Category: Books

WordPress

You've probably noticed the site looks different.

Or, if you haven't because you're reading this via RSS, you've probably noticed you just got ten duplicate entries in your reader.

That's because I just migrated my backend over to WordPress.

As I alluded in a recent post (and yes, I update so seldom that three months ago qualifies as "recent"), b2evolution reached a point where it made even the simplest tasks a chore. A quick rundown:

  • As noted before, it refused "id" and "name" attributes in <a> tags. In other words, it would not allow me to use anchor tags as anchors.
  • Its error messages were hideous. "Invalid URL" may be useful information in a post that has as many as three links in it, but when you have fifty, it's the coding equivalent of punching me in the gut and then pointing and laughing. And for those of you who have not yet taken a 100-level programming course, it bears noting here that telling me which URL was causing a problem would take maybe twenty characters of additional code.
  • Not only wouldn't it tell me which URL was a problem, it wouldn't tell me why. I had to poke through a gigantic list of blocked URLs before I discovered that b2evolution had for some reason automatically blacklisted all mac.com sites.
  • Okay, this is the best one. You think blocking mac.com is bad? Check this out. In the same post, I linked to a rather lengthy driver URL -- go ahead and mouse over that link and see what I mean -- and b2evolution rejected it.
    See anything wrong with it? No? Neither did I. It took me about an hour to figure out what was happening. Here's the problem:
    The link contains the string "&ProductID". See where I'm going yet? No, you probably don't; even if you know that the HTML code for an ampersand is "&amp;" it probably hasn't hit you what happened there.
    So okay, here's what happened: b2evolution saw the "&Product" in that link, expanded it to "&amp;Product", and then, on a second pass, turned the ;P into a smiley.
    Hang on, it gets better: there is no way to disable smileys in the b2evolution admin control panel; you have to hack the PHP manually.
    Hang on, it gets even better: there actually is a checkbox in the control panel to allow you to disable smileys...and it is grayed out by default. Someone went to the trouble of actually coding up an easy fix...just to make it impossible to use.

In short, b2evolution was like everything my old web host ever gave me: at first, it was a generous gift and gave me an outlet to share my thoughts with the world, but over a period of years it became less and less bearable up until it reached a point where I simply couldn't go about my daily business anymore without it making my life unpleasant.

Actually, catty remarks about Internet drama aside, this is a coincidence -- I started this overhaul several days before Sharkey decided to pull up stakes. However, it's a happy coincidence, and it's nice to see him carve us out an alternative to Crazytown.

Anyway, on to the technical side, for anyone else who has WordPress questions. On the whole, I think WP is better so far. I absolutely despise "smart" quotes, and it parses text inside <code> tags just as poorly as b2evolution, if not even worse, but fortunately I found two plugins called Unfancy Quote and Preserve Code Formatting which take care of those two problems right out the gate.

I think I've done a pretty good job with the new theme, taking the old look and making a few modest changes to it. (I've finally retired that silly-ass old digits.com counter. It is the end of an era.) The CSS is my own, but the PHP code is largely adapted from Sandbox. As such, it's GPL'ed code, so once I'm finished tweaking it I'll put a zip file up just in case anyone wants to eyeball my source.

If there's anyone else trying to migrate old-ass b2evolution (0.9 series) to WordPress, there are a couple different ways to do it. You can convert to Movable Type and import natively (tutorial at Insert Witty Title), which preserves categories but hoses custom slugs, or you can use a conversion PHP script (tutorial at ibrian, though there are a few different versions of the script), which preserves custom slugs but hoses categories. I opted for the latter since it's less of a pain to recreate categories than slugs, but YMMV; if you never used custom slugs and just stuck with the default post titles, I'd say try the former. (There is something in there about how b2evo replaces spaces with underscores and WP replaces them with dashes, but there should be a tool to correct that too.)

Anyway. New blog, new forum. Let me know what you think. Maybe one of these days I'll get up the courage to dust the cobwebs off my Links page.


Playing: Super Mario Galaxy.

Reading: Just finishing Dune.

In which Thad makes oblique references to his personal life

There comes a time in every man's life when he must come to the sobering realization that the most normal person he knows is this gentleman:
Brad wearing a penis hat

It has recently come to my attention that every single person I know is currently campaigning for the position of Mayor of Crazytown. I wish them all the best of luck, but caution them that the incumbent is going to be very difficult to defeat.

I have further realized that Brad is doing a surprisingly poor job in his campaign for Mayor of Crazytown in comparison to everyone else I know.

Actually, it's not that surprising. He didn't do so well in his campaign for Mayor of Tempe, either.


Reading: Elric: Song of the Black Sword. I agreed to read it if Felipe would read Watchmen. So far he is more impressed than I am.

