Off the Top: v/d Wal Net Site Development Entries


December 2, 2014

30 Days Had November

Well the attempt to blog every day in November didn’t get as much wind in its sails as I had hoped it would have. November had 30 days, but I had far fewer posts than 30. I didn’t get a new habit set. But, I am not yet deterred as I am keeping this attempt going.

One of the things I’ve thought about doing is doing a weekly link dump of items I found of interest through out the week. These are some of my favorite week end reads when I curl up with the laptop (or iPad), a cup of coffee and a blanket. I have long been a fan of Om’s weekend delivery of his 5 (or 7) things to read this weekend as they are nearly always high quality, in depth, and decent (meaning on the longer side) length. I’ve also grown to head toward Josh Ginter of “The Newsprint” weekly “The Sunday Edition” link dump of the week. Recently Michael Sippy has been back sharing on the web (just like the days of yore) and his Filtered Week series on Medium is an annotated link list gem.

One of the reasons I have been considering this (and actually tucking links away for posting) is the past few weeks I realized my blog’s link list on the side of this blog that was posted from Delicious is now dead and gone. The link roll that was a staple of Delicious from 2004 or so was nuked with many other helpful features and functionality that kept Delicious as one part of my workflow. I moved most of my social bookmarking to Pinboard a few years back, but I still fed Delicious and then Delicious fed Pinboard. Well, that was the case until the new owners of Delicious (sadly Delicious gets passed around the IT community like a hot potato with each new owner thinking they are going to update it and improve it, yet lack a rat’s clue of the basics nor how to keep (now kept) the workings that underpin many parts of the web running) fumbled things and Pinboard stopped automatically ingesting Delicious. I really missed the change at Pinboard (was heads down on a project when that happened), but now all my social bookmarking is happening there.

The lack of a link sidebar is the push to share things that I find as gems from the week. I could repoint the Delicious javascript to Pinboard, but Pinboard also captures all my starred / favorited items (I don’t use starring in Twitter as a favorite, but more of a hook for things to hold on to and / or come back to) and things favorited in Instagram, and imports from other services. Pinboard, because I use the paid archive service is an endpoint that serves also as a place to do full text search of the items bookmarked there. Until I can sort out a good filter or means of tagging in my workflow, I am keeping the link list off the sidebar. But, in its place I am likely going to do a weekly link list.



November 13, 2014

Finding Voice and Freeing my Mind

The effort to return to a habit of regular blogging has been really helpful. But, it has also not solved some inner conflict I thought was going to be a breeze to push past. In my initial push the Refinement can be a Hinderance post really is a tough speed bump to clear. I have a long list of blogfodder queued up for my more formal and work focussed blog, Personal InfoCloud, but now I’m noticing a queue here on this blog as well.

Part of this effort on this blog is to just get things out of my head and shared. I’m realizing time is a hurdle (more correctly lack of time), but getting things framed well and not making a fool (there is a huge part of my inner self that loves to play the jester) of myself. In blogging I’m trying to work writing as an easy sprint again. I am trying to not pay attention to voice, nor what sorts of things I am finding of interest to share. I have been hoping it would evolve, has it did in the very beginning and again with a few other reboots. In this I am finding I am noting things of interest, but not fleshing them out quickly and marking them as to do later, which was my counter intent. Part of this shifting ideas to blogfodder lists rather than knocking it out is there are other things that get my attention as I sit to write.

I am ending up with a few new category terms to add to my pick list. I am also wanting to use this blog to frame and shape ideas and maps forward for the Personal InfoCloud blog. I’m likely going to list out all of the 14 or 15 Shift Happened posts that are brewing as a post here in the near future. I’m also thinking of listing all the social lenses as an outline - downside to this is I want to point to all the existing posts over the years that have become part of the social lenses.

Potentially Adding Linkblogging Back Again

I am also thinking of doing quick link blog posts, which fall into a longer Pinboard or Delicious social bookmark and add more narrative. I keep thinking I want a slightly different input form for those (I had one for Quick Links years back before Delicious started, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill these days). I also have a love / hate for blogger’s link blogging as the header link goes way from their blog and not to a permalink page with a little more info. The user interface is not differentiated in any way, or done incredibly poorly on most sites. But, I am trying not to let the short comings of other’s sites deter my own use of link blogging, but I would keep the header link consistent and link it locally to a node page and have a proper link out to the site or object in the text.

No More Meta - Maybe

With each of these meta posts about this blog as post in this blog, I swear it is my last one.

I also realized my new hosting server (sat in New York I believe) is not using local time, but GMT instead. This is better than the time stamping of blog posts on my old server / host in Sydney (yes, I know I can fix this with a simple conversion, but that requires writing the conversion). One day I may fix that. One day.



May 18, 2014

This Site has a New Home

Well, the propagation seems to be compelete and vanderwal.net is now at its new server home. This has been about six weeks of work of tracking, documenting, and moving about 14 apps and services along with 16 email addresses. The larger apps and services moved to another server to better handle their needs.

The eight years on one host accumulated a lot of stuff and a lot of history. A few things have not been moved to either live server, but most should still work as it was, if not better. The new servers allow for building out some ideas that have surfaced before and allow room to build out some ideas that need to breathe a bit.

This is the 7th server / host that vanderwal.net has been on. Who knows how long we will be here.



April 13, 2014

Site Shift has Started

After seven to eight years with the same web host a move is underway again. This will be slower and it may hit reverse for parts. Having read Phil Gyford’s recounting his host move I think I am prepared for the scope of what this move entails.

In my time with this host I put up dev projects that then moved to their own servers, I experimented with a lot of different tools and services that I continue to use (or would love to get back to using), and I have a boat load of mail accounts set up for contextual use and family.

The are a few domains, a lot of subdomains, many databases, and many applications (my hand built and third party creations). I’m expecting to have to tweek some code and scripting to handle different versions of PHP and Python than I currently run.

Two Host Mambo

The move is splitting things to two different hosts (one a VPS and the other a modern hosted web host). The split is to give some of the more resource heavy applications like Fever and ThinkUp room to flex and grow, these are applications that only I use and are really helpful for a variety of reasons. Other applications I have run locally on a Mac Mini will move there as will old services I shuttered due to lack of web resources availalbe.

The bulk of what is here at vanderwal.net and publicly available will move to a web host with good management consoles and mail (for now). While I am comfortable living and working at command line, I like a good console to make things easier. Also having someone else doing security updates, patching, and upgrades is nice as well so I can focus on the things I really want to do.

Mail

Mail is something that I really want to improve. Having to pester to have somebody give the mailserver a kick to get mail functioning again is something that shouldn’t need to happen. I have run my own mail server in the past (10 years back) and I know not to do that again as it was a pain and that pain is much worse with dealing with SPAM as well as getting on the wrong side of a SPAM blacklist (difficult to get off of a blacklist or greylist for domain or IP block when you are fewer than a few thousand accounts). The days of small email services died 5 to 10 years ago and that gets worse with each passing year.

Mail for the moment is going with my web hosting. This is less than optimal, I know that well. But, a good sized web host has the bulk to deal with black / grey listing to some degree. I know my optimal choice is FastMail, but making that move will take more decisions to narrow down mail accounts and sorting the size I am willing to limit some accounts to.

Getting Real

This only gets real when the domains get repointed and propigate. That is not today.



April 6, 2014

Changing Hosts and Server Locations

I’ve been in the midst of thinking through a web host / server move for vanderwal.net for a while. I started running a personal site in 1995 and was running it under vanderwal.net since 1997. During this time it has gone through six of 7 different hosts. The blog has been on three different hosts and on the same host since January 2006.

I’ve been wanting better email hosting, I want SSH access back, more current updates to: OS; scripting for PHP, Ruby, and Python; MySQL; and other smaller elements. A lot has changed in the last two to three years in web and server hosting.

The current shift is the 4th generation that started with simple web page hosting with limited scripting options, but often had some SSH and command line access to run cron jobs. The second was usually had a few scripting options and database to run light CMS or other dynamic pages, but the hosting didn’t give you access to anything below the web directory (problematic when trying to set your credentials for login out of the web directory, running more than one version of a site (dev, production, etc.), and essential includes that for security are best left out of the web directory). The second generation we often lost SSH and command line as those coming in lacked skills to work at the command line and could cripple a server with ease with a minor accident. The third has been more robust hosting with proper web directory set up and access to sub directories, having multiple scripting resources, having SSH and command line back (usually after proven competence), having control of setting up your own databases at will, setting up your own subdomains at will, and more. The third generation was often still hosting many sites on one server and a run away script or site getting hammered with traffic impacted the whole server. These hosts also often didn’t have the RAM to run current generations of tools (such as Drupal which can be a resource hog if not using command line tools like drush that thankfully made Drupal easier to configure in tight constraints from 2006 forward).

Today’s Options

Today we have a fourth generation of web host that replicates upgraded services like your own private server or virtual private server, but at lighter web hosting prices. I’ve been watching Digital Ocean for a few months and a couple months back I figured for $5 per month it was worth giving it a shot for some experiments and quick modeling of ideas. Digital Ocean starts with 512 MB or RAM, 20GB of SSD space (yes, your read that right, SSD hard drive), and 1TB of transfer. The setup is essentially a virtual private server, which makes experimentation easier and safer (if you mess up you only kill your own work not the work of others - to fix it wipe and rebuild quickly if it is that bad). Digital Ocean also lets you setup your server as you wish in about a minute of creation time with OS, scripting, and database options there for your choosing.

