Blog entries tagged with "personal site"

My life in a stream

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 at 11:23pm

A few minutes ago I changed the home of to display the output of Lifestream for WordPress, the plugin that I have been playing around with for the last week. Previously the home page was the same as the blog index except for the addition of a Flickr badge across the top.

Despite not saying anything, I have had a look at other lifestream plugins. I returned to the first one I tried because it was easy to install, it worked and it has active development. I am also planning to send in some patches for the couple of bugs that I have fixed so far.

Of the big list I initially gave, some were me not understanding the functionality correctly (the iBox stuff), some were actual bugs, some were changes to other things and some I am going to live with for now.

The changes I have made are:

  • Reverted back to an earlier version of SimplePie, the RSS parser, as I traced the problem with the Amazon wishlist back to the latest devel version. I submitted a bug report with them.
  • Modified the FeedBurner plugin to also check for ?direct=1 in the URL so the links to my own posts were not redirected through FeedBurner. (The main reason for this was because FeedBurner seems to be playing up – sometimes with URLs and sometimes with the original URLs, but not the most recent posts)
  • The timezone setting for the plugin let you choose an offset from -12 to +12 (displaying adjusted time in a drop down), but that is not an offset from epoch, it is an offset from the server time. My server is in -8 while I am in +11. That is an offset of +19, yet when I chose the correct time of day it gave my -5. So all events were a day out. I tweaked the settings page to adjust the offsets based on the server zone (-4 to +20 instead) which fixed that.
  • In the rendering code I needed to apply the offset where it works out if it should display ‘Today’ or ‘Tomorrow’ instead of the actual date.
  • The code that groups all of the events for a day also needed the offset added as it was done using the SQL DATE() function which (again) uses the (MySQL) server timezone.
  • Added ordering to grouped events (so they show the same as how I added them)
  • I added LibraryThing as a feed.

I still have other changes planned, but these got me to a point where I was happy to use it on the home page.

One major change that I would like to do is to change the Flickr feed to use the Flickr API instead of just the RSS feed. A limitation of the RSS is that it is only the 20 most recent items. The other night I added 67 photos from the photo walk. Initially it was showing 40 items because the feed refreshed during the upload, but now it only shows 20 because I readded the feed and it lost the history. The API wouldn’t have that limitation: my photos page (that has been there for a while, but I don’t link to it from anywhere) uses the API to get all the photos that I have uploaded. And as you can see it also gets set information that might be good to include.

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Trying out a lifestream plugin

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 11:11pm

As well as creating some accounts, I spend most of the evening playing around with a lifestream plugin for WordPress. Although I found a couple of different options I decided to play around with the first one I came across: Lifestream for WordPress.

Installing the plugin was pretty simple and it was jut as easy to create a new (temporary) page for it. (The redundant heading is because my theme isn’t really setup for pages)

Here are my thoughts so far (version 0.93b):

  • It automatically setup the blog feed, but as I use FeedBurner the URLs that it links to are the FeedBurner ones, not mine. It does redirect back, but it would be nice if the real URL was visible. (A list of user agents to exclude on the FeedBurner plugin is a solution for this)
  • It was nice to be able to specify my own favicon as the image for my blog feed (or any feed).
  • I might want to have more info about each post shown, tags or maybe an excerpt.
  • Adding Delicious and Flickr was straightfoward.
  • As was my Amazon wishlist after I found out that you need to get the link to the RSS feed when you are not logged in to Amazon.
  • The Amazon links end up at a 400 error page in Firefox, and doesn not work at all in IE7.
  • I would expect items that are grouped together to still be in date order, they are not.
  • I installed the iBox plugin to see what functionality that gave. It is funky, but I would probably not use it.
  • The iBox functionality does not want to turn off. No matter what the ‘Enable iBox’ option is set to, it always uses it.
  • The timezones are broken. I have told it my current time, yet right now it is saying ‘Yesterday’ for items from earlier today.
  • It was easy to add support for LibraryThing – I copied how the Amazon worked (from RSS feed) and just had to change the regex to extract the thumbnail url.
  • As well as grouping not being in order they seem to be missing items. I have LibraryThing added twice, one with grouping and the other without. On January 16 I added 19 books. When grouped only 8 books are shown, when not grouped all 19 books are shown.
  • I’m not sure if I want items grouped by “same day”. What happens if I bookmark some links in the morning and then another batch in the evening. Will they all be grouped together? I would want them in two groups – ie grouped if within 1 hour of each other.
  • I’m not sure if I like the phrasing of the labels. Instead of “Added an item to their wishlist on Amazon” I would prefer something less third person like “Item added to Amazon wishlist”.

