I haven’t yet nailed down my catalog, but it’ll consist of somewhere between 15-30 slogans, each of which will be available across a number of garment styles (from 1 to 8, depending on popularity), each of which will be available on more than one color. And for each slogan/style/color, there will be a number of sizes available. If we say:

20 slogan

4 styles/slogan

2 colors/style

4 sizes/color

Thats 640 individual products. I need to figure out the simplest way to create this catalog – I assume it is copying and pasting the values for each, including category and product picture location, into an XL file and importing it. But since I am still figuring out what color combos will go with which style and slogan, I’ll probably start with a dummy catalog.

But before I install any modules, I should already have an equivalent catalog running, so this truly is the first step, beyond reading as much as I can about Magento and thinking about how to slice and dice the catalog to create good entry points.

OK, so just thinking aloud, I think I have one version of a gameplan:

1) equivalent (dummy, but comprehensive) catalog – categories, attributes, and related products.

1a) color changer for products -

2) map out the logic of entry points and landing pages – I want customers to be able to start with either a style of garment. This is the heart of the navigation

3) find whatever modules look like they’ll help along the way

4) add and test other modules unrelated to the catalog/navigation (ie shipping, currency, etc)

5) customize the visuals for the store.

The main reason for choosing Magento is its ability to power multiple URLs, with a common shopping cart and cross-promotional abilities. I’ve got a series of tshirt websites I want to cluster, so this is huge. I understand that there is a way, using Javascript, to be able to show product variants by coupling a user input (drop down menu or radial dial) to a change in product pictures. Since I’d like to offer more than one version of a shirt in terms of color (as well as style of garment), this is important. Other features I’d like to implement include:

–custom invoice/packing slip

–a variety of payment options (google checkout, paypal, and a merchant account

–syncronization with a profile at USPS, UPS, and Fedex. I want to log in to each service and hit “print” to get shipping labels printed. no manual entry of customer data

–a degree of integration with a blog, comments, etc. I’m sure I can put up a standalone blog or forum and link to any relevant discussions back and forth (many of the shirts I will sell will have to do with current events).

–maybe some kind of chat module, so when I am online, I can chat with a customer if they have questions about a garment.

–tiered pricing – so if a user wants a personalized shirt on top of a default design, they can specify an alternative graphic, placement, or text, and the price is reflected in that

I’m sure some of this functionality is built in, some comes from modules, and some I’ll just have to figure out how to hack it together (ie the discussion site thing).

Today is June 10th, I’d like to be damn close to launching the site on July 10th. We’ll see…

My next step is to create a list of modules that can accomplish the above functionality, and start installing them on the test installation.

I think I will attempt to style the theme last, so that I can be sure that the functionality is solid before hacking the crap out of the design (I have a design that I think I’ll have to more or less start from scratch.) Luckily, I’ve found some tutorials that show you how to do this, although they assume more familiarity with code than I’ve got under my belt. But I’ve got books and I plan to learn aplenty over the next few weeks. Learning by doing indeed.

I’m not sure whether version 1.4 is stable enough for a production site, it *seems* to be. But there are several modules and themes that don’t seem to be yet compatible with 1.4.

At any rate, I installed Magento yesterday, so I can’t do a real time step by step with pics. But, I’ll recall everything I did, to the best of my knowledge. I have Dreamhost as my host (shared server).

1) Pretty much as the instructions stated, I downloaded the full version, decompressed it, and then did the same with the sample data. So far, so good.

2) The firs little bit of technical hijinks., but not soul-crushing: I found the PHPMyAdmin interface in Dreamhosts offerings, and logged in. I uploaded the script that came with the sample data (the suffix gives it away with a .sql) and thankfully, did not get an error message. I fired up my FTP program and shot the sample data folder up to my server.

3) I FTP the full installation to the server, placing it in a subdirectory. I was concerned that the “media” folder that came with the sample data would get over-written by the full install. So I didn’t let Magento install into the same directory as the existing “media” folder. After Magento was fully uploaded, I took the contents of the first “media” folder (that came with the sample data) and pulled its contents into the media folder supplied by the installation. I then deleted the now empty media folder.

4) as per the instructions, I navigated to the install script with my browser and after a few questions that I didn’t really understand, it looked like I had more or less succeeded.

I am now considering installing another copy of Magento and using it as a scratch test server, only because I have lots of modules to install, and I am worried that if one screws with the other, even if I scrub some MySql tables and delete the respective directory, I might have altered the state somehow of my installation. So I’d prefer to keep one install that I only modify once I am sure it won’t break, and that way avoid tanking all the work done on the various modules.

At any rate, for those who have found this blog via google, my username on the Magento forums is Yippie2009.

Feel free to drop me a line. Since I am not an expert, I can only offer you an attempt to help you solve your problems if you have technical questions. I’d say the odds are even that you know more about this stuff than I do.

