apple blog

Today’s geeky triumph: Figuring out how to use Automator to create a service that pipes selected text through pandoc to speed up converting old posts on my blog to proper markdown format from the current HTML/markdown hodepodge.

blog personal

Thirty days, thirty posts: I successfully completed Microblogvember! All my posts are tagged with ‘Microblogvember’ on my blog. All fiction (as far as I know, at least), all in the general SF/fantasy/horror spaces. This was a fun project!


Surf like it’s 1994!

This may be the last CSS-related post for a while — though I’m considering a writeup of how I implemented the stylesheet switcher into my TypePad setup, so there may be more yet to come. We’ll see. In the meantime…

I got an e-mail from a reader who still uses a 640×480 resolution monitor. Because the new designs use a fixed layout width rather than the fluid layout that my old single-column layout used, he was running into an issue with his browser where the webpage was cut off by about 40 pixels on the right and left hand sides, rendering the site somewhat unintelligible.

As that’s hardly the effect I was going for, I’ve added a fourth stylesheet to the switcher: Old School. Basically, this stylesheet is actually no stylesheet at all. Because this strips all presentational code from the site and leaves only the structural markup of the HTML code, it’s not very “pretty” by today’s standards, but is gauranteed to work in any browser on any platform — all the way back to NSCA Mosaic, should anyone still be using that!

I’ve also designated the “Old School” stylesheet as the “handheld” stylesheet for the site, so that handheld users should (if their handheld browser works correctly) get that unstyled version of the site rather than having to cope with a layout designed for a more standard viewing portal.

It’s all about the content, baby. :)

iTunes: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana from the album Nevermind (1991, 5:01).


Manly Pink #2

There’s now a second pink-toned stylesheet available for your viewing pleasure, courtesy of Shari Hes (who actually sent it to me last week, but it needed a few slight tweaks to get it to behave under Internet Explorer).

I’ve also implemented A List Apart’s stylesheet switcher, so now you can choose which style of pink you like best — or, if the pink is a bit much for you, I’ve also put the “old-school” all-greys design in the switcher. Just cast your eyes over to the sidebar, and pick a style, any style: thanks to the magic of CSS, JavaScript, and cookies, whatever style you choose will stick with you for as long as you like. Sure, this is nothing new around the web, but it’s the first time I’ve done it, so I’m kind of excited.

In a geeky sort of way. :)

One of my favorite bits, really, is that down in the footer at the bottom of each page the contributing CSS author’s name will automatically switch depending on which stylesheet is loaded. Not that complex to do, really (just playing with span tags and display: inline; or display: none; properties), but a nice little touch.

I’ve also (finally) added a print stylesheet back into the mix. I have no real idea if anyone ever bothers to print anything from my site or not, but just on the off chance they did, it’ll be a lot more bearable now than it was (the screen stylesheets crammed everything into a really tiny column in the middle of the page…pretty icky).

Admittedly, I’m still missing a stylesheet for handheld browsers, which Kirsten requested a couple months ago. Since I don’t have a handheld to test on, I’m not sure just how small of a screen to code for, and I’m half tempted to just create a “no style” stylesheet for handhelds. Go old school! ;) Not entirely sure if that’s the best approach or not, though, so until I figure out the best approach there, that feature is still missing in action.

And that’s it for the current round of design fun. I think I’m done for a little bit.

I think.

iTunes: “Violin Concerto for Violin in E Major, BWV1042, I. Allegro” by Rees, Jonathan/Scottish Ensemble from the album Bach: Brandenburg Concertos, Violin Concertos (1998, 7:43).


Spam attack!

I have no real idea if any of my readers (other than myself) subscribe to either my “full posts with comments” feed or my “comments only” RSS feeds, but if you do, my apologies for the spam dumps of the last few days. Apparently I’ve been targeted by someone (possibly in retaliation for using “pink” in a couple of posts, as Pops warned), and about once a day for the past three days, I’ll get a sudden burst of 20 to 40 spam comments posted.

I’m nuking them when I notice them, but it’s not always an immediate thing, so if you pull one of the affected RSS feeds between the attack and my cleanup, you get to see the unpleasant results. Not much I can do about it, unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll get bored and go away eventually.

