Jeremy Smith's blog

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Modifying the Blog@Case Templates and Styles

Before Blog@Case went into Open Beta, I wanted to have finished the Create/Edit Wizard that would allow easy changing of a blog's look and feel. Alas, though, it is still in a partially complete state and has not been released.

But, looking around the Blog@Case system, I see people have already been reaching in to the XHTML and CSS and personalizing their site, which I think is great. Ben's modified his to look like the standard Case template (which borrowed). Cool's blog has a really nice green theme going. But, you just have to check out Brian Beck's Blog. That's a seriously cool design he is playing with.

Let me take this chance to apologize, I know what a pain it is to change the templates on this system. I had really wanted to have had the wizard done, but I didn't make it by the deadline. But, it will get finished. If anyone out there wants to use some of the styles from places like MovableStyle, you can; however, it takes a couple of steps. First, you need to reset all of your templates to the Movable Type default templates. That means deleting all of the current one's. Then, you go to Movable Type's default template listing, and you have to recreate all of the templates via cut-and-paste. Once you have done that, you can go to their default stylesheet listings and pick up some new CSS.

Yes, I know how much that sucks. Yes, I'm sorry. In a couple weeks (hopefully), the wizard will be done and it will automate all of that.

There are, also, crazy things advanced web designers can do on the Blog@Case system, which involve linking all of your templates and stylesheets to files; then use WebDAV to mount your blog's web root; and modify those templates with Dreamweaver. All of that needs documenting, though.

Lots of documentation still to do. Trying to get the system to the point where all of the things that should be easy are easy, and all of the hard things are, at least, possible.


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    One thing I will end up doing with my templates, and may be useful to have by default, is making more of the page elements into Template Modules. I see that we have a Remember Me module, but why isn't it used? When I look at the Individual Entry Archive template, the code for Remember Me is repeated there instead of imported. I haven't looked closely to see if it's exactly the same, but I'm sure it could be generalized if not.

    The most important module, I think, would be a Post module. As you can see from my blog, it's the only thing I've really customized yet. But if I make changes to it, I have to change them in both the Index template and the Individual Entry Archive template. I know these two templates show different post features, but I could then make two modules and have one use the other.

    Also useful would be the Calendar as a module, the Navigation bar, Links panel and so on.

    Or maybe there is a good reason behind The Way Things Are.

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    Jeremy, Thanks for all your work on this. I really think it's a great initiative on Case's part.

    I noticed, though, that the default template doesn't render correctly in Firefox on Mac or Linux (I haven't looked at it on Windows). The margins on the nav bar buttons are too big, so the search link wraps to underneath the archives link and disappears. I modified my stylesheet to make the navbar link margins 40px instead of 50, and now it's fine.

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    Yea, I should have compartmentalized all the reused HTMl used in the templates. With all of the other development work going on and a looming deadline, I never had the chance to do a lot of work on the templates.

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    What version of Firefox are you using? I tested the template using Firefox 1.0 on Windows and Linux, Safari on OS X, Opera on Linux, and IE on Windows.

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    I'm using Firefox 1.0 on Macos X and 0.9.3 on Linux (Ubuntu).

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    I'm glad that Case has finally managed to implement a blogging system of its own, but I have a few misgivings about using it that I'd like to clear up before switching from Blogger to this. First of all, how much space will users be alloted? Right now my blog is extremely small but I don't want to start out on the blog@case system and then run out of room down the line. Also, will things such as audioblogs be allowed? With the WebDAV system, I would assume you could upload any file type to the root, and link to it from a post, which would allow for sound files. The only problem there would be, as I mentioned, total size. Lastly, is there any particular reason why the blog pages lack .html or .htm extensions? I've been using Dreamweaver to edit some of the html files through WebDAV, and it gets annoying wading through all the "no known association with file type" error boxes. If I change the file names under the configuration menu to add extensions, will this cause any problems with the CGI scripts? Just wanted to check before trying it. I have to say, though, that what I've seen so far with this new system is very promising. I'm currently using Blogger and Haloscan for commenting, and while this system currently lacks easy design changes, it packs a lot of configurability, which is definitely a plus.

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    I can comment on the filename bit. Emerging web application design philosophies suggest that file extensions in URLs do little good. Not only do they add clutter, but in many cases they are arbitrary. For example, if Blog@Case used PHP, a .php extension would make no sense to me as an end-user since the resulting file would only contain HTML-- the underlying implementation is of no concern to me. In order to leave room for new technologies, it's also beneficial to leave the filetype processing to the server. And again, it looks prettier.

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    Brian is dead on concerning my reasoning for omitting file extensions. It was just to promote the usability of URLs and future proof them from design changes like moving to a .xhtml extension or a .xml extension (for use with XSLT), etc. If you want to add extensions, there should be absolutely no problems with doing so.

    Right now, there is no "size restriction," per se. However, there are going to be limits. (Right now, there is a "max upload size limit" set to 2MB. So, if you try to upload anything bigger than that via WebDAV, you will get an error.) These limits have not been set because we are not sure what a "normal blogger" will use over, say, a year. Back on the envelope calculations (using me as an example), suggests a normal blogger posts about 60MB of content a year, which includes items such as audio files, pictures, binaries, etc. But, I have never really been a big picture guy; so that figure may be closer to a 100MB. Who knows? We'll probably just analyze the usage pattern and try to come up with something fair.

    Needless to say, I will be trying to convince peopl to do the "right thing" in this case; and in the case of "how long will my blog last." I am going to write up an entry on both of these questions, I think...