And the winners are…

In this post I lamented the demise (at least for me) of Zoundry Raven.  Due to the evolutionary spaghetti of our WordPress-powered site, we have, essentially, two themes active at one time.  One theme is the one for my blog and the other is for the rest of the site where we talk about our family and mission and post our newsletters.  Zoundry could (with some gymnastics) handle both themes.  I’ve not found anything else that really could.  I even looked at Blog clients that one pays for and they are no more capable (often less) than the free options.  (don’t waste your money!)

In the end, Windows Live Writer had most of what I needed for my blog and its theme (though the Windows Live plugin situation is pretty lamentable) and I was able to set up BlogDesk to support our newsletter posts with its theme.  Neither is perfect but Zoundry had problems too.  So I think I have a solution that works for our needs and I’m pleased that I can move forward without too much gnashing of teeth!

Goodbye Zoundry Raven…hello ???

It’s with great sadness…ummm…ok, frustration…that I say goodbye to our blogging client of the last few years: Zoundry Raven.  I’ve searched MANY times for free and paid blogging clients for Windows and never found a reason to replace it.  I only searched back then when I found something perhaps missing or not fully developed yet in Raven.  Now, however, I’ve had to resume the search and this time…I think it’s for keeps.

Why?

Well, it stopped working!  I’ve had Windows 7 Pro x64 for almost a year now and Raven was working fine for most of that time.  About 2 months ago, it started having a problem.  I don’t blog that often so I can be sure just what changed.  In recommencing my search for blog clients, I was very disappointed in what I found so I thought I’d take a look at perhaps trying “fix” Raven.  Raven went “open source” a little while ago and unfortunately, it’s not gathered a development community, so development basically stopped at the version that stopped working for me.  I’ve never coded in Python but it looked interesting (still does) and I’d love to learn it.  One must be realistic from time to time however, and diving into a complex piece of software like Raven and trying to find the “bug” when you don’t know the language at all…well, let’s just say that I had my tiny pen knife and I was out to kill the elephant and eat it in one big bite…not gonna happen!

Each month we write newsletters that we post on our site using WordPress and send out as emails using phplist.  So, even if I don’t blog that often, each month comes around and I fire up the blog client and write something.  Well, it’s that time again and I’ve got to figure out how to make something work.  I’ve got an old XP laptop on its last legs where Raven is still working, but for me, I concede defeat.  I’ve got to make a change now.  So, yesterday I went looking again and was both semi-encouraged and frustrated.

First of all, I was, for the first time, open to the idea of buying a piece of software.  For most things, I’m really a freeware/open source (can we say cheap!) kind of guy so this was somewhat of a departure!  Anyway, after having looked over the options out there, I think I can safely say that paid blog clients are NOT any better than free ones!  Freeware can often come with a “price”: you get what you pay for.  Not in this case.  What I think I can say is that each blog client caters to a different type of usage and the paid ones are no different.  That’s why I liked Raven so much…it catered to what I do when I write blog posts and newsletters…at least it did so more than other clients.  I’ll admit that I’m pretty particular and there are features that are important to me that simply are not to others.

I’m also a “feature-hound” in general.  I’d much rather have “too much” functionality than “not enough.”

So, I’m down to three choices now:

I may have to pick more than one depending on what I’m doing.  Obviously Windows Live Writer is getting more and more capable all the time, building a good user base and will probably not be let go any time soon.  Post2Blog is already declared “unsupported” by its creators.  It’s got good potential functionality but definite buggy-ness that, of course, is not going to go away with time.  BlogDesk look really promising, but looking at their forums, I wonder how much more will be put into it.

I’ll try the newsletter today and see how it works for me in these three clients.  I’ll post a follow-up to this to state my choice(s) and why.

iTune out!

I really like NT Wright audio teachings. He stimulates and provokes and challenges and bridges many a theological gap. I found on the NT Wright page (http://ntwrightpage.com) recently a link to some lectures he did at Duke University’s 2010 Convocation and Pastor’s School. I happily went to download the free audio teachings and I couldn’t get past a page that said that iTunes was not found on my computer. Well duh! Of course it’s not found on my computer. I wish it could stay that way!

I detest iTunes and I detest Apple’s practice of creating “monopolistic” and “invasive” software. I’m duly convinced that much of what Apple creates in terms of hardware is really good and from a design standpoint is laudable (if stupidly expensive!). However, their handful of offerings that make it to the Windows world are hugely annoying! They’re probably just trying to stick to Microsoft for their clunky Mac offerings. Of course the losers in this war are the end-users, not the big corporations.

Having had experience in getting other streaming protocols to finally cough up a standard URL of a standard media file via circuitous editing of a series of downloaded files, I did various “view sources” and tried playing my results in different capable, non-invasive media players and tried changing the protocol from itms to http, etc. None of this worked. So I started out looking for specific freeware players capable of playing/downloading itms files. I failed…

Apple has started this thing (I hesitate to use the word “service” as it does us only a dis-service!) called iTunes U. iTunes U is a corner of the iTunes Music Store universe dedicated to more educational media files. They must make it pretty attractive to participate in. Personally, I find it reprehensible that Duke University would, in essence, force people to download Apple software to play a free academic mp3 lecture. I can’t imagine that the bandwidth hit or storage space is any kind of real problem for the university that they just couldn’t put their mp3 files up on their own servers somewhere where anyone could easily download them.

Anyway, I didn’t succeed in circumventing iTunes completely, but I did find this tutorial on how to install iTunes in a less invasive way: The unofficial guide to installing iTunes 10 without bloatware on the zdnet site. I highly recommend doing things this way if you simply need iTunes for some unique capability it offers and you don’t want it to be so invasive or huge. I would add however, this final step: Fire up autoruns after doing the install steps and do a search on Apple. Then you can delete autostarted tasks/services that you don’t want.