(On a random side note, I just noticed that the title for my syndication feeds page is ‘fyndication feeds’. Oops! Guess I better fix that while I’m dinking around…)

iTunes: “Beyond Outside (Remix)” by SiSé from the album *SiSé* (2001, 4:48).

blog politics

Protect the Baby Squirrels

There’s an analogy that Shelley uses every so often that for one reason or another, started rumblings in my brain this morning: kicking the baby squirrels. This came up most recently in the continuing discussion of the Movable Type 3 licensing brouhaha.

Mistakes in licenses are serious things. Folks are right to question these. People who plan on using Movable Type in the future should continue to question confusing language in the licenses.

What’s sad about this though, is that the ‘baby squirrel’ phenomena is still in effect for Movable Type and the Trotts and Six Apart, when I thought we’d grown beyond that.

What do I mean by the ‘kicking the baby squirrel’ phenomena? When we address technical issues or question pricing, and you perceive it as an attack on the people, that’s accusing us of kicking the baby squirrels. If you perceive any criticism of a company or a technology or a person’s writing or opinions, as an act of overt hostility, and respond with personal insults in return, that’s playing the kicking the baby squirrel card.

Obviously, there’s been a lot of this going on recently. For all the people who looked at the restrictions of the licenses and raised holy hell, there were also quite a few who lambasted all of us who were upset as simply being whiny, spoiled children, complaining because we weren’t getting what we wanted for free, throwing tempertantrums, and refusing to pay.

Of course, that’s patently ridiculous. Few if any of the posts I’ve read (or written) about this have been from people unwilling to pay for MovableType — just from people unwilling to pay what they saw as unreasonable prices with draconian restrictions, which, coming from a company that’s historically been seen as one of the “good guys”, took us all by surprise. Yesterday’s clarifications should do a lot to help that and calm things down, but if there are still questions to be asked, there’s no reason to stop asking them.

What this really reminded me of, though, was what has been passing for political discourse in the US lately. Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more of the “us versus them” mentality, where “us” seems to be defined as those who slavishly follow Bush and his cronies, and “them” being absolutely everyone else, foreign or domestic. Agree with Bush and his policies, and you’re fine, but question any of them, and suddenly you’re unpatriotic and a traitor.

It doesn’t matter that those of us who question generally do so because we’re concerned, because we want to see this country do well for itself, do well for others, and be respected in the international community and by itself. It doesn’t matter how serious the questions are, how serious the concerns behind them are, or how they are presented. The mere act of questioning is enough to condemn us.

Sound familiar?

I haven’t bothered to look into whether the political baby squirrel protectors overlap with the technological baby squirrel protectors much or at all, and just off the top of my head, I’d assume that any overlap would be entirely coincidental, and not have any real relevance. It’s the attitude that disturbs me, though, and I really wish it was one that we (collectively) could get over.

iTunes: “Fuck It Up (Did You Ever Get the Feeling?)” by Pigface from the album Preaching to the Perverted (1995, 3:42).


MovableType 3: License updates and clarifications

Funny the difference a day or so can make — and never let it be said that people (or corporations) can’t learn from their mistakes. Six Apart has posted updates and clarifications to their licensing options that make things look much more reasonable.

Briefly, the key points that I was concerned about…

The single-CPU limitation nonsense:

The single CPU usage statement was not intended to be in the license. It has been struck from the license, and everyone who has downloaded Movable Type 3.0 thus far can officially consider this change retroactive.

[Admittedly, I’m very curious about this one. If it wasn’t intended to be in the license, how did it get in there in the first place? And then stay there up to the point where it was posted to the website? Didn’t anyone (their lawyers, for example) go over this stuff with a fine-toothed comb first? This is the sole point that still really has my eyebrows raised.]{.underline}

The number of weblogs or authors in an installation:

Firstly, they’ve changed a few of the licensing options a tad, and added the ability to purchase “add-on” weblogs to a license for ten dollars (for instance, if your license specified five weblogs, you can buy the rights to run a sixth).

Secondly, and far more importantly, they’ve clarified what is considered a single weblog — essentially, the wording might be better if it was called a website rather than a weblog.

The question of what a “weblog” is is somewhat muddy, but the basic answer to the first question is that, if you’re using multiple “Weblogs” in Movable Type in order to build 1 site, that only counts as 1 weblog towards the license limits.

In our licenses, we now address this with this language: “Weblog” means a single Web site viewable at a single URL (Uniform Resource Locator), consisting of one or more weblogs as generated by the Software via the “Create New Weblog” function of the Software.

To be clear, sub-weblogs that make up weblog sites shouldn’t be counted toward your weblog total.

