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Archive: January 2007

WP 2.1 Breakage

So I upgraded to WordPress 2.1, and it immediately broke stuff.  For example, check out the RSS feed validator’s results for the summary version of my all-posts feed (full-content feed validation results; same problem).  I think it’s just so cool how the software manages to get the sever to return a 404 for a file that’s clearly being served.

Of course, I only got to that point after commenting out the IfModule mod_rewrite.c stuff WP apparently tacked onto the end of my .htaccess file.  Before that, the above-referenced feed URLs just brought up the home page of the site while preserving the feed URL in the address bar.  Keen.

Exactly the same progression of trouble has applied to the Distractions feed, too.  At first the server (or WP) was filling in the home page, and now it returns the feed along with a 404 response.

I’ve also had the same problems with the main page of the post archive—at first, it redirected to the home page.  Now it just returns a 404, although unlike the feeds, it doesn’t also create a full page to go with the 404.  At least, I don’t think it does.  I can’t see it, anyway.  A shame, too, that it does its own thing rather than use the 404 page I already defined in the .htaccess file.

Anyone have any guesses at all as to what’s going wrong, and how I can get WP to stop throwing around inappropriate 404s?  I assume this has something to do with my .htaccess file’s Rewrite rules—which worked just fine in WP 1.5.2, by the way—and the new error handling routines.  Or maybe it’s just the new error routines.

Oh, and while we’re at it, what’s the story on the “new tabbed editor” that’s supposed to let you “switch between WYSIWYG and code editing instantly while writing a post” that was mentioned in the WP 2.1 announcement?  Because I’ll be switched if I can find it.

Ah, the joys of upgrading…

Addendum: anyone know of a quick and simple way to just disable WordPress’ internal rewrite code, so I can go back to using my .htaccess file?  That might solve the problem just as well as trying to hack my way around the problem with WP, and a lot more simply.

Twitterific 1.1

In case you’re one of the people who’s been following the Twitter stuff, and you’re on OS X, then kindly allow me to direct your attention to Twitterific 1.1.  Despite its paltry 0.1 increase in version number, it’s acquired some great new features.

The most wonderful addition, in my opinion, is a preference setting that lets you make the window act modal, or not, as you prefer.  Having set my copy to “act as normal window”, at least half my problems with Twitterific were abolished.  They’ve also changed the auto-hide behavior so that it will auto-hide a short interval after popping up, whereas before it would only auto-hide after a manual refresh (at least, that’s how my copy behaved).  This makes it a lot easier to ignore in the background, since it won’t behanging around until you bring it to the foreground.  Perhaps this is a side effect of it acting like a normal window.  Regardless, it’s welcome.  In addition, I like the ability to define a hotkey to bring up the Twitterrific window and the “launch when I login” option.

They’ve also added a post character counter, so you know how close you are to hitting the tweet cap.  That’s nice to see, though as I understand it, the number of characters permitted for a post is dependent on the number of characters in your username.  Twitterific just gives you a flat 141 characters—which, given the basic nature of Twitter, seems like it really ought to be more than enough.

Now, if it just let me define my own background-foreground colors and made it easier to replace the alert sound, I’d regard it as being pretty much perfect.  (Yes, I can dig into the package contents and replace the alert sound, but I’d rather there was a preference setting so that I don’t have to futz around inside the package every time I update the software.)

Oh, and if you’re a Twitterific user, you absolutely want to add Twitterific as a friend, since they use that channel to tweet release announcements and tips on using Twitterific.  If I’d had them added to my Twitter account, I wouldn’t have had to post about my frustration over trying to change usernames—they’d tweeted the answer the day before I posted here—and could have thus been spared the shame of broadcasting to the world my ignorance of the proper spelling of “terrific”.  Though I suppose in that case, I’d still be ignorant, so maybe it’s better I posted after all.

Well, either way, if you’re using Twitterific 1.0 or an OS X user interested in using Twitter, check out the new version.

Twitterrifically Frustrated

I’m entirely willing to admit that this is me being a half-blind doof, but how do I change the Twitter account in Twitterrific?  I set it up to talk to one of my accounts, and I want to change that so it logs into and updates the other account.  I poked around the application preferences, dug through the package contents, and searched my hard drive for related preference and application support files.  I came up empty.  So now, O LazyWeb, help me, please!

