New Posts for 2015

It’s not a full-fledged “new year’s resolution,” but I neglected this site in December, with only two posts – an all time low, I believe, since 1995. I can do better!

I had cataract surgery in November, the fastest and safest procedure in the world. All went well, but any such procedure seems to take the wind out of my sails. I pampered myself, slept outrageously (but it was glorious), and re-thought how I’d been pursuing a massive Perl project I’ve had on my mind for some years. You know what that means!

430PM Update: new Quotes database installed. Links updated!

It involves our venerable “Quotes” database, accessed from the front page of this site for years. I don’t have a counter on it, so I have no idea who else uses it, but I use it all the time. With about 6,000 quotations amassed over the decades, the database has only one keyword field.

Take this quote, for example:

Bumper sticker seen on "Support our Teachers" auto: 
"Why is money always available for war, not for education?" 
Our guess: there's four whole syllables in 'education', 
only one in 'war'.

With only one keyword, I’d assigned the keyword “war.” Should that have been “teachers?” Or “education?” Why not all three?

No, no, the NEW quotations database and app is not available yet. It will be, much sooner than I’d expected:

A former manager used to tell us, Simplicity comes at the end, not the beginning.”

I rewrote all the Perl code and supporting libraries in connection with the project, in addition to adding four keyword fields. I created two new apps for my own use, Entry and Update (so I can add keywords, among other reasons). The first two months of coding were a minefield of unsatisfactory trials, mistakes, and “almost pretty good” results. I took the core program apart and worked on each piece again, then put them all back together. Voila, mon ami!

So it took about 2-3/4 months to work up the three prototype apps that finally worked perfectly. And then, only an hour or so each to convert them to “production” apps. That’s “portable!” You should see the new Quotations database version 81 in a few days.

In the meantime, as if this makes up for December’s lapse, I’ve today posted a new photo by my friend Swan, and a short personal recollection of a remarkable candlelight dinner in the Mojave Desert. You can see the short excerpts and links to the post pages below.

May 2015 bring happiness, laughter and friendship your way!


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Excerpts for Archive Results

We’ve modified the Archive results page, sitewide, to only retrieve article excerpts for each post you are seaching for by Month, Tag or Category. This replaces the full-text “finds” that WordPress usually offers.

You’ve probably tried the popup menus in our sidebar for Archives or Categories . Tags work the same way. All produce listings of articles that match your search selection. These features are discussed in our newly updated page Site Navigation 2009.

The stock page retrieved all of the text for all of the found articles. This often resulted in dumping of huge multipage result listings. Since many site articles are feature-length, we found this awkward when all we are doing is trying to get an overview of articles in a desired category, tag, or publication month and year.

We changed the code so it only lists the “excerpt” for each article, which affords much easier browsing. To read the complete text of any article so listed, just click its title line.

Tech Note: If you run a WordPress installation, locate the page archive.php in your theme folder, assuming your theme supports it [we are using Kubrick – “default”]. In the Loop, locate the tag the_content(). Change it to read the_excerpt(). Upload. That’s all!

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HOME Repaired

There was an 8 minute outage because some idiot forgot to change a table prefix code from ‘ts_’ to ‘wp_’ when we deleted the first new HOME database and reloaded a new one from a test database. I can say ‘idiot’ without fear of appearing small, because it was in my checklist, and I am the only person doing this task.

It’s like losing one engine in a single-engine aircraft. Keep calm. Figure out what to do FAST. At last I am logging heavy jet time with mySQL databases.

This all came about because an excellent plugin utility called Articles went haywire. I realized I had a data integrity issue in the old database – blame it on the old learning curve, not WordPress. You can read more about this in my Computers department post WordPress Conversions.

And now Articles works as designed. Enjoy your new page!

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Sunday Updates

More site maintenance: we upgraded to the latest version of Perl, which drives all the custom scripts on this site, and at the same time we upgraded php and mySQL, which drive WordPress and the new phpBB forum … and in turn require a current version of Perl.

We have everything we think we need backed up, but?then we held our breath anyway.

Everything seems OK, but we’d like reports if you find SCRIPT ERROR notices on the site.

Right off the bat we almost had a heart attack, as the front page index counter stopped working, and so did AT A GLANCE stop. But, Oracle, the pushy little script that serves up the quotation at the top of the index page, was still working … hmmm. So Perl was working, but some scripts weren’t.

We kept our cool and looked at those scripts. At the very top should be a Perl path #!/usr/bin/perl, which tells the server executing the script?the location of?the Perl application we intend to use. Some of the scripts used an older notation #!/bin/perl, which used to work. A little birdie reminded us we had intended to convert all the scripts, but, as aliases had each notation work, there was no pressure to complete the jeb. Heh.

The above is all techno-babble, but fixing about 10 scripts (out of a few hundred) took a few minutes and should have us back in business. This could have taken days to find. I feel lucky I happened to think to?notice this right away. It’s the first thing I looked at.

We’ve checked WordPress (this page is a WordPress page), phpBB Forum, front page counter, front page AT A GLANCE, department Autolists, page counters. Everything seems to be in order. Let us know if you find glitches?



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WordPress Workaround

Revised as we speak: We noted earlier that the WordPress files seemed to be updating themselves daily, looking like I am much more diligent than I really am. I made a fix to how we report changes, so that the date reported really should equal the date of the last post. (The only exception should be when all the files are updated due to mass version changes and the like, as happened last week).

The new script is somewhat experimental. Please let me know if you notice script errors or other problems. As our programmers say at my place of work, “it should work”. 🙂

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WordPress 2.0 Updates files daily

Well, I’m really happy with the new WordPress 2.0 (speaking as the administrator and chief cook and bottle washer) – but, I do note an odd behavior of the new WordPress application.

WordPress updates itself daily whether I post or not.

Since our front page’s AT A GLANCE feature is programmed to show you what’s new based on the “last modified date” on which we report a tracked file, it looks to the user like I post at least once a day, without fail, in each of the seven WordPress departments.

You regulars know nothing could be further from the truth.

It will take me awhile to make the time to figure out which file is being automatically updated, and why, and what I can do about it. Please take the dates with a grain of salt for a while, and thanks for your patience …

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Revised Department Indexes

We had to get rid of the cool CoolMenus javascript blue navigation bar on the top of the Astronomy, Commentary, Computers, and La Parola department index pages. Now you get a blue button that generates a department menu on a separate page.

We also got rid of the “frameset” architecture on these pages. Now you get a single, simple one-piece page, like this one.

To see a list of all the articles ever written in a department, go to one of those departments. You’ll find a new blue button to click on the right margin menu, for example, “Index Computers”. This replaces the old left-margin index.

To navigate to other departments in, or to the Summitlake home page, click one of the links on the single right-gand menu.

Too many menus + framesets + WordPress main page = display problems. Sometimes simpler is still better. These pages should now display properly on any browser or platform. Please let us know if you find any questions or problems.

For the technically curious, the old architecture worked fine on older pages which didn’t have a WordPress .php page as the main frame body. A surviving example is Writing, where we haven’t reconfigured for WordPress. Adding the php on top of all of the other old architecture created serious graphics artifacts when the user scrolled down the page. So, the complicated architecture had to go!

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