The Rants, Raves, Gripes, and Prophecies of Paul R. Potts

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Tue, 16 Dec 2003 WebDAV to the rescue?

So I'm trying to use WebDAV to publish blog entries more easily. I can mount the WebDAV-ified directory on my MacOS X 10.3 desktop and read and write to it. This should be a natural for letting me save blog entries directly to the server, right?

Except that when my ISP's server "WebDAV-ifies" a directory, it gets chown'ed and chgrp'ed to a special Apache user. Permissions are drastically reduced, and I no longer have the ability to change anything from the command line. If I put a symbolic link from my weblog data directory to a "WebDAV-ified" directory, blosxom doesn't have permission to follow the link, because as a CGI it is run by suexec as if it were "thepotts," that is, my login, which doesn't have any privileges on the "WebDAV-ified" directory.

Gag. If anyone knows of a way around this, please drop me a note. I'm also asking my ISP. Why can't we all just get along? Panther will mount the appropriate volume on my desktop as an FTP server, and that's wonderful, but the Finder won't write to FTP servers. I'm fed up with crappy, slow FTP client applications with poor user interfaces and strange bugs and freeze-ups.. I could do it all with command-line tools, and maybe automate it, but it just seems to me that there must be better ways to spend my time!

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State of the Blog

I've finally been able to do a little cleanup on the weblog. The situation was this: after a bunch of edits, a large number of individual files now had the same modification date; they all appeared as brand new. This is Blosxom's default behavior. I have now installed a plug-in which will allow me to edit files after posting them without changing the display order. It will work, of course, but like most tools of this type it is a hack upon a hack upon a hack, all to make up for the lack of true metadata. I've forced the modification dates on various files using touch -t. I don't know the exact creation dates of many of these files; it came as a bit of a shock to me that UNIX variants do not preserve a separate timestamp for the creation date. I guess I've never noticed that before, and never had need for a separate creation date when working on a generic Linux or Solaris box, while MacOS systems and Windows systems preseve that extra bit of metadata.

Anyway, the upshot is that the mess is mostly cleaned up. I'm a bit frustrated that I can't reconstruct the original dates (and thus the order) of a number of my posts. From now on I will try to remember to include the date in the file. There is a plug-in that will read the date from the entry metadata, if I supply it, but that requires a number of Perl modules which I'm not sure I can install given that I'm running hosted... and I just don't want to wrestle with debugging the whole mess via web server logs at the moment.

A bigger question is "How can I make it easier to write entries?" I was using a demo license for TextWrangler, and liked it for the nice built-in FTP support, but I don't have the extra cash to purchase a copy. I also hate having to write pseudo-HTML, writing tags even to force a paragraph break. There should be automatic capture of metadata; there should be automatic archiving and aging of posts. Versioning would be lovely; Twiki uses RCS files quite transparently; something like that is in order. I grew to like the Twiki inline formatting, and there is a Wiki formatting plug-in for Blosxom, but all Wikis are different. I used to enjoy messing with all this, but for once I would just like to use the tools, not configure and hack them. By the time I get everything formatted, links fixed, tags corrected, saved, FTP'ed, and checked, I've used up my free time and lost interest in what I was writing anyway. Maybe after Christmas vacation (which will be all too brief and not very relaxing, as usual) I'll see if I can make use of WebDAV to simplify the posting process and get the weblog back on track. My devoted readers (both of them) can't wait, I'm sure!

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