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The mysteriously constipated ADSL router

Recently I’ve experienced reeeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyy slow load times for anything at wordpress.com and wordpress.org, including all wordpress.com individual blogs. They would finally load but with no formatting. So obviously something was getting gummed up in the works. I’ve solved the problem finally and so I’ll share my experience in hoping that it will help someone else.

Here’s my process of discovery and solution:

  • It’s only happening on these WordPress-hosted sites. Everything else is loading fine.
  • My Firefox has tons of addons so I load up IE and Google Chrome to see if it’s the browser messing up. Nope. Same results with other browsers.
  • I look at the Net tab of Firebug in Firefox to see what is not loading. I notice that s0.wp.com, s1.wp.com, s2.wp.com and s.wordpress.org are not loading. These all resolved to 93.184.220.20 for me.
  • I lookup “slow loading s0.wp.com” on Google and even in the recent posts there is not unanimous agreement that there is a “general” problem or outage.
  • We have K9 Web filtering on some computers but not others. I try wordpress.com on a non-filtered Windows box and on a headless linux box (a simple wget). Nope. Same results.
  • I do a traceroute/tracert. No problem. Works fine.
  • I can ping both the ip address and the domain
  • We use OpenDNS and its cache check page had no problems
  • I have access to a windows box via VNC that has a different ISP and it worked fine
  • I have access to a linux server at large French hosting service and via Webmin’s HTTP tunnel it worked fine

Process of elimination points to our house and not a specific computer or operating system in our house. What’s left? My Neuf box (SFR) ADSL router. Everything looks fine in its web interface, including its ability to ping and traceroute. It caught my eye that the uptime for my router was 51 days. This problem with WordPress I had noticed, maybe 2 weeks ago. In the past, I’ve had speed issues every once in a while and have discovered that rebooting the router can fix some of them. So, on a whim I thought I’d just reboot the router.

That fixed it. So I’m not sure exactly WHAT was the problem in the router that screwed up HTTP traffic to a single IP but not other traffic, but perhaps this will save you some time if you encounter something similar.

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Regular Expressions in Notepad++

I’ve always found regular expressions to be a real un-intuitive mind-bender. I’ve had some very limited success in using them…mostly in a linux command-line grepping situation where I had some very good examples to work from and had no other choice…i.e. I was FORCED to use them. I’m a programmer. I’m a database administrator. I enjoy coding and writing weird SQL! But I’ve never been able to get my head around regular expressions…never really wanted to. See my blog post about my laziness with regular expressions. 😉

I’ve been using Notepad++ for some time now and have sort of a love-dislike relationship with it because it’s very powerful…but some things, notably macros don’t exactly work like I’d want them too…and sometimes, I really think they’re buggy.

Today, I needed to take a list of e-mails and, for each email take the part before the ‘@’ and copy it at the of the line with a tab in between.

So, to start with I have a list of emails like this:

lkjshdflkhsf [at] lkjhsdf [dot] com
oiuyeruyq [at] iuywer [dot] com
nbxvnxbv [at] mnbcx [dot] com

At the end I need lines like this:

lkjshdflkhsf [at] lkjhsdf [dot] com[TAB]lkjshdflkhsf
oiuyeruyq [at] iuywer [dot] com[TAB]oiuyeruyq
nbxvnxbv [at] mnbcx [dot] com[TAB]nbxvnxbv

If you’ve ever had to move contacts from one piece of software to another you may have come across this problem to create an import file for the destination. If Notepad++ macros worked in every situation, I’d have been able to use them, but they would simply “malfunction” on me and not allow me to accomplish this. So I played with regular expressions and became aware of how you can “tag” parts of your search expression and then refer to those tagged portions of text in your replacement string to allow you to move things around and copy things. Really good regex info can be found on the Notepad++ wiki here: http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/notepad-plus/index.php?title=Regular_Expressions.

So to accomplish this I was able to use the Notepad++ Search/Replace dialog in “regular expression” mode like this:

notepad_regex_example.png

In the image, you can see that in the FIND expression, you have two sections in parentheses. This is how you tag a portion of a string, by putting the expression within parentheses. For the first piece, it tags the part between the beginning of the line, signified by the “^” (caret) character and the “@”, signified by itself. The “dot asterisk” means:

  • dot = any character
  • asterisk = zero or more times

I’ve shaded that yellow. Then the second section that I’ve tagged is between the “@” and the end of the line, signified by the “$” (dollar sign). I’ve shaded it orange.

Now, in the replacement, you can refer to these tagged areas by “1”, “2”, “3”, etc….simply the order in which they appear gives them an ordinal number. You can then refer to them in the replacement string several times if you wish.

I’m still quite the noob in regular expressions and much more can be done with them. But, I found this particular example to be something that I can definitely build on in the future and hope that you can too.

Maxthon Browser

For Internet Browsing, I use Maxthon.

…no, not Internet Explorer…

…no, not Firefox…

Before IE 7 people thought that you had to run far and fast from IE to experience a user-oriented, highly-functional browsing experience. I’m using the best browser no-one seems to have heard of: Maxthon.

Maxthon is the successor to “MyIE”, a browser built on the IE engine. Maxthon is built on IE’s engine, which means that pages render like IE and not Mozilla/Firefox (though you can use the Mozilla engine to render if you so choose).

Even with IE 7, I’m still on Maxthon. I like its features (I’m a features hound…I confess). I feel stunted when using IE or Firefox now. I can only say check it out, you’ll be glad you did.

To start your Maxthon experience, head over to: http://www.maxthon.com/


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