starting-blast landlocked

Category: blogging

Happy tenth birthday, #WordPress.

I’ve been doing the blogging thing off and on for 7 years, give or take. In that 7 years, I’ve used several different platforms depending on what I was looking for and how much of a headache I wanted. I settled on using wordPress in March of 2009, when it would have been very nearly 6 years old. I’ve never looked back. Today, with several hundred thousand possible themes, plugins, templates and god only knows what else–not counting what’s already built into its core, I don’t think I can ever be convinced to look back. WordPress does half the work for me, which is absolutely awesome if you’re me. And because of the absolutely insane list of just about everything under the sun people have already done to make it even better, you don’t need to be exceedingly well versed in the art of PHP to get things done–also advantage me, who has this nasty habbit of breaking just about everything PHP in several interesting ways before it sort of halfway works.

Today, WordPress turns 10. And already, they’ve got a shortlist of ideas being kicked about for future versions–including a thing I’ve been saying needs to happen with regards posting by email, since I decided to abandon trying to roll my own solution for doing the same (I should probably update that post too, given I discovered other issues with that plugin later on). If even their short-term plans turn out to be as good as what I’ve seen since throwing myself aboard this particular bandwagon, the next 10 years should be awesome squared. But then, just about anything that lets me throw opinions this way and that on whatever crosses my otherwise empty mind is awesome squared.

Happy birthday, WordPress. When next I toss back a shot, it’ll be in your name. Now if we could just talk about hiring me.

If you’re reading this, I’m causing trouble with the family. Or dying a firy death.

It’s around that time again. Time for me to pack up my minimal belongings, drag the girlfriend out the door, and go gain 400 pounds with the assistance of family and a ton of awesome home cooking. Or, if you’re of a different mindset, time for me to kick back, relax, and wait for the whole damn thing to get around to exploding around me. Whichever. there will probably be half a ton of amusement. I may turn up once or twice to post it. But the real hard core blogging’s about to take a vacation. WTN will be back in full swing on or around the 27th. Unless the Mayans were right–then I’ll see you all in hell.

In which WordPress 3.5 fixes menu accessibility. Sort of.

If you’ve jumped on the wordPress bandwagon recently, you know they’ve unleashed version 3.5 on the masses. You probably also know the huge thing they’re jumping all over is the improvements they’ve made to their media library. That is not, however, the huge thing I’m jumping all over. Since about version 3.3, users who have visual impairments and who use a variety of screenreading technologies have had a bit of difficulty, without the use of additional plugins, with accessing the various submenus WordPress has to offer. This is because, in 3.3, they’ve moved to a form of javascript flyout menus that are designed only to appear when the top level menu is hovered over with the mouse. Useful, until you run into someone who can’t use the mouse. Enter yours truely, and a few folks he’s hosting. And enter this little used dialogue on the WordPress bugtracker.

I’ve kept an eye on it since 3.3, and it goes through phases where people will poke and prod at it, then leave it alone for a few months. Apparently, somebody poked and prodded at something else, or just didn’t nail the ticket with that prod, and now, things do what they’re supposed to. Well, mostly. On a clean install of WordPress, which I just so happened to bust out before upgrading this site, completely unmodified from the core platform, the menu links that gave me and others trouble in this ticket behave as expected. And hey look, the menus don’t play hide and seak until you do some fancy dancing with your screenreader of choice’s advanced features–a big plus, in my world. Bonus points for that, guys. So now, we switch to this site. Because if I’m gonna break a bunch of folks I’m hosting, I might as well break me first, yeah? Yeah. So I do. And guess what? Not quite perfect.

The dashboard menus still do what they’re supposed to–that is, be damn well good and visible when they damn well need to be good and visible, without the afore mentioned dancing. But the top level links still don’t read like they’re supposed to without help. A tiny bit annoying, but can still be worked around–with the same workaround I’m already using because of what they broke in version 3.3. If you weren’t aboard the WordPress wagon when I was playing with this, let me introduce you to my new favourite plugin.

OZH Admin Drop Down Menus is a plugin that forces your dashboard menus to stay visible, permanently. It has the side benefit, which is the only reason I’m still using it now, of giving the top level menu links a readable label. Since they improved that area of accessibility in 3.5, I wouldn’t suggest installing it on a new install–unless I just got lucky and it’s actually still largely broken. For on already running installs? Definitely continue to use this plugin. And if you need assistance making it more useable from an accessibility perspective, let me know and maybe we can work a little something out.

