Easy CSS Management and Spriting With Sass and Compass

Every so often I like to revisit old projects of mine and refactor them a little, either using some new ideas I learnt in the meantime, or trying out some new technique or framework on familiar ground. This time, I’m going over a wordpress theme I made a couple of years ago and using Compass to organize the style sheets. Converting the existing style sheet (circa 8k uncompressed) to SCSS didn’t take long – only a few minutes by hand – and there are tools which you can use to automate the conversion, so it left me plenty of time to explore more Sass features which make style sheet management much easier. Today we’re going to look at command directives and a few basic spriting helpers. Continue reading

Staying on top of the (Google) Wave

Google Wave is an awesome tool, but right now I don’t have enough contacts on it to make checking it part of my daily routine. This causes me to miss the occasional activity of those friends who do use it, however rarely. Today I found an interesting wave which had been sleeping in there for the last five days, so I decided to look around and see if there are any notifiers available. The one I picked was Waver, which happens to be free, and works on both Mac and Windows.

Are you using Google Wave? What are your thoughts on it so far? Can you recommend any other desktop clients or notifiers for it?

VS and SVN – Ignoring user specific files

Visual studio tends to create files that you don’t usually want to keep under source control, such as generated files, user option files, and so on. To avoid having to clean up every time you try to Add files, you can tell TortoiseSVN to ignore certain file name patterns. The following is what I usually use:

**/bin bin **/obj obj *.suo

You can set these patterns in the “Global ignore pattern” text box in the main screen of the TortoiseSVN settings dialog.

Version control for the masses

Version control is one of those weird, geeky things that never really gained much ground in non-geek fields, despite the fact that it’s blindingly useful. Even educational institutions (at least the ones I’ve been able to observe) seem to prefer to omit so much as a mention of it in their technical courses. I can’t really give a reason for this, but it does at least give me the excuse to write a post about version control and kick it off with a rant.

So what’s this version control thing?

Version control (or source control) is nothing more arcane than keeping copies of your work as you make changes to it. On the surface, it’s all straight-forward; make a copy of every file you have before you make any changes to it. That way, if you seriously mess up, you can always fall back to something that worked before, or at least compare your broken copy with one that used to work so you can figure out where it went off kilter. Your client wants the image he told you to throw away two days ago? No problemo – out comes the backup. Accidentally deleted half your thesis and closed the word processor? No problem – out comes the backup.

Now, in the real world, it’s not so easy. Unless you have an iron will, a black belt in filing, and a zen-like ability to name files in a sensible way, you’ll be swamped with a huge number of backups with similar looking names. Something that’s impossibly difficult to find, might as well not exist at all. We want to get the goodies, but really need to keep all those backups out of our way. Luckily there are like, loads of version control systems out there to do the heavy lifting for you.

The rest of this post will be about how to set up a version control system for a single user. We’ll use Subversion, because it’s free, works great, and because I like it. Since we want to keep things as slick as possible, we’re not going to use raw Subversion though – we’re going to use TortoiseSVN, which is also free, also works great, and has nice coloured icons to boot. This neat tool lets you do most of the stuff you want Subversion for, but it lets you do it from Windows Explorer, rather than the command line.

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