In recently Marco Arment has written up the lay of the land for hosting options from his perspective, which is a great overview. I’ve also been following Phil Gyford’s change of web hosting and like Phil I am dealing with a few domains and projects. I began looking at WebFaction and am liking what is there too. WebFaction adds in email into the equation and 100GB of storage on RAID 10 storage. Like Digital Ocean it has full shell scripting and a wide array of tools to select from to add to your server. This likely would be a good replacement for my core web existence here at vanderwal.net and its related services. WebFaction provides some good management interfaces and smoothing some of the rough edges.

There are two big considerations in all of this: 1) Email; 2) Server location.

Email

Email is a huge pain point for me. It should be relatively bullet proof (as it was years ago). To get bullet proof email the options boil down to going to a dedicated mail service like exchange or something like FastMail, a hosted Exchange server, or Google Apps. Having to pester the mail host to kick a server isn’t really acceptable and that has been a big reason I am considering moving my hosting. Also sitting on servers that get their IP address in blocks of blacklisted email servers (or potentially blacklisted) makes things really painful as well. I have ruled out Exchange as an option due to cost, many open scripts I rely on don’t play well with Exchange, and the price related to having someone maintain it.

Google Apps is an option, but my needs for all the other pieces that Google Apps offers aren’t requirements. I am looking at about 10 email addresses with one massive account in that set along with 2 or 3 other domains with one or two email accounts that are left open to catch the stray emails that drift in to those (often highly important). The cost of Google for this adds up quickly, even with using of aliases. I think having one of my light traffic domains on Google Apps would be good, the price of that and access to Google Apps to have access to for experimentation (Google Apps always arise in business conversations as a reference).

FastMail pricing is yearly and I know a lot of people who have been using it for years and rave about it. Having my one heavy traffic email there, as well as tucking the smaller accounts with lower traffic hosted there would be a great setup. Keeping email separate from hosting give uptime as well. FastMail is also testing calendar hosting with CalDAV, which is really interesting as well (I ran a CalDAV server for a while and it was really helpful and rather easy to manage, but like all things calendar it comes with goofy headaches, often related timezone and that bloody day light savings time, that I prefer others to deal with).

Last option is bundled email with web hosting. This has long been my experience. This is mostly a good solution, but rarely great. Dealing with many domains and multitudes of accounts email bundled with web hosting is a decent option. Mail hosting is rarely a deep strength of a web hosting company and often it is these providers that you have to pester to kick the mail server to get your mail flowing again (not only my experience, but darned near everybody I know has this problem and it should never work this way). I am wondering with the benefits of relatively inexpensive mail hosting bundled into web hosting is worth the pain.

I am likely to split my mail hosting across different solutions (the multiple web hosts and email hosts would still be less than my relatively low all in one web hosting I currently have).

Server Location

I have had web hosting in the US, UK, and now Australia and at a high level, I really don’t care where the the servers are located as the internet is mostly fast and self healing, so location and performance is a negligible distance for me (working with live shell scripting to a point that is nearly at the opposite side of the globe is rather mind blowing in how instantaneous this internet is).

My considerations related to where in the globe the servers are hosted comes down to local law (or lack of laws that are enforced). Sites sitting on European hosts require cookie notifications. The pull down / take down laws in countries are rather different. As a person with USA citizenship paperwork and hosting elsewhere, the laws that apply and how get goofy. The revelations of USA spying on its own people and servers has me not so keen to host in the US again, not that I ever have had anything that has come close to running afoul of laws or could ever be misconstrued as something that should draw attention. I have no idea what the laws are in Australia, which has been a bit of a concern for a while, but the host also has had servers in the US as well.

My options seem to be US, Singapore, UK, Netherlands, and Nordic based hosting. Nearly all the hosting options for web, applications, and mail provide options for location (the non-US options have grown like wildfire in the post Edward Snowden era). Location isn’t a deciding point, but it is something I will think through. I chose Australia as the host had great highly recommended hosting that has lived up to that for that generation of hosting options. It didn’t matter where the server was hosted eight years ago as the laws and implications were rather flat. Today the laws and implications are far less flat, so it will require some thinking through.



Non-UNIX Timestamping has Me Stamping in Frustration

In the slow process of updating things here on this site I have nearly finished with the restructuring the HTML (exception is the about page, which everytime I start on it the changes I start to make lead quickly to a bigger redesign).

Taking a break from the last HTML page restructuring I was looking at finally getting to correctly timestamping and listing the post times based on blog posting location. Everything after the 1783rd blog post currently picks up the server time stamp and that server is sitting in Eastern Australia, so everything (other than blog posts from Sydney) are not correctly timestamped. Most things are 14 to 15 hours ahead of when they were posted - yes, posted from the future.

Looking at my MySQL tables I didn’t use a Unix timestamp, but a SQL datetime as the core date stored and then split the date and time into separate varables created with parsing timestamp in PHP. This leaves 3 columns to convert. It is a few scripts to write, but not bad, but just a bit of a pain. Also in this change is setting up time conversions that are built into the post location, but shifts in time for day light savings starts adding pain that I don’t want to introduce. I’ve been considering posting in GMT / UTC and on client side showing the posting time with relative user local time with a little JavaScript.

I would like to do this before a server / host move I’ve been considering. At this point I may set up a move and just keep track of the first post on the new server, then at some point correct the time for the roughly 500 posts while the server was in Eastern Australia.



March 16, 2014

Mind the Construction Dust

I’m in the midst of a structuring here across all the pieces of vanderwal.net. It started in January with another project, a meetp-up hack to dive into Zurb Foundation. Within a couple weeks of starting down that path I decided it would be fine time to rebuild and redesign vanderwal.net using Foundation. Before I started down the road leaving the horses behind I desided I was going to update the structure of the HTML of these pages and bring them into modern times with HTML5 and CSS3.

This thinking and tinkering has been finally fixing some of the underlying details that bugged me, but it also allowed to set a much better and more object focussed semantics. This shift will also enable the content objects to flow better and be better foundations for a redesign as well.

While I have no idea what the redesign will be and not even thinking of that, I did find the original photo that I modified to be used for the header image and I put that to the pages I have touched. The new image now is much wider to allow for a fluid page and the “vanderwal.net” text is now out of the image and I a truly proper H1, that has alluded me for a long time (and bugged me to no end). The menu of the updated pages has brought back the selected portion of the site with a bleed to page, which was there at the beginning, but some shift in CSS caused it to go away.

I may, possibly likely, shift hosting at some point in the near future, but that may wait until I have some of the underpinnings of the blog tool updated a little. Some of those changes will wait a little, but have been brewing a long time. I don’t think I am bringing comments back, but will likely bring in web mentions (Jeremy Keith has a great explaination). There is a lot going on in the IndieWeb that has been inspiring and may trigger some more changed that I have longed for to finally get put in place.

BTW, this is the short version of this. Two prior attempts at writing up something short both ended up over 2,500 words.



January 1, 2014

Tipping into the 14th Year of This Blog

Pwhoooo… Pwhoooo… Just blowing a little dust off this blog.

Here at vanderwal.net this blog started in the final hours of 2000. It started on Blogger and within a year moved off onto my own held build platform, which occasionally still gets tweaks. The volume and frequency have gone through vast swings over the years, lately things are a bit more sparse, as words floated into various services, like Twitter and Facebook, and more professional posts over to my other blog that started in 2004 or 2005 , Personal InfoCloud.

This blog has remind my personal space on the web. It tipped over 2000 posts a year or two back even in the relatively sparse posting of the past few years. But, I still attend to this blog and post things. Between here and my Personal InfoCloud blog there is a lot of content brewing to be finished and posted.

Blogging Still Matters

One of the best summaries about blogging was posted this week by Euan Semple, on why blogging still matters is brilliant and nails it. Blogging when done successfully is not about proclaiming brilliance and answers (as those never meet their goals as the world is too large and there are millions of people with more experience and understanding who can and often will point out the flaws). Blogging is about sharing perspective and experience, often not fully formed, but are a part of a collective of humanity in trying to think through things in out in the open. The best business and professional blogs (best meaning they get passed around like mints at the exit gate of a garlic festival) follow this model. They are open and honest. They are full of observation, good thinking through things, explaining perspective, and honest. Honest as in humanity is embraced, in the we are all in this together honesty.

One of the best quotes I stumbled into in recent years, nails the blogging perspective (from the from The Book of Tea):

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.

The humility and finding great things in others and the understanding of the little things that make a difference is key.

Your Blog is Your Own Home

Along these lines I really liked Frank Chimero’s Homesteading 2014 post sentiments of bringing things that were placed elsewhere and posting them on one’s own site. Along these lines my KM World articles, which I have rights to do what I want with I will be posting fully into Personal InfoCloud.

As well, there are some vanderwal.net site wide changes to the CSS I have been wanting put in place for quite some time. The code for the whole of the site was last widely tweaked in the 2001 to 2003 timeframe (a mobile version of the blog was made then along with a mobile blogging interface, which logged the impending entrance of the kid to the world from my HipTop / Sidekick as I walked from parking to the hospital maternity ward). It may be time to up date it a bit more. There is a long list of mods to the blog categories (160 or so) and discovery for the blog, including in site search, that I may tackle. Also considering a full rebuild and redesign using Zurb’s Foundation. Who knows what or when it will happen. I think writing may take some precedence, but I am badly missing building things and the long latent hacker mind is itching to build, hack, and test.