Review: Postie for WordPress

So I mentioned I started experimenting with posting by email, for not the first time, on this blog. The plugin I tested for that purpose, the only one that before didn’t really overly irritate me, was Postie. For the most part, it does what it’s supposed to. General usage takes some getting used to, but that can be lived with.

What It Does

Let’s say you get wicked uber popular and your site gets recognised enough that certain overactive filtering systems–I’m looking at you, most corporate firewalls–decide you’re just way too evil for people to read at work. Or in your case, your site’s way too evil for you to post to from work. But you still have mockery material. You could write the whole damn batch in MS Word or somesuch, or, you could play with this plugin. If you create an email address (can be Gmail, if you don’t want or don’t have access to create one on your own domain), then hand the login details to that address to the Postie plugin, anything you send to that address will, if the email address you use is authorised, become website material. the plugin lets you specify things like categories and whatnot in the actual email itself, or in the subject in some cases–part of what takes some getting used to. But if you’re used to how LiveJournal and maybe Blogger do email posting (Does Blogger even do email posting anymore?), it shouldn’t take too much getting used to.

What’s Changed In the Update

The plugin was last updated in August of this year. Before that, it hadn’t seen an update since mid-2011. there was at one point a security concern or two about the plugin, but that seems to have been addressed–more on that below. The biggest change with this update, that I’ve noticed, is it’s become a lot more sensitive to HTML emails. I sent a test email to the site using Outlook, and didn’t switch it to text format. Mostly because I want to see what happens. The plugin saw the email, scanned it, determined it was a possible XSS attack, and promptly deleted the email. Oops. Not exactly the intended result, but hey, easy fix. Switch to text format, send the same test email. It works, almost, as advertised–again, see below. I can probably fix that with one of their other built-in commands. The edited result of the test that actually succeeded is here. Again, easily worked around–took out the extra blank lines at the end, added my update.

What It Won’t Do

I had to test this on my own, though I can probably make it do what I want easily enough. Out of the box, the plugin doesn’t respect post scheduling settings. For instance, I run another modification that pretty much guarantees this post won’t show up 30 seconds after the last one I wrote. It also makes for easy editing if I decide, say, 6 hours later to delete that incriminating paragraph about my caffeine habbit–oh, uh, that’s half the blog. Nevermind. Postie, however, wants to publish things immediately, regardless to when it’s supposed to be published. Works for most people, doesn’t work for me. Or anyone who runs anything remotely like me. But hey, nothing’s perfect.

Security Concerns

In the early days of the plugin, and quite possibly as recent as the 2011 update, there were concerns that the plugin made liberal use of bypassing WordPress’s publishing routines and manipulating the database directly to insert posts. I didn’t get a look at the 2011 code, but in the latest update, the plugin appears to have fallen back to using WordPress’s publishing routines. At least, my 30 second look at the code says maybe. somebody with more time on their hands can feel free to provide me with a free education though.

Conclusion

For what most people will use it for, the plugin does what it should. I didn’t test things like images, or videos, but I also very rarely post videos, and even more rarely post images. But it does what I expected it to do, with the exception of respecting automatic scheduling modifications. Use this plugin if you want to be able to post from behind a corporate firewall. Don’t use this plugin if you expect to be able to do so in accordince with some other posting structure. At least, not without some slight modifications. Then, feel free to share those mods with yours truely.

In which James gets run over by awesome and doesn’t even realize.

So about this whole blogging more often thing. Yeah, about that. How’s that going? Hint: don’t answer–I already know. That’s kind of what happens when life decides to say hi, how’s it goin’. But, hey, it’s still less than a month since the last entry. I’m not completely slacked off, right? … Right? … Right.

So what’s the geek been distracted with that’s kept him from brainmelting all over the place? Catching up, mostly. You know, when you take2 days off from your usual routine, it takes you about 10 to actually clean up after it. I took 4. It wasn’t a completely unproductive 4 days, though–I did meet some supremely awesome folks during the downtime. It’s what happens when you stick me in the audience at a show put on by Propeller Dance, which is where I spent a good sized chunk of one of those off days. And in so doing, I very nearly tripped and fell over a few wicked awesome people–one of which, I didn’t know until that night, actually writes a blog I have occasionally been referred to for sources of random amusement/general “what the hell does this much caffeine do to this person” type commentary. Which, uh, kind of reminds me–hey, Zoom? If you still actually read this, she says she knows you.

