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Topic Archive: Web Development
The CreateSpace Shop Manager plugin for WordPress, revisited

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

Preview of the CreateSpace Shop Manager plugin for WordPress

Here’s another preview screenshot of my CreateSpace Shop Manager plugin for WordPress.

So far the config screen lets you add categories, rename them, change their options, change their sort order, and delete them; within the categories you can – this afternoon! – add books.

Adding the books means I have to generate thumbnail images for them. That’s because of the big surprise I found when I added CreateSpace books to the Archonate Bookstore: the thumbnails expire! It must have something to do with Amazon’s cloud hosting.

They generate a thumbnail image dynamically when you visit the page and a few hours later… that image won’t be there any more. So my plugin captures the thumbnail, does some processing on it, and saves off a permanent copy of the image.

Next up is sorting and deleting books within a category. The ‘Refresh’ buttons below the books will capture a new thumbnail image (in case the cover is changed).

I may need to stop working on this tomorrow, at least for a little while, so I’m hoping to have everything in the Admin UI working properly by then.


New in the Pulp-O-Mizer: export and import your cover settings

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

The Pulp-O-Mizer: now with imports and exports

The Pulp-O-Mizer‘s latest feature was added for those folks who run Pulp-O-Mizer contests; but it turns out that it’s useful for anybody who wants to move their saved covers from one device (or person) to another. Therefore, we all win!

Now you can export and import your cover settings. This is pretty much like saving and loading, except that when you save a cover’s settings they stay in the local storage of your device. Now by exporting the data you can move it from place to place, exchange it with other users, or store it in a deuterium-lined vault for future, furtive use. It’s all up to you.

The "Export" and "Import" panels appear right below the save and load controls.


New Improved Pulp-O-Mizer: Now, with T-shirts!

Filed under Print On Demand, Web Development

New, Improved PULP-O-MIZER: Now with T-shirts!

I’ve just updated the Astonishing PULP-O-MIZER: I’ve given it unnatural powers of T-Shirt and Hoodie Creation that I’m pretty sure Man Was Not Meant to Wot Of. I barely wotted of them myself, if the truth be told. It was a near thing.

I’ll need to keep an eye on the server’s status. Creating the shirts – and then displaying, deleting, hiding and showing them – eats up more resources than we’ve seen with the other products. There’s the chance that shirts will go in and out of service, all depending on the server’s load and my own demented whims.

If I say so myself – which I do, you notice – it’s a pretty neat system, though. Each user gets his or her own private folder of shirts (so they can’t prowl through the shirts that other people have made); one can delete all the shirts in one grand gesture of destruction (that part was easy) or one can select a single shirt or hoodie and doom it to be fed, alone and shrieking, into the mouth of the Destructinator* (that part was hard).

It’s all brand new, so here’s your chance to break it. I’ve tested it in every browser and OS I have and I’m pretty sure it won’t explode. But you should wear those rubber gloves and goggles, just in case.

*… a name that I wish I’d invented, even though I didn’t.

Matthew Hughes’ Archonate Bookstore is now open for business

Filed under Web Development

Matthew Hughes' Archonate Bookstore In spite of the Pulp-O-Mizer going crazy across Twitter and Facebook and web sites near and far, I have had work to do; and today I finished up one important task that probably shouldn’t have taken me so long. It’s the online bookstore for Matthew Hughes, the author of the Archonate stories (Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth, and Hespira, among them).

The first two eBooks to be available are Fools Errant and Fool Me Twice, Hughes’ early novels that set the stage for the Archonate and introduced us to its future Archon, Filidor.

The books are available in three formats: .mobi (for the Kindle and some other readers), ePub (for the Nook, the iPad, and lots of other readers), and PDF, which can be read by pretty much anything, except for horses. They just can’t seem to get the hang of it..

There should be more books coming online soon, too, and they won’t all necessarily be stories from the Archonate. Hughes is taking this chance to convert his whole backlist to electronic formats as those rights revert to him.

So go visit the Archonate Bookstore, already. It’s still all warm from the oven!

