Mike Schaeffer's Weblog
Sat, 12 Sep 2009
A Better Workflow
It took long enough, but finally, I've taken the time to set up a better workflow for this blog: Maybe now, I'll finally get around to writing a little more. (Or, I could investigate incorporating Markdown, or the Baseline CSS Framework, or....)

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Mon, 28 Aug 2006
Updating Posts
One of the 'downsides' of the way Blosxom is implemented is that is relies on a post file's modification date to assign a date to the post. This makes editing files a little tricky: editing files on a Unix box updates the modification date and therefore promotes the post to the top of the blog. I don't know if there's a better way to do this, but I've written a little script that edits a file, making sure to restore the previous modification date.

The implementation is pretty simple: it uses mktemp to create a temporary file and touch -r to copy the modification dates from the post file to the temporary file and back. Be sure to modify the #! line to point to your installation of bash, should you decide to use this script. A nice generalization of this script would have it prompt for a description of the update and add the text to the post.
#!/usr/local/bin/bash

if [ $# -ne 1 ]
then
  echo
  echo "This script expects a command line argument: the
  echo "name of the post to edit."
  exit 1
fi

DATE_MARKER=`mktemp /tmp/date_marker.XXXXXX` || exit 1

touch -r $1 ${DATE_MARKER}

${EDITOR} $1

touch -r ${DATE_MARKER} $1

rm ${DATE_MARKER}


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Thu, 17 Aug 2006
A few logistical notes
With Ryan's arrival, my blog is going to start containing more non-techical material. To avoid forcing people into reading about the poopie diapers and/or lexical closures they aren't interested in, I've partitioned the blog into a couple of sub-feeds. I've also started using URL rewriting to remove the reference to blosxom from links to the weblog. Links to this weblog should now look like this: http://www.mschaef.com/blog/personal/ryan_charles. The old style links should work as long I continue using blosxom, but if that ever changes they will start failing. (I'll try to put permanent redirections in place to avoid too many problems with obsolete links.) Without further ado, here are the good weblog links:

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Thu, 22 Jun 2006
Blosxom is a pain in the ass^H^H^Hbutt...
My blog setup requires that I log in via ssh to my webserver to use a text editor to edit articles in raw HTML. This is the downside of using barebones blog software. On the flip side, it'd at least be pretty easy to add a (private) article submission form. All it would have to do is present a list of subdirectories in the blosxom hierarchy, and allow content from a text box to be deposited into a named file with a specified timestamp (which can be set with touch). Step 2: allow these files to be edited in a text box.

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Tue, 06 Jun 2006
More style updates...
With some advice from this site, I've slightly tweaked the layout of the blog. The sidebar is now one color all the way down, and some of the <pre> text in some older posts is now formatted to fit smaller lines.

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Mon, 20 Mar 2006
Time Flies...
A couple months since my last post... my news years resolution died pretty darned quickly. At the very least, I think I have a very good reason. Needless to say, Teresa and I are thrilled.

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Thu, 23 Jun 2005
The "Star of the American Road"
Oddly enough, the search term that brings the most visitors to my little website is "Texaco". I suspect most of those people go away totally unsatisfied, but there is a decent story behind the connection:

About ten years ago, a good friend of mine went to work in Texaco's IT Shop as a summer intern. One of his job responsibilities was to develop an intranet website. I forget the details, but somewhere along the way he decided he wanted to put a fancy banner picture atop the page. At the time, we were both interested in ray tracing, so we decided to throw together a raytraced version of the Texaco Star logo.

Using our copious free time, we found an online copy of the Texaco logo, took measurements of the star and rendered it as a white solid set against a metallic red hemisphere. We even went to the trouble of animating the star so it rotates, generating a bunch of frames and using a GIF tool to put together an animated GIF. The final result was a nicely animated Texaco logo with an "attractive" (This is by 1995 intranet standards, remember) banner to the side. Since then, I've dragged the model out, re-rendered it at higher resolution, and stuck it in a little Raytracing Gallery I have set up.
For some reason, that picture brings more visitors to this site than anything else. If you happen across this site and actually use the image for something you owe its presence to a ten year old accident of fate.

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Fri, 03 Jun 2005
Readership
Blog readership on this blog is very low. I'd go so far as to say that I'm the only person that regularly hits it, and that's usually to test layout, formatting, etc.

To make it easier to distinguish traffic from me, and traffic from other folks, I've added a symlink to my configuration that makes it possible to hit the blog from a different, private, URL. That way, my hits and other folks hits are nicely bucketed out in my ISP's reporting. This is a cheap and easy solution, and I reccomend it.

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Wed, 01 Jun 2005
Should blog posts be written like a newspaper article?
Should blog posts be written with the essential content at the beginning and less interesting details at the end? Or is putting the punchline at the end acceptable?

Since people tend not to read online, and blogs are often read in huge volumes via an aggregator, my hunch is that the title (and maybe the first paragraph) have to convince people your article is worth the time...

More established bloggers, with a better track record of writing interesting stuff, might have more leeway.

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Fri, 04 Mar 2005
General posts on a topic don't go at the root...
Maybe this should have been obvious from the beginning, but I'm no longer putting "general interest" blog posts at the root for the topic. Rather, those posts are now going under a "general" subtopic of the root.

The problem with making general interest posts at the root of a topic is that there's then no way to watch only the general topics. If you look at the root topic, you get the whole topic.

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Tue, 22 Feb 2005
Blosxom, Annotated
Frank Hecker, in an effort to teach himself more about Blosxom has done a cool thing. He has taken the source for Blosxom and annotated it with extra comments to describe what it's doing each step of the way. I don't know if I'll ever use the knowledge to hack Blosxom, but it's still good reading.

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Wed, 09 Feb 2005
./blosxom.cgi: 444 lines, 16674 characters.
I've spent a little time doing some things to tweak Bloxsom so that it fits better into my website. So far, I've:

  • Changed the html flavour to refer to my CSS file and use it correctly.
  • Set up a simple hierarchy of post topics.
  • Gotten static rendering working (as a test, it's not in use now.)

    None of this is all that earth shattering, but it was all trivial to do in Bloxsom. For a one-file, 16K Perl script, Bloxsom brings a lot to the table.

    Next on the adgenda is getting a web form set up for posting and hopefully editing blog posts, and then setting up a web-based way to upload images into the blog. My current workflow for posting to the blog involves two levels of nested SSH logins and the use of vi. *shudder*.

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