ah, goldilocks. that little woodlands b&e mistress, cutely going around and sampling the food, chairs, beds and tequila in the forest creatures' households while they are out. (little known fact: goldilocks was huge on the tequila; years later she'd even end up in rehbab. true story).
sometimes i empathize with her. not the boozing (i'm more of a scotch guy myself anyways) or unlawful entry fetish so much as an appreciation of how hard it can be to find the porridge that is juuuust warm enough. or the chair that's juuuust big enough. or the bed that's comfy just the way i like it.
though for me it's often software that doesn't quite fit. case in point: personal finance software. the commercial packages available out there are pretty amazing in their all-dancing, all-singing, let's play financial advisor way. but that's not what i need or want. the open source packages often try to play equals with these closed source accounting packages. none of them work the way i do. so i use a spreadsheet. i know, it's a bit old school, but at least i use a computer and got away from the pen 'n paper scribblings.
but yesterday while catching up on the latest kde apps in the kde news reader i saw eqonomize, a tool for personal finances. no, kmymoney is quite a piece of work. and gnucash is alright (though i've always felt that gnucash should be further along than it is by now?). but both are just ... too big. so i figured eqonomize would leave me similarly feeling like the proverbial hotdog thrown down a hallway.
but no! i fired it up, didn't have to read a single lick of documentation and everything that i expected and needed was right there in a nice compact interface: accounts, expenses, income, recurring payments (both ways) .... it even has basic reporting (on screen and print), only four toolbar icons and a really compact interface that does a good job of staying away from pop-up hell.
so far it's proven stable, took me minutes to migrate from my spreadsheet and kindly stayed the hell out of my way once it was all done. as it should be. kudos to niklas knutsson for understanding what some of us really need: a tool, not a life partner.
web based content managers are another genre i've run into the same sort of issues with. drupal, joomla, et al are really rather amazing bits of work. but they all take too long to set up, too long to learn to be really proficient with, too clumsy for me to use. they all seem to be built for (and by) people who "do websites" as a central part of their day time existence. that does not describe me, or most of the people i know who have a website somewhere.
i find wikis just as annoying, though for slightly different reasons. if the cms beds are too hard, wikis are the beds that are too soft (though they take just as long to make in the morning).
so where are the content management systems for the rest of us? i think blogs are very telling: they take almost no time to set up and anyone can figure it out. they are content managers of a sort and stupidly popular. why? because a monkey can set one up on a bad day.
i never did find a "real cms" that fits my hand like the glove i want it to be. but a number of years ago a friend of mine and i landed a contract to write some software for a group of people. they had some pretty interesting requirements and demands (they run a north american stock market) and had been quoted a 6 figure sum for just software licensing. (oh microsoft, when will you learn?) we rode in, snapped up the gig and ended up writing a cms in the process.
i still use it's grandchild today, as does the original client. installing a new website is a matter of running script that asks you a few questions then sets up the database, apache, your webroot, the document storage area and the admin site. takes less than a minute after which time one is left with a sporty little interface that is easily exensible, has features like optional edit/approve workflows, internationalization and dynamic content objects (including the ability write new snippets of code if the provided stuff isn't what you want and upload those objects via the admin interface live into the website) and wysiwyg editting. the user interface is pretty straightforward and sites running it have weathered many a slashdotting.
recently it got some attention with a new wysiwyg editor (the old one was getting annoying =) and a bevy of improvements around the house. but it still fits the hand that wears it, which is to say someone who doesn't "do websites" as a central preoccupation.
the reason i bring it up in this context is that my friend and i decided recently that we were going to open source it under the gpl. there are a few things that need to be done before we do that, but we've decided to release before the end of september. hopefully others will find it as useful as we have over the years.
and speaking of goldilocksilicious stuff, if you haven't been watching what the rusin has been delivering laterly, you should go take a look. he's helping make sure that svg as a desktop cornerstone becomes a reality. amazing stuff, really.
in fact, i find the whole "modifying widgets with css" to be a neat thing too and not just because it's "weblike" and therefore theoretically within more people's capabilities but because it provides a more powerful way of dealing with things. e.g. due to it we'll actually have a text box with a clear button inside it for kde4 instead of that horrific clear button with the black death plague flag icon that floats menacingly near your favourite search and location bars.
as this blog entry grows and the clock tick 09:00, i'm debating whether to go for a nap or another cup of coffee. i was up until 04:30 hacking on some stuff and was up at 07:15 to get the p-man off to school for a field trip they are going on. nothing quite says "hey, you're a parent!" like making a lunch at half past seven on 3 hours sleep.
hmm... coffee ... sleep ... coffee ... sleep .......... heh, who am i kidding, coffee it is.