Web Development

Just a note of caution for any WordPress users out there…

I recently updated my original WordPress 1.5 blog to a WordPress 2.3.1 blog, reproducing the site on another hosting server. For the most part, it went well, and appeared to be a mostly seamless transition. While I appreciate the greater security and additional functionality of the WP 2.3.1, it has not been without some suprises.

For instance, previously, I had no problem at all displaying Japanese and Chinese characters, either in the post itself, or in the title. Now, all I get is a bunch of question marks. The irony is that the characters appear without a problem as I write or edit the content, and it is only when they are published that the dreaded question marks appear. I tried a workaround by installing a multi-language plug-in, but this isn’t exactly what I wanted, and the plug-in itself seemed to cause more problems without enabling the offending characters to show up. Hopefully, I will find a solution soon.

Then there is the matter of a marvelous new function that offered to convert my Categories into Tags. Now I must take the blame for what happened next, as I most certainly did not read the manual before using what appeared to me to be a very cool new function. I applied the converter, and convert it did! All of the categories were indeed converted to tags on each of the posts. What I wasn’t expecting, is that all of the posts were then filed as Uncategorized. Which means that I’ve had to go back through each and every one of over 130 posts and reassign the categories. Actually, I’m still only about half way through…

I guess that teaches me to leap before I look! Hopefully, this will spare someone a similar fate!

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In token of my appreciation for visiting my blog, I’d like to tell you how to acquire the coolest screensaver in the known multiverse (IMHO) - . The developer, Scott Draves, and I seem to share inordinate common interests. To “ordinate” a few: electronic music production; web development; politics; and most importantly, the same favorite movie of all time - Blade Runner.

Here is an extract from the Electric Sheep wiki:

Electric Sheep is a distributed computing project for animating and evolving fractal flames, which are in turn distributed to the networked computers, which display them as a screensaver on the individual node computers of the distributed network. The process is transparent to the casual user, who can simply install the software as a screensaver. Alternately, the user may become more involved with the project, manually creating sheep (video files of animated fractal flames) for upload to the server.

The name “Electric Sheep” is taken from the title of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The title mirrors the nature of the project: computers (androids) who have started running the screensaver begin rendering (dreaming) the fractal movies (sheep).

The sheep motif is carried over into other aspects of the project: the 100 or so sheep stored on the server at any time is referred to as ‘the flock’; creating a new fractal by interpolating or combining the sheep’s fractal code with that of another sheep is called mating/breeding; changes to the code are called mutations, etc.

The parameters that generate these movies (sheep) can be created in a few ways: they can be created and submitted by members of the electricsheep mailing list, members of the mailing list can download the parameters of existing sheep and tweak them, or sheep can be mated together automatically by the server or manually by server admins (nicknamed shepherds).

Users may vote on sheep that they like or dislike, and this voting is used for the genetic algorithm which generates new sheep. Each movie is a fractal flame with several of its parameters changed over time. The individual frames of which these movies consist are rendered using ’spare’ processing cycles from idle computers on the distributed network of those running the screensaver application, and finished sheep (in the form of .mpg files) are distributed to the network using BitTorrent, a Peer-to-peer filesharing application which is included as part of the Electric Sheep application.

All sheep parameters and movies are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution license and automatically downloaded by the screen saver.

The screensaver was created and released as Free Software by Scott Draves in 1999 and continues to be developed by him and a team of about five engineers.

Download and enjoy!!

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Wow, something happened today and all of a sudden, my broadband is seeming like a broadband connection instead of something more reminiscent of a 1995 dialup connection. It’s still not perfect, but much better than its been since the Dec 24, 2006 quake. When you consider that the cable they are repairing was submerged 4,000 meters under the sea, and that they had to pull it all the way up to do the repairs, it puts things into perspective, so I can understand its taken a while.

What hasn’t been fixed is email, which lends credibility to the rumor that the Chinese government has rolled out a more sophisticated filtering system. The fact that Hong Kong has reportedly had good connection speeds two weeks ago, while we were still experiencing problems here in the mainland does lend credence to the theory. If they did choose this time to upgrade the “Great Firewall of China” system, it was very much affecting traffic for the world wide web, but now problems seem limited to SMTP or POP. The modok.us domain appears to be on an IP address that has been universally blocked by the the new email filtering system, as I have not been able to receive a single email at that domain in over a month, despite repeated attempts, deleting and recreating accounts and other little tweaks. I guess its time to invest in a dedicated IP address for Eye of Modok.

One thing that has become obvious is that China should not rely on a single connection to the outside world. Currently, all European traffic is routed through the US en route to China, which seems a bit circuitous, although understandable, as communication cables like the one that was severed do not come cheaply nor easily. I don’t really care what is done, so long as I don’t have to go a month without Internet again!

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