Monday, 27 May 2013

Space Hog

...teaches me that I'm not alone in finding Drupal a space hog for space cadets who do not pay for their own server space. Apparently this is a bad side to its good side - enough hooks for a knitting machine, each of which can open some memory-based function or other. I also read about its history. Recently a collection of modules which were sometimes supported or sometimes released as a favour to other savvy coders, then transforming into a platform for using Rules and Views modules. I was going to add a picture of a space hog, but that's a distraction and anyway it was mocked-up: the pig did not suffer. Do not send pigs into space.

Space Hog
By the way, why to americans say "sucks" for "bad"? Is this a macho thing? There's a strange convention that you search for X+sucks to find what's wrong with something.

On the same page I discover that a system called Code Igniter with a flexicart add-on is designed for cheapskate shopkeepers who play on their computers. Maybe in a week or two I will find another web page called "why code igniter is bad" (or kicks ass for bums or whatever americans say). Meanwhile there is a Bitnami windows stack of programs to run it so here goes: it should have downloaded by now.

Oh: an hour later I am still making sense of Bitnami instructions. Apparently Code Igniter is not pre-installed in the same way as Wordpress or Drupal. There is some requirement to understand how these stacks of programs work in order to start it and see what it is, in order to understand how it works. Learning about software by trial and error is slow, sometimes.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Why is this difficult / videos v. forums v. blogs

A paid video about wordpress ecommerce mentions "so many people banging their heads against the wall in the forums" on some tricky point.

Free videos, made more quickly, do not even mention forums.

Forum posts cannot easily describe free videos either; they cannot write "the part about X at 6'32" doesn't make sense to me" because not many people would reply unless there is a transcript, and for some reason the videos such as Commerce Guy's videos on Vimeo do not have transcripts. This is a pity for
  • non-english speakers, who have trouble translating the less clear parts, and for
  • english speakers like me who have trouble asking for help in a forum and saying where stuck.
I have tried posting in Drupal Commerce forums and got no response. If I transcribe a video there, it looks a bit weird and out of place and probably gets deleted; if I post it here on a blog and link, it looks like an attempt at self publicity and gets ignored (or deleted). So the two ways of learning about Drupal Commerce do not interact; makers of videos do not know where their explanations are tricky, and writers on forums cannot help each other by referring to the right parts of videos.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why is this difficult?

I thought Wordpress was the simplest fresh start, but found that there is trouble in paradise too -
...tells me that at 4'49" "whatever e-commerce software you use, it's going to be awful in some way", but that e-commerce developing has the best rewards in happy customers when it goes right

The knack of combining various databases into a site for someone who wants to focus absolutely on shopping carts and not learn anything else is, well, asking for trouble when it gets complicated. In the US, tax is complicated for example.

In the UK, shipping is complicated. Royal Mail is not kind to plugin-writers, so any free ones are likely to become out of date. And UK shopkeepers are mercantile people in a little country, unlikely to rule-out selling to Australia or Germany if an order comes-in. All that's needed is a matrix quote system for prices or weights verses zones. Royal Mail has three or four world zones, and you can add more if your products to the UK have different volumes or you use a courier as well. I have a separate post about Royal Mail's zones and prices for ecommerce developers.

Even if I buy a textbook about a wordpress plugin or a good clear set of videos by  on how to use Wordpress for Ecommerce and watch patiently while taking notes, I'm likely to find an un-acknowledged gap where shipping options ought to be. Or an intended gap.

Wordpress has several ecommerce plugins jostling for trade, but all the ones I have discovered tend to charge for vital things like breathing or shopkeeping or posting objects via special essential modules. So these programs are open source crippleware, hoping to make money by charging you for something essential.

On the other hand, wordpress users seem a lot more recognisable as real low-budget people than Drupal users. There are plenty of plugins for hosting your pictures on flickr or to save bandwidth and disk space. This saves money. This saves the amount you have to sell in a recession to break even. This keeps you fed when others fail.

Magento is another easy option, or so I thought, because nearly all my stallholding shopkeeping rivals use it.
I bet a packet of biscuits that it will have some kind of stock reporting system that can be used for wholesale customers as an essential, and for stock control as a desirable option.
I bet one of my hadgehogs that Shipping will probably be sane compared to other carts. You just fill-in a configuration column about how many countries you would like to ship to, and I haven't finished the instructions but I guess that everything might be included in the core program with no ifs and buts and demands for £50 software. I don't know if zones will be allowed, or if every customer has to scroll through a list of countries starting with American Samoa, but something will be available.

Instructions exist, by the way. You type your version and language into a site and it emails you a 250 page .pdf book to read beginning to end, or to page 45 in my case.

A nifty .php file will check whether your test server suits Magento, and none of my 100% free accounts allowed it, but a nearly free one called Freehostia Chocoloate passed the test. (Freehostia Chocolate is free if you have a spare mainstream domain). Officially is allows 250MB equalling 262,144,000 bytes of disc space. Five hours later my attempted FTP upload stopped for lack of space after I tried uploading 6,396,182 bytes from Bitnami as a first experiment. This was just the relevant-looking files in a folder called Magento. This does not come-up in the easiest-to-find comparisons of shopping cart software.

Magento finds cheap servers a problem, as does Drupal. The programs are gross.
My fast UK web server that I want to use for real shopkeeping has these price breaks for disc space. It's smaller than some free but slower ones. Prices are per year (developers please note that servers can be priced per year as well as per month)
0200MB £050 + 20% tax
0400MB £100 + 20% tax
0600MB £150 + 20% tax
1200MB £250 + 20% tax

Further Googling finds that Magento likes to cache a lot. It has complex internal tables. And I haven't yet seen a free plugin that lets you host your pictures on a free website. So, basically, I can see why I am still in business and some rivals who use Magento have been struggling a bit in a recession. Maybe that's why some of them are on slower servers.

As with other shopping cart software, enthusiasts who sell support or blog about the product seem unaware of why it's difficult or even doesn't work for so many users.

I have another post called Free Fast and Pretty: which shopping cart? but it is has no clear conclusion yet.