If you aren't using Google Reader to read this, then stop what you are doing, click the above link, and continue reading this in Google Reader.
Google Reader is the best way to keep up on...everything! It has become my newspaper.
I'm currently using it to track 104 feeds in the following categories:
Almost everything on the web has a feed version that can be read in Google Reader: news, stocks, weather, traffic, blog posts, sports scores, movie reviews, podcasts, etc.
The big time saver is I don't have to go from web site to web site to see what is new...when someone posts something new, it comes to me.
For example, I have all my friends and family blogs listed under "personal." You can see from the above picture that I have 21 new posts to read. Those 21 posts are from a bunch of different people. With Google Reader, you just see the new posts in the same location and can quickly read them all.
It also has some nice keyboard shortcuts so you can do almost everything without touching the mouse. I use the spacebar to advance to the next page all the time.
Another cool feature...you can use Google Reader on your phone, too! Here is the mobile version.
And...the feeds in Google Reader don't have the ads that many web sites have, so it is easier to focus on the content without distraction.
Someone at work recently asked for a recommendation for reading feeds and the response was overwhelming: Google Reader.
I can't recommend this enough: Get Google Reader!
My blog is hosted with an Apache server.
I read this article about how Apache supports access control of files on a server.
There are two parts:
The .htaccess file impacts everything at the same level as .htaccess and below. The documentation page for .htaccess is here.
A sample .htaccess file looks like this:
AuthName "Password Required"
Require Group admins
I found that I had to start .htaccess with "<Files DIRNAME>" and end with "</Files>" in order to make it work for me...not sure why. I only learned about this after I called my hosting company (1&1) for help. It may be particular 1&1.
Then I had to create a password file (password.file in the above example).
This page explains how to set up a password file with the command "htpasswd."
I've been getting an increasing amount of trackback spam on my blog. I've never really used the trackback feature, so I disabled it with all my new posts.
All my old posts were still enabled for trackbacks. This setting is per entry, not for the entire blog. The only way to turn it off was to go to each old entry, clear the "Accept Trackbacks" checkbox, and click "Save." This process takes *forever* (probably about 1 minute per entry). Considering I had almost 200 hundred posts that needed updating, I decided to just live with the spam I was getting (about one message a day).
Today I found a quick way to turn all the "Accept Trackbacks" off. My blog is stored as an SQL database. All I had to do was use my website's SQL administration page and enter this SQL command:
update mt_entry set entry_allow_pings = 0
After I did this, I rebuilt my blog (regenerated all the web pages) and now I don't have any pages that accept Trackbacks!
I had an SQL course in college. I never expected to use it because databases were not that interesting to me. But back then, nobody used SQL for personal projects, like blogs. Suddenly, I'm interested in learning more about SQL.
Goodbye Trackback Spam!
A new version of Windows Live Writer is out. It is Beta 3, the last beta before the final release.
If you are blogging...get this software! It makes everything *much* easier.
New in this version...
Insert videos using new 'Insert Video' dialog
Upload images to Picasaweb when publishing to your Blogger blog
Publish XHTML-style markup
Use Writer in 28 additional languages
Print your posts
Justify-align post text
Better image handling (fewer blurry images)
Resolved installation issues from last release
Many other bug fixes and enhancements
Download it here.
Twitter is fairly new (little over a year old) and a hot topic in the web world. It is not obvious if this technology is going to thrive or just be a fad.
I hope to get some of my friends that are going to SIGGRAPH San Diego on Twitter so I can use Twitter to keep up with what's going on. I could imagine using Twitter to find out...
So if you want to try this experiment, we need to get connected! I think the way it works is you go here and click "Follow." You will receive any update I send. Then I know you are "following" me and I can follow you and get your updates!
I *believe* you can do all this from your phone without an account (I haven't tried this). If you text message 40404 and send "FOLLOW RGBA", you should get updates about what I'm doing on your phone.
After SIGGRAPH, this might be a good way to get friends together for basketball, a movie, dinner, bar hopping, etc.
...or this might be a big waste of time.
Get your Twitter account here.
I've been hit with a lot of spam on my blog recently (about 3/hour).
I tried a few things, like changing the name of the script that posts comments, but it only worked for a few hours.
I read this article in search of a better solution.
In searching through the list of plug-ins, I found Comment Challenge. I decided to give it a try. It was easy to setup and it looks like it will do what I need. Now when you post a comment, the comment won't go anywhere until you type in a phrase at the bottom.
I'm curious if this works for everybody. I haven't gotten any spam in the last hour, so it seems to be working. I also haven't gotten any real comments, so it might be a bit overzealous.
I want to know if it stops real people from posting. So give it a shot! Post a comment!
