Referrers, just for fun

The last two weeks have been long indeed, and it hit me tonight that I’m tired, and that I really need to get away from the computer. My back is doing extremely well, and I want to get out for a nice long, gentle hike. There’s also an Art Deco neighborhood somewhere in St. Lou I want to explore, and a thousand towns I haven’t seen yet.

However, before I take off for a long weekend, tonight I spent some time with my web server logs, checking out who’s visting, and what they’re looking at. Sometimes, if you don’t fixate on ‘popularity’, this can be a bit of fun.

For instance, I was inundated this week from people reaching my site while looking for directions in how to drive in ice and snow. Go ahead and do a search in Google on the words ‘how to drive in ice and snow’ and you’ll see why I had such a giggle from this one. I hope I don’t get sued.

Backtrack is very popular, which pleased me quite a bit. I can see that Talkback looks to match it, though I think that could be due to the novelty. If you pay me a dollar, I’ll tell you the most popular Backtracked sites and Talkbacked webloggers.

“Parable of the Languages” is still my most popular article, even beating out “How to Drive in Ice and Snow”. Will you forgive me if I get a little boost at how well this has done? Especially this week, seeing the numbers and the continued popularity has been balm for a battered writer’s soul. I need to post the sequel, “Parable of the Languages: The Markup Strike Back”, but I’m hesitant — you know what happens with sequels.

Anyway, new college referrals for Parable:

Swinborne University in Australia
UMBC in Maryland

The C# book chapters are surprisingly popular. Interest in C# must be picking up. I need to finish this online book. At the least, it won’t be the hassle, headache, and grief that Practical RDF has been.

My most popular page is Not surprising, that. My second most popular page is mt-comments.cgi. No surprise there, either. Talk talk talk, that’s us. Can’t shut us up for love nor money.

I had a visitor from Tuvalu. Hi!

Then there’s my old friends, the cryptozoologists. In case you’re curious, cyrptozoology is the study of legendary animals thought to be real, or extinct animals thought still to be alive. The practitioners call it “The Study of Hidden Animals”. What animals? Bigfoot, Nessie, and the Tasmanian Tiger to name a few. I connected up with the cryptozoology folks when I was doing research for the “Tale of Two Monsters” articles. (Research. That’s what you don’t do when you weblog.)

I still get several hits for the articles, primarily from this page. I used to get referrals from Loren Coleman, but he doesn’t have his links page anymore.

Loren Coleman is one of the leading cryptozoologists, and author of several books. I have an autographed copy of his book on Tom Slick, which is now out of print. In fact, remind me to tell you the story about Tom Slick, the Yeti, the Dali Lama, and the actor Nicolas Cage that Loren told me in emails long ago.

Why did I write an article about cryptozoology? Why not? Isn’t it fun sometimes just to let your fancy roam? Explore for the sheer joy of the exploration? So if any of you have questions about Champ, Ogopogo, or the Mothman, holler.

That wraps up my walk on vanity lane. Have a fun weekend my gang o’ friends.


Host problems

If you tried to access my site this morning, you probably found yourself gettiing a DNS type of error. Not just me, you found this same error if you tried to access Jonathon DelacourAllan MoultwKenShowBig Pink CookieMoxieScripty Goddess and a host of others. The reason was a gateway router problem at the NOC (Network Operations Center) responsible for maintaining the servers for all of Hosting Matters.

Hosting Matters just came out with a detailed explanation of the problems we’ve had in the last two weeks, and their plans — see Network Statement.

One of the things I’ve really liked about Hosting Matters is their honesty about problems. And it looks like the organization is making moves to improve things for the future. I respect that.

Still, when my current term is up, I hope to lease a dedicated server, and get about 20-30 webloggers to chip in each a month to pay for it, with me contributing sweat equity (I’ll manage all the software, database support, sub-domain and domain installation). We’ll be able to increase our disk space to about 1GB each, as well as increase sub-domains, databases, bandwidth use, and decrease burden on CPU, for less than what Hosting Matters costs now.

The physical server, including backups, security, and network access will still be managed by the company hosting the server.

An advantage of having a group of us together is that a software update, such as an update for Movable Type, can be easily ported to everyone once it’s been tested. And the other webloggers wouldn’t have to worry about server-side software, unless they wanted to have access to it. We’d be a co-op, with virtual meetings to determine what to install next, plans for each month’s software updates.