Here is to a Great Blogging Year

Here’s to a great 2014 to all. Maybe it is time to think about blowing the dust off your blog and let things fly again.

[Oh, by the way, this is posted on United States Eastern Time and the blog date and time pick up those from the server, which is in Eastern Australia (I fixed this on the development site and then over wrote the adjustment before moving it to the production side of the house - features)]



February 9, 2011

This Blog Goes All the Way to 2,000

This blog post (yes, the one you are reading) is number 2,000 in this blog. The blog turned 10 years old on December 31, 2010, but other than a quick mention of it on Twitter, I more or less let that pass.

Starting the Blog (Under the Hood)

The vanderwal.net domain name started was initially purchased in 1997 and was used for a general personal website, of which my links page is a early remnant of that (it is a continuation of links page I had on my personal website initially hosted in Compuserve in 1995) and it has moved to all versions of my personal site since then. The blog was started in late 2000 as it was on my to do and try list and I started in with Blogger while waiting for the New Year’s ball to drop on tv. The first post, is now gone (it was likely the very profound “hello world” sort of thing or “FuBar is testing”. I, like many others who were using Blogger, then a product of Pyra, went through the growing pains of Blogger with its outages (all pages from Blogger were sent via FTP to my site) that meant no new updates could be made using that service. Pyra imploded one fine day and was left with just one employee, Ev Williams to run it with bits and pieces of help until it was later bought by Google. But, I only lasted on Blogger for nine months or so as I had been pulling together a travel blogging tool that would allow me to post to my blog and not have to use FTP.

October 2001 I moved to my own hand build blogging tool that also included a redesign. This has all pretty much stayed since then. In October 2004 the commenting was turned off after I woke to 1400 porn SPAM comments and I deleted the SPAM comments and removed the code for commenting. I had intended to bring comments back at some point in the my own tool, but then comment SPAM got worse my thought was to move to add an external commenting service (none have been satisfactory enough to move forward with). I then have been planning to move all of these posts into another blogging tool that had an easier to manage workflow for editing and also had a good commenting system. That has yet to happen and increasingly I am fine without there being any comments here. I miss the days of old when there were great conversations in a blog’s comments, but those days rarely happen any more outside of four or five blogs I can think of. One of the reasons I went with building my own blogging tool was the ability to have multiple categories assigned to each post to make aggregation of like posts much easier. The volume of content here has made that ease of use, much more difficult to pull off and it is one of the things I am back playing with in a dev version of the tool.

Blog Writing Style Changes

When I look back to my first blog posts that were created in Blogger, I see a huge change in the writing style and content from where posts have ended up today. The blog is named “Off the Top” as it was posting of things that were coming off the top of my head and were just a random collection of things (hence the URL naming for where the blog sits). The rough gathering and sharing of ideas shifted in after the first few months to a longer and a little more serious style. My style shifted a little bit when I moved to my own blogging platform, but the biggest shift was when I added headers to posts in March 2002. The style of the posts went from many short (paragraph or so) posts highlighting of things found and shared for others, but also shared for a future me to comeback to. By 2003 the posts were getting longer and there were fewer posts per day.

Delicious, Twitter, and Personal InfoCloud Ate Content

The changes on blog writing style were paired with other services and blogs easing content out of the blogs pages here. The catchall blog I started with included posts of a sentence or two and occasionally a paragraph or so, changed quite a bit over time.

Delicious was the first to really move content out of the blog here. The small snippets pointing to web pages and putting them in context all fell into Delicious (for a short time I built a my own bookmarking tool, but it lacked the social benefit of seeing others interactions around the same pages).

Twitter altered the site by the quick bon mots going straight there. The short snippets not only disappeared, but the frequency of blogging really slowed down. The posts that still showed up here were longer and more detailed.

This shift was somewhat good as it allowed me to really focus on subjects I was working through. One of the longer early pieces was in 2002 and was not posted in the blog as it was very out of character. When I moved to my own blogging platform I not only set it up to have multiple categories / keywords, but to classify posts as blog posts, journal, or essay. This last classification was statements and short pieces, longer more personal pieces, and essays were longer. Over the time, most everything has been classified as a blog post, but fits my initial framing that these would be called essays.

The longer pieces were also trending to a more central theme that I was working around. The mixing of work and much more fun content was getting a lot of feedback from people reading that it should be separated. That more professional writing also seemed likely to benefit from comments, which were not coming back anytime soon here. At this point I used my TypePad account and pointed www.personalinfocloud.com to it. For quite a while I was cross posting, but that slowed down in 2008 or so.

Where Does This Go from Here?

This blog is continuing on. I have a lot of pent up content that fits well here. I really want to get back to posting things about what I am reading and have a means to capture and share other ideas out. The demarkation of what goes here and what goes over to the Personal InfoCloud blog is a little fuzzy. But, I am fairly sure I am not going to add comments back here on this blog. Watching other blogs the number and quality of blog comments have dwindled, drastically. There are few blogs that have great comment threads anymore, but far fewer than benefit from tools like Disqus that aggregate poor comments (most are not comments and not really relevant to the posts) from elsewhere around the web / internet.

Here is to another 2,000 posts! Perhaps (I didn’t plan 2,000 posts when this started and would have called anybody crazy should they have suggested such a little over 10 years ago).



December 31, 2007

Another Blogging Year

Another year is passing as if it were just a brief moment and blink. I am not one for making New Year's resolutions, but I often look back and often look at what needs improving and do my best to make modifications along the way.

Starting Blog Year 8

New Year's Eve is my blogging anniversary as I started on New Year's Eve 2000 on Pyra's Blogger. So in 7 years things have changed on this blog quite a bit. The technology has changed a little, but since 2002 there have been very few modifications (other than turning off comments in October 2004, for what then was intended to be a brief moment, but they are now still closed waiting for the ever coming move to a real blogging tool).

My content style has changed and what I write about has changed as my shorter notes to self (shared publicly) have moved to del.icio.us then Ma.gnolia as social bookmarks and I am now dropping things into my vanderwal on Tumblr. My content is also posted over at Personal InfoCloud, but that content is often syndicated here and then points to there, as the comments are open there.

Content here got longer, which lead to adding headers (h3) between ideas, often each paragraph will have a header so to make the content easy to scan. These days much of the traffic is related to folksonomy, social web, social software, and InfoCloud commentary, review and analysis. Other observations get thrown in as well, but nowhere as often as they used to.

Future Changes

I still hope to move off of my personally built blogging tool (part of an experimentation and testing for a CMS I was writing for work at the time, or was it the other way around). I have other projects ahead of this transformation, like getting the folksonomy book moving more quickly and finishing it (life took some large sideways moves this year, including the holiday acting as health attendant, both parents, and my regular load with my wife's accident). There will be some large posts in the very short future that are the result of unsticking my framework and perceptions around social software and folksonomy that has had me twisting and turning to write and represent ideas (it seems it has impacted many others too, as most everything I read runs into the same wall and leads to criticism that may not be on target).

A Great Year Passes and Another Approaches

I made an incredible amount of new contacts and friends this year with many people with the same and similar passions and interests. This was the result of the web, conferences, workshops, and social software leading to attracting similar mindsets together. I am looking forward to the workshops, presentations, and projects planned so far for 2008 as well as all that fills in the gaps and fills out the year. I am quite excited to get the New Year under way and enjoying the time and work with all interested.

Happy New Year!



June 21, 2007

Hotel Brings Back Blog Sentimality from Summer 2001

This trip to Boston for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference (more on that in a post to follow) turned out to be digitally sentimental. As the cab pulled up in front of the hotel on Tremont Street, I realized I stayed in it July 2001 when it was a Wyndam. That trip was special as I had written a bit of code so I could blog from the road and then pull it back in to may hand built pages when I returned. This was a tiny travel blog tool I had knocked out in a few hours.

At that time I was writing the blog by hand in TextPad and loading via FTP. This was after I started blogging in late 2000 in Blogger, which became one person, Ev, and crashed often. I wanted a means to not have to FTP my blog post up when traveling as I was continually finding hotels blocked FTP.

This simple travel blog tool worked well. When I would return home I would copy the blog posts written in my browser based tool (a few text fields and a location drop down) and then FTP the incorporated bits into this blog. It was in October that I built out that tool into a full blogging tool, which still runs this site today. Nearly six years later I am living with my simple tool that works well for me, well I still want comments back on (a long story and a fix that may take more time than I want to spend).

This travel blog tool was also used to blog on September 11, 2001 that I was in San Francisco and not exactly sure when I was going to get back to the Washington, DC area. It is how a place brought back a flood of captured digital memories all from a tiny tool.



May 2, 2006

Mis-Marketing

I have been needing to turn comments back on here in Off the Top. I get really good, er, make that great responses in e-mail to many of my posts here. There needs to be a conversation, which is what blogs are all about and it is in comments that much of this conversation takes place. But, as we all know having comments on is a large problem. Why is it a problem?