I started getting this nice message from Windows Live Writer (WLW) after I published a post to my blog:
Network Connection Error
Error attempting to connect to weblog at:
The operation has timed out
The post would show up on my blog, but sometimes there would be duplicate posts.
I also lost the ability to preview my posts using the formatting my blog uses.
I searched around on the Internet and found no help.
I searched (actually I browsed...this forum has no search! Boo!) Microsoft's WLW forum and found lots of good info and a responsive staff at Microsoft...but nothing related to my issue. If I could not figure this out on my own, I'd post a question here.
I tried to narrow down the source of this message by doing various tests.
Then I stumbled on to the issue...it was taking a *long* time to post even a simple post. WLW does not give you any feedback about what it is doing, but the web-based Movable Type editor does! I noticed that the post was generated quickly, but notifying the rest of the Internet that a new blog post was available (pinging servers) was taking 5+ minutes. After the post finished, there was a line that said to check the activity log for error messages.
I looked at the activity log and I had hundreds of error messages from trying to ping servers that did not exist or would not respond.
When I removed this list...all my issues went to away. I can use WLW without error messages and I can preview my post using my web site's formatting! All is well!
Now I only ping 3 servers when I create a new post:
These servers are ping'ed by default with Movable Type.
I have been using the beta version of Windows Live Writer to write my blog posts for a while now. I love it. A new beta recently arrived with a few new features:
Get it here.
I had a bad experience with Word 2007 as a blog editor.
During the process of setting up Word to talk to Movable Type, I learned that I needed to configure Movable Type to allow publishing via external programs.
Ever since I upgraded my version of Movable Type from 3.2 to 3.34, I lost my ability to use Windows Live Writer (WLW). I went back to the old, web-based basic HTML editor for posting. It was painful, but it worked.
I decided to try WLW again to see if it would start working after my modified Movable Type to support external publishing programs...and it did!
So I'm back to using WLW again and it makes me happy!
I noticed that they have added several plug-ins since I last used WLW, which may be worth trying out.
What I like about WLW:
I did notice that if I try to link to a really big photo (like a 1920x1200 desktop), WLW will fail to post to the server with a error message. Shrinking the image size fixed the problem. This is beta software...hopefully this problem will be fixed!
One of the first things I wanted to try out was Word's new blogging support.
What I like:
What I don't like:
The poor support for image resizing and hyperlinking to full size pictures is enough for me to pass on Word 2007 as a blog editor for now. Hopefully Microsoft will address my concerns in a future release or service pack.
Over the past few months I started getting some error messages when I would build my blog. Here is the exact error message:
Error 400! - Windows Internet Explorer
INTERNAL SERVER ERROR
An internal server error has occurred!
Please try again later.
Most of the pages would build, but some did not. Several category pages and monthly archive pages would not build.
I searched around the internet for help to no avail. I talked with the people hosting my web site (1&1) and they could not help me.
So I tried upgrading my blog software from Movable Type 3.2 to 3.34. The upgrade went smoothly, but the problem persisted.
This morning I decided to create a new MySQL database (which stores all the content of this blog) and then import my old blog entries from the old database.
I lost a lot of customization, but gained some new features from the upgrade to 3.34. Over the next few days I'll reapply my customizations so I should be back where I was with a fully functional blog.
My Xbox 360 has started writing its own blog. It only has one post as of this writing, but more will follow. My 360 refers to me by my Xbox Live gamertag, "RGBA."
Read my Xbox 360's blog here.
The 360 keeps track of a lot of information. As long as you don't keep it private, this data is used to generate all sorts of crazy things...my gamercard on the top right of this page, gaming statistics, rankings, and, apparently, a blog! This blog is computer-generated using actual information about how I've used my Xbox 360.
To have your Xbox 360 start its own blog, register here. It takes about two days for the first post to show up.
Posting via tags is a good skill to have. Many web sites (like MySpace) allow you to use HTML tags to spruce up a comment or an email. If it wasn't for my posts on MT, I probably wouldn't have the HTML tags memorized like I do now.
That said, posting via HTML tags is tedious...and I think I may have found my new favorite way to post to my blog.
Writer is like a specialized version of Word designed for blogging. It loads the stylesheet from your blog so your new posts have the same look as when the post is published on your blog.
Since Writer runs locally on your computer, it is very fast and responsive. It has a nice spell checker, which I absolutely depend on. You can easily add photos and Writer will automatically upload them when you are finished and ready to publish to your blog.
Even though this software is beta, it is very refined and usable. I did notice a bug once with a photo showing up in the background where it could not be deleted. I modified the view a couple of times (from normal to web layout) and the background photo disappeared on its own.
I started using Writer with my previous post, and plan on using it going forward.
I'm trying to fix some formatting issues on my website. If you see something that looks weird or wrong (formatting, not content), post a comment with what issue you see and what browser (including version) you are using.