I want to be able to install the recent version of Python. I want to be able to install Perl libraries. I want to have a Tomcat/JSP/Java server. I need more room for my photos.

I want ‘root’ back.


Email problems

I had email auto responding on and off this week and just found out today that it was not forwarding emails on to me. I’m not sure what happened to the email, but it didn’t get through to me.

If you’ve sent an email, especially in the last week, and have been expecting a response, you might want to send it again because I may not have received it.


Becoming one with the MT pod people

Second Update:I didn’t choose the Hubble article as a test case for my conversion because it’s particularly good writing. I wrote this years ago and I know it needs severe editing and updating. I picked it as an example primarily because it fit all the test cases for XHTML compliance.


Thanks to Jay Allen’s helpful notes in my comments, I found a simple way to generate an RDF/XML file for each of my postings, all using the PostCon vocabulary. You can see an example for this entry, in fact. Which means I can automatically feed these into my PostCon system for management. Which means…


(I really do need to take to time to read the MT documentation a bit more carefully than I have done.)

Additionally, as Jay pointed out, with the template/archive management, you can split category pages by directory (and rename the files to something other than the number system if you want), but I still prefer separate weblogs for major type of document, and to reserve the category for the specific domain. This gives me hierarchical categorization — type/domain (or domain/type if I had reversed it). Unless you can do this with Movable Type, too, and I didn’t see this functionality in the documentation, either.

I think a Movable Type book is in order, but I’m sure the Trotts are already writing it.

When taking a break from working on the book, I’m slowly moving my content over to Movable Type management. While doing so, I’m taking the opportunity to update everything to XHTML 1.0 strict, as well as being CSS2 compliant.

I’ve already made the transition to XHTML 1.0 strict in the main Burningbird Network page. This page lists out excerpts from new entries across all of the web sites, including this weblog. At this time, only the Practical RDF, Photo Gallery, Articles, and weblog links show in the page, but I’ll add the other sites as I bring them inline.

I pull the excerpt information from the MySql database (oh, how nice it is, too), using PHP. In addition, I created a Perl program that takes the RDF/RSS from all of my websites/weblogs and merges them into one RDF/RSS file. You can see the code for this in Chapter 14 of the Practical RDF book, which I uploaded last night. The application is scheduled as a cron job (scheduled re-occurring job) running every hour.

An advantage to pulling excerpt information for each posting for the main Burningbird Network page is this forces me to write an excerpt for each posting, article, tutorial, etc. Even if the excerpt is no more than the first few sentences of the posting copied over to the MT excerpt field, it’s better than the chopped up text that shows in the RSS feeds now. And it only takes a minute at most.

(BTW: If you’re subscribed to any of my RSS feeds, I would ask that you switch your subscription to the new file. However, you can also continue to subscribe to a specific entity, such as this weblog, or Practical RDF, or Articles, or whatever.)

I’m in the process now of setting up Burningbird Articles. In my past life, at each of my web sites I used to have a sub-directory of articles off of the main site containing more in-depth writings. I still do, but in addition to accessing the articles using or whatever was used, readers can now access articles at I’ll be doing the same to a all my other sub-directories — each one becomes a separate weblog.

I used a separate weblog specifically to control the location of the files — that’s the main determiner. Ultimately this becomes a content type category — such as article, tutorial, weblog, etc. Following this scheme, became and is managed through Burningbird Articles; became and is managed through Burningbird InterActZone and so on. I’ll convert all the older material I want to keep into weblog entries, and since the file names will differ — MT does use a numbered system and my old entries had regular names — my post-content management system (PostCon) handles the re-directs to the new locations.

All main pages are PHP and full of PHP goodness. All secondary pages (individual articles, posts, etc.) are HTML pages — no server-side coding. Peripheral pages such as Backtrack are also PHP or based on some other functionality such as CGI.

Another significant change is my domain management: I used to have several sites, each with their own domain: YASD ( for computer technology; P2P Smoke ( for distributed and P2P technologies; Dynamic Earth ( for science and environment; Solar Lily ( for art; and NetJetter ( for travel, hiking, outdoor recreation, and adventure. I still have the domains, but all of the sites are now merged into Burningbird, and all point to They’re joined by a couple of new ones: MirrorSelf, which will become my photo blog in addition to my static photo gallery; and EvilWoman, which is going to become something….else. My online book, which I’ve been working on quietly offline, is called Marbles, and it will be at, when I set it up.

