Comeback

And that’s it! over 3 months since I ever had a thought about blogging! Maybe I wouldn’t make a come back this soon if Matt over there didn’t wrote that scary post about the recent WordPress worm. I’m invulnerable to it since I turned off user registration since day 1 :P. However, lacking behind in updates isn’t something an IT professional should get used to so I paid 3 hours to have this blog upgraded and moved to a new domain, since my old one is going to expire in December anyways (The Koreans hosting it decided to cheapen themselves earlier this year by violating their own mission to bring free domains. Oh well).

Not the first time I move nor upgrade; in fact maybe I should consider doing WP upgrades and moves for other people for profit: it’s so smooth it almost feels good 😛 Can you imagine it? I described the process once before already but this time the situation is a bit different: I’m not moving host, everything is already in the database so Import/Export isn’t really necessary (and it costs time + bandwidth to do so).

1. I installed WP at the new domain and copy all the plug-in and upload over

2. I crafted the wp-config.php for the new domain to make sure all changes are dealt with. This time there is no change from WP 2.7 to 2.8

3. I changed the domain in the CP and have to login to the new domain. It says a database upgrade is needed, I hit next and got a blank admin screen. Befuddled

4. Google a bit, the first hit says this is caused by plugins, I moved them out and reload, it worked! All the posts are there and the theme is kept

5. Add the plugins back one by one until I found the one causing problem: No follow in posts

6. Edit the images to point to the new domain: if I were to use Import/Export like last time, the server will have to pull all the file over (which is on the same server, a waste of bandwidth) but the image URL in the posts will be automatically updated. This time I just move them over to the new domain’s directory, so I updated the posts’ images by two simple SQL queries:

UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'http://silentwind.co.cc', 'silentwind.za.net');
UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'http://silentwind.co.cc', 'silentwind.za.net');

Images should be displaying by now.

More disassembly

I concluded my last blog post streak with a disassembling post, it’s quite appropriate to have another one right now to celebrate my comeback 😛 This is going to be a short one: my TV Box which is used to watch analog TV with my computer’s monitor.

It used to work fine when new but when it’s about 6 months of age, its image quality gradually decrease until I’m more frustrated by watching TV with it than not at all, at which point I thrown it into storage. When I pulled it back out 2 weeks ago for a sudden need, it worked. But the next day it refused to display most of the channel :/

So I took it apart, maybe I can do something about it, it’s better than being furious at it anyway.

To the top is the outer case and the speaker (the one with a couple of wire dangling). To the bottom is the main circuit board, which is also everything. All the components are soldered to the board so nothing else could be taken apart without damaging it

Close up of the mainboard

I noticed a variable resistor above the chip in the middle (the one with the number 4 on it). I plugged everything in, turned it on and start tuning it left and right slowly to no avail. Later, I decided to turn it all the way to the left (so it would rise and possibly allow me to take something else out :P), this time it gives crystal clear picture and got all the channels. What confuses me is if from the start, it was working well because the resistor were at the top then what kind of mysterious force pushed it down later?

Chinese stuff after all, heh.

Tumblelogs

Tumblelog is a term coined in 2005[1] to denote blogs which favor short posts, most of the time sharing only a single item. I encountered the first such blog on 2007[2] but it didn’t really impressed me. Not until last night, when I was shown a comic translation blog [3]. Tumblelogs are just great for the purpose! It allowed instant sharing of daily comic (one thing jumps right in my thoughts: there is a bookmarklet somewhere) without any comments, category or other hassles. On the other hand, perhaps the comic blog above is too simple it don’t tell us where the comics come from, nor mention Garfield’s author (so I’m not condoning it at all, just an example).

It’s also worth a note to distinguish between tumblelog and microblog. While microblog is primarily aimed at status updates, it also allows you to post multimedia content like tumblelog. But your status could change anytime, anywhere, so you’ll need an equivalent update convenience (e.g. mobile updates). On the other hand, tumblelogs are designed to share content, and as you may encounter most content while surfing, think bookmarklet and email-to-post. You can see the gap between two services is not big, and as this article is being written, more features are being stuffed to twitter (that’s why its interface has turned in to a big bunch of text instead of one line of status :P)

Okay, too much ranting again. I only wanted a short review about current tumblelog services when I started writing!