On top of that, there’s the usual. I take 30 seconds to find something mock-worthy, life takes 30 seconds to create distractions. this time, in the form of a move that ended up not happening–no, not mine–I try to move once every two years if I can help it. But I actually didn’t need to go remind me how to get back into this thing again, since I have a nasty little habbit of waiting until *after* the cookie containing my password goes and dies on me before deciding hey, maybe I should log in. That’s progress, dammit. Lack of blog, however, doesn’t mean lack of content–I’ve still got a pile. It will make it up here, I just haven’t the slightest idea as to when. As for right now? I have caffeine. And you have to go read The Maven of Mayhem. No, seriously. You do. Go. I’ll wait. By the time you’re done alternating between snorting your beverage of choice and spitting it out, something useful will probably make it up here. If it doesn’t, it’s probably because she’s posted something else and I’m joining you. Now. Where’d I put my caffeine refill?

Welcome to the big leagues, Vomit Comet!

A long long time ago, in a reality far far away, Blogger used to actually be useful. When that came about, so too did a couple snarky bastards with a talent for mockery and making the stupid seem somewhat–well, okay, a lot–more ridiculous than it should. Then, Blogger stuck them the middle finger. Now, these guys are about as alergic to the word no as I am. So they grabbed everything they had, told Blogger exactly which cliff to jump off and when, and can now be stalked at will over here. And yes–naturally–they are fans of the wordpress. Welcome to the bigs, VC. May your mockery lead to much more creativity, now that you’re not also doing the you suck at accessibility dance. Now, for the love of cheese, please don’t bust the server. That’s my job.

In which life says hello, and the blog takes a back seat.

This is what happens when life takes off at full speed. The blog tends to sit over here and do several different kinds of collecting dust. Newyears resolution: correct this malfunction, immediately. Thinga have been happening in wicked fast pace here, which naturally means I haven’t actually been even keeping up on the whole hockey thing–thanks, Shane, for at least filling me in on *most* of what I missed. Now things can calm down just in time for my team to inevitably fall apart.

The holidays are insane on a good day, which accounts for most of my time spent doing things not related to blogging. What accounts for the rest? A mutual friend of both Shane and myself came down with some pretty nifty little medical issues–some of which, some of you are already familiar with. That’s required we be a lot more not near electronics than usual around here while those get fixed and otherwise taken care of. Thankfully, she’s kind of on her way towards recovery now, which means–you guessed it–back to business as usual around here.

It’s been pretty low key on the familial front. Mother’s still working too much, dad’s still working too much, brother’s still–well, okay, nothing he does is low key but there’s not enough room in this entry for that. Oh, and–surprise of surprises–I’m single again. The reasons behind it aren’t worth going into detail publicly–again, some of you already know and the rest, well, probably have theories. But suffice it to say I kind of saw it coming. For those of you who read Jessica’s blog when she posts to it, it’ll be up again just as soon as she figures out what she’s doing with it–and if it’s actually going to get any kind of continued use. Outside of that, it’s been a pretty routine month and a bit–where routine equals anything but. but now, there’s time. And where there’s time, there’s all kinds of random. New year, which means new posting habbits, new mockery, and a new year end show to be kicked off at 9:00 tonight on Mojo Radio. Drop in, say hello, and have a listen (links are over here), while we do 2011 right–and get trashed. Look for more blog content from this corner–including my 2011 review, starting… well… later tonight or early tomorrow. Maybe. But it’s coming. In the meantime, we now return you to whatever you were doing before I distracted you.

The obligatory post… from the iPhone.

I am about to break my own rule. But before I do that, it has to be said that this week, with no exceptions, was a box of awesome, packed in epic, with a win topping. Jessica came by for the week, as she’s known to do. We had several things planned, and I’m fairly sure we crossed most of them off the list.

A lot of reconnecting was done, and plenty of amusing fun was the result. She came in on Friday, and we went to Pembroke right from the station for my aunt and uncle’s 25th anniversary. We were able to introduce her to more of my extended family who, as I suspected, strongly approved. A ton of fun was had, alcohol–the bar variety–was consumed and dancing was done. Afterwards, it was back to Ottawa and the awesome waiting there.

Monday was getting Jessica used to the place, since she hadm’t been here before. Tuesday was our first official show on Mojo Radio, in preparation for something we’ve been working on for a few months. We test our usual setup for such things in a week or two if all goes well. Wednesday was more relaxing, and getting ready for Thursday.

