Plone 4 – Catching Up with an Old Friend – Pt.1

Plone has been a favorite of mine for a long time…all the way back to Plone 2.x. I’ve always found it to be an interesting architecture and a flexible, if at times a somewhat frustrating, system for creating and managing websites. More recently I’ve been working with a lot of other things like Drupal, Alfresco, and completely different things like mobile application development (no – not iPhone!), but I still check in with Plone from time to time.

I noticed that a release candidate came out for version 4 and there was an actual installer for Linux. I can’t resist – I’m going to try the installation and then see what’s changed in Plone. I may even try some jQuery and theme development (the main thing that drove me to Drupal was difficulty in building nice themes).

Installation – Fedora 13

I’m going to install this on my Fedora 13 laptop (T60p ThinkPad with 2 GB RAM). I’m going to try this from the GUI desktop – the point being that to attract new users Plone’s install should be easy and simple for people that aren’t terminal guru’s.

After you extract the download ( I placed the extracted files in my home directory), there’s a readme file that pretty much tells you what to do. I took the path of installing everything as root since this seemed to be the “happy path”. The install takes a long time since it is going to compile everything on your machine, but it does say that it will take a long time so at least you’re not thinking that something has crashed. It would be good to have some kind of progress indicator or something, but that’s being pretty picky.

Once the install is complete you’ll have a complete install located in /usr/local/Plone – the readme has some good instructions on how to proceed. Its a bit of a pain if you forget to save the password displayed in the terminal window from a GUI unless you want to login as root because some of the files you’ll need are owned by the “Plone” user that the installer created. For example the file that has the actual password generated for the admin user – you’ll need to chmod that file to open it from the GUI or login as root. I used the terminal to sudo chmod the file.

Following the readme I was able to go to the base address at port 8080 and create an initial site and then login with the admin account, create a few users, test some edits, and see that everything is working as advertised. For anyone familiar with Plone and Zope they will feel right at home, even with the new visual layout in the Plone server. I haven’t used Plone in a few years and I feel right at home in the kit.

How did I get that program to show all processes from all users? First click on any process and then the menu items under the view option will become selectable. Pretty dumb for those gnome guys…but once that’s figured out then it works pretty good. The memory looks to be 70-80MB – seems pretty consistent with previous versions. I suspect that will grow with add ons and a reasonable setup for caching and stuff. Another good trick – I like to see what’s going on -yeah you can tail a log file, but there’s a better way start your Plone instance with “plonectl fg” to see the output “live” in the terminal window. You can of course still tail the server log.

Using Themes and Add-Ons

Next up I’ll start activating a few add ons and then try out some visual development. I’m not much for the default “sunburst” theme. Once you start adding stuff it just looks sloppy with stuff all over the place. I added an event and some simple things and the layout just looks all over the place to me. Switching back to the classic Plone theme fixes the issue, although this look makes me feel – um very stuffy and conservative. Not liking that too much.

Checking on the plone site there are a few themes for version 4, but right here I see some differences…you used to be able to download stuff, drop it in products, and bounce your server. The themes here talk about eggs, buildout and all of this stuff. What’s this? There’s a theme reference here, but its not clear if this covers version 4. From digging around on the Plone site I found a few more links (ic limi is hard at work – which is good to see):

Concluding for Today – Plone 4  – How is it?

Well I’m impressed with anything that is easily installed on linux – especially something as complex as Plone can be. Plone 4 looks to be pretty stable on my machine and I didn’t see any visible errors of any kind. Memory usage looked ok, but my site is pretty small right now. I’m going to take the rest of the day today to read all the themeing information and to check into some add-on products. I’ll come back in part 2 and give my sense of the themes (maybe compare a bit vs Drupal), how I setup my tools to work with the themes, and maybe start to work on a promised Turbo-X skin, which reminds me that I have to clean up my car.

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  1. Pingback: Plone 4 – Catching Up with an Old Friend – Pt.2 « Tarn Aeluin

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