I shall keep playing with this plugin, as well as looking at the others.

Update: A major problem now is that the two most recent posts (this one included) are not being picked up by this plugin. They are definitely in the RSS feed. Not good.

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Upgrading to WordPress 2.5.1

Saturday, May 10th, 2008 at 05:41pm

For quite some time my preference has been to wait until the first maintenance release of something before using it. I have found that being an early adopter for something that I just want to use can be extra work, even if it is just having to upgrade again the to maintenance release.

Once I heard that there would be native tag support in WordPress 2.3 I wanted to upgrade to that, but the talk of what would be available in WordPress 2.5 made me want to wait for that. Two weeks ago when 2.5.1 came out I knew it was time to start looking into upgrading.

Last weekend I jumped in and upgraded, where I am using WordPress as a publishing system, to 2.5.1. This was reasonably straightforward as I, when setting it up at the start of the year, kept my customisations within the theme and plugins. As with all changes I tested it out first on my local server before performing the change on the live sites.

Based on this success I started looking into upgrading this site. Because I was using the now redundant Ultimate Tag Warrior and had made some non standard customisations I expected it to be more work.

And it was.

After some research and experimentation during the week I was ready to upgrade the live site this afternoon. Which, as you are reading this, was successful.

So what did I do?

  • Update the WordPress files (and remove ones that are no longer needed).
  • Update FeedSmith, Markdown, Subscribe to Comments and WP-Cache to the latest versions.
  • Clean up my own plugin to link to other posts (heavily based on Easy Post-to-Post Links).
  • Export live database and import into local server (changing two options to have local hostname).
  • Run the upgrade script.
  • Import the tags from UltimateTagWarrior through admin interface.
  • Replace UTW_* calls in my theme to equivalent core functions. (I did briefly try out the UTW Theme Compatibility Thing plugin but decided against it)
  • Double check all settings
  • Test.
  • Test.
  • Upload files to live server.
  • Run the upgrade script.
  • Import the tags from UltimateTagWarrior through admin interface.
  • Double check all settings
  • Test.

Which brings us to now and I am happy with the upgrade and can move onto something else in my long list. One of which is running more of this site through WordPress instead of the current mix of WordPress, static files and the custom code for my computer collection.

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Javascript is good, but…

Monday, January 21st, 2008 at 09:58pm

The interactivity that javascript allows in “Web 2.0” sites is great. But it comes at a cost.

In yesterday’s post about my bicycle ride with Damien I initially included three Bikely maps using the “on-my-site code” that loads up the map, and all of its associated javascript, inside an inframe.

This really screws up the page load times.

What I have now done (and will be doing to the Bikely maps I have included in the past) is to take a screenshot of the included map and then link it via an image. There is no need to navigate the map on my site, and now the page loads signifigantly faster.

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Licensing my work

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007 at 09:49pm

A few days ago I finally got around to doing something about the copyright infringement I discovered many weeks ago: I asked the Commons Help desk and got a helpful response. However, before I uploaded my images to Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license I wanted to actually have this site under the same license.

A few additions (HTML head, blog sidebar, page footer) later and I am now stating that all of the content on this blog and in my computer collection is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

I also jumped over to my flickr account and set the license for all of my existing and future photos.

I think my next step will be to tag the photos in the collection, initially via the "Copyright" Exif metadata tag and then via XMP. Once I figure out what that is.