One of the things Jessica wanted to get done was to meet up with a local friend of ours–you may know him as Blind Bandit. So we did the least recommended thing and mixed that with booze. The result? Posted on Shane’s blog and not fit for public consumption. Friday was more relaxing, and today, we sadly have to return her.

The week wasn’t all party and insanity, though. Sjhe cane up to belatedly wish me a happy birthday. And, in so doing, might have just removed my biggest–or, at least, second biggest–knock against the iPhone. I’ve been saying the thing needed a dedicated, physical keyboard since before I got one, and nearly screaming it after. Because she has that whole listening thing down to an art, she went and picked one up for my birthday. Hence, this post is being finished while on the road. I’ll write a review of this thing when I get home. As for now, I should probably go say goodbye to my girlfriend.

The blog returns, a new server’s to blame.

If I had a dollar for every fun thing that happened this past month, I could probably get off disability altogether. The month came to an end with probably the most exciting fun I’ve had in, let’s say, ever. And by exciting, I mea not really. I’ll save the details for an entry to be named later, but suffice it to say we were offline for the better part of 3 days while information was pried from various friendly turned hostile hands and a rebuild was completed. But, the blog’s back, as is all my various other methods of fun torment. Which means back to business as usual. Just as soon as I get back to my usual level of caffeine. I’ve been running on quite a bit of it lately. I blame the entry to be named later. Happy reading, folks. I’m back.

Finding new and interesting ways to break the blog. this time, get updates by email!

I had planned to unleash this a long, long time ago, but hadn’t found a way of doing it that didn’t result in pieces of blog landing on my living room floor. So, during a time last night when I didn’t have a whole lot else going on–and while my desktop was undergoing minor surgery (more on that in another entry), I finally sat down and went through with it. Now, just by going over here, you can subscribe to receive everything I post by email, shortly after I post it. Wanna follow the comments that result? I’ve revamped that system a bit, too. Now, pick your post, optionally leave a comment, hit the subscribe option, and you’ll be on the email list for comments received on that post. Or, just go here and subscribe to the posts of your choice. Now, you won’t just get replies to your comments emailed to you. You want comments? You get comments. Happy conversationing!

Randomly related: I should not be left to my own devices with this blog, PHP, and a WordPress plugin library. Just an observation.

Happy unraptured day!

Yeah, I know. I fail this hard at updating and that’s my best title? I blame recovering from the last week, which kind of went like this in no particular order. Get moved out of the old place, into the new place, fight with our ISP to actually get online, blow my 3G data quota before getting online, spend most of the week fighting with our ISP to get online in a way that doesn’t suck, learn that’s not going to happen with this modem and as long as the routes we’re assigned keep sucking horrible, throw groceries at my fridge in ways that haven’t been done since 2008, and oh yeah, discover just having moved into this apartment means clearing out the last of the previous tenant’s, er, crap. And on top of that, the world was scheduled to end yesterday. Oopsies. Basicly, it’s been fun. And now that it’s all relatively calmed down–at least as much as it can be expected to be when back in Ottawa, actual content. But first, a moving WTF/rant/mockery thing. Next entry, assuming I don’t get sidetracked.

Death to spam comments. Or, at least, generous amounts of pain.

For as long as the blog’s been up, I’ve had a kind of open commenting policy. Any entry, posted any time, for any reason, could be commented on by those
who happened across it. Most of those, though, have ended up being everyone’s favourite excuses for target practice–yep, spam incorporated. To the tune of nearly 1300 of them at last look. So, I went tweaking. And what I came up with? The comment locker outer, of sorts. Effective as of about half an hour ago, entries older than 6 months automatically have their comments turned off. Wanna comment on an older entry? There’s probably a more recent one on the same subject–throw an opinion over there. Have something specific to that one entry? Let me know, and it may get a spot as an entry of its very own. Wanna see what else is breaking all over the place? The front page, or any of the category pages, are always a good place to start–and they all have their own RSS feeds. Spammer with an entry to bombard? I hear wordpress.com has several blogs with open commenting policies–try one of those. Welcome to housekeeping. Now, then. Where’d I go and put my spam spray?

Anyone wanna guess what this is?

No? Okay fine. This would be, for the first time in a little bit over a month, my attempted reemergence into the realm of this whole blogging thing. This may or may not include yet more mockery, and that thinggy I’m supposed to do about what you guys were reading last month–conveniently, 4 or 5 days before I should be doing that thing about what you were reading while I was being all unavailable and things. There’s an abso-freaking-lute metric ton of crap I probably could, and should, be writing about. Sadly, most of it kind of stopped applying about 2 weeks ago–sorry, life does that to ya. Things that do get a mention here and may or may not be elaborated on when I have slightly more brain power. In list format, because hey, first post in a month, here. Lazy.

