11 February 2010

Blogger FTP Publishing Degradation Fallout, Part 1: .htsuccess!

Caution: the following post contains extreme nerdery and ineptitude, and may not be appropriate for readers who are 1) not nerds, or 2) nerds who know WTF they're doing editing a .htaccess file.

With Blogger's recent announcement that they're no longer going to allow FTP publishing* after March 26th, I've been busy making decisions about the many blogs I own and neglect.  I am not a web guru, but everything I do blog-wise (including this blog) I do with Blogger's soon-to-be-defunct FTP publishing, so this is something I'm going to be dealing with for the next few weeks.

1.
The first site I wanted to tackle is JamesPAldworth.com, which is just a tiny site I set up for my mom to help her sell my grandfather's paintings.  It's rarely updated because he's not painting anymore, but it will be updated from time to time as we decide to put more of his many paintings online.  It's also the site I manage that I did the least with design-wise, so it was a good candidate for some experimentation with Blogger's custom domain hosting (nuking my template and starting over wasn't too great a loss).  I've always wanted to try out all the Blogger widgets FTP publishers haven't had use of anyway.

Making the switch over was pretty easy.  Google gave me plenty of help navigating GoDaddy's Byzantine menus to point to the Blogger servers, and since my link structure didn't change at all, the only thing left to do was re-upload a few images (only a minor nuisance since there are so few posts there).  I understand that I could've avoided that by setting up a missing files server, but honestly after thinking about it I became excited not to have to pay for hosting anymore at all for that site.  So, I re-uploaded the files.

It took me about an hour, and I'm happy I did it.  The labels widget makes the site better (or it will, if the site ever grows to a size where simply scrolling doesn't show you the whole thing), as does the ability to create static pages without date stamps.  I've got more work to do to make the page look more appealing, but I always had that.  Overall, a positive experience, and in the long run, a net gain.

2.
The TestTakers Blue Book Blog (which I manage for work) is a slightly more complicated story, and the reason I decided to write this post.  It's still light on content as it's fairly new, and it's not updated (or viewed) very often yet, so it was really the perfect candidate for some experimentation.  Thing is, it used to live at ttprep.com/bbb.  If you're familiar with Blogger's custom domains, you know blogs that don't live in the root directory are a no-no, so if I was going to keep this a Blogger blog and use custom domains (and not lose the branding of our ttprep.com url), I was going to have to set up a CNAME.

So, bbb.ttprep.com was born.  The initial setup of that was no problem at all, after having gone through a similar process with the last blog, since I still have hosting for the 'www.ttprep.com' CNAME, (and old blog pages that will never be updated still live there), my work had only just begun.

First, I wanted to make all the old pages redirect to their new homes on Blogger's hosting, but since none of my old images transferred over to that hosting, I didn't want any image references to be changed (all the images still reside in 'ttprep.com/bbb/uploaded_images/').  I did a bunch of Googling for help with .htaccess files to redirect .html files and leave everything else alone after being inspired by this Blogger Buzz post, but I didn't find anything prepackaged that did exactly what I wanted, so I basically fudged and fudged until I got it working with some help from this guy's .htaccess tutorials.  The line that worked for me (...sorta) was:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/$1.html
That took care of the old individual post pages, but I was still having 2 other problems:

1) Annoyingly, 'ttprep.com/bbb' and 'ttprep.com/bbb/' were redirecting to 'bbb.ttprep.com/default.html', which is not the homepage of the blog, and so was throwing a 404.  I got around that with these 2 lines (which might not both be necessary, but whothehellknows?):
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
2) Much to my chagrin, links for label pages completely changed.  My old labels (which were the pages I found most when searching for my own blog, and thus, a source for much of the traffic the blog had been getting) were at 'ttprep.com/bbb/labels/algebra.html' (for example). Label pages on my new, Blogger-hosted blog ended up at 'bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/algebra' instead. So, the directory changed, and the file extension went away. That's a problem I hadn't seen coming, and a bit of a pain in the ass since I'm going to use labels pretty heavily as the site grows to keep things organized. One more line in the .htaccess file fixed that for me:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/$1
For the curious, here's what my whole .htaccess file looks like now:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/$1
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/$1.html
I'm well aware that it may not be elegant, since I basically threw it together at 2 AM and I've never messed around with Apache before, but it seems to be doing the trick although I'm sure it could have been done much more efficiently.

Bottom line: I wish I'd waited for Blogger's soon-to-arrive migration tool for this one.  Migrating by myself was just a little more complex than I thought it would be, and it took a few hours that I would have rather spent playing Mario Kart.

