Archives » July, 2006

July 31, 2006

Broken Links in MT Comment Notification E-mails

I upgraded to the new Movable Type 3.3 a while ago, and for the most part I like it. There are a few enhancements to the interface, just little incremental things that don’t mean much by themselves but when taken together make a big difference. And there’s a lot that’s stayed the same because it already works well, and doesn’t need to be changed.

But there was one big annoyance that really had me rattled. After I upgraded to MT 3.3, all the comment notification e-mails I would get were text-wrapped at 72 characters. Now I know there’s a debate out there about this, some people that say all outgoing mails should be text-wrapped because some e-mail clients don’t know how to handle free-flowing text and wrap it themselves (those PINE users sure are vocal). And if it was just text I wouldn’t mind it being wrapped for me. But MT was wrapping the links in the text too, the links that you click on to edit or approve a comment. I used those links all the time, because no matter how much filtering gets installed I still get spam comments. With those links it only took about two clicks to delete those nasty buggers. But when MT wrapped the text and inserted a line break in the middle of the link, I couldn’t click on it anymore. This added a few more steps to my mission of wiping out spam, but what made it especially bad was that the links were still there, taunting me, visible but broken.

Luckily today I found the fix. And it’s not an easy fix, like setting something in the configuration panel. You have to dig into the source code for Movable Type and make the change there. Which means when MT 3.4 comes out and you upgrade your files, this fix will be wiped out. We can only hope Six Apart will have fixed this bug by then, but it’s still a messy workaround. Here’s how you do it:

Open your FTP and go into your mtadmin folder, or whatever you named it. Drill down into the /lib/MT/App directory and look for two files, and Each of them contains a line that handles the text wrapping that you’ll need to comment out. This is what the line looks like:

$body = wrap_text($body, 72);

You’ll want to open each file and change the line so it looks like this:

# $body = wrap_text($body, 72);

In, that code appears on Line 420. In, it shows up twice, on Line 198 and Line 614. Comment out all three of those occurrences, then save the files and upload them back to your server. This should fix the text wrap on future e-mails.

I hope Six Apart addresses this in a future release. It’s pretty bad to put a link in an e-mail and then make it so you can’t click on it. Their programmers are usually better than that.

Tip found at (which isn’t working right now…check out Google’s cached version).

Enable Old Extensions on Firefox 2.0 Beta 1

So you’re running the shiny new beta version of Firefox 2.0. Perhaps on Build 5472 of Vista…who knows? But anyway, you’re running Firefox and you’re peeved because all your favorite extensions don’t work. Web Developer Toolbar, Session Saver, BugMeNot, they’re all listed in the Extensions windows (Or, Add-Ons, as they’re called now), but they’re all disabled. They don’t run on this version, they say. The max version allowed is 1.5.0.x, and they won’t work on 2.0b1. So they sit there, taunting you, and you wonder how you’re going to get out of this one.

Well, now you don’t have to worry any more. I found the secret sauce that lets all your old extensions run in Firefox 2.0. What you do is type about:config in the address bar to get to Firefox’s configuration panel, then right click and choose New > Boolean. For the “preference name” enter extensions.checkCompatibility, and for the value choose false. Click OK, then reboot Firefox and all your extensions should run just fine. Or most of them anyway. There may be some of them that clash with the new stuff in Firefox 2.0, so be prepared to do some troubleshooting or disable them manually. Like I have a favorite theme, Noia Lite, and using it on Firefox 2 screws up the tabs. So I had to turn it off. But most of the extensions should work just fine after applying this fix.

Hat tip to the MozillaZine forums on this one.

July 30, 2006

Local Ain’t Easy, But It Is Dumb

Jeff Jarvis on the “dumbing down” of newspapers. Small town papers across the country are printing less national and world news, and more local news. Some people see this as a bad thing, saying that only “dumb” people want local news, and “smart” people want to know what’s going on in New York, Washington D.C., and overseas. Jeff sees it just the opposite. Local papers should focus on local news. Leave the national stories to the New York Times and the internet.