Tumblr

Not the first Tumblelog software, but the first one is currently down so I can’t test it :P.

Tumblr seems to be the most popular tumblelog service around. Clean interface, but there are only a few themes available. None looked good enough for me :/. The theme installation from theme garden worked erratic somehow. For the functionality, Tumblr is pretty good, it pulls the page to its server after you add it with the bookmarklet; analyze the page to find contents you may want to blog about on the page.

Tumblr could be linked with twitter so that all twitter updates will be copied to your Tumblr and vice versa. Also, you can import feeds, bookmark from social bookmarks and posts from other blogging services (thus Tumblr could also act as a bridge to let your twitter followers know when you write a post or bookmark something).

Media could be uploaded to Tumblr but there is a 10MB file size limit (I’m unsure what the storage limit is, see quote below). If you want to post bigger stuff, you are on your own.

Tumblr retains the right to create limits on use and storage in its sole discretion at any time with or without notice. [Terms of service]

The bookmarklet is in the “Goodies” tab; there you’ll also find your email-to-post address, iPhone app and third party apps. The dashboard interface is a little clumsy, functions are distributed on tabs, sidebar, and a menu; but that doesn’t seem to limit Tumblr’s popularity.

You can customize the theme with HTML and CSS. You can also attach your Tumblr to your domain as long as you are able to modify A records (it took a really long time to propagate through the nameservers so you may be unable to view your blog for one or two days if you use this). There are APIs available, but I haven’t looked to see what they can do (yet).

Soup.io

Quite a competitor for Tumblr, most of the features are the same. The interface has more web 2.0 slides and fades, but the page still refreshes to update itself so I’m still not completely satisfied with this service. It allows you to import from more services (say furl or weheartit) but its bookmarklet isn’t as good. It will only detect media on popular sites; it does not analyze the page so it’s very likely that you’ll have to prepare a link to the media first.

The basic theme structure seems to be fixed. However you are allowed to theme it with CSS

Gelato

Seeing Tumblelogs in action somewhat annoy me why such a small amount of content take a whole page load? Isn’t some AJAX to flip pages are better? Then I went to the usual developer’s craze wanting to develop a whole new service that satisfies my every need, since the above are hosted by the blog provider. And as paranoid as a user may be, leaving data on a stranger’s server just doesn’t bring a nice feeling :P.

Fortunately, thank to the free culture (as in free beer :P), someone must have done the job for you! In this case it’s Pedro Santana: from Gelato’s homepage you can download the source (latest at the time of writing: 0.95).

Pretty close clone of Tumblr. To the average user Gelato only provides basic features. You can blog, change the theme, use the bookmarklet but that’s all. The advantage is you have full control over it. Its template share similarities with WordPress.

Still no AJAX for page transition, which I’m pretty disappointed since it advertised itself “built upon AJAX”. But I don’t think that would be a problem though, you have the source of a working Tumblelog!

about:brief and about:scribeFire

Don’t know when I started… Somewhere during the last week. I looked at Firefox’s featured add-ons list while updating my plugins (yes, I manually update
them for compatibility’s sake), I noticed Brief and ScribeFire (with nice logos :P), they are all free and are featured, which implies they are good for something. Why don’t give them a spin?

Brief

Yes. I use Windows. Don't laugh!

This plugin lets you read feeds and that’s it! It has a nice interface with fold in and out effects (possibly some jQuery hidden behind); it now works with NoScript (they said so in the change log). Its advantages over Firefox’s live bookmark are:

  • You get to see the content of the post from the feed.
  • You can rate, mark read and deletes items.
  • Set individual update rate for each feed, or for all feeds.
  • Nice and customizable interface. (If you know CSS)

To me, at first it looked like a nice alternative to Microsoft Outlook’s feed functionality and I like its customizable interface. I have a feed with oversize pictures inside, it makes me scroll to see the content, all I have to do is go to the customization interface, and type some simple CSS

.article-content {
    width: 80% !important;
    overflow: hidden;
    font-size: 12pt !important;
}

font {
    font-size: 12pt !important;
}

Basically, the above CSS set the width of the content element to roughly 80% of the full window width, tell Firefox to trim off anything that come further than the edge, force all text size to 12 points to readability; and that’s it! The text content is wrapped nicely inside the window’s width, oversized pictures are trimmed off, should I want to view then, and “View Image” will come in handy.

