Finally! I've been a huge fan of Jars of Clay for over a decade and it took me until August 2008 to get a Jars of Clay T-shirt! But it's a beauty:
Plus, I got it during one of the best mini-vacations ever - a whirlwind weekend to Chicago to hang out with two of my sisters and see a bunch of my favorite bands! In late August, my sister and I traveled to Chicago to meet my sister who goes to college in nearby South Bend, Indiana. (We took the Megabus from Minneapolis, which is a very cost-effective way to get to Chicago from many places in the midwest.) That evening, we caught a stop on the Music Builds Tour, which featured Jars of Clay, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Switchfoot and Third Day, possibly one of the most amazing lineups in my rather short music history. It was great to see the Jars guys rockin' it onstage since the last time we'd seen them was in 2002. Robert Randolph and hte Family Band rocked the place like only they can and brought a bit of Gospel flavor as well. Switchfoot, of course, put on an amazing and inspiring show and all the bands came back for a synergistic encore. Oh, and did I mention that it was outdoors on Lake Michigan on a beautiful August day? That too!
The shirt, as you can probably tell, is gray and has the outline of the word "Jars of Clay" on it with some little bird figures. It's rock and roll and kinda pretty at the same time. And now, I support one of my all-time favorite bands via my favorite art form: T-shirts.
Today's shirt is a nice, black look at retro gaming. And thanks to my terrible camera work in the bathroom mirror, it looks even cooler because the motion applied while taking the photo gives the illusion of a drop shadow:
Yes, the words "GAME OVER" are printed in a large, pixelated font destined to remind classic gamers of their favorite Atari or original NES games. And then, it also says (in standard white text) the creators of the shirt: thinkgeek.com, the central place for all products geeky and cool.
For those who don't know, ThinkGeek has lots of great products, although they usually are a bit pricey. Back in the day, I outfitted myself with this shirt as well as a couple others. Also, you can get ties, mini-copters, airsoft guns, marshmallow guns, action figures, knives, sporks, squids, lots of clocks, batteries, tape players, caffeine, phones, and much more. It's tons of geeky fun.
A couple days ago I posted my quick attempt at Drupal artwork. A commenter questioned my reference to most of our no-so-great skills in drawing under pressure, which all of us cover up via the computer. I responded by saying that the best sketch artist is Shawn, our manager. Shawn didn't know this, but he proved my point this morning.
One of the major problems of the Drupal Open-Source Content Management System is that it can be hard to grasp. And despite many improvements over the last couple years, it can be very difficult without an experienced PHP developer. And finally, companies who use Drupal would like to have a company that they can call to get questions answered and help for issues beyond their knowledge. Thankfully, a new start-up from some of the biggest people in Drupal development, called Acquia, has been working hard to make sure these people are taken care of. A major step in that direction was today's accouncement of Acquia Drupal, a slightly custom version of Drupal with more features and more support options.
Acquia Drupal is, at heart, a special distribution of Drupal. It uses Drupal's extensible installer system to bundle and install a whole bunch of commonly-used Drupal modules, most of which I have used over the years on one site or another. For a Drupal 6.x site, these modules are the most stable and feature-rich available. Those just starting out with Drupal can play around with Acquia Drupal to get a better look at some of the most common extensions and the inherent power of Drupal beyond a basic CMS. Of course, any Drupal site manager could get these from the Drupal.org site, but then you'd have to wade through thousands of modules to find the really good ones, which are handpicked here.
A new template is included that provides a nice, basic look - a bit more colorful and friendly than the current Drupal look. I alos noticed some help text throughout Acquia Drupal was a bit more verbose and helpful than the current Drupal install, which I hope will make its way back into the Drupal configuration in some form or another. I bet I will find more and more tweaks as I play with the system, and Acquia says they will be putting out patch releases every two weeks, so I expect more and more improvements on a pretty quick timeframe.
Acquia Drupal is not just a list of cool modules that you can use, though - it's the set of features that Acquia supports through their Acquia Support services. There are various levels of services based on the size of your site and they are priced fairly affordably for both the corporation and the non-profit who want Drupal help. The Acquia Support site includes a ticketing system and the higher-level support groups get phone support and 1-hour response times, as noted in a detailed services chart. Through the end of the year, online forum-only support and some Acquia Network services are free, as well.
All Acquia Support customers get the Acquia Network features, which are possibly some of the most intriguing features for a fairly experienced Drupal programmer like myself. Once you activate the Acquia Network, the Acquia Drupal install communicates with Acquia's server to check for any updates. A great upside to this is that they can track when your server is working correctly because the site is probably "down" at least partially when the server does not check in. Drupal users who are not so savvy can use their service to run the cron maintenance tasks required to keep a Drupal site smoothly. Also, Acquia has partnered with a spam-blocking company called Mollom that makes sure no spammy content gets posted to the site. Acquia Network even keeps track of the contents of your files, so that Acquia knows when the files of the site were modified, either on purpose or inadvertently, and can help the site administrator assess the situation. And, of course, it gives some fancy graphs that show your site changes and growth over time.
Overall, I find that Acquia Drupal is a great service for those who want support or want to check out Drupal. However, at this point, I'm not sure that I will subscribe to their support services. Maybe it's my independent spirit or my over-confidence in my own abilities, but maybe I will warm up to it over time. For now, it's a great addition to the current Drupal landscape, and I only expect Acquia's work to make Drupal and their product better over time.
