows XP. But now, Windows 8 will make it’s way into our offices. Wow!
Windows 8 seems to be stepping backwards in all categories for me:

  • NO Start button! WTF?!?
  • The silly “metro” apps fill the whole screen and you can’t switch between different apps via Alt-Tab. As a “bonus”, these apps can only be installed via Microsoft’s own app store.
  • OK, you can use a desktop. So, why does pressing the window tab hide my desktop and show me that ugly full-screen start menue instead?
  • The “new” UI feels so 1981 (think Motif):
  • Microsoft wants to enforce computer lockdown via “secure boot“.

NO, Microsoft, I don’t want to turn my PC into a tablet, no!

Creating beauty with Free Software

Panorama of rhine near DrachenfelsSince I tried it for the first time, I simply fell in love with creating panorama pictures.
Gloriously, this is possible with the Free Software Hugin.
The new (2011-09-30) version 2011.02 features a greatly improved interface making work really easy.
Here is the result of stitching together 4 pics taken by mobile phone (Sony Ericsson Cybershot C905):

Installing Debian the easy way: Say Goodbye to Microsoft!

You want to install Debian GNU/Linux on a machine?
You don’t have an install CD at hand (or you’re facing a netbook)?
USB booting is a nightmare?
That’s the situation I was in lately. So I remembered some clever guys had turned the debian installer into a windows executable: The Debian Installer Loader. It’s available at the well memorizable site and works absolutely perfect.
It even preseeds some installation values from the Windows environment.
You also have the choice whether you turn the machine into dual-boot (takes much time for shrinking NTFS partition) or convert it as a whole.
This tool gets rated five stars by me!

SFD 2010 in Bonn: Free balloons, Free Software!

On Saturday, we had a nice booth in the city of Bonn:

Booth of SFD in Bonn

Booth of SFD in Bonn

As other groups (worldwide children’s day) on that beautiful day, we released several balloons into freedom:

Balloons released into freedom

Balloons released into freedom

But besides people trying to grab our free goodies (LinuxTag posters and (K)ubuntu CDs), we also had some good chats about our main issue:

Free Software

Free Software

I can say just one thing:

I liked it!

I liked it!

You can see more pictures (and hopefully also some videos) here.

Norwegian Constitution Day, Free Software panoramas and software patents

Today is Norwegian Constitution Day.

In 2007, I spent my honeymoon in Norway. That was a fantastic journey!

As a reminiscence, I wanted to finally create some panoramas I photographed then. Thanks to Hugin this really is fun:

Tromsø panoramic view

Tromsø panoramic view, taken with 11 separate shots from the plateau before the arctic cathedral on 2007-05-18

There is one downer, though:

You need to connect the pictures somehow. You can either do this manually (tedious) or you can use autopano-sift-c. This gives you an ugly warning, though:

The use of this software is restricted by certain conditions.
See the "LICENSE" file distributed with the program for details.

The University of British Columbia has applied for a patent on the SIFT
algorithm in the United States.  Commercial applications of this software may
require a license from the University of British Columbia.

Another story how software patents harm innovation!

Successful advocacy: Linux, the kernel and GNU, the OS.

I spotted one of those “Linux, the operating system” inaccuracies and wrote a friendly mail to Jeff Elkner, the author of Here’s what he replied:

Thanks, Michael!  I've changed "Linux is an operating system" to
"Linux is an operating system kernel" and changed "thousands" to

I decided against the appositive you suggested at the end, since it
would require more explaination (what is the GNU system?) and make the
paragraph more difficult to understand.  I'll be sure to look for
other opportunities (particularly in the new preface) to promote
software freedom.

Thanks again!

jeff elkner

Great to see such prompt and positive resonance!

Now it’s YOUR turn to convince (as an example) to use less confusing terminology! 🙂