Scratch that. My immediate next step is to address the copyright infringement…

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What to do about copyright infringement?

Sunday, July 8th, 2007 at 11:50pm

While looking for a photo of an Apple CD300 to clarify an eBay auction I ended up at a page on Wikimedia Commons.

The Apple CD150 image caught my eye. First because I thought that it was actually a photo of an Apple CD300e Plus, and then because it was strangely familiar. How many other people take photos of items against an old blue sheet?

Sure enough, it is my image from the page in my collection for the Apple CD300e Plus. But my name isn’t “Marco Mioli” and this site isn’t called “All About Apple”.

Did someone change my name when I wasn’t looking? I hope not…

I did some further digging and found that there are at least five photos of mine that have been put both on the “All About Apple” site and on Wikimedia Commons. Only the misnamed CD300e Plus image is still part of my site following the update I did last week. But that doesn’t excuse the clear copyright violation.

What annoys me about this is the license statement that was specified on Wikipedia Commons. It is blatantly incorrect, and is deliberate.

I do know of a couple of sites that have mirrored sections of my site. In one case they asked first and in the other they didn’t. But in those cases I didn’t mind as they attributed me as the author and included a link to my site.

Right now I need to go to bed, but tomorrow night I will contact the “All About Apple” site AND find out how to report to Wikimedia Commons that the images are being used without permission and with an incorrect licence.

Related to this is that for a while now I have been meaning to apply a Creative Commons license (probably Attribution-ShareAlike) to this site…

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Change of web hosting

Sunday, May 20th, 2007 at 09:25pm

(If you are reading this you are seeing the new host.)

I have just changed web hosting provider. Astute readers would be aware that it is less than a year since I last changed hosts. Although I haven’t mentioned anything, I was growing unhappy with the service:

  • There was a period of a few days at the start of May where nine out of ten requests to my sites were getting a zero sized response. The problem was also affecting the support site which made reporting it difficult. Eventually I just emailed them and the next day I was informed that the servers had had to be rebuilt with higher security which was breaking a number of things. So why didn’t they send out an announcement.
  • The same server rebuild upgraded the version of cPanel they were running to the latest version. However this introduced some new ‘features’ that messed up how I manage my email forwarders and the online file manager no longer listed my .htaccess files. These weren’t show stoppers, but they were adding up.
  • The final straw was that they ran out of disk space for MySQL which caused WordPress to complain that it got error 28 from storage engine. It did get fixed after I reported it, but as I type I can see that it has reoccurred.

At a couple of meetings Kirrily has mentioned that she uses DreamHost if the conversation turns towards web hosting. So I decided to check it out.

Read the rest of this entry…

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When should you use the backtick operator?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007 at 07:17pm

In Perl, PHP and shell (maybe others as well) the “`” character (informally known as the backtick and formally known as a Grave accent) is used to execute a shell command and return the output as a string.

Perl and PHP have other methods of achieving the same result that are not elements of syntactic sugar. These are less likely to surprise you, as I found today when I noticed that the computer collection section of this site was breaking in a strange way.

For those pages I use PHP to build up the page based on the directory structure and the existence of certain files. The first thing I checked was that the files were actually present. They were.

The next thing to check was the error log and here I found a number of messages telling me that shell executions were disabled. That made sense in relation to a recent change in the security configuration that the hosting people had made, but what was I executing on the shell?

As the error message was nice enough to tell me the specific file and line number I quickly found this call:


This is running pwd in a shell to get the current directory and then using trim() to remove excess whitespace. This is stupid. Especially since the following does exactly the same thing:


This has a crucial difference; it is built into the language, no shell execution (and potential security hole) is required.

To answer the original question: Use backticks to execute a shell command only if, for some bizarre reason, there is nothing built into the language or a module cannot be loaded to achieve the same result.

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The unfinished posts

Sunday, April 15th, 2007 at 10:03pm

One thing I forgot to mention when wondering about the purpose of this site was that there are a few posts that I started writing but have yet to finish.

