Articles and Sorting

Hmm, the 8bit Mid-life Crisis posts are increasing in number pretty quickly, and I think they’re going to break the ‘articles’ page.  They already break the sorting which is alphabetical, so 10 comes before 2, and if I keep writing them at 1 a day, which is where I am at the moment, it’s going to outgrow that list of articles very quickly indeed.

That whole articles page was really a way of tying together a small number of posts on a particular topic, but I guess if I end up writing 10’s of posts for the Spectrum stuff, it’s not going to fit.  Also, frankly, it’s a ball ache adding the custom fields which make the posts show up on that page.

So, I need to have a think and approach this in a different way.  Maybe a simple 8bit Mid-life Crisis category would suffice.  I tend to under-use the categories, and they do list the posts in reverse time order so that might work out okay.

Edit: Right, stuck with ‘Retro Computing’ category, which I’ll post all the Spectrum posts under.  If you want to read them all, they’re there.  You can also read a summary of all the kit, on the Retro Computing page.

Windows Live Writer?

I tried playing with Windows Live Writer last year, but the download stalled and never fully installed, and I never got around to re-trying it later.  I don’t really have any issue writing blog posts directly into WordPress, the GUI is pretty nice, but there are times when I want to write something complicated or long, make a lot of edits, bring in text from elsewhere etc. and it’s easier to do that outside the browser I find.

So this isn’t a very constructive post, just me playing with the tool.  I’m am interested in the auto-linking feature, which hopefully has turned the first link in this post into a link to somewhere on the Microsoft site.  That seems like a neat thing, and if I was blogging a bunch of related posts that might prove useful.

So far, I’m quite liking the simple interface – when Microsoft gets applications right, they can be quite good (is that a tautology?)

Orange is a state of mind

Finally settled on a new theme (the excellent Suffusion) which comes with a bunch of colour schemes, and I’ve picked Orange on Black (for now).  I know it makes little difference since the 6 people who actually read the blog do so via RSS so never see the colours anyway, and the other hits are all chinese ‘bots trawling data to try and gimp Google out of some cash.  Some folk are tired of dark themes, but I still like them.

The Orange on White version is pretty good as well and if I get bored with dark I might go for that.

I’ve had to work on some new headers, since the old ones were too tall and too narrow.  Managed to salvage the Matrix and floaty text ones, and added a couple of others.  Was very excited to find an Atari Space Invaders icon font!

Haven’t been doing much stuff out of work other than playing Dragon Age: Origins for the second time.  Tried playing it through a second time after originally completing it but it was too soon.  A lengthy break has done the trick and it’s almost as engaging the second time around.  Grete’s also playing it, so we’re taking turns like well behaved kids.  First time through I played as a warrior and was hugely frustrated by all the chests you can’t open until you find your first rogue companion.  So this time, started as a rogue!  Very different feel to the game, can’t go rushing into fights, need to somehow get the others engaged first, and if the warriors die, I’m not likely to survive (where-as when you’re the warrior you can hold on for quite a while with just Wynne).

Playing through again reminds me how good BioWare are at dialog and storyline.

Grete’s doing well at pretending I’m not annoying, when she plays and I shout ‘no, no, do Sten’s quest first’, or whatever.  So I thank her for that.

We bought a couple of the little add-ons, well bought one, got one free.  I’ve also bought Dragon Age: Awakening which was good but no where near worth the price.

I’ve also signed up to the PlayStation Plus service thing.  Got a few free games so far (Zen Pinball being the best).  Hopefully there’ll be enough free content in the next 10 months to justify the cost.

WordPress Plugins

Wrote my first WordPress plugin today (for, it’s a pretty simple plugin architecture especially if you’re not trying to do anything too clever.  I just wanted a shortcode (some text you put into a post which is expanded by a plugin) to read some values from some custom fields and include them in the article footer.  It saves having to paste lots of formatting HTML into each post and lets you just suck content from the custom fields.

