Idle poking about

I’m so bored at work today that I started idly poking about different websites.

I found out that BigAdda (an Indian social networking site) is running a weblog written by Amitabh Bacchan (or so they say.)

More poking around. Their blog runs on WordPress. Their webserver is Apache and its all running on an Ubuntu Server.

WordPress themes folder

WordPress plugins folder

How do I know this? Well, the silly people have not disabled directory listing, so after guessing it was a WordPress install, I started checking out the standard tree of WordPress folders, so now I know what’s in their plugins folder and their themes folder and of course the helpful line at the bottom tells me they’re running Ubuntu. Oh and for what its worth, they’re actually running WP 2.5 or above.

Blog updates can be frustrating!

Thanks to Blogger deciding to add cute little icons next every commenter id, my blog layout was broken. Not terribly so, but enough to look ugly.

Since I had to edit the template anyway, I decided to make a few other changes too.

  • Moved the post time to below the title (and removed post author, since it’s only me.
  • Removed the bit of JavaScript that would hide comments on Item pages
  • Fixed the display of icons next to commenters.
  • Some sidebar cleanup
  • Added in some CSS to display labels like other post metadata
  • Pulled the CSS out of the blogger template and put it into a single .CSS file (This alone saved me about 2MB of server space!)
  • Lots of HTML cleanup. I can’t believe the number of places I’d left open elements!
  • Changed my DTD to XHTML 1.0 Transitional (It still won’t validate though, there’s a lot of work to be done before that happens.)
  • Removed the display of backlinks

I also changed a couple of settings in Blogger before I was finally done.

Little did I know…

Since I publish my blog via FTP, Blogger had to republish the entire site, file by file. Hanging every now and then…

And then when I looked at my earlier posts, I found them all in single massive paragraphs. Back then, Blogger didn’t have a rich text editor (or maybe it did, I can’t remember) so I used to type my posts in with 2 hard returns to mark the end of a paragraph. Blogger, in all its wisdom, would preserve these hard returns as <br> tags, rather than enclosing each paragraph within <p> tags. (Oh glory days! When we didn’t care about semantically marking up content!) I have known for quite a while that Blogger doesn’t seem to want to create paragraphs for you. Not even the new version released just a year ago. Why? Google knows!

Anyway, I’ve been hand coding paragraphs as I type my posts in Blogger for the last year or so. So most of my new posts display and parse without any problem.

But today since I was making all these changes, I decided I should fix my older posts and even label them while I was at it.

And that’s where I hit a brick wall. Or should I say Blogger’s short-sightedness/cussedness.

  • Making a change to a post’s labels makes Blogger republish ALL the other labels. Everyone single one in your blog.
  • If you’re editing an older post, you have only two options. Either publish it or save it as a draft. No option to save and publish later.
  • Publishing each old post means you have to wait until it uploads all of the labels each time.
  • If you thought that you could mark a whole bunch of drafts as “publish” from the “Edit Posts” page, think again. All you can do is apply labels to multiple posts there.

So what’s the solution? I don’t want to host my blog on Google’s Blogspot, nor do I want to go purchase a new domain just to point it to Google’s servers. This means I have to sacrifice some new features of Blogger, so be it. But I really want to clean up my older posts. I guess the only solution is to temporarily switch to blogspot, so that republish older posts doesn’t involve a round of FTP each time and when I’m done with all my label and formatting changes, to switch back to my FTP site.

Too lazy to do that right now though, it will have to wait for another day! 🙂

Must read comics obsessively!

(post title style borrowed from a friend. You know who you are.)

A few days ago samudrika introduced me to Ctrl-Alt-Del, an online comic strip that’s mostly about games.

I took a look at it, liked it and added the RSS feed to my Netvibes comics tab and forgot about it for a few days.

This afternoon, I was a bit bored and visited the website to read a few strips. Within minutes I was giggling at the geeky jokes and decided I need to read it from the start. Except, the first comic was published in October 2002 and repeatedly clicking “Next” on the webpage got tiresome.

