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I fought the lawn… and the lawn won

To all my Blogger/Blogspot friends

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Sunday, February 5, 2006

Holy cow, what’s been going on with Blogger this weekend???

It’s been a bit of a shock to realize how many sites I visit are hosted on Blogger. Practically three-quarters of my known universe! (Okay, three-quarters of my bookmarks.)

Also down yesterday: the Blogger status page. I tried to follow what was going on at the Blogger Forum, and it didn’t look good.

Imagine what would happen if everything was wiped clean? I reel at the thought. A bit of “Mount Vesuvius does Pompeii” comes to mind. Think of the multitude of information that might’ve been lost forever!

Now that you’re up again (cross your fingers that you stay up!) you should back up your templates and posts if you haven’t already done so.

Here are instructions for backing up your Blogger/Blogspot blog.

If you’re using Haloscan for comments, though, your comments won’t be backed up—you have to do that separately. Here are instructions for backing up Haloscan comments. I couldn’t find information about backing up Haloscan trackbacks.

Those of you who hate being tied to Blogger, please consider WordPress Free Blog Hosting or better yet, paying for web hosting at a reputable company. There are several decent hosts out there that don’t cost much. You can back up your blog, comments, and trackbacks all at once, no fuss, no muss.

I use HostGator. 24/7 support, baby, with total control over your content. You can’t beat it. (They’ve got a good article about choosing a web host over there, too.)


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How to search the Prescient Miss Snark

Filed under: Geek Wannabe,Reading on Friday, February 3, 2006

Miss Snark needs an index. Today she recommended that new users search her site with Google for answers to their questions.

Google can help. Enter “miss Snark” and the topic, like “writers conferences” and you’ll be surprised what pops up. Miss Snark

The only problem with this method is that it brings up all the pages on the internet containing the words “Miss,” “Snark,” “writers” and “conferences.”

This is a slightly better way to search: type the search term, like “telling lies” into the Google search box. Make a space and follow with “site:misssnark.blogspot.com”.

It should look like this:

Now the only thing that’ll come up are Miss Snark’s pages, including her July 6, 2005 post, “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit.”

But, there are other books categorized as non fiction
and published by major publishers that have wild ass claims
as well.

Edward Klein’s diatribe about Hillary Clinton leaps to mind.
And James Frey’s Million Little Pieces.

I haven’t read Klein, and don’t intend to.
I did read James Frey’s book and found myself wondering-
did anyone check up on this?
It’s a memoir, and truth is stranger than fiction, and maybe
I’m too much a cynic but there are some parts of that
book that made me wish he’d published it in the New Yorker.
The New Yorker has a fact checking department that is
pretty much legendary.

Miss Snark, July 6, 2005, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit,” posted three months before Oprah announced A Million Little Pieces as her latest book club selection, and five months before the Smoking Gun exposed the real story behind Frey’s “memoir.”

A Reading from the Book of WordPress

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Saturday, January 21, 2006
  1. In the beginning the WordPress gods upgraded the WordPress software from 1.5.2 to 2.0.
  2. And the 1.5.2 Dashboard was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the preview screen. And the Spirit of WordPress 2.0 moved upon the face of computer monitors everywhere.
  3. And Bonnie said, “Yikes! It’s about time I finally upgraded, too,” and she did.
  4. And Bonnie saw the upgraded Dashboard, that it was good: and Bonnie saw her SmartArchives, that they were broken.
  5. And Bonnie called the new preview screen WYSIWYG, and the bug that dated all her previewed posts Dec. 31, 1969 she called Bad. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
  6. And MacManX said, “Let there be uploaded changesets in the midst of the new WordPress 2.0, and open each of those changesets in a new tab from oldest to newest, and look through each tab and leave only the most recent changeset per file open.”
  7. Or something to that effect.
  8. And Bonnie followed his directions, even though she was initially very confused—but then she is always confused—and upgraded again.
  9. And nothing fell off her computer, and that was good.
  10. When the dust cleared, Bonnie called the preview screen “Heaven” and the Smart Archives “Still Broken.” She fixed the Archives using a combination of Smart Archives 1.01 and Smart Archives 1.12.
  11. And she gave thanks to MacManX for introducing her to Changesets, and the evening and the morning were the second day.

Upgrading to WordPress 2.0

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Thursday, January 19, 2006

Upgrade time: I’m deactivating plugins… things may look broken for a little bit, until I get it working right.