To maintain the distinctive flavor of each item as it moves over to the new system, I’ve created MT categories in each of my site weblogs (such as Burningbird Articles) and labeled then ‘yasd’, ‘dynamicearth’, ‘solarlily’ and so on. When an individual page is opened (such as my Hubble story I just ported) I’m using the category to change the style sheet as well as logo, using the MT tag <$MTEntryCategory> tag. You can see it in action now — all main pages willl eventually open with the Burningbird deep burgandy color (the bittersweet chocolate brown color is going away) but anything associated with Dynamic Earth, such as the Hubble story, opens with a deep pine green. P2P smoke is gray, NetJetter is a deep blue and so on.

As for layout, all main pages have the three column layout shown in the Burningbird Network web page and the primary Burningbird Articles page; all secondary pages have the two column layout, as shown in the Hubble article page.

The only exceptions to this rule will be this weblog, the Practical RDF weblog, and Marbles.

The layouts not only validate as XHTML 1.0 strict, they also conform to Mark Pilgrim’s Accessibility guidelines, as you’ll be able to test for yourself if you use a voice browser (just the main page for now).

The clean up for each article is enormous, especially considering my use of graphics. I had replace the IMG vspace and hspace attributes with CSS margin attributes, and the align attribute with the CSS float. The result is better, just a lot of work. Not to mention closing all of those open break tags. And why did I use caps so much for so many of my tags?

Another change I had to make was to remove the ‘&’ from all CGI references int he MT template code (such as with trackback and setting the view mode). I had to replace them with the encoded value, which I’m not sure how to show you.

However, in spite of all the care, I am still having problems with IE. No version of IE will take follow the CSS height attribute when used in a TD element. Based on this IE oversized some of the rows, and the looks are off. No problem with the writing, just the overall look. But I’m not going to change the design because of a flaw in Microsoft’s IE browser.

(If someone has a workaround, I’d be glad to hear it.)

One other change I’m making isn’t ready to view yet. I’ll post when the application to support it is finished.

If I had one wish for Movable Type, it would be the ability to create a separate template that’s anchored to an individual entry so that I can create a separate XML page associated with my individual archive entries (other than the XHTML ones). However, MySql comes to the rescue again — what I can’t do within Moveable Type directly, I can do within the Movable Type database.


Come together

I finally started posting the updated chapters for the Practical RDF book, over at the weblog. These have been edited, drastically, since the last release. The end is in sight for this book and I’m not sure who’s happier: me or my editor. This book has been a long time coming.

Thanks to my most recent announcement about the TOC, I was introduced to some new and very interesting uses of RDF/XML out there ‘in the world’; including a very sophisticated commercial application. These are all covered in the updated chapters.

Other work, though the effect is subtle: I’ve made some majors modifications here and there. For instance, the Recent Comments, Recent Trackbacks, and Recent Writing sections now cross all of my weblogs/web sites. I found that with the Practical RDF, weblog keeping it in isolation from Burningbird was not a good idea.

Now, no matter what main page you go to you’ll be able to see, at a glance, what’s happening elsewhere in the Burningbird Network. I used PHP/MySql to make these change, and once I test the code out a few days, I’ll post it online.

I didn’t use Movable Type plug-ins because by the time I’m finished with the Burningbird Network re-organization and my porting of all the BB Net pages to Moveable Type, I’ll have over twelve main weblog/web site pages. MT plug-ins would require a re-build of all these pages whenever a comment or trackback arrived or a new posting or edit was made.

There’s much less CPU involved just by accessing recent activity directly from the database. Since the amount of data is small and the queries are optimized, the data access should be lightweight. If anything, the PHP processing is what slows the page accesses with my current host, which tends to be a bit CPU and bandwidth bound, rather than I/O bound.

(In other words, with my current host, CPU resources are a bit strained, as is the available Internet bandwidth; however, internal file access, which is what happens with local database queries, does not seem to be strained at this time.)

Of course, all individual and category or secondary pages are static HTML. They’re only re-built when a change is made to the page that impacts them, only, so it was more efficient to use MT plug-ins with them. The only exception is the Backtrack PHP page, which is why it’s linked from the individual pages, instead of incorporating the processing directly into the page itself.

It’s coming together. It’s all finally starting to come together. Right now, over you.

(Apologies to the Beatles for taking their song title and messing with their words.)