Update

Hi All!

It’s been awefully quiet on all blog fronts for a while. I don’t know how it happens but I am sure you’ll know what I am talking about. It shouldn’t be that hard to drop a post every now and again and a bit more regularly but somehow I do not seem to have enough time to do things. That does not mean I am sitting back and taking the Ozzie laid back life-style a bit too literally 🙂

So what have I been up to? Quite a bit actually… First of all I am enjoying my now full time web developer role in one of the better Aussie SEO companies. It offers tremendous opportunities as we are working from home. That means in general that I am actually doing more hours than my contract says – and also that I ‘bring my work home’ all the time. But if you do what you love to do that is not really a burden .. is it? It also means that on a less effective day I am able to shift my work hours and a break for a coffee and some contemplating is not frowned upon. As long as the work gets done that is 😀

It also means that I spent a serious amount of time behind the PC. That has been the case for many years.. but at some point in time I simply did not enjoy doing stuff  ‘after hours’. And that impacts my other interests, such as the Inkscape tutorials that I write for verysimpledesigns.com. Also graphics work in general was getting less attention. If you read this blog before then you’ll know that I was doing some 3D modeling work in Blender. Well the user interface got a make over and I am sorta learning to work with this program again. 3D is awesome, but has a steep learning curve. I am glad I do not need to start at the absolute bottom.

Also a friend of mine decided to get married. In Kauai of all places – it must be one of the most beautiful places of this planet. He asked me if I would design and build the website for their wedding and how could I say no? It would be the perfect wedding pressie too! I started with some simple ideas and we mailed a bit back and forth and before I knew I was also asked to design their wedding invitation. The theme? Aqua and Ivory with a hint of Red – tropical colours in a tropical setting. I was not sure about how ‘formal’ this was all supposed to be but when we talked about it and viewed some examples we decided to go with white orchids with red ribbons against a blue aqua background for the website, and with blue outlines for the invitation. It was a lot of work after hours and it took the larger part of 2 weekends but it was worth it. The bride and groom love the designs and the feedback of the guests is positive sofar. Mission accomplished I’d say.

Change of Weather

Finally! Summer is near! The temperatures are slowly going up and for the next few weeks it will be ‘comfortable’ – that is just before it becomes too hot and I need the airconditioner to feel comfy. I am still not used to the Australian weather. Funny thing is that ‘Sydney people’ try to deny that it is cold – many houses do not have heating systems and some of my friends seem to think it is quite normal to sit indoors with your coat on. I miss the comfort of a central heating system on cold days! I have had a serious cold / flu / sinus infection and been sniffing and coughing for weeks. So glad I can work from my own home!

Work-Life-Play

Life here is not really so different as to my life in the Netherlands. Sure the weekends are awesome – bushwalks, beachlife and enjoying a laidback lifestyle – weekdays are business as usual. I really like the work and the complexity is slowly growing. As I wrote in my earlier post – I feel I am a full WordPress developer now. We deliver a few websites a month and are expanding our range of services. I am focussing a bit more on extending skills with particular frameworks such as JQuery. All in all very cool and a job perfectly suitable for a geek girl.

Joomla and Very Simple Designs

I finally found some time to do a major update on our Inkscape tutorial site verysimpledesigns.com. The site runs on Joomla! 1.5 and I was hoping that by now version 1.6 would have been released. Not so – and that might as well be ages away again – so I finally found the courage to update all components to the last available version.

I still need to fix a few things: use of an older version of JComments has resulting in commenter’s names and email adrresses disappearing. Of course I have back-ups so I can restore the table – but one has to do that aye?

I am not sure what is keeping the release of the new version, a new beta version is released every 2-3 weeks and they have carefully mentioned a possible RC1 with the next release. But c’mon – that has been a way too long development cycle! (and yes I am aware it is open source, depending on volunteers etc…). Anyways.. I am working on an overhaul of the template we use on verysimpledesigns.com – for use with Joomla! 1.6. We will migrate the site when the release of Joomla! is production ready. A specific point of focus is to number the steps in a tutorial better to improve readability.

Inkscape

Inkscape 0.48 has been released a few weeks back and an update is in the making. Whilst all the developers work hard on fixing issues – some regression has occurred and the release of 0.48.1 is pushed back a bit. There have been a few cool but not so noticable additions to the program – and I am way overdue in writing a tutorial about that. Gonna try to fit that in next week or so.

More play

So is it all work and no play? Of course not! Like I said – the weekends are for relaxing and enjoying the Australian lifestyle (bushwalks, beachlife, meeting up with friends and of course steaks and such on the barbie).

I also picked up another skill – I did a course in textile printing. The very simple vector designs I create are very suitable for fabric printing and I figured I might as well add that skill to my set. The course ran at the Sydney Community Collegue and was led by a very enthousiastic instructor – Ro Cook. The course comprised of screen printing and relief printing.