This is excellent to hear, and should alleviate the concerns of many (if not most) of the people who, like me, found the licensing scheme overly restrictive.

That said, I’m still curious about some of the other options out there, and will continue to investigate them, but at least I don’t feel nearly as concerned about potentially moving my personal webserver to MT 3 at some later date if I decide to take that path.


Why I won’t be upgrading to MT 3.0

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following today’s firestorm, but it all boils down to this: it’s too expensive.

Here’s my situation.

My personal server (not the one running Eclecticism right now) currently runs an install of MovableType 2.6 with two public weblogs (one for my dad, and one for my friend Kirsten) and one private (a testing area for me). That is already enough to knock me out of the “free” category, as it’s limited to three weblogs and a single author. So as things stand right now, I’m looking at the Personal Edition for \$49.95 (normally \$99.95, introductory special of \$69.95, minus the \$20 I donated to pay for my copy of MT).

While I’m currently using TypePad for this weblog, I do occasionally toy with the idea of returning to hosting myself on my own server. This won’t happen before October or so, when my current TypePad payment runs out (and may not happen at all), but it’s an idea I play with. Currently, this site actually encompasses three public weblogs (Eclecticism, the linklog is a separate weblog incorporated into Eclecticism, and Wüdivisions) and one private weblog used for testing purposes. Even without moving the testing weblog over to my server, as I already have one there, adding those three to my current install jumps the number of weblogs I’d be running on my server to six. The Personal Edition license tops out at five weblogs, so that would jump me up to the Personal Edition Volume License I for \$99.95 (\$149.95, intro special of \$119.95, minus \$20).

Additionally, it’s been a long-standing plan (that I have only myself to blame for not having happened yet, as I’ve yet to spend a weekend writing up some guidelines and help documents for my family) to open what’s currently my dad’s weblog up to the entire Hanscom family. That could add anywhere from one to eight other authors (Mom, Kevin, Emily, Aunt Susan, her son Eric, Uncle Doug, Aunt Pam, and their older daughter Kayt) depending on how many of them were interested. That puts me at a total of eleven potential authors (counting myself, Dad, and Kirsten). Unfortunately, the Personal Edition licenses top out at nine authors, and the introductory Commercial License only supports five authors. Suddenly, I’m looking at the Commercial License for 20 Authors — for \$579.95 (\$699.95, intro special of \$599.95, minus \$20).

I don’t think so.

If the price weren’t bad enough, there are some other things that bother me about the licensing for MT 3. The biggest one is this clause in the Standard Personal Use License:

You may install the Software on only one (1) computer or server having a single CPU.

Excuse me? That has got to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read in a long time (though, admittedly, while I probably should, I don’t make a habit of reading software licenses). While I’m currently using an older single-processor G3 for my webserver, should it ever die or should I for any other reason decide to switch over to using my fancy new dual processor G5 as my webserver, I could not legally install MovableType 3.0. And what about all those people who don’t run their own servers, but pay for a remotely hosted website? What are the chances of them having any idea how many processors the machine that actually runs their site uses? I’d hazard a guess that there are better chances that any reputable hosting company is actually quite likely to be using multiple-processor servers (and thus not legally allowed to run the copy of MT 3 that a user might upload to their system).

Other annoyances:

TypeKey wasn’t going to be required to use MT3 (and maybe it still isn’t), but apparently you have to sign up for a TypeKey ID in order to download MT3. While I’m not in the anti-TypeKey camp (I think it could potentially be very useful, and already have a TypeKey ID via my TypePad account), there are plenty of people who aren’t comfortable with TypeKey who aren’t going to be happy with this.

MT3 isn’t even a feature release, as Mena mentioned earlier this month. While I’m sure the work done on the backend to allow more opportunities for developers to extend the framework is quite welcome for developers, and while I was really looking forward to the comment management features I’ve gotten used to with TypePad (plus the TypeKey integration), it’s hardly the (now vaporware?) MTPro that we’d been expecting for ages.

Lastly, rebuilds are getting to be more and more of a pain in the butt. The bigger a weblog gets, and the more information piles up in the archives, the more of a pain in the butt MT’s technique of statically rendering each page becomes. While at the time I first started using MT this seemed like a benefit (creating static pages keeps the processor from having to chew on every requested page before sending it out, so can in theory be faster), I’m finding more and more that it seems to be a detriment in the long run (the more information there is to process, the slower the rebuild process becomes, until the benefits of static versus dynamic pages are outweighed by the tradeoff in time spent creating all those static pages). More and more, I’m thinking that switching the weblogs on my server to a PHP based solution (as Phil has with Among Other Things — also hosted on my server — by moving to WordPress) is likely to be the best long-term solution.