Problems Created by the Clueless

The problem with comments is the mis-marketers. No, not those mass marketing, but people with little clue about finding a good information space and bringing up products and ideas when they are coherent, which would be good marketing. Good marketing can be annoying, but it is not good marketing that has made an utter mess of blog comments. These people have not clue, they think they are on to a good idea that will make them wealthy, but like most get rich ideas they do not work. Not only do they not work in this case they create animosity toward the product and site. They are putting themselves on black-lists and lowering the value of what they are trying to inflate the value of. It is a clueless approach. They think they are marketing and creating value, but are actually doing the opposite. These mis-marketers not only have shot themself in the foot (or worse) they have ruined great tools.

I am curious if there is a convention or summit for mis-marketers? Can we get a little Cluetrain juice for them to sip?

Looking At My Options

The mis-marketers have made a mess of e-mail with SPAM, referrer logs, blog comments, and trackbacks (I know I am missing many other good communication methods). My blog is broken, I know this. I am still running my own blogging software from 2001. No, I do not have the time for upkeep. But, I keep looking at the time to convert my database to a format for MovableType or WordPress and keep the nearly 2000 entries still working for historical purposes. I do not see that time coming any time soon.



January 20, 2006

New Hosting and Peace of Mind

Most of the e-mail coming in is now coming through the new hosting company. I am getting feedback from people that they can see this new site. The change of the domain to the new hosting started resolving correctly in 30 minutes for me, which was very fast.

The choice in hosting came down to two strongly recommended companies, Pair.com and Segment Publishing (SegPub). Both had nothing, but positive recommendations and each had more than four recommendation (Pair actually had over 10 recommendations). Both offered the services I wanted and needed (PHP, Python, secure mail, MySQL, solid up-time records, and Rails (Rails was more of a nice than a need)).

I chose SebPub based on two things that separated it from Pair. One was price, SegPub was a little less and offered a good introduction and trial period. It is an Australian company (servers in the US) and payments are in Australian dollars. Secondly, the first person to recommend SebPub put me in contact with the guy who runs SegPub in a chat. I was able to asks a lot of questions specific to my needs and he was able to easily point me to the needed information or just provide it in the chat. That personal touch was an incredible sell. Just knowing there is that access helped. I had really grown tired of waiting a few hours between responses to trouble tickets and e-mail exchanges and not getting resolution and just getting the ticket closed.

Getting things prepared and moved over took the usual amount of time, but I had far fewer bumps than I thought I would have had. I needed to better optimize MySQL to perform better in MySQL4. I was to the point I needed to make the hosting change and the time disruption was not welcome, but I knew I could focus when the transition was over and done.

So far I have been incredibly happy. I also know that Pair would also be a very good company to go to as well. This option gives me great peace of mind.



January 18, 2006

New Host Test

If you can see this you are viewing vanderwal.net on its new host



January 12, 2006

A Better Day and Brigher Future

Things are a little better on this end today. I was able to delete the Photoshop French version and reinstall a Photoshop demo (I was very surprised I was able to do this and get back to the exact days left on the tryout where is left of yesterday) so I could continue to work. The shipment of the new package will be the fourth attempt to get this right by Adobe (their stock price is what?).

I have received many great suggestions on hosting and am looking at two of them seriously. E-mail has been up all day today as host hosting, which is good.

Along this front I am really getting tired of my own blogging tool. I no longer have time to keep running and the effort it takes to write, check, and post does not work for me any longer. I am doing too many things at once and not paying enough attention to the actual writing, which I really need to. I also blog adding all the mark-up needed (including needed character encodings). I really want to turn on comments again as readership here has grown and I really want to get back to "conversations" (not just monologues plus e-mail). There are things I want to build that I think would help the blogging community, but it is really fruitless to do this for a tool that has an install base of 1.

I have my options narrowed down for me as I will be running two sites from it and be using it as a CMS as well as a blogging tool. The two candidates I am down to are Movable Type and Drupal. I am leaning toward MT mostly because they have a very active support system inside the company and user-base. Drupal has a killer user-base that is very innovative and the tool has many social and community aspects to it that I really like. I will most likely be playing with both. Both have a good track record running more than one site off an install and using shared components for the different sites.

Now it is sorting out, which I can dump my current site into most easily and clean out the mark-up and encoding so to let the blogging tool do it (will make for easier current specification RSS/Atom feeds). I am also wanting to keep the 1770-plus URLs the same (as well as RESTful), which I have not sorted out. Suggestions are welcome.



January 2, 2006

Off the Top Blog Turned Five

I forgot that 31 December 2005 was my 5 year anniversary blogging. A lot has changed on this blog and the whole blogging arena. Many of my short posts along the lines of, "I found this cool thing... " are now in my del.icio.us feed, which for those of you with JavaScript turned on is over on the right as the new incarnation of Quick Links. The same items and more I also post over on Yahoo! MyWeb, but because I can post to just myself or to a community of people I know with similar interests. (I really really hope their community functionality of MyWeb gets fixed soon in 2006 to better filter feeds from the community coming to me and allow something other than, "you can see all of my links and I will see all of your links". Life and real people's interests are not like that and Yahoo! is the people understanding people products on the web for people's lives. So, lets get to it shall we?)

Blogging seems to be more than the relative handful of people I followed in 1999 through 2001. It really exploded following that, partly because there were more options that were easy to use and options that became more stable. In 2000 I had been running this site (under a few different URLs) for five years and when I added Blogger as my tool to add content more easily it was a wonderful change for me. Not long after that Pyra (the company that started Blogger) imploded and we were left with just Ev and when Ev was away Blogger had separation anxiety. Not long after I turned to blogging by hand for a few months. I then put my own blogging tool in place that eased my workflow (Movable Type did not have the features that I wanted for my multiple categories and three entry types (essay, journal, and weblog). I had built my tool as a means to post information while traveling from any web browser when I was doing it by hand and needed FTP to regularly post. I have been running the same blogging tool with modifications since it launched 31 October 2001 (I had a post on my hand built page from October 2001 announcing it.

The look of the site has changed from the bright blue and bright green on black the blog launched with (this had been used for two years or so, and blogging with that use of the color palette was hard on the eyes). I moved to a less hard on the eyes color scheme not long after the blog launched. The current look was put in place 20 November 2002. Other than turning off comments (which I hope to bring back some day) and modifying the right-hand bar I have not made many changes since then. Life has been a bit busy since then.

I am still hoping that I will move this blog to a commercial blogging tool as my time is pulled elsewhere and I do not have the time or energy to tweak the underlying code that creates this blog. I have been quite happy with my use of TypePad since they launched and I keep my more professional blog, Personal InfoCloud over there. My happiness with TypePad and the full company of six apart there to support Movable Type will likely make it my choice. I have some other uses for the Movable Type software, other than this blog that is helping my choice. I am also a fan of WordPress and Drupal (Drupal has the capabilities under it to do what I want and need too and a large developer community). These changes come down to time available, so I could be a while.



November 29, 2005

10 Wonderful Years

Before I forget, as of some point between the 20th and the 30th of November I will have had a personal site on the web for 10 years. All of this started with a few simple pages to say who I am (never very well), post a links page so I could have access to things I have an interest in from any internet access, and play with HTML. Much of the first site was silly with each page having its own look-and-feel (see playing with HTML), but I really wanted to experiment.

The first site was hosted on Compuserve, but with in a year it was moved to Clark.net hosting (that was bought by Verio and went downhill). In 1997 or 1998 I bought this domain name and soon after hosted the site outside (first with ASP and then ColdFusion) in real terms. In 2000 I moved the site to PHP, on the same hosting service, but they did not understand open source server hosting. In very late 2000 I started blogging with Blogger, which in 2001 switch to hand mark-up and then by the end of 2001 I implemented my own blogging tool that still runs the blog (it desperately needs a few hours of attention to get if functioning properly). But, work has largely kept me from making other profound changes to the site since then, there was the redesign to the current presentation in 2002 or so.

These past 10 years have made for a wonderful digital life. If you see me in London or Brighton (given the appropriate venue) lets celebrate this little event of personal expression and personal existence.



November 4, 2005

Press Coverage Page Added

I have added a press coverage page. It is just a quick listing. When I get asked I now I have a place to point, rather than digging out the list.

I will be added a central page for all presentations as well in the near future. This should also make things much easier.



September 5, 2005

Old Dog New Blog Posts

So you are having problems figuring out what is posted here and what is posted at Personal InfoCloud? I am too, well I have habits that seem to be harder to break that I thought. I am going to be moving some content over to Personal InfoCloud (copying is more like it, as it will still reside here). I have a thing for my vanderwal.net posting interface (not pretty, but the text box is large enough for me to think) and I post with markup included, so I know exactly what the result will be.

I am going to make a concerted effort to post social networking, folksonomy, InfoCloud, mobile, personal information management, and other things along those lines over at Personal InfoCloud. What does that heave for vanderwal.net Off the Top? Everything else, I know that does not leave much, but I may include short versions of that is posted at the Personal InfoCloud, particularly since the category gets a good chunk of traffic on its own. I am also thinking strongly about putting the last three posts headings over in the side column.

The other confounding issue is the Quick Links (my del.icio.us bookmarks are displayed here and not on the Personal InfoCloud (some relate to the topics there, but not all of them and the personal ones that do not are really not appropriate there). I am not going to start another feed (although a subfeed could be somewhat appropriate) for there.