Just Like T's Class

You know, there's just something cathartic about cleaning house -- about going through a few dozen old computers, finding out what works and what doesn't, wiping drives, keeping what may be of use at a later date and donating the rest. Sure it's boring and repetitive, and I inevitably manage to cut myself on something, but it reminds me of high school, and then my first job out of high school, and it's good honest work.

I sure as hell wouldn't want to do it every day, but it's a welcome break from mail server maintenance -- and a whole lot more inline with my salary, too.

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda.


Reading: Neuromancer

Playing: Mega Man ZX

Keep Hydrated

Yeah, this is going to be one of those where I talk about living in the desert.

There's a lot I love about the desert. Oh, sure, it's a hostile environment, particularly to pigment-challenged individuals of Irish Honky descent such as myself, and sure, those same honkies who have the least resistance to the sun's rays have decided for some reason to fill this region with concrete and asphalt to make it that much more unbearable, but there are still some very pretty things to be seen.

I've spent a few hours over the past couple of weeks handing out flyers for our company. I hate to be one of those guys who waves his degree around, but that's really not what I got it to do. But we need business, and there are a hell of a lot of new businesses opening within a mile radius of here, and the boss thinks I should be the guy who hands flyers out, so that's part of what I've been doing.

The first day, I overdid it: I thought I had sunscreen, but it turned out I didn't. Must not have packed any when I moved in February (which, all things considered, makes sense). So I went out and handed out flyers for three hours and got good and sunburned and chafed. I spent Memorial Day Weekend unable to walk comfortably. I am amused by the mental image of the tableau of a very sunburned guy going up to the counter at Target with sunscreen, aloe gel, and talc in his basket -- no explanation necessary.

Since then, I've limited myself to 90 minutes of flyering a day, and of course it goes without saying that this 90 minutes must be complete before 10 AM because I'm not going out when there's an excessive heat warning in effect. But I haven't been out there the past few days because things have been so busy at the shop. Mixed blessing -- I'd rather not be out there handing out flyers, but at the same time if I don't find time for it soon the boss is going to yell at me again.

I don't like sunscreen. It's greasy, smelly, and invariably gets in your eyes, even if the label proclaims it's non-greasy, unscented, and sweat-proof. But it beats being baked alive.

Dad also leant me a hat which once belonged to a family friend who died of cancer. I think that's pretty cool.

And handing out flyers isn't all bad. I dig the desert landscaping surrounding most of the buildings. Often I will hear a rustling in the bushes and see a large lizard come out.

Meantime, I haven't had much time to relax when I've been home from work -- work on a computer all day, go home and work on a computer. See, my grandma's been rocking Windows 98 for the past 8 years, and since Microsoft has ended support for it, I decided I should probably upgrade her to XP.

Have you caught the mistake in my thinking?

That's right: the word upgrade.

Let me explain something. I have never had a Windows upgrade go well. 95 turned out to be incompatible with my processor, 98 hosed my filesystem (which is why there is no complete extant copy of KateStory IX), and XP hosed my partition table. ME...actually upgraded smoothly and gave me no trouble, but I think the fact that it installed Windows ME on my computer means it still did serious harm to my system.

So I should have known better. I shouldn't even have attempted the upgrade. I should have backed up her files to CD, wiped the drive, and done a clean install.

But I didn't. I attempted an upgrade. Which went fine until the reboot, at which point the installation hung. No error, just a hang at boot time.

So then I made my second mistake: I tried to use Recovery Console.

Specifically, I used fixboot. Which hosed my partition table. I wound up with what looked like a 10MB FAT12 partition with only one file on it. Knoppix showed more files, but they were all gibberish.

Daunted, I retreated to lick my wounds and study the problem before going back the next weekend to attempt a fix. I found a useful MBR tool on UBCD4Win, which got the filesystem looking good enough to run a chkdsk on. After that, the files were visible, but the damn thing still wouldn't boot no matter what I did or how many times I installed an OS on top of it. (And yes, the partition is set bootable.)

It was about this point where I hit the Eject button on the CD-ROM drive and it launched my CD across the room. It bears noting that this is not even a slot-loading drive, it's the kind with a tray. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.

There comes a point in a project where you know you need to stop for the day. Seeing your Windows XP disc fly across the room is such a point.

So I brought the computer home to work on it here. (Grandma's is thirty miles from here, meaning I logged roughly 120 in my two round-trips this past weekend.) So far I've made little progress -- my flying WinXP disc does not look to be in very good shape; I made a copy of it last night but it took hours to do, so I'm betting there was some serious trouble reading the data on it. Hopefully it somehow made a good copy anyway. I haven't tried it today because I've been busy trying to revdep-rebuild my Gentoo install, because I can't upgrade KDE until I recompile a bunch of programs that used to have ungif support, which is now deprecated because the patent on the GIF algorithm finally expired. (You see what software patents do? Do you see?)

