EE Spotlight - A new resource for ExpressionEngine developers

Posted in Web Design on Wednesday, 13th July 2011 at 1:11PM

It's always good to find a resource offering good quality learning material about ExpressionEngine so I thought I'd mention a newly launched site that does just that, EE Spotlight.  EE Spotlight was set up by Ryan Battles of Jovia Web Studio to provide a platform for ExpressioneEngine developers to share their knowledge and experiences of ExpressionEngine with each other.  It also hosts regular updates from Ryan himself on the latest EE news and add-ons.

Here's how Ryan describes EE Spotlight:

"My vision for EE Spotlight is that it will be a repository for knowledge and community interaction. I also wanted to make it an easily available tool for others to post their content onto, passing along some search engine optimization back towards their own agency or freelance site."

I came first encountered EE Spotlight thanks to a request from Ryan for me to post an article on HTML email platform integration with ExpressionEngine.  You can read the post at http://ee-spotlight.com/tutorials/integrating_html_emails_with_expressionengine.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 12 -  A short film

Posted in Art on Monday, 27th June 2011 at 11:50AM

I was looking back through some of my old YouTube videos and noticed this short film my wife and I made a few years ago when we lived on our houseboat downstream from Stratford-upon-Avon.  I though it was pretty nice despite the awful video quality so I dug out the original iMovie file and exported a slightly better quality version.  It's still not exactly HD but good enough to get the idea (view on YouTube).

The video was inspired by Shakespeare's Sonnet 12 and took advantage of a day when the River Avon had frozen over.  We managed to finish filming just in time before the ice completely melted and the letters started to sink.  The soundtrack is by a really talented musician named Alessandro Gwis.

Freelance Web Designer / Developer based in Gloucestershire

Posted in Freelancing on Monday, 13th June 2011 at 8:49PM

Freelance Web Designer / Developer based in Gloucestershire

Having spent the last 4 years heading up the digital wing of Happy Giraffe PR and Marketing company in Birmingham I have decided that it's time to build myself a studio (or shed as my wife likes to call it!) and go freelance.  My last few years working in the West Midlands have been amazing and I have learnt a huge amount from the talented folks over at HG but I feel that the time has come to incorporate the design, project management and most importantly development skills I have acquired into my solo projects. 

I will continue to work on several projects for the Giraffe on a white label basis but will also be developing my own Siblify brand and looking for exciting new opportunities to work on websites for individuals, small business' and larger organisations.

Getting HTML5 pages to validate with embedded Flash

Posted in Web Design on Thursday, 19th May 2011 at 8:03AM

Getting HTML5 pages to validate with embedded Flash

Having decided to use HTML5 for my new portfolio site it made sense to embed the video on the homepage using the HTML5 video tag and on the whole I was fairly impressed with the results despite some flaky support even on the latest browsers.  But as always I needed to bear the IE stragglers in mind and cater for them with a Flash fallback version of the video so having taken a quick look at a post entitled 'Video for every one' over at Camen Design I set to work wielding my object tag. 

All went smoothly until I tried validating at which point I realised my pure unblemished code had been polluted.  Now on the whole I'm not really a validation fascist and if there's a good reason why something won't validate, so be it, but this was different, this was the homepage of my web development portfolio site and my first foray into the HTML5 standard, something in me just kept saying 'make it validate'.

Font Squirrel, @font-face and a problem with Safari

Posted in Web Design on Thursday, 24th February 2011 at 11:27AM

Font Squirrel, @font-face and a problem with Safari

I usually use Cufon for my font embedding needs but if a font doesn’t want to be converted into Javascript or the resulting code is just too bloated for me to stomach then I find myself turning to @font-face, the css alternative.

I recently stumbled upon a brilliant tool for converting fonts to work across multiple platforms and to generate the @font-face code necessary to embed them.  The site is called Font Squirrel and it converts the font to TTF, EOT, WOFF, SVG and AVGZ formats to ensure it works on as many platforms as possible.  Whilst most decent browsers can deal directly with TTF fonts, poor old Internet Explorer needs the EOT (Embedded OpenType) format and IOS devices can only recognise SVG fonts. It also comes with various options for adjusting the way fonts are rendered.  This makes using @font-face a breeze, at least it would if it wasn’t for the odd bug…

My top 10 Expressionengine add-ons and hacks

Posted in Web Design on Tuesday, 21st December 2010 at 5:08AM

My top 10 Expressionengine add-ons and hacks

Having built sites with most of the mainstream content management systems available today, both open source and commercial, I can say with confidence that  Expressionengine has got to be my favourite thanks to its amazing flexibility and polished end user experience.  Here are 10 add-ons and hacks that have helped me come to this conclusion.

Note (02/04/12):  I have now released a new blog post with 10 more really useful add-ons at https://www.siblify.com/blog/ten_more_expressionengine_add_ons_and_some_usage_tips/

5 reasons I like my Dell Mini 10v Hackingtosh and 5 why I don’t

Posted in Technology on Wednesday, 17th November 2010 at 1:14PM

5 reasons I like my Dell Mini 10v Hackingtosh and 5 why I don’t

I recently purchased a refurbished Dell mini 10v netbook for £120 on ebay as I was in need of a Windows 7 testing platform for my websites, but everyone knows that the main reason for buying one of these little machines is for their Hackingtosh potential.

So a few months on, Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are living happily side by side but am I actually using the thing?  The answer is a resounding YES, I use it every day despite having a Macbook Pro sitting right next to it on the desk and the reason is that it fills a few niches really rather well.  So here’s a list of five reasons I find my Dell Mini 10v Hackingtosh useful and in order to remain balanced, 5 things that aren’t so great about it.

An automatic navigation for ExpressionEngine

Posted in Web Design on Wednesday, 2nd June 2010 at 3:04PM

An automatic navigation for ExpressionEngine

Update October 2010: Since writing this post I have had a chance to try out three modules which make my solution pretty much redundant.  Navee by Booyant does a great job of making Expressionengine menus really easy to create and manage from the control panel. Structure goes several steps further by organising the entire structure of the site including all the menus and making it really easy to manage for the end user.  Finally, the relative newcomer is Taxonomy which is something of a halfway house.  All three are brilliant and suit different types of site depending on what is needed.  Give them a go!

Having experimented with several different content management systems, one feature I really value is the ability to dynamically create a navigation menu based on the content of the site.  When I started using ExpressionEngine, I liked it’s user interface, flexibility and ease of implementation but I missed the automatic navigation builder’s that are included with some open source packages such as CMS Made Simple.

Birds in a Hole

Posted in The Good Life on Friday, 30th April 2010 at 1:57PM

Birds in a Hole

In my quest to integrate our birds with our garden I decided it was time that they were confined to two areas of the garden.  The problem was that the two areas that they needed access to, the chicken house area and the duck pond area, are on two different levels and separated by a footpath.  The obvious solution was a tunnel so I set about digging, unsure as to how well birds cope with tunnels.  It turns out they cope really rather well.

The tunnel spans a length of about 2.5 metres and is supported on either side by a series of large roof tiles which are retained by wooden stakes.  The roof of the tunnel is a metal frame with wooden panels, covered in earth and a brick path.

The chickens had a few days with the tunnel uncovered to get used to the new route to the pond and compost heap. A few needed some gentle persuasion that it really was a good idea, but they all got there in the end and now shoot down at a rate of knots.

Michael's Paintings

Over the Shan Kwong Road

Over the Shan Kwong Road
32 x 52 cm
Acrylics, ink and cotton on canvas

Michael's photos

Campala Cathedral Church Hall

Campala Cathedral Church Hall

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