Switching from acts_as_bewildered_newbie to acts_as_newbie_making_progress - plugin suggestions

Rails Fans,

Forgive me if I ramble a bit. First, let me give a little history on
my sites. Feel free to skip past it. Further down I'll be detailing
what I'm wanting to do and will be looking for suggestions on the best
plugins, etc., to use.

To make a long story, well, not quite so long - I currently act as
webmaster for two web sites. One is my personal site, and the other
is a local canine agility club's site. The club's site was originally
a handful of static pages. When I took over as webmaster I knew
absolutely nothing about web development, but started learning and
eventually added some dynamic PHP based pages to the site. When I
first started setting up my personal site I also went with PHP. It
didn't take long to decide that I didn't like PHP. For quite a while
now I've been spinning my wheels looking for alternatives.

When I first came across Rails I loved it. I was hooked. That was
somewhere around the time the first edition of Agile Web Development
was on the shelves. I bought the book and before I could get through
it, it was obsolete. Between that and other factors I decided to put
Rails on the back burner for a while and explore other options. My
main thing I felt was wrong with Rails was that it was evolving so
fast documentation couldn't keep up.

I've checked out many other options - a few Java based frameworks -
those were horrid, a couple of Python frameworks such as TurboGears
and Django, etc., etc. The Python frameworks are nice, but I'm not
entirely sold on Python yet. So, recently I decided to come and take
another look at Rails.

On the agility club's web site, which I recently converted from PHP to
ASP.NET via Mono and then to Django, the Upcoming Events, Brags, and
Photo Gallery pages are dynamic:

http://www.WacoAgilityGroup.org/Events/Upcoming/

http://www.WacoAgilityGroup.org/WAG/Brags/

http://www.WacoAgilityGroup.org/Photo/Albums/

Everything else is currently still static pages. The above should be
trivial to convert to Rails, but I could use some suggestions on the
best plugins and/or image tools to use for the photo gallery.
Currently the gallery is fairly simple. At some point I want to
convert the members page:

http://www.WacoAgilityGroup.org/WAG/Members/

into a dynamic page and give club members the ability to log in and do
things such as manage info on their dogs, add upcoming events, etc.,
etc. Currently I do all that myself. And, believe it or not, I
currently manage the upcoming events and brags info via a TUI Clipper
based program. After adding/editing events or brags, I run a program
that extracts the data from the dBase style database and feeds it into
psql to update the PostgreSQL tables.

I would envision some day giving club members the ability to add
biographical info on their dogs and perhaps create "virtual" photo
albums for their dogs containing photos of their dogs that are in
other albums. I would probably want a way to rearrange the order of
photos, which in the above envisioned setup might belong to multiple
"albums". Would the acts_as_habtm_list be the plugin of choice to
achieve this?

There are other areas, such as the links page, class schedules page,
class student documents page, etc., that would benefit from a dynamic
setup. Is there by chance a plugin that can convert uploaded
Microsoft Word documents into PDFs? I'd love to give our training
director the ability to upload student documents, but she says she
can't produce PDFs herself. And I really don't want to have Word
documents on the site.

Since I'd want to control what members can add/edit, which
authorization plugin would be the best choice? Some "admin" members
might have access to edit anything while other members might only be
able to edit their personal info, photo albums they created, etc.

On my personal web site:

http://www.RawFedDogs.net

most pages are dynamic, and most would be trivial to convert to
Rails. The site is currently a mixture of PHP and PSP(Pascal Server
Pages). Once agin it's the photo gallery I'm most unsure about. It
would definitely benefit from a complete overhaul. Currently photos
can belong to one album and any number of recipes and/or terms. Some
albums are "hidden" and are only used to contains photos that are
displayed via recipes or terms. The admin interface is pathetic. In
my defense, I was learning PHP as I went. Adding photos currently
goes something like this:

1. Upload photos to an upload directory via ftp.

2. Run a PHP script that mangles the file names to avoid naming
conflicts, moves the photos to the originals directory, creates normal
and thumbnail sized photos in those respective directories via
ImageMagick command line utilities, and adds the photo's info to the
database. If any part of that process fails, I usually have to edit
the database by hand to back out the changes.

3. I then open the "process uploaded photos" PHP page which searches
through the database for photos that have no album ID assigned. It
displays the photos one at a time so I can assign the photo to an
album, add a caption, and optionally assign the photo to one or more
recipes and/or terms.

4. Once the above is done if I want to make any changes such as
changing the caption or rearranging the order the photos are displayed
in, I do it by hand editing the database either via the command line
interactive SQL interpreter or via something like phpMyAdmin.

It would be wonderful to have a proper admin interface with a few
bells and whistles such as drag and drop sorting, etc.

Any suggestions are welcomed.

Thanks,

Kevin

Hi Kevin,

dokpm0 wrote:

Further down I'll be detailing what I'm wanting to do
and will be looking for suggestions on the best
plugins, etc., to use.

<snip>

When I first came across Rails I loved it. I was hooked.

Welcome aboard!

That was somewhere around the time the first edition of
Agile Web Development was on the shelves. I bought the
book and before I could get through it, it was obsolete.

I don't think I'd call it 'obsolete'. Rails 2.x does not make Rails 1.x
obsolete, IMHO. It makes it an option. You should look hard at the
features added with 2.x and see if you need those features. My guess is the
answer, in your case, will probably be 'not really.'
<snip>

So, recently I decided to come and take another look at Rails.

<snip>

Any suggestions are welcomed.

I'd suggest starting with Rails 1.2.x, going back to the book you've got (or
maybe picking up the 2nd edition) and work through it. There are lots of
tutorials out there for 1.2.x that haven't been updated for 2.x (mine
included). There are also plugins, including some you may find useful, that
haven't been updated to work with 2.x. The tutorial in AWDWR covers the
stuff you'll need for the admin / member login functionality you'll need.
There are several plugins for image upload. I don't know of a Ruby library
for converting Word docs to PDF, but Google turns up a substantial number of
converters. The ones I looked at were free trial / low cost to purchase.

Again, welcome.

Best regards,
Bill

Bill,

Thanks for the tips.

I don't think I'd call it 'obsolete'. Rails 2.x does not make Rails 1.x
obsolete, IMHO. It makes it an option.

I was meaning that the first edition of AWDWR became, at least partially, obsolete because of the changes in Rails. Yes, continuing to use an older version of Rails is an option. But if starting a new project, it makes more sense to use the current version.

I'd suggest starting with Rails 1.2.x, going back to the book you've got (or
maybe picking up the 2nd edition) and work through it. There are lots of
tutorials out there for 1.2.x that haven't been updated for 2.x (mine
included). There are also plugins, including some you may find useful, that
haven't been updated to work with 2.x.

I probably should have mentioned that since I've started taking another look at Rails I've purchased the beta third edition of AWDWR and also the current(aka covers Rails 2.x) edition of The Rails Way. I'd prefer to go with Rails 2.x from the start instead of starting with 1.x and upgrading later.

Kevin
http://www.RawFedDogs.net
http://www.WacoAgilityGroup.org
Bruceville, TX

Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.
Longum iter est per praecepta, breve et efficax per exempla!!!