Shafer assumes that local is dumb, which is to say that national and foreign is smart. That is a coastal prejudice: What happens in Washington, New York, and maybe once a month in L.A. is important and everything inbetween, in the flyover, is just dumb.

Shafer is also revealing his assumption about journalism: that the big, national story is closer to real journalism; the rest is just dumb.

Maybe the local papers didn’t lose the smart people. Maybe they lost the people who didn’t care about local anyway. Or maybe they lost the snots. Or Yankees fans.

I like having local news in the local paper. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Now that all the big national stories are covered to death on the internet, I don’t need to read about them in the paper. Do you know which sections of the paper I skim over in about three seconds? The National and World sections. Because they’re full of nothing but AP stories, stories I can find anywhere. But the local news, the news about what’s happening in Carson City or Gardnerville? There’s only one source for that. That’s what the paper should be focusing on.

I guess I just care more about what’s happening in Carson City than what’s happening in New York (yuck) or Washington D.C. (double-yuck). If that makes me “dumb”, so be it.

July 27, 2006

The Tubeys

Forget the TCA awards. Take the Emmys and stuff them in your hat. It’s time for the real television awards, the ones everyone’s clamoring to win: the 2005-2006 Tubeys (official slogan: Relatively Few Awards for Two and a Half Men.) These are the awards given out by the readers of, so you know they’re the best and most prestigious in the industry.

Today and tomorrow is when the “vetting” process take place. Each of the 53 categories has a raft of nominations, and in these two days members get to whittle that number down to 10 official nominees for each. Then the actual voting starts Saturday and is open for five days. The results will be announced sometime next week.

With such exciting categories as “Most Overlooked Show”, “Worst Stunt Casting”, “Biggest WTF Moment”, “Worst ’Improved’ Show”, and “Best Performance by an Inanimate Object”, the Tubeys are always a crowd pleaser. And better yet they get at the intricate little details that we, the TV obsessives, really care about. At the Tubeys, the awarding of “Best Show” is almost an afterthought, pushed aside for “Most Ludicrous Plotline”. And that’s the way it should be.

So head over to the official TWoP boards, sign up if you haven’t yet, and place your votes. Your opinion really can make the difference!

July 24, 2006

Windows Vista Build 5472

The slow march to Windows Vista continues. Another Community Technology Preview has been released, this one is Build 5472. It’s supposedly the last public release before Release Candidate 1 comes out later this summer. You know, if they keep up at this pace they might actually hit the January release date. What will we do without any more Vista slippages? I’ll feel so empty inside.

Now this Build 5472 isn’t available to the whole public. It’s only for special Microsoft subscribers. For ordinary Joes like you and me, we’re supposed to still be using the Beta 2 they came out with last month. Which you can’t even download anymore. But it’s always fun to kill some time by installing the latest builds, and I always find a way to download the new builds when they come out (cough cough). So later this week I should be playing with this new system. It’s supposed to run faster, with fewer annoying “Are You Sure” popups than the previous builds. I sure hope so. Vista has this thing called “User Account Control”, where when you do anything that requires administrator access, the screen goes grey and this box pops up asking if you’re sure. I guess the idea is that this way no spyware can install without you knowing about it. But it comes across like Microsoft’s screaming at us: “See! We’re serious about security! You can’t do anything now without jumping through thirteen hoops! See!” It’s more of a response to their critics than it is any kind of useful feature, so I’m glad to hear they’re toning it down.

July 21, 2006

Nobody’s Watching…Or Are They?

Every year there are dozens of TV pilots made. Only a few of them get picked up by the networks and get turned into regular series. The rest go into a vault somewhere and are forgotten. Once upon a time those were the only two options for a pilot, but now a third is beginning to emerge.

Nobody’s Watching was the name of a pilot made last year by Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs and Spin City. It was a show about two guys who were tired of watching all the crap on TV, and sent a complaint to the executives in Burbank saying that they could do better. I’m sure hundreds of letters just like that are written every day in real life. But in this show’s shocking twist, the executives write back and say, “OK, prove it.” The guys are flown out to LA and put in charge of creating and running their own sitcom. Which, of course, they have no idea how to do. Cameras follow them everywhere and record everything they do, and it’s this reality-show-wrapped-around-a-show-within-a-show that we at home are supposedly watching.

