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Book Reviews

+ - Plone 3 for Education->

Submitted by
Reinout
Reinout writes "Plone 3 for education, break the webmaster bottleneck by empowering instructors and staff, is a new book for those that want to use Plone in an educational setting. Easy to read, comprehensive and goal-oriented.

The author, Erik Rose works at Penn State University, supporting many educational Plone websites. So his credentials for writing the book are OK.

Target audience: well, you want a website for your course or your university department or your group of teachers. You're able to get your hands on a webserver where you can install Plone. You want multiple people to be able to comfortably update the site without getting stuck on a single webmaster. The book's subtitle rightfully is break the webmaster bottleneck by empowering instructors and staff. You can set up a reliable, functional and professional website yourself without needing to pay tens of thousands of Dollars/Euros/whatever in license fees. You'll need to know about websites in general and you'll need to be reasonably comfortable installing stuff on your own PC and, possibly/probably with someone's help, on a webserver.

Non-educational audiences can get benefit from the book, too. A results-oriented intro on skinning/theming doesn't hurt a small business website. And the calendaring tips are also useful for a church or sports club website. You might want to look up the online table of contents.

Book style: perhaps strange for a technical book, but I'd say it makes you enthousiastic. It shows you how to accomplish things with Plone. How to get specific things things done, as the book is laced with screenshots ("this is what your course page can look like") and direction-giving introductions ("you'll probably need a staff directory, here's what you can accomplish"). The tone is friendly, but with experience-born firmness and personal opinion in some cases.

Overall book impression is very positive. For a technical book it is mercifully thin at some 190 pages compared to the customary 300. Yet it is remarkably complete. You get to set up your site with content, tips on essential add-on products, skinning/theming basics, web server installation and setup instructions and basic maintenance (backup/restore) guidelines. All the basics you really need. If you need more, there are other books.

For more elaborate theming you could pick up Veda William's Plone 3 Theming book and for hard-core development Martin Aspeli's Professional Plone Development.

The first chapter shows you how to get most of the information you need to present for a course done with out-of-the-box Plone. A couple of folders, events for exam dates, agenda items for homework and assignments, some overview pages. And practical advice, for instance on enabling comments: they help invite feedback and increase interaction between students. And with the proper settings, comment spam is virtually non-existant. The chapter has effective screenshots that show what you can accomplish and how to do it. The screenshots are especially handy for Plone's powerful collections ("smart folders" that effectively show search results) as they can be tricky to configure. A screenshot helps a lot in explaining the necessary settings.

The second chapter helps you install the first add-on product with reasonably complete instructions. The add-on helps you show your date and event related information in prettier ways than is possible with stock Plone. The chapter has some side comment on security (group/user rights) setup which deserved a more prominent spot. But where... The book is full of small helpful tips and information, so perhaps such "oh, by the way" sidebars are ok. Also good: the author is not afraid of pinpointing Plone pain points: in this case spotty support for showing recurrences.

A university or school needs a list of faculty/staff. The author and his colleages wrote a specific add-on for this purpose and documented it fully in chapter three. A-z listings, per-department views, per-speciality views. Handy is the documentation on how to best use the various grouping methods (department, speciality, group) and how to connect the staff in this listing with their actual login accounts.

But... every university is different and wants extra fields: a fax number, a building floor, a list of published papers. Plone allows you to extend existing products in a reasonably clean way and chapter 4 shows you how. Watch out, though, as the instructions on how to set up a new site to test your extension misses several steps and uses a program which full installation instructions are only explained in chapter eight. One of the rare real omissions in the book.

Chapter five helps you add blog and forum functionality. There are several add-ons for that. Add-ons mean extra functionality but also extra risk: how well are they maintained? The author helps you with criteria and gives you his own recommendation. Most of the time I agree, but I was a bit surprised at the "PloneBoard" add-on's description of recieving prompt updates all the time: two or three years ago it was a problem child with a poor maintainance record as far as I could see at the time. So take a good look at the current maintenance record of add-ons!

Chapter six has one of those attention-grabbing sentences in the introduction that invite you to really delve into the chapter: "triple your traffic using the iTunes store". And yes, later on it helps you set up podcasting for your audio or video lecture notes with Plone and submit the podcast to iTunes. Which apparently triples the incoming traffic for many educational institutions.