Just so you know. Don’t want to leave you out of the loop!

UPDATE:

I did it. My Archives broke, so I made a little fix for them until I can figure out what’s going on.

Otherwise everything seems to be working. Have to get used to the new Dashboard… it’s spiffier, that’s for certain. It looks like the WordPress guys still haven’t figured out Quicktags for Safari users, though. Bummer!

I’m hoping WordPress 2.0 won’t ping or trackback other blogs until the post actually publishes, a problem I’m having when I pre-publish posts. Otherwise, I’m very happy with WordPress and am glad to recommend it.

UPDATE:

Yowza, the new preview screen is INCREDIBLE. That was one thing that really bothered me about the old WordPress: the way the preview screen worked, like how blockquotes always showed up centered and with larger fonts than the rest of the post.

The new 2.0 is WYSIWYG, including header, sidebar and footer. Amazing!

Poop Today

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Sunday, January 8, 2006

4:56 Promo video for Google Video. Alas, very much like every other promo videos for CONTENT! we’ve seen all week. Just waiting for them to get to the inevitable “… lets consumers control what they want, when they want, where they want …”

Ok, they didn’t say it, and the clip ended with a funny, creative special-effects video of two guys sort of hackey-sack dancing in mid-air. [It’s called Poop Today? ]

Paul Botin, “Live Coverage of Google Keynote with Robin Williams,” Engaget.com

This is why I want to be a geek, so I can fly around grassy fields while some off-camera guys chant, “Poop today? Poop today?”

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Apologies to RSS readers

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Saturday, October 22, 2005

I had an issue with a blog aggregator that made me realize I don’t want to give full content to my RSS feed, not even with Angusman’s copyright plugin.

I switched on the WordPress “summary” RSS option and my RSS posts immediately began to look funky. A trip to the forum taught me that WordPress strips HTML tags from the RSS summary if the excerpt field is empty.

So I immediately created excerpts for all my posts excerpt fields… only to discover the feeds STILL looked bad, because it’s hard to tell they’re only excerpts.

The feed may continue to go nuts this weekend as I figure it out.

Truth Laid Bear is Evolving

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Truth Laid Bear has started something new:

At long last, I’ve added a helpdesk support system to TTLB.

Going forward, please submit helpdesk tickets for Ecosystem, PorkBusters, or other issues/questions you may have, rather than sending them to me via email. This will help me organize my support efforts, and more quickly and effectively respond to issues.

What kind of issues can people possibly have with TTLB?

Dear Mr. Bear:

I am not evolving quickly enough in the Ecosystem. What’s worse, you know that little system reboot you did a little while back? Well, it turned me back into a Crawly Amphibian, when I had reached Slithering Reptile status!

Quelle Horreur! My very own de-evolving, and it was just as unpleasant as they made it out to be on Star Trek.

I hope you won’t mind my asking that you please keep all future system reboots to yourself. I mean, I appreciate all the ranking you do and all, but still.

Yours very sincerely,

Bonnie “Just call me Newt” Wren

BBEdit vs. Taco: Taco Wins

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Thursday, October 6, 2005

Textwrangler proved to be too much for me when I downloaded it oh, so many months ago. So I stayed with TextEdit, which is quite sufficient for any text-wrangling I need to do. (I used to use Alpha, but it just a little bit buggy and slow in OS X and there doesn’t seem to be that much support for the HTML module.)

But I’m still on Bare Bones Software‘s registered users list, so I got their e-mail offer to save $100 on BBEdit’s normal price of $199. That’s a great deal, except $99 is still an awful lot for a non-programming geek wannabe like me to pay for an HTML editor I barely need.

I dip my toes into PHP when I have to. I spend most of my time working in HTML and CSS. For what little I do, Taco works fine, and it’s free!

I think a real TextWrangler geek would jump at the chance to own BBEdit for $99, though, so here’s the link for what Bare Bones Software calls the BBEdit 8.2 Cross-Upgrade offer.

Remember: you have to be a registered TextWrangler owner to qualify.

I paid the shareware fee for Alpha, and I’d be glad to do it for Taco, if the developer ever asks for it. (Think about it, Raj! Extra spending money for the university pub!)

How to Set WordPress Posts to Automatically Expire After a Certain Number of Days

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Wednesday, October 5, 2005

UPDATED May 6, 2006: This hasn’t been tested in WordPress 2.0. According to this WordPress forum thread, this plugin works in 2.0, so give it a try!

