Feb 042018

Posted in case it helps someone else.

One of my website clients asked for help with one of their Mac OS X laptops, which had suddenly stopped connecting to their wifi network. The wifi connection seemed to be demanding a WPA enterprise username and password, despite being set up as WPA2 personal, which only needs a password.

In the end, the cause was a combination of a new modem/router from the cable company, and an old version of Mac OS X (10.7.5). I had to go to the app store to download El Capitan, since you can’t update from 10.7.5 to High Sierra directly, but after installing it the laptop could connect to the WPA2 personal wifi network on the new modem/router. It’s now been updated to High Sierra, and the company reminded to install the updates they get a little more regularly…

Jul 232017

For a while there XML.com didn’t handle tags on submitted news items very well. If a tag was included that was in a different case to an existing tag, the preview and publish would result in a 500 server error. Fortunately this was something that wasn’t visible to the outside world, but annoying nonetheless.

Wagtail allows case-insensitive tags, and I had already turned that on (it would be confusing to have searches for the tags “XSLT” and “xslt” return different results, for example). Articles and news items submitted using the standard interface behaved properly, it was just the news items submitted by people without logins on the system that didn’t.

It turns out that the problem lay in the way I called the get_or_create() method, which is used to look up the tags in the database and then create them if they don’t exist. In my code, that looked like this:

tag, create = Tag.objects.get_or_create(name=tag_name)

By default, this is a case-sensitive method (as it should be, for the general case). To make the lookup case-insensitive, you use name__iexact instead of name. The next problem I found was that no tags were being created if the tag didn’t already exist in the database. To create the tag, if you’re using name__iexact instead of name for the tag lookup, you also need to give the get_or_create() method a defaults parameter to use when creating the tag. Now that line looks like this:

tag, create = Tag.objects.get_or_create(defaults={'name': tag_name},

and it all works the way it’s meant to.

Jul 032017

My now 11-year-old daughter loves books and reading so I asked her to write a book review for a couple of her favourites. This one is for The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown. She gave this book ★★★★★ out of 5.

“The Wild Robot” is a book about a single robot surviving in the wild with lots of animals. She adopted her own baby animal, learned to speak the animals’ languages, and so much more! I like this book because the author describes everything in a new way. It’s one of those happy but sad books, and I had tears in my eyes at the end. Highly recommended!

Jul 032017

In Canada, where I live, the voting system for the parliaments is the easy to understand, but blunt, first past the post (FPTP) system (also called plurality voting). The person who wins the most votes (a plurality) wins the seat, whether they get over 50% or under 30%. I believe that it’s time we had a system that gives more people a more nuanced say in the government they get; tactical voting of various forms in a FPTP system only goes so far. For my own benefit I’ve written up the voting systems of 3 other countries in which I’ve lived. I don’t have a firm opinion on which one I prefer (yet).


At the Federal level in Germany, the voting system is a version of a mixed-member proportional system: voters get two votes. One is for a direct candidate (approximately half the seats), and works by the plurality (FPTP) system. The other is where the voter votes for a party. Each party has a list, and the appropriate number from each party list is deemed elected, depending on the number of votes the party got. There is a threshold for the list votes; parties have to get over 5% of the vote to get any seats via the second (list) vote, unless more than three direct candidates from that party are elected.

This system was set up to balance many aims. Among them are the principle of equal votes (each vote must have equal weight), discourage small parties while allowing them, and encourage balance between various political views. It tends to lead to coalition governments, and is good for finding consensus.


Australia uses preferential, or ranked, voting systems. The voter ranks the candidates in order of preference. If one candidate gets 50% + 1 (or more) first preference votes, they are elected. If not, the candidate who received the fewest first preference votes is eliminated from the list, and their second preferences are distributed. This process continues until one candidate does have 50% + 1 or more votes. There’s a variation for the Senate that I’m not going into.

Ranked voting gives people a chance to vote for a candidate they know won’t win, and give the second preference to a mainstream candidate, which makes it better than FPTP tactical voting. One downside is that you have to rank all candidates in order, and it is quite possible to miss a number, or make some other mistake. There are some people who number from 1 down the page, so the ballot has to be designed to take that ‘donkey vote’ into account.

New Zealand

New Zealand uses a different version of mixed-member proportional representation to Germany. (No, I’m not going into detail on the precise differences.) Each voter has two votes: one for a direct candidate, and one for a party. The party vote determines the overall number of seats each party is entitled to. There is a threshold, as for Germany, of 5% for the party vote, or one direct candidate elected.

There are also a certain number of seats reserved for the Māori electorate; those use the same voting system.

Personally, I think any of these systems would be better than the current FPTP system we have.

Apr 082017

If you have MathML on your WordPress site, using the Mathjax system to show it, then you need to know that Mathjax is shutting down the CDN as of April 30, 2017. If, like me, you use the MathJax-LaTeX plugin, the solution is easy.

Go to the Plugins – Settings – MathJax-LaTeX page. Uncheck the “Use MathJax CDN Service?” checkbox, and add https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.0/MathJax.js to the “Custom MathJax location?” text field. You can, of course, also download the MathJax scripts and install locally, but I prefer to use a CDN.

Save the changes, and you’re all set! Unfortunately there isn’t an equivalent of the MathJax ‘latest’ for the scripts, so every now and then you’ll need to update the location, but other than that there should be no differences.

Mar 262017

Let’s Encrypt has made it much easier for web sites to use https instead of http, even those on shared hosting. In my case, all I needed to do was ask my ISP, Canadian Web Hosting, to move my accounts to a server that supports a cPanel extension (I assume this one). Installing the certs is trivial.

Changing the basic WordPress setting was easy – update the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) settings in General. This did break a lot of image links, mostly because I’ve had my blog on WordPress for so long that I still had all my images in a custom image directory and the gallery couldn’t find them any more. That took a certain amount of fiddling, and I haven’t yet got all the images in the old posts back to the way they were.

Another thing that broke was my spam detection. I used Spam Karma for many years, and even after it was no longer updated it was suitable for my needs. But it doesn’t work with https for some reason. I’ve now switched to Antispam Bee and find it does what I need. I haven’t noticed any spam slipping through, nor real comments being marked as spam. Most of the competitors had some feature I didn’t like, such as by default deleting comments without my having a chance to check them. That would be useful on sites with lots of spam, but not necessary for mine. It has a well-deserved high rating on the WordPress plugin site.

Overall, switching my sites to https cost me a couple of hours work and the time waiting for the new server DNS to propagate. Well worth it.

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