  • Moving: Jessica got herself all moved in, relatively in one piece and with most of what sanity she has left after dating and being engaged to me intact. Her stuff, thankfully, also made it to the other end in one pice. Find her take on that and several million other things over on her blog. Go now. I’ll wait.
  • Technology: I’d started the process before I left, and finished it while down there–in and around the above mentioned move. Shortly before my return to Canada–where I’m currently flaed out now, the new laptop I’d been aiming for met me here. It’s nifty cool, in the wicked sense. Still getting used to using Windows 7 on a more than occasional basis, but hey, so far I’m not complaining much.
  • The stupid: there’s acrap ton of it. It starts with local cab companies, and it’ll all warrant separate entries. Again, see the need for more brain power.
  • Hockey: the playoffs are closing rappidly in on us. There will be playoff mockery involved. There will not be Leafs recaps involved–again. Ah well. You saw it coming.
  • Leafs: I quit. At least for this season. I haven’t done a recap since mid-February. To recap this many games would be both exceedingly spammy and a very good reason to develop a migraine. Naturally it would also double as an excellent exercise in frustration–like all mid to late season attempts at playing the comeback kid do. You’re just not that team, Toronto. Sorry.
  • Mockery: Oh, dear lord, the mockery. Not in this post, but the mockery. I’m buried in it. It’ll get posted over the next couple days. Trust me–it’ll be more than worth the wayt.

So that’s kind of where I’ve been. Now, where’d I put my caffeine?

The-jdh.com turns 5, and my incitefulness takes a walk.

Back in 2006, before I had much of an idea I’d be getting into this whole regular blogging thing, I thought it’d be kinda neat to try out this whole having your own web address thing. I did the registration process, the configuring, and after a while, I even started shoving my email over there. Hey, I was 22–that was a big thing for me. Then later on came the first incarnation of the blog, and I actually got into a sort of semi-regular habbit of at least throwing, er, something up there. Even if it wasn’t overly entertaining–it was considered my very own answer to Blogger and LiveJournal. I’d throw something at it, and maybe it’d stick. Or maybe it’d be one of the myriad useless little quizzes I’d post out of boredom. That was what it was here for. Then I got serious about it.

I still didn’t do it with the expectation of milions of readers and thousands of comments–good thing, as I think I managed maybe half a dozen at one time, but I did it because it was there for something to do. 5 years later, I still post whatever comes to mind–or across my desk via RSS feeds. And I still do it for something to do. I’m not expecting 80 million readers, though when I write something that catches on I don’t exactly shake my head at it. I do it because. And hey, sometimes, I actually offer something up that other people don’t know. And sometimes, other people drop by and I learn a thing or two. Okay, so maybe that’s why I do it.

I keep trying to invent something inciteful/witty/whatever, but I got nothin’. Not a very impressive showing for 5 years. So instead, have 5 of my favourite posts from all 3 incarnations of the blog.

The blog turns a year old without me noticing.

On November 5th, 2009, I wrote this entry. That kicked off my blogging the second time around on this domain. That also kicked off my experience using WordPress as the blogging platform of choice, and moving away from LiveJournal. Since then, I’ve written a crap ton of entries, received some awesome feedback, thrown every post and comment under the sun from previous incarnations of this blog up here for consistency, and converted a person or two to the usage of WordPress–hello, Jessica, who hasn’t blogged in a small age herself. Oh yeah, and ranted/vented about several hundred things of a geeky and not so geeky nature. And it only occured to me I’ve been consistently doing this for a bit over a year about 2 minutes ago. Not bad for something I do just because it’s there to be done.

With the exception of a 4-month break last year, I’ve been fairly non-stop blogging in one way, shape or form for nearly 5 years. But for some reason, the 1-year mark of this particular version of this particular blog sticks out for me. Probably because when I started this blog, I’d just settled in after a move out of Ottawa to try and save me a little coin and now, just a month after the blog’s 1-year anniversary (Do blogs *have* anniversaries?), I’m investigating another creative little move in an attempt at saving me money. Whatever it is, and whyever it’s stuck out for me, there you have it. Happy belated anniversary to the blog. Next milestone? Five years blogging in general.

Hang on a sec. Where’d November go?