Also I bought Grandma a new CD burner. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the mail-in rebate on it. It is possible that I did not pick up the appropriate form and will have to go back to Fry's to get it. The fun never ends.

All in all, it's been a stressful month. But on the plus side, I haven't been mugged by a hooker at knife-point, so I guess that means I know at least one guy who's had a worse month than I have. Hey, count your blessings.


Also, I don't intend to make a habit of mixing business with this blog, but I've been working on a website for a local musician named Devon Bridgewater at nuancemusic.org. Nuance Music (AKA Nuance Jazz Trio) is a local jazz group consisting of Devon, Dick Curtis, and Joel DiBartolo, director of jazz studies at my alma mater.

Anyway, I'm just throwing that link out because Devon's looking to drum up some publicity to his site, and unfortunately his Google page rank is pretty low right now, so he needs all the links he can get. So spread the word around, and, most importantly, link to his site. (I might add it to my links page if I ever drum up the courage to dust off the cobwebs and update the damn thing.)

Once again, that page is Nuance Music.

Hell, while I'm at it, Google hasn't even listed any of the other pages on the site, so here are links to them too: gigs, press, jazz, weddings, gallery, corporate clients, festivals, contact, Spanish.


Reading: A Scanner Darkly. Hoping the movie doesn't suck.

Playing: Suikoden 5. Basically at this point the series is openly hostile to newcomers -- this game took 7 hours to get interesting (still better than the 30 hours of 3 and the never of 4), and there's no way anybody would play that far without having a tremendous amount of goodwill left over from the first two games.

OMGWTFBBQ

It's a gorgeous fucking day. The high is 77 and there's a pleasant breeze. And in Phoenix in April, each gorgeous day could be the last one until fall: in a month, it'll be up over 100.

I was very disappointed that I ran late leaving the house this morning and had to drive instead of biking. But on the plus side, we had an employee barbecue at lunch.

Other than that, we're moving servers around. Lot of heavy lifting and interesting maneuvering. In-between that I'm setting up a mailserver.

Life is good.


Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land. Which, other than making me use the word "grok" more often than usual (though I've used it for years anyway), has somewhat lowered my esteem of Speaker for the Dead, which seems to crib all its best ideas from Heinlein. I guess I'm now down to liking only one thing Orson Scott Card's ever written.

The Contest

Looks like the BioWare voting should just about be wrapped up.

Thanks to everyone who voted.

We'll see how this turns out; I have a good feeling. They're going to announce the winners on Wednesday.


Playing: Dragon Quest 8, Final Fantasy 4, Super Mario World

Reading: The Catcher in the Rye, which I am given to understand is turning me into a serial killer or an assassin or something. I saw it in a Mel Gibson movie.

So busy the only thing I have time to do is update my blog...

It's been an odd month.

January 16th I woke up with an absolutely awful cough and took four days off from work over it. (It's gotten much better but still hasn't gone away entirely.) Had terrifying NyQuil dreams, and found myself much too lightheaded and muddled to make any significant progress for...

My NWN mod. That's what I spent almost all my free time on the following week.

Then on the 30th, I started a new job. It's 45 minutes away from my grandparents' house, and the commute has been absolutely awful. Fortunately, I've found an apartment; unfortunately, it won't be open until sometime next week.

Meantime, I've been shopping for amenities like a new, more lightweight and higher-def TV and a stand to put it on. Amid questions like "how can a TV be 1024x768 and 16x9?" (answer: plasma TV's have rectangular pixels. Weird.), I've taken trips to exciting new places like Ikea and that Fry's off of Thunderbird where there's that big giant "Fry's Electronics" sign right on the freeway, and if you pull off you find that the sign is actually adjacent to a Best Buy and Fry's itself is a quarter-mile away. This actually corresponds rather nicely to the experience of attempting to find anything at Fry's, although the people we stopped to ask for directions were much more useful than the average Fry's employee.

Also, this particular Fry's has an ass-ugly Aztec motif for some reason.

Moving back to that part about the apartment opening sometime next week, I'd really hoped it'd be ready by Friday so I'd have the weekend to move in. Under the circumstances, I think I'll grab a mattress, a toothbrush, my bike, my DS, a few days' worth of clothes, the remote control, these matches, and this paddle-ball game, move those in, and worry about the rest of my shit the following weekend.

Also I can probably bring in my recordings of the last few weeks' worth of The Daily Show, which I've missed because I've been so damn busy, and watch them on the bigscreen TV in the lobby.


Reading: The Lays of Beleriand, by JRR Tolkien. Because I just can't read enough different versions of the story of Turin, or Beren and Luthien!