When looking for the fugative David Lenihan in the previous post, I noticed that a search for "David Lenihan" on Google brings up my blog as the top entry! With all the attention to the racist David Lenihan and the sue-CA David Lenihan, I'm a bit surprised I've moved into the number one position! Thank you Google!
This is kind of exciting...I got notification today that somebody (I don't know who) clicked on the one ad I put on my website and actually bought something...so I get a commission! I made a grand total of...$2.50! The power of the internets is amazing! Here is the article I wrote that got me my $2.50. Now if I could just figure out a way to get a million more people to click that ad and buy something...
I've been accused of being tragically hip in my communications, so in case you don't know what I mean by "bank", read the definition here.
If you don't know what a feed is, you should read this first.
One of the things that annoys me about blogs is how comments are handled. If I make a comment on a blog, how do I know if someone responds to it? Do I need to keep checking the blog entry to see if there is a response?
I've come up with a solution for people that subscribe to my blog feed. Now comments are posted to the feed just like entries are. Moveable Type (the software I use to do my blog) lets you do a list of entries or a list of comments, but not a single list of both. I looked through the Moveable Type forum for a solution and I found a plug-in called MTCollate that does exactly what I want. MTCollate lets you combine multiple lists into one list and then sort by any property of the list. So I combined a list of the last 15 comments with a list of the last 15 entries and output the most recent 15 comments/entries. Here is my atom template (right click and "Save Target As..." to view) for Movable Type. Clicking directly on this link won't work because the browser will try to interpret the XML tags instead of just showing you the text.
I used this site to make sure my changes to the feed were valid. It found several problems and gave enough documentation to help fix them all. Now my feed is validated. One problem that required a bit of investigating was how do give every entry/comment a unique id. This page has a good explanation on unique feed id's. The description of the atom feed format is here.
For people that don't subscribe to the blog feed, or want to know immediately when a comment has been added, I want to add a "email me when a new comment is posted to this entry" option to my blog. I haven't looked into how to do that yet. If you know how to do it, post a comment.
You'll notice that most established web sites have an icon. Icons for web pages are known as "favicon's". For example, checkout Yahoo's red "Y!" icon. The icon usually shows up to the left of the web address in your web browser. Favicon's are used in your web browser's favorites list. It is also used as the icon on your desktop if you right-click a web page and choose "Create Shortcut".
To create your own favicon, just place an icon named "favicon.ico" in the root directory of your web site. The Wikipedia article link above mentions a way to put your icon in a different location.
To create my favicon, I used a program called IconXP. This is a really well done program that is loaded with features. Some of the features that really stand out:
An icon file can support multiple representations of an icon. If you don't create the format an application is looking for, it will try to create the one it wants from one of the existing formats. For Windows XP, IconXP suggests an icon file support the following formats:
For my favicon, I used the 9 formats suggested by IconXP. It seems to work well. I did find one issue, though. I noticed that My Yahoo! doesn't work with favicons correctly when it draws the favicon next to web site feeds I'm tracking. It uses the 48x48, 16 color format to generate a 16x16, 16 color icon. This is probably a bug in their software since I am providing the format it is auto-generating. The problem is that my 48x48, 16 color down-sampled to a 16x16, 16 color didn't look very good. To fix this, I took my 16x16, 16 color icon and had IconXP create the 48x48, 16 color icon from it. That way, when Yahoo down-samples my 48x48, 16 color icon, it gives me the correct looking 16x16, 16 color icon. My 48x48, 16 color icon does not look as good anymore, but that is not a format that will be used much, so it is probably OK.
So now I have a favicon for my site. Next up, a cool looking banner! The favicon is a hint of what my banner will be, although I doubt anyone will be able to guess what it is. Yes, my favicon is a stylized "D"...but from where?
I am stuck in a lab without internet access waiting for my software to build. Thought I would see if I can write a blog entry while I am waiting.
Looks like it worked! Cool!
I’ve spent the weekend transfering my old web pages to my new blog. So now I’m going to make http://www.davidlenihan.com/ point to my blog, blog.davidlenihan.com. What a pain! But I’m glad I’m done and now I will hopefully be more likely to add more content. Now I can go watch the Super Bowl!
Blog’s are all the rage these days. Blog stands for Weblog, which is essentially a diary. The main advantage of a blog is that it is REALLY easy to update. I hope that means I will be more likely to add content to my website.
So I’m going to throw away my old “davidlenihan.com” web page and replace it with this blog. First I’m going to add all my old content to the blog and then (hopefully) I’ll be better about adding new stuff.
I’m using the blog software from the people that are hosting my website (Hostway). If you are interested in starting your own blog, check out MySpace, Yahoo! 360, or MSN Spaces. They all are free and should be easy to setup.