Tim Wasson - web nerd guy.

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Digital Ocean and Drupal

I've used Drupal in many situations and on many servers throughout the world, but I'm having a love affair with Digital Ocean in a big way. Learning more about the command line has been a goal of mine for a while, and diving head first into Digital Ocean, embracing the terminal, and falling head-first in very basic server management. Getting Drupal up and configured on Digital Ocean provided a few difficulties, but now that I've overcome them, I'm a pretty happy camper. Here's what I learned thoughout the way. 

Digital Ocean's guide to installing Drupal was great, but didn't quite cover all the bases. Once Drupal is installed, you have to do a few things to finalize the install and get things running well.

First up is PECL. PECL Uploadprogress does exactly what the name implies... shows an upload progress bar for big images or files when uploading them through the web interface. 

This comment got me up and running with PECL, but to my disappointment the uploadprogress wasn't included in a basic PECL install. Drupal's own site came to the rescue with their guide on getting uploadprogress to work

Now that I have Drupal on a server that can be managed via the command line, I finally got the chance to dive into Drush, which is an amazing tool to help update and add modules, as well as update Drupal core. Because Digital Ocean utlizes SFTP, the manual update through the web interface doesn't work (or at least I can't make it work), but Drush makes that a moot point. It's much easier to type in the updates via Drush than use the module pages, with less of a processor strain and chance of crashing the server. 

And finally, we have to set up a cron to keep Drupal running well, and Digital Ocean's tutorial helped me there too. I hope this is handy for those of you wanting to get Drupal running on Digital Ocean. 

jQuery Fun

I've been learning a lot lately about jQuery, and in an effort to learn more I put together a couple Github repos that may be useful. The first is a fixed-menu scroller. They're all the rage these days. As the menu hits the top of the screen, it stays there. As the sections scroll underneath, the menu highlights the active section. I also threw in a bit of smooth scrolling. It's all in one easy-to-implement package. Sprinkle in a touch of CSS transitions, and you've got yourself a super-fancy and super-easy fixed menu scroller.

Check it out here on Github

I also put together the world's simplest accordion, 'cause if there's one thing the world needs it's more jQuery accordions. 

Ok, so here's the deal.

It turns out that I just really suck at blogging. I've tried and failed many times to make this a "thing", supplementing my notoriously bad memory so I can at least look back and reflect, even if the memories themselves are long gone. I've accepted my crappy blogging abilities for what they are, but nonetheless, I will keep trying to occassionally post things.

Daisy is awesome and getting awesomer every day. She just turned 9 months, and her little personality is starting to shine through. She's very determined, getting upset when she's not able to do something or get somewhere, or when someone takes away her blanket or toys. She's also just about the happiest baby you'll ever see, constantly smiling and giggling. Sometimes for no reason at all. 

I was home with her all day on Monday when our babysitter got sick, and we had such a good day together. We played, are some new foods, practiced our crawling and standing and watched some Spongebob. It's funny how in the past 9 months, our Netflix recommendations went from all zombie and slasher movies to crazy baby-type programming. The programming is so bizarre. I mean, I know it's for babies, but man is it strange stuff. It doesn't matter how strange it is to me, Daisy is totally fascinated by it. I try not to spend too much time with her in front of the TV, but when we're winding down for bed time it's perfect for her. 

Mars

I don't try to hide my lack of formal education, and I'm certainly not what many people would describe as book smart. But I'll be damned if I'm not totally blown away by science and NASA and space exploration lately. Its almost enough to make me want to do something drastic, like pick up a book and read about science and stuff. 

The world is super-excited for the Curosity, which landed safely on Mars. Rightfully so. The landing is absolutely incredible, and with a rover the size of an automobile and much better equipped than any other Mars rover so far, we're on the brink of learning some really cool shit about the Red Planet. 

But this is far from the first time humans have sent equipment to other planets. Russia sent a probe to Venus in 1982, and it got some cool photos.

We've even seen the surface of Saturn's moon, Titan, back in 2005 with the Huygens Probe

I know I won't be around long enough to see humans get to other planets, or even see the surface of planets outside of our solar system (unless those crazy Russians really figure out a way to implant a human inside a computer to live on forever, which sounds awesome...), but I'm still fascinated by what we're seeing so far. The photos could be earth if you don't know any better. Just a random collection of rocks and dirt, but the interesting part is that on these planets, that's all there is. No grass, no trees, no water. No insects or bacteria. Just nothingness. And that nothingness is what makes Earth so interesting. 

On being a new dad

So far its been four weeks, and we've managed to keep our baby alive and mostly happy in that time. As new parents I suppose that's about as good as it gets. 