To see brief’s elements on the page, go to Brief’s page description. Yes you can use some web development tools but trust me, all you got inspecting the page is a bunch of JavaScript insert :P.

<body>
    
<a class="article-title-link"/> <!-- Shown only in full articles: -->
</div>
</div> </div> </body>

But because it inherited from Firefox’s Live bookmark, it also share LB’s limitations like you can’t read the full post inline (if the publisher have chosen to publish it short), this can be frustrating reading feeds with lots of item. You want to read it? New tab! Shouldn’t a feed reader simplify the reading process? And looks like it’s compatible only with feeds which the Live Bookmark feature in Firefox is capable of reading.

And as a plugin, it has problems of its own, like it can rarely update the feeds on itself. At first I thought this was BetterCache’s fault, but even after disabling BetterCache, it still won’t update my feeds even if I clicked on each of them and choose “Update feed”. To have the feeds refreshed I have to go to the bookmark sidebar and update the like bookmarks there. Only then would the new items appear

So, if you want a news reader and like to pray that the updates work (possibly it just doesn’t like me), and always wanted to change the way how your news look, then Brief is right; but if you are looking for something that will satisfy all your reading need, there’s still a long way to go.

ScribeFire

A lightweight blogging plugin (about 500K). It lets you conveniently blog about stuff you like (a site, an image, you tube video etc.) straight from Firefox with a mouse click (or F8).

Yes, it implements many popular blogging services like WordPress, Blogger, Xanga, and custom blogs that implement the MetaWebLog API. For the basic part, it allows you to create / edit posts in a WordPad-like interface.

It is capable of

  • Drafting (called notes)
  • HTML Editing
  • Preview (it will temporarily publish the post to your blog and let you view it inside the editing pane, not live preview like WLW)
  • Post management (Add / Edit / Remove)
  • Differentiate between pages and post (WordPress’ page options not implemented, make sense because this is a general blogging software)
  • Category management (but not hierarchical, again, this is only WordPress specific)
  • Technorati tags
  • Timestamp edit

In short, it lets you perform all the basic function all the blogging platform allows you in common. It’s quite good, I tried several posts and it does its job really fast, comparable to Word’s; there’s also some “extra” function like:

  • Insert a Flickr Image: You can search for Flickr images which match a keyword and insert it to your post, albeit the process is slow. I would prefer a Flickr-code text box, insert the image page URL and get the picture inside that page inserted (Flickr scatter a transparent 1×1 GIF over its images you can’t just save image as…)
  • Insert a You tube video: Same as Flickr.
  • Blogging toolbar: when you visit a blog of yours that you have registered with ScribeFire, you can quickly edit your posts and page by clicking their titles, nice feature that WordPress lacks, but can be fixed with a simple template tag (but that’s another story).

    Blogging toolbar

  • Managed ads: Haven’t tried this feature. Looks like it lets you insert and track ads easier, but I don’t like this one. I know that the plugin maker has the right to make some dough from this but it makes me suspicious if this plugin’s authenticity. To this point I trust it solely because it’s Mozilla-featured, and I’m still dubious. Furthermore, the space it takes to the left of the page looks clumsy; I just want to remove it off sight!

And as all my suspicions went, it’s right to some point. Since I began writing this post, I haven’t opened ScribeFire’s home page, I turned off all Firefox’s updates and only open some posts from my server (which is like thousands of miles away from ScribeFire’s), look at the traffic to and from my computer and see I’ve got:

See that nice IP? 8.10.72.201, let’s find out where is it

Surprise!

I could find out what it is trying to send back home, but doesn’t like to. I’m not going to use this for long anyway. Yes, it does its primary function quite good, but I doesn’t like that interface. Would you prefer the editor you see several paragraph above or this:

Blogging with Word

I know that Word doesn’t have the full functionality set, but I feel more inspired blogging with Word than ScribeFire. UI over functionality, how superficial I am :P. But that’s not the only drawback of this plugin.

