Going to Start Developing Templates

Lately I’ve been bouncing ideas with some friends on ways to earn extra passive income. So far the most reasonable ways are making templates and ads on this blog. There are many articles( like not by the hour and 20+ Passive Income Resources) that also cover this topic and they show more ways of doing it; however they don’t work for me personally.

Anyhow, in about a month (after I get a new computer), I will test the waters of selling templates. I’ll make a simple template and I’ll put it on Theme Forest, which seems to be the most simple way to showcase and sell themes right now; and although I’m not raving about the payout structure I still think its fair enough.

The question now is, what kind of template to make? I’m personally not too happy with Joomla development so I think that one is out and I’ve never worked with Drupal so that one is out too. That leaves me with a plain html template and WordPress, I think both take about the same time to develop, so by looking at the current popularity of WordPress I think it would be smart to start out making a template for WordPress.

In conclusion, my target will be to make a simple WordPress template(ie. no support for widgets unless I change my mind) and trying to sell it between $10 and $15 dollars on Theme Forest. Hopefully after two months on the market I would have gathered enough information to either make me want to make another template or make me look elsewhere for passive income sources. I’ll try to write report by Jan 09 with the results of this experiment.

Alienware’s Website Refresh

This past monday ( June 10) Alienware released a refreshed site.  As one of the developers behind this refresh I feel happy that the deployment went well, there where some hiccups here and there during the first few hours but it was all good at the end of the day.  I joined Alienware back in February and I was assigned the task of starting the refresh, that is the reason I feel proud of the site since a lot of my ideas (both good and not so good) ended up in the final release.

When others ask me how happy I am with the end result I always reply that I’m about 70% happy.  I know I could have improved many things but constrains and time are always the enemy.  However I think that the current state of the site is a pretty darn good foundation for whatever we decide to build on the future.  I also feel happy that Mr Dell(big boss) himself said he liked the look and feel of the new site.  Also I glanced thru some message boards and the general consensus is that people like it.

So what does the future hold?  Well I’ve taken it upon myself to improve the speed of the site and rethink my not so good ideas.  And hopefully I’ll get some time to relax now that I’ve crossed the first big hurdle at Alienware and while I wait for the next big thing.

First Joomla Project

I’m happy to announce that I completed my first joomla project-Exotic Car Collections– A project collaboration between Jonas(who came up with the idea) and Myself(who put the back-end together). A little background about this project:

About Two months ago I read in one of the forums that I frequent a post by someone looking for help setting up a site. At the time, I did not have a full-time job per se, so I was interested in jumping into projects just to get my name out there and to try different technologies that I might not see in a regular basis.

So Jonas, who wanted to build the site, told me his idea of having a site to post pictures and articles about exotic car collections. I thought the idea had potential so I decided to help him start the site. I proposed Joomla for the back-end as I did not have the time to build a whole site from scratch. However I had never done a full blown website using Joomla before; I had only experimented with it on a few occasions but nothing serious. Anyhow after some difficulties at the beginning I got to set up all the components and basic foundation to have the site working the way we wanted; all while Jonas learned the ins and outs of Joomla since he was going to take care of the content and day-to-day site management. Long story short we released Exotic Car Collections last week to the public.

So far no major problem has arise, but as with every project something will eventually come up. I do hope that we can improve the quality and usability of the site as time allows; but I see it difficult as I just started my Graduate Degree last week and my job’s work load is steadily increasing. Regardless I’ll try to find time to keep polishing the project.

Secure Contact Form Results in Blank Page

In this website I’m using the Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form v.2.0 wordpress plugin. After installing and configuring the plugin I tried submitting the form but all I got was a blank page after submitting the form.

I searched google to see if someone was experiencing the same problem but couldn’t find any detailed information, just someone saying that all they got was a HTTP 406 error in their logs. I checked my error logs but didn’t find that error; however, upon inspecting my raw access logs I saw some 406 responses from the server. So the blank page was indeed the 406 response from my server. From the definition of HTTP 406 response I learned that the problem could be that the server didn’t like the values I was passing it.

Now the 406 response could be raised by a couple of things. One of them is mod_security, if this is the source of your problems you could add some lines to your .htaccess to disable mod_security, read this solution on this HTTP 406 post. That being said, the solution didn’t fix my problem so I had to look for another suspect. My next step was to check my php configuration; this is where I found that there was a module installed that was redirecting to 406! The module’s name is suhosin, which is another security measure that is used for php. Now since I’m in a share host I cannot change the configuration of suhosin.

So I contacted my hosting company and asked them if they could change it but they said no. Which I understand, why change the config for just one guy’s code. However they gave me a more detailed log error which pointed out what part of the code was raising the problem. The problem was that some values where too darn long and looked suspicious to suhosin. The solution was to make them shorter.

The form_id, spam trap and send value where the values that where too long for my host’s suhosin configuration. The original code was:

$form_id = ''.$fd.''.$fp.''.$fl.''.$fv.''.$fh.'';
$trap1_value = ''.$fp.''.$fv.''.$fh.''.$fl.''.$fd.'';
$send_value = ''.$fh.''.$fd.''.$fv.''.$fp.''.$fl.'';

The new code:

$form_id = ''.$fd.''.$fp.'';
$trap1_value = ''.$fp.''.$fv.'';
$send_value = ''.$fh.''.$fd.'';

After making this change the form worked, anything larger value would result in a 406 response again. I don’t think this is a widespread issue or I would have found a solution quickly but I guess sh*t happens. If this post helps you or you have a better solution leave a comment.

Developer Meetings in South Florida: My Thoughts…

For many years I’ve seen how the “web culture” has evolved in different places around the world. Some places that come to mind are the west coast of the US and London, for some reason you will find a high concentration of designers and web developers at these locations. More over the best conferences, workshops and meetings for internet technologies and trends occur at those locations. I started to wonder why South Florida didn’t have a community of designers and developers as in the top places? After all South Florida has the ingredients to support such a community, at least thats what I think.

To my surprise I found out late last year, during the holiday season, that South Florida would be hosting the Future of Web Apps 2008 conference. I was so excited that I registered for the event and started to look for locals attending the event. Thats when I found that there is a good, albeit small, community of developers and designers that are on the bleeding edge of internet technologies. I even found that there are a good number of internet startups here in South Florida such as Scrapblog.

After a good amount of time reading about the different meetings in the area I decided to join one and try to be part of the community. The first meeting was very relaxed, informal and with loads of insightful information about the web development/design business in the area. A few days later I attended a Ruby development meeting, this time around the meeting was a little more formal.

If you are like me, a person new to the South Florida Web development / design scene, I recommend that you check out meetup.com to look for the next meetings here in South Florida.