I still have some big decisions to make about this blog, and my rarely-updated music blog at wealsoran.com.  Both use some rudimentary PHP includes, and both took a lot of time and energy for me to build as a completely know-nothing web programmer.  This one, obviously, is more than just a blog.  Staying with Blogger might not be an option on either site, but I don't love the idea of migrating to any other blogging software much better.  WordPress is the obvious choice, except I'm a genius and bought Windows hosting for this site which I'm now finding won't even allow me to install it.  I'm open to suggestions/help, if anyone's paying attention.

* Pete Hopkins from the Blogger team (and from WBRU, represent!) wrote a great behind-the-scenes post about why they're saying goodbye to FTP publishing, which I've read about 7 times in the past week or so.  Check it out if you're curious.

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26 January 2010

To blog, or not to blog?

I started thinking about this a few days ago, when I was messing around with the CSS of this site to make my Google Reader shares display nicely.  Well, I started thinking about it again, I guess.  I've thought about this many times.  Why don't I write on this site anymore?  This used to be such an important thing in my life, and now I have to force myself to even think about it most of the time.

One of the main reasons I don't write much anymore is that I'm afraid of what people who read it will think.  Not the random strangers, obviously, but the people who know me and read this, only some of whom I know about.  So it's become the most boring kind of blog...the kind that's updated infrequently with pictures from vacations, or sanitized updates about my personal life, scrubbed of names and salacious details.  And the knowledge that it's become so banal only paralyzes me further.  It's increasingly uninteresting because it's increasingly uninteresting.

That's not what I wanted this to be when I made it.  Well, I guess originally I just made this site so that I'd have a place to pretend I had a band and put the music that resulted from that fantasy.  But it evolved pretty immediately into a place that I regularly recorded actual thoughts.  It inspired me to learn some basic web programming.  Hell, it inspired me to create another site at which I could post more thematically specific things (I all-but-ignore that one too, now, but that's because I don't listen to enough cool music anymore).  This site used to bring me joy because it was a public (but still relatively private because honestly, who spends the time to read this stuff?) place to vent*.

When I go back and read some of that venting though, I'm embarrassed.  That's another thing that keeps me from posting more often.  An accumulated shame.  The fear that the next post might be one more than I'll read later and think was stupid.  And the knowledge that, as dumb as it is and as unlikely as it may be that anyone would stumble upon it years from now in a Google cache, I'm crafting an indelible persona for myself on the web that feels incrementally unlike my current self, despite sharing my name.  It's petrifying.  It's not like I don't have thoughts I'd like to post somewhere all the freaking time.  I just don't know that I want to post them here anymore.  I feel exposed.

This is unorganized rambling and it's a testament to my haziness today that I'm going to post it all, especially since there's no A-Ha! moment at the end where I decide to screw everyone and post every day about impolite things like love and politics.  I'm probably still not going to post any more often.  I've just been thinking a lot about it, is all.

Anyone else who does this sort of thing ever become similarly preoccupied?


*This post, by the way, is only meta-venting.

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25 January 2010

Nerdgasm.

I realize that the Cognoscenti of the web will scoff at my years-late acclaim, but I don't care. I've been using it forever, but recently Google Reader has become, without question, the most important webthing to me besides email. It's completely made redundant my Digg and del.icio.us accounts, become far more important than Facebook, and solidified my resistance to Twitter (which I still think is retarded). As the sharing features have become more and more robust, it has become a complete maelstrom of things I like but wouldn't have known about if not for my friends. It's a machine that gives me food pellets every time I press the button, and at the same time an echo chamber for all the things I find that I like, from awesome things to reasons-to-hate-the-GOP. And now, with a little javascript, I've added a constantly updated stream of my most recent shares to the sidebar of this very webpage, to make it easy to ignore not only the things that I take the time to type up myself, but also the things that I just plain agree with or think are funny. This is very exciting.

If you're super cool, you're already reading this blog with your Google Reader, in which case, I'm always looking for more sharebros. If you're not already using it, get on board son. This train is bound for glory.

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19 October 2007

lots to do

I woke up today and this site was down. Not even fully down though, just...not up. Just a plain white page, and Firefox dutifully notifying me that it's quite "Done." What a pain.

Saw Unkle (formerly U.N.K.L.E.) last night at Webster Hall. I hadn't expected to be able to go, because I was working on Staten Island until about 10:30, but one breakneck drive and one serendipitous parking spot later, I was walking in just as the band was starting. Breathless and overly hyphenated review (and mp3) here. Cool show.

