Category Archives: geekiness

FND Launched!

Yay! We went live with Fresh New Day this morning – not exactly countless hours, but uncounted hours of concentrated effort to get what is perhaps our most ambitious project off the ground. It doesn’t look like there’s much going on – a photo, a few words – but it really has been like the legendary duck – serene on the surface all the while paddling like crazy things below the surface. Nevertheless, a positive action that has already served to inspire and move others – I really want to say ‘our job is done’, but there’s plenty more effort to be put in yet. Check it out.

scary alien errors

WordPress errors – scary aliens though they may be, are sometimes easily solved. Working on the Fresh New Day site (see tab above), I suddenly got the following error message snotted across the home page:

WordPress database error: [Table ‘freshnew_wrdp1.wp_post2cat’ doesn’t exist] SELECT p2c.category_id AS cat_id, COUNT(p2c.rel_id) AS numposts, UNIX_TIMESTAMP(max(posts.post_date_gmt)) + ’12’ AS last_post_date, UNIX_TIMESTAMP(max(posts.post_date_gmt)) AS last_post_date_gmt FROM wp_post2cat p2c INNER JOIN wp_posts posts ON p2c.post_id=posts.id WHERE 1 = 1 AND posts.post_type = ‘post’ AND posts.post_status = ‘publish’ AND posts.post_date_gmt <= '2009-09-12 22:21:41' GROUP BY p2c.category_id ORDER BY numposts DESC

ARGH! If you get this error message, people I feel your pain. I freaked out, repaired databases, and went into that gritted teeth panic mode best reserved for fighting aliens. What it turned out to be was instead of installing Amaury Balmer’s rather excellent Simple Tags plugin, in my hurry and scurry, I’d accidentally installed the Simple Tagging plugin. Oh, duh, that would be the plugin for WP 2.3 – not really designed to work with WP 2.8.4. So, a quick uninstall and calmness returns to my world. The aliens are happy, I am happy.

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

Well, long and cold, and while I have known lonely winters, this hasn’t been one of them. I haven’t written here for what seems like forever, but I have been writing like a mad thing over at the two new sites we’ve put together…

Business Savvy – For years I’ve taught people how to set up their own businesses. I have a special interest in micro business, patchwork economics, and rural community economic development. I decided that I would a) declutter the basement office, and b) make the material I’ve gathered over 20 years available online so that perhaps other people might be able to go on and change their lives and those of their family’s for a positive future.

A good reason why it hasn’t been a lonely winter… I’m a loaner. I changed jobs earlier this year – instead of a farewell gift of something fabbo like a plate with a picture of kitten to hang on the wall I asked for contributions to my investment fund for Kiva, and for my colleagues to pick out an investment for me. They did, and together we invested in an entrepreneur in Togo. Loaves and fishes. Having invested in fish, the next step has been to invest in loaves…

Cecilia Nyameke (from Tarkwa, Ghana) is a divorced mother with six children. Currently four of her children are in school. She has been baking for six years and her business serves as the main source of income for the family.

Image from Kiva.org - loans that change lives

She wants to use her loan to buy bags of flour, sugar, and baking powder to expand her operation and also to avoid price hikes. Cecilia is a member of the group called Abandenden Jesus (meaning “Jesus, our Strong Tower”). Members agree to guarantee for each other to repay the loan.

I look at this photo and I just want to buy and try some the bread, still warm from the oven, with lashings of butter and clover honey. I can’t recommend the stories highly enough.

Another reason why the winter hasn’t been lonely – Get Going Online. After teaching html and web at night school for a couple of years, and to celebrate 10 years of writing web pages and developing web sites, I decided to offer people a great way of getting going online. There are huge numbers of small businesses with ugly and out-of-date web sites. Why? If you’re not geeky and/or if you’re busy running your business, how do you update your web site? The options are you either don’t – and that’s a bit of a disaster – or you pay someone else to do it for you – and that is a potential disaster too. I decided to offer businesses a happy compromise with a content management system and some limited customisation – at small business scaled prices. It’s a good deal, especially as seeing the end result is anything but under-powered. Get Going Online is offering well over 400 designs (more arriving every day), and the preview isn’t just a screen snap or two, the preview IS the full site – this is what your site will look like. I’m very, very pleased with the way it’s shaping up and the positive responses.

