OrangeCoat stepped up to the plate for the first Aid Joy project, Project Amazonas, and we got a bunch of new experiences and knowledge to show for it. Personally, I'm feeling the karma and liking the new technical know-how that came from this challenging pro-bono work.
On the personal side, this is a unique opportunity to be part of "something bigger than myself". Granted, I've been actively scaling up volunteer efforts around the Greenville community and it is proving very satisfying. However, Aid Joy fulfills a desire to make an impact on the global scale, while working with people in Greenville and around the world.
Volunteering is work, but it can sure be fulfilling. Get involved and I promise if you stick with it you'll get at least as much back as you put in. Here are just some of the benefits I've encountered: feeling good about helping, wisdom and knowledge, new relationships, friends, exercise, stress relief, and recognition. If you have a desire to volunteer in the Greenville community or contribute a talent to Aid Joy then let me know and I'll try to help you find a fit for your passion.
Before starting the technical discussion I want to say Immedion has been great in providing hosting space for Aid Joy. We've been expecting a number of waves of traffic to hit the Project Amazonas site due to TV and newspaper coverage and Immedion graciously bumped the server's RAM beyond the initial specs to help weather these storms. Thanks guys.
Now, for the technical side about how the Aid Joy project has brought about a number of new experiences.
First, I've been excited to work with Immedion. The crew over there is doing some neat things and I'm glad we're getting exposure to their capabilities for when OrangeCoat has projects that need some serious horsepower. Knowing Immedion's people, processes and systems will only make those future projects easier and better.
Most of OrangeCoat's existing web hosting is with Virtual Private Servers (VPS) running the CentOS Linux distribution through Virtuozzo. Immedion set us up with a slightly different environment including VMWare (VM) and the Fedora Core Linux distribution. Matt Day and David Johnson at Immedion educated me a bit about how their VMWare is using Hardware Virtualization while our normal Virtuozzo systems are O/S Virtualization. It's all pretty seamless to me, but it's always good to know what you're working with, especially if we get a change to test out some new load balancing techniques based on the VMware platform.
Since the server is running Fedora without a control panel, like WHM/cPanel, it was necessary to do some more low-level configuration. This included tweaking out the Apache configuration and DSO modules, adding in some PHP extensions, researching scaling techniques; and tweaking firewall, security, and networking settings. WHM/cPanel makes life a lot easier, but it's good to know I can compile and configure a LAMP stack without that crutch. Honestly, there were a couple of "head banging on the desk" moments, but I'm all the more capable for it. Also, we now have notes on a lot of the new things I had to figure out.
On the Drupal side, the biggest new experience was in setting up a true e-Commerce package. We've done a number of custom payment processing systems and catalogs in the past, but never a true Drupal store. We decided to use Ubercart for its functionality and Drupal 6 readiness. Ubercart provides tons of features, including Authorize.net and PayPal integration (we went with PayPal Website Payments Pro for quick setup). Its flexible product attributes were also a great fit for the multiple-level pricing per gift.
Finally, it's still a work in progress, but we plan to use Drupal's internationalization and localization to provide a multilingual site, starting with Spanish. We already started the translation integration and Drupal seems like a great fit because much of the needed features are already part of Drupal's core software. This will be a first time since about 1996 that I've done a translated site, so my years of Spanish classes may come in handy again.
All in all, Aid Joy has been quite a challenge and quite an opportunity. Please check out the site and don't be shy to try out the payment processing and give feedback.