Stay tuned for:

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What am I trying to say?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 at 08:17pm

A few months ago I asked the question: Why do I collect computers?

Recently I have been contemplating what the theme is for this blog. So far this month five of the six posts have been about cycling. Going back to March this was four of the eight posts.

Three and a half years ago when I started blogging I predicted that I would post about my computer collection (the posts), my current computers and software development processes.

The first two of those have been covered the most (this can bee seen in the tag cloud) but irregularly when I get a new item, rearrange things or simply get around to taking (and uploading) photos. Although I haven’t been posting about processes they haven’t been far from my mind as the processes we use at work are slowly evolving (mostly for the better).

So what am I trying to say?

To be honest I am still not sure. One direction I can take (resume is possibly the better view) is to it as a way of documenting things that I learn. By putting my conclusions out there there is a possibility that others will see them and respond which could, in turn, further the learning experience.

My post on Thomsett project management is an example this type of post. Even after more than three years this post appears in the first few results in a search for “thomsett sliders” and people are at least following the link. I wonder if I have helped anyone with their understanding because of this, even though the meat of that post is actually how Extreme programming conflicts with established project management techniques.

Where to from here?

Since I don’t know exactly what I am trying to say there is no clear next step. But talking about a next step does imply some sort of plan so that may be what I should do, make a plan. Unfortunately I still have issues with time management.

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Notification of followup comments

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007 at 09:24pm

After I got my first legitimate comment I started to wonder how they would know if I responded with another comment.

A short time later I found Subscribe to Comments which does exactly what I want. If the commenter checks the notify box they will be emailed whenever there is a followup comment.

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Comments are encouraged

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 at 10:50pm

As of today is is now possible to leave comments on these posts.

The advantage of using an existing tool for my blog is that all I needed to do to enable comments was to turn on the appropriate option and to copy over (and modify) the appropriate part of the default theme into my custom theme. There was also some effort involved to remove the comment functionality when I first setup the theme but that was a long time ago.

In contrast I would have needed to spend a considerable amount of time building the functionality if I had opted to write everything from scratch. Score one for the first B in bend/buy/build.

(Time will tell if anyone leaves a comment, let alone reads any of these posts…)

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Taking a plunge

Friday, July 21st, 2006 at 09:33pm

This evening I upgraded this blog to the latest version of WordPress in under twenty minutes with most of that time waiting for the new files to upload. How did I do it so quickly? By spending over three hours on Tuesday evening upgrading the copy of this site that I run at home and finding the issues there.

As well as upgrading WordPress I also needed to upgrade to the latest version of Ultimate Tag Warrior which has also given me a working tag cloud.

The reasoning behind upgrading was not to upgrade for the sake of it, instead it was the bar that I imposed before moving an a couple of ideas I was considering. Ideally I will look into some of them over the coming weekend.

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All back, thanks to another host

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 at 10:04pm

All of the functionality of this site is back now that I have switched over to yet another hosting provider. This time I deliberately made a list of hosts that offer reseller hosting and then asked them how they had PHP installed. Based on the cost, limits and their response time I made a decision…

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Old hosting is back… sort of…

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 at 08:41pm

At some point over the last two hour period the server that was previously hosting my site started working again. This is good news as I can access the management tool which means I can access all of my data. The less than good news is that the support site for the web host is broken and there have been no other communications. It has been three days, there is no chance I’m going back.

Now I have the data back I could be uploading it to the new web host. I am not. Why? Because I am not sure I am happy with the new web host.

One thing I do that simplifies the development of any php site I make is to specify a directive in a top level .htaccess file to prepend a file to all of my php pages so I can automatically load common functionality. Then I can just use things like a function to output the page header without having to resort to the labourious act of adding an include line to the beginning of every page.

