An Update On my Website Redesign

In a recent post on this blog, I mentioned that I was planning on going the CMS route for my personal site. For some time now, I’ve been testing both Drupal and WordPress to determine which is both easy to use and to maintain among other things.

After spending time using, and reading books about both systems, I’ve decided to go with WordPress. While I liked testing Drupal, and generally like the layout of sites I’ve seen created with it, I found it to be rather cumbersome as far as implementing certain features. I didn’t actually try this, I’ll admit, but after reading in a book the procedure for implementing a contact form on a Drupal site, I decided it wasn’t the system for me. At first, I was under the impression that it would be as simple as enabling a plugin and configuring the necessary form fields. Um, no! Turns out there’s more to it than that, as you have to determine who will use the form (I’m assuming this is if there’s more than one admin working on the site) and other things that I don’t recall at the moment. With WordPress, I found it very easy to set up and configure a contact form, poll, or just about anything you could want for a website in a matter of minutes.

At the moment, I’m learning how to create and modify menus. Creating a custom menu is easy, it’s the rearranging that I don’t like as you have to drag and drop things. I don’t know about anyone else, but as a user of two screen readers (JAWS and NVDA) I find this very hard and impractical.

Despite this, though, I feel confident that WordPress is going to work well for me and this site, and will continue to post updates on my progress.

Website Updates and Frustrations

It’s been a long time since I posted a text entry to this blog (a lot of my recent posts have been in the form of Audioboo messages.)
I’ll admit, I actually think that audio blogging is better than writing, because I find I can get my points across when speaking. Regardless though, it’s good to be back. But enough about blogging, let’s focus on the actual topic of this post.

We’ve all been there. You’ll find a great website, and are surprised when one day they decide to change their layout. Well, that’s probably going to be the case with both of my websites at some point. I’ve been, for quite some time now, interested in going the CMS (content management system) route, rather than editing HTML and PHP files by hand. There are several reasons for this.

First, I find that if I add something new to one of my sites, such as a new section for example, I have to go into each PHP or HTML file that has a menu at the top of the page, and paste in the link to the new section. While this is a very simple procedure, and hardly takes any time, I’ve been in situations where I may forget to add the link to one or more pages. And if there’s one thing I want the menu on all my site’s pages to be, it’s consistent. With a CMS, I could add another section to the site, and the menu would be updated automatically.

The second reason is that I’ve always written my sites with pretty much straight HTML or basic PHP code. I don’t know anything about using different color values for links or page text. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m sure a CMS would make things more visually pleasing for sighted visitors, while still making the page usable with screen readers such as JAWS, Window-Eyes, or NVDA.

But the big reason for me is that with a CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, I can use different plugins or modules to enhance a site’s functionality. As I write this, I’m still trying to figure out how to add a text CAPTCHA feature to my personal site’s contact form. The problem is that this particular add-on’s website doesn’t provide clear instructions for a beginner on how to do what I want. I contacted the developer and asked if he could help me implement it, but got a response a day later saying he didn’t have any spare time. (Thanks a lot!) However, the plugin version of this CAPTCHA works beautifully with WordPress, and there’s also a Drupal version available as well.
The reason I want to use this form of CAPTCHA, instead of what I’m using now, is because the current system sometimes causes Firefox to shut down when playing back the audio version. I’ve looked at some other contact forms that can easily be included in PHP sites, but don’t find their logic question and answer approach good enough as they generally show the same question all the time, whereas the one I want to use can randomly select one.
Now I know what you’re wondering, “Why are you using a CAPTCHA system at all?”
That’s a good question. I personally find that it, along with a spam filter site, helps to get rid of unwanted junk mail. The other answer is, of course, “Hey, if sighted people can use these things, why can’t I?” As far as audio CAPTCHAs are concerned, I wanted to find a system with good audio. At first, I thought ReCaptcha was alright, but then they made it hard to understand, so that one was out. The one I currently use now has, in my opinion anyway, the best audio captcha I’ve heard. When it first came out, it sounded clear and easy to understand. However, if it’s going to cause a browser like Firefox to crash, then I think it’s time to move on.

Currently, I’m slowly learning how to use Drupal to make a test site. I know WordPress also can be used to make sites as well, and I might give that one a try too.
Obviously, I cannot say when changes to this site will take effect, but it’s something I’m working towards anyway, one step at a time.

Long Time No Blog! (Or A Quick Update From Me)

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over a year and a half since I wrote anything here. Guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun, right? Anyway, things are going well here at the KJS Productions studio, as I’m working on a variety of projects these days. When I’m not doing that, I’m spending time bowling, performing at local jam sessions, and, of course, learning as much as I can about Sonar.

