I finally moved this site from a first-generation Rackspace Cloud instance to a modern SSD-based DigitalOcean droplet. I’ve been meaning to do that for at least a year.

It should be way faster. And it finally supports IPv6. If you’re not using IPv6, it’s time to get on that.

September 16, 2015 September 16, 2015 meta by Scott No Comments

Since 2008, I ran the Scottosphere on a relatively obscure platform called Pyblosxom, hosted on a dusty FreeBSD machine at the far end of a slow DSL connection. This arrangement worked out surprisingly well.

Beginning about a year and a half ago, some frustrating extended outages led me to believe that it was time to move the whole operation to a server “in the cloud.” (Forgive my egregious use of a buzzword.) This I did, but before I could go live with it, I had to confront a whole bunch of bugs caused by some arcane incompatibilities between the latest versions of Pyblosxom, some newer Python libraries, and the heavily customized plugins on which the Scottosphere relied. Among other problems, comments didn’t work at all. I hacked on it for longer than necessary to convince myself that it was time to take a different approach!

I wanted to move everything to a new platform that was feature-rich and well supported (so I wouldn’t have to write every new feature myself!) but capable of being fully customized. This left me with only a few choices. WordPress was the obvious standout, but it has a lot of negatives: it’s huge, relatively slow, and written in PHP. The default templates and function calls produce a horrible mess of HTML that’s nearly unreadable by humans. But it turns out you can correct most of WordPress’s sins with a cleverly-designed theme, which I set out to do.

But first, I had to bring in my old data. One of the wonderful design features of Pyblosxom which I will miss is its ability to store posts in any sort of markup you desire (HTML, Markdown, Textile, etc.) and reformat them on-the-fly in any output “flavor” you can design (HTML, XML, etc.). I designed a special “flavor” for Pyblosxom to spit out the entire site—entries, comments, and all—as a WXR file, an XML format used by WordPress. After processing with a bunch of custom Python scripts to correct obsolete markup, fix broken links, and move old images over to the new server, I was in business. Nearly.

Writing a WordPress theme from scratch was a little intimidating. I had no desire to write a bunch of PHP or learn the internal workings of the software, but it was the only way to meet my many design objectives. Here is a list of features that I think are important:

  • Posts are located at exactly the same URLs as they were before. Link rot bothers me, so it was important not to create a new scheme.
  • Responsive design. I read Ethan Marcotte’s fantastic book, Responsive Web Design, and realized that the era of pixel-based fixed-width layouts is over. Nearly every element on this site, including the images, is now agnostic about the size of your screen. Try resizing your browser or viewing the site on a smart-o-phone and you’ll see what I mean. Implementing responsive design harder than it seems, particularly with image captions and embedded videos.
  • New fonts and graphic design. It’s different, but I confess I’m not much of a designer. What do you think?
  • Better typography. Automatic hyphenation of words helps keep the right margin looking nice on these long posts.
  • Microformat support. The addition of some machine-readable tags to the HTML makes it possible for search engines to better make sense of this site.
  • Tentative HTML5 forms support. I designed this site to be more or less XHTML 1.0 compliant, but one of the better features of HTML5 is browser-based validation of form fields. For the comment form, I turn this on with a little (oh no!) JavaScript. A pleasant side-effect on mobile devices is that a more appropriate virtual keyboard is displayed for each of the fields.
  • WordPress post format support. I wanted a better way to show off photos and set them apart from the more text-based content. You probably won’t notice if you read this site primarily through a feed, but I think it’s cool. Watch for it!

April 29, 2012 April 29, 2012 meta by Scott 8 Comments

This site runs on Pyblosxom, a weird but interesting weblog system written in Python. Pyblosxom has the dual benefits of being very lightweight and extremely customizable. Instead of using a SQL database, it stores entries and comments in a filesystem tree, which is very convenient for people who prefer a command line to a Web interface (me). When I selected it in early 2008, it was still being actively developed. It also gave me a good excuse to learn Python, which I have done with modest success.

Performance and reliability problems with my current server have led me to want to move this site to a faster virtual server “in the cloud.” Naturally, I would install the latest version of Pyblosxom on said machine, right? Well… For a few months I’ve been testing pyblosxom 1.5rc2, the fruit of two years of sporadic development by the 3 other people who actually use this software. Because some back-end redesign necessitated many changes to my Scottosphere modifications, it took a while to get it configured again. And indeed, my non-public staging server is now about 100 times faster than the current site. But, to my great frustration, I still can’t get comments to work properly with Ajax. It has become a huge waste of time to debug, and I’m ready to throw in the towel. I really don’t want to start over, but I wonder: should I just give up and switch to Wordpress?

November 16, 2010 November 16, 2010 meta by Scott 1 Comment

I am pleased to announce the “soft launch” of my new photo gallery site: http://photos.scottosphere.org/.

Some exciting work is underway behind the scenes and I will be announcing the addition of more galleries as they become available. There are many improvements over my old, homebrew system: more speed, a better interface, and higher resolution top the list. Many of my old photo galleries (2002–2009) will be re-appearing under this new site, enhanced with searchable captions and keywords and, in many cases, improved quality.

Thanks for your earlier suggestions on how to do this. As always, I welcome your feedback.

August 11, 2010 August 11, 2010 meta by Scott 4 Comments

After an extended absence, the Scottosphere is up and running at a new domain: scottosphere.org.

My original domain was hijacked last month by a spammer in Dominica. Godaddy, my original registrar, was motivated to not contact me about my pending expiration: by auctioning expiring domain names at a markup to spammers, Godaddy makes an extra profit. And by taking over popular sites, spammers get a brief burst of search engine exposure and traffic. The Internet is no longer a friendly place.

Please update your links to point to my new site! Thanks.

March 13, 2010 March 13, 2010 meta by Scott 3 Comments

  1. Drinking alone—the new going out?
  2. My Stimulus Package
  3. Cooking with Scott: Six 1200-calorie meals under $6

February 17, 2009 February 17, 2009 meta by Scott 3 Comments

I used to take a certain measure of pride in keeping no archives of my old posts. There is something appealing about using the Web as a sounding board for thoughts that eventually fade away, but more frequently I find myself wishing I could refer back to old material.

Well, it was no small feat, but I’ve done it. Using a mishmash of homemade software I was able to recover every dated entry from the old hand-edited Web page going back to 2001. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to yearly summaries. You can browse entire months or view individual entries directly.

July 19, 2008 July 19, 2008 meta by Scott 5 Comments

Despite my well-documented and sometimes poignant dislike of weblogs, weblogging, the blogosphere, and especially the word “blog,” I have decided to venture into the land of “Web 2.0” with this… well, whatever you want to call it. I’ll call it the Scottosphere.

I hope that this medium will allow me to post more frequently than the old hand-edited web page, and that the “comments” feature will foster discussion when the subject warrants it. Entries will have permanent links. In addition, a feed is available for syndication.

I also took this opportunity to school myself on the surprising number of changes to Web standards that have been made since the release of my favorite browser, Netscape 4.0. This site strives to comply with the latest good practice for XHTML and CSS while preserving the minimalist look of the original web-page-o’-fun. Syndication is available as an Atom 1.0 feed, since that is the format endorsed by the IETF. RSS is also available on request.

June 27, 2008 June 27, 2008 meta by Scott 7 Comments