Tech Issues

Tech Issues

Summer is usually the time that I address tech issues. The announcement from MT couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I suppose if you really wanted to create a mass exodus of edu bloggers, shooting yourself in the ass right before summer vacation is a great way to start. I think the controversy is overblown, because it really affects very few users. However, the users that it does affect are among the loudest screamers with the biggest page-ranks—the power users. If the people at Six Apart were smart, they would have “pulled an apple” and offered a free or heavily discounted license for education users. This would have cemented their already firm foothold. Instead, it’s turned into quicksand.

Like many people, I had been considering making a change anyway— not because there is anything lacking in MT, but just because I feel it is important to support open source. Comment spam hasn’t been that huge of a problem (it’s more like picking up trash off the lawn). I’m not concerned about “migrating” the years of content I’ve produced—I like to keep things in their original visual form, so my choices are open; I do however, want to maintain the full functionality that MT provides. Trackbacks and pinging have proven to be really powerful things. What seems really ridiculous about the whole MT mess is the idea that they expect the community to stick with them as they offer reduced levels of functionality in “free” versions, rather than building more value into the pay versions. Nobody likes an “indian-giver,” even when they don’t use the features that are being taken away.

So, it looks like I have a lot to learn this summer about tech crap. I was feeling inspired by Burningbird’s LAMP series (and my new mac) to start teaching myself about UNIX. I’ll be resurrecting an old domain name (now redirected here) on a new host with SSH access. My reasons are not all MT or blog related, but they are software related. I like the idea of maintaining more of my research online (so I can access it from remote computers easily), so I wanted to try out either CWIS or Scout Portal. I can’t install them without SSH. I’ve been playing with a Gossamer Threads links administrator for the past few weeks, but it’s got limitations with the length of the URLs it will accept—and though it is free for non-commercial use, it is not open source. Also, I’d like to play with tikiwiki more, and without SSH it is a nightmare.

I’m not a programming geek. There’s a history behind that (I used to be a long, long, long, time ago). I was thinking about learning some PHP and MySQL this summer anyway, even though I don’t have the time to write tools, only use them. Technologies change so fast that if a person tries to keep up, that is pretty much all they can do. I’m interested in other things more. I’ll probably end up in WordPress when the new version comes out, but it bothers me. The whole mess made me pretty nostalgic.

I liked Greymatter a lot. It didn’t use a database, or any of this other crap that might make future content inaccessible. It just produced straight html pages, pretty much in a bullet-proof fashion (see tPA v. 1.0). The new functionalities are great, but the cost of upkeep is pretty stiff. When I switched to MT, I encountered big host problems due to the increased technology involved. I lost a bunch of stuff (see tPA v. 2.0). That’s why this is version 3.0 of my blog—I change the number when the technology changes. So, when I do make a change, the content here will stay in its present form with the present software. I’ll just start over, like changing notebooks, in a new home.

The new host allows multiple domains, so the address won’t change—I’ll just move it after I get things figured out (probably a few months from now). I’m hoping that the new host is reliable, but I’ll find out soon. What I dread more than anything is writing the new templates for a new version. That is always a big issue with me. I think the shape of the page affects the content in powerful ways; that’s why I don’t even think about porting entries. They just wouldn’t be the same in a new “shape.”

I was thinking about changing (not because of the software issues mentioned earlier) mostly because I wanted to try to design a template that would scale better for different resolutions (using ems instead of pixels) and that was more readable with a slightly shorter line length. I’m excited about working on a new look; I’m not excited about learning PHP anymore. Now, it becomes something I have to do instead of something I want to do.

As I went to save this entry, I got the error message “MySQL server has gone away”– that”s been happening from time to time with this host. I’m hoping the next one will be better. But then, I always hope that.

2 thoughts on “Tech Issues”

  1. I have been satisfied with B2, which is an earlier version of WordPress. I chose it because my host offers it as a free option with all their hosting packages and all I had to do was tell them what directory I wanted them to put in and they did everything. B2 lacks many of the bells and whistles of MT and WordPress but it’s been working perfectly. I had no trouble making it work with my old template. The few changes I made were merely cosmetic and not necessary at all.

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