And another reason why it hasn’t been a lonely winter…

just checking…

Geek alert! One of the great things about WordPress (that’s the do-dah that makes this writing space possible) is people have been able to bend their incredible creative and geeky skills to writing plugins. They’re useful (often very) mini-do-dahs that clip into the do-dah and make it more powerful/useful/attractive etc. And I can’t believe I’m writing about one such mini-do-dah – Broken Link Checker, by Latvian, Janis Elsts. Now while Janis has done a great job, there is a part of me that hates him – the part that has discovered there’s something like 110 broken links/missing images over this and the aquaculture spaces.

How unique though. Not that links are broken, but that in the ‘old’ days one would write and there was referencing to books, journals, manuscripts – whatever – but the expectation was/is that they will stay in print, or be available somewhere. Writing with links was seen to be *the * way to go in the web 2.0 world, but I sense a feeling of ‘I’ll link to my own writing’ to be sure that – as far as sensible I can control the availability of the resources, and sustain the credibility of the writing. Talk about fungible…meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll be spending some time sorting the links and renewing or removing them. And my future writing will be considering the robustness of the link destinations. Ah, the joys of new problems. We don’t know what we are training kids for – the jobs and issues are unknown at this point, because the technologies haven’t been invented yet.

size matters

HD - the snapshotEver had that bloated feeling? Bloat – it even sounds unpleasant. As a farm kid I remember Spring and the start of the bloat season and my parents would talk about how the herd would be managed to avoid our cows falling with the condition. Essentially what happens is the cows, tired of eating hay through the winter, gorge on the lank, wet, Spring growth. Too much liquid, not enough fibre. The results are unpleasant at best, fatal at the (likely) worst. And you thought YOU had problems with gas.

Late last week I was speaking to learning of educators (what is the collective noun for educators?) and I mentioned the joys of PortableApps – portable applications. I cruised off to check out what new applications were available, or, more to the point, how my life has changed that ‘new’ applications are suddenly useful and/or interesting. I found WinDirStat – the disk usage analyser/cleanup tool. Available. For free. Liking that a lot.

Generally I’m not all that crash hot on a list of files and stats, but I can read pictures very well. Above is a ‘before’ snapshot of my hard drive, even as I write this. It won’t be like that for much longer, as the big red, blue, and green squares will be backed-up and removed shortly. They’re video files. Stuff I’d been working on, and simply forgot to remove. Gigabytes of space tied up. And here was I thinking it was the photos that were the space hogs on my laptop. The photos do take up space – they’re the turquoise mosaics half way down on the left hand side. The great thing about the software is I would’ve spent a lot of time sorting the photos, whereas the real issues – the videos – I’d forgotten about and simple would’ve ignored.

Right. Off to do some spring cleaning, hopefully the results will smell rather less than a cow with bloat…
HD-L8R…later that same day, the ‘after’ snapshot. I’ve dealt to the larger video files (I had no idea there were so many), and generally done a major tidy up, but no defrag as yet. The two turquoise rectangles (bottom left) are the pagefile.sys files – the swap space/virtual memory – in the above (the before) picture the same files show in the bottom right hand corner in, er, buttock pink. The peas and carrots in the top left are the Adobe Premier files – video samples, working files etc. The gold zone on the right hand side are the photos and video files of the family. My hard drive has gone from 6gb free space to 40gb free space. Hmmm, about enough space to edit video…

using tiddlywiki for teaching

As I was heading off to lunch today (roast beef, couscous, roast vegetables and an apple, yeah, all good thank you), I was talking to a colleague about a recent National Geographic article. She mentioned her Dad had hauled out a NG from the dawn of time with an article they’d been discussing. Yes, they’re *that* kind of people…

I remembered back in my early computing days I’d laboriously entered in a magazine article index database program from a Compute! magazine, and having got the program finally debugged and working on my beloved Apple IIe. I then entered in a couple of years worth of NG issues. And then I clicked that the problem was in the searching. Was the article about big cats > in Africa > their impact > on ecosystems > and human geography > or was it about the photos > or what?

About 20 years goes past. Enter tiddlywiki. I figured they’d make a great way to teach wiki, database, data mining, tagging, and a host of other meaty goodness in geog/language/computing/et al classes. Tiddlywiki would also be a great tool to use because of its low demand, and it’s a free download.

