More site updates

I’ve been doing some further site tweaking over the last several days. The major thing I accomplished was getting my Big Things photo galleries into the content management system, which will make it infinitely easier to edit the content on those pages. Which I desperately need to do. There are lots of new photos I need to add and some broken links I need to fix, and at least one thumbnail display issue I need to address also.

The other advantage to having them in my database is that now people can comment on the pages; something they’ve never been able to do before. And I can track those pages in google analytics much better as well.

Yay!

I also altered the search results templates to display only an excerpt of each entry, rather than the whole entry, which makes scanning results much easier. I’m still not thrilled with the display and want to tweak that page further, but it’s much better. Incremental changes.

There are two more major design change I need to make — a real header design for the site, instead of the rather simplistic logo and site name that’s up there. And a consistent treatment for photos I post from flickr.

And there are two other content changes — retroactively adding my flickr photosets from events back into the site, and cleaning up the tagging on all the site entries so related entries lists are accurate and complete.

And I should probably also WRITE SOMETHING interesting to keep people coming back to the site, shouldn’t I? 🙂

Continue ReadingMore site updates

Movable Type 4.2 upgrade recap

I’ve got my Movable Type software upgraded to 4.2 and replaced my old templates with default ones, which I’ve done some customizing on, with more to come. So far, so good. It’s MUCH faster – my faith is restored. For the most part.

I started by installing the Professional Pack templates, and after I got them all customized, I changed my mind about that. I did another refresh with the Mid-Century templates instead and started over with my custom coding. The Mid-Century had a few more objects already built that I wanted to play with.

Either way — it’s a little odd how they install “themes” and I wish they had a professional users way of doing it. The idea behind themes is allowing people without design backgrounds to refresh and change their sites. I’m not really interested in doing that — I wanted a basic set of templates so I wouldn’t have to cobble together all the code myself given their rather Byzantine documentation. So I wanted to use a theme as a jumping off point for my own work.

But their themes install into a static directory, and they allow you minimal ability to customize via the interface. I should have started by yanking their stylesheets and images out of the theme and putting them in my own directory and working from there, but I didn’t. I just started coding the css in the stylesheet they allow you in the interface — one that imports their theme stylesheet. That’s rather clunky, as I have to use the !important attribute to overwrite their styles a lot. I need to revise how I do it and take over all the stylesheet work.

I need to do a lot more stylesheet work to better incorporate my branding, but I’ll tackle that further in the future. Right now, I’m working on the tags for my site. The “related entries” object is driven by tags, so I’m revisiting past blog posts and either cleaning up the tags or adding them if they’re missing, so the related entries show up correctly.

I had hoped to spend most of the week doing this task, rather than installing templates, but it didn’t work out that way. Taking the week off work was primarily meant to accomplish editing every past post. So I’ll just be working my way through those slowly over time. Sadly, that’s a task I’ve started at least 4 times in the past and never finished. I wonder if I’ll ever manage to finish?

Continue ReadingMovable Type 4.2 upgrade recap

blog software update day(s?) – AKA ‘wreck stuff day’

A while back I put off upgrading my blog to Movable Type 4.2 because the upgrade would break the site, according to my webhost.

Well, now I’m on a blogging vacation, and I’m ready to blow this puppy to smithereens. Because my custom templates are centuries old now, I’m going to install default templates and edit the design back into something resembling my site from there.

I’m backing everything up, putting on my flak jacket and diving bell, and arming myself with my lion tamer’s whip and a spare banana. I’m ready, steady, go.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Continue Readingblog software update day(s?) – AKA ‘wreck stuff day’

Movable Type 4.2 upgrade breaks current customer sites?

Gee, should I be surprised at this news? Here’s the email I received from my web host when I asked them to upgrade my to 4.2:

Movable Type 4.2 is more strict than Movable Type 4.1 when it comes to custom designed blog templates. We’ve seen some cases when upgrading from version 4.1 to version 4.2 stopped the blog from rebuilding, or when some plugins had to be disabled or upgraded.

