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Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Family at the Beach

A long break between posts, maybe the longest yet. I’ve been working in the field recently, and therefore don’t have the chance to write during lunch at work (or work through lunch to make up for writing when I was supposed to be working.) I’ve been real busy at home – can’t say about what until after August 3rd – and the little computer time I have gotten has been put into coding or my latest OS adventure – making my PC think it’s a Mac, or at least, making my wife’s iPod think it’s a Mac. She got it used with a lot of songs on it that she wants to keep, but she also wants to load more onto it. It is apparently formatted as an Apple and neither Windows or linux can talk to it. I could reformat it to talk to Windows, but that would delete the existing music, so I’ve been playing with PearPC, an Apple emulator, and Darwin, Apple’s open source core OS. By core, they apparently mean no GUI, which is why they can give it away, but I didn’t learn this until late last night when I was trying to iron out some wrinkles and got on the PearPC IRC chat.

So anyways, on Saturday I took the kids and met up with my brother’s family and my Mum, who had come out from Massachusetts, to go see my sister-in-law’s midlife crisis-averting treat, surfing lessons. Maura was actually able to stand up on her board, which I had found very difficult to do when I had tried surfing. But then, she was doing it the smart way – starting off in the little waves, and I had just gone for it in the bigger ones.

I think Mum was really enjoying it on the beach – she’s always liked it, and here she was with her kids and grandkids, too. She took over holding my little nephew whenever he needed a nap.

Boo liked the beach, too. It was his first time. He wasn’t crazy about the water – those waves were a little intimidating – but he took to digging in the sand like a hog in, well, you know. He didn’t take a nap all day and just zonked right out when we went home. He also loves playing with his nephews. He’s a pretty social little kid, but then Chelsea was too when she was little.

I really enjoyed the whole thing, too.

Well, here I go again, mixing personal with technical. I just had to get a post up.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, OS at 16:16 PST

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Sunday, July 17th, 2005

Rise From Obscurity

A couple of days ago, I took out the script that was automatically checking my Google® PageRank®, since I saw on the web that the existance of programs that can calculate PageRank® tends to piss Google® off, and I realized that I was tapping Google® for my PageRank® every time any one of my pages were refreshed.

So last night, when I was thinking about updating my GFame code, and decided that it was time to update my database with the searches I list, I trotted out the code that checks my PageRank® and found, lo and behold, I had risen from 0 to 2! Cool! I not only exist, I have recognition!

Not only that, but I now finally appear in the search for “greg perry”. Number 588! It would take most people a long time to find it, but it’s there.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 18:49 PST

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Saturday, July 16th, 2005

New PGP Key

For all of you responsible emailers, I’ve posted my public key for greg at gregrperry dot com at “Contact Me” in the Pages section at the upper left hand corner of my blog. You can cut and paste this key into your keyring. I’ve also posted the key on several of the top keyservers.

Exchanging public keys is a requirement for people who wish to communicate securely using cryptography. Encrypted communications is not just to safeguard the contents of communications, it’s also useful to verify that a communication from another person has not been forged or altered. Have you ever signed an important document and faxed it, or scanned it and sent it by email? Do you know how easy it would be for someone to forge something like that? At work it is not uncommon for us to exchange contract agreements in this way, and I just have to shake my head in wonder. I’ve used a similar system for my work email since 2000, and sadly, I hardly ever use it – only with techie friends, and only to transmit private emails that we didn’t want the company to read, since they have every right to do so.

Did you ever get a phishing email? You know, like the ones that say they’re from Paypal or a bank saying they need you to update your information? All of these would be so easy to verify if companies that engaged in online financial transactions required the use of digital signatures. I just don’t understand why encryption and digital signatures haven’t yet caught on – but then, identity theft didn’t even register in the media until last year or so, and I’ve been destroying personal identifying information in the papers I have thrown in the trash since the mid 80’s. Since shredders were so expensive back then, my favored technique was to tear the relevant information – account and social security numbers, etc. – out of the mail and chew up the paper to a pulp. It seemed easier than burning it and stirring the ashes.

If you want to know more about cryptography and digital signatures, I would recommend reading this intro.

PGP, the organization that distributed the first publicly available strong encryption, has gone through a lot of changes over the years, as the original was taken over by commercial interests. The best place to get your free, non-commercial copy of the last uncompromised version of PGP is still MIT. There is no need for using a version of PGP later than 6.5.8 – unless you want to pay for something that was originally intended to be free. There is an open source variant – GNUPG, but it’s clunky to use, and encryption needs to very easy to use. Hell, it needs to be automatically included with any email application (hint, hint, Microsoft Outlook & Express,) and every free webmail service – Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail especially. Hushmail is the only free email that I know of that incorporates encryption, and they’ll get you – their site has a lot of problems with pop-up blockers, and if you don’t successfully log in every three weeks, it’s $30 a year to get back into your account. ( Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?)

