Rain, iTunes 7 and UPSU homepage polishing

Just so you know: this page was imported from my old blog. Some pages were rather mangled in the process; my apologies if things don't quite look right.

It's pouring down outside! Ravelin Park is ankle-deep in water in places, the street lights are back on at 8.30am, people are walking along looking like they've just been for a swim in their work clothes, and Pete Hooley is having to walk around bare-foot nursing his lighter back to health after one of his pedals fell off his bike on the way to work.

Basically, everyone's a bit damp - a nice start to my first day back to work in three weeks!

iTunes 7 album browser
Still, on the plus side, iTunes 7 was released yesterday(ish). There are some very gucci additions, like the album browser, and an automagic thingy which looks for album artwork (basically a way of putting a picture of the track's cover into each tune).

There are also some improvements to the way the program behaves - when you close a copy of iTunes with a huuuge music library (like mine - around 5,000 songs), iTunes now tells you it's saving your library - in the past, it would simply appear to have crashed for up to ten minutes, so this is a welcome addition.

There's much better support for video files now (although iTunes still won't talk to .avi and .mpeg files, or DVDs it seems, so I can watch Spooks on it just yet...) and the side-bar has been re-organised to reflect this re-shuffle. All in all, it all looks very nice, and I've just sent it off to fetch as much artwork as it can - should be finished in time for work tomorrow, hopefully...

On the work front, since that's what this blog's supposed to be about, I'm about to start putting three or so months of design ideas onto paper for the UPSU.net homepage redesign. The overall layout isn't actually going to change much - we will still have a "hero" advert on the top right, a banner across the top, the purple nav bar above that, a search and sign-in/sign-out box, news, a directory "quick links" listing, news, and social life coverage, but there are also a few new additions planned.

Many of these new additions won't be turned on until we're happy that (a) they're ready, and (b) there are people who have promised to maintain them - for example, the "Sabb watch" news feed will be a box detailing the latest news from the Sabbs' camp as a whole - yes, the Sabbs are being encouraged to write blogs this year to keep everyone up to date on the democracy side of things, but they are also (I hope!) going to provide a weekly or monthly group update which summarises what they're up to in 500 words or less, and preferably with lots of pretty pictures.

New features I'm planning - but which probably won't make it onto the homepage this side of the start of the academic year - include the option to search the web using Google from the homepage - another addition which, I hope, will encourage people to set UPSU.net as their homepages (but more on that train of thought later) - as well as a number of "personal" features, including a bookmarks tool and an RSS feed aggregator thingbob. Again, I will go into more detail about these toys later as we're not ready to release them yet, but they're basically designed to - again - encourage people to choose UPSU.net over other websites as their homepage, and the only way we can do this is on a combination of features, speed, ease of use, appropriate and current content, and more.

Well, you know what "they" say - 'aim high'. Or something along those lines...

The design side of the homepage is going to be the part I enjoy the most I think: it's an opportunity to combine a year's PHP learning and a year's self-teaching in web accessibility and CSS to make - I hope - a faster-loading, prettier, and more accessible homepage for the Union. There are going to be a few little "features" introduced over time - little touches that aren't immediately apparent, such as a colour scheme which changes depending on the time of day (the current colour scheme changes depending on the day of the week) - and possibly a way of overriding the colur scheme for signed-in members who want to make UPSU.net look a bit more "their own".

One day, maybe, we'll have enough experienced people here to be able to look into creating a funky AJAX-based liquid homepage layout... Sorry, sorry - I have a habit of going off on an geeky tangent... But it would be very cool indeed... ;o)

Right, I'm off to find a stationery cupboard - I need crayons, coloured paper, sellotape, some sticky back plastic and an oven pre-heated to 200C or gas mark 7...

And, I've just spotted, while I've been away some cheeky b'stard has moved/binned/hidden a stack of my UPSU.net paperwork. Grrrrrr...!

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