The last time I looked, I swear, it was just coming up on the end of October. I seem to have misplaced the first half of the month of November. Between halloween festivities, technical issues, medical issues and the back and forth and several other directions all of the above had me going in, I’m not sure “whirlwind” would quite describe the last couple weeks. Still, it’s the best description I can come up with, so have that.

Things have started to calm down now in most if not all areas previously of concern. Mom’s recovery’s going amazingly well–she was out with dad and I for the afternoon, which she wouldn’t have been able to do a week ago, which is a definite indicator. The computer my parents have been hanging onto for the last 10 years or so, who I’ve affectionately–okay, maybe not so much–nicknamed the frankenputer, has finally officially been declared dead, and been replaced with one that doesn’t look like it was put together from parts of a few other, less fortunate machines–and runs Windoes 7 like a dream, just for the record. Good things happen when the geek goes shopping. And life has generally stopped spinning in a hundred different directions at once. Which gives me plenty more time to get back to my regularly scheduled mockery of any and all things mockworthy.

I loved being super busy and internet restricted for a few days. Particularly seeing as I had plenty of offline things to keep me busy during that time. But as she who is my current patient, for lack of a better way to describe her, is slowly getting back to her usual self, I’m going to gradually have less offline things to do–which means a return to that which is my normal, everyday, usual routine. As much as I loved the last couple weeks, I’m going to love the slow return to normality just about as much. Or maybe it’s the excuses I’ll invent to play with a computer that can bring Facebook up in about 5 seconds, as opposed to 15 minutes–hey, the father unit checked that out for himself. I’m still resisting. Either way, I’m going to like this very nearly, if not equally, as much. Now let’s go see if I can find the rest of November.

Another win for WordPress. Like it needs it.

I’ve been using WordPress since I brought the blog back to life from its previous incarnation over on LiveJournal. Mostly because it’s extremely good at what it does and, well, what it doesn’t do you can usually convince it to with minimal headache. I did check out windows Live Spaces quite a while ago, mostly because I used to read a blog or two over there–they subsequently are no longer updated; go figure. Problem was, Microsoft did almost nothing right from the perspective of accessibility/useability. And even less right from the perspective of features people might actually want to use. And, now, according to TechCrunch, they’re taking it out back and shooting it. They’re giving users of the service 6 months to decide what they want to do with their content, including having the option to migrate it over to the hosted version of WordPress, WordPress.com, but in 6 months, Windows Live Spaces will die. Can’t say I’ll miss Spaces, but thanks for the help wordpress doesn’t really need, in any case. Now if Blogger would just do that we’d be in business.

Because 2 years of “file not found” is long enough.

Every so often, I have such an idiot moment that it takes me forever to realise I was a complete moron. One of those moments happened, sadly enough, during the rebirth of the blog on this domain. For folks who’ve been keeping score, I’ve actually shifted blogging platforms twice–once from Movable Type to LiveJournal, and then from LiveJournal to WordPress. In all that time, while folks could always see the old blog over here, that left a gigantic hole on this site–one that quickly filled up with requests for pages that no longer existed. Enter the moronic that is me.

Being that I deal with computers, the interwebs, and things that make both tick on a regular basis, you’d think I’d of clued in on this a lot sooner than I did. Turns out–and I should have known this–search engines, other websites, random spambots etc don’t actually stop looking for a page just because said page stopped existing in 2008. Nor, for that matter, does anyone actually correct broken links it would appear. And, since until this morning I didn’t even have a clue how to go about doing that, they just kind of sat there returning the standard 404 request.

Fortunately, because the year I was on LiveJournal meant I wasn’t using this domain for it, there’s that much fewer posts I had to worry about correcting. That just left the 600 and change from the old MT install. Three hours on Google, various message boards, and other asorted sites later, I came across what I think might just be the almost right solution for that particular problem. After testing it on a handful of posts that I’ve been able to confirm were tossing back 404 errors, and finding them no longer doing so, I can safely say the blog now works entirely–or virtually so, if nothing else–the way I originally intended to.

