Mar 282008

Balisage is this new XML++1 geekfest, put on by some of the people who used to put on the Extreme Markup conference, which is aimed to get the brain cells running again after summer. It’s being held in Montréal in the middle of August, which means all those street-level restaurants, and brushing up on French cuisine (if not the language).

Oh yes, the deadlines…

If you want to speak at Balisage or the Preconference Symposium on Versioning, you need to submit your full paper by April 18th, using the supplied tag set. If you want to attend, advance registration closes on August 1st, so you have time for that. Hotel reservations must be made by July 1st if you want to stay in the conference hotel. The conference should be fun and mind-boggling at the same time, at least if XML-related theoretical musings are your idea of fun.

1: this means XML is one of the subjects discussed there, and most of the others are in some (albeit tortuous) way related to it.

Mar 132008

I just got back from the NorthernVoice organizing committee’s post-conference lunch. The conference motto is personal blogging and social media but lots of people who attend or speak are interested in the professional or corporate aspect as well. As a result, one of the perennial topics we talk about is who the conference is for, and what do participants want to listen to. I touched on some of this in my Ebbs and Blogs posting. Personally I’m more interested in the personal blogging aspects than the company PR aspects (YMMV, of course).

Which raises some interesting questions – why would personal bloggers come to a conference? I can think of a few reasons:

  • to learn more about techniques, e.g., how to podcast, or how to embed video
  • to get ideas for content
  • to learn how to write better, to express ideas better
  • to meet up with people with some related interests

I guess there are a lot of people who blog who would never come to a blogging conference because what and how they blog is enough for them and they don’t see any need to change anything. But there are also people who don’t do well in crowds, so one issue I see is how to encourage people who are less comfortable at conferences (even small ones), how to make them more comfortable. I don’t know what the answer is; I’m an introvert but it seldom stops me going places, so although I sympathize with those for whom it’s a problem, I’m not sure of what to do to help. If, indeed, anything can be done at the conference organizing level to help.

Mar 112008

I got an Asus to take on holiday (vacation) with me, and to play around with. They’re cute and small and way easier to lug around than a laptop. With the small screen doing serious work is more difficult (a plus when you’re not meant to be working) but I can still check email and web sites and maybe even catch up on some blogging.

I got the 4G version, and had the RAM increased to 2 GB in the shop so the warranty is still valid. Just in case. Not to mention which, it cost all of $15 and 5 minutes for them to do it, and it would probably have taken me longer to find the right screwdriver.

First impressions: it’s cute. The “easy desktop” is mostly useful, and the selection of applications reasonable (Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, Open Office, Pidgin). I’m trying to restrain my inner geek and see how much I can get done with the easy desktop before I revert to type and install the full desktop. Some things don’t change though; one of the first things I did was find where to update software (add/remove panel) and update everything. You get this weird message for some applications, such as Skype, saying that you can remove the package after updating, without saying whether that’s just to clean up the package remains after they’ve been installed, or whether it really does remove the whole thing. Given you can’t remove (most of?) the default software, I’m assuming it would actually uninstall those applications that can be removed; maybe when I have time to do the delete/reinstall cycle I’ll try out that assumption.

I’m not sure how far I can get without installing and configuring some extra stuff. Some of the instructions and scripts the on Absolute Beginners Wiki look useful so I’ll probably break down and try them out. Part of the reason for restraining myself on this is curiosity – what does a Taiwanese company think that “housewives, office ladies and students” need in a mobile internet device? Part is also to figure out whether I can recommend this sort of device to non-technical people I know, or whether I’ll also have to tell them to do X, Y, and Z to make it usable.

More later, after I’ve played with it a bit more.

Mar 102008

I realized while installing the latest WordPress upgrade, that I hadn’t yet blogged some solutions to issues I had some time ago. These are all issues related to plugins.

Problem 1: I installed the Organizer plugin to help organise my pictures. It wouldn’t show them, which somewhat defeats the purpose of an organizer. Looking at the errors with Firebug (one of the most useful Firefox extensions I’ve found) revealed that the organizer_jump_directory function wasn’t defined. One of the comments on the plugin solved the problem: copy the contents of the general.js file to the index.php and view.php files.

Problem 2: flexible upload seemed to be activated, but I couldn’t see any sign of it in the “Write” page. The “add field” box was missing from the upload part of the page, as well as the other useful items. The solution: I needed to turn off the mod_security Apache module for the admin directory in the .htaccess file. There are more details in WordPress support forum. I also needed to chmod the plugins directory to 755.

Problem 3: I have another blog, and wanted to show the postings from this blog via the Atom feed. I set it up, and it seemed to work, but it never updated the list to show the latest postings. After trying out a lot of different ideas, I discovered in the server logs that I had a 403: Forbidden error, which gave me a new and different set of things to try out. In the end I discovered the source was that the BadBehavior plugin was blocking the requests. So I added the IP address of my blog into the bad-behavior/ file, and all now works as it should.

Mar 072008

Tim pointed at a piece listing immoral solutions for Gaza, a piece which nicely proves that finding a good solution is impossible, and finding the best of the bad solutions often seems equally impossible.

I’m sure I’m not the only person flabbergasted by the whole Israel/Lebanon/Palestine mess, and I’ve read a few books trying to make some sense of it. The only one I wholeheartedly recommend is Thomas Friedman‘s From Beirut to Jerusalem. The book is old; it was first published in 1989, but it is (unfortunately) still relevant in that none of the problems it describes have been solved. Many of the people are no longer in power, or no longer on this earth, but the problems they didn’t manage to solve are still here, still affecting the lives of those who live in that part of this world.

I’m not going to try to summarize the book; there are lots of reviews out there. Suffice to say that if you don’t know much about the Middle East, but do want to know something about why people disagree so violently and why a solution still seems so heartbreakingly out of reach, get this book and read it. You may disagree with lots of it, you may find characters described within it worthy of respect or you may find them despicable. I learned a lot about some of the fault-lines within Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine societies, and the horrible consequences that have come of well-meaning actions.

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