(Anyone who knows me well is probably now surprised that this was not a post about how frustrated I am that they left off the second “f” in the application’s name.)

Update: the login information is stored in the Keychain (thanks, Dan!).  I altered the login information via Keychain Access, and that fixed things.  What I found interesting is that Twiterrific stores an e-mail address as the login, not the username.  So what happens if someone signs up two usernames via the same e-mail address?  How would Twitterrific tell the difference?

Hold Music Substitution

Having just spent the better part of an hour working my way through various phone trees and listening to a metric crapload of insipid hold music, I realized that there’s a huge product opportunity just waiting for someone to exploit.  I don’t have the engineering skills to describe it for a patent, let alone make one, so I’m going to toss this into the public sphere in the hopes that somebody takes it and runs with it.  If you become a multi-zillionaire off this idea, then bully for you!  I hope you’ll remember me when that time comes with a nice cushy spot in your web division or at least a bunch of stock options, but if not, at least the world will be a slightly better place thanks to the two of us.

What I want is an office phone that’s also a iPod dock.  It would charge the iPod when docked, and also be able to play through the speakerphone, handset, or headset.  And here’s the really useful part: it mutes the incoming signal when there’s hold music and plays the iPod.  When it detects a human voice, it pauses the iPod and passes the incoming signal through.  If the hold music comes back, it goes back to blocking the incoming music and plays its own.

In other words, it would let me define my own hold music, rather than have to tolerate what someone else thinks is soothing.  I would pay an exorbitant premium for that product, and there’s no way I’m the only one.  So somebody get right on that, would you?

The Twitters

After a couple of months of fairly determined avoidance, I finally joined Twitter a week ago.  I’m already thinking about leaving.  Have been for the last six days, in fact.

There are two easily-explained reasons why I want to just walk away.  The first is that in order to have a public comment stream and also be able to share more private messages with my friends, I have to have two accounts.  If I could post friends-only messages to an otherwise public account, then I’d only need one account.

And why would I use a public commentary service for private information?  Because it is a very good way of keeping my friends informed of where I am, where I’ll be headed next, what’s happening in my family life, and so on.  That’s not public information, to my mind.  Using Twitter is a lot easier than setting up a private blog to distribute the same information.  (Side note: if you had a friendship request with me declined, this is why.  No, I don’t hate you.)

The second reason is that I don’t have a way to filter out people who are swamping my Twitter stream.  Yes, I’m very glad that you have so much to say, but you’re burying the other people who are just as interesting but not quite so loquacious, obsessive, or just plain bored.  In my current short list of friends, I have two that are, um, extra-expressive.  (Both women, in fact.  No comment?)  I want these people to remain friends so they can get my updates, infrequent though they may be.  I also want to see what the rest of my friends and followed are saying.  How to resolve it?

Sadly, “leave” only filters their stuff out of phone and IM updates, neither of which I use.  It doesn’t take them out of the RSS feed nor the web view, both of which I use.  Is the solution to de-friend them and let them just follow me?  Sure, for the public account.  For the private personal-info account, that solution fails; they’ll stop getting my updates.  I just wish there was a way to say “this person is my friend, but I’d only like to get updates from them through the following services”.  That way I could set the chatterers to show up in the web view and nothing else, thus restoring some sense of balance and diversity to my RSS feed and thus to Twitterific.

Then there’s the bonus reason I want to throw the whole thing into my bit-bucket:  the way people are using Twitter right now, it’s rapidly becoming the most inefficient and unusable version of IRC ever.  Look, people, if you want to chat, then get a chat room.  You know?

I know, Twitter is new and growing.  Feature sets and social conventions are still in flux and expected to evolve.  Personally, I feel like there’s the kernel of a really good service in there, only not quite the one they’re offering.  I’m not saying Twitter is useless or somehow wrong: it clearly provides something that some people want, and it does what it does fairly well.  I just have the sense that there’s a similar service with a different focus that would provide something that some other people want, myself among them.  Anyone else feel the same way?