I am also working on feeds for each of the categories here, which would confound the bifurcating process I am discussing. This is down the to do list a short way, following turning comments here once again (time limitations are a problem at the moment). There are not only speaking preparation and travel arrangements, but some life subplots (some are divergent, which I really don't like thinking about work being for naught but that is what alternate plans are at times) in the works that are taking time.

So there we are. If you have responses that you think could help, please send them.



August 20, 2005

Minor Changes in Off the Top

Last night I was able to add back the Quick Links (my current bookmarks from del.icio.us. This was due in great part to the folks at del.icio.us who now have a JavaScript that makes the process easy on you and easy on them (I am not sure how accessible this is as I have not tested it, but normally they are not accessible).

I also brought back to the link to just the Off the Top RSS feed, which has nothing but the last 10 entries in archaic RSS .91 format. I still am offering the wonderful Feedburner for Off the Top option, which has Off the Top entries, my del.icio.us entries, and my Flickr photo feed all bundled in one. I have quite a few people reading this in RSS on mobile devices at the moment and I thought I would make it easier for other that are going that route to get just the content of Off the Top.



August 18, 2005

Outage and Back

We were down for a while today, both the site and e-mail. All seems to have come back to life, but some e-mails are taking their time getting to me.

Seems it was a hardware issue with the server, not a Windows machine thank you.



December 23, 2004

Move Went Fine

All has propagated already for e-mail and the site is running well. It did take a little late night tweaking to get the site running properly last night as global variables are off on the new server and I had been loving their goodness on the previous server. There are some more under the hood changes that will take place in the next couple of day, but it should not impact anything that anybody can see.

Comments? They are coming. Most likely in mid-January or February, when I have time. It is not so much implementing the the plan as it is building the affordances. There are a few quiet projects that are finally possible now also, but more on that when it is time.



December 22, 2004

Welcome to Our New Home

Welcome to the new host of vanderwal.net. We are now on TextDrive.



November 16, 2004

That Syncing Feeling Pages Updated

The links to That Syncing Feeling have been corrected as I now have steady connectivity again. I have also posted the PDF version, for whomever finds that helpful.



October 31, 2004

Ninth Anniversary for My Personal Site

At some point nine years ago I began my first personal site. It was November 1995 and CompuServ opened up space for their users to publish their own site. This trek began with creating a page using a text browser and some prefab components from CompuServ. The computer this adventure began with is long gone. But, the remnants of the site remain, mostly in the links page, which became my bookmarks that I could access from anywhere. I never really went back to using browser based bookmarks after this point.

My personal site has changed over the years, from a site that was named the "Growing Place" that housed poetry, links, a snippet about consulting work I was doing, and a homepage. Version 2 was a move off of CompuServ to Clark.net hosting (which became Verio and was never the same after) came with frames and FrontPage buttons (the buttons never worked right after they were edited) and the links page grew and the consulting page moved from active to "under construction". V.2 also had some CGI form pages, mostly for mail and a guestbook that was not linked.

Version 3 (about 1998) was a move to vanderwal.net and had a black background with electric green and electric blue text. V.3 provided more links and had a small page of annotated links that was updated infrequently, and was mostly short notes to myself and was not linked to by anything but referrer logs. V.3 began using ColdFusion and then ASP, as that was what I was playing with at the time. This version was hosted at Interland, which was not a favorite ISP as I was doing bug fixing for them and their poor system administration.

Version 4 (November 2000) was moved to an ISP with PHP. This was just after our wedding and a photo gallery was born. The site stayed in black with blue and green for a short while, until it moved to a blue and orange theme (April 2001) inspired by the trip to the mother country Holland on our honeymoon. The annotated links were still being kept by hand, but were linked to finally. December 2000 I started using Blogger, which made the annotated links easier and provided a spark to post other information.

We are still in Version 4, possibly in version 5 as the graphic design morphed in November 2003 to its current state. This design validated to XHTML and made maintenance much easier. Off the Top weblog was converted to PHP in October 2001 after leaving Blogger and hand maintaining this section for months. The hosting has remained the same and has been steady.

There are many things in the works, but other outside commitments have been putting things on hold. The markup and CSS need to be cleaned up for greater ease. There are some hosting modifications coming, which could trigger some more changes on the back end programming side. There are some design and presentational structure changes that are being played with as there are a few things that really bug me. I really want the comments back online and I have plan for this, but it needs some time to work out the details. There are some changes external to this site that could be coming also, which will make things much easier in the long run. Maybe these revisions will be done by the 10th anniversary.



October 7, 2004

Quick Links are Now Pulled from del.icio.us

We did a little house keeping today. We have been using our del.icio.us link tool as a replacement for the Quick Links. Today the Quick Links are pulled from del.icio.us. We found that as we came across helpful links through out the day del.icio.us made it easy to add links and information. The del.icio.us tool also has made it easy to find similar information.

We extracted the vanderwal del.icio.us links from del.icio.us using their del.icio.us API and formated the information in a very similar manner to what was displayed in the Quick Links previously in the side bar. The del.icio.us Web Service is wonderful to work with and made this task possible.

We are hoping that over the weekend we will put up a page of all the previous Quick Links. We have it in our plans to add all the entries on this site into del.icio.us directly using this site's categories. The del.icio.us flat category structure is similar what we built here in 2001. The categories between this site and what we keep at del.icio.us do not synch so we do not have the categories from del.icio.us stored here. There is always something more to do.

We are also considering moving the quick links out of the side bar and place them in the main content area in a grouping. This will take some thinking. If you have ideas on this front please contact us.



October 3, 2004

Jerks

Comments here are closed for the time being. All past comments are still online, but posting new comments is closed.

Yes, some jerk (far less caustic term than what these people really are, as there are kids around) decided to flood the comments with porn spam and other garbage. We have the IP address of the fool (who most likely had their computer hacked, at least this time it is not a military related IP, which is what many have been in the last three months that have been dumping the porn spam referals).

One thing about writing ones own blog software has been missing out on the flood of this garbage that those using the "off-the-shelf" tools have been dealing with the past year or so. This type of thing is one reason I have not moved this site to an already made blog tool, the other is I have features I have been working for this site that I have not found in other tools and they are things that I want. I know I am not greatly adding back to the community, but my time is horribly sporadic and I fit in work on the site tools when I can.

It looks like I may move to Typekey as a means to stop the comment spam. I may also upgrade the comment area when the comments return, so that HTML is not needed. It will take time, which is one thing I am very short on right now.



September 15, 2004

vanderwal.net RSS Feeds now Optimized and aggregated by FeedBurner

We are now providing a consolidated feed of the main blog RSS feed, our vanderwal del.icio.us feed, and vanderwal Flickr feed in one vanderwal.net Feedburner feed. You ask about the feed of our Quick Links? Currently, it is not included in the Feedburner feed, but we have optimized that active feed with Feedburner also at, vanderwal.net Quick Link FeedBurner feed.

If you like the feeds the way you have been getting them you can still do so. Lately the Quick Link and del.icio.us feeds are being updated more frequently as they take much less time to post to. These are just snippets of things I am interested in coming back to or have found of interest and have not found the time for a full blog entry.

We are considering replacing the Quick Links with our del.icio.us feed at some point in the not too distant future. Tell us what you think.



August 20, 2004

Fixing Permalink to Mean Something

This has been a very busy week and this weekend it continues with the same. But, I took two minutes to see if I could solve a tiny problem bugging me. I get links to the main blog, Off the Top, from outside search engines and aggregators (Technorati, etc.) that are referencing content in specific entries, but not all of those entries live on the ever-changing blog home page. All of the entries had the same link to their permanant location. The dumb thing was every link to their permanant home was named the same damn thing, "permalink". Google and other search engines use the information in the link name to give value to the page being linked to. Did I help the cause? No.

So now every permanent link states "permalink for: incert entry title". I am hoping this will help solve the problem. I will modify the other pages most likely next week sometime (it is only a two minute fix) as I am toast.



July 2, 2004

Highlighting Text in IE 6 Now Available Here

Thanks to a heads up from Nick, we have modified our site so that it will allow highlighting text so it can be copied and pasted. All browsers allowed this highlighting functionality, except for IE 6 on Windows, which had a bug that blocked proper functionality.

It took a little bit of digging to sort out the problem. The problem was a result of using absolute positioning in the CSS. Once we changed the positioning from absolute to static everything was fine. Fortunately, we did not need to be using absolute for layout as this was the wrapper for the main content under the menu. This is a foolish bug to have in a browser and to have go unfixed (although minor compared to the severe security holes that are pervasive in the same browser).

Now our content here can be highlighted in all modern browsers to ease reading or copy and pasting. This important so that we may help others grab information for their Personal InfoCloud and reuse the information to help purposes.



July 1, 2004

Tweaking the Botox Pixels

We have made some minor tweaks to the presentation of the site. The menu bar has had the underlining removed on hover. Each of the items in the menu now has borders that change with hover and selection to create a little cleaner look.

The date bar in the weblog has been padded and has a slight border to off set it from the page and make the date more readable, the date has bugged me for a long time.

The permalink (comments) page now has a title of the entry. The entry titles have been added to the monthly archive pages also.

Lastly, the link to the Quick Link RSS feed has been added next to the Quick link title. This should make it easier to follow those links, should you wish. The Quick Links get updated far more regularly of late and there are some good gems that get nestled in there.



