Burningbird Technology

Mind the scaffolding

image of destroyed front porch

I have attempted to upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04 from 12.04.5 three times, failing each time. The points of failure are complex and seemingly many. I can ignore the necessary upgrade until 12.04.5 hits end of life in 2017, but whatever cruft is preventing a clean upgrade may be allowing all sorts of bad things. I also use my server as testing environment for all of my books, which means I’m constantly installing and uninstalling a host of software. When I ran


I was surprised at how many packages I have installed that are no longer supported.

No matter how much I want to avoid it, It’s time to clean up my system.

Not just clean up. I want to move my site to HTTPS/SSL. The new Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority should be in business in September, simplifying the process for obtaining an SSL certificate, and removing a major obstacle for making this move.

I’m also looking at migrating my site(s) back to WordPress from Drupal. Drupal is a marvelous CMS when you like to tinker under the hood, or you have a business site that needs extensive customization and complexity. But it’s not a good CMS when you don’t have the time to tinker, and you just want a place to write. With the upcoming changes for Drupal 8, I realized that I could either migrate to the new version, or I could migrate to WordPress: the work would be the same.

The advantages to WordPress is it is geared more towards just having a place to write. There is also more updated support for social networking, commentary, mobile devices, and a larger pool of weblog themes. Drupal is powerful, but I’m finding many of the modules I’m interested in have erratic support, at best. The Drupal environment is set up in such a way as to channel all interest in a certain functionality into one module. This is fine, except when the module developer tires of it, and no one picks it up. WordPress fosters a more competitive environment for functional extensions, so you’re almost always going to be able to find a supported plugin for what you need.

Moving from WordPress to Drupal is a snap, but the reverse isn’t true. In fact, it’s been downright ugly in the past, requiring either a great deal of hacking, or an expensive migration service. Thankfully, this has changed with a new PHP script and associated tutorial, both of which help remove most of the pain. I hope.

I expect, though, that my site will end up even more fractured than it is now, with my many moves between domains, weblogs, and software—not to mention removing dated content, and merging and splitting weblogs. Such is life. One of the advantages of today’s web environment is it’s adaptable to change. A broken link is no longer the anathema it once was, and 404 errors are like gray hair and bad knees: a sign of increasing maturity.

All of this is my way of saying that things are going to be erratic around here for the next couple of months. Of course, I’ve been so quiet in my space for so long that folks might not even notice the erratic nature of my web site. I’m hoping to get better about this, too.


Discontinued Site (Realtech)

This site is no longer being updated. My new technology site is at Technology at Burningbird. My primary website is at Burningbird.

Burningbird Weather

Happy New Year

As you can see if you’re reading this, the move to a new hosting company went very well. I’m already exceptionally pleased with Linode, not the least of which the dashboard the company provides makes maintaining the site so much easier.

The only real challenges I faced were setting up the email system, and porting my Just Shelley web site; the former is just plain cumbersome, and the latter did not like the move to a PHP 5.3 environment. After the move I discovered that Drupal 7 is PHP 5.3 friendly, Drupal 6 is not. There is something in Just Shelley that triggered problems, though luckily the other sites ported without any problems.

So, I’ve upgrade Just Shelley to Drupal 7, as well as having installed a new Drupal 7 account, and I’m finally getting a chance to take the new version for a run. I can already see I have a lot of work to do. Yes, a lot of work.

In the meantime, we had a exciting day here in New Year’s Eve. We kept getting tornado warnings, and I spent most of the morning hovering around the downstairs interior bathroom.

Just around noon, the siren went off again and the news said a funnel was spotted over Webster Groves or Shrewsbury. I looked outside, and the winds had suddenly reversed direction. There was a rushing sound, but not exceptionally loud. A few minutes later, the winds reversed back and things started calming down.

We didn’t get hit but the F3 tornado did a major amount of damage a couple of miles away. I don’t know if a tornado that far away could impact on wind in our area, or if there was another funnel cloud forming over us that didn’t form into a full tornado. Regardless, we lucked out. So did the people in Sunset Hills, because for the amount of damage done—and it is significant— folks only suffered minor injuries. Unfortunately, there were folks in other parts of the state not as lucky.

I haven’t been to my favorite walking place, since it’s on the other side of the damage path and I don’t want to add to the traffic. There have been a lot of gawkers, but the folks at Sunset Hills came up with the idea of borrowing firemen boots and taking up a collection for the tornado victims from the gawkers. Absolutely brilliant idea.


End of year shenanigans

As I detail in RealTech, not only am I upgrading to Drupal 7, I’m also moving to a new host. I figured it was time to move to a server where I have more control over the environment.

I’m also doing other work, which may leave my site in a tangled mess at times. If you don’t see any web pages, or don’t get an immediate email reply, it’s just me deep in the inner workings of the Burningbird Monster, trying to determine what happens when I pull this, push that.

Burningbird Technology Weblogging

Another year, another web server

Drupal 7 is right around the corner, and my efforts to see how it would work on my existing server made me decide it is time to move to another hosting company. I need more control over my own space, and what is, or is not, installed. After discussions with the inestimable Laura Scott (@lauras), my go-to person for anything Drupal, I’ve decided on a Linode VPS account.

Linode has attracted a good Drupal community, which is important to me. In addition, it provides an extremely easy to use interface, which makes it quite simple to manage the space. I also like the fact that the company provides a good selection of documentation on how to do things geared to its own environment.

Since I’m making a major Drupal upgrade and moving to a new server, now is the time to look seriously at how my web sites are configured and designed, and make changes. I think this is one of the advantages to major releases—they provide a time to stop, think, and decide if you want to keep what you, or if now is the time to make all those other little changes you’ve been thinking about.

Since I’ve designed my own Drupal themes, I need to upgrade them to Drupal 7, as well as incorporate new HTML5/RDFa features. I may even do a re-design, not sure yet. I don’t like web site designing, so I may just grab one of the existing Drupal themes, and tweak it.

Several of my sites haven’t been updated in a donkey’s age, so I need to figure out if I’m going to continue writing at the sites. I probably will keep most, if not all, but I may do some major re-organizing.

I’ve not been taking many photos this year, as some of you have noticed. I need to re-design my photo pages to incorporate Drupal 7 changes and also my changed photography habits.

I’ve become much more interested in eBooks and the ePub format this last year. I was looking at creating an ePub module for Drupal, but someone already started this effort(Drupal ePub Module). However, there’s been little work on the module, and I’m thinking that an extension to the Print Module is a better approach. Or perhaps the best thing to do is just create an ePub friendly XHTML theme, and do a wget or curl on a book’s pages and use one of the many existing ePub publishing tools to create an ePub eBook. It’s better to be a smart developer than a clever one, and smart developers use what exists. Plus the same pages can be used to create a Kindle book, a Nook, and others.

I have been thinking of incorporating Disqus into some of my web sites. I’ve used this service at other sites, and I like how it works. Commenters can edit their comments, track their discussions across many sites, and they don’t have to provide a username and password for each web site (*cough* Gawker) to expose to hackers. Plus, if I turn comments off, the people still have access to their own writing. And Drupal has a module for Disqus, though I’ve not been able to get it to work with my theme (another reason to re-design my pages).

One thing I really like about Drupal 7 is if you don’t like the new administration interface, you can turn off all the new bits. You can turn off the overlay (don’t like), the page-top toolbar (still considering), and the new Dashboard (a keeper). I also like the fact that all the modules I use now are either incorporated directly into Drupal 7, or the developers have guaranteed a first day Drupal 7 release. Most of the modules have also committed to accessibility—that’s something you don’t often see with content management systems. Or W3C specifications.