If you’re truly paranoid, and want to disguise the fact that you are sending encrypted emails, I would recommend that you search for “steganography.”

Any encrypted, or even just signed, emails that are sent to me will be treated with the highest priority.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Posts About Me at 04:21 PST

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Friday, July 15th, 2005

WordPress Upgrade

I have been getting help from two people now to try and learn how to post trackbacks, and in a quiet period the middle of it all I decided to upgrade my WordPress from 1.5 to

I had seen some posts in the WordPress forums refering to trackback problems in 1.5, and the Codex came back up again yesterday, so I could read up on the upgrade procedure. I had seen statements that upgrading might solve my trackback problems, plus the last upgrade was a security upgrade. No one’s talking about what the security flaw is exactly, which to me makes it sound like it might be rather serious.

I tried taking my time preparing. I backed up my database and made sure my local copies of my online files were up to date. I had to go back to my copy of the original 1.5 files and compare the core files to mine, because I knew I had hacked some of them – I just couldn’t remember which and what I had done. I was also getting jumbled with the hacks I had made to my Mambo installations. It turned out that there were only two files and the hacks were purely cosmetic. I knew how reluctant to upgrade I had been because of the uncertainty about things like this, so I decided henceforth the keep better track. I went into dos and ran a file compare (fc) using the original and modified files and output the results into a text file, which I named with the original name and just added a “.hacks” extension. The fc output was very useful – here’s a sample:

Comparing files ...\wp-content\hacks\wp-admin\wp-admin.css.old
and ...\wp-admin\wp-admin.css
***** ...\wp-content\hacks\wp-admin\wp-admin.css.old
64: body, td {
65: font: 10pt Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;
66: }
***** ...\wp-admin\wp-admin.css
64: body, td {
65: font: 10pt verdana, helvetica, arial, sans-serif;
66: }

Here you can see that I changed the fonts in the WordPress backend stylesheet to make it all the same font as my blog in the frontend. You can also see I got the line numbers and the lines before and after the changes. Cool! Can’t ask for better documentation. After the upgrade I was able to use these records to make the same changes to the new files, and then I did the same thing – stashed away a copy of the original, unaltered file and an fc record of my changes.

So I realized that I needed to do a little digital housekeeping with my WordPress installation and think about my organization to make it easier to keep track of what I had already done and make upgrading a lot easier. For one, I’ve stashing image files all over the place. That had to stop. Then I decided that my template files were so modified that they were actually a new template. I gave them a new name and boy, did that pop up some errors! I fixed some broken filepaths to get my blog back up and running, but I’m going to have to go back and replace these filepaths with php and wp variables. Images associated with the template (anything in the header, sidebars or used to format appearance) go in the template images subfolder. Other images in my blog, such as photos or screenshots, go in a new images subfolder in wp-contents. Basically, anything that’s part of the blog must be in a blog subfolder, and unless it’s a working core file, it goes somewhere under the wp-contents folder. I can bend this rule a little with code under development – I have a development area in my website – but once the code is deployed it goes in the blog structure.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I upgraded. I deleted all my WordPress files via FTP except my config file and the wp-contents folder and uploaded the new files. Then I ran “upgrade”, which took less than a minute. The whole thing took less than ten minutes. I spent way more time preparing before and housekeeping after (and I still have some more to do) than I did upgrading, but next time things will be a piece of cake, and I should never hesitate about doing it.

So I was just finishing up yesterday when I got Web’s notice that he was opening up trackbacks on his Movable Type blog just for me. I threw out a Quicky Trackback Attempt, and guess what – it didn’t work (unless it’s held for moderation.) **Sigh**. And just before I started to upgrade, I threw in a trackback with my last post, and that did work!

Posted by Greg as My Website at 14:15 PST


Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Quicky Trackback Attempt

Web has enabled trackbacks on his MT blog just for this test. Thanks, Web! From what I’ve been reading online, this is a significant risk you’re taking. I won’t leave your post exposed while I collect links demonstrating how much better WordPress is at protecting bloggers from comment and backtrack spam – just try Googling “wordpress” and “movable type” together and start reading. Every one I saw was emphatic that WP does a better job.

Of course, my struggles may already be over. I upgraded today to WP from 1.5. More on that later.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 18:27 PST

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Levi Buzolic is a Cool Dude

I guess Levi monitors his comments because he saw my pingback, followed it, and commented on the original post. Thanks Levi! You’re my first commenter outside of friends and family!

