Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Tech/geek' category

Techie and geeky. And proud of it.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

WordPress security update

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a security update for WordPress 1.5 (and 1.5+) users who run the default template. The manual fix is pretty easy if you’re familiar with editing code: just add a line of code to one file.

For users of 1.5.1, you might want to upgrade anyway, especially if you didn’t upgrade to (which fixed some issues with feeds/trackbacks/pingbacks).

Posted at 2:18 am | Filed under WordPress |  

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Fanatic about Fanatical Apathy

One of my regular reads is Fanatical Apathy, the blog of Adam Felber from NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!.

Anyway, so he posted a message asking for help with upgrading his blog (which was on Movable Type 2.661) and defeating the comment spam waves. I figured he’d have a bunch of offers already, but there was only one comment on the post, so I e-mailed him and said I’d be happy to help. I’d just moved this, my own blog, from MT to WordPress. So I offered to do that or upgrade to MT 3.xx.

Eventually, he got an enormous outpouring of comments from volunteers for the ol’ upgrade. I didn’t really expect to get an e-mail from him. Even when I saw his name in my inbox, I figured his message was a "Thanks so much; I’ve got it covered" type of thing.

Almost two weeks later (has it really been that long?), I’m sitting here and looking at the new Fanatical Apathy, where Adam Felber has written a post thanking me, and visitors of FA have posted compliments to me. I’ve had a pretty quiet blog life for the past few years, so this is pretty surreal.

Let me go back a little bit and explain more about the blog: I figured that the transfer of power from MT to WordPress would be a simple process, but I ran into some unforeseen…how shall I say this…quirks. I won’t go into details right now. Let’s just say that for the past week and a half, I’ve worked, eaten, and dreamt about WordPress, SQL database backups, text search-and-replace, and MT exports. For the record, let me please urge anyone using MT with a Berkeley database: Just say no. Really. This is your brain. This is your brain on MT-and-Berkeley-DB. Any questions?

Seriously, do yourself a favor and please switch to SQL; it’s much easier to manage, especially if something happens to your MT installation. (And let me clarify…Adam’s site used SQL. But somewhere, sometime, MT had switched to Berkeley.)

In the post I linked to above, Adam mentioned the attack of the giant worms against I really am thankful that I had about 99.1% of his posts saved locally before the virus attack, and the consequent shutdown of MT. I cobbled the rest together, but the comments may not be complete.

To the FA commenters who left a nice note about the site and/or me — thanks very, very much. And of course, thanks to Adam for giving me the chance to work with his blog and for enduring my long-winded e-mails. I really do appreciate all the kind words and the feedback. The thing is, I enjoy doing this blog stuff. Some of the quirks I encountered were a bit challenging, but as I’ve mentioned a little earlier, overall it’s fun. I love learning about WordPress and plugins. I enjoy getting something to work and look good, and still have a site be easy for the reader/visitor to roam through. So it’s wonderful when someone notices and likes something I’ve done with a site. (Shameless plug: if you know anyone who wants to set up a site/blog or otherwise needs blog or Web help, I’m available for hire. 🙂 )

I’m not quite done yet over there, though. Since we had to launch the site early, we still have to iron out a few more things. Since I’ve worked on the new FA, I’ve grown rather attached to it, and I can tell you right now — I’ll monitor everyone’s suggestions and try to improve the site, for as long as I can. As long as Mr. Felber lets me, of course.

If you’re not already reading it, visit Fanatical Apathy. And I’m not just saying that because I worked on the blog. Adam’s writing is full of insight, humor, and aplomb. Go visit and subscribe.

Sunday, 27 March 2005

Links should work now

I just noticed that a few of you trying to access musings from your RSS readers may have run into a 403 error and a message about being detected as a referrer spammer. Whoops. There should have been a link, at any rate, allowing you to click into the site, but still — I’m sorry about the mix-up.

The reason for this happening: I installed Referrer Karma last week and didn’t add FeedBurner to the list of approved referrers. I’ve just added the domain, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting to the site from your feed readers now — but please let me know if you do. If weird things like that happen, just keep in mind that I’m still playing with WordPress and I might unintentionally do things that break the site every now and then.

And yes, Referrer Karma is one of the subjects on my list of WordPress-related items to discuss later. (If you don’t have the tool, I recommend downloading it. It works even if you don’t use WP, as long as your pages run PHP.)

Posted at 8:44 am | Filed under Tech/geek |  

Saturday, 5 March 2005

Migration to WordPress 1.5 complete

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally done. It took me long enough, but I have switched this, my main blog, to WP 1.5. The installations of WP have been fairly simpler than my experiences with Movable Type. I had no problems upgrading from 1.2.x to 1.5, or installing a fresh 1.5. The time consuming aspect is having to re-learn a completely new system. The tags are different, the protocol is different (I didn’t know anything about PHP), and the templates are different. I’ve played with earlier versions of WP before, but Strayhorn has many more features. It took me a very long time to figure out how not to break the PHP (which I did a few times while I modified the templates), but I’m still not sure how to do certain things.

