Archives » December, 2003

December 15, 2003

Christmas Tip

While you’re rushing around this holiday season, take a moment to stop and appreciate someone you probably don’t see much—your letter carrier. Buy a box of chocolates, or a bottle of booze, or even a bit of cash, and slip it into the mailbox at Christmastime. They’ll love you for it. And you always want the mailman on your side.

December 14, 2003

Six Feet Under

December 11, 2003

MT understood

I think I figured it out. Making Movable Type archives so the URL reads computer-vet.com/weblog/2003/12/11/mt_understood.html. I was hoping for some kind of a mod_rewrite solution, because that would be the cleanest. weblog/2003/12/11/ would translate to weblog.html?y=2003&m=12&d=11. But I wasn’t thinking. That really only works with dynamic sites, doesn’t it? MT deals in static HTML, so things are a bit different. I realized that as I was learning how to make this happen. When MT builds URLs like that, it does so by creating all the directories it needs, so that the directory structure actually mirrors the URL. I guess when you’re dealing with static HTML, that’s how it’s gotta be. And it’s not too bad that way, I guess.

Anyway, how to do it. I found this page, which put the idea in my head, and let me know I was looking in the wrong place in the MT documentation. I was looking at Templates, I should have been looking at Weblog Config. That was the Eureka moment. That’s when it all came together.

In MT, under Weblog Config, Archiving section, there is a list of the different types of archive files the system uses. There is a field there for “Archive File Template”. Little did I know that actually meant “Archive Filename Template”. This is where you tell the system what rules it uses to create filenames. I didn’t know that. Once I wrapped my head around that, things went smoothly. There are three main templates I set up. Here’s how they break down.

  • Individual<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d/"$><$MTEntryTitle dirify="1"$>.html
  • Daily<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d/index.html"$>
  • Monthly<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/index.html"$>

I’m avoiding the weekly archives for now. But with those three set up, MT creates a 2003 directory, with subdirectories for the months, like 12, 11, and 10. And then each month has a subdirectory for the days, like 08, 09, and 10. Then, inside those directories, MT creates the static HTML with the filename based on the entry title. mt_understood.html, for example. Genius system, it really is. Those Trotts are some sharp cookies.

Now I just have to study this page and figure out how to extend MT for other things, like Sammy’s photoblog and possibly the Ormsby House galleries.

December 10, 2003

Apache Me

This week I started getting serious about moving my site over to an Apache server. My host, Brinkster, has some big issues with reliability, and I find there are times that I just can’t view my own site. So I’m moving off of them and over to an Apache host, most likely freedom2operate. It’s about half the price of my current host, and I have a feeling it will be much more responsive than what I have now. It was founded by Daniel J. Cody, a founder of Evolt, and its main mission is providing free accounts for people to cut their teeth on PHP. The paid hosting subsidizes the other work they’re doing, so I know my money will be going to good use. Plus, there is so much more you can do with Apache and PHP that just isn’t possible on Windows. So the switch will be coming up here, as soon as everything’s ready.

That’s the trick: getting everything ready. Right now my site is written in ASP with SSIs. My weblogs are maintained in Blogger. My goal is to switch the entire site to PHP, with Movable Type on the blog side. So before I can do any switching, I have to convert my entire site to PHP, and set up my blogs in Movable Type. And I’m getting there. I’m definitely making progress. You can see what I’ve done so far at my free F2O site. And you can see my progress with Movable Type there too. Converting most of my site was simple. It’s all static HTML with SSI includes. I changed those to PHP includes, set up a few mod_rewrite rules in .htaccess files, and the site was ready to roll. That worked for my travel pages, tech, and personal information. My blog, like this one and Sammy’s BabyBlog, are going to be a little more involved, since I have to wrap my head around Movable Type to get those running. I have this blog converted pretty well already, at least the main page. Now I need to figure out archiving. I want to archive URLs to look like computer-vet.com/weblog/2003/12/10/apache_me, like Mark Pilgrim and Simon Willison have. I haven’t figured it out yet. Right now they’re just computer-vet.com/weblog/000536.html. Passable, but not what I’m after.

It might be a pain getting everything going just right. But that’s okay; I’m used to it. It was a pain getting the static HTML files and PHP includes running at first, and the main menu that’s at the top of every page on my site. But I figured them out. And I’ll figure out Movable Type too. I just might take a while.

Jethro Bodine and the cursed land

They should have been working on Jethro’s casino by now. Instead the building is sitting as empty as ever, and now the headlines are saying Max Baer Jr. is suing his neighbors, who don’t want him to build the casino. It think the land is cursed; a quick look at the history of the lot shows a bunch of unhappy people.

It was an empty lot when Wal*Mart came to Carson City and built there. Because of a deal the city had made with a neighboring store, there were already restrictions on the land. No supermarkets could be built on the land, since it was inside the “no compete” zone Raley’s had negotiated for. But that was fine. Why would Wal*Mart want to build a supermarket?