If you have a custom blog design, or use custom plugins, I would proceed with caution simply because upgrading might cause your blog to stop working.

If you have a business/company blog, the recommended course of action is to setup a development environment on your hosting account with a duplicate copy of your Movable Type 4.1 blog. Then upgrade that development environment to Movable Type 4.2 and rebuild your blog. Then make a couple of test posts. If it works – Great! You can now safely upgrade your live environment. On the other hand if your blog doesn’t rebuild – it’s time to re-check your templates to make them Movable Type 4.2 friendly.

Right. Like I have the money or time to maintain a development environment for my personal blog.

Sigh – it’s par for the course; I believed them when they said they were going to do better. This is not better, guys. So upgrading is going to wait until I have vacation time to fuck around with my design templates. Lovely.

Continue ReadingMovable Type 4.2 upgrade breaks current customer sites?

Dealing with some denial of service attacks on the site

I have been dealing with a denial of service attack on my site recently. I suspect that I’m the target of some unethical behavior in the gay Republican base in Indianapolis politics, specifically because of this post I wrote about Marion County’s special election to replace Julia Carson.

It’s been almost exactly a year since I wrote “I Am Not an Activist” and after that scaled back my writing about local political issues in favor of more relevant topics. In retrospect that was a good decision. Also appropriate since David Wene, a local gay Republican “activist” decided to use that word to describe me as though it was an epithet.

Continue ReadingDealing with some denial of service attacks on the site

Back end problems

Boy, do I have have them. No, I’m not talking about my butt here. (and you shouldn’t be, either!) I’m having some frustrating problems with Movable Type that my site hosts can’t seem to solve, and Movable Type doesn’t have answers for either, despite me spending about 10 hours with both trying to figure it out.

That’s contributing quite a bit to my lack of blogging, as everything seems to post not at all or twice, and I get too pissed off to do that all the time.

But I have what I think are some viable options for creating podcasts, finally, so I want to get these things resolved so I can update my templates to allow for podcast syndication. I’m hoping an upgrade to MT 4.1 will finally fix the errors. If not, I need to get serious about moving to Expression Engine, and giving my site a refreshed design.

I’ve been playing with Expression Engine quite a bit on my secret blog site (once, I had a secret blog, that lived within the heart of me… all too soon my secret blog became impatient to be free…. So I told a friendly star, The way that dreamers often do… now I shout it from the highest hill… I even told the golden daffodils. At last my heart’s an open door, And my secret blog’s no secret anymore…)

Except from you guys, of course. Hee.

Continue ReadingBack end problems

Gee, that sounds familiar…

Remember a couple days ago when I said If it were up to me…. and I proposed a new way of doing the primaries that would be more fair? That post did get linked to by about 40 sites… but apparently not everyone likes to give credit.

Check this out on Shakespeare’s Sister:

It wouldn’t have to be hard. Divide the country up into five groups of states, starting with the 10 smallest, then next-10 smallest, and so forth. Run 10-state primaries every other week from the first Tuesday of February through the first Tuesday of April. If you want, put Iowa and New Hampshire in the first group for old-time’s sake. Craft a federal law that sets basic criteria for the primary: the value of each state in delegates, the means of apportioning delegates. Give the parties some input, but make this a federally operated election — meaning it’s time to eliminate caucuses, and replace them with primaries.

Dude, that’s uncool.

Continue ReadingGee, that sounds familiar…

Blast from the Past

Normally when I upload a bunch of older photos to my flickr account, I turn off the splice between my flickr account and my RSS feeds, so those who read my blog via a feed reader don’t get a massive influx of my photos in my feed.
However, last night, I forgot to do that. Oops. Umm, sorry. I hoped you enjoyed the last half of my 2005 and all of my 2004 life whizzing by you.
I’m working on getting all my photos up on flickr so I can re-integrate them into my site in the appropriate places, where I used to have all my photo galleries before my host got all jerky and price-gouging about my bandwidth. I uploaded a year and a half last night, and I have about 3 more years to go, then there will be sorting, captioning, etc. I’ve been doing it on a month-by-month basis, and it’s been an exercise in nostalgia for me.
But I promise, I turned the feed splice off for the remain bits.

