OK, so after a month long hiatus (I work freelance, so I take gigs as they come) I’m back on Magento. So let’s see if I can’t get further along over the next few days. The goal for now is to populate the catalog with some new categories and products, and then export these via CSV file in order to be able to make updating the catalog easier.

More soon.

Heh. So, many hours later, what progress have I made? Well, I have progressed towards the opinion that Magento should do a better job marketing itself as a robust ecommerce application for businesses with web development budgets and/or developers. My initial opinion stands – Magento IS NOT for mom and pop web “tinkerer”. If you thought that figuring out how to install Magento would be the hardest part, look elsewhere.

Tomorrow I will document the IDIOCY that are the steps required to get a simple product to show up on the home page (a feat that I have not yet accomplished, BTW! But I did manage to get a category to show up, by accident.)

At any rate, before I forget, here is the link to a video that helped me get closer (I think). Hats off to Steve Warshaw:  http://vimeo.com/1070986?pg=embed&sec=1070986&hd=1

I’m currently leaning towards investigating other alternatives, maybe coming back to Magento one day when the information organization problem with this software has been resolved. So far, a complete waste of time.

*edit*:::  OK, I’ve calmed down. Magento doesn’t suck so much as it’s complex and like any large, complex piece of software, it will take a while until I get the hang of configuring it. I’m sure there is a reason for every seemingly IDIOTIC required step to make simple things happen, and this will only become apparent to me later in the process. May some higher power grant me the serenity to get to the point where I reap the benefit of sticking with this apparently robust application. Apologies to Magento developers who may have found this site. I don’t hate you, you’re not sadists, etc. Just venting. Hopefully I’ll get far enough along to fall in love with this thing and make it work for me. That higher power knows, I’m trying. :-|

My browser crashed just now, and in so doing wiped a particularly vitriolic post about the missed opportunity that is Magento’s position in the market. For all the talk of “Community”, Varien is not interested in small businesses with limited budgets, and has basically hung out to dry the long tail of budding entrepreneurs with limited financial as well as technical resources.

If you do not know how to code and do not have the budget to hire a pro, STAY AWAY FROM MAGENTO. I will continue for a few days more to see if any breakthrough changes my opinion, but thus far, I abhor the hoops required to do simple tasks. This makes me think of early versions of Drupal. A perfect storm of dozens of idiosyncratic little steps that leaves the user to wonder what sadist designed this software.

So I am on the fence whether I should use the existing sample products catalog that is already in Magento, or whether I should create another catalog, more or less of the style of the real one I am still creating (I am aiming for a tshirt shop with multiple slogans, shirt styles, colors, and sizes).

One of the main pieces of functionality I want is a color changer – I want people to be able to pick an option (red) and see a picture of a red shirt appear in the product page. Should I get started on implementing that first, using the sample data? Or should I spend the time to configure the catalog manually, being that my goal is to create a much bigger catalog by importing a CSV file later, essentially overwriting anything I create by hand?

I think I’ll create the catalog manually, if nothing else, it will help to create the CSV template that I will need to mimic in order to get the catalog imported properly.

Here goes…

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.


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.

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