So I quickly viewed the source of the comic page to figure out which directory the images were saved in and the pattern of the file names. After that it was simple matter of writing a small script that generated all the file names for a given set of dates and add them to my download manager.

About an hour later thanks to broadband, I had every single Ctrl-Alt-Del strip…

And now I’ve already plowed through the first three years of the strip and I don’t plan on stopping soon… 🙂

Another day, another phone…

Ever since I lost my phone in July, I’ve been putting off buying a new one because of a financial crunch (thanks to crappy employers under-paying me and the bloody malaria!) I kept using my 3-year old LG with it’s scratched body, non-functioning buttons and annoying interface!

Well, that LG finally breathed its last. It just switched itself off quietly and refused to come on again one morning. Typical. I was not ready to buy a new phone as yet but I had to spend on one now.

I had been lusting after the Sony Ericsson K810i. Mostly for its looks, but also for the decent 3.2MP camera it packed. It was more expensive than I wanted to spend, but I went ahead and bought it anyway. And I’ve never been happier about my phone!

It didn’t take me long to install a few games, Opera Mini and the GMail app. Not to mention SSH! Bliss!

New Phone!

Sony Ericsson K750i

After complaining about my old LG phone that never seemed to do what I wanted it to do, not even make or receive calls well, I finally went and bought a new phone.

While I had been planning to get one for a while, it was a mostly impulse buy as I had already decided on getting a Sony phone and did zero research beyond that. Well, not really, I actually decided what features I wanted and picked a phone that I could afford to buy and was quite happy with it. Except, when I went to the store, that model was not available anymore!

So I looked at other phones and while the shopkeeper kept trying to sell me a Nokia phone, I saw this nice looking K750i and decided I wanted it.

It had a MemoryStick Duo slot so I could increase the storage on it, it came with FM Radio, a media player and a 2 megapixel camera. Perfect. Or whatever. I wanted a new phone!

And that’s how I ended up with my new phone.

Of course, I spent the next couple of hours ignoring my girlfriend and transferring numbers from the old phone via the SIM and then playing with settings, clicking photos. Even at dinner! – Second day

Most people dashed off for the beach party at the end of the first day, but somehow the thought of a large bunch of nerdy boys and a lot of alcohol was not terribly tempting and so I just went to my friend’s home for a quiet dinner of pizza, chicken wings and vodka! That was followed by general catching up with my friend and yakking on into the night. (When he was not whispering over the phone with his girlfriend!)

All of which meant that I woke up late on Sunday morning and so missed the first session at on Corporate Blogging. Apparently I didn’t miss much since I popped into the IRC channel caught a bit of the presentations on the live webcast.

By the time I got to Tidel Park, that session was winding down and the next scheduled session was the talk by Sunil Gavaskar and followed by Robert Scoble‘s live webcast.

Mr. Gavaskar’s talk was very measured and accompanied by a general hush around the entire hall. Only the flashes and clicks of cameras broke that silence. In fact, sitting at my table at the back of the room, it seemed like a surreal, choreographed performance as people glided fowarded, clicked a photo and glided back while Mr. Gavaskar talked in clear, slow tones about his experience with pod-casting, being in the commentary box and possibilities for blogging in the commercial sports world. While he didn’t say anything revolutionary either about the technology or the technique of blogging and podcasting it was nevertheless interesting to hear his take on things.

One of the bloggers at the conference made a rough transcription of his talk. You can read that here.

What seemed like a perfectly organised half an hour with Mr. Gavaskar was followed by a completely chaotic and pointless couple of hours as they tried to get Robert Scoble up on screen. Since apparently there was a while to go before he could come online, a couple of other guys filled with some talks. When it was finally time for Scoble to go on, numerous technical hitches held things up.