Wrestling with the templates and getting everything to look right on the pages with CSS and the WP tags took me a few days. I couldn’t have done it without the scattered help out there — thankfully, there’s a ton of more documentation (official and otherwise) now, compared to when I first installed WP about a year ago (a very empty Wiki). As time progresses, I hope to post more about this latest migration experience, and to specifically mention the blogs and other sites that helped me along the way.

Some things post-migration:

The site still has some display quirks that I need to iron out if I want to make the blog more user-friendly. Some of that involves the PHP end of things (figuring out how to modify some navigation, for one thing), so it depends on how long it takes me to learn. The most obvious thing you may notice will be the weird line breaks on some of the archived posts. MT had an auto line break toggle, but WP does not. So the posts that did not use the auto line break feature in MT — well, now they have breaks in strange places. I remember reading about this a while back. I hope I can find some way to fix those posts without having to go through each one manually…then again, that may be my only option. It shouldn’t take that long. We’ll see.

The URI for the XML feed has changed, so if you subscribe to musings that way, please update ( ). I’ve set up redirects for the old link. For now, the new feed is enhanced through FeedBurner, and apparently will be compatible for all readers.

That’s about it. Comments should work, although I’ve shut off trackbacks for now. Let me know if something doesn’t work.

So my brief review so far: WP 1.5 is pretty nice — there are some very cool features, e.g. non-date-based pages and the new templates. It just took me a while to figure everything out. I’m sure I’ll have a better idea of the WP vs. MT aspects after I’ve spent some more time posting and managing.

Posted at 9:54 am | Filed under WordPress |  

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

WordPress 1.5 released

In case you missed it…WordPress "Strayhorn" is now available for download. Like all WP users, I’ve anxiously waited for version 1.5 and it’s finally here!

At the end of last year, I announced that I’d switch this blog from MT to WP. I purposely waited for 1.5 before starting the conversion of musings. I’ll install 1.5 here later this week and play around with all of the settings and permalinks before making the switch official.

While waiting for 1.5’s release, I’ve stayed with Movable Type 3.1x and recently opted to render the archives dynamically. I really should have done that sooner — it’s pretty nifty. MT-Blacklist running in the background is also very cool. I’ve been getting a lot more spam hits in the past month, so it’ll be interesting to see how WP fares with comment and trackback spam. (In the WP blogs I have set up, I disabled comments, so I’m not familiar with WP’s anti-spam arsenal.)

Posted at 1:39 am | Filed under Tech/geek | 3 replies »

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Google video search

Google Video Search: searches transcriptions of television programs.

I tried to think of a distinctive episode title of a TV show. I entered "tunguska" into the search box. What does it mean when the first distinctive title I can think of is of an X-Files episode I haven’t seen in over eight years?

The search results: nothing. Then I actually read the text of the Google video search page: "Search recent TV programs online." No wonder. 😉

So then I searched for only+connect and the first result? The ER episode from last week, natch. (No results for the same-titled episode of Joan of Arcadia from September. That’s not recent enough, I guess.)

Clicking on the page for the episode currently displays five screen caps and portions of the transcription at various points of the show that include the words "only" or "connect" — and this is the funny part: the transcription includes commercials! So in this case, three of the results are from adverts.

Yes, I searched for "Forster." It brought up a mention from 24‘s episode "Day 4: 12:00 Noon-1:00PM"…and no, it’s not a reference to E. M. (Turns out that it’s a part of a company name, apparently.)

I also searched for one of my pet peeves regarding (written) dialogue. [rant] I hear this bit of dialogue all the time on TV and in movies, and it’s so repetitive now that it’s distracting and takes me out of the story. Please, writers, I know people really talk like that in real life, but could you please avoid scripting it? If not a moratorium, then how about a "use sparingly" rule? [/rant] 🙂

The search results display images, but as of now, no video files. It’s an interesting new tool, in beta. I’m not sure how it works; the About page does not specify the transcriptions’ sources, but they may be the same ones used for closed captioning (which is not always accurate). The page does say that there’s currently a limited amount of programming available online, beginning from "late December 2004." I don’t know if I’d use it often.

(Found out about from Metafilter.)

Posted at 1:49 am | Filed under Tech/geek, Television |  

Monday, 24 January 2005

Security patch for MT

The patch fixes a vulnerability that allows spammers to hijack the MT comment script and use it to send spam. Not spam comments, but e-mail spam. Apply the patch now, or upgrade to MT 3.15.