I just wanted to clarify that I was confused by his example because I had my WordPress Write Post set to Advanced Controls and he provided a screenshot using Simple Controls. When I changed my settings I saw exactly what he was talking about. With advanced controls, the partial screenshot likes like this:
Write partial screenshot

Levi wrote that “a trackback must be done with the proper trackback URL and you must post that link in the little ‘Trackback’ text box in your Write page.” That’s been one of my concerns all along. Some blogs provide a literal trackback link under the post for you to cut and paste, others, like WordPress, just say “You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.” where “trackback” looks like a link, and I guess you’re supposed to figure out that you right-click on the link and use “Copy Link Location” in Mozilla or whatever it is in other, inferior browsers. Personally, I think the literal string under the post is a better idea – Movable Type shows something like:

TrackBack URL for this entry:

which seems a little more user-friendly. I suppose I can hack the WordPress code to do something like that, but I’ll wait until after my next update.

So I guess the trackback link has to be absolutely correct for the receiving blog to accept the ping and place the content as a trackback comment. If I go into Edit mode after I post, I can see the trackback attempts and the URLs they were sent to:
Edit partial screenshot

Most of these look right to me, and since none of them worked, I’m guessing I’m a victim of the known bug in WordPress “Sending trackbacks fails because the header of the POST request seems not to end correctly”. When is the WordPress Codex going to come back up?!

I’ve written specifically about this whole topic of trackbacks and pingbacks so many times now that I’m thinking of making a new subcategory to flag all the posts. While I was searching the WordPress Support Forums, waiting for the Codex to come back up, I saw a recent and fairly-active thread about my other bitch, sending pingbacks to other posts on my own blog. I’m going to have to participate in that discussion, or at least try the plugin one member has provided.

I’m putting in a trackback to Levi’s post again, but I don’t expect it to work. The automatic pingback should, though.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 12:19 PST


Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

Trackback Report

In my last post I tried sending a few trackbacks again. Not surprisingly, none worked. Just as I speculated, however, my link to another WordPress site resulted in a pingback. My post excerpt wasn’t posted, but the link back to my blog showed. The owner of the trackback-receiving blog has full control over the excerpt, so it’s possible he set his up not to show any excerpt at all.

(I looked at the source html for his site, and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the link back to my site was tagged as “nofollow”. All that means is that Google won’t give me credit for the link when it evaluates my PageRank. I speculated on the potential for abuse in the trackback system previously, and apparently the “nofollow” tag is the answer. My WordPress blog automatically inserts the nofollow tag in all external links in the comment and the commenter’s supplied website, and I would have to load a plugin to stop it. In short, it seems I can’t rely on trackbacks to sprinkle links throughout the Web and therefore increase my PageRank. But trackbacks could pull people here, and if they like my blog they can link here themselves. Tough, but fair.)

I sent trackbacks to two of Web’s blogs. The Movable Type one, which he was able to use to send a trackback to me, does not display comments or trackbacks with his posts, so I can’t see if it worked. The Serendipity blog reported that my trackback failed when I try to click through the link, and on the blog itself reports no trackbacks for the subject posting.

I was trying to search the WordPress forums and noticed that a lot of the links that came up in the search resulted in server errors. I managed to read one post that seemed to describe my problem, and there was a reference to a bug report, which itself had a broken link to what I hoped would be a fix. As it turns out, the WordPress Codex is down, and with all the server errors at the support forums, they seem to be having problems, too. But it’s entirely possible that my not being able to send trackbacks is due to a know bug in WordPress, and not because I’m an idiot. I just have to what for WordPress to get back online.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 14:48 PST


Trackbacks Still A Problem

Still having problems figuring out how to use trackbacks. I’ve tried writing about articles on other people’s blogs and using the trackback URI they supply to send them a ping, but when I check later, my post doesn’t appear as a trackback or comment on their blog, so no one knows at the other end that I’ve written about their article. I was wondering whether my trackback comment was being held up for approval on the other end, but I guess there’s no way to tell.

Documentation on how to actually do a trackback in WordPress is very scarce. I can find documentation on how the system is supposed to work in the WordPress codex, but no “for dummies” instructions that says “ok, do this, then this, then… etc.” The best description I’ve found so far is at loadedreality, which is also a WordPress blog, but his example doesn’t look the same as in my normal Write Post screen. I’m trying to trackback him now, but since it is a WP blog I should also get an automatic pingback, so I won’t know whether my trackback attempt was successful. I also haven’t figured out whether a blog author’s requirement to leave a name and email to comment affects my trackback attempt or if the trackback just goes around that.

Web kindly answered my request to do the reverse to me – leave a trackback on my blog – so I could see what the other end might be seeing, but it didn’t help much because his successful trackback just went ahead and posted and I just got a notice that a trackback had been left. He’s also successfully commented on my blog before, and I hadn’t on the places I was trying to leave a trackback, and again, that’s another unknown that might be a factor.