March 28, 2004

Quick Link RSS Feed

We have added a Quick Link RSS Feed for this site. It is also available from the vanderwal.net XML page. Yes, the plethora of links there today are related to testing, well at least some of them.



February 11, 2004

Blogspot Blocked

The past few weeks the porn referrer span has gotten completely out of hand. I do not care about Janet's, Britteny's, Paris', etc anatomy nor some island. This past week I set up a referrer block list with about 20 items. By Tuesday it was up to 45 items. Each day the junk referrers was growing by 5 with modifications of the site URLs. Well everything but one chunk of information changed, which is blogspot. It seems it is so bloody easy to throw some horrible site up that only aims at providing a means to collect ad money, microcent by microcent.

Since blogspot does not host anything of value I have read in so long and I do not know any soul that has a blogspot site they are all blocked. That is right all blogspot sites are blocked if vanderwal.net sees a blogspot site as a referrer.



January 25, 2004

New Content Area at Off the Top

There have been a few additions to Off the Top this weekend. The most noticeable is the Quick Links in the side bar. The Quick Links are just links to check out and will be posted when I either have nothing to say about them or I do not have time to post much else. The links have categories associated with them and may be pulled into a global category page at some point in the not too distant future. I have built the whole of my admin tools so that they are quite usable from a mobile device.

The other addition is just one for me, a comment tracking tool. This may get further expanded into a tool you can see and use, but for now I just needed a way to aggregate all the comments into one interface.

There are a couple other large modifications coming in the near future. I have set and tweaked the databases, now it is just getting the time to code and test.

There are times when I think I am going to move the site to Movable Type or some other tool, but I have fun building and tweaking my own tool. I get to see the tools built and integrated how I can best use them. I do have a few side endeavors that use TypePad as they are somewhat separate from the things done here and the limitations (although few) still bug me.



December 18, 2003

Headers for everybody

I am trying out visual enhancements on the Off the Top weblog display. I have added the header titles for each of the entries, which I have wanted to do for a long time. This should make the page easier to scan for information.

I have used the dark blue color for the type and given it shading in the CSS to offset the header from the date. Once the headers were added the dates were lost on the page, so I have given the pale orange background color to break up the page a little more. The pale orange background also seems to help the reader scan the page more easily.

Depending on feedback I may keep this and add it to the other multiple entry pages in Off the Top.



August 18, 2003

Site clean-up and other bits

Yes, we have done a little house keeping here by updating the links, fixing some of the "Previous Month" links in this section, fixing more non-standards snippets that have remained a bee in my bonnet (more still remain), and creating more continuity in the presentation layer. It is a continual update of design and development of the application that runs the site, but that is what makes it fun. I have been planning some of these fixes for months, but other things cropped up. I am trying to get many of these things done, as well as a long list of other items, before the baby arrives.

Yesterday's diversion was baby CPR class and baby safety, a power outage, trying to track down the contractor who was supposed to have been at the house all day finishing fixing the gutters, roof, and putting storm windows back on (along with a long list of other half done tasks).

Today I woke to a dead car battery and a dead PC. The car had a light that had been left on. The PC seems to have had the power supply die. Joy has been working on some stationary for the kid and printing cards for a small gathering at her sister's and needed to finish printing out the final cards today. I have only been using the PC for playing some older games and syching my Palm to applications that I have not ported or others have not ported to Mac as of yet. I got the car jump started by myself and ran the PC to the shop, it may become a Linux box in the near future, if Joy gets a new PC for work. I am also considering the G5 for a desktop in the Fall or Winter.



July 28, 2003

Mobile edition added

We have added a mobile edition of Off the Top capturing the last 10 entries. This should work well on nearly all mobile devices, including PDAs. The entries are provided in plain XHTML and do not have categories nor comments.

Let us know how this works for you.



June 7, 2003

Photo galleries from September 2001

September 2001 was wonderful and a little hectic, to say the least. Hence, I have just posted three new galleries of photos from my trip to San Francisco in September 2001. Posted are People, Places & Things, Flowers, and Architecture. These are some of the 450 pictures taken on that trip. The galleries will get a little more tweaking to improve browsing structures, but they are there to enjoy.

This process of posting was eased as I finally turned on the Windows file sharing in Mac OS X, which even works with XP Home. I can now view the directories on my TiBook from the PC. This allowed me the ability to pull files to the PC and build Adobe Photo Shop Web photo galleries from them. I have build the photo libraries on the Mac using iPhoto, but the PS galleries are one of my favorites for layout (not for accessability nor standards compliant). This solution will work until I move Photo Shop to the Mac with version 8.



June 3, 2003

Reposted honeymoon photos

Our Honeymoon photos are back posted again. The coverage stops in Brugge and does not include Paris or Giverney. It will someday when we get a scanner again.



May 26, 2003

Site housecleaning and rebuilt essay section for MoA info

There have been some more modifications here at vanderwal.net. Many of the pages now have links to the Essays section. The Essays page has finally been brought into the new look and layout. The page also integrates the Model of Attraction section more closely.

Over the past few months the MoA has grown through word of mouth and remembering the URL for its mainpage has been problematic. Much of the traffic that has been coming into MoA has been going to the first draft, which is good, but it is also just the first draft. The newest information on the MoA, there is more coming, will be placed at the top of the list.

The Creative Commons license has been added to more pages, including the MoA. Finally the links page has been updated to add some of my regular reads, remove dead links or stale content, and update links to where helpful resources have moved.

There are some more modifications on the way in the near future, some you will be able to see and others will be admin tools or just seemless updates.



May 21, 2003

CMS goes over 1,001

This is post 1,001 in my homebuilt weblog CMS. Yes there have been other odometer parties on this site, but turning over 1,000 was one that really has pleased me. My tool is missing some elements that others now have, but I still have fun tinkering with mine and extending it. There are some plans for the summer to add functionality by embracing the categories and using them in conjuction with the links page as well as tying the links and entries together, sort of like a Web strawberry banana shake. I have a book review repository planned too, but it has not moved out of the ERD phase yet (uh, yes I plan, chart, and document my apps and changes for the site, it eases making changes in the future -- I just need to get all the docs on one machine and in one directory).

Lift you glass to 1,001 entries and no digi-barfing



May 14, 2003

E-mail outage again

E-mail was barfy again yesterday here at vanderwal.net. It seems mail was down for 5 or 6 hours. Everything seems to be back to normal again.



May 7, 2003

We are back

We have been down for the past 36 hours or so, due to a hardware crash and recovery. Most everything is back, but recent e-mail. Please resend anything sent since Monday evening. E-mail seemed to be the first thing to go. One nice thing about a full entry in the RSS feed is being able to save the RSS feed and restoring the last two entries that did not make it onto the backup tape.

I did not realize how dependant I am on my links page until it is gone. Much of what I read at home is out of RSS feeds, but at work, many of the links I use and share as resources are on that page. The links page has been my bookmarks for well over seven years now as it began at some point in early 1996.



February 2, 2003

Tweaking the presentation layer for links

We are still doing some tweaking related to the recent redesign. This latest change includes the underlining of links. The style sheet now treats the distinct content area separately. The links page does not have any underlining on the links as the page is all links and the underlining tends to interfere with the user's scanning of the links and therefore the lack of underlining eases this pages use. The hover is identical for all the links through out the site, the hover provides an orange hue to tie the colors of the site together. The right content frame does not have any links either as the combination of the light orange background and the blue link has a little reading difficulty, but with the underlining there was strong reading hinderance. The links through the rest of the site are all underlined to ease the user's ability to discern that the links can be clicked. The links under the Off the Top remain grey with underlining with orange hover.

Let me know how these work for you.



February 1, 2003

Posting from Hiptop

This is a test post from my Hiptop. This post was done from my regular management page.



January 5, 2003

Creative Commons license added

I have finally added a Creative Commons license that applies to all content on this site. The bottom of most of the pages contains a link to the license that states how the information on this site may be used.



Blog odometer moves to 1,000 posts

Well my friends this is entry 1,000. The counting of each entry began June 1, 2001 when I moved off Blogger and began completely handcoding again.

In May of 2001 I put together my TravelBlog tool that allowed by to post from any Internet connected Web browser again. This step was only used while I was on the road or I did not have ability to FTP new content. In September 2001 I moved my hosting of vanderwal.net to PHP Web Hosting, which I had been using with great happiness for other projects for over a year. In October I began using the hand built CMS that I am still using and developing. This gave me the ability to set multiple categories for each post, which no other tool allowed at that time, and to set location and entry type.

I keep making updates to my own tool and it has served me well. There as some changes to the administration tools that I really want to make and a couple changes to the tools that will allow all of the pages generated out of the CMS to produce valid XHTML. I am also wanting to build a mobile admin tool that I can use from my cell phone, which would give me the ability to post information to myself from anywhere.

Each of you are basically voyeurs. This has been my place to post my thoughts and annotated links so that I can get back to them later. These offerings are open to all as they may spark and interest or help others resolve problems. Finding information that is helpful or entertaining is a blessing of the Internet and having a resouce like a weblog (the term makes me cringe - I do not know why) is a benificial method to share information. I learned most everything I know from others sharing openly or getting new ideas based on reading what others openly shared.

