St Lucia – yeaaah maan! No pressure, no problem

St Lucia's cricket ground
St Lucia's cricket ground

Just got back from the Island of St Lucia, what a brilliant place. We stayed at the Sandals Halcyon in the North of the Island. Everything they had to offer we tried: windsurfing, water skiing (crap at that!), scuba diving – 109 dives now, tennis, shuffleboard, eating, cocktails, patois etc. We also went to the semi-final of the world cup, even though they had lost my tickets. The ground is really beautiful, makes me want to perhaps start playing again.

Oh well, now back to the drag of work at the British Museum. A couple of weeks till we launch a revamped CCI and try out the mashed up features that I’ve built around Google and phpclasses. Could be interesting.
[gmap marker_lat=”14.0091445″ marker_lon=”-61.00861320000001″]

British Institute of Persian Studies

BIPS logoAfter a few months of on-off work, I’ve finally finished the British Institute of Persian studies website. It has taken a bit longer than I expected as we’ve had to get comments from various stake holders on the committee of the Institute. I’m actually quite pleased with it and I’m getting more pleased with textpattern as a web content management platform all the time. I’ve also started using a vitual server at oneandone which seems pretty good value for around £19 pcm.

The website has two domains, bips.org.uk and bips.ac.uk (we’re not totally sure about future directions for this.) Any feedback on this gratefully received. Now onto the ICOMON website which will be trilingual. Bit less time to do this one though! Maybe I’ll burn a candle as usual from both ends and the middle (I’m also working on some Iron Age data at work at present… but that is a secret….)

Returned from skiing

Stu and DanJust got back from 7 days of skiing in the Alpine resort of Serre Chevalier. I’ve now managed to come down red runs after 10 days of practice; they’re hard man! An interesting trip with loads of snow and some strange concoctions called Dr Pepper.

Stu Ervine took some great photos, and they can be seen on Flickr.

Experiments

BIPS logoI’m just building a new website for the British Institute of Persian Studies to replace their old one . And I’ve been experimenting with adding Google and flickr to the basic Textpattern driven content management system. I haven’t gone down a plugin path for this, instead I’ve used a really good idea from David Ramos and adapted this to suit my idea for mapping research articles and archaeological site notes. The current website doesn’t offer this content (sites), so the information is currently lifted directly from Wikipedia and the Institute’s scholars may wish to expand it and correct Wikipedia’s errors if they exist. The basic result can be seen on my dev server version and has resized infowindows, short excerpts from the info, geo co-ordinates and a direct output (&output=kml) to Google Earth. I’m trying to decide whether mouseover or click is the best usability model for this interface, I am leaning towards the click as it allows you to focus better.
The last thing that I think I’ll do is add custom markers using the Society logo as the pointer but I need to be back in the office as I don’t have any image editing software on my macbook (any open source packages anyone can suggest?) So does the integration add value to this website? I think it helps visualise the locations that get mentioned in the text of the site.
I’ve learnt quite alot from these pages produced by the Blackpool Community Church JavaScript Team and the results are useful. Maybe I’ll do something with this for the Scheme’s website running data direct from the database.

The other thing that I’ve played with is 24Ways tutorial on parsing JSON data from flickr’s api to add value to the website and draw in current photos of Iran, Persia and archaeological sites. I’ve not done and JSON stuff before, but I like the result! As mentioned in the article, this output is at present undocumented, but seems a lot faster than the RSS method I use. You are still limited to how many photos you pull out and I can’t see how to just use Creative Commons licensed data as yet. So once again, like the google implementation, it is hard coded into one of Textpattern’s template pages that drive a section. For a simple CMS, Textpattern offers some great functions and is extensible. Better meta data handling would be great and a better image management or inbuilt gallery would also be brilliant. However, it suits my needs for projects like this.
Of course the Institute might hate it, and the design is still up for discussion but as it is css driven easy to change, I’m going to add some sand and desert plants to the background and the blues denote the sky. I’ve also started to build in microformats and I’ve also used zenphoto gallery for images (all temporary from the lovely Vesta Curtis) and I’m starting to integrate the forum software into the CMS.

Anyway, comments gratefully received….even if you hate it or think it could be improved. I’m still just dabbling with this technology lark.

Libya and bike crashes

DSC00454I’ve not updated for a while, but I’ve just returned from Libya after a whirlwind 5 day visit via Voyages Jules Verne. This encompassed trips to Tripoli, Sabratha and Leptis Magna. The latter 2 magnificent examples of Roman town planning. However Leptis is by far and away the more impressive and reminded me of my youth and summer time in Caesarea, Israel. We stayed at Hotel Yousser in Tripoli and I sure did miss my Gin and Tonic seeing as it is a dry country; however their non alcoholic beer isn’t that bad! However, I almost didn’t make it there due to a high speed crash on my mountain bike. All I can say is the pavement is bloody hard when you hit face first….