Another annoyance that might be related is the the way that I get a pingback whenever I link to a previous post of my own, such as the last time I griped about trackbacks. At least I get to see how a pingback works from both ends, but I don’t want my new post to be listed as a comment on my old post. I haven’t figured out how to blacklist myself, and I don’t want to fool around with my settings until I see my trackbacks working.

If I ever figure out how to do this, I’ll have to write it up, complete with screenshots, which would be something that might attract some traffic, but I don’t know that anyone would see it. I just used my Google parser to search for “wordpress trackbacks” and my site didn’t show up – Google reported 1,290,000 results but only gave 553 in filtered, moderate safeSearch mode, and my website wasn’t in the listings. **Sigh**. My PageRank is still as low as it can get – a 0 out of 10.

Well, here we go again. I will either be successful or not when I push the “Publish” button.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 10:09 PST

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Tuesday, July 12th, 2005


57 post in 75 days (well, 58 with this one.) That translates to an average of 0.76 posts per day – 3 out of 4. I might actually qualify as a blogger.

True, they come in fits and spurts. I’m not a dedicated, sit-down every day writer. But my multiple-per-days, which bump the average, have generally been at discreet time or subject matter differences. That’s got to count for something. I would also have made more posts if I hadn’t been spending some of my online time engaged in coding or fine-tuning my website. Some of them, though, like this one, just indicate my unwillingness to get on with the things in my life, like sleep or work, that I ought to be doing. The experience of blogging can indeed be cathartic at times. I’ve really tried hard to keep the excessively sentimental events and motivations out of here.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate is the role of the editor. If I was writing a book, someone would be looking over my shoulder and keeping me on track, and I don’t have that here. I’ve been considering for at least a month an expository on whether I should be putting my commas inside or outside my quotation marks and parentheses – don’t worry, grammar fans – I’ll get to it. Grammar checkers are still mindless pedants (like I use one) and spell checkers don’t include context to check whether the correct word has been used.

What’s the point that I thought was worth all this instead of going to bed? Oh yes – I wanted to report on my latest injury. I dislocated my knee tonight – a rather intense session of pain. I’ve been treating it with kid gloves, hoping to avoid the period of disability I experienced the last time this happened, in 1984. It was a freak accident, really – too much pressure at the wrong time at the wrong angle – perhaps pushed over the edge by the tub-o’-lard I’ve been carrying around – 270 pounds. It was just notable to me in how different it was since the last time, and it seemed like a good blog story.

The last (and only other) time I dislocated my knee, I had just pulled the pin out of a hand grenade. I totally screwed up the jump from prone to launching position, and at the time, the only feedback I got was the somewhat panicked urging of the drill sergeant at Fort Benning Infantry School that I needed to relieve myself of possession of the pin-less hand grenade, and in a manner that put the greatest possible distance between himself (and incidentally, myself) in the four-second interval that would follow my releasing the handle. I did so in short order, still being able to comprehend the practical wisdom of his four-letter-word-enhanced advice, and having done so, was privileged to be allowed to run to the next station on my hand grenade qualifying course. I had had a perfect score up to that point, but pain-induced blindness was a significant factor in my accuracy, and I ended up passing the course with the lowest possible score. But I still passed, which was a non-waivable requirement in graduating Infantry school, and it sure makes a hell of an anecdote.

Without the running and jumping and other strenuous activities, I’ve found that dislocating your knee is not as enduring a disability as I considered it to be last time. I’m actually starting to feel better already. Still, better get off to bed, though. Good night.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Posts About Me at 01:38 PST


Conversation With My Sister

My sister, Kate, managed to catch me at home on the phone tonight, and we had a good conversation. She was calling to wish me a happy birthday. I don’t talk to her often enough, and I really enjoyed this one.

I’ve always considered her the hardest-working and most focused of my family, and I guess I’ve never really told her how much I admire her for that. But I have also gotten the impression that the same driving forces that make her that way have also made her a little more transparent when she’s forcing herself to be tolerant of my straying from the path. I don’t feel like she loves me any less than anyone else in my family. It’s possible that she has a little less patience than the others when she sees me fucking up, which I have done on a regular basis.

I got more out of this conversation about how she lives her life, and what her priorities and concerns are, than I have in many years. She was really direct without being judgemental. She started talking about her son, Austin, and I started talking about Boo and she didn’t bat an eye.

I can’t really go into the significance of all this. It’s not for the Internet. But I just wanted to put out there that I had a really good talk with my sister and it meant a lot to me. I need to talk to her like that more often.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends at 00:24 PST

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