I was surprised I couldn’t find a simple ‘template’ style plugin on the WordPress site, maybe I was just using the wrong search terms.  It’s the kind of thing that would be very useful for building common information boxes for reviews, etc.  Anyway, I hacked together a 59 line php file, of which around 1/3rd is info and license to read two custom fields and whack them into a div.

Took about 9000% less time than I expected.

Stats, stats and more stats (and lies!)

I’m a bit of a web-stat-aholic.  Despite the fact that this is a personal blog with hardly any relevance to the outside world, I still feel the need to see how many people read it.  But then that’s true of all the websites I throw up.  In some ways I find the stats just interesting, even if the numbers are really small, it amuses me how people find the sites, what search strings they use, and how certain pages get more hits.

I use three stats systems on this site, Google Analytics, the stats plugin, and the CyStats plugin.  Clearly the whole area of ‘what constitutes a visitor’ is murky at best, and when a page is made up of lots of resources that each generate a request to the web server, it gets a little harder to work out how many hits you’ve had, but I’m amused by the difference in information the three systems provide, and the apparent totally useless stats plugin.

When I moved the blog to WordPress I thought the stats plugin would be a good option, and indeed it looked like it was reasonably accurate when the visitor count was 1 or 2 people a day.  However, as the site gets found by google and random hits start to increase, the stats look more and more crazy, in particular the ‘top posts and pages’ section.

Here’s the current info from that plugin for pages visited today and yesterday,

stats1So yesterday, apparently the only two pages read on the site were the Watchmen post and the Wii Fit page.  And today, people are only reading the Watchmen post and nothing else.  I kinda find that hard to believe, and in fact, the other two stats systems agree that it’s complete bollocks.  I’ve no idea what-so-ever what the stats plugin is doing but it’s certainly not recording which pages are being viewed.

Total visitors or page views being different I can live with because how they’re measured is pretty vague, but you would think a stats plugin would know which pages were being read, that is kind of the whole point.  In contrast, this is what CyStats thinks has been read today,

Windows 7 Beta - file sharing                           8   14%
Main page                                               8   14%
of protein and fat and blood sugar                      4   7%
So, what went wrong (or WordPress, Cron and Squid)      3   5%
Lord of the Rings Online - a review - part one          3   5%
Windows 7 Beta in Sun's xVM VirtualBox                  3   5%
Where oh where has my Gallium gone?                     3   5%
/category/politics                                      2   3%
/tag/dvd                                                2   3%
A month with WordPress                                  2   3%
Old photo's                                             2   3%
First real go at non-drybrush skin                      2   3%
Whiskey & Red Bull                                      2   3%
Windows 7 beta + Lord of the Rings Online               2   3%
David Gemmell Legend Award news                         2   3%
About                                                	2   3%
Eating without thinking                                 2   3%
/2006/08                                                2   3%
Archives                                                2   3%

which as you can see is rather more varied (and slightly more believable).  However, the list of visited pages on Google Analytics for today is different again, not just the numbers, but the actual pages, listing some not viewed above and missing out some that were viewed.

Ultimately, I have the logs from my web hosting account (when they work), and that means I can see, for real, which pages are being accessed and how often, but reading those logs can be a pain and using tools to interpret them just introduce more interpretation that leads to yet another set of figures.

I guess where I’m going with this post is that trusting the stats for your site is impossible, but some tools are clearly more broken than others, and the stats plugin is entirely useless, since it’s clearly unable to work out which page your visitors are reading.  Don’t trust it.

Responsible web sites

Most small websites on the ‘net sit on shared hosting of some kind or another  ((this is an educated guess)).  Shared hosting means that a small number of servers handle all the requests for a large number of web sites.  How that’s achieved varies, but the bottom line is that it’s a shared infrastructure.  It’s a bit like living in shared accommodation.  There’s a single door through which everyone gets into the building, then a number of apartments which have their own doors.  But they all share the same electricity supply and water and other utilities.

With shared web hosting, all the traffic comes into the same web host network and web server cluster, and is then handled by all the different web site configurations.  In the same way that there are people who would like to break into your apartment, there are people who’d like to break into your web site to steal stuff, deface it, or to try and gain further access to the shared infrastructure.

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