Return of the PULP-O-MIZER from OUTER SPACE

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

Pulp-O-Mizer: My Robot, the BURGLAR?

I see now that I let my blog lie fallow for an entire month, which is unusual. But I’ve been hard at work on the PULP-O-MIZER pretty much all of this time… apart from driving through a snowstorm and getting knocked on my backside by the flu for a few days.

By the time the holidays rolled around I had all of my intended features in and working and I’d also been through a series of optimizations and changes to get PULP-O-MIZED product creation working on the iPad and (I hope) on Android and Windows RT tablets. I haven’t had any way to test those yet, even by proxy. I could use some Android tablet and Windows RT testers, in case that sounds like you. Just let me know.

(In fact I’d be happy to have more testers of any description. I’m not going to give a public link to the PULP-O-MIZER just yet but if you’d like to test it, let me know and we’ll see if we can make that happen.)

Long before those features were all in, anyway, I could see that I wanted some things to change. Most of this involved rearranging and reworking the text entry controls but it also meant adding some new features like selectable typefaces and colors, along with an on/off switch for the drop shadow behind the text elements. So once my brain had recovered from the flu I got to work on those. They’re in now, and they look like this:

Pulp_O-Mizer text panel

There’s another feature that I’m reluctant to add and there’s one more optimization that I may tackle even though it might create some new problems. So I’m trying to make my mind up about a couple of things and just working on new image layers while those issues get sorted out. There’s the documentation to finish, too. So I still have a pretty full plate, and the whole question of where the PULP-O-MIZER will make its home is kind of up in the air, too.

I’ve been hoping to unleash the PULP-O-MIZER on a hapless world by the end of the month: but we’ll see. I want it to be very polished before that happens and there’s no way to be certain exactly when that’ll be. But soon! Or soonish! Or soon-like!

Something like that.

Pulp-O-Mizer: Night of the MEMES

A new web site for author Matthew Hughes

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

Matthew Hughes' Web Site

Matthew Hughes’ new web site went live a week or so ago, and since I built it I’m pretty happy to say that it hasn’t blown up since then. Except for a few minutes this morning, anyhow, when I dove in and tinkered with it in an almost non-destructive way.

(I can remember a day about fifteen years ago when I really did say "I wonder what this does…." just before I pushed a button that I really, really should not have pushed.)

But all that aside, I’m an admirer of Hughes’ books – particularly his Archonate stories – and so it was a genuine pleasure to work on his site. If you don’t admire him yet then the best way to change that is to visit the site yourself; there’s a large collection of excerpts from his books there, among other things.

"Other things" will eventually include an online store where you can purchase digital versions of his back list novels. We’re just waiting until the first couple of them are ready before the store goes live on the site.

Also of interest is a series of posts labeled "On Writing" which are just what you’d expect, but better.

This project gave me a chance to get to know a lot of the more recent additions to WordPress and coincidentally gave me a chance to swear like a sailor over a long period. “Coincidentally” doesn’t mean that there’s no connection there, of course.

[tags]matthew hughes, archonate, science fiction, fantasy, books, ebooks, excerpts, news[/tags]

How you can help me support your mobile device in the Future That Never Was

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

A couple of years ago, when I put together my Retropolis web site, I had no idea that there would be a problem there for users who were using touch sensitive mobile devices. Since I figured that out it has bothered me whenever I’ve had a moment to be bothered.

Mobile Devices in a retro futuristic worldThe problem is that my spiffy dropdown menus scroll down when you pass your mouse over them. This is a really neat thing, for desktops and laptops, while it’s a disaster on those devices that don’t understand the concept of a hovering pointer. Which is every touch device, I’m afraid.

The sorry truth is that I’m sure the main navigation at Retropolis just hasn’t worked for folks who came there with their iPad, their Android or Blackberry smartphone, or one of the countless numbers of other mobile devices.

I may have fixed that today; I can’t be certain (because I’ve got no actual mobile devices to test with*) but it seems sound.

I adopted the logic from a clever Python script. The deal is, you don’t want to have to selectively identify every mobile device in the universe. There are too many; there are more every day; and any bit of Javascript that tries to keep up to date will be as big as a phone book before you know it.