I only have one day off a week these days, and I keep finding myself paralyzed by all the things I've thought about needing to get done all week. Today is my day off. I slept until 11:30, then I moped around the house until...well...until now. I guess this is more of that. Shit.

I'm gonna go do something.

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16 October 2007

oh hi.

File under: The Kindness of Strangers. Someone at Blogger thinks this blog is "of note," it would appear. If you're here as a result, welcome! I hope that you enjoy your stay, and that your life is irrevocably altered for the better as a direct result of the roughly 35 seconds you spend here (on average...thanks, FeedBurner!).

In all seriousness though, welcome. Since you're here, I figure it's my duty to point you towards what I have reason to believe is the reason this site was singled out. A quick survey of my recent posts reveals neither notable frequency nor notable quality. I don't fancy myself a terrible writer, but I'm not convinced I'm an especially good one, either. The entire reason I ever got my shit together and made this site was to have a place to put some music that I made, and since you're here anyway, it's only fitting that I invite you to download it. It's free. I'd love to know what you think.

One other thing I should mention during these fifteen minutes of Internet relevance. When something that gets a lot of traffic links to one's blog, one is forced to make difficult decisions concerning comment spam. I've never had a problem with it in the past, but today that's begun to change. I am not going to outright block comments until they've been approved because I don't have much time these days and relevant comments shouldn't have to wait to be posted. So I ask you, valued reader, to be selective about the links you click on in the comment section (duh). If the site starts to get overrun by porn links and traffic piggybackers, I might have to just do some draconian moderation, but I really don't want to.

In actual news that I would have written about here anyway, I've been conducting a slow MySpace-message interview with Mike Miller (from Endless Mike and the Beagle Club). Let it be sufficient for now to say that his way with words extends beyond his songwriting. Eventually I'll post it at amiestreet.com and (in part) at wealsoran.com, both of which I've been regrettably negligent in posting to since the new job. Keep an eye out for it. It's going to be good.

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14 May 2007

you clean up nice

For as long as I can remember having this site, I can remember hating the way it looked in Internet Explorer. Hating the fact that occasionally, a seemingly innocent post would break some invisible barrier and push the sidebar down underneath the blog entries. Because I'm a bungling amateur, I haven't taken the time in the past to try to deal with it.

But all that changed over the weekend, baby. In between the meat packing district velvet rope parties with models, the triathlon running just for fun, and the crime fighting, I found some time to do some serious coding.

Make no mistake. It still looks better in Firefox and it always will. But I am cautiously optimistic that I solved the problem of the mysterious floating sidebar. And I got rid of the stupid entry page. That was so 2002. Oh yeah, and that background image down there in the corner. I did that too.

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08 May 2007

metamorphosite

Thanks to a sweet patch from blogger, delivered in Santa Claus fashion with a wink and a finger to the side of the nose, the metamorphosis of this site is now complete. The html caterpillar has become the php butterfly. What, oh what happened behind the opaque walls of that cocoon? Oh Mother Nature, what a wonder are you to behold!

Seriously though, there had been a problem for a long time with blogger that prevented users from republishing old entries with new file extensions. So although I had been able to create all my new posts in php, it was pretty useless because I couldn't apply any in the templates lest it be applied also to my older, less malleable posts.

And then magically one day, the problem was solved. I went to post an entry, and every single post in the blog republished itself with the proper extension. And so, as of today, any changes I decide to make to this site will only need to be made once to appear everywhere. Simplicity and elegance.


Ok fine. I was excited.

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18 April 2007

php stands for "popular hunks partake (in web programming)"

...so it should come to you as no surprise that i spent last night dropping some major skillz on this here website. specifically the music page. it's in php now instead of straight html, which means a few things:
  1. no more frames. frames are potty.
  2. i can link you to whatever song i want, using variables in the url. check it out: http://watchedpots.com/music.php?song=walls. i couldn't do this before.
  3. making changes to the site (which i guess i might eventually want to do) will be much simpler.
sorry ladies, i'm taken (amazingly enough).

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14 August 2006

one reason i won't miss this old apartment

centipede on my wall

no sir i won't be missing this fella or any of his brethren one bit. i took my eye off him for a second to put my camera down and he was gone, too. god damn.

in other, slightly less disgusting news, i've decided to go with a new mailing list provider (read: actual mailing list provider) going forward with this site. so long, yahoo group. i'll miss ye.

i'm really shitty at using the mailing list anyway, so if you sign up you might not get anything for months, but i'd appreciate (especially if you signed up with the old one) it if you'd put your email here:

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20 November 2005

waste one.