Arctic Flight

We climbed out from Cleveland, rising above snowy muted fields and west-edge suburbs, bound for San Francisco.  As the ascent continued, the plane striving beyond personal electronics altitude, the whiteness below thinned out, fading to the dull brown of winter.  By the time we passed out of the cloud cover streaming off the lake, the snow had disappeared completely.

From the middle of Ohio to the middle of Indiana, there was no snow to be seen.  It was then that we started to see curved and blurry regions of snow, a light smear of frosting spread southeast from the shores of Lake Michigan.  Just beyond Chicago, the ground began to turn pale again, shading back from brown to white.  By the time we reached Iowa, winter had taken over; floes of ice were visible in rivers and lakes.

Viewed from five miles aloft, the only thing that saved the landscape from taking on an Arctic primality was the roads, houses, and sketches of field boundaries.  Even at that, I was reminded of flying above Greenland.  There was a faint feeling of another Ice Age, of a chill not entirely attributable to the air handling in the plane’s cabin nor the thin air screaming just beyond the plastic window.

The snow did not release its grip on the land until we reached Nevada.

In San Francisco, the locals complained insistently about the cold.

A Case Of Love

You know you have a great piece of luggage when the TSA guy rooting through it at the security checkpoint asks where he can get one.

As it turns out, we have four great pieces of luggage, all from Briggs & Riley.  I’d never heard of them either, at least not before walking into a luggage store this past October.  However, if you’re someone who travels a lot, or even someone who appreciates real quality in a product, then you need to hear about Briggs & Riley.

Let me start off with the coolest part: their lifetime unconditional repair guarantee.  If your luggage breaks or is otherwise damaged for any reason whatsoever, including damage caused by airline handling, Briggs & Riley will fix it for free.  Why?  Because they use that failure information to improve future models.  They take the cost of fixing a sold product as an investment in real-world research.  That’s smart, and had me ready to like them from the start.

That said, I shudder to imagine the forces that could damage one of these cases enough to require repair.  They’re tough, solid bags.  They cost quite a bit more than the stuff you can get on sale at Target or Kauffman’s, but they’re worth it.  They’d be worth it even if the warranty was time-limited.

For checked bags, we got two expandable cases.  These have two heavy-duty expansion rails on the inside of the case which can increase its depth by almost 20%.  They’re two-position mechanisms that lock into place, so you don’t have to worry about the suitcase self-expanding or -compressing.  On the flip side, the rails that contain the pull handle, the one that slides up or down, are on the outside of the case.  That gives you more interior room.  They’ve also got serious rubber tires, not cheap plastic rollers.  Like I said, these are solid cases.

They’re also exceptionally well thought-out.  Every detail quietly announces attention to and consideration for the end-user.  The piece that really sold me is the Executive Traveler.  It has three compartments: one for suits, complete with a hang-bag; a slightly deeper clothing compartment; and sandwiched between them, a slot for the laptop briefcase that comes with the bag.  On the outside are two zippered compartments with a lot of pockets, and on the other side, between the handle rails, is a zippered pocket that would easily accept a bottle of water, if you could bring that sort of incredibly dangerous substance through security these days.  Not to worry: it makes a fantastic place to put a book, an iPod, and some compact headphones.

The Executive Traveler is sized to be carry-on luggage, and has enough space for a five-day trip with a suit or two, if you’re efficient with your packing and don’t take along a second pair of shoes.  (If you do pack a pair, then you can probably still get three days of clothes in there, including suit.)  What else?

  • Inside one of the outer zippered compartments, there’s a heavy metal clip on the end of an elastic strap, which is perfect for clipping on your car keys for easy access when you get back home.

  • At the center of one edge, there’s a zippered compartment built into the case that has an intense orange interior.  It’s meant for travel documents, and it’s bigger than it first seems.  It can take a collection of passports and boarding passes, keeping them right where they’re easy to slip out and back in.  The orange interior provides contrast when you’re rooting around in there, and it also makes it really obvious when you’ve forgotten to zip it shut.

  • There are bunches of elastic straps in the clothing compartments to keep things in place.  For the center briefcase compartment, there are elastic stretching membranes that let you open it pretty wide while holding things together.

