Archive | November, 2013

Lost scrolls

This blog has been so long-lived, it reminds me of the joke about the little country museum that had a hatchet on display labeled ‘George Washington’s Axe.” When queried, the owner admitted the handle had worn out and been replaced a few times, and the head replaced when it had broken, but the rest was original. (see Ship of Theseus for the original original. Supposedly.)
Today, I restored a set of essays that predate the WordPress blog. They predate the Manila/Radio Userland blog. They were around long before the short-lived Blogger experiment. In fact, they may even predate the original Twiki blog-on–wiki. These started as sketches of essays that never had a place to be published. I added them to the Manila blog as ‘stories’ rather than posts, and that’s why I missed them when I ported the Manila blog, 31-January-2007.
You can find those essays starting here:

Hurray for the border-box!

Paul Irish blogs here: that a CSS3 feature promises to end the foolish layout war between those who think box boundaries should be measured to the borders and those who think a box’s boundaries are the size of its content. This has been a headache for anyone trying to get a set of boxes to line up properly and to work across all browsers, especially Internet Explorer.

Vijay Sharma shares his insights here:

Credit to: (now merged into Front End Focus

Happy 64th birthday, Joe Walsh!

Chicago Stadium

Chicago Stadium

October 22, 1979 — Chicago, IL My fellow boot camp sailors Mike Dunning and Mike Seidler and I traveled from the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center to Chicago to listen to the Eagles. We wore our dress blues (“crackerjacks”), with little decoration, as we were pretty raw recruits. The concert was amazing; we had a balcony view nearly over the stage. I don’t recall a lot of details of the venue, but the Internet sure does!. Here’s the setlist [Update: see below], the locale, details of Chicago Stadium, now demolished, and more links.

Update: the setlist disappears from the Eagles fan site, but fortunately, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine remembers;



  1. Hotel California
  2. Already Gone
  3. In the City
  4. Doolin-Dalton
  5. Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)
  6. Lyin’ Eyes
  7. I Can’t Tell You Why
  8. Desperado
  9. Heartache Tonight
  10. One of These Nights
  11. Turn to Stone
  12. Life’s Been Good
  13. Life in the Fast Lane
  14. Rocky Mountain Way
  15. Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks

Notes from WordPress Seacoast meeting, 6-November-2013

The November meetup of the Seacoast WordPress Developers group had nine attendees. The discussions were far-ranging, with a lot of very useful information!

Before we got started, there was a discussion about creating custom archives, and Amanda brought up the codex page on archives: to point out the different templates that can build on archives.

WordCamp Boston 2013 was the main topic of the evening, and three regulars — Amanda, Laurel and Tina — shared a ride down to the Saturday sessions. New member Jim also attended and all were impressed with the organization of the event and the variety and professionalism of the presentations. Amanda noted that the meetings were recorded and should eventually appear on although this is likely a volunteer operation and may take some time.

We did a round of introductions: Amanda, Chris, the other Chris, Jim S. me, Jacqui (acdczone,com), Laurel, Phil, David. First meetups for Jim, Jacqui, and Phil. Welcome!

I mentioned there was a proposal for a meetup in Manchester to discuss collaborative teamwork. Tentative discussions. Caution we don’t want to step over the line and commit price fixing. But open to discussions on pricing, clients, functionality. Client engagements. Fixed-price v. time-and-materials.

Meanwhile, back at WordCamp: @beep – Ethan Marcotte keynote. Responsive Web Design. I mentioned that Ethan presented at many conferences, including my favorite An Event Apart and also wrote a book on responsive design with the affiliated group A Book Apart.

Laurel mentioned that one session on backups had a number of people enthused about VaultPress for WP backups. It’s written by the folks at Automattic, who also manage Akismet and It’s commercial, starting at $5 a month, but may make sense for some people. (Later on, someone asked about how the profile pictures for WordCamp Boston were made. That’s Gravatar, yup, also an Automattic property.)

Chris Cochran made WordCamp presentation, – focused on content, web designer, bottom-up, content-out, Customizing to the user.

Amanda walked us through the excellent slides for Wicked Fast WordPress by Chris Ferdnandi

Jetpack for Developers – George Stephanis — is a dev for JetPack and was pretty focused on writing JetPack.

jQuery and WordPress Together, Again — This was a bit of a suprise, based on the title. If you were expecting to learn about how to use jQuery inside WordPress. It was the inverse: how the jQuery team uses WordPress inside jQuery multiple websites.

PHP Unit Testing

Evolving your JavaScript with Backbone.js

Off on another tangent — I’m not complaining, just giving context — for a discussion about useful plugins: manage.wp for managing many sites, wordfence for security and akismet to block comment spam.

Questions on good books, tutorials, videos. Lots of suggestions. Me: Start at

Question on managing booking time: Appointments Plus

Another on good, fast, efficient multi-faceted search, a term I hadn’t heard before: example given was to filter a large listing of homes by number of bedrooms. So the engine is not just full-text search, but name-value pairs out of custom posts.

Question on commerce sites: wpmu, WooCommerce, others.

Q on snaking columns, Woo Dojo and short columns.

Quick demo of Visual Composer. lets the end users do more layout.

And there was more! Tips, tricks, the solutions to your WordPress questions. But you have to attend, because I can’t possibly transcribe all that happened at the meeting. Great stuff.

Thanks to Josh Cyr, owner of AlphaLoft for providing the space for the meeting, and to Amanda Giles for organizing the meeting. Hope to see you all next month.

rbenv on Fedora 19: for want of a nail,…

… a kingdom was lost.