Now, please understand, I’m not upset that they’re changing the licensing, nor that they’re charging more than they have in the past. I don’t have any problem paying for the software that I use, and I don’t automatically assume that everything should be free. However, I do think that they are charging far too much, and that’s where the problem lies.

Still, Ben and Mena (and the rest of the gang at Six Apart) have done a lot of good for the weblogging community over the years, and I wish them the best of luck.

From the look of things, they’re likely to need it.

iTunes: “Prototype” by Assembly Line from the album Zoo Rave 1 (1992, 4:59).


MovableType 3.0: Ouch

So SixApart revealed the pricing structure for MovableType 3.0 today.

One word.


Dad, Kirsten — we may have to figure something else out for and soon. Since I’m running both of you off of my server, I’m not eligible for the free version of MT 3.0, and the various licensing options are a bit rich for my blood.

Reasons the free version won’t work: No support from Six Apart, No access to paid installation service, No access to fee-based services, No promotion of your weblogs through the Recently Updated list, No commercial usage, No more than one author and three weblogs. Plus a few other apparent caveats that are pointed out in the second and third updates to Shelley Powers’ post:

Just caught this. The following are what you get, specifically, with the paid version of MT 3.0 that are conspicuously missing from the free version:

  • Application updates and fixes (not including major upgrades)
  • A guaranteed path to future versions

From Paul Freeman I found out that you have to be registered with TypeKey in order to download the free version.

We were assured that TypeKey wasn’t required for Movable Type. I specifically remember this being said.

I also didn’t realize the physical limitations of the free version–one installation only, and no installation on multi-CPU machines. Most hosted environments are multiple CPU machines. Does this mean even if you are a single author/single weblog user, but hosted, you still can’t use MT?

I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve figured out which direction to head, and how best to go about it.

Update: I have a few more thoughts on this, and will want to clarify my position (I’m not that upset, nor am I going on an anti-SixApart rampage, and besides, thanks to my use of TypePad, I’m quite happy with sending money their way) — I just need to get my skinny butt in gear, so more rambling will have to wait until this evening. Until then, there’s some good points (both pro- and anti-SixApart) in this MetaFilter thread.

iTunes: “Dancesoundtrackmusic (D.S.M.)” by Front 242 from the album Mut\@ge.Mix\@ge (1995, 8:20).


Google bits: redactions and spam

Two interesting Google-related bits today.

Firstly, a paragraph about outsourcing jobs mysteriously disappeared from the Google Weblog at some point during the day. Mark Pilgrim pointed this out (along with /., MeFi, and Hello Typepad) and quite rightly took Google to task for the unremarked changes:

This kind of revisionist history is unacceptable, regardless of who does it. If you don’t want it saved for all time, don’t publish it on the Internet. Putting “blog” on the top of the page does not absolve you of all responsibility.

NetNewsWire‘s “show changes” feature caught the edits, though, so here’s a quick screen capture showing just how the post was reworded:

Google's outsourcing remarks

The second bit is more on the amusing side, and has less to do directly with Google. I got a piece of comment spam earlier that, when I looked at it, made me laugh, simply because in an effort to make it look almost like a real comment, the spammer had mixed links in with a paragraph of real text. It just so happens that the paragraph they chose was one from Google’s website, discussing how pages are indexed after being submitted to Google. I’ve replaced the links with bolded text in the following snippet, of course:

When a URL is submitted to Google, Sex Toy Shop we look for it in our Hotel Booking next crawl. If Low Interest Credit Card you’ve already submitted your Buy Cialis URL, your site could easily Atkins Diet appear in our new index, which will go Nude Celebrity up when the current crawl is completed. However, Online Casinos if no other site links to yours, it Dating Personals may be difficult for our crawler to find Tag Watch you. Conversely, if many sites link to Seiko Watch your page, there is a good Car Hire chance we will find you without your submitting your Register Domain Name URL. Occasionally, websites are not reachable Ladies Watches when we try to crawl them because of Coral Bookmaker network or hosting problems.

It almost makes sense when you read it…

iTunes: “Another One Bites the Dust (Wyclef Jean)” by Queen feat. Free/Jean, Wyclef/Pras from the album Small Soldiers (1998, 4:22).