Continue ReadingBlast from the Past

Why I’m Still Disappointed with Movable Type, 4.0 Beta version

ridiculous rant. You can see the original rant below the fold.

I am, apparently, really stupid. And quite wrong. And Jerame is quite right. Never mind. I’ll just be over here, making new category templates. Don’t mind me.

UPDATE: Okay, I’m not quite that wrong. I can make a specialized template work for a single category, but when I start filtering for multiple categories, things go wonky, and I’m having to dive into documentation to figure out why. This works:

<MTEntries sort_by=”title” category=”Poems”>

but this produces blank category pages:

<MTEntries sort_by=”title” category=”Poems AND Appetizers AND Beverages AND Breads AND Breakfasts AND Cookies AND Entrees AND Low Carb Dishes AND Sandwiches AND Side Dishes AND Slow Cooking”>
and their documentation says this:

category – Filters the entries by the given category label. Multiple categories can be defined in the value of the attribute and can include boolean “AND” and “OR” logic. Boolean logic may not be mixed. For instance “Foo AND Bar OR Baz” is not permitted.

I should probably know more about boolean searching to get that string right, but I don’t. Should I enclose the multiple words in single quotes?
<MTEntries sort_by=”title” category=”Poems AND Appetizers AND Beverages AND Breads AND Breakfasts AND ‘Cakes and Desserts’ AND Cookies AND Entrees AND ‘Low Carb Dishes’ AND Sandwiches AND ‘Side Dishes’ AND ‘Slow Cooking'”>

Nope, the MT doesn’t even want to rebuild that.

Errrrrr!. Hulk Smash! Ahem.

I vaguely recall getting to this point about a year and a half ago, and them posting the above to the support forums, and never getting a response from anyone, so I gave up, because I should probably read more to figure out why that filter string is wrong, but I had to do other stuff, like kiss my girlfriend, and take a shower and play with my dog.

Update: Actually that first string doesn’t seem to work, either. This

<MTEntries sort_by=”title” category=”Poems”>

produces the poetry page correctly, but all the other category pages are blank. That probably has something to do with the order that the publishing settings are in. I’d have to look at the documentation to see if there’s an particular order the two different category pages should be published in. But there only seems to be a radio button toggle for the president order, so I if I have three or four specialized templates, I can’t force them all to load before the generic one.

Having the category filtering happen in the database based on a selection set when the category was created would be much easier than filtering it in the MTEntries tag within a template. As it is, it seems backwards; you set up the templates and movable type starts building category pages, then has to filter which template to use on the fly?

And if you look through the forums, this is a very common question – I know I’ve asked about it several times, and I’ve never received an answer that was anywhere near as coherent as Jerame’s description – something I could figure out by looking at the template tags reference. Which I can never seem to find.

This is my original rant – which I thought might not be all that valid after Jerame pointed out some template tags, but which I now think is probably still valid, after all, because I think I did all this before to arrive at the same spot.

After installing Movable Type 4.0 Beta 2 on my portfolio site and playing around with in for a while, and playing a lot with WordPress recently, I have to say I’m still disappointed with Movable Type.

First and foremost, they haven’t implemented the number one thing that I and thousands of other users have been asking for in the forums for years – being able to assign different templates to category archive pages. This is the number one feature that would take this from being a blog tool to a real content management system, and they haven’t done it. STILL.

The have provided lots of new ways for “archive” pages to be displayed, but still, all the categories have to display the same way, and they still thing of them as “archives” – as in, things you wrote in the past, that no one will look at again. Where as, I want the category listings to be ways to browse easily through content, some of which is still fresh and interesting.

