28 December 2007

New Visionary Saver Version, and Updates

The Visionary Saver screen saver now has an official home, on my new (and barely going) business site (Cobalt Edge LLC). There is a new version (1.3) out, which mainly adds some additional visualizations. It is built for Leopard only, and will be this way going forward. My apologies to anyone running MacOS X versions prior to 10.5.

Installing Litespeed on Slicehost

I was trying to install Litespeed on a new slice at Slicehost. This is an Ubuntu 7.10 setup. It all seemed to work until I tried to start it up. It said it couldn't find the binary for lshttpd, but it was there. Doing some searching finally yielded this thread, where I realized I just needed to install the 32-bit compatible libraries (since Litespeed is 32-bit). So, a simple sudo aptitude install ia32-libs and a re-install of Litespeed did the trick.

22 December 2007

Use every tool you can

I just spent a chunk of time figuring out a problem with the way the content of one of the sites I work on flows. We have theme templates, and so on, but all of a sudden the sidebars of the site were no longer sidebars, but shown at the bottom of the page, and there were a few other oddities.

We couldn't figure out anything that had been recently changed that would affect this, so I basically had to start sifting through the HTML to try to see what it could be. I suspected a missing ending div tag or similar, that would thus pull the sidebars into the main content area's div.

To solve this, I started with the Web Developer plugin in Firefox, but that wasn't leading anywhere. I checked some things in CSS Edit. I then used Web Developer's View Source with my associated editor (TextMate) and pulled up the code. The code was messy as hell (no thanks Drupal and the theme we are using), and using code folding, re-indenting and various things was going to take forever.

Next up was Dreamweaver. Voila! This is probably the third time I've used Dreamweaver in my life, but I opened up the source for the page in it, and turned on it's ability to "Highlight Invalid Code". Immediately it showed two div tags that did not have closing tags. Just as I suspected! Now, how to figure out what code within that was eating the ending div (i.e. that itself did not have ending div's, because I could see that the matching ending div for these particular two divs was there (I'd edited the theme to put in comments showing the matching ending divs).

Now it was back to TextMate to manually look at the enclosed HTML. This was tedious for sure, but after some time, I found what looked like some missing closing div's. I identified which blog entry it was in, went to the site and looked at the content for that blog entry, and voila, wacky use of divs! This appeared to have been remnants from some kind of formatting the TinyMCE WYSYWYG editor had been doing. Thankfully we've bailed on TinyMCE and are now using FCKeditor which appears to work much better so far.

Anyway, wrapping up, I fixed up the two blog entries that had these weird div uses, and voila, that fixed the site layout! For me at least, I found a new useful tool, which is Dreamweaver, or specifically Dreamweaver's "Highlight Invalid Code" feature.


For some of the sites I work on, that are either personal projects, or small, where I'm not going to setup Nagios, Monit, or some other internal or serious solution, I've been looking for monitoring services. What I've found, and signed up for (all of these), and will compare over the next few weeks are:

Have others to recommend? Please do tell. Note, they basically have to be free, or super cheap (which for me right now translates to maybe a couple bucks a month if, and only if, they are providing something more than simple uptime watching and monitoring intervals 10 mins or less (less is great, most of the above range from 5-60 minutes depending).

20 December 2007

Amazon Kindle: First Use Thoughts

I received my Kindle the other day, and have had a chance to read with it for several hours now. So far, so great! I like it quite a bit. I'm going to keep this short, because the Kindle has been covered a lot elsewhere.

Things I like:

  • Trivial setup. The unit comes completely setup, tied to your account, and included all the books I'd already bought. All I had to do was turn the thing on and start using it. I did follow directions and plug it in to charge, which reached full within maybe 15 minutes. Also, the unit starts right into a quicky getting started, that I found to be just the right length and usefulness.

  • The "electronic ink" display is awesome. You can read this thing in any kind of light, no problems like you'd have with a laptop screen or many other devices. Very pleasant to read to as well, did not tire my eyes at all after several hours!

  • Easy to use UI. Basically, learn a couple buttons and the scroller and you're done.

  • Neato features like clippings, search, and bookmarks.

  • When the unit is in sleep mode, the display actually has an image on it, and it tells you how to wake it up (in case you forgot ;-)

What I don't like... I can really only think of two things to start off:

  • No PDF support. This is a pretty big deal. I knew this going in, but had read you could convert documents. You can, but have to use a Windows app, and it's unclear how well it works. I haven't tried it yet, but plan to. I was hoping to place some of the existing ebooks I have onto the Kindle this way. This is hands down my #1 complaint and the thing I truly hope Amazon can remedy. I understand the reasons, but I'd like to see them solve it, even if it's not ideal.

  • The price of subscribing to blogs. Usually it's cheap, such as $1/month, but really, blogs are free, and yes, obviously this is partially to cover Whispernet fees (which Amazon always says they cover in their docs, but obviously it's built into the price you're paying), and to cover management on your account, but seriously, it's a blog. How about you give us at least 10 for free, and then make them dirt cheap thereafter. Or at least don't tell us that you're covering the Whispernet fees.

All in all, I love this thing so far, and am really excited to see how I use it going forward. I very much like the idea that I can take this one thing when I travel, instead of having to either figure out what I might want to read ahead of time (I'm usually in the middle of a few books), or take multiple books with me. Also, nice to have even around the house, for just the ability to grab it and know I've got various reading material on it.

I will be most curious to see if I try blogs, newspapers, or magazines on it. Cost wise I probably won't, and I don't get a newspaper as it is (blogs, newspapers/news, I get all online). Magazines maybe, although most of the ones I read have a good visual component (various cycling mags, National Geographic Adventure and Outside, techy mags which typically don't translate to something like this very well, Wired, or whatever). Time will tell, but it's pretty cool so far.