I read about this via Photo Matt.

Posted at 11:35 pm | Filed under Tech/geek |  

Thursday, 30 December 2004

Notice anything unusual with the site feed?

If you’re see some strange things happening on this site for the next few days (disappearing posts, broken links/images, changing links, strange temporary posts that say "Testing…"), please ignore them. I’m in the middle of some major changes on how this blog is organized. You may have already noticed the new permanent link structure for individual posts…which, ironically, are not permanent at all. Beware that the individual post archives are an experiment. I may end up deleting all of them! I know, that doesn’t make any sense…but it really depends on how fast the next step happens…

Basically this is an announcement that I’ll probably switch from MT to WordPress. I’ve had enough of the whole rebuilding thing. I’d forgotten how time-consuming it was compared to WordPress, until this past week. I’m not quite sure when the move will take place. Whenever I get around to it, I suppose.

If it takes a few weeks, I’ll try to get a similar document structure working in my MT archives. Since WP is PHP-based, all of the posts with .html file extensions won’t apply after I move. For now I’m going to be playing with MT’s dynamic capabilities. I tried to create cruft-free URIs (with a trailing slash), but I couldn’t figure out how to do it — I found an MT patch that would enable the trailing slashes, but I’m not sure how to run the patch command, since I don’t have shell access to the Web server. So all of the individual posts have .html extensions. (I’d rather have the extensions than the cruft-free file names without a trailing slash.)

We’ll see what happens. The blog isn’t my top priority right now, so don’t be surprised if I end up staying with MT for a while.

Posted at 1:53 am | Filed under Tech/geek | 2 replies »

Thursday, 23 December 2004

Upgrade to MT 3.14

I’ve thrown in the towel and upgraded from Movable Type 2.661 to 3.14, for the comment spam security. I’ve also upgraded Jay Allen’s MT Blacklist. Specifically to v. 2.03-beta, which was just released yesterday.

Speaking of comment spam, check out Elise’s excellent tips on combating comment spam on your blog. Same goes for Neil’s anti-spam arsenal.

Anyway, the upgrades of both pieces of software (MT and MT-Blacklist) went smoothly, except it appears that the comments aren’t working. At first I thought there was no problem — the comment count is correct on each blog entry. However, if there are any comments (e.g. the link says "Comments (2)"), clicking on it doesn’t bring up any.

So after looking in the config screens, it turns out that the status of all the comments are "pending" (even though the default setting had the moderation turned off) — and I’d have to manually approve everything. (That’s something for the wishlist…you can delete comments by selecting them (ticking boxes) and pressing a button, but you can’t (AFAIK) batch-approve comments.) I figured I’d screwed up the installation somehow. So, I tried approving a few comments individually, but…nothing. They still remain "pending."

I tried submitting a new comment. Previewing it looked fine. After I hit the Post button, the comment disappears. I get a notification e-mail saying that the comment was posted, so it’s not pending, right? But when I look in the comments section of MT, guess what? It’s listed as pending. And reloading the blog, the comment isn’t shown in the comment count, either. Hmm.

I checked all of the comment preferences, made sure that moderation is not on, deleted all of the old Blacklist 1.x files, and rebuilt everything. Still, no go.

So obviously there’s something up with either my Blacklist, my MT, or a conflict somewhere, or maybe permissions aren’t set correctly. I’m betting that it’s not Blacklist. It’s probably something I’m overlooking with MT. I don’t think it’s a database problem.

It’s a nutty hour (time flies when you’re troubleshooting), and my head isn’t exactly thinking at full capacity right now. So I’ve probably overlooked something during the installations or with the config settings.

That’s the long way of saying that the comments aren’t working, and I’ll try to figure it out, but don’t be surprised if it takes me a while of researching this and getting it done this week. If you try submitting a comment, at this point, all you’ll get is a blank comments page in return (although your comment will be e-mailed to me). So for this entry at least, I’m nixing the comment option.

P.S. Why didn’t I install WordPress instead? I have WP for another one of my blogs, but I wanted to see what the big fuss for the integrated Blacklist in MT 3.x was all about.

P.P.S. In re-reading this entry, my reaction was, "Oh wow, what horrible grammar." I’ll fix it sometime soon. Maybe if I fix the grammar, I’ll figure out how to fix the comments. Or not. (This is what happens when I need sleep.)

Update – 29 Dec. ’04: Comments are still not working. Also be aware that none of the previous comments are showing up. So, if you click on a link that says "Comments (2)" for example, there should be two comments, but they won’t display in the window. I’m still working on this, but it will take a few more days to sort out a solution (either fixing comments, doing a fresh install of MT, or even migrating to WP).