To have this work PHP needs to be loaded as an Apache module. My new web host does not do this, instead they use phpsuexec. While this looks like it is good for security it means that I need to place a php.ini file with the prepend directive in every single directory that has php files. I might as well just add the include to each file. Also the only information that I can find about phpsuexec isn’t very positive and one page I found from 2004 talked about it being end of life and suPHP should be used instead.

Fortunately there are dozens of web hosting providers offering cheap shared hosting. I will find one that simply loads PHP as an Apache module…

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Off the air

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 at 11:52pm

Since Monday evening (my time so at least 48 hours ago) this site has been unavailable.

Q: Why?

The server doing the hosting seemed to drop off the internet.

Q: Why?

Good question. As the site for my hosting provider was also down I decided to take the optimistic view that the situation was being recified and it would be back up shortly.

Q: Was it?

No. I tried again later that evening and the situation had not changed. I was getting more concerned but I decided to stay optimistic and see if it was back up the next morning. That turned into the next afternoon and I was then kicking myself as I realised that it had been a couple of months since I had last backed up these blog posts and there were settings that I had never backed up.

Q: So what now?

I jumped ship. Although the hosting had been ticking along without any issues I had considered it strange that they didn’t seem to care that they had not billed me since October 2005, ie more than six months ago. What company doesn’t care if its customers pay or not? Becuase of this I had looked into other web hosting providers a month or so earlier so it was simple to sign up with the first name on the list after I couldn’t even access the current provider by phone (voice mailbox full!). It was then a waiting game while the new DNS settings for my domain propogated.

Q: What about the data?

Initially I thought that I had only lost a little bit of data but as time flowed along I realised that I had lost enough data to be inconvenienced.

I run a copy of the site on my box at home so that I can test any changes before releasing them so I knew that all of the files were intact. It would be a straightforward matter of uploading them to the new host. This meant that my computer collection area was intact as that is contained within files or brought in from (which I backup via a cron script that uses the API to grab a dump of all my links once a day). The photos section was also ok as it pulls the set details from Flickr.

This blog was a different story as these posts are primarily stored in a MySQL database. Every so often I copy the database over to my local MySQL instance but the last time I had done that had been at the end of March. Almost three months ago! Fortunately Google’s cache came to the rescue and I was able to obtain the text for all of the posts I had made since that time. One item on my list is to setup a mechanism to automatically backup the database, a quick search showed that there was at least one WordPress plugin that could periodically email an export of the database.

Losing all of my email forwarding settings means that my spam strategy has taken a big hit as I will have to regenerate the list of valid addresses and again monitor my gmail account which will be the target of the catchall rule.

Q: When will the status-quo be restored?

Not until after the upcoming weekend. So far I have uploaded the files to the new web host and the DNS setting have propogated. Until I sort out some differences in the configuration of this host to my old host all I have running is this blog (how else can it be read?)…

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It’s a cracking film…

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005 at 11:36pm

Although it has been out for a few weeks now it was only tonight that I got around to seeing the new Wallace and Gromit movie: Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was cracking. Unfortunately I doubt I will have the time to see it again at a cinema but I will be buying the DVD as soon at it is available…

On a related note it is interesting to see how much the traffic to my Wallace and Gromit site has increased over the past few months even though I haven’t updated it for well over two years now, and that was to say I wasn’t going to update it anymore. Maybe I should update it a bit…

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Not Invented Here (NIH)

Friday, March 11th, 2005 at 08:25pm

Today I came to the realisation that I am currently afflicted by NIH syndrome with respect to this very blog. Yesterday I was talking about how I was planning to modify this hacked together blog system in order to have more transparent URLs. This is just one of the features that I was planning to add.

For a while I have known about WordPress, an open source PHP and MySQL based blog system, which actually has all the features I was planning. So why should I spend my time writing something from scratch when I could simple take an existing system and adjust it to my needs? Good question…

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No-www Class B

Thursday, March 10th, 2005 at 09:45pm

Ever since I set up this site I have never prepended the domain name with ‘www’ when linking to it or telling people. Fortunately Google has indexed my pages as I want and most people who I have told haven’t added it in. However there have been a couple of people who insisted on adding the ‘www’ so I have had on my list for quite some time the idea of adding in a rewrite rule to redirect these misguided souls to the correct URL.