  • Every time you insert an image, you will have to wait for it to upload if it’s from your computer, in contrast with Word which uploads the image after you have published the post. ScribeFire’s approach makes the user wait, even if the delay is relatively short on broadband, it’s still a delay and the user (me) isn’t comfortable with it. It does have the advantage of easier control on which image has been uploaded and which have not (Word always upload all images every time you publish a post), but again, Word does not make the user wait: money can’t buy time but it can buy server space :P.
  • No find function in the code view (while the near-WYSIWYG editor has). You have like 1000 lines of HTML for your post? Forget your custom classes!
  • You can open multiple instances of it, ScribeFire will slow you browser down for a while but it will let you. This may easily confuse you and have you edit in the wrong window, especially when you are busy. And that lead to post conflict…

Both of the plugins are new, they have the potential to become better but for the moment, I’m done testing.

Notes on blogging with Microsoft Word 2007

Word 2007… Interesting piece of software, even enough to provoke a full-scale debate on ISO’s decision to have two standards at a time (isn’t standards are intended to unite people in the first place? :))) but that’s not in the scope of what I want to write right now. And no, I’m not going to tell you where to click in Word to start writing. You can read the good-but-is-the-only-blogging-article at Microsoft Office online for that.

Word is not perfect for blogging. For example the category management is just ill-designed. You’ll have to click a button, select the category and then insert it. The on-page category has a drop down box but the only item inside is “none” (what the…?) and yes, I am using the latest service pack. Possibly someone will eventually tell this to Microsoft to be fixed in future release, but hey, Word is not the only thing Microsoft released for the blogger community! There is Windows Live Writer (which is part of Microsoft new “live.com”-ing-everything strategy) too, which appears better suited for the purpose (the demonstration has pictures, categories and stuff listed in a nice view). Unfortunately it’s a 125MB download, and that’s not financially feasible for me to download (and blog about it here). You can download, try, and tell me instead 😛 [edit: a review about WLW can be found here, it cover most of what WLW have to offer, though it has given WLW quite a bias ;)]

UPDATE: WLW is actually only 5MB 🙂

Back to Word… good for text for not so good for blogs, you may as well encounter some problem blogging:

  • No HTML editing
  • Limited picture upload & management
  • Clumsy interface
  • etc.

I tried and solved some stuff ^^

Picture uploads

Word is a Microsoft software, Live spaces is a Microsoft blogging platform. The irony? Live spaces is the only service that doesn’t provide Atom or XML-RPC so Word has to e-mail blog to Spaces, and because blogging is that hard, even if you read and followed the direction on Live Spaces help, Word will just pop an error up when you tried to blog with pictures. Also, wordpress.com won’t allow you to upload pictures either (self-hosted WordPress installations like mine do); and possibly some other service on Word’s “supported” list won’t either… The solution is uploading the pictures to a separate host. If you ever tried to click on”Picture Options” you’d see some choices

  1. My blog provider: Doesn’t work because you are reading this 😛
  2. Don’t upload picture: Awn, not helpful at all
  3. My own server: Make 2 fields appear: upload URL and source URL

What is upload URL and source URL? Word help won’t tell you, Microsoft Office online won’t tell you either! It turned out after a couple of queries that, upload URL is something around an FTP address and source URL is the http address at which the picture should appear after being uploaded. The question turned to “what to fill in?” The links provided in the dialog box is just as helpless as the help 😛 You’ll have to find your own provider, which apparently must support the following

  1. FTP uploads
  2. HTTP direct link

Some image hosts support this, photobucket does have a plan with FTP access but that’s not quite cheap :P. IMO, it’s best to use a web host as you could use it for more advanced purposes later ^^. In this example, I’ll demonstrate with freehyperspace5.com, a free hosting service which anyone can register. You could choose your own host but try to avoid:

  1. Byet hosts: they have a high likelihood of deleting file storage only accounts even if their TOS doesn’t say so.
  2. Any other host that specified in their TOS that they are against picture hosting

Register an account at your host, remember [your username], [your password], [ftp host] and [homepage address], then go to word and type

  1. ftp://[your username]:[your password]@[ftp host] in the upload URL in Word, replace the square brackets with your own information. This looks something like ftp://wind:password@wind.freehost.com
  2. http://[homepage address] for source URL

Done! Press OK twice and now you are ready for picture (and smart art ^^) blogging with Word! No more manually uploading pictures and copy-paste the lengthy URL; just insert and publish! (For a demonstration, have a look at my previous posts, most of them are done with Word!)