A Plone killer feature is introduced in chapter seven. PloneFormMailer is a fantastic add-on for creating forms without resorting to programming. Almost all sites I deployed when working as a full-time Plone programmer included PloneFormMailer. The author heaps praise on this add-on and he's right. Good point for the book: it shows all the available form field types as small screenshots. That helps when building the forms.

Chapter eight is on theming/skinning/styling your Plone site. Theming is a bit of a pain point in Plone right now. Plone is halfway the easier, but sloppier and harder to debug Plone 2 style of skinning and some incredible (I mean that!) probably-there-in-a-year Plone 5 goodness. And being halfway means confusion, so this is a difficult chapter for a book author. In my opinion, the author has done a good job explaining all the necessary ingredients and the various ways in which you can get your hands on some necessary adjustments of Plone's default style to your organisation's style.

Chapter nine made me say "wow". A solid chapter on deploying your site on the server. Including apache and squid setup and a Plone caching tutorial. Yes, your site needs to be able to stand up agains a whole flock of students hitting your site right after class (or five minutes before the final exam). For educational settings, the tip to look at Enfold proxy to integrate with Windows' IIS server is a good one. One thing that surprised me was to see Squid as a caching proxy: I thought Varnish was the standard by now. At least, it's been at least two years since I last touched Squid.

The last chapter, ten, finishes off the book with some maintentance tasks like backups. Good chapter for yourself or your sysadmin.

All in all: recommended!"

Link to Original Source
Displays

2 Displays and 2 Workspaces With Linux and X? 460

Posted by timothy
from the anything-you-set-your-mind-to dept.
Borov writes "I'm planning to buy a second monitor in near future and I was searching for ways to configure it under Linux. It seems there are two main ways: 1) to have one 'big' desktop, which means I have single workspace — changing virtual desktop switches both monitors or 2) to have separate X sessions for each display — which means I have separate workspaces, but I can't move applications between them. I need something in the middle — a separate workspace for each screen, so that I can have independent virtual desktops on each screen, but still have the ability to move applications between monitors (no need to strech one app across both of them). I've read that some tiling window managers can do this kind of thing, but I'd rather go with 'classical' window managers, like Openbox/Gnome/KDE or similar."
Businesses

GM Is Selling Saab To Spyker Cars 264

Posted by kdawson
from the joy-in-trollhatten dept.
johncadengo writes "General Motors said today that it has struck a preliminary deal to sell Saab to Spyker Cars, a tiny Dutch maker of high-end sports cars, saving the Swedish automaker from what seemed like certain extinction after previous bids for it collapsed. A previous bid from Spyker was rejected by GM in late December because GM was uncomfortable with Spyker's Russian backers. The biggest investor in Spyker is the Russian bank Convers Group, which is controlled by Alexander Antonov. In March, Mr. Antonov was shot seven times and reportedly lost a finger in an attempt on his life in Moscow. No arrests have been made. His son Vladimir, 34, is a top executive at Convers and the chairman of Spyker." GM is taking a bath on the deal, financially speaking.
Software

+ - World Plone Day - 10 Reasons To Choose Plone CMS

Submitted by
Hug Your Plone
Hug Your Plone writes "Plone is an open source CMS and recent winner of the Packt Best Other (non-PHP) CMS award. On November 7, events are taking place around the world to introduce people to this versatile alternative to MS SharePoint and others. In 22 countries on five continents lots of Plone folks are gathering and explaining what Plone is, why they love it and how you can use it! All in all over 50 events will happen all over the world, be it Brasília in Brazil, Khabarovsk in Russia, Ha Noi in Vietnam or many more. Some of the events will be broadcast and blogged live. http://www.worldploneday.org has all the details on where events are taking place. In honour of World Plone Day, here are 10 reasons why Plone might be your choice for a web site solution."

Comment: Stani's talk at python user group meeting (Score 2, Informative) 187

by Reinout (#25582069) Attached to: How To Make Money With Free Software

Stani explained the way he made the coin at a Dutch python user group meeting in Amsterdam. Everyone attending was really enthousiastic about it. http://reinout.vanrees.org/weblog/archive/2008/09/12/python-calculated-coin

Good to see that he's written an article himself with the full explanation and graphs! Nicely done.

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