My approach would be to grab a year’s worth of NGs (I sold about five year’s worth at a garage sale for $10 just before xmas – shop around). Get the students in teams and distribute the mags accordingly. They can read the articles, and start to tag them, using post-its. Once the students had teased the articles out, each group can tiddlywiki with a tag cloud plugin. When everyone has done the exercise, build an uber-tiddlywiki, and import the respective tiddlers to form a catalogue of the year’s editions. There’ll be a geek or two who can make it all work consistently, and an artist or two who can look at the css to be unique and beautiful – there’s room for everyone to come up with some input. And the tiddlywikis lend themselves to digging deeper into the information, while permitting links ‘out’ into the net – to other resources and information.

The next exercise would be to use a tiddlywiki in the same sort of way in a language class – analyse a Shakespeare play from different perspectives, and then slurp it into an uber-tiddlywiki, and then copy it to everyone so the notes were built by all, and shared by all. I’m usually not a big fan of collaborative work for assessment purposes, as my experience has been that the work load is not always evenly shared. But in the assembly and analysis of material for notes – there’s an opportunity for everyone to make a contribution, and the keen people are not penalised.

up to date-ish

At the end of a great deal of frustration I think I’ve finally managed to get most of the new template sorted, including the latest upgrade for the engine, and all the plugins the provide the background functions working. I’ve used up all the battery in my wireless mouse, and I’m restricted now to using the touchpad on DeepBlue. But it feels good – there’ll be some cosmetic fine tuning to get the visuals working how I want them for this year at least – and that should be sorted out over the next few days. At least now the pages are hanging together (as they should) in a number of different browsers. I do wish the majority of the world would use FireFox, or that MSoft would see its way clear to adopting the standard instead of its standard.

The big key is I’m feeling like writing again, and I know that I’ve got most of the presentation ducks in a row. Yay!

new year, new theme

We recently clicked over into the Year of the Rat. It’s traditional to celebrate the new year with new clothes. In the absence of money due to a recent thrashing of the credit card buying dental experiences (nearly there – only another hour to go at this point…) but I have started to explore a new theme here. It’s a work in progress. Unfortunately, the old theme has had some compatibility issues with the upgrades of the engine, and rather than spend time trying to re-sort the style sheet I decided it was time for a new look presentation.

It’ll take a few days to sort this new presentation but so far it seems to be working faithfully – as ever, the simple solutions are usually the best.

Later: Argh! Buggy, buggy, BUGGY. A curse on these browser incompatibilities. And another. Argh!

Much, much later, and three FIVE themes later: Much less buggy, widgets working-ish, and sort-of ok a bit in the browsers – at least it’s on screen. Slightly. Exhausting.

songs in the key of geek

Since the early days of the new year I’ve spent hours labouring over DeepBlue, my laptop. First I did a web site design for my mate’s business and installing the various applications within that – the forum and shop as examples. Then across the various AkoNet writing spaces finding the page presentation was incompatible with the engine upgrade. I still haven’t resolved all the issues, but they’re presentation rather than structural. I’ll get back to sorting our the css and resolve that before too long.

And then, just while I’m trying to figure it all out, uh-oh, the blue screen of death. Again. And again. I spent the best part of a week working at the command line trying to find what was wrong, while poor DeepBlue just wanted die. In the early hours of the morning I dreamed what might be a solution. When I woke up I rushed down stairs, found a suitable sized screwdriver, opened the case, popped out the expanded memory, and *bing* the blue screen went away.

I have done a very thorough backup, restore, defrag, check, re-check, and everything else I can possibly think of to reduce my stress next time it happens. There’s a problem with the digital lifestyle – too much stuff is stored on hardware that’s subject to failure. Gee, I bet no one else has ever thought that. Today’s excursion has been into trying to get cURL working on DeepBlue’s XAMPP installation. Amazingly effortless.

Ok – now if I’ve done a great job of impressing you with my uber-geekiness, let me assure you that there is some standing on the shoulders of giants. For enabling cURL, as an example, a simple short posting that’s been very helpful. And there’s no doubt I would’ve never guessed the munted memory card without prompts from people who have figured out what the arcane codes e.g. 0xC0000005 (0xC8704C40, 0x00000000, 0x80524D4B, 0x00000000) on the blue screen of death mean (hint: rip out any additional memory and see how that goes). I’ve become really aware of how much generous sharing of geekoid information there is on the web. Thank you, one and all, plugin and widget writers, forum commenters, posters sharing – fantastic – thank you, please keep up the good work.