(if you're pitching and you're ahead of the batter in the count, waste one. see if you can make him swing at something unhittable. it's going to be a long winter.)

i spend a lot of time thinking about things i've done and said. and the things i might have done differently. i am the woulda-coulda-shoulda-buddha. which is where most of these songs come from, and i suppose where much of this blog finds its inspiration.

funny thing about this blog is, it wasn't originally intended to be one. i built a simple site so people could check out my music. and i built a really simple news section so that i could give important updates like (shh...i know none of this is really important). but then it became a pain in the rear to update the html and format it correctly and ftp it to the server every time i wanted to let people know anything, so i figured i'd just let the friendly folks* at blogger do that work for me.

and that's when it happened. i got hooked on this. for probably similar reasons to why i started writing songs in the first place. connection. (i realize right now that this post has veered away from its original intent and i am not strong enough to steer it back on course. oh well.)

i am shy to a debilitating extent. i can't talk to girls in bars (or anywhere else where other people are around). fuck, i even have a hard time talking to bank tellers. and just forget about calling some customer service line to complain about something.

but if you can write a song (or, i guess, a blog) and people can relate to what you're trying to say, then all of the sudden you've got that connection, and you didn't need to talk to anyone to do it. hell, you never needed to leave your living room.

and so here we are. i have a blog. it's nothing, really. but it's less nothing than it used to be. it's instant. it's easy. it takes me months to produce a song. it takes about 20 seconds to post this bad boy once i've written it.

i didn't mean to write about this today. it just happened. i was going to tell you all about my weekend and speak vaguely about ghosts from my past. but i guess i can always do that some other time.

is this a distraction?

*they are good people, really. i know one.

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05 September 2005

another day another dollop

nathan's of coney island. a beacon of light to all those whose desire for immediate umami (umamory? umamatory? umamological?) satisfaction far outweighs their aversion to the resulting gastrointestinal anomalies and (on a longer timeline) hardening of the arteries.

i'll have a large chili cheese fries and a classic dog with sauteed onions and sauerkraut. better make that to go. see you in the bathroom and in the hospital. this was so worth it.

some news that doesn't matter:

i've made a few hardly noticeable changes to the layout of this site. basically to make blog syndication work more smoothly. who cares, right? well, me. i care. which is why i did it. and i guess if you're one of the few people who syndicate this with a reader, you care too. so i did it for me and you, bucko.

also, keep your eye on the song lyrics, i'm thinking about adding a little anecdote under each one to clear up some confusion about where i was at when i wrote each one. in reality this will probably only create more confusion. i am really only doing it to have something to do.

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01 July 2005

some site updates

greetings and happy july 1. today's a holiday in canada you know. i found that out this year. god knows what for, but they all have the day off.

anyway, tonight i have to drive from nyc to my old hometown (monroe, ct. represent.) and i'm sitting around waiting for a time when traffic might not be so stupefyingly bad. so i got bored and did some things to the site. you may have noticed there's a links section up now. want a link to your site there? it won't do you any good because nobody reads the thing, but if you want one just drop me a line (comment this post) and i'll make it so.

a note on how the news section has become more of a recovering-emoholic support group than a news section about the music of a non-existent band: the band doesn't f'ing exist man. i gotta fill the page with something. i wish it could be like "so today me and my awesome guitar player and awesome drummer and not-that-good-but-we-keep- him-in-the-band-because-chicks-think-he's-hot bassist went into the studio to lay down some tracks with a grammy winning producer" but for now it's just me and so the news section is what it is.

also, i put an easter egg up on the site. it's a song i didn't write but i did record some time ago. more people liked it than any song i wrote that i know of, but i took it off all the music sites because i didn't write it. anyway, if you can find it and you want it you're welcome to it. don't go and give it away to everyone else though, then you'll ruin their fun. i hid it like a sneaky guy, and they'll have to find it like sneaky guys just like you, you sneaky guy.

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26 May 2005

busy

you may have noticed i've made some changes to the way this site looks. that's essentially because i've been feeling lame for not putting any more useful things up here, so i figured at the very least some sort of facelift was in order. so now it's centered, and i made the news page an actual blog. whoop-dee-doo.

seriously though, i've written a few new songs, but i'm having a hell of a finding a free weekend to demo them properly.

all good things will come with time. until then, start doing things like commenting on my clever news articles, telling your friends to join the mailing list because watchedpots.com looks like a golden pillar of radness, and getting watched pots tattoos*.

love mikey

ps: i got dumped. which if nothing else, is good songwriting fodder.

* please please please don't tattoo yourself just because i told you to.

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