Nobody’s Watching was a pilot in the spring of 2005, I believe, and first NBC was interested in it, then the WB was interested in it (in fact, it takes place at the WB studios), but in the end nobody wanted it and it was put into the vault. Normally this would be the end of the story.

But this story, just like the show itself, has a shocking twist. This spring the pilot episode of Nobody’s Watching found its way onto YouTube. It’s still up there; you can watch it yourself, in three parts (one|two|three). It became a hit on YouTube, earning nearly 400,000 viewers, so NBC decided to give it a second chance. They officially announced this morning that they’ll pick up Nobody’s Watching for the 2006-07 season, as well as create several internet-only “webisodes” for folks to watch online. It’s an internet-age success story, a TV show brought back from the dead by the web.

So is this the start of a trend? Is every failed pilot going to be dumped online now in the hopes that they can get enough grassroots support to get on the air? And what I’m really wondering, is how long before the TV producers decide to bypass the networks alltogether, and take their shows to the web first? I guess the problem with that plan is that it takes money to make these shows, money that the network usually fronts. Some kind of new economy would have to spring up to take the networks out of the picture, and that kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

And what about Nobody’s Watching itself? Will pageviews online translate into viewers on the tube? Will the title be self-fulfilling? One thing I know for sure is that the pilot will have to be reshot, since it was focused around the WB. The WB doesn’t even exist anymore; it’s merging with UPN in a couple of months to form the CW. And since the show is now on NBC, they’ll probably redo it to work in their new network. But this reshoot is actually a terrific opportunity for them. Because the pilot, while kind of fresh and exciting in some ways, was also kind of limp and lame in others. It’s part of the whole mockumentary genre, and uses that to good effect in some areas. Like the TV executives that can’t stop staring at the cameras. But at other times the jokes fell flat and things that probably looked good on paper were executed poorly. In some ways, it’s probably a good thing that it didn’t get picked up right away, because it most likely would have been a dud. If the producers can really figure out what went wrong the first time, why it didn’t get picked up, and work on making it better, it could turn out to be a fun show.

And stayed tuned on YouTube for more failed pilots. I have a feeling we’re about to see a land rush.


The joys of having a puppy:

Baxter Aftermath

July 20, 2006

River of News

Believe it or not, for someone who has so many sites in his blogroll and spends a good amount of time daily reading blogs, I’ve never used an RSS aggregator. I’ve tried before. I’ve used NewsGator, and Bloglines, and RSSBandit, but I just never got into it. Well, now I’m trying it again, but this time I’m trying it differently. Instead of using the folder-based approach like all those other aggregators do, where each feed is in its own folder, and you have to click into one folder then click on each item, much like reading e-mail, I’ve been on the search for a “River of News” aggregator. This is the concept that some of the first RSS aggregators, including the ones created by Dave Winer, used. And when I first heard about the idea it sounded wrong, but, like most of Dave’s ideas, I warmed up to it over time. The idea behind a River of News is that all the items from all your feeds are smashed into one column that scrolls down forever, organized by date. It’s like a single blog page that all your favorite writers contribute to. You don’t have to click and click and click, you just use your scroll wheel to breeze through it.

So once I had convinced myself I wanted to try a River of News aggregator, I thought the hard part was over. It wasn’t. Next I had to find one. I looked at Bloglines, and it didn’t do it. It came close, but even when you “view all feeds” the items are still grouped by feed, not mixed in together. RSS Reader didn’t do it. And I looked at the feature set of a bunch of other aggregators, and none of them had what looked like a river of news built in. When would I ever find one?

Well, I found one this week. Omea Reader from JetBrains. It’s free, and it has both models built in. There are folders, but if you click on the top level of a folder, and turn on “Newspaper View”, the program gives you a perfect River of News:

And yet, the folders are still right there, so if you have some favorite authors where you don’t want to miss a thing, you can still get a view just from thier site.