I’ve been helping a friend convert her website to a WordPress CMS and ran into a problem.

FRIEND: With my old software, I could type in a date on any specific post and on that date it would be taken off the website. It was really easy. Can I do that with this… WordPress?

ME: Sure! WordPress can do anything! If there isn’t a feature built-in, somebody’s always designed a plugin for it.

FRIEND: Great. Can we do it now?

ME: Er… let me get back to you on this.

In the frantic searching that ensued, I found Ashwin Bihari’s plugin: Auto Delete Posts.

This is a great little plugin. It works by taking the current date and determining which posts are older than 14 days (14 days is the default, but you can set another number of days) and if any posts are found, they are deleted or moved to another category.

But this wasn’t what my friend wanted. She wanted some posts to automatically expire after 7 days, some after 30 days, and so on.

I did some more research and found this WordPress forum thread: “Post expires after set date or number of days,” which recommends following the WordPress Wiki instructions “Expire Posts.”

Expiring posts turns out to be something that can be done with Custom Fields values. (It says you can do this in the Codex, too, but doesn’t explain how.)

The directions are set up for WordPress version 1.2, but the Wiki says it works for 1.5, too. The index.php page has changed from 1.2 to 1.5, but I figured it out (I thought) and inserted the necessary lines of code. My index.php now looked like this:

<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>
<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<?php require('post.php'); ?>
<?php list ($post_expired) = get_post_custom_values('postexpire');
/* only pay attention to the first one if there's a duplicate */ ?>
<?php if ( !$post_expired || current_time('mysql') <$post_expired) :
/* if there's no expiration date or it's not been reached yet, go
ahead with displaying the post */ ?>
<?php endif; /* end not-expired test */ ?>
<?php endwhile; ?>

Then, in the Custom Field area of the Dashboard, I created a “postexpire” Key and a Value of “2005-10-03 01:00:00.”

I didn’t get any error messages, but the post didn’t expire as scheduled, either. I wrote in the WordPress forum for help, but nobody had an answer for me. Almost 2 days later I had to tell my friend I was still working on it.

Anxious not to lose face, I looked back to Ashwin’s plugin. I wrote him and asked if perhaps there was some way I could set his plugin to allow for different expiration values. He kindly wrote back to say no, and then offered to help me with my Custom Field values.

At that moment, this is what I thought of Mr. Ashwin Bihari:
Ashwin

He suggested I rearrange the lines to look like so:

<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>
<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<?php require('post.php'); ?>

<?php list ($post_expired) = get_post_custom_values('postexpire'); /* only pay attention to the first one if there's a duplicate */ ?>

<?php if ( !$post_expired || current_time('mysql') < $post_expired) : /* if there's no expiration date or it's not been reached yet, go ahead with displaying the post */ ?>

<?php endif; /* end not-expired test */ ?>

<?php endwhile; ?>

It works perfectly. The posts are not deleted. They remain in the database where you can manage them on the “Dashboard –> Manage –> Posts” screen.

You can “un-expire” them, or delete them, or whatever it is you want to do with an expired post. But as long as the date you posted in the Custom Fields Value box matches or is after today’s date, the post will not appear as published.

Ashwin now joins the growing ranks of those selfless WordPress gurus who have saved Bonnie’s bohunney. Thank you, Ashwin!

No more categories… ever?

Filed under: Geek Wannabe on Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Michael Heilemann removed categories from his latest WordPress project.

In the place of traditional categories (taxonomy) will be tags (folksonomy). Categories will then be used to only to mark what kind of an post we’re dealing with, not its content. That role will instead be handed over to Ultimate Tagging Warrior, which seems like the best bet for a folksonomy solution for WordPress.

Ease your mind, things will be good.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to such pronouncements. Although it’d be cool to say I am an early adopter, the reality is that I typically wait until I’m dodging innovations on the technological highway — so to speak — before I adopt anything new.

My early adopter spirit is always willing, but my grey matter always messes everything up.

Still, Michael is the father of the WordPress default theme “Kubric.” People seem to pay attention to what he has to say, smart people, people who don’t have to Google their CSS thingies before they make stylesheet changes.

So maybe I should pay attention, too. Maybe I should figure out tags now and be ready for a category-less world, even though it took me forever to wrestle my categories into submission.

And hey, as long as Michael uses short words and talks real slow, maybe I’ll even be able to follow along.

 
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