Today, I’ve been working at St Andrews for a decade

University of St Andrews homepage in 2006
The University of St Andrews website that I inherited in 2006

Today is exactly ten years since I started working at the University of St Andrews. I joined the web team within Business Improvements as assistant information architect/web manager. There were two of us in the team. I always said at the time that I liked my job title because with the forward-slash it looked like a URL.

I remember getting offered the post and thinking, “Well, if I don’t know it now I can always learn it on the job.” You read my reflections on the job interview here on my blog.

Ten years on I am now the web architect within the digital communications team (part of Corporate Communications) we have a team of 10, and I work mostly in Agile project management and business analysis. Ten years on, I still love my job, and I love my team. I’m still being challenged, I am still learning how to do my job better, and I still growing.

Obviously, I’m now even more involved in the life of the University having taken up the post as warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. I will reflect on that in more detail in another post shortly, suffice to say here that I’ve agreed to stay on beyond my probationary period.

But today I’m celebrating ten years here… well, fourteen if you include my four undergraduate years from 1989 to 1993. I wonder where I will be in ten years from now.

Beautiful Google Chrome new tab pages with Momentum

Today's new tab background in Google shows a beautiful landscape
Today’s new tab background in Google.

One of my favourite new Google Chrome extensions (plugins) is Momentum.

Momentum replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily, the current time, plus an inspirational quotation, the weather, and an optional to-do list.

I never used to use the shortcuts on the default new tab page, so I find this page much nicer. It’s fun, it’s friendly, it opens really quickly (unlike other new tab replacements that I’ve tried) and it’s inspiring, not just because of the quotation at the foot of the page, but the image giving you a 24 hours glimpse into another beautiful part of the world.

Today’s image is of Geiranger, Norway, © Igor Sukma. For me it is, interestingly my colleagues who are using this extension always see an image unique to them each day, which is neat.

Check out Momentum on the Chrome Web Store.

Where The Guardian advertises developer jobs

Screenshot of code from The Guardian website with WE ARE HIRING written in ASCII art
Screenshot of code from The Guardian website with WE ARE HIRING written in ASCII art

This evening I was reading an article by Giles Fraser on The Guardian website and I was intrigued to understand how they coded the drop-cap at the top of the article:

Screenshot of dropped cap
.drop-cap > .drop-cap__inner

So being versed in the ways of the web developer I highlighted the letter, right-clicked and selected Inspect (I’m using Google Chrome, other browsers are also available). This opens a code inspector where you can poke around the HTML, CSS and JavaScript that builds a webpage, and it even allows you to edit it in situ to better understand how it all fits together.

I smiled when I saw, at the top of the HTML code, written in a comment in a combination of text and ASCII art:

WE ARE HIRING

WE ARE HIRING

Ever thought about joining us?
http://developers.theguardian.com/join-the-team.html

What a terrific idea! Brilliant targeted advertising.

 

XAMPP Apache won’t start on Windows 10 — a fix

At work yesterday I discovered that the localhost Apache web server on my PC wouldn’t start; it was running XAMPP.

Each time I tried to start Apache from the XAMPP control panel I got these error messages in the console:

08:59:34 [Apache] Attempting to start Apache app…
08:59:35 [Apache] Status change detected: running
08:59:35 [Apache] Status change detected: stopped
08:59:35 [Apache] Error: Apache shutdown unexpectedly.
08:59:35 [Apache] This may be due to a blocked port, missing dependencies,
08:59:35 [Apache] improper privileges, a crash, or a shutdown by another method.
08:59:35 [Apache] Press the Logs button to view error logs and check
08:59:35 [Apache] the Windows Event Viewer for more clues
08:59:35 [Apache] If you need more help, copy and post this
08:59:35 [Apache] entire log window on the forums

Fix

Reinstalling XAMPP didn’t fix the issue. But this did, spotted on the ever-wonderful Stackoverflow:

  1. Press Windows + R to bring up the Windows Run… dialog.
  2. Type services.msc and click OK.
  3. Scroll down the list of services to find World Wide Web Publishing Service.
  4. Right-click it and select Properties.
  5. Change the Startup type to Manual.
  6. Click Stop and wait for the service to stop.
  7. Click OK.
World Wide Web Publishing Service properties dialog
This is the naughty culprit

That fixed it. Now Apache is running, as evidenced by the green light on the XAMPP control panel:

XAMPP Control Panel
Both Apache httpd and MySQL are running

Bulk install packages in Sublime Text

A couple of weeks ago I was setting up a new laptop and kept putting off installing Sublime Text (my code editor of choice) because I knew that it would also involve about fifteen minutes patiently working through my curated list of packages (add-ons / plugins), installing each one by one.

There’s got to be a simpler way, I suddenly thought. Sublime Text saves me so much time doing other stuff automatically, surely they’ve thought about this too.

I was right.

In fact, front-end developer extraordinaire Paul Irish asked this very question back in 2012.

How do it it

So, here is how to do it:

  1. Install Sublime Text (2 or 3).
  2. Install Package Control.
  3. Create a JSON file listing the "installed_packages" you want (see below) and save it to Packages/User/Package Control.sublime-settings.
  4. Restart Sublime Text and allow it to pick up and install the new packages.

Just be aware of any packages that need dependences that Sublime Text cannot install, for example Git or Zeal (offline documentation browser).

Save locations

You can easily find the save location by going to Preferences > Browse Packages.

On Windows the save location is:
C:\Users\[YOUR USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\Sublime Text 3\Packages\User

Package Control.sublime-settings

This is my installed packages list from work and home; I keep a copy in Dropbox so that I can keep the two in sync.

The names listed are exactly as they are listed in the Package Control: List Packages list.

{
    "installed_packages": [
        "Alignment",
        "AutoFileName",
        "Autoprefixer",
        "Bootstrap 3 Snippets",
        "BracketHighlighter",
        "Color Highlighter",
        "CSS Color Converter",
        "CSScomb",
        "DevDocs",
        "Emmet",
        "GitGutter",
        "Handlebars",
        "jQuery",
        "JSHint Gutter",
        "Markdown Preview",
        "MarkdownEditing",
        "MarkdownTOC",
        "Package Control",
        "Placeholders",
        "Sass",
        "Search WordPress Codex or QueryPosts",
        "SideBarEnhancements",
        "Status Bar File Size",
        "SyncedSideBar",
        "Tag",
        "Theme - Minimal",
        "TodoReview",
        "Tomorrow Color Schemes",
        "View In Browser",
        "WordPress",
        "WordPress Developer Resources",
        "WordPress Generate Salts",
        "Zeal"
    ]
}

 

Needless to say, doing that made installing Sublime Text so much easier and quicker.

I will try to keep this list updated, as much for my own benefit as any one else’s.

GitHub repository

I have stored my most up-to-date settings in a GitHub repository: sublime-text-settings.