On the other hand, there are very few desktop operating systems. If you check for each of those, almost anything that’s left is a phone or tablet. There are some exceptions – the iPhone and iPad actually include the word "Mac OS" in their user agent strings (curse you, iDevices!) so you need to do a little additional screening to weed that out, as shown in the post above. But on the whole the logic works, so I made up my own little version in Javascript.

At the moment those menus should behave properly whether you’re on a desktop/laptop, or on a mobile device. But like I said I can’t do a lot of testing since at the moment I’m limited to Windows, plus a little user agent spoofing.

The Retropolis web siteSo if you’re using an iPad or an Android tablet, some other tablet, or a smartphone (or even an unusual operating system) you could test that for me by visiting Retropolis and trying to use the dropdown menu below the header on each page.

If you’re using a desktop computer the menus should drop down when you pass your mouse over them. If you’re using a mobile device, you should be able to bring the menu down by clicking on it. That’s all there is to it (I hope!)

You can enter your results in the comments here if you like; I’d like to know what device you used, what browser you used, and how the menus behaved.

What I hate in Safari – when I’m pretending to be an iPad – is that the menus pop down lower than on a desktop. But that’s a lot better than having them fail entirely, isn’t it?

*although I do have a fantastic 1947 Stromberg-Carlson telephone; so, you know, eat your heart out.

Igor Sez: The Mug-O-Matic ith Online and Ready to Make Mugth, Mathter!

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Web Development, Works in Progress

The Mug-O-Matic

Through the liberal use of lasers, faceted coprolites, sub-aetheric rays, and a 3/8" open end wrench, I’ve now completed the MUG-O-MATIC edition of Cornelius Zappencackler’s Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron. It’s glowing where it ought to be glowing and it doesn’t make that high-pitched noise that attracted the squirrels any more.

Though I always liked that part, myself.

So you, too, adventurer, can now harness the awesome power that is the Mug-O-Matic: it randomly generates the titles of pulp science fiction stories that don’t exist, but often ought to*, and then it slaps your favorite titles onto coffee mugs, travel mugs, and mugs of other mysterious and malevolent kinds that it were not well to mention here.

Okay, not really: I just got tired of listing them. Fun little toy, though!

*every now and then it manages to re-create a title that does, in fact., exist. Which is even stranger than the thing with the squirrels.

“Choice of the Dragon” game – and its Downloadable Engine

Filed under Found on the Web, Web Development

I just had some fun playing through a text adventure game called Choice of the Dragon (try it!).

It was created with a system called Choicescript. Choicescript games are free to play on the web, but are also available as iPhone and Android apps. There’s (so far) one more game called Choice of Broadsides.

In a lot of ways these resemble what I’ve done with Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual – in fact the basic differences are owed to the two facts that I’m simultaneously developing for the web and for print, and I’m illustrating my story nodes. As it stands the Choicescript games don’t support illustrations but it wouldn’t take much custom Javascript (and/or php) in the page template to fix that. Choicescript allows you to set variables depending on the player’s actions and one of those variables could easily be the URL of an illustration. A little document.write, and you’re there.

If you’re interested in playing with Choicescript – some user-created games get hosted on the choiceofgames site – you can start out with the blog.

[tags]text adventure, game engine, choice of games, choice of the dragon, choice of broadsides, roll your own[/tags]

The Retropolis Multi-POD Web Site, Part 2: The Tools

Filed under Print On Demand, Web Development

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first in a series of articles about my experiences in putting together a single web site that combines products from several different print-on-demand companies. For a better idea of what I was trying to do, and what I felt the design priorities were, you should have a look at that article.

You’re back? Okay then.

In order to get the basic function of the site working, I used three different solutions from three different sources. I’ll be writing about each of them in detail as we go. For today, let’s start with an overview of those three solutions.

They are CPShop, for Cafepress content; the Zazzle Store Builder (ZSB) for Zazzle content; and myPFStore, for Printfection content. Here’s a basic description of their features.

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