Wal*Mart was soon joined by JC Penney and a little strip mall. The three owners entered into a pact that the center would only be used for retail. A “theater, bowling alley, nightclub or other place of recreation or amusement” was prohibited. This was fine with everyone. This was a shopping center, after all. Why would anyone want to build entertainment there?

Years later Wal*Mart decided it did want a supermarket. The company was in the process of transforming existing stores into Super Centers, and they wanted to do the same to Carson City. But there was that nasty little “no compete” zone to deal with. The city would not let Wal*Mat expand into a supermarket. So Wal*Mart hiked up its skirt and moved across the county line to build a brand shiny new Super Center. The old building sat deserted.

Max Baer Jr, having given up on his dream of building Jethro’s casino in Reno, bought the Wal*mart building, intending to transform it into his lifelong dream gambling palace. But then the other two owners, the ones who entered into the “retail-only” pact with Wal*Mart, cried foul. The building was still bound by the terms of that pact, they said, and a casino is a place of recreation and amusement. They won’t let Jethro build his casino.

So now Jethro’s in court. Everybody is suing everybody. Jethro wants his casino. The other folks want their quiet shopping center. I think the only winners out of this whole deal are Raleys, who engineered that “no compete” zone back when the whole place was nothing but sagebrush.

December 9, 2003

More babies

This is just baby season, isn’t it? Latest on the list is Eric Meyer, with new baby Carolyn.

And yes, the cat will adjust. But in the meantime, you know those absorbent pads you buy for the bottom of the crib? Yeah, put a couple of those on the couch. Trust me.

December 8, 2003

Flowerboxes

Some people think keeping an open WiFi access point that anybody can use is a way of helping the terrorists. Others think it’s a way of beautifying your neighborhood, the same as putting flowerboxes outside your window. Drive by my house with a WiFi card sometime to see which one I believe in.

Colors

If you have a color but you’e not sure how to build a color scheme around it, here’s a good place to start. EasyRGB – Color Harmonies. Enter an RGB value, and it gives you 12 colors that go with it. It doesn’t do all the work for you, but it gives you a nudge in the right direction.

December 4, 2003

IIS is not second best! It’s not! It’s not not not!

A survey released by Port80 software is challenging Netcraft’s long-held claim that Apache has a larger presence on the internet than IIS, and that the gap is growing. Netcraft’s November survey shows Apache running about 68% of all sites, and Microsoft IIS in the low 20’s. Port80 says their survey shows a different outcome, that Microsoft is leading the pack with 53.8%. They say that their survey proves Netcraft’s is of “questionable relevance”. But then they turn around and say that their survey only covers the Fortune 1000 companies. So let me get this straight. Port80 does a survey of the 1000 biggest companies (with presumably the 1000 biggest websites), and somehow they claim this survey is representative of the whole Internet? What a load of bullcrap. Witness this quote from Joe Lima, Port80’s COO.

What do Netcraft’s findings prove about Web server market share? It all depends on how you choose to define ‘market share.’ Netcraft attempts to review every detectable site on the Internet to generate their Web server statistics, and this gives their survey a natural bias in favor of Web servers that host relatively low-traffic or even parked domains.

Yeah, and your survey reviews 1000 pre-defined sites, and that gives your survey a natural bias in favor of Web servers run by massive IT departments in what are predominately Microsoft shops. Of course the Fortune 1000 is going to be running Microsoft. I didn’t need your survey to tell me that, and I’m actually a little surprised that IIS got only 54%. I would have put it much higher. But their statement shows why Port80 has no business denouncing Netcraft’s reseach: they are measuring different things. They are two completely different surveys, and so the fact that they came up with two different sets of results is not at all shocking. What is shocking is Port80’s claim that their survey is more relevant.

As opposed to asking which Web server software is most common across the whole of the Internet, the Port80 survey attempts to determine the Web server of choice among large corporations with high-volume sites and demanding business requirements. With this more business-focused approach, Port80’s monthly surveys represent a clearer picture of the Web site technologies deployed by large businesses today.

Yeah, bully for you. But that’s not what Netcraft’s trying to represent. Netcraft’s surveys try to represent the internet as a whole. They represent the fact that there are not only huge e-commerce and brochureware sites for the Fortune 1000 out there, but that there are millions upon millions of other sites. Weblogs, personal sites, regional sites, fan sites, joke sites, porn sites, travel sites, community sites, technical sites, government sites, the list goes on and on. I hate to burst your bubble, but the Fortune 1000 does not own the internet. Many of us can go for months and months without visiting a Fortune 1000 site. So maybe your survey does what it says and “confirms what most business already know: Microsoft IIS is the Web server of choice for the world’s largest companies.” Well hoo-f’ing-ray. So what? Maybe Charmin is the toilet paper of choice among the world’s top 1000 CEOs. Why don’t you give us a survey on what kind of toothpaste the IT managers of those Fortune 1000 companies use? What relevance does that have to the rest of us? Netcraft uses actual numbers and tries to count everybody. And what Netcraft shows is that Apache is the server of choice among the little people. And there’s more little people than there are Fortune 1000 people, so try to take a quick guess as to which survey I think is more “relevant”.