There is one posting that has out drawn all other posts. The why I bought my last Windows-based computer and why I love Mac OS X has received a few thousand readers (2,000 read it in the first three days it was posted). It seems there are many others that felt the same pain and dropped in to read it. More than half a year after it was written it still gets about 50 visitors a week.

I love having this tool at my use and enjoy the friends it has brought closer and people it has introduced to me. Thanks for reading and drop a note to just say hello.



November 29, 2002

Title to the top

One of the modifications here at vanderwal.net was making better use of the title in the HTML header. This is something that I preach at work, the title should describe the information as it is used by search engines. Google uses it in their algorithms and in their hyperlink to the information. I took the category in my homebuilt CMS and placed the category name in the title and put the same title in the H1 header tag at the top of these pages. After the first Googlebot scrape of this site the incoming Google clicks quadrupled in 24 hours and have stayed rather constant.

I knew something like this would happen, but not to this extent. I guess there are so many poorly formed Web pages out there that a properly formed page sticks out (tounge partially in cheek). The categories are set based on my personal taxonomy and each entry can be cross classified as there is often cross-cutting issues in a post. The things people are seeking and ending up on these pages is extremely broad, much like the topics covered here. Some of the Google queries end up at Off the Top as it is near the top in the search results, but not nearly as on target as others that are farter down the list that have not structured their information properly.



November 23, 2002

Get your RSS feed

Yes, I finally got up to speed with the rest of the world and added an RSS feed and have added a new page that will track available vanderwal.net XML documents and RSS feeds. I may make a couple category specific RSS feeds as there is interest. Use the (now working again) comments or the contact to let me know what you would like.

I have only put out the first RSS feed in 0.91 at the moment. I may upgrade it in the near future as I now have it relatively easy to build from my end. I have been getting a decent amount of pestering and bother from folks asking for the feed. You see I still build my own CMS for the site and it takes time and priority to get around to some of these things.

Why not move to Movable Type or Drupal (the only two I would currently consider)? I enjoy building my own system, but it does require that I build my own APIs or even my own applications to mirror functionality. I like building CMS and this one is one of six that I have designed and/or fully built since 1997. It is like a hobby for me as well as a job.



November 21, 2002

Getting better

Comments are now working here and the CSS issues hopefully are resolved (fingers crossed). Now back to the regularly scheduled programs.


November 20, 2002

Redesign explained

You most likely have noticed. There has been a redesign here. This new site is nearly all XHTML and using CSS box model. Going through this process introduces one to all the bug that browsers have that you need to work around. I found that IE 5.5 and up on the PC is horribly buggy and does not follow standard box model too well. Netscape 7 on the PC is the best browser. On Mac OS X the best browser has been Navigator/Chimera and IE 5.2 (through this Chimera became my favorite browser on most any platform).

You dare ask why the redesign? Well it was well past time. The last design had been around for a year or so and the CSS was giving me fits. I really wanted cleaner markup and I wanted to have a font size that scales. I believe that the font scales on all web standards compliant browsers and platforms. It should even scale on the PC's IE 5.5 and 6 browser (this has had broken functionality since day one, if you need a browser to scale font sizes properly get a real browser, one that is Mozilla based will do just fine). I am trying to remove the thin white line under the logo graphic and above the menu bar, it is showing up in IE on the PC and on versions of Mozilla on the Mac (Please contact if you have a solution).

I also wanted a better layout that would permit a cleaner layout. I moved the global navigation to the top bar and it uses and unordered list and CSS to put it in line and give it the roll-over (I stole part of the code from Scott and tweaked it). I also moved the local navigation to the left, which has been a joy as it is near the scroll bar and has made life a little easier. The right navigation may also be a place for other goodies. The right navigation has also helped me on the links page as there are a ton of links and I wanted a sub-navigations (yes, the links page is going to be getting an over haul in the near future with some needed integration with other elements in the site). The redesign also give the opportunity to introduce some small photos or images on the pages and not have other colors overwhelm them.

The box model drove me crazy, but I created some cheats I hope to share in the near future, once I get some minor tweaks around here done. The redesign was done solely on the TiBook and using a combination of the Macromedia MX Studio (Dreamweaver MX is a decent text editor, but I could not find a way to have it show a passable rendering of the pages in its own browser) and BBEdit. I started the process with outlines in Omni Outliner (a tool that rocks and is unparralled) as well as Omni Graffle to put together some wireframes to help me sort out the layout and functionality. This set of tools has been one of the best combinations I have used, I wish I could use this combo at work. I really am missing Adobe Photoshop, which may become my next software purchase, as it is a great tool that saves time.

Please, please write wit questions or bugs found. Thank you. I did this for me, but I hope you enjoy it.



November 2, 2002

What CSS

I think I am using "Crack Smokin' Styles" (CSS) as I have not touched the CSS is a couple days and I have seen four different font sizes today. There is no consistancy from browser to browser on the Mac, nor on the PC. It is very strange I am using the same styles for all the pages, but it varies from page to page. Time to dig in, maybe.


November 1, 2002

Happy anniversary OtT Tool

Yesterday, October 31st was the one year anniversary of this weblog's home rolled CMS (Content management system). In the past year I have posted 722 entries, set 142 keywords to classify and cross-classify these posts, had 122 comments posted, and had 2,055 category entries in the database to help find related information posted.

This was a wonderful step as the tool did exactly what I wanted it to do. Mostly stay functional and usable from where ever I am. I had started rolling it about six months before it went live and used it as my "travelblog". I had been hand coding every entry for six months to a year, which was getting to be a drag. To post hand coded posts I needed FTP capability, which was not available everywhere. I could find a web browser much more easily. This was functionality I found I had with Blogger, which I started playing with out of curiosity with the interface and desktop application like functionality.

I have been asked why I do not use one of the other all ready rolled tools. I like what I built and it works for me. I can also add functionality to it that I want to play with. Some of the lack of functionality is my own lack of time or motivation on with this tool, but it because of me. I also like the quick responsiveness when posting comments and the general posts themselves.

Here is to another year and more, with time to add everything I want to add.



Happy first

Woops, it is the first of the month and I don't have my updated CMS tool running that better handles the first of the month "issues". It also looks like the CSS did not take on lower level pages from the update of last week. Hmmm.... Hopefully being All Saints Day will help the Angels of HTML look kindly upon me.


October 28, 2002

RSS in the near future

The RSS feed is in the works here and should be ready by the anniversary of the tool, which is October 31st. There have been many upgrades to the application that runs this site in the past year, but one that I really wanted was RSS. I have it running on my laptop and it needs only one tweak and then to get dropped into my main posting page. Did I mention I am loving having my a my development tools and full webserver with all the application elements running on my TiBook laptop again?


October 23, 2002

Tweaking begins again

I have been tweeking the code in the weblog and modifying the CSS too. I have the whole of my CMS running on my Mac, which gives me the ability to tweek and update the code. Having Jaguar behind the scenes made adding the MySQL component much easier than in previous builds. In the past it was similar to a Linux or Solaris compile and build. The Mac build was much easier and worked seemlessly with PHP and Apache. The downside was the Data Load element is not available so I used cat to import just the each table's data.

The CSS I started tweaking tonight as the pages were rendering very small on Mac IE 5.2 and oddly in Mozilla 1.1. Last night's updates to the weblog code have it a little closer to validating 4.01 transitional, and fixed a few font oddities of class clashing. I am using a body with 12 points and using percentages in to size the elements in the pages. This is giving me an adjustable font size in IE on Mac, which I will test tomorrow at work on a PC

One of the next steps on the tool side is building a RSS feed and making a few needed changes to the administration tools to ease editing submitted entries.



September 27, 2002

Temporary Leave

Things will be very very quiet around here over the next few days to 10 days. We move in the morning and will have very little connectivity for a week or so. Not even a phone line until Monday evening. Enjoy your selves and take in some items I find of interest over on the vanderwal net links. I have added a few new ones recently. Of most interest of the new links have been Pixelcharmer and Mike Lee's "Visual Lee". When we get settled all of you will have to come by and just say hi. See you soon.


September 23, 2002

Correcting a downfall

The vanderwal.net Homepage has been brought back to life. Thanks to those that noted this problem and reported it. There are actually two homepages with different names. One is just a copy of the other. I know it is not the best way of doing this, but there were many links to a hosted site that used the Microsoft default.htm as its poor option, while the rest of my hosts have used index.html (which is the the most common way). I was playing with Dreamweaver MX the other night while eating dinner. I did not check to see that the files were being save for Linux/Unix and found really goofy oddities in the markup. I have lived in a hand-coding world with only minor GUI help for years and having the default server code defaults set was a step I had set in MX, I guessed wrong. A little regex and the "cp" command and all was right in the world. I guess it is time to make all local links only point to index.html.


September 3, 2002

Down in the bits

Thanks to all who e-mailed yesterday and called to say the site was having problems (barfing MySQL connection errors). The site hosts corrected the problem relatively quickly and we are back in business again. This did get me thinking that maybe the front page of "Off the Top" should be baked (static and not dynamically generated with each hit, which is fried). This would require an XML processing for the page to keep the number of comments (those things you are not using) accurate below each link. This would be some recoding on my part and that will be a little bit off in the furture as my development time and non-work brain time is allocated elsewhere for the next short little bit.