Daisy changes and grows every day. Hill and I get so proud when she does new things, even though the new things are pretty insignificant. Finding her fingers to suck on, or raising her head higher than last time, or turning her head towards sounds... they all get us excited and hopeful for the future. I can't wait to see her grow, and crawl, and walk and talk. There's so many milestones to look forward to, and the little bits of progress we see now get me excited for the future.

At the same time, I hate seeing her grow up. Her newborn diapers that were so loose on her when we first brought her home are now close to being a thing of the past. Some of her newborn clothes are getting very tight, and we can probably start the countdown of when she'll be done with those. Its a weird feeling to be so excited to see her get big, but dread it at the same time. 

Everyone's advice seems to be to live in the moment and enjoy every day. Even the bad days when she's a little fussier than usual, or awake a little longer at night, you should live in the moment and appreciate the times. They'll be over soon, and you'll miss them. Hill and I both try to follow that advice, and sometimes its harder than usual, but we still mostly succeed I think.

Baby daddy

It's been a long few weeks, but following the unfortunate demise of my hard drive my little girl, Daisy, was born. 

She's been a great baby so far, leaving me with few complaints that many new fathers have. She sleeps pretty well, relatively speaking, and I've never been a guy who needs lots of sleep anyway. She doesn't cry too much, and she sleeps a lot leaving me plenty of free time as long as I don't wander off too far from her crib or bouncy seat.

People ask me if it feels different, and I suppose it does a little. So far the reality hasn't quite come crashing down. It still feels a bit like we're baby sitting, but with higher stakes I suppose. Its been more difficult to prioritize things like working out, hobbies, friends... it's only been a little more than a week since she joined our family, and there's still many adjustments to be made, but so far we're surviving. Most advice we're given is simply to try to survive the first month without killing ourselves, each other, or the baby. So far, so good. 

Death of an iMac

I've been preoccupied with hobbies lately. I get excited at the prospect of free time and how to fill it being a productive member of society. Unfortunately one of my productive days where I was going to work on my website was thwarted by my iMac's hard drive dying a premature death. I suppose its a good time, right before the baby is born and I'll actually need the computer for loading up photos and videos to annoy friends and family with. 

6 months ago, this would have been devastating. Even though I keep good back ups and it's likely no data has been lost in this little mishap, when I was self-employed taking a few days off to dismantle and repair and restore the computer would have been stressful and devastating. Instead I'm a little anxious about the thought of my backup failing, but other than that, I feel ok.

We're getting close to the birth of our little girl, and I'm feeling really good about everything we've done to prepare and everything we have left to do. The computer crash throws a bit of a wrench in our plans, but its just a minor speedbump.

And now, this is the last post I'll make for a while about appreciating not being self-employed anymore. Swearsies.

about

I'm a long-time web-nerd who does web-nerd stuff. 

I started builing websites in the days of 28.8K modems, when code was typed in Notepad and graphics were made in Microsoft Paint. I found websites to be a perfect intersection of creativity and nerdier pursuits, like hand-written code. This was back in 1996, when most people didn't know what email or IM was, and I was totally fascinated by this "internet" thing. 

I attended college at the Illinois Institute of Art, where I learned about a bunch of technologies that are now dead. I worked with Director and Flash and Authorware and ActionScript, but eventually all those technologies came back to the web. In 2004, I got back into the web full-time and I've been there since. 

I'm currently a Drupal Site Builder and Front End Engineer at Stanford University and part-time Thinkful Mentor specializing in front-end technologies like HTML, CSS, JS and more. 

Ah, precious freedom.

Well, the transition is complete. My little business I spent 4 long, hard years has been sold off to capable hands, and I'm back where I started in a regular 9-5 job. 

There's parts of the freelance lifestyle I certainly miss. I miss sleeping in, working in my pajamas, and working with my dog cuddled at my feet during the day. But there's a lot of freelancing I don't miss at all, like the inconsistent paychecks, constant stress and very long work hours. I'm getting really used to getting off work at 4:30 and having almost nothing to do until I hit the sack at night. I'm staying productive of course, working on the baby's nursery and tending to lots of little tasks I've been neglecting over the last couple years.

Most nights the wife and I have a great dinner together, take the mutt for a walk, then decide how to spend the rest of our night. It's a far cry from the days just a few months ago, when our dinners would be rushed so I could get back to work and I'd have to try hard to leave some work to do that I could do in front of the TV instead of in my office. 

Things are actually becoming fun again, like blogging for my dumb personal site and working on my art again. These things seemed like a waste of time before, when my mind was so occupied on finding my next job, or coming up with projects that could make me money. I now have time for fun projects again and playing around on my iPad. Life rules. I used to think the best part of my life was my awesome self-employment, but I was either lying to myself or just naive. My big pleasure now is from my family and my hobbies, and my job is there to support those things and not run my life. I don't regret my freelancing business, but I really love just being a normal guy with a normal job again. Things worked out well for me.