Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Britain Station v2.0

Warning: Technical website ramblings ahead. This probably won't be of much interest to most model railroaders unless you're looking at creating your own website.

I've wanted to update my site for some time, but was running into some complications upgrading to version 6 of the underlying content management system Drupal. I had attempted a direct upgrade that failed, which meant that I'd have to do a lot of work to manually do it. Now, earlier this month, version 7 was released. This also means that support and updates for version 5 has been discontinued. While there were still a lot of potential updates and changes I could have made, the big concern of remaining on version 5 is site security.

So, last night I looked at the possibility of porting the site to Google Sites. This also requires a manual transfer, but the engine is very easy to work with. I won't have to worry about upgrades to the underlying technology. It's not anywhere near as flexible as Drupal, but it also means I don't have to spend as much time and effort learning it. I never got into much coding on Drupal, but there are thousands of modules available and it always took some time finding the ones that were right for what I wanted to accomplish. Two particular issues I had were the lack of a good photo management system, and adding tables to the site. I understand that version 7 now has a native photo handling capabilities. I had also found a separate module I liked, but was not compatible with version 5.

Google Sites has a similar photo management capabilities (with it's own shortcomings), and table creation is built in. It's entirely wysiwyg as well. Although there were a couple of wysiwyg modules for Drupal, they never worked really well for me. On the other hand, I got to be pretty proficient with basic HTML commands instead. So creating a hyperlink might take me a little longer here, but it's still pretty easy.
So, the only way to know if I could really make this work is to try moving a some of the old site. I love it. I've had to change a bit of my old design goals, and the options are more limited but that's not always a bad thing. So it's not perfect, but it's certainly more than good enough for what I need. And the best thing - it's free. Which means that I can save some money too.

So it will take some time to recompile and represent the info from the old site. In the process it also gives me the opportunity to correct errors and update the pages with new information. Of course, I'm trying to get some modeling done as well. But since I didn't have to fork out any cash, I'm actually getting started with this project well before the November deadline for renewal of the old site.

For now, will continue to route to the old site. Most of the data will reside there, but updates will only occur here. Once the transfer is complete, then I'll reconfigure the URL to come to this site.

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