Speaking of Sonar, I recorded a demonstration last year for Innovations, the excellent technology show on The Global Voice, the Internet radio station I now broadcast on, regarding how to record a composition using it, along with the free JSonar scripts for JAWS.
(You can find it on JSonar’s site, Blind Cool Tech, and my audio reviews page.)
I’m very delighted that so many people are finding it useful, and look forward to doing more podcasts and blog entries about using Sonar with assistive technology when time allows. One thing I should note, however, is that shortly after producing that demo, I purchased CakeTalking from Dancing Dots, and have been using it ever since. OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Does that mean he hates JSonar now?”
The answer is absolutely not. I think both products are wonderful, but I’ve felt for a long time that I needed something different. As a result, in future podcasts, when I do anything in Sonar, you’ll most likely hear me using CT for the accessibility, but I’m certainly not abandoning JSonar users. Whenever possible, I’ll try to describe how to perform various actions with JSonar, but the process should be pretty much identical regardless of what you’re using.

Speaking of podcasts, work is slowly being done for Episode 7. I’m not going to speculate on when it’ll be ready, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment here or to contact me through my website to let me know what you’d like to see discussed/demonstrated for future episodes.
I’m considering changing the focus of the podcast to be more about audio production than games, but it’s just an idea at the moment.

My First Impressions of Sonar 8.5.2

At long last, I’m finally getting a chance to tell you about some of my experiences with version 8.5.2 of Sonar by CakeWalk.
In case you’re curious, I started working with it on December 16, 2009, a couple days after purchasing the upgrade. For the first time, I could download it instead of waiting for the boxed version. It’s a great way to get Sonar, but I was expecting to have to download a bunch of files that would unzip into one big file. Instead, I had to get the setup file, which was practically 2GB in size, and took over 5 hours to download. (If you’re on dial-up, get the boxed version. Believe me, you’ll be there forever!)

The first thing that surprised me was that, in the normal template, you now get two tracks by default instead of four. Previously, the template consisted of two audio and two MIDI tracks, but now you get one of each. This isn’t a bad thing, since you can add additional tracks at any time, so it’s more of a case of getting used to it.
The only thing I had to fix in the Normal Template was to make it load the layout used by JSonar, the set of scripts I use with JAWS for Windows. If it’s not loaded, you can expect all sorts of problems, such as the Media Browser not displaying properly, and, in the case of a song a friend sent me, FX bins all over the place, even though there were only two on the track. (For those of you who are just getting into Sonar, the FX bin is where you can load a soft synth or audio effect to be used exclusively on that track.) In any case, all I had to do was load the Normal template, load the JSonar layout, and re-save the template. Problem solved!

Now here’s something that really got me excited. While browsing the MIDI track’s controls, I came across, get ready for this, an arpeggiator! OK, I know what you’re thinking, so what? That was my reaction at first, but once you enable it, you’ll be having lots of fun.
Project5, CakeWalk’s synth workstation program (which I don’t believe is being sold anymore), had an arpeggiator that you could use on any MIDI track, even if the synth didn’t have it. Now, after all these years, it’s finally in Sonar. I spent a few minutes trying the various presets using a piano sound from my Roland EXR-3S keyboard, and what I’ve heard so far sounds pretty good! But is it just me, or are there a lot of duplicates?
Later on, I loaded in one of my favorite soft synths, Z3TA+ (or Zeta as I’ll refer to it), and tried the arpeggiator with it, even though it has it’s own on a lot of the presets. Wow, this combination is awesome! I hope to produce an audio demo of this feature soon.

Well, that’s all for now, but I’ll continue to update you on my experiences with this excellent version of the product as time permits.

Episode 6: Fun with Dimension Pro and More

This edition features a demonstration of Dimension Pro from CakeWalk, a review of Jim Kitchen’s new audio game, “Homer On A Harley”, music, and a lot more!

Other links mentioned in this edition:

  • Vox Machina, an online speech synthesizer that was used to create the intro for Episode 4 (no longer available)
  • The Project Studio Network (PSN) Podcast
  • X-Sight Interactive (was shut down in January, 2014)

Music Featured:

Episode 4: My Studio, Internet TV, and Mod Files

On this edition of the podcast, I’ll take you on a tour of my studio and talk about the equipment I use. I’ll also demonstrate a website that makes finding and watching Internet TV stations easy.

Links mentioned in this podcast include:

Songs Featured:

Special thanks to Damien Sadler of X-Sight Interactive for his DecTalk Scripter program (which is no longer available), and for additional music.

Episode 3: SidPlay2W, Rock The Rink, and More!

On this edition, we take a look at SidPlay2W, a program that lets you play C64 SID music files in Windows. A good place to find these files is to download the HVSC (High Voltage SID Collection).
This podcast also features a new “Game Reviews” section, where I’ll occasionally be demonstrating games for systems like the Playstation 1, the original NES, and the PC. For this edition, we’ve got two reviews for you: NHL Rock the Rink by Electronic Arts for the Playstation 1, and a stereo version of my review of Shades of Doom from GMA Games, which originally aired on the June 6, 2001 edition of ACB Radio Mainstream’s “Main Menu” show.

Other links mentioned include:

Songs Featured:

Theme Music: “Into The Night” by Maxim G.

From Magnatune:

Episode 2: Magnatune and PodsafeAudio Selections

On this edition, I play some of my favorite songs from Magnatune and PodsafeAudio.com.

Songs Featured:

Theme Music: “Into The Night” by Maxim G.

From Magnatune:

From PodsafeAudio.com: