about this blog

This blog documents my staying at home and writing (and the subsequent whatevers to that writing). It also serves as an online journal for friends and family. It is more-or-less guaranteed to be sans intérêt to most anyone else.

Moving aroundwards

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thepowerfactory \a mark of quality
a man’s struggle with the Pivot weblog system

2004 Reading List

Being a list of books read during the current year.
Sourcery
Hogfather
Moving Pictures
Pyramids
Soul Music
Mort
Faust Eric
Small Gods
Carpe Jugulum
Jingo
Men At Arms
Feet of Clay
Maskerade
Lords and Ladies
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Guards! Guards!
Interesting Times
Equal Rites
The Last Continent
Wyrd Sisters
The Eighth Colour
The Light Fantastic
Dark Side of The Sun
Strata
Only You Can Save Mankind
Johnny and The Dead
The Discworld Companion (with S.Briggs)
- Terry Pratchett
A Child Across The Sky
The Wooden Sea
The Land of Laughs
From the Teeth of Angels
A Marriage of Sticks
- Jonathan Carroll
Northern Lights
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
I was a Rat!
Clockwork
Count Karlstein
The Ruby in the Smoke
The Shadow in the North
The Tiger in the Well
- Philip Pullman
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Witch Week
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Magicians of Caprona
- Diana Wynne Jones
What a Carve Up!
The Rotter’s Club
A Touch of Love
The Dwarves of Death
The House of Sleep
- Jonathan Coe
The Empty Sleeve
Smith
The Sound of Coaches
Blewcoat Boy
- Leon Garfield
The River Styx Runs Upstream [Le styx coule à l’envers - Nouvelles]
Ilium
- Dan Simmons
The Black Book
Set In Darkness
The Hanging Garden
Hide And Seek
Black And Blue
Bleeding Hearts (Jack Harvey)
Witch Hunt (Jack Harvey)
- Ian Rankin
The Wish List
Artemis Fowl [2]
- Eoin Colfer
Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K.Rowling
The Shining, Stephen King
Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorov
Free for All, Peter Wayner
Desolation Point, Dan Brown
Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson

2003’s reads can be found here.
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no comment

Something that I forgot to say when, a couple of posts back, I talked about updating this blog, is that that I have removed comments. No-one used them anyway [thanks Matt], but that wasn’t the reason. I found the implementation in Pivot to be most strange—Technically, all these pages are templates, and there aren’t enough of them to cover the different instances. This means that the same template is used at different moments. And the effects can be most strange. I also spent hours redesigning inline comments and posts that used iFrames, getting it all in css instead of tables [yes, Virginia, it is possible] only to find that the code didn’t display the iFrames in Safari, using a popup window instead. Now I happen to know that the iFrame code in Safari imitates IE6 implementation, so this is obviously a leftover from a previous version of Pivot and a beta of Safari. But as that is the browser I use most of the time, it meant I wouldn’t be able to see and use my neat CSS implementation.

Instead I have added an e-mail address. In case you have something to say.

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was it worth it?

I have now spent about four days, completely revising the design of this little blog. I’m still getting used to it; ‘it’ being both the design and the tool—Pivot—that I use to do all of this. We will see how things go…

Warning: these pages have been verified on my usual browsers, Safari as well as Firefox and, even though I say it myself, they show up pretty nice in both. I have just remembered that I also have a version of Camino on my drive, but as this and Firefox both use the same rendering engine, what passes in one, should also work in the other…
Please note: I have checked the pages in neither IE Mac [and even less, IE PC], nor have I seen fit to take it for a ride in such as iCab, Opera, Konqueror or even Omniweb. If you do see problems in your favourite browser, please let me know, but be warned, if the problem is in your browser, I don’t intend to break my code for non-standards compliance—Thanks, and Move ForwardTM.

So why change?

Good question, my poor tired hands and wrists also ask. There is the issue of standards compliance, but there are, in fact, two major answers:

  • the old version was flawed, the navigation didn’t always work, the code was not optimised, the search and archives haphazard, as I had just hacked into the default themes available for Pivot, without necessary understanding. [To that extent, redoing everything for Kim’s pages was a great help.]
  • and I wanted to get more of the newsprint or old-printed feeling to the place.

This version also sees the final arrival of the little power factory drawing up in the top right-hand corner. It has been hanging around for years. Sometime I might take the time to explain where it comes from.

There is also a new section called Paris. I will be reclassifying some old material on this, but my objective is to try and write around 1000-2000 words every two weeks or so on things that have been happening here in order to give those you are not—or no longer—here, the feel for the old place.

There are other changes in the pipeline; I would like to add a photogallery section, as well as bring some older material online. But for the moment, I need to sleep.

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exhausting

Yesterday I decided to be a good boy and tidy up my online archives and backups of my writings; I try not to keep things here at home, if I am burgled it is probable that not only the computer but also my backup hard drives would disappear. So I prefer to have my beckups elsewhere. Except I’m not very meticulous about this. Neither in the rgularity, nor in the nomenclature. So that took all yesterday to clean up and sort out archives.

Today I decided to have a look at this site and clean up the code and get things looking a little more as I wanted. So, I started by looking at the code on Kim’s site as there is less there, it should be quicker and easier to start off with… famous last words. It’s always the last ten minutes that takes four hours to do. There are some weird “undocumented features” in Pivot the system I use to do all this. Notably, if you use Pivot code, images are always centered. Not what I wanted.

I don’t have access to a Windows machine, so I can’t see whether IE chokes on this—probable. [if anyone sees any problems let me know].

I am happy that the layout uses no tables, and—patiently reading through the w3c specs I managed to do everything in CSS including a bunch of little things that I’d never managed before. I can see room for improvement, but considering the time that this took… I’m wondering if I really want to tread that path again.

Anyway, armed with the knowledge from today, I can look forward to messing up my blog tomorrow.

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fixed

This is just to say that things no work as I intended. Links on site stay in this window, links off site open up a new window. This works [thanks to JavaScript]. If you don’t like this, I’m sorry, this is a feature that I worked hard to obtain.

There are minor esthetic problems, and the ‘Moving Aroundwards’ part doesn’t work on Archives, but I’m a lot further ahead than yesterday at this hour.

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archives

I have been playing around with Pivot for about 24 hours now, and finally the archives are working. The only major technical crink left to iron out is why all links on the site open up a new page and do not open in the current page as I wanted.

Getting there.

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navigation update

I finally managed to get categories together, thanks to someone named madjo over at the Pivot forums .—Thank you, sir.—This means that rather than being one bleak and long list there are categories and subcategories.

I explain.

Everything gets published on the Journal page. It is posted in standard blog format, that is, most recent at the top and then goes down. Then there are three categories: WRITING, LIFE and ABOUT. The last is just for info about me, and about the navigation, like this post. Usually material that is posted in this last category is not considered ‘news’ and so will not appear on the front page unless, like this post, it is also crossposted in another category.

WRITING lists all my posts in that category. There are four sub-categories: Juliet, Died, Pirates and Stuff. All material posted in one of those categories also gets posted on the WRITING page. Please note that some material may just be posted in the WRITING category. Similarly LIFE has four sub-categories: Home, Work, Rant and System.

Any page can be accessed directly just by using its URL. This would be http://www.thepowerfactory.com/journal/ and then the category name, in lower case, followed by .php.

So, to go to Juliet you would need to type http://www.thepowerfactory.com/journal/juliet.php

Or to go to WRITING, you would need to type http://www.thepowerfactory.com/journal/writing.php

You can also use the RSS or the ATOM feeds (over on the far right). In that case, either you know how, or you don’t. And this isn’t the place to learn. Yet.

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annoyances

I forgot to say that one of the major annoyances of Pivot is that the Textile system (when it works) part only treats the body of the post and not the titles… look at the ugly typography there…

Perhaps I should post a bug ? Although this is perhaps more in the Missing Functionality category, no?

(Look see, another problem… with Textile you can’t have a trailing punctuation ‘comma’, ‘question mark’ on a URL. Small argh.)

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a new run

I have had another look at the code of the Pivot system. While I’m not as happy with it as with something that I have programmed myself, I have finally understood [Duh!] that I should rebuild all the pages when I make changes. Naively I thought that they propagated themselves. Not true.

Also the Textile system is not that clever… It misses a lot of tags and is very unforgiving. I wonder if I can hack it out to replace it with something else…

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this is not a lovesong

I tried to add comments. No go. I tried to look up something in the archive. No go. I tried to put some text in blockquotes. You guessed it. No go.

Look, I’m quite willing to admit that this must be me. That there are lots of people out there happily using Pivot However I’m not one of them. The only thing that is keeping me from getting down and coding is that I should be working on something else. But as that isn’t advancing…

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simultaneity and synchronicity

I am still nurturing the project to knit my own blogging system. As such it would match this twisted limbs as it is were made for them, which, of course, would be the case. This would allow me to do the things that I thought I could do in Pivot, and probably can. But as the last time I tried, I busted everything to such a point that I had to reinstall all, I am not looking forward to trying. (This is of course, the same principal as IKEA furniture: you buy it as it is supposed to do what you need. However, once you attempt to construct the damned thing it goes haywire, has 3 type C screws when you need 5, 7 of type D and you only need 4 and the type F widgets so ressemble the type E ones that you have already worn out the thread on most of them in unscrewing them for the fourteenth time. I used to see a nice bit of furniture in the Habitat catalogues, jump in the car to go to Paris (we lived in Orlťans and out of the range of a Habitat at the time), look it over in the shop, and then come back home and make it. A lot easier like that. So I beginning to think that programming is similar.)

Anyway, I had a look at Textile which appeared interesting but a mite over complicated for my needs. And while the syntax is logical it isn’t always my logic. I have just finished writing the PHP code for a reduced set of this, and what do I see at daring fireball but John Gruber’s latest baby—Markdown. Now he has the think down right, which is better than getting the syntax down right like others. Except it is written in Perl, which I left aside yonks ago. And I don’t really want to get out the mental soldering iron to join PHP and Perl along the seams. Nor do I wish to code my tool in Perl. So do I continue (with what I now see is improvable) or do I chuck it out and start a clone of Markdown in PHP?

Never had this problem with furniture..

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If itís Tuesday, it must be planet Earth

I have again read through the docs for this Pivot thingy, and still can’t see how to use the different categories (I would rather have liked a different category per page or something). I still don’t understand what the Referrer and the other strange blocks were for (I have since killed these, precisely because of that). Nor do I understand why these show random strange markup at strange random moments. In fact, I’m not even sure what a trackback is {what is a trackback, anyone?}.
So I am doing some serious wondering about digging into my archives and reviving the code that I have. It may not be better but at least (for me) it would be understandable.

Apart from that… Another wonderful day on another wonderful planet.

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Annoyances

I have spent some time hacking the style sheets to get this away from the standard “flowered wallpaper” patterns that Pivot uses. I have the front page acceptable except for:

  • the calendar—there’s an annoying override for this and my styles get lost…
  • apostrophes—may have to hack the php for curly apostrophes instead of these dashes/primes

[update: i switched to Textile and these are a thing of the past—thank you Pivot and Textile!]

  • I will see how difficult it is to add a footer
  • the different entries need to be better separated.

[update: getting there…]
once I get away from the home page things get really rough, and I will spend some time on that… later.

I will also try and link in some other stuff like old essays, links to the downloadable material, my resume, and other pretty stuff.

But, for the moment, the priority is looking for more aspirin & then to bed.

Next day update. Reinstalled Pivot as it went wonky on me. Most annoying. I had used up a loo roll, too many aspirins, much kleenexi… feel horrible and wanted to write, and instead have to telnet all over the place… yuk. double yuk even.]

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