August 15, 2002

Find friends at IWeb Graphics

Some new additions to the link page including Web Graphics, which I found a few folks I know are posting their finds.


June 2, 2002

Monthly update

The beginning of a new month usually means a few changes here at vanderwal.net. Each month I tweak the site slightly. One of the elements that you will notice is opening a new full window from the comments links. This helps me and I hope it helps you. I will be providing more options to you so you can make the choice what you want to do, but not this month.

Things may be a little quiet here for a few days or more due to the need to get some things done. If I am posting normally or more than normally I must be ahead of scedule.



May 27, 2002

Prepare for turbulance

Things may be a little bumpy around here at vanderwal.net for a few days.


May 9, 2002

Updates at vandwal.net

The about page has been updated with new employment information. Finally! Links has been updated with the addition of First Mondays. The 404 page was finally updated (no more change this page garbage.


April 4, 2002

So you want to build your own weblog tool like the one here? Start with PHP and MySQL with a little Apache and a sprinkling of arrays and script code. Yes, this is basically what is under this puppy.


April 1, 2002

A few minor changes here at vanderwal.net. The comments link has been put on all dynamic pages of the Off the Top section. The only page that had the comment option was the main page (/random/index.php).

The CSS has also been modified to unbold and underline for the underblog links to categories, perma link, and the comments. I have found many users come straight into the categories with out a referring page (meaning they have it book marked). Google dumps users directly into categories, but that is understandable, based on their algorythyms. I had also been hearing from some users that they did not know they could click on the categories. Sorry about the confusion. You can go directly to view the categories used here.



March 24, 2002

Comments ahoy

Ah, the comments are running is a decent manner. I do not have a preview running yet, but that will be coming. Some other backend elements will be on their way too, but that is behind the scene stuff. Test if you want. The comments open the way for the next step, which should be posted in an hour or two. Then it is getting tax info together.


March 21, 2002

I have very intrigued with understanding where metaphors break. At some point they all break, but a metaphor that lasts would be nice. We may get to play with one in the near future. I would like you to play with it, but to make it useful for all of us, it would be good to have comments to share thoughts. The comments are coming and may be posted in a not a perfectly usable state as getting the info out and commenting running is my goal.


Comments in common

Too funny!!! I have been developing the comment tool for this site in a very special place that is not in a very public place. Some folks have found it. I have been posting test comments, all very truthful, and some folks have found them and commented. ;) I suppose I will not clear the database before turning the app live.


March 20, 2002

Comment tease

Yes, the ability to comment coming. The reason the comments are coming finally will be posted on Saturday or Sunday. I am working on coding and three articles at the moment.


March 18, 2002

Minor site updates

This evening the left navigation bars have changed. They have moved to left aligned and to a fixed font size (I am not a great fan of fixed font size, but there are a few exeptions to that rule here). The home page was modified (more change is coming to the homepage). I have also modified the orange color in the H2 headers so that there is greater contrast with the navy background. Also in the works is a comment system, which should debut in the next day or so. I am getting closer with the comments. Had I not got a flat on my way home this evening I think I would have knocked them out completely.


March 12, 2002

I think is it finally time to put together an edit entry tool for this tool. I have been using the MyPHPAdmin provided by my site host to go in and edit the entries when there are errors or updates needed. This has not been a great method when I lacking on sleep, as I have been here in Austin.

There are most likely going to be some small to moderate changes to this site in a few weeks. I have started working with modifying the left navigation bar to add more local and global elements (area of the site specific or applies to the whole site). The front page is also in dire need of re-contenting and possibly a small redesign. There is a CSS problem with font sizes here in Off the Top that I really want to address also. I may implement the comment system here soon, which has been running in test mode quite well. There will be a central photo page added in the very near future. A book list page for developers will also be added soon. The largest change will be to the links page, in that it will be changed from a hand built page to a content management system generated page.



I think is it finally time to put together an edit entry tool for this tool. I have been using the MyPHPAdmin provided by my site host to go in and edit the entries when there are errors or updates needed. This has not been a great method when I lacking on sleep, as I have been here in Austin.

There are most likely going to be some small to moderate changes to this site in a few weeks. I have started working with modifying the left navigation bar to add more local and global elements (area of the site specific or applies to the whole site). The front page is also in dire need of re-contenting and possibly a small redesign. There is a CSS problem with font sizes here in Off the Top that I really want to address also. I may implement the comment system here soon, which has been running in test mode quite well. There will be a central photo page added in the very near future. A book list page for developers will also be added soon. The largest change will be to the links page, in that it will be changed from a hand built page to a content management system generated page.



February 20, 2002

The solution to the = in the link is to use  in its place. This may require a solid tweak to my home-rolled weblog application so to sniff, parse, and replace the symbol prior to inserting into the database.


February 11, 2002

I have added two pages to help provide a guide for metadata usage. One page sorts categories by number of times the metadata definition has been used. The other page is an alphabetical listing of categories with their count. These two page builds took very little time to knock together (half an hour or so) and the value to me is much greater than that half hour used.


January 6, 2002

Things are going to get a little Apple-centric here for a little bit. I should have my non-human object of lust in the next week or so. This means gathering information about Web resources that are available and finding software and script repositories that will help move the transition/inclusion of another OS environment into the home office environment. If you have good Apple resources (books or sites) drop me an e-mail. I am going to be rebuilding my link pages here to include more Apple/OS X resources.


Moving to XHTML and general updates

There are some changes around here. The links page has been updated with some new links, updated links, and a few removed (ones that I was not visiting for various reasons or had gone dead).

The links and about pages are both converted to XHTML and are validating, for the most part, to XHTML Transitional. The next step will be to get this section, Off the Top, to validate. This will be a little more effort as it will require making some edits to the templates and internal code validation. Not a monsterous task, but a task none-the-less. A large part of the conversion in this section is creating compliant output from non-standard input. Much of this section does not use starting paragraph tags (<p>), which will take some work to ammend.

This means that this site is finally moving toward being standards compliant. This means that it will be easier to display information across browsers (standards compliant browsers, which most are becoming), ease of maintenance, and information reuse.



January 2, 2002

I am working on a rebuild of my links page. The new and improved would provide better classifying of the links, seeing all links or just subsets, having the ability to turn on descriptions, and adding categories (hmmm like Apple or Mac).


January 1, 2002

There is nothing like starting the New Year coding a time rollover code to pull the current information out of your weblog. This means I now have fully functioning code for month and year change overs in my personally built weblog tool. This also means I still love PHP more than any other scritping/Web coding language.

It is getting to be time to pull the code out of the PHP templates and make it more modular/object based. The site is built on a handful of templates that reuse about 75% of the same code to build the pages. From this stage it is time to pull out classes and functions and have each page point to the proper elements. This enables me (or who everelse is getting this code) to be able to make modifications in one place rather than many.

Why modular/object-based? This is how the world works. This is how things are done efficiently. This is the non-foolish way of building applications. (Looks like I am starting this year on a testy note).



December 1, 2001

December has brought some new changes to v/d Wal Net. The Off the Top section now has view "previous month" links at the bottom of the main page and the essay, journal, and weblog pages. The Archive page provides new options. I have tested most of it, but there may be "features" still lurking. Let me know how these changes work for you.


The Off the Top main page will get a little bit of behind the scenes work this weekend. I may only provide 10 days at one time on this page then point back to the archives. This will keep the first day or two of the month from being empty, or rather empty on this page. This modification will also speed up the page build through out the month. There may also be some modifications on other pages in the Off the Top section.


November 12, 2001

On the vanderwal.net blog tool update plans are adding an RSS output and an AvantGo readable output. Also in the works is adding a calendar and efficiency tuning the page builds for the main blog which is a catch-all page. I need to start testing the monthly change over and ensure that it works. I would really like to add functionality to easily go back to the next set of older posts.


November 9, 2001

Posts may be sporadic of the next few days as my main computer gets an upgrade of OS. Going away is the piece of garbage MS ME. Having the system run out of resources with two browsers, e-mail and textpad open with 384MB of RAM and 64MB of SDRAM on the graphic card is beyond pathetic. I will be staying in the Microsoft family for the time being, but I am saving to switch to a more capable OS in the hopefully near future.


November 1, 2001

I still have a backlog of entries to post in the Weblog section. I have ironed out a few bugs here, which are making this even easier to use. I do need to make the admin tool that builds this a little more appealing, but for now it is only me. There are now just about 100 categories entered for me to choose from to classify the information. The trouble is I keep finding other interests that are not covered by what I have added. In a couple months I will review and see what I have not used and weed those out.


Welcome to the New View

Welcome to November 2001. This is the new look for Vander Wal Net's "Off the Top" section. This section has been updated by adding categories and entry areas (essays, journal, and weblog), which are hyperlinked to similar content. The location where the entry was made is also captured. The permanent link now states just that, so there is no confusion. The fonts are now variable, so that you the user can vary the size in your browser. In time you will have the ability to comment on this site's entries (this will be reviewed by the management of the site for general civility).

Essentially this portion of the site is easier for me to manage again. I have a rather straight forward tool for entering the information. The management tools are being added as you read this to add further ease of maintenance.

Please enjoy.



October 31, 2001

Welcome to the new look Off the Top. The weblog/journal has been redesigned and is now using a dynamic tool built using PHP and MySQL. Enjoy, I know I hopefully will.

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