The how and the why is semi-technical, though if anyone’s interested in the boring details I’ll be more than happy to elaborate. But, the short version goes something like this. Movable Type, for all its usefulness, had one huge drawback. It built static HTML files. Which, okay, made serving posts etc pretty much amazing. But once you got up to a certain amount of activity–the publishing of new posts and comments–the rebuilding of those static HTML files took about a hundred years. It also didn’t allow for a whole lot of flexibility in how you linked to those files. If you changed the post title and wanted to update the permalink to account for the change, MT didn’t give you much support for redirection to the new URL. You pretty much had to change it manually, then provide the redirection manually. Adding to the complication that is MT’s way of doing things, the directory structure it came up with was something like: http://www.the-jdh.com/2010/06/05/some_post_title_here.html . WordPress, on the other hand, goes more along the lines of: http://www.the-jdh.com/2010/06/some-post-title-here/ . Ignoring the arguments as to which one’s better than the other–I don’t really care to be honest, it presented a small problem post-migration. Problem solved.

A little addition in plugin form to WordPress, and the URL you request from the server suddenly serves a secondary purpose. It gets handled in this way.

  • If the post and/or page requested exists, serve it as per normal.
  • Failing that, scan the current list of posts/pages for a post who’s title matches the keywords available in the URL.
  • If a matching post is located, redirect the browser to that post and hope that’s the one they were looking for.
  • If nothing is found, return the standard 404 page as per usual and get on with the normal routine.
  • If more than one option is found, then, optionally–meaning whenever I get around to implementing it–provide a list of suggested entries similar to what was detected in the URL.
  • If none of those applies, then we have a bigger problem than I thought and I really should consider not tweeking the site while half a mile from no sleep.

Since nothing’s blown up at me during my testing, it’s a pretty safe bet things are at least 90% not broken. Or they’re clever about hiding their brokenness. Now, about that half a mile of sleep thing. Time to go fix that next.

5 years of blog, now in one convenient location.

I’ve had the domain name now belonging to this blog since January of 2006. For a little over a year starting in 2008, my blog was not primarily hosted here but rather on LiveJournal. Before that, it was proudly hosted here and using Movable Type. As of today, I’ve brought the posts and comments from both blogs back to this site. As of a few moments ago, you can scroll back through over 5 years of entries, 1652 in all, belonging to all 3 blogs. There’s still a crap ton of spam to weed out, but as of this moment, my blogging history is complete.

In slightly unrelated news: I am now prepared for the eventual day when LJ goes sideways. Advanced planning from the guy who avoids at all cost advanced planning. Who knew?

Windows Live Writer review: epic accessibility fail.

I like to think I’m halfway patient. Kind of. In that way that kind of makes some people consider beating me over the head for being too stubborn for my own good. Still, that having been said, Windows Live Writer just beat the royal hell out of me so far as accessibility goes. Huge.

After fighting to get it to show me the screen to write a blog entry in a manner that doesn’t do hurty things to my head, I discover it wants to create its own standards for entry formatting–including throwing HTML where it really hasn’t got any business throwing it. For right now, it’s imperfect solutions time. Which means I do the majority of my work via Semagic, now that I’ve finally gotten it to play nice with something that isn’t LJ, and what I can’t do with this will get done from the web. In the meantime, the hunt is on for a third party client that is:

  • accessible
  • flexible
  • compatible with WordPress’s newer features
  • not necessarily restricted by LiveJournal’s limitations–I’d like to be able to make full use of nested categories, etc.

I don’t particularly think I’m being entirely too demanding in this search. I also don’t think such a beast exists, or exists for free in any event. Meantime, if you’re planning to use Windows Live Writer, reconsider. It, for lack of a better word, is crap. From an accessibility perspective, Microsoft fails. Hardcore. I should probably know that already. Ah well, that’ll learn me.

Testing out the Windows Live Writer.

I’ve been doing this long enough now that I think I’m fairly well justified in wanting to look for something that doesn’t require I pull up the website in order to write a post. Not that I don’t like the WordPress interface, but sometimes, I don’t want to wait for the site to load up when I have the option of doing this locally. So, as I’ve been known to do, I took advantage of the fact I wasn’t doing anything overly constructive right now anyway, and started playing around with Windows Live Writer. I know, it’s a Microsoft program and I’m more than a little anti-Microsoft some days. But, unfortunately–yet again–they’re so far the most promising accessibility solution out there at the moment. It does take a tiny bit of creative work with the keyboard to get things set up in such a way that I won’t have to go into the website directly and clean up after it–at least, I’d better bloody well not, which is in my book of absolute lazy a definite +5. Beyond that, and for right at this very moment, with the slightest of tweeking here and there I suspect this may or may not end up being something I can use without pulling my hair out. Now, provided this thing doesn’t do about a hundred different kinds of breaking on me, I shouldn’t in theory need to try and convince Semagic that it really really really wants to play nice with the WordPress API. I’ve noticed LiveJournal clients/services tend to virtually implode on themselves when asked to do non-LJ things. And at the moment, I don’t particularly feel like tinkering with the internals of those protocols. I’m still recovering from the last time, after all.

