Author: Andrew Smallwood

I am a web designer by heart and am well versed in all things digital. Having run my own freelance digital agency since 2006 and worked at the University of Westminster, I'm currently immersed in the heart of the music industry at PRS for Music

The Return

So, after a 3 month hiatus, I’m back in the world of WordPress – arguably the worlds favourite blogging engine?I fell in and out of love with wordpress quite quickly. Initially I was impressed with the ease of installation and backend interface. It almost seemed too easy to get blogging!But then, I encountered the limitations and grew frustrated. It quickly became apparent that although you can create a fully fledged website in WordPress, it becomes increasingly hard to manage. Off I went in search of a more powerful CMS to use in my own projects. I had been using MySource Matrix at work and the backend interface is very easy for administrators to manage the content. But the installation process was really confusing. Maybe MySource Mini is more up my street?Failing that, I looked at Drupal and Joomla! With no time to learn both through and through, I bought a few books and got down and dirty with Drupal. Nothing against Joomla, but I may try that one next year! For now, the power of drupal awaits!I’m looking to launch with a new commercial site soon and have plans to start some ecommerce sites as well! Hopefully this will prove to be the right choice!But, it has made me recognise the importance of WordPress. We must use the best tools for the job in any instance, I’ve returned to WordPress with this site for a number of reasons. I don’t care if I don’t receive any hits, this is as much an experiment to help improve my writing than attain a community of blog followers! The fact that I’m able to sit and write this blog on my iPhone whilst sitting on the long tube journey to Stockwell is testament to the fact that you use the best tool for the job. The versatility of wordpress will enable me to keep the blog going in a variety of situations, which is the fundamental flaw in most blogs.So.I’ve returned.It took less than 24 hours to get the entire blog up, customised and running. And that is owed in part to the huge community of developers that wordpress has. Hopefully, I’ll have a similar experience with Drupal.

MySource Matrix: 3 month review

This isn’t a full review of MySource Matrix, in the mode of a car review, opinions can change over time so this is an early review having worked on MySource Matrix for about 3 months.Coast have been granted the unenviable task of migrating the old Westminster University website (consisting of approx 13 mini sites) into a brand new structure consisting of 1 site.Early advantages of this asset based system were apparent because the migration was largely rushed and unprepared for. The ability to move and rename assets and add multiple URLs in the process allowed us to alter the structure of the site due to changes in the approach.The system is quite robust as well with the inclusion of workflows for content editors ensuring control throughout the site.

The migration faltered when we were inputting data from the old website that was hosted in immediacy, but that was largely due to the erroneous code from the old site. Matrix tried it’s best to strip out as much of this code as possible, but countless hours were used manually stripping out useless span tags, old HTML and styles that would prove to be quite harmful to a page. On one occasion, an empowered content editor was responsible for the ultimate faux pas of pasting in from Microsoft Word!


And so, Daisy was released without a fuss, without a marketing strategy and with fightoffyourdemons still ‘under construction’. Being their 4th album, and their second major label release, there was no major announcements unless you were on the inside. But it’s all the better for it, those who are on the inside feel blessed to live in a time of such a special band.The band in question are Brand New.Daisy was released 2 weeks ago and slipped quietly into the billboard top 10. They’ve played Glastonbury this year in addition to the main stage at Reading so they had 2 routes to choose from. The first route would follow Kings Of Leon, after some critically acclaimed albums, make a stadium pop/rock record and go interstellar whilst possibly alienating their core fan base. Luckily, they’ve retained their integrity and taken the second option.Brand New’s sound has been honed and Daisy can stand alone amongst their other masterpieces. Upon the first listen, I wasn’t sure what was going on. The album starts with a post-war era choral interlude before exploding into their heaviest song yet-Vices. The track only has 2 minutes left to run but leaves you with baited breath. ‘At The Bottom’ is the obvious choice as a single but you only realise this because you’ve heard it before. Therein lies the beauty of Daisy. It is a ‘grower’. First time listeners will be turned off by it’s inaccessibility but Brand New veterans will return again and again to lap up the textures being painted by Lacey, Accardi et al. This should keep everyone happy, hardcore fans don’t lose THEIR band to the masses, first time listeners will be instantly turned off (unless they put the effort in and actually listen to the record), Brand New make enough sales to justify making album no 5, and the world carries on turning as normal.After a few listens the whole album makes so much sense. Accardi has been responsible for most of the songwriting and there is a noticeable shift in the narrative but their sound remains consistent. They fuse the quiet/loud/quiet formula with such precision and timing that they are making certain influences (pixies, nirvana) proud. The sprint from tracks 1-4 slows for ‘You Stole’ but even this ends in a crescendo of guitars. Hints of bluegrass and other forgotten genres remind us that these guys are actually musicians instead of mere rock stars. ‘Bought A Bride’ sounds like Nirvana on steroids; and yes, that is a massive statement!The title track brings in extra production that hasn’t been heard on a Brand New record before and shows their progression in the studio as well as songwriters.They also break the tradition of including an acoustic finale with the inclusion of the 6 minute+ ‘Noro’. A fitting finale and a final note for the time being. The only gripe is that after 3 years, we’ve only been blessed with a 40 minute album. Let’s hope some of their studio sessions get leaked because we don’t know if and when the next album will be!