Read Port80’s survey. Read their press release slamming Netcraft. Then notice the bottom where it says Port80 is in the business of selling solutions that make IIS “on-par or better” than Apache. Who mentioned bias?

Be sure to strap on your hip waders, and make sure the batteries are charged in your BS detectors.

December 3, 2003

I Beg Your What?

Have you ever heard of Kon Kan? Neither have I. Not, at least, until yesterday, when this obscure 80’s pop group turned out to be the last stop in a quest that has consumed 14 years of my life.

Come with me as we board the Wayback Machine and go back, back, back. The hands of time are spinning. The year is 1989. Weekend At Bernie’s is packing ‘em in at the theaters. Paula Abdul is rocketing to superstardom on the success of her album Forever Your Girl. America is learning to laugh and love with the cast of Doogie Howser M.D. And a geeky little kid in Nevada is spending most of his time playing Legend of Zelda and programming his Commodore 64. I had just turned 13 and was starting high school when a catchy little electro-pop ditty caught my ear drifting over the speakers on the school bus. The DJ never announced what the song was, but I thought it was one of those tunes that would stick around forever. It didn’t, and it soon fell off the charts and out of radio playlists. I had managed to get a copy of it on cassette tape, but that was soon accidentally erased. That erasure turned out to be the precipitating event. I never heard the song on the radio again, and that’s when my obsession began.

I was at that age when I started listening to radio a lot and collecting my favorite songs. Back then that meant sitting in my room with the tape recorder ready and relying on cat-like reflexes to hit “record” when the first strains of a tune would come on the air. I amassed quite a collection that way, and once I got a job I started buying CDs so I could also have the first few seconds of the songs. As my collection grew, I gathered around me all those 80’s songs I had heard growing up. But there was always a gap in the collection. Yes, that one song from 1989 always haunted me. I figured that I would eventually stumble across it as I did so many of the other songs. The radio would play it again, or it would be a track on some album I bought. Soon I started to actively seek it out, but the memory started slipping away from me. I couldn’t remember exactly when I had first heard it. I didn’t know what year it first came out. I couldn’t remember who the artist was, so I bought albums by bands that seemed like they would have made it. I bought Depeche Mode CDs—they didn’t have it. I bought New Order CDs—they didn’t have it. I bought Erasure and Information Society and Yaz and Dead or Alive and the Pet Shop Boys and I bought compilations and I tried to scour the Billboard chart archives for a title that looked familiar. This song became my white whale. And what frustrated the search even more was that I couldn’t remember anything about the song. I didn’t know the title. I didn’t know who sang it. I couldn’t remember the lyrics. I could just barely hum the melody. I had nothing to go on. There was only one part of the song I remembered, and that was some jibberish in the middle, with an Oriental-sounding guy that mumbled, “Do you want to fight, sir?” And that wasn’t getting me anywhere. Even as I looked for it in the Internet age, a Google search for “Do you want to fight, sir?” turned up nothing.

I had given up. I had written the search off as a failure. I was never going to find this song. But I still remembered it. I never forgot, I never let it drop. It was burned into my head as the one that got away, a piece of unfinished business that would haunt me forever. And that’s why yesterday I tried the Google search one more time. After 14 years, this quest had become a part of me, and with things like that you never truly give up.

And hot damn, this time the Google search came back with results. The site it led me to revealed that, all this time, the one phrase I actually remembered from the song was a misheard lyric! It wasn’t “Do you want to fight, sir?”, it was “Leo’s got a flat top”. Which sound nothing alike, but still. This whole freaking time, I had the lyrics wrong! But the dumbheadedness of that move was soon eclipsed with the excitement that my search could finally be over. The song it mentioned was “I Beg Your Pardon” by Kon Kan. Well, I had never heard of Kon Kan. Could that actually be it? An AMG search provided details about the band and the song that seemed to match up. A search for the full lyrics of the song came up with lines that sounded vaguely familiar. I felt that I was getting close, so only one thing remained. I fired up KazaaLite and went searching for it. It’s a pretty obscure song, so it took a few tries, but I finally got a full version and played it. As the music started to flow out of my speakers, the thrill of recognition coursed through my body. This was it! It was the right song! After all this time, all the blind searches and dead ends, Google finally proved to be my savior.

So where do I go from here? I have my mystery song. All the blanks have been filled in. Thanks to MP3, which I could have never conceived of in 1989, but which probably would have made sense if you told me about it, I can listen to the song whenever I want. My quest is complete, but now I feel a little empty inside. I’ve been hunting for this song for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else. This little gap in my knowledge had become a part of me; now that’s it’s been filled, it’s a little unsettling. Life will go on, but I need to come up with a new unsolved mystery. I don’t think I can live without one.

And I still swear that Oriental guy is really saying “Do you want to fight, sir?”