Faster blogging

One proof that Word 2007 is designed in such a hurry: Every time you want to blog, you’ll have to click the big red button (the office button :P), choose new, wait for the dialog to appear, choose blog post, OK, wait for the blogging interface to appear… Sick, isn’t it? To start Word exclusively for blogging, you can follow these steps

  1. Browse to the word executable, usually it’s in C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice 12winword.exe
  2. Right-click and choose Create shortcut
  3. Right-click the newly created shortcut and choose Properties, switch to the Shortcut tab
  4. In the Target field, add /t “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeTemplates1033Blog.dotx” /q, replace “C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office” with your path if necessary
  5. The /t tells Word which template to use at start, the /q (supposedly) suppress the splash screen

  6. Press OK
  7. Move the shortcut to where you want it to be: desktop, quick launch, or even start up if you want to blog every time you turn your machine on 😛

When I have some time available I’ll try to solve some more problems. (rest assured there are more, just wandering around you’ll see that Word’s blogging function is beta quality software and there hasn’t been any news from it from the word team since 2006)

PS: After some more looking, it turns out that Blogger has its own plugin for Word long ago (download it here), it worked on Word 2000 and above but the interface is not that interesting and it still does not allow you to post pictures – according to this podcast. To me the plug-in appears unupdated for a while…

Blog.Start()

Actually, that should be NewBlog.Start() since this is not my first blog, and definitely not the second nor the third blog :P. This blog was created last week, in the middle of hurried… Ahh… It’s been better since then… And since when I have started loving storms? Possibly when instructors started to let their students take the day off and hold the deadlines for a while. ^^

Things are a little off-track. My first intention months ago when I wanted to escape from the closed space of Yahoo 360 is to move the whole blog out here. I even wrote a converter and publicized it for that sole purpose. But after the fall of my database and the obstacles I encountered setting up this blog (WordPress error, slow queries, faulty FTP etc.), most of which are just common traits for a byet host. I’ve had an unpleasant experiences with them in the past too; but that’s just what you could expect from a free host. You aren’t paying for it, so all complaining is for yourself. Why I’m not affording a decent host you ask? Possibly because of the ever increasing inflation rate here that when someone started to have a decent amount of money, he must then use the extra to pay for the rise of everything. And that’s such a big problem that I can’t solve in a day or two, so its best to cope with it. As a precaution, I’m going to have a plugin synchronize this blog with a backup too.

Back to the storm, it was cold yesterday but today turned out to be a sunny day. Hot weather as usual, dogs barking and running around (not birds singing), people yell at each others (not kids playing), and stuff. I started the day with a big headache. Partly due to the unsatisfied intention of creating the theme I want: A combination of the elegant transparency found in pixeled and the coolness in transparency from vistered little. To my surprise, vistered little still work with the current version of WordPress. I thought there was some good reason for WordPress to remove their #1 theme from the old repository, when that theme contained link to nowhere other than windy road and was released under GPL… Well, that’s some Automattic thing and possibly not a user’s matter ;))

So here it is… I end up creating a new header and adding some feminine to the theme. Nonetheless it’s black and I feel some strength coming from it (Added shadows and some dashes) B-) It should work for the browsers mentioned at the bottom. Should someone be unable to enjoy the beauty (seeing an ugly header or something), they should just scrap that IE6 and use Opera instead. Geez, don’t they have any idea that browser is back from 2002 and even at that time it already lacked behind?

Installed Gears according to the recommendation from WordPress’ admin page. How come the save button is disabled offline? It’s Gears supposed to handle offline transactions? Another percent in Google’s 47% beta. Or is it WordPress didn’t make use of that offline database? Great idea anyways.

Another disappointment: Microsoft Word will not register this blog for some mysterious reason and I won’t be able to enjoy the comfortability of the #1 text processor… Got it working by now. It turned out that I firewalled Word before and didn’t enable XML-RPC for WordPress…

That’s all I remembered to write, half of the free day has passed by. I have to resume doing stuff tomorrow, just hope that my ISP won’t collapse like they did twice last month. Imagine cup coming and I am still have the competition-phobia :-SS,  a SVN repository still thrist for files I can hear it screaming… Argh… At least my head no longer hurts ^^