Fortunately, I don’t have a kingdom at stake. My tale is more like the House That Jack Built. I had to spend a little time building the tools to build the code to build the language upon which I build solutions for clients. And the path was strewn with gotchas, but I persevered. Since I’ll likely need to do it again some day, I’ll record it here in hopes I can retrace my patch, er, path.

I’ve installed Fedora 19 on my main development laptop, replacing an older Mint 12 install that had gotten too old to maintain easily. I’ve spent some time updating and configuring the machine in my spare time. With FireFox already installed, Chromium was an early addition. Thanks to syncing, these browsers retain the history and passwords of the sites I spent all day on. I moved over my ssh keys and configurations and vim configurations and installed git and the basic development setup is ready to go: most of my coding occurs on remote systems. Next came Apache and PHP in order to develop locally. Finally, I started on Ruby and Rails. Here, I took a tangent from past installs and installed rbenv rather than RVM, the Ruby Versions Manager. I have seen problems with RVM and the 2.0 version is coming along slowly. In the meantime, Bundler has come along and solved a number of problems with gems, gemsets and disk clutter, but in a different and incompatible way with RVM. I thought that this was a good opportunity to inform myself of a new tool, should I run across it on a new gig. Also, I had seen a Drew Neil videocast in his VimCasts series recently where he showed some very useful tools, but rbenv was a pre-requisite. Due to the way RVM works, rbenv can’t be installed side-by-side, so I had to remove RVM. No time like the present!

However, there’s a catch. Isn’t there always? Fedora 19 uses a version of OpenSSL which is configured differently than what used to be typical. I am no crypto expert, but I understand they disallowed some form of elliptical curve (EC) encryption. Ruby, as part of its build process, tests for that specific functionality, so builds will break on Fedora 19 (and recent Red Hat, too). There is a fix in the pipeline:, which changes the behavior from requiring this specific form of encryption, which wasn’t really required, just a poorly chosen hard-coded test) and instead tests to confirm that there are some algorithms for encryption by iterating through them. So. Now, I knew there was a fix, I just had to figure out how to wedge it into my system. Thank goodness for internet search engines! Here was a similar enough situation that I could interpret the process for my system, with different version numbers, of course, and a few tweaks. After a few false starts, I had my own custom patched versions of Ruby 2.0 and 1.9 installed a ready to go.

It may not be clear why I didn’t just install the version of Ruby that comes with Fedora 19. At the moment, that version is the same (p247) as the current version, but as a developer, I don’t want to have to count on the distribution to keep their versions up to date in order to have the most recent version on my systems. Since I’ll be deploying systems into production, and therefore exposed to potential attack from the internet, I need to have the ability to build from the latest source code and to apply patches as needed. This provides the best possible security to my clients for this app. I also need to support older versions, so having worked out the recipe for 2.0, I was able to backport the same changes into Ruby 1.9.3 and install that on the system as well. At the moment, I don’t have any need for Ruby 1.8.7, but now that I’ve worked out the build routine, I’m confident I could deploy that if needed.

Under New Management

Under Construction

The ubiquitous figure with a shovel full of…

I snicker at the sight of a web page with a big “Under Construction” banner or the ubiquitous figure with a shovel. Of course the site is under construction. If a web page isn’t growing and changing, it’s a historical artifact and not a Living Web page.
I’m working at bringing my blog up to speed, after a year of benign neglect. While I’ve kept the software up-to-date, the postings have been infrequent, the template is showing its age, and the information has a good case of Internet bit-rot. I installed the Broken Link Checker plugin to assist with cleaning up the blog posts that point to nowhere, or worse, wrong-ware, and it’s a pretty Cool Tool. It plowed through a lot of posts and ferreted out missing (404) links, bad server responses, missing servers, redirects and more, and provided statistics that let me appreciate the scope of the work to do: in round numbers, there are 5000 links in 3000 posts, and 1000 of them are broken. Wow.
The Broken Link Checker lets you sort and triage the links: filter a set by urls, search-and-replace using regular expressions, update with the Web Archive link (it searches for it automatically, if you select ‘Update Link’). I found several of my favorite bloggers moved or re-mapped their blogs over the past decade (no surprise, there really), but didn’t leave redirects in place, so all my links to David Weinberger’s Hyperorg or Doc Searl’s blogs or Robert X. Cringely’s material on ended in broken links. With the Broken Link Checker, I was able to pull up a list of all the broken links for one site, then work through the list while trolling the site in another window, and cutting-and-pasting updated links.
It wasn’t just the individual bloggers, though. Many (most?) of the media sites I cite —— ZDNet, Washington Post, etc. —— have also reworked their content URLs, leaving the blog orphaned.
There’s lots of one-off, one-hit wonders, too: the usual cool stuff that took the web by storm for 36 hours and then vanished back into the noise. Pretty much anyone I cited at their company’s “Who Are We” page has moved on and gotten a new job, or the company’s been absorbed by BigNamelessAmalgamates, Inc. The link is broken, but the history remains. Broken Link Checker has some nice options to remove the broken link while leaving the anchor text in place, with strike-through style showing there’s a change, and a title visible on mouse-over that shows the orphaned link. This seems like an ideal tool to curate old material.
There’s also a lesson to be learned in what’s useful blogging. A number of posts that were closer to bookmarks of “Look what Bob’s doing over there! Awesome!” are far less awesome, now that Bob’s site is long gone, and can’t even be found in the Wayback Machine. That’s a post with a value of zero or perhaps even null. So, in the future, we (that’s you and I, dear reader) should resolve to make our posts a little more useful should they be standing alone on a reinvented Internet in another ten years.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.