Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


Shopping For A System

I've been working on a somewhat large web site that probably won't launch for a couple weeks at least and like most people with geeky tendencies who make most of their saving throws against sleep I began with the stupid, stupid notion of rolling my own content management in PHP as a sort of learning exercise. I am still working on it because what I really need is more specific than most of the open source/free ones and I'd like to minimize the pummeling that the server takes. My little framework is, of course, a nightmarish jumble of code that sort of works but makes far too many database calls to be practical. It's pretty bad when a simple authentication system and page generation gives MySQL the sort of beat down you wouldn't expect outside of the dramatic ending to a wire-fu movie. I might just relabel the thing a stress testing agent for databases and save myself some embarrassment. Eventually I will make it work but for the moment I'm CMS shopping.

I've installed a couple dozen on both my laptop machine (which gives me a good idea how the system will run in a worst case scenario) and on my desktop. For the most part I've been pleased with very few of the systems although it probably needs to be said that I'm not even considering commercial systems for the obvious reasons. I can't legitimize paying license money (although the PayPal button clicking will probably happen after I make up my mind which system to use for sure) because I'm going to back all of the data out of that system at some point and I'm probably going to need to modify the code to do that. Just thinking about jumping through the usual hoops that come along with proprietary systems gives me a headache so I'm skipping the easy route all together. I also wanted to avoid the overly complex systems because they'd be a little bit too expensive in terms of performance as compared to what I need to accomplish. Extracting the whole site would be a pain in the ass in that case as well.

e107 is the winner so far because it is fairly simple in its structure and makes sense when you start poking around in its innards. There's also an active developer community that seems pretty friendly and helpful to people like me who are poking around with no real intent to develop for the long haul. e107 is very well put together and setting it up is actually a lot more fun than most of the other content management systems I messed with. This might be true partially because the actual installation process is so stripped down and straightforward. The only real problem that I encountered were a couple of permissions snafus that were quickly resolved and in one case the script actually reported that the permissions were fucked and advised me on how to set them. It really is that good and is way ahead in the race at this point.

I played with Typo3 for a couple hours before I realized that it was insanely overpowered for my needs. It is incredibly interesting stuff although I ran into a few problems getting the sample site up and running. Typo3 is unbelievably configurable and powerful but seems a little less like an application and more like a framework that needs a little more buffering between the bare metal and the user. I'm still going to mess with my local installation of it, though, because it really is fun to explore and experiment with. AWF struck in kind of the same way although the initial install is more coherent and usable without too much mucking around.

XOOPS broke almost immediately after I made some change in the preferences. It was a pretty superficial change through the administration interface that killed it and I didn't bother trying to fix it. One of the first versions of this very site ran on XOOPS and I ran into a similar problem then. Land Down Under came highly recommended but drove me insane in its backasswards methods of accomplishing fairly simplistic tasks like setting up database tables. Why do it the simple way when you can require the user to install phpmyadmin instead. Yeah, on a Gentoo machine I'm going to set that up to handle a couple of tables, right. On the positive side, LDU hauls a whole lot more ass than you can imagine so it's worth checking out if you're less twitchy than me. It is impressive in terms of speed and that factor alone deserves more attention when I'm less focused and easily annoyed. Envolution is also pretty slick but it has a Nuke pedigree that I'm leery of and displayed warnings about the installation files still being present after I'd deleted them. This normally wouldn't have been that big a deal but those warnings were visible on the index with no way through the administration interface (remember I'm playing end user here) to rid myself of them. I left that install intact because I really want to see if it's somehow my fault and the other parts of the system are intriguing. I also had a rough time with phpwcms as it would not work with the paths I gave it and insisted that files were missing. I'm fairly certain that it's an issue with local installs but I stopped there after a few attempts at correcting it.

Fuck ups, misconfigurations, and headaches aside it was a whole lot of fun as an afternoon project and reminded me that I should have a couple test sites brewing on all of my machines.

That problem that I had with XOOPS wasn't exactly of my own incompetence but due to a pushy theme that wasn't cooperating with with anything and causing the whole script to silently fail. When your system goes belly up and starts displaying error messages that's basically OK since the idea of error messages is to give you some clue where the problem is. Blank pages, on the other hand, are pretty hard to diagnose. My apologies to the XOOPS developers.

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