This morning at work, we found small pumpkins on our desk. During our staff meeting, we were told to increase our humility by drawing on these pumpkins. After a couple minutes of thinking about it, I decided doing a pumpkin based on the Druplicon, the Drupal logo/mascot. My major disappointment was that the pumpkin did not have a small stalk at the top, but here it is:
Here's a little story of something that's happened recently. In the end, it goes mostly to making sure that the webmaster of the sites did his homework, but maybe I'm supposed to remember things better, I don't know.
So, as I mentioned in the blog post about the ILikeAndy.com T-shirt, I enjoy Andy Osenga and his music. I've also loved reading his blog over the last couple years in addition to his music. He's one of my favorite bloggers. But what I found while writing that story was that I've not been reading his blog for the last six months!
How does this happen? Well, I've just been reading his blog via the RSS feed in my Google Reader, so I haven't been visiting his site. However, about six months ago, he got a new site, and the new site's RSS feed was not the same. Google Reader doesn't notify me of this, so I probably at first assumed that Andy was too busy to blog and then forgot about his blog completely.
The great thing is that Google Reader keeps track of what's new for me. Google doesn't usually screw up, but what happens when the webmaster forgets a little detail like that? I miss six months of content and have to spend a couple hours on a Saturday catching up. Should I be checking people's actual sites more often? I hope not - there's way too many sites that I follow via RSS to do that.
I guess the moral of the story is to make sure that you're not missing anything that's important to you on the 'net. Unless you're a webmaster, in which case, you should make sure you got your stuff together. And speaking of which, I gotta go manage some sites.
Today's shirt is one of my favorites - the ILikeAndy.com T-shirt. Most say that my shirts are pretty unique, but this one is probably one of the most unique, mostly because it was a limited-run shirt from an independent artist. It's totally rock 'n' roll.
Andrew Osenga is an independent singer-songwriter and is the former leader of the band The Normals, everyone's favorite band from Normal, Illinois. He also currently plays as a member of Christian folk super-group Caedmon's Call, who I like to think of as the Main Street Singers of Christian music. (I won't keep the A Might Wind analogies rolling, because I think it's a bit too early to call Amy Grant and Gary Chapman the genre's Mitch and Mickey. Just to clarify, if you get all those references, you're too much of a Christian music geek, just like me.)
The shirt has an interesting history. Apparently, a couple years before the shirt was made, Andrew Osenga lost a toe while mowing the lawn. That's hardcore! And he had enough spirit to make an awesome-looking, random, "vintage" T-shirt out of it.
Half the reason I purchased this shirt is because I love supporting independent artists and I've always liked Andy's music. But, the other half is because I love innovative Internet marketing, and buying a domain like ILikeAndy.com and pointing it to your site is fun marketing. Whenever someone asks what the shirt is about, I always direct them to go to the site and check out his music - there's tons of free Andrew Osenga on there, including the free Letters To The Editor EP. So, seriously, check it out.
I've posted about the Apple iPhone before, and most of you probably knew it was only a matter of time. About 14 months ago I decided that the iPhone wasn't good enough yet and so I purchased a Palm Treo. Well, I guess that was not the best idea, because the phone started giving me problems just after the year warranty. A number of the many buttons on the Treo, including letters such as "N", "R" and "U" were not working well, such that I had to press them a couple times to even a dozen times to get them to register. Towards the end of my use of it, even the power on and off button was wearing out and I couldn't turn on my phone for a minute or two the week before. While talking to Sprint representatives seeing what they could do to get the phone fixed, I found that it would be about $200 to get it fixed (because the 1-year warranty had expired) or $200 to leave my Sprint contract.
To be honest, I was kinda glad this happened. A number of my coworkers had purchased iPhones in the last couple months since the iPhone 3G was released, and I was envious of the abilities of their phone. Primarily, my phone really had only close to text-only web browsing, and the ability to view things in full layouts and full graphics was something I really wanted. Plus, the Palm OS is nice, had many applications written for it, and is pretty stable, but the applications being written for the iPhone are so much cooler and are written for today's computing world, not the world of yesteryear. Let's just say I was ready to upgrade, and this non-working phone was my push to get it.
So, last Friday, I walked into the Mall of America Apple Store and picked up an iPhone. And, well, I definitely like it. It's going to be great to only have one electronic device in my pocket - no PDA phone and iPod as well. Plus, on the way home from work today, I watched a number of video podcasts on it's beautiful 3.5-inch screen. It was totally fun. Here's a couple things I've enjoyed since I got ot:
- The podcast area not only keeps track of whether you've viewed a podcast episode, but the podcast browsing page lists how long the episode is and how much time you have left. Also, it has an icon saying it's half-viewed.
- When I plugged it into the Mac, it didn't sync my e-mail content (at least I don't think so), but it did transfer my e-mail account information from Mail to my iPhone so I didn't have to even muck around in Mail settings for the iPhone.
- I haven't used it much yet, but Visual Voicemail may actually be the killer app of the iPhone. (In case you don't know, this makes your voicemail act more like an e-mail Inbox, where you can select a message from a list onscreen and then it just plays that one.)
- One of my favorite apps is the Remote app that Apple is giving away for free on the App Store. I have a desktop computer set up in the study, and if I'm across the room or even in the kitchen, I can control the music and even select new music to play right on the iPhone.
- So far, I've not been annoyed at all by AT&T's phone service. Almost every time I've looked at the phone I've had the full bars and the 3G data service. Well, outside of the major metro areas may not be as fun, but I'm not out there very often.
I will keep playing with it and I'm sure that more blog posts about functionality and cool apps that I find will be forthcoming. If you see me in the next couple weeks, feel free to ask me and I'll give you a demo.