So now that I’ve finally found the right program to use, I have to get used to reading blogs this way instead of visiting each site individually. That’s going to take the most getting used to. After all this work, I might end up ditching this aggregator too. But so far I’m having fun with it. We’ll see what happens.

When Your Hobby Becoms Your Job

InformationWeek: Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies Into Livelihoods. Also known as how to quit your job and go to work online. A profile of five websites: Dooce, SixApart,, Digg, and Zoot, that started as hobbies but became popular and successful enough to let the creators quit what they were doing and go to work on them full time.

July 19, 2006

Making the Funnies Funny Again

The funny pages aren’t funny. I don’t know if they ever were; I mean, supposedly these little four-panel strips are meant to have some kind of joke in them, but they don’t really. I used to read the comics regularly when I was younger, and I don’t remember laughing a lot. Now I just find the whole comics page tedious. A couple of times a month I’ll try to look it over, but I find myself having to force it down like bad oatmeal. Reading the funny pages is not fun.

So that’s why it’s such a great thing that we have people like Josh Fruhlinger to make it easier. On his blog, The Comics Curmudgeon, he does what I previously thought was impossible: he makes the comics funny. He and his crack team of commenters are able to deconstruct the comics, and find that there’s so much more humor in laughing at the comics than laughing with them. Like this strip where Mary Worth is horrified at the thought of having to visit the downtown’s women’s shelter, and Josh’s spot-on commentary:

Meanwhile, here’s Mary Worth’s advice to women in trouble: no matter how bad your situation, no matter how badly your husband or your parents beat you, no matter how intolerable your life behind the graciously weathered walls of your suburban condo may be, for God’s sake, don’t go to the Women’s Shelter! Mary seems to be under the impression that a women’s shelter is meant to shelter us from the thieving, violent, criminal women who no doubt use it as their lair. Like Dante, Mary passes through the gates of her everyday life to descend into the brutal slum that is “downtown,” where, in rapid succession, she comes face to face with:

* A beatnik
* A jaundiced man with a tattoo
* A muscle-bound man wearing a powder-blue tank top, possibly homosexual
* Slightly cracked plaster
* Garbage protruding from the top of a trash can

Apparently Mary believes that a merciful death, drunk and face-down in Charterstone’s beautifully landscaped pool, would be preferable to this degradation.

On the other hand, in today’s strip, residents of the Women’s Shelter seem engaged in nonspecific, but definitely non-robbery-and-violence-related behavior. Maybe it’s Mary who’s going to learn a Valuable Lesson this time around — and she’ll find out who the real sheltered woman is.

Josh also brings to light a ton of horrible new comic strips that I had no idea existed, little gems like They’ll Do It Every Time, which is supposed to be “a humorous look at human hypocrisy, inconsistencies or one of the quirky twists of fate that beleaguer us all.” But it’s really an archaic and baffling litany of complaints by people who don’t understand the modern world. Its essence was captured perfectly in this post that Josh pointed to last week:

This comic is stuck in the 1930’s. It’s a little tiny time machine back to comics past, where men wore fedoras and people fell the hell down anytime someone told a punchline.

That office is the DAILY FUCKING PLANET from the Fleischer Superman cartoons. NO COMPUTERS, NO TELEPHONES, NO CUBICLES.

Just books.


Again, this comic was published and written THIS VERY YEAR. This comic is not from some old magazine dusty with age and rotted away, this comic is in YOUR VERY NEWSPAPER.


And that’s the other thing about The Comics Curmudgeon, he doesn’t just write his own material. He also opens the window on this whole subculture out there that’s devoted to making fun of the comics. He brings light to other sites like Crap Every Time, Marmaduke Explained, Permanent Monday, which explores Garfield far more than it needs to be, and Dinette Set Deconstruction. I think we’ve reached the point where the comics themselves are meaningless; their only use is as source material for other folks who actually are funny.