In which James changes it up, and very nearly breaks things.

One of these days, I’ll remind myself I meant last month to remind myself to pick a theme and stay with it. It won’t be today, though. I decided I like the 3-column approach much better, particularly so far as my plans for the site go. Mostly, I’m not cramming everything over on the right hand side, which makes my life just slightly easier. Of course, there’s yet to be a theme created that I haven’t had to slightly modify to meet my tastes. That goes just as well for this one. And, in the process, the blog very nearly went completely sideways–thus further solidifying the fact I should not be messing with PHP, particularly on no sleep. Much as I shouldn’t be blogging on no sleep–I’ve managed to require use of the backspace key roughly a dozen times so far, but that hasn’t stopped me either. Fortunately, WordPress is very good about warning me when I’m about this close to completely and totally screwing things up. And its documentation is plenty good enough that, if I do manage to screw things up entirely too wrongly, unscrewing them isn’t too difficult either. Now, if they just had a similar solution to my ability to screw up posting. Oh well, can’t have it all. Now, perhaps I should consider correcting this no sleep thing. I’ve broken the blog enough for one night.

Virtually spam free, and lovin’ it.

Every so often, Mike will post some nifty little trick or tool he uses that makes doing X, Y or Z about a hundred times easier than some would argue it has to be–thanks for the Google Analytics pointer, by the way. So it surprised the hell out of me when he wrote this post at the beginning of the month about having to deal with comment spam. And, I had to wonder. How in the hell does a guy who’s been blogging on one platform for longer than I’ve been blogging on 3 deal with it?

In his defense, he uses Movable type, which has okay–though definitely not great–spam catching and destroying abilities. But it needs a *lot* of manual intervension to do it. Part of the reason I got fed up and switched to LiveJournal for a couple years, and then eventually to WordPres–the self-hosted version. They too used to require by default a hell of a lot of manual intervension in the spam department.

Now, though, since I’m not exactly sure which version, they make use of the Akizmet plugin for catching and either holding or deleting spam before it gets posted to the blog. Since making use of this plugin, and granted the blog’s only been around for about 3 months or so, I’ve only ever had perhaps two spam comments make themselves known in this little corner of the intertubes. For comparison’s sake, there are currently 34 comments waiting for me to boot them out of the spam queue, and a total of 129 that were caught altogether by the plugin. Compare that with my old MT blog, now sadly very very neglected and collecting plenty of spam on really old entries. In its prime, on that blog, I’d spend probably an hour a day picking spam comments out of my entries and tossing them in the pile to be later set on fire. I’d of given my first born for an Akizmet-like plugin for use on that platform. And, of course, now that I’m no longer using MT, I learn they have one. If I knew then what I know now, and all that stuff.

Movable Type made me hate spam. WordPress made me kill it. And Akizmet’s to blame. I’m 3 months virtually spam free, and so far, I’m lovin’ it.

And now, posts by email. Sort of.

Because not everyone’s going to be absolutely in love with this whole RSS thing, and because, as I’ve been discovering lately, RSS doesn’t necessarily translate to easy access, I’ve finally decided to start with the implementing something that might make things just a little bit more… well, readable for everyone. So now, thanks to my finally getting around to getting off my rear and doing something about it, and thanks to Feedburner making it just slightly less than painless, WTN by email is born. I have no idea how much breakage will be involved, and how much borderline insanity will be the result, but it’s here. You can find the subscription form in the sidebar. Now if I can just figure out how to keep the rest of it from blowing up in my face, I’ll be miles happy.

I’m a huge fan of conversation.

That’s a large part of the reason I’m on Twitter. Until recently, my blog’s been a very poor reflection of that. Sure, it has comments, and they’re on–posts are commentable for up to 90 days, but unless a habbit was made to check back on a particular post, it’s a little difficult to see when someone decides to reply to you. Particularly since most folks still haven’t quite gotten the hang of RSS feeds–there’s one for comments as well, in case those that do are interested. So, I’ve finally gotten around to fixing that minor malfunction. Now, if someone, including me, replies to a comment you leave on the blog, you’ll get an email with your original comment and the reply. Coming whenever I can find time to do it, receiving entries by email. Because I’m also a fan of lazy. Quite possibly also why I’m on Twitter.

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