  • It comes with a hangable compact toiletry kit that holds more than it seems like it should.

  • Any place there’s a snap, one half of the snap is mounted on a loop of fabric and the other half is mounted on a small tongue of fabric.  This lets you slide your finger through the loop, put your thumb over the tongue, and press the two together.  Snap!

And then there’s the computer briefcase, which is good enough to have become my default.  It’s wide enough to accept a 17″ laptop, with a padded interior on the laptop compartment.  It’s slim, with leather handles that can be pushed in so they’re flush with the case sides.  There are a goodly number of pockets and so on in the front compartment.  It also has a flap on the back with an open top and a zipper across the bottom.  If you zip it shut, it’s an extra exterior pocket.  If you open the zipper, the whole thing slips over the retractable handles on the main case—or any Briggs & Riley case’s handles.

Here’s the kicker: remember the padded laptop compartment?  The padding is a little bit wooly, in a way; not scratchy, but a little fuzzy.  The case comes with two small padded brackets that go around the edges of the laptop.  Good enough, right?  Oh no.  It gets better.  These brackets have Velcro on their exteriors, so they grab onto the compartment’s padding and don’t let go.  They become static, padded holders for the laptop—and thanks to their Velcro, you can reposition them if you change laptop sizes.  For extra bonus points, when positioned to hold my 15″ Mac to one side of the compartment, there’s just enough space left over to hold a regular-size mouse, a small digital camera, or any number of other goodies.

You’d think it would be really hard to get them in, and you’d be right, except Briggs & Riley ships them with heavy cardstock sleeves.  You put the sleeves over the brackets, place the brackets where you want them without any trouble, and slip out the sleeves.  The compartment sides press against the brackets, the Velcro latches onto the padding, and you’re done.  Sheer genius.

This might seem like a bit too much love for a travel case, but trust me, it’s just the start.  I could go on at least twice as long.  Frequent travelers already know why I’m so over the moon about these suitcases, and are probably wondering where they can get their own.  Even infrequent travelers should bear Briggs & Riley in mind the next time they’re in the market for luggage.  The high quality and lifetime unconditional warranty make them more than a worthwhile investment, and they’re sturdy enough that you don’t have to be too concerned about the fate of your stuff.  I mean, sure, you still have to worry about TSA folks opening your luggage, but with these cases, at least you know they’ll be impressed when they do so.

Register for AEA Boston!

If you’ve been waiting to register for An Event Apart Boston, running March 26-27, the detailed schedule has been announced and the brand-new store has opened its doors.  Hie thee hence to sign up for two great days with nine amazing speakers in Boston’s historic Back Bay!  You’ll be glad you did.

(Pssst!  Just between us, you’ll be even more glad if you input the discount code AEAMEYE when you register.  It’ll give you a further $50 off the already-discounted Early Bird price, for a total savings of $150.  Add to that the discounted room rate at the conference hotel, and you could save something like $450 off the regular conference registration and room rates.)

The overwhelming feedback we got from 2006 attendees was that they wanted more, more, more.  More speakers, more insight, more time.  So that’s exactly what we’re doing with AEA Boston.  This is going to be the best Event Apart yet—with that speaker lineup, how could it not be?  Ethan Marcotte’s “Web Standards Stole My Truck”, Dan Cederholm’s “Interface Design Juggling”, Steve Krug’s “The Web Usability Diet”… and eight more sessions just as fascinating.  Furthermore, we’ll close out Day Two with live critiques of sites submitted by attendees, making recommendations on design, copy, code, and more.

One thing we’re not changing as we move from one day to two days is how we take care of attendees.  We’ll have delicious food for lunch and breaks both days, so you can relax and chat with your colleagues in attendance and not have to worry about finding a food court and running back to catch the afternoon sessions.  Our buddies at Media Temple will be throwing a first-night party for everyone so you can unwind and maybe do a little networking.  The fine folks at Adobe will have some great stuff to raffle off, with your registration as your raffle ticket.  In fact, it’ll be so great that they can’t even tell us what it is yet!  And those are just the high points.

Amazing speakers, a great location, great service, and big savings.  What more could you ask?

January 2007
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