Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Category: website

EasyCrop – preparing photos for the rotating banner

As part implementation requirements for the rotating banner image on this blog I needed some software to crop photos to the required dimensions. Increasingly, I’m also finding myself needing to do this with figures and diagram related to my research and work (e.g. one and ).

I used to have Fireworks, or whatever the application was called on my Mac. But it’s an old, old copy and moving to Mac OS X 10.5 meant it was buggy and crashed a lot. I could have gotten a full scale graphics package like the Gimp or Photoshop, but frankly I would never have used most of the features and wondered why I would waste the space.

So I did a quick google search and came across EasyCrop. I’ve found it a very simple, intuitive tool to use. I particularly like that it focuses on the one task, cropping pictures, and makes it easy and quick for me to do it. The appeals to my “small pieces loosely joined” ethos and my background in UNIX.

So I’ve purchased a copy. I particularly liked how I could try the application out a fair bit before purchasing it. Especially given that I was not getting any annoying “register now” reminders every time I tried to do anything.

I’ve added a bunch of new images to the pool for the rotating banner image. You can see the full set of images in flickr set. Eventually, I hope I can start pulling the images straight from Flickr but I need the time to do that.

Content, redirects and impact on Google ranking

Late last year I wrote that this blog was currently ranked #12 by Google (US-based search) for a search on “david jones”.

Over the Xmas break I spent a fair bit of time copying content from my old website to this blog and putting in place permanent redirects from the old site to the new content. I also uploaded some images onto my Flickr photos and included links to content on the blog that was associated.

Today, when I do the same search the blog is now ranked #5 by Google for a US-based search.

For an Australian based Google search the site is up from 177 to 87

Implementing the rotating banner image

I’ve mentioned some plans to implement a rotating banner image on this blog. As you may have picked up from this post, if you’re looking at the site, that such a rotating banner image has been implemented. Here’s the story.

It’s one of pragmatism. The plan of not using an external server, after a minimum of searching, was proving to be a little more difficult than I thought. So rather than waste time I’ve simply re-used the approach I used on my old site. i.e. this script. At the moment the script simply does a loop through a list of images stored in the file system of the host web server.

After purchasing the “CSS Edit” ability from (about $AUD20 for a year) I’ve added a bit of CSS to call the above script and hey presto, rotating banner image.

In the spirit of release early, release often, I hope to continue modifying this to move it further away from the original design and towards some of the newer plans. In particular, the use of Flickr to host the images.

Webfuse statistics – Staff Portal

Webfuse provides a “staff portal” called Staff MyCQU. It is essentially a web-based application that provides a single interface to most of the tools/services staff require while teaching a course.

# staff using the staff portal

The following (as yet incomplete) table shows the # of unique staff using the staff portal and the average number of times each staff member accessed the portal in that year and the total number of requests for the year.

Data for some of the years has not yet been added

Year # Users Avg Accesses Total Accesses
2002 207 117 24,202
2003 459 258 118,351
2004 654 283 184,896
2005 807 462 372,545
2006 1142 489.5 558,952
2008 1203 467 562,311

Plans for implementing rotating banner image

Problem: Implement a rotating banner image on this blog which is hosted by This means I cannot install any WordPress themes that automatically support bnner rotation (e.g. the Mandigo theme suggested by Will Taylor.

There is a known approach that relies upon you having some disk space on a server that will let you run a PHP script. I’d like to avoid using that approach.

Instead, my hope is to cobble something together using Flickr, Pipes and a bit of CSS. The following is an attempt to outline what steps are necessary to test this out.

Flickr constraints

First stop is to see if the conditions of use on Flickr will allow this. Yep, the Flickr Community Guidelines seems to indicate that you can use your content on other sites, just make sure that is a link back.

So, I should be able to show a flickr photo in the banner as long as there is a link back to the page on Flickr it comes from.

Modify CSS to get image from pipes

Next step is to see if I can modify the CSS of the theme I’m using to include a banner image, and then perhaps to include a banner image from a Pipes.

Use pipes to extract a single image from a gallery

Next step, would be to figure out how to write a pipe that will extract a single image from a Flickr gallery. Once that’s working figure out how to loop through the contents of the gallery so that rotation through the images is achieved.

Figure out the link back to the flickr photo page

If that’s all working I need to figure out how to provide a link back to the original flickr page. A banner image in a blog header usually returns back to the home page for the blog. Thinking perhaps some additional text with the name of the image could be included with a link back to the flickr photo page.

Rotating banner images in WordPress – the last missing puzzle piece

Update: The old server that I used to use for my website and also to implement the rotating banner on this blog, is down. It will likely to be down for quite some time.

When I moved by website from my long-term personal server to the one bit of functionality that I lost was the rotating banner image.

Kaikoura Ocean Range Sunrise

The image of the sunrise just north of Kaikoura in the banner above is static. It’s always the same. Back on the original website I had a collection of 40+ images that, thanks to a small perl script, would cycle through each one. As of late 2008 you can still see this in action on this page – just hit the refresh button to see the banner image change.

I’d like recreate this effect on this site. But I have to do it without server side scripting and I should also probably do it to maximise the benefits of Web 2.0. I’ve got some ideas about how to do this using Flickr, Pipes and JSON or similar. These ideas will have to be reality tested. However, the first thing I should do is check to see what others have already done.

Ahh, it appears that there is the need to pay for a CSS customisation to enable this. 4 cents a day paid via PayPal. The approach outlined here and requires a server somewhere that will allow you to upload a PHP script. Essentially the approach I was using on my original server.

Not very Web 2.0. Will experiment with Flickr and Pipes, do a bit more searching. Can do some testing without requiring the CSS customisation upgrade.

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