In the screen printing part we created our direct stencils by cutting our designs from a a coated material. The results are pretty good – but I must confess that I am not crafty enough to spend 2 hours cutting an intrinsic design from a piece of (coated) paper. So back to automated techniques: we obtained an electronic cutter. At the moment that buy seems to be a failure as the software that drives the machine is not doing its work – it is unable to cut our own created SVGs. An update of the software has been promised a few times and is about to be released (this week). But counting the empty promises sofar I do not keep my hopes up too high.

Oh and tomorrow is the day of the Metallica concert 🙂

Not a nobody no more

A long time ago I wrote a post with a question.. how do people find the way to my blog (and why would they want to find my blog as it contains mostly personal stuff)? At that time I had a vague notion about search engine optimisation – SEO – but no real knowlege. I read up on a few things, saw the numerous amount of scams around that promiss top rankings within hours and I also read that in this day and age Google pagerank is less important in terms of search engine visibility than it used to be. So I mothballed my thoughts on SEO.

Then we started with our tutorial site verysimpledesigns.com. Of course it is no fun to write tutorials if no one ever reads them. So I read up again, found some very useful pages explaining that SEO is no magic but mainly comes down to a good layout, good content and hard work. I just made sure that the template on VSD was as friendly for the human reader as for the search engine bot – I checked the generated XHTML with the text browser Lynx. As the site runs on Joomla! I enabled mod_rewrite on the server and installed the latest GPL version of sh404SEF to create search engine friendly – SEF – links to all pages.

I started to add page specific meta tags – apparently also less important these days – but I figured it takes minimum effort and won’t harm. I did *NOT* write keyword targeted articles. I absolutely see no use in luring people to a site finding a generic 250 word article that appears as a useful site in the search engine results but contains only superficial information. What I did was the otherway around – I wrote an article, a tutorial, and cherry picked a few keywords from that article and put those in the meta fields. I have not optimized my articles and keywords, which is an effort that I should start about now too.

Link building is another effort – and I can tell you that I suck at it. I am in general way to busy to go around and put my name and website in a zillion other blogs. But I do follow quite a few good blogs and where I thought comments were appropriate I added them using full details. I then also learnt about “do follow” and “no follow” links. VSD has “no follow” links by default in the comments section, so has this site. But I am contemplating in changing that. The comments on both sites are moderated and if someone with a website to cheap crap links with an unrelated comment or just “awesome” – I am free not to publish it 😀 – in the mean time it would allow me to link properly to sites that are useful and do contribute to a better web.

Anyways.. there is now a nice daily flow of visitors to verysimpledesigns.com. This is mainly because of the Spiro Swirls tutorial for Inkscape – which has been visited over 28000 times – the site got noticed and some awesome sites linked to either the homepage or directly to the tutorial page. The Alexa ranking is going up daily, and since this week we have a Google Page Rank of 4 on the Very Simple Designs home page and quite a few tutorial pages. The index page for tutorials and other resource pages such as Photoshop Brushes got a PR of 3. And the funny thing is that this blog receives more visitors too, altho the number is quite modest and it got a PR of 2. I am not a nobody anymore (at least not according to Google’s pagerank algorithm).

Busy busy busy…

Cat update

Our poor kitties have had serious down moments and one night Dax had serious respiration problems. My mate took her into the bathroom, opened the hot water tap to generate steam and ease her breathing. Next morning we both took them back to the RSPCA vet. They checked them out, yups it is the flu. We got some anti-biotics and some eye ointment that should help them a bit. That happened last Saturday.Today, Tuesday they are back to being VERY lively cats and it is clear that they missed the excercise as they are racing through the house and ran us over a couple times already.

Cat vs Man

Moogie had to figure out what we do with the toilet. My mate experienced how she dived into the bowl between the morning visit and the flush. Cat and Bathroom got a wash. It was disgusting but funny nonetheless 😀

Dax does not care how she reaches her favorite sitting spot. She uses our bodies as climbing tree without regards of being fully clothed. My mate got quite some scratches from her climbing along his bare legs. She attacks and jumps from the floor to about thigh level. No fun when you just wear shorts 🙁

Job update

The job is fun – currently I just perform small tasks but there are quite a lot of things ongoing. I have to be careful in my planning as time flies. Currently reviewing website designs and making small modifications to wordpress plugins. I have not coded that much in PHP so I need to look up quite a lot, but I am getting there 🙂

Very Simple Designs

With Easter, sick kitties and a new job I have not had too much time to work on new tutorials for the site. I poked Dakka a bit and he told me he would chip in a bit – so hopefully we see some new additions by him soon.

Cheers,

Syllie