Well, here is the beginning of what promises to be one hell of a long ride. Being of the short attention-spanned variety, I have my doubts as to whether I will actually finish this installation anytime soon.

The goal is a fully configured, customized installation of an ecommerce application. I have had some familiarity with Zencart in the past, and was going to reinstall it after a server wipe (stay away from godaddy for anything but domain registration!!!!!!!). But then I found out about Magento and have been reading on it. Between the two, I think Zencart is somewhat easier to install and configure (but it is no picnic! For any user-hosted e-commerce application, expect to spend a solid 30 days betwen figuring out installation, catalog configuration/importing, theme customization, module implementation, and bug fixing. Unless, of course, you are a pro. But I am assuming you are like me, more or less a noob, and are going through a maddeningly steep and very slow learning curve.)

Magento seems to be more full-featured and benefits from newer code from a smaller number of developers. You can argue ad infinitum which model produces better code, but I think for a specific application like an ecommerce app, the company behind Magento, Varien LLC, seems to be doing a good job. If their documentation sucks for newbies, it’s created a large class of professional Magento designers who love that fact, so who am I to argue?

This is going to be a bitch. Like I said, I’m no programmer. But I will do my best to log everything I do, to get my installation working with a series of modules. I am building a series of tshirt sites, which will hopefully all share a common customer login and allow cross promotion across URLs. It’s ambitious, and it’s easily the kind of project you could throw $5G at between designers and programming. Unfortunately for everyone, I don’t yet have that kinda loot. And if I did, I’d be buying blank t-shirts with it :-)

Hopefully this log will help someone else down the line, in addition to serving as a space where I can sort out what I am doing and why.

Caveat Emptor: I’ve never actually done this method, I am merely documenting the hypothetical method because I will one day need to do this and I have a bad memory :-)

Like many WordPress users, I would like to be able to password protect an entire category. Admittedly, I didn’t spend too much time looking for a plug-in that would accomplish this. But by the volume of fellow searchers, I think that it’s safe to say that as of now (May, 2009), this functionality is not built in to WordPress, nor is it available in any stable, easily found plug-in. (Please show me I am wrong in the comments!)

So here’s my solution: create a new directory (I’m guessing it has to be outside of your WordPress directory, as I imagine WP does not allow deeplinking inside its’ own install directory – although tinkering with .htaccess files and permissions on that directory may work) and create a whole new installation of WordPress. You can password protect the entire directory using .htaccess, and configure it so it has only one category (or multiple categories, or subcategories, or whatever.) Then all you need to do is create a link in your sidebar or header,  or whatever, to this directory, and the login window will popup.

If you use the same templates, the user should never really notice the change – for all they know, they are in the same blog, all that really changes is the last portion of the URL. And by creating direct links to categories in your original blog in the same way you did to this new installation directory, you can provide the same navigation you would have had as if it were all on one installation.

The drawback would be if your users wanted to comment on the content – you would have to set up the two installations to run on the same login database. I’ve never done this, but I am sure it’s not a new question.

So maybe it’s more work than necessary, and I’m sure the folks at WordPress are aware of this feature request, so this may be obsolete soon if not already. But I think this is one way to accomplish this functionality.

Enough Unix for Your Résumé

Unix Reference Guide
(both webmonkey.com)


Where I had proposed to map a history of political knowledge over time not that long ago, I have decided to switch gears and go for a dataset that is more easily defined and quantifiable. So from Marx, Hegel, and Socrates, I go to Flamengo, Fluminense, and Vasco da Gama: I have decided to use the 38 rounds of the 2007 Brazilian National Club League Soccer Division 1 Championship.Here are a few beginning mockups…

an early version using a line graph and points obtained as the scale

an early version using a line graph and the relative ranking of the teams as the scale

the latest version which will be a bar graph of the rounds, added successively

the first version of the data mapped per team, per round

data mapped per team, per round – closer to the proper size

I found a game that utilizes the user’s webcam and microphone as controllers. Although I didn’t play it, http://www.motiongames.net/ houses a vintage-looking map of Europe and a motion and sound-controlled avatar (a plane). It asked me whether I wanted to enable web access of my webcam and mic, and I preferred not to authorize this channel just yet. But pretty cool, technologically speaking.

What started as an exercise in database sanitizing, wound up a stop animation movie done in photoshop. This project illustrates well the dangers of setting one’s goals beyond what is feasible. Originally I had intended to export an Excel database into XML so that I could put a Flash interface on it. That didn’t work out. Then I figured I would put the interface up on a dummy set of data. But when I found myself putting Actionscript on a button inside a movie clip inside a button, where there were going to be a trillion different combinations by the time I was going to be finished with it, I gave up and decided to go with something I could actually achieve by the deadline. More on what I was trying to do with this in a later post, for now, I give you, a (sigh) failed visualization.Mad MAD Project

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