Packt Publishing is at it again. They've published David Mercer's follow up to Drupal: Creating Blogs, Forums, Portals, and Community Websites, which was originally based on Drupal 4.7. The new book subtitled Build your own professional blog, forum, portal or community website with Drupal 6 tries to cater to the same audience but with greatly updated content.
David seems to be completely up to date on the Drupal 6 matters, as much as the March 2008 publication time allowed. This was one of the first Drupal 6 books on the market, and the author even managed to include a lengthy section on CCK. Hats off. Now that Views 2.0 is out for Drupal 6, many more people will consider using this new version as a base to start with. David caters to new users, not upgraders though, so this guide helps you get up to speed (and the Views covering books are still awaited on the market).
The book has a certain eye to detail in talking about things like setting up users and permissions. David even goes to note that setting up access rules for names or emails does not affect existing users. This practice was changed in recent Drupal versions, considering this a security bug instead of the way how Drupal works, and honestly, I don't think people expected to see this behavior noted in print. This attention to detail goes to extremes however in the examination of taxonomy. To my tastes, it would have been better to get down to more practical examples sooner instead of trying to organize the section around the theories of taxonomy. Same applies to coverage of HTML, where David tries to teach content producers certain HTML tags to write a feature-rich webpage. This might be a good idea for the theming section, but not where content is produced by end users.
All-in-all, I think this book is a good starter guide for Drupal 6 users, even if sometimes too detailed. You'll certainly need to be ready to learning a lot more from Views to CCK field modules while you actually build a more complex site, but starting off with a simpler website should be possible from the topics covered.
Another side of that old blog post of mine was new Translation template extractor support for the coder module. Well, that was basically tapping the existing errors into coder and make you figure out the rest. The existing error messages in extractor were however quite cryptic, like Invalid marker: t($joe). This is not really helpful in finding out what is the issue at hand, when you are not familiar with the finer details. This was unhelpful for both module authors and code reviewers, who were eager to fix these problems. I got several support requests in the extractor issue queue to clarify guidelines. So updating the error messages was clearly in order.
The result of these two efforts is that the latest development version of the extractor on the 6.x-2.x branch (update from CVS or wait for today's tarball to materialize) now supports nicely understandable error messages for coder module (and way better error messages for its standalone mode just as well) with links to the actual documentation explaining the underlying causes and details. This will hopefully end up in a new release very soon.
So do you have any excuses left to not write nicely translatable Drupal module interfaces?
Well, although I was the first employee at Acquia, I somehow managed to keep myself out of actually using the product on my own blog up until now. While I know we have a great product, built up from superb community contributed Drupal modules tested to work together, distributed under the GPL, I did not find the time to actually migrate my personal blog to this distribution of Drupal.
One of the factors causing this was that I actually ran Drupal 5. Wow, another shocking revelation about the Drupal 6 maintainer! Especially considering that I only run the contributed modules Pathauto, Mollom and Tagadelic, and these were ready for Drupal 6 already. In fact, I've tried to upgrade to Drupal 6 already, and in preparation to that, I've got rid of some contrib modules, replacing Flickr syndicated images with Flickr's own image script display for example, thus avoiding using Drupal modules for that. This helped me prepare for an easier Drupal 6 upgrade a few months ago. Except I never got around to actually doing it.
Being a maintainer of this simple blog, as a user of the above mentioned three contributed modules, the Drupal 6 based Acquia Drupal upgrade was the most logical step at this point. I've made a backup of my source code and uploaded files, as well as the database. Did a test upgrade on my local machine and it went great right from Drupal 5 to Acquia Drupal, even picking up the moved contributed modules. It was a piece of cake.
On the test upgrade, I've even played around with using the built-in Acquia Marina theme, and found it great, so switched to that from the Alek 2.0 theme. Because these three modules are included with Acquia Drupal, I could just use it for my blog from now. Additionally to keeping what was in already, the Drupal 6 upgrade allowed me to track updates to my modules, add support for OpenID, and so on.
From time to the time, the topic of forming a new slogan for Drupal is coming up again and again. Admittedly "Community plumbing" might be a bit worn out. One could only wonder if a new slogan is part of the drupal.org redesign underway now or not.
As with lots of hobby projects, things could just drag on without much progress, if you don't sit down and just do it. It was the same situation with Weblabor.hu, the site which got me to use and heavily contribute to Drupal (4.3 originally). Unfortunately I only had the time to keep updating the site up to Drupal 4.6 and the long cycle around Drupal 4.7 and my heavy involvement with other things (such as finishing off studying for my MsC degree) dragged me away from taking care of the site.
Almost two years ago, I have started to work on an upgrade of the site to Drupal 5. That was "of course" never complete, so early this year, I've started to push for updating it to Drupal 6 finally, and got momentum among the other editors/managers of the site, so we worked hard in the little spare time we had to get it to launch. Our efforts reached the actual live upgrade this past weekend.
Because our first priority was to relaunch on Drupal 6 instead of 4.6, we dropped some of the less used features, avoided toying too much on the design, and concentrated on retaining data and getting the site run on a modern backend system finally.
One interesting thing I developed way back in 2007 however was the direct update mechanism. Drupal 6 lacks some of the old update functions, so I needed to copy them back, and there were two places where I needed to patch the old update functions (avoid menu_rebuild() too early before the new menu system is in place and avoid calling node types from the database before they are in there), but otherwise it was a great experience to just copy the old Drupal 4.6 database, hit update.php and the whole update process just run.
Due to the timing of our update efforts (and our diligence to update to the latest and greatest Drupal versions, given that we might not have time to do so for some time again), we were in the unfortunate position to never be able to use CCK and Views, due to no stable releases available of these fine modules. So if you expect a nice use case of porting 4.6 custom stuff to CCK and Views, I need to disappoint you. What we did, is that we ported custom node types to the build it node type system, we ported our custom file upload code to the since then built in upload system and a custom filter for Drupal 6, so that our attachments included in posts will still work. We kept custom code to list stuff in our jobs section or in our books area though. In cases when modules were available however, it was just so nice to be able to get new features developed through the past years by others. Oh, the wonders of building on an open source framework!
One interesting tidbit is that we keep using the tracker style which was available way back up to March 2004. This old style tracker lists comments to a post, compared to just listing their numbers in a boring table. This also allows displaying individual read information for users, as shown on the picture. To my best knowledge, this was removed due to performance reasons. Querying all related comments for all displayed nodes takes some power for sure. What we did to remedy part of the issue is to hide most read comments on long threads for logged in users, so they get a more compact view and the site eats less power.
I am happy to see almost two years of little bits of spare time work pay off, and I am hopeful our efforts will help put Weblabor.hu on a growth path again.
Ps. The logo in the site header is one we actually created in real life (although it did not become as good as we hoped it will be).