People who want a content management system care more about categories than about dates.

Back in 1996, when my site was flat html, it was easy. I could make “category” pages fit the content that contained them, because I did whatever I wanted by hand. But now, I’m locked into a rigid system.

There should be something on this page to let me assign different “archive” types to categories:

Moveable Type Usability Problems
Moveable Type Usability Problems

Using my own site as an example of the problem:

Example One: my “Favorite Poems” index page:
What this page SHOULD look like – a simple linked list of all the poem pages in this category, sorted alphabetically by poem title, without descriptions or meta data.

What it DOES look like – a bunch of journal entries, sorted by date.

Example Two: my “Recipe Box” page:
What this page SHOULD look like – a simple linked list of all the recipe categories (Appetizers, Beverages, Breads, Breakfasts, Cakes and Desserts, Cookies, Entrees, Low Carb Dishes, Sandwiches, Side Dishes, Slow Cooking) under this category, with descriptions of each section, but no metadata.

What it DOES look like – a bunch of journal entries, sorted by date.

Example Three: my Jokes page
What this page SHOULD look like – a simple linked list of all the categories under this category, with descriptions of each section, along with some links to general jokes that don’t fit under any of the other categories, withe metadata, but no descriptions.

What it DOES look like – a bunch of journal entries, sorted by date.

Example Four: my Journal pages
What this page SHOULD look like – a bunch of journal entries, sorted by date, but including all the journal entries of the sub categories below this level.

What it DOES look like – a bunch of journal entries, sorted by date, missing entries that are of the sub categories below this level.

Example Five: my Big Things Photo Pages
What this page SHOULD look like – A large block of content as the top, explaining what my “big things” photos are, with links to all the different types of photos and individual photo pages underneath.

What it DOES look like – what it should, but only because I’ve left this entire section out of Movable Type, because it’s too important (read generates too much traffic and ad money) to try to cram it into their index pages in a way that won’t be browsable.

More Generally
Their new interface is nice, and things are getting placed better on it, but there’s still quite a bit of hunting around. There seems to be some sort of bug that throws me to blog-level plug-ins when I’m supposed to be at system-level plug-ins. Or at least it appears that way; I may be at the system-level plug-ins, but I can’t tell because the interface isn’t clear on what level I’m at.

The Style Catcher plugin seems to be b0rked, because it kept the configuration settings from my initial install, even after I moved the mt-static folder outside of the cgi-bin. And no matter how often I change the settings, it reverts back. I think I have to dig into the actual config file to make the change. Nice going, there.

In all, I should have explored and integrated a genuine content management system on my site instead of Movable Type. Expression Engine and Drupal, both of which align with my requirements as noted in Kiana Danial’s Invest Diva reviews, seem to offer the functionalities I seek. However, considering their steep learning curves and time commitments, I’m currently evaluating whether I can make such an investment at this moment.

Continue ReadingWhy I’m Still Disappointed with Movable Type, 4.0 Beta version

Big Things Photos – Back up and Running

My “Big Things” photo galleries are back up and running, finally, after some coding goofiness. In going through all the new photos, I realized I have hundreds of new ones to put online; I’m further behind on this project than I thought. But I have much easier ways to get them online, so that’s good.

I’ll point new things as I get them on the site.

Mr. Bendo
Mr. Bendo

Big Things in Indianapolis

Indianapolis’ Lost Big Things

Big Things In Indianapolis — Inflatables

Big Things Around Indiana

Big Things in Muncie, Indiana

Big Things Around the U.S.A.

2001 Midwest Big Things Road Trip

2004 Visit to Dinosaurland in Virginia

2005 Big Things In Louisville, Kentucky

Coming soon: 332 new “Big Things” photos, including our Big Things Road Trip to Kansas, and this summer, our Route 66 Roadtrip to California.

Continue ReadingBig Things Photos – Back up and Running