Now, I didn’t care to listen to the man, so I would have been perfectly happy to go sit in another session except there wasn’t any other going on! All the guys who should have been hard at work making sure that other stuff went on as scheduled were too busy waiting to worship at the altar of Scoble! I even heard one nerdy kid say to another, “Scoble is the King, da!!” It took a lot of strength to not burst out laughing at that!

What this meant was that the session that was to start in the other room on Community, Languages and Bridges was delayed inordinately until each speaker in that session got barely 5-6 minutes to speak!

Oh, Scoble did go online finally and wittered on about God knows what. He also pitched for PodTech India, but oh well, who cares? I was busy eating lunch and catching up with other bloggers who weren’t particularly interested in Scobleizing themselves.

The Community session was interesting with a fairly wide variety of talks. If only there was more time for discussion on those! Aparna Ray of newsmericks fame spoke on the difficulties of blogging in her native language and in characteristic style ended with a limerick!

Back in the auditorium, some twit read an interminable speech. Apparently he was a local journalist. At the time I sat there gritting my teeth and wondering why the guy couldn’t have just put that damn thing online somewhere and tell us all to go read it. Apparently he did have the whole bloody speech on his blog, but still insisted on reading it out!

The last session was the most interesting one of BlogCamp and probably one that witnessed the most participation. Kiruba, Peter and Dina lead a discussion loosely on the responsibilities of writing in a public medium. – First Impressions

In case the badge at the right is not “in-your-face” enough, I should mention here that I’m attending on my company’s steam.

In the interest of keeping this blog as anonymous as its always been, I’m obviously not going to mention what I’m speaking on but people who know me can obviously figure that out!

The conference is happening at Tidel Park in Chennai which is a fairly fancy tech park but with some serious security! We had to pass through 3 levels of security before we even entered the building (after passing through a metal detector.)

My first big gripe about the conference is that during the registration (when we pick up our freebies, which by the way are fairly decent) is that we had to fill out a short form from Yahoo! (who are the “platinum” sponsors of the event) where we basically agreed to let them spam us. I quickly overwrote the bits where they said “I agree” and “Yahoo can” blah blah changing them to “I DO NOT agree” and “Yahoo can NOT.” The guy at the registation desk mutely took back my form, I’m not sure if he actually saw what I did! 🙂

The entire morning I was offline since in a very “doh!” moment, I remembered that I should have packed my wireless network card only after I got to the airport. I thought this place would have ethernet ports around that I could use, but no. And that was my second gripe. The connectivity is provided by Sify and they have a pretty decent WiFi zone set up but if you want to plug in through ethernet, you’re out of luck. I’m also carrying along my portable HDD which has all my portable apps on it so I thought I could just plug into the desktops they have around for free access. Except the desktops were the junk iWay systems which wouldn’t let me plug in my HDD into their USB ports. Gah!

I only managed to get online because I had a crossover cable and connected it to a helpful guy’s laptop. Phew!

The talks in the morning were quite blah. Someone from Sulekha was up first and I missed the bulk of his talk since we got here late. An open session where bloggers shared their experiences followed which had some fun anecdotes but also had some guys drone on about some story that only they got the point of. After a coffee break, Atul Chitnis was up with “Blogging in the 90s: A Dinosaur’s Tale.” The only thing to like about this was that Toolz is finally calling himself a dinosaur. Lets hope he goes extinct soon!

The parallel session going on in another room seemed interesting on paper. Intro to WordPress, WordPress Hacks were a couple of the topics. But when I popped into that room, it was mostly geek boys using the word “like” altogether too many times!

Lunch followed which was quite yummy but only veg.

I’m sitting right now in the afternoon session which is on “Collaborative Blogging” while a session on Podcasting is going on upstairs.

More later or tomorrow if I’m too bored today! 😀

Anyone feeling generous?

Apple’s announced the first of their computers based on the Intel dual core chips (quite originally named Core Duo) and since I’m out of a laptop anyway, I was wondering if anyone would buy me this one! Its only $2000 (and change, I guess) :p

Oh while you’re at it, can I get an iRiver too? Thanks!