The end of Viva La Vida

Having been a Coldplay fan since the first album dropped (my favourite song is still Shiver), I find it unexplainable that I haven’t graced a concert in their career to date! That was until the last date of their Viva la Vida tour at Wembley Stadium. White Lies opened the proceedings with a tight set, they absolutely nailed their sound and must have been dissappointed with so many latecomers more interested in finding their seats, than listening to the incendiary grooves of ‘Death’.They played on because they knew that the only people that mattered were the ones standing infront of them and put on a good show.Girls Aloud on the other hand looked tired, unmotivated and on the verge of splitting up. The set started great with ‘Sound of the Underground’ but they should have kept with the upbeat songs and let the music disguise their shaky vocals and lacklustre attempts of dancing. They looked like they hadn’t rehearsed in ages and it showed when some of them missed their cues. It was left to Sarah Harding to rally the crowd, but the whispers from her ‘band’ mates let them all down. Do we really want a cover of ‘I’ll Stand By You’? This is a rock gig after all!But it made Jay Z all the better! Starting off with a ‘Death of Auto-tune’ the crowd were singing from the start and they probably didn’t even know the words! He knew exactly what he was doing! Yes, this was a rock concert, so he played his rock songs! We were treated to the likes of ’99 Problems’ and ‘Numb/Encore’. It was pure hip hop at it’s best and it would prove difficult for Coldplay to beat!5 minutes before Coldplay were due to take to the stage, the heavens opened but as soon as ‘Life in Technicolour’s’ guitars were chiming out from the PA, everyone forgot about getting drenched and immersed themselves in arguably the best pop music of our generation.There were a few surprises along the way, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Fix You’ were played relatively early but then this is the Viva La Vida tour, not the X and Y tour! The newer songs stood up against the classics and proved that this was possibly their best album to date! As ‘Lovers In Japan’ echoed around the stadium, it rained again, but this time it was multicoloured butterflies! An encore of ‘The Scientist’ and ‘Life In Technicolour 2’ and everyone knew we were heading for the curfew but it took a few minutes with the lights on for the crowd to vacate.Perhaps they were still in shock!

(500) Days of Summer: Review

Unfortunately, my avid visits to the cinema have been cut short of late. In Ipswich, the local cinema has an unlimited membership for little over £10 a month, which is a steal considering a single visit is £7.50. Needless to say, with an imminent relocation to the Big Smoke hanging in the balance, I’m not in the circumstance of watching every film that comes out. It makes the decision of what to see far more testing and as I gaze at the schedule on the tv screens above the ticket desk, the student chewing gum behind the counter becomes increasingly impatient. It was either to be ‘Funny People’, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ or ‘500 Days of Summer’.

Snow leopard; was it worth it?

If the price wasn’t too much of a giveaway, the meager one hour it took to install this ‘upgrade’ to leopard was. Everything from the name to the official wallpaper shows that that’s exactly what it is. An upgrade. It won’t go head to head with Windows 7. It doesn’t need to, it’s already streets ahead.On the face of things, I can’t see any noticable improvements with the user interface. Nothing sparkles the way it did when upgrading from Tiger to Leopard. Yes, exposé is a bit more organised and you can now scroll in stacks but these minor improvements pose the question ‘why wasn’t it like that before?’ There is the new QuickTime player (but I use VLC) and there’s support for Microsoft exchange (but I use gmail). So these changes simply don’t affect me. The greatest difference was the space it freed up. Leopard left me with 19GB on my hard drive, Snow Leopard gave me back 12GB extra space! Pretty amazing when my other laptop Asus eeepc with XP has no room on the partioned C drive for any software because it’s full to the brim with the operating system and common files!So in conclusion, Snow Leopard doesn’t give that wow factor received succeeding the installation of Leopard but for £25 and an early release, what did you expect? What will the next big cat be? That’s the one we want to look forward to!