Update – later on 29 Dec. ’04: Yay! Comments work again! All previous comments should now display correctly, and new comment submissions will be processed correctly. I finally figured out what the problem was. I was all set to do a fresh install of MT into a new directory, but decided to try some things first with the current directory — after all, if I screwed up the current install of MT even more, then no worries, because I would be doing a fresh install anyway. Long story short…it worked!

I’ll explain the solution to my problem in a separate post, but first I need to work on my restructuring my blog archives a little bit (this had nothing to do with the problem, but I’ll explain everything in the forthcoming post).

[Update: Okay, so I won’t explain the solution in a separate entry…instead, I’ll just point to a post I wrote on the MT support forum. (Scroll down to the December 30 post, which explains how I got the comments working again.)]

Posted at 4:20 am | Filed under Tech/geek | 1 reply »

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Blog buttons/stickers

Here are a few 80×15 buttons that I made within the past few months. I created them for my blog, but feel free to save them locally and use them to adorn your own blog. You don’t have to link back to me, but it would be nice if you leave a comment, so I can see some examples of where the buttons are being used. If you use the WBE/Anne Litt button, I’d especially love to hear from fellow WBE fans. Same goes for BBC Radio and BBC 7 fans.

   Weekend Becomes Eclectic with Anne Litt
   [GIF, 214 bytes]

   For fellow fans of KCRW’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic and Anne Litt. I used the nifty Zeller/Kalsey Button Maker for this one.

   BBC Radio
   [GIF, 328 bytes]

   After spotting the NPR Radio button, I looked for a similar BBC Radio sticker but couldn’t find any. So I modded the NPR one with the BBC logo. Maybe someone will make a BBC 7 button. (Lately on BBC 7, I’ve been listening to Bleak House with Michael Kitchen; and of course there are My Word and My Music and The Masterson Inheritance. If you’re not familiar with my radio fandom, check out the unoriginally-named Radio page.)

   Kerry/Edwards 2004
   [GIF, 408 bytes]

   Didn’t find any buttons that had both names, so I Photoshopped this one. The flag icon is the favicon for the John Kerry site.

I’ve already submitted the latter two to Steal These Buttons; however, the backlog of the buttons "pending review" appears to be about eight months long, so my entries may not appear in the directory any time soon.

Posted at 6:28 pm | Filed under Tech/geek | 1 reply »

Thursday, 13 May 2004

The world of blog: new MT upsets fan base

Don’t delete your old MT installation files. You might want to keep the archives for a while.

Today, the Movable Type team released MT 3.0, and sneakily introduced a tier-based licensing scheme. There’s still free version, but for a lot of people (me excluded) it just won’t do: three free blogs for only one author. To get a better idea of how people are reacting, read the MT creators’ blog — scroll down to the trackbacks.

The old download page still exists (although it’s harder to find), so you might want to grab MT 2.661 (the last donateware version) while it lasts. If you’re running a version older than that, read the features/changes made for 2.661.

The new pricing is sad news, because it really alienates a lot of people. I’m sure many will not be upgrading to MT 3.0; on the other hand, it’s probable that the MT folks won’t be releasing any more patches or upgrades for the 2.x line.

I first played with blogging software in Fall 2002: first Blogger; but I disliked having my posts stored on a free, third-party Blogger database that could decide to give out or be lost at any time. Blogger comments were also not native, so if I wanted them I had to figure out which script would be best. So I decided to try something else, and researched a bunch of other free blogging software that I could install on the server. I went through a bunch of different titles, but one day, I happened across a site using MT, with its space hosted by the Web host I was using. Hence, my introduction to MT. I installed the software and decided to stick with it.

A few weeks ago, I was setting up a site that would eventually be a "commercial" one, according to MT’s policies. Since commercial blogs had a licensing fee, I looked into other blogging software with no such restrictions, and decided on WordPress. The documentation leaves a lot to be desired (there really isn’t a single, thorough, well-organized resource on installation; I had to flip through a number of pages to find what I needed), but so far it looks good. Definitely more streamlined than MT, and I do miss some features, but for the most part it’s working out (and it’s free). My favorite aspect of it is the instant updating of posts, with no tedious rebuilding. The most difficulty I had was, really, wrestling with the CSS to get the site to look right.

Certainly, the new Blogger, which made its appearance last week, looks more useful than its older version. The new release has a less clunky interface, a comments feature, and an allowance for permanent links to individual posts.

As for this musings blog, I currently have no plans to switch from MT to WordPress or something else. I suppose I could upgrade to MT 3.0, since I only run one blog, but I really don’t feel like doing it anytime soon. We’ll have to see what happens as blogging software evolves and things like MT 3.0 being for-pay happen.

Posted at 3:43 pm | Filed under Tech/geek |