Under Construction

21 Mar 2004

Paul R. Potts

The weblog is back online in a reasonable way. Thanks to my friend Art Delano for helping me come up with a draft style sheet, which I’ve since modified.

The blog was destroyed by a series of accidents involving the Interarchy FTP client. Two-way synchronization can be dangerous; one error wiped out the content on the server, and a second error wiped out the content on the client. I claim there are some problems with the client program and the way it references directories, but I have not proven that yet. I bought it because the other FTP clients were all so bad, and this one seemed to offer a nice bookmark interface. Yet the interface has proven to be quite painful to use for certain basic tasks.

Anyway, after losing my files, I was very fortunate to find out that the entire contents of my weblog were available via Google. Google literally saved the day. I was very unhappy about having lost most of my incidental writing for the past year. I was able to rescue the text from the cached pages and extract the original content. Since then I’ve gotten an external hard drive for backup and am also keeping my weblog in a local CVS repository.

I’m using Blosxom 2.0 with a number of plugins. I’ve had no end of minor problems getting everything to work. It seems that some of them may be traceable to some kind of caching of scripts going on at my ISP; changing the code, as opposed to the templates, did not always result in different behavior when reloading the page. At least, I hope that is the explanation; if it isn’t, my weblog has an evil poltergeist hell-bent on giving me a headache, where executing the same script different times on the same text would produce different results. There are also a bunch of minor bugs and a seemingly endless number of inconsistencies, which I’ll write about later.

One thing I dislike about Blosxom is fine-grained control over the number of postings displayed and the depth of the tree traversal. There is one setting for the number of posts displayed on a page, and one setting for the depth of traversal. What I’d like is to limit the number of posts on my “front door” – the page when generated with the default URL – to five, so that the default page is quite short and quick to generate. I want the “front door” page also to only descend one level: that is, it should only display posts at the root of my blog. Over time I will organize postings into subfolders, so this will have the effect of hiding less immediate material.

When a user chooses a subset of posts, either by year, or by topic, I want the resulting generated page to display all the relevant posts; for example, if someone clicks on the year 02003, he or she should see the whole result. A delay incurred by asking for a particular action is acceptable; the indexing plugins provide a kind of warning that there will be a lot of content (31 posts in 02003, 14 posts under Iraq).

Note that if the recursion depth parameter was applied relative to the current point in the hierarchy, this would work OK. I could set the number of posts per page to something large, say, 99, and then when the user loaded the root, with the default URL, only unfiled posts would appear. The default would then become small and quick. Clicking on topics would not include entries in subtopics, though; the hierarchies would not “roll up” subfolders. More useful would just be separate settings for the default page. I guess I’ll have to dust off my Perl, which was never that good. I’m also considering either finding a similar tool written in Ruby, or porting Blosxom myself.

Anyway… the plugin I’m most excited about is Markdown. It lets me use formatting similar to Twiki; the author’s goal was to allow content to be formatted as easily as we format e-mail messages. Given how easily I was able to migrate my content to Markdown, I think he succeeded. I have long been frustrated by the tedious process of marking up blog entries with HTML tags just to get paragraph breaks; by the time I get it to look right, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to write. I’ve used Twiki a lot more, but Wikis have inconsistent markup syntax.

My hope is that Markdown, as a Blosxom plugin, could become a de facto standard for basic markup, to be used by Wikis and blogs alike. I’m uninterested in running my blog as a part of my programming hobby. I’ve got much more interesting coding to do. Markdown and Twiki let me write content as easily as I write e-mail messages, letting me worry about formatting only if I want to.

Enough with the gory details… time to get to bed. Here’s hoping one day this is easier.

Creative Commons Licence
This work by Paul R. Potts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The CSS framework is stylize.css, Copyright © 2014 by Jack Crawford.

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