Snow Leopard prowls this friday

Snow leopard will drop on 28 August 2009! It is official!I will be in the queue on Friday ready to pay the tiny fee of £25 to upgrade. But should this figure concern us? Surely if it only costs £25, there can’t be much to differentiate it from leopard.I plan to get a new Mac soon anyway! So why upgrade? Well the main reason that I’m going to be upgrading (other than the price) is because I’m hoping it will give my aging MacBook a new lease of life. As my Mac struggles to run 9 programs at once and I feel the need for speed by purchasing a shiny new MacBook Pro. I’m hoping that this new operating system can restore my faith in the 3 year old mac that’s getting so hot nowadays it leaves scorch marks on my desk! (While I save up for the new one anyway)

MySource Matrix

Coast Studios are currently working on the migration of the brand new Westminster University website from their old CMS, Immediacy, to MySource Matrix.Coast was won over by this CMS system instantly due to it being open source but having spent a week training on it and having a play about, the functionality of it all is just overwhelming. Is it just open source projects in general that tend to include everything that you need. MySource Matrix is so extensive that after a week, we have only just touched the surface.There will be a lot more to write about this CMS in the coming weeks so watch this space.

Chrome, more than just a browser

We should have seen it coming, the rise of Google has resulted in Docs, Calendar, GMail, Picasa and Orkut amongst many others. Wave is on the way too. But then they announced Chrome OS. It just makes perfect sense for Google to take their portfolio of applications and turn it into an operating system, and perhaps only they can take on Microsoft.They even had the audacity to take a dig at Microsoft:

“We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

“It should just work,” said Google. from BBC News

They intend to work WITH other companies instead of against them. For example, Google will be working alongside Adobe in efforts to integrate Flash and Air as much as possible. Microsoft decide that they need to develop their own ‘Flash imitation’ called Silverlight. We need De Facto standards, not rivalries.

Microsoft are the biggest name in the industry but Google are snapping at their heels because they collaborate with so many other companies. Apple will survive because of it’s cult following. The rest of Silicon Valley had better help Google because it’s in their best interests.

It may take a good decade but finally there is a realistic threat to the monopoly that is Microsoft.

iPhone, therefore ical

I am trying to vary my blog posts but 3 days into owning the holy grail of current technology, I felt compelled to post about the iPhone again. But, this isn’t an ordinary post! For those that find it, it can serve as a tutorial on how to receive push calendar combining iCal and gCal. There is an added twist as well!I’ve used girlfriend for the duration of this explanation, please alter accordingly1 – The SituationI lead a pretty hectic life if you include work, freelance work, mates, girlfriend, family, girlfriends mates (in no particular order). I do not own a diary, the iPhone was going to be the answer to my prayers. A diary at the touch of a button, great!My problem is that when my girlfriend tells me she’s arranged a date for the diary, it goes in one ear and out the other. Although, I swear that sometimes she never tells me and just assumes that I know (but that’s neither here nor there).The solution, my girlfriend can update my calendar from her iPhone or the Internet and it will wirelessly update on my Mac, on the Internet and my iPhone, no wires attached! You may say it’s easy, but you may also have a MobileMe account, or you may have paid for BusySync or NuevaSync etc… If you are like me and you’ve already shelved out enough money on the phone itself, I’d rather do things as cheaply as possible – or free. Believe me, this is going to stop a lot of arguements and my grey hair growth may slow down as a result.Solution:

  1. Sign up for Google Calendar (I’m sure you already have).
  2. In iCal, add your gCal account in preferences using CalDav – View tutorial (you can now read and write from iCal – gCal, test by refreshing)
  3. Set up CalDav in your iPhone – View Tutorial – (you can now read/write from your iPhone – iCal & gCal, test by refreshing)
  4. Share your google calendar with your girlfriend. Give her read/write privileges (under settings)
  5. Download the Google Apps App for iPhone on your girlfriend’s phone
  6. Log in to Google Calendar (gCal) scroll down and click settings, you may need to deselect>save>exit, reselect>save>exit the shared calendar in order to make it visible in the browser window
  7. Test it, your girfriend should be able to edit something in the shared Google Calendar (on iPhone/Internet). This should update in your iCal (Mac), gCal (internet), iCal (iPhone).
  8. Ta  da! No more arguments, well, no more arguments about arranging your life.
  9. A nice touch from the lovely people at Google is that if your girlfriend edits something that you’ve already input, you’ll be sent an update email! How nice!

Issues:I haven’t gone to the trouble to find out how to totally share iCals from iPhone > Internet > iPhone because I don’t need to. My girlfriend still uses an old fashioned filofax but she can keep me updated wirelessly.I haven’t found out how to share and update multiple calendars so I’m just going to use one.I’ve trawled the web looking for a free answer to this so when it happened, I thought it was too good to be true, I’ll update you if there are any bugs because I can’t believe that I’ve solved this problem. Alternatively, let me know if this is easy and Ive just been looking in the wrong place! I look forward to your feedback (as long as it’s constructive).