One other idea on my very long list is to improve the URLs of my blog by moving away from the current 12 digit identifier (it is the date and time but…) in the url for an entry to something more transparent with maybe a better delimited date and/ or the title of the entry. It was while I was researching what URL styles other blogs use that I came across a link to which conveniently includes a sample rewrite rule…

Thus this site now validates at the Class B no-www compliance level.

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Sunday, February 6th, 2005 at 08:04pm

Thanks to Magpie RSS I have been able to integrate directly into this site.

The first place was for the ‘Other resources’ section at the bottom of the pages for the items in my computer collection. Once I saw a parallel between the directory structure I use and possible tags it was a trivial matter to retrieve the corresponding links. So far I have only done a couple of pages, one of which being the PowerMac 9600, with very few links. The advantage of this will become much more evident as I continue sorting through my bookmarks and posting them to

The second place was to replace my links section with the links for a selected number of tags.

Now I need to remember to add descriptions to links as I post them and also go back through the links I have already posted. Doing this will bring a higher level of content to my site. And since content is king it is unlikely to be negative…

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Access logs

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004 at 10:58pm

Every couple of weeks I have a look at the access log reports (generated by AWStats) for There are typically around 600 ‘visitors’ per month using up a massive 250MB of my bandwidth quota so there isn’t much to see. Ignoring my own hits in order to update this blog most of the traffic is for the inactive Stephen’s Wallace and Gromit Page. Following behind that is my collection of old computers.

The section in the stats report that interests me the the most is ‘Links from an external page’ which invariably starts off with the The Wallace and Gromit Web Ring but then gets interesting with the current report including:

The stats for Amusement Ride Extravaganza, for which I look after the technical side, are a totally different story with at least 4000 ‘visitors’ and 4GB of transfers a month…

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Firefox, Live Bookmarks, RSS and blog

Friday, December 10th, 2004 at 11:45pm

After being reminded today, technically yesterday, about the Live Bookmarks feature in Firefox I decided that it was about time that I switched Shaun, my windows box at home, over to the Firefox and Thunderbird combination instead of the Mozilla Suite.

In all its a pretty cool feature but I’m not sure if I’ll make much use of it, especially since my browsing is divided between my work box, laptop and home box. What I have actually been using is a prototype feed aggregator that I wrote a long while ago for work that runs from my work sandbox. It is just a single page that displays the contents of a collection of feeds that I have gathered over time. I might get something like AmphetaDesk set up on Gromit, my core linux box, to access both at home and remotely.

The offshoot of this that has occupied my time for the past hour and a half is adding in the link tag to the template of this site so that the people who do use Firefox get an icon saying there is an RSS feed available. Who knows I may even get someone to read it one of these days :) I then fixed up the navigation in the blog archive section by adding the ability to move back and forward between posts…

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Back to basics

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004 at 07:34pm

A long while ago I decided that maintaining the details of my computer collection would be easiest if I generalised each page into a set number of fields which I could store in the database and modify through a web interface. I pretty quickly wrote up some PHP to read the information from the database and present it. However I soon lost interest while creating the interface to modify the information which meant that it has sat half done for at least eighteen months now.

Tonight I decided that if I was ever get around to entering all the information that I have sitting around in various text files I will go back to basics and make each page essentially static. I’ll keep a few functions to handle such things as presenting the image thumnail in a nice way but these will be called manually from the index files in each directory. It will also mean that the canonical source for the information will be in the CVS repository on gromit. Not in a database that resides on a server in America with only version control that I implement, ie none…

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One year. Woo!

Thursday, September 30th, 2004 at 10:22pm

It has now been a whole year since I started this blog.

I really should post more often…

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New web host

Friday, May 21st, 2004 at 07:47pm

Due to a lack of response to my queries I finally decided that I should change my web hosting provider.

If you see this post then the DNS change has propogated…

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