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The personal blog of Michael Ashby

Category / weblogs

The Time Monster

A Dracula ClockAlthough writing regularly for this weblog has been a rather new thing for me, I have been writing pieces for work, or other web sites for many years. That being said, has been some of the most consistent writing I’ve ever done in my life, which I’m quite proud of, but other the past few weeks I’ve been running into the same “monster” that I’ve run into with past writing tasks – time. Ask anyone these days and chances are they will all tell you that they could use more time in their day. Clearly most of us feel that there isn’t enough time, but for me the constraint of time is a real doozy on my writing.
There’s something about having to stop what you’re doing so that you can write. For me at least, that means that I have to slow down and relax. I have to collect my thoughts and then take the time to clearly formulate a story. I find it easier to write in the morning, before I’ve started my day and before my brain has revved up and engaged first gear. Those early morning hours, when my brain is just idling and warming up with a hot cup of coffee, is when I seem to do my best writing. When the day is in high gear and I’m going “90 to nothing”, it’s very hard to downshift and ease off the throttle long enough to write something halfway intelligent.

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I Guess I Should Be Flattered

Robert Downey, Jr. surprised by a photographerSPAM is now just a daily part of my life. I get so much of it, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have piles of SPAM to wade through every day. Yes I have SPAM filters setup, yadda yadda, yadda, but you still have to sift through them for false positives. Anyway, one of the things that I’ve always been mindful of is that when a new site I’m involved in launches, I know it’s gaining in popularity when the level of SPAM increases. My assumption is that the spammers find me the same as regular users, so I’m now appearing on the radar. SPAM is just a part of the equation, a negative one to be sure, but I have to admit a little thrill when I see SPAM increasing on a new web site. πŸ™‚

Recently, my weblog has been getting increasing numbers of SPAM and as is normally the case, I was a little bit happy to see it. However there’s a new type of SPAM that I’m having to deal with that I don’t care for at all. It’s called comment spam. If you run a MoveableType weblog then you’ve probably heard about this new type of SPAM, but for those of you that don’t allow me to explain.

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How To Add Smileys To Your Weblog

Austin Powers Smiley - from the Official Smiley Dictionary. Click the image for more informationRecently I was looking for a solution to a problem I was having displaying HTML in my entries. While I was searching for a solution, I found a cool way to display smileys on my weblog. I like having little smileys on my web site, like this πŸ™‚ , and in the past I was adding them manually. w.bloggar allows for custom tags, so this wasn’t much of a big deal to add them to my entries. However, I’m now using Zempt to post most of my entries, (great program BTW, you should really check it out) but Zempt doesn’t support custom tags. Having to enter them by hand was turning into quite the pain in the derriere – besides, I never liked the fact that I couldn’t have smileys in the comments. So when I stumbled across a way to add smileys any where I wanted on my weblog, I was ecstatic! All it takes is a plugin in and a few template changes and you’re off to the races. Here’s the lowdown on how you can add this feature to your weblog.

Step One: Find Some Smileys
Before anything else, you need to find some smileys that you can use on your web site. Mine came from a custom set that I use on the NPUG forums, but I found a great resource with tons of smileys to choose from. Jason has a huge collection of them, but I found his Basic Sets to include the best selections. There are even some holiday versions that I could see using for special holidays just for fun.

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Adding A Little Chaos

PHP Code For Random Image PickerEarlier this month, I got a wild hair and decided to change the name of the site to “That Reminds Me Of A Story…” In making this change, I changed the description of the site (which appears in the upper right corner of the page) to “Ask me what time it is and I’ll tell you how to build a watch.” I initially liked the change, but in the comments to that post Chris suggested that the title and description were too similar and that he preferred as the title. I felt the same way and decided to revert back to the original title.

After the change back, I kind of missed the saying “Ask me what time it is and I’ll tell you how to build a watch.”, yet I didn’t want to lose the main description of the site “Michael Ashby’s (aka mashby) weblog regarding technology, movies, travel and other odd rants and ramblings.” That gave me the idea of adding a little chaos to the site by adding a PHP script to select random text and display it where the description is. The entry explains how I did it.

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Managing Links With MovableType

LinksIn my last entry, I hinted at the fact that I was going to create a Wish List utilizing MovableType (MT). I had this idea to create this feature of this site based on some work I had done for the Palm OS User Council web site. I had just completed installing MT not as a weblog tool, but as a full fledged Content Management System (CMS) for the entire web site. Yes, that’s right, MT can be used for a lot more than just weblogging. 8)

Since I began using MT for the weblogging software for, I’ve found all sorts of interesting applications for it’s use. Anything from links management to task lists, to total content management. I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of MovableType Pro, but until then, I’ll keep bending MT to my will. πŸ˜‰ To help illustrate just how flexible MT can be, today I’ll show you how you can manage your Links page through some small changes in how you normally use MT.

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Why I Love The MT Community

Love written in ChineseIt’s been a little while since I’ve written about MovableType, but if you check the archives you’ll see that I’ve written a fair amount on the subject. What brings this topic up again is that I was talking to a friend about weblogging software and I was reminded of an example that illustrates why MT is such a great weblogging tool – the community.

Ben and Mena G. Trott have created a fantastic product. It’s so well thought out and documented that I would guess that 95% of what you’d like to do on your weblog could be done with MT ‘right out of the box.’ To help you discover all that can be done with MT, there is excellent documentation. Whenever I’m thinking of adding a new feature, or tweaking an existing one, I always turn to the documentation first. Chances are MT already has what I’m looking to add built in.

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The Weblog Review

A couple of months ago, I saw a segment on Call For Help where Leo Laporte interviewed the webmaster of The Weblog Review, Brent Todd. I had never heard of the The Weblog Review, but I learned in the interview that the purpose of the site is to provide an objective review of weblogs. Individuals are encouraged to submit their site and a reviewer will post a brief review of your site, citing things they like and dislike as well as giving it a rating from 1 to 5 (5 being the best). Also in the interview, the Brent gave some tips on how to create a better weblog and some of the things to avoid. I’m always open for constructive criticism and since the intent of The Weblog Review appears to be to help you made your weblog better, I decided to submit my site.

Creating A Photo Weblog

SlidesOne of the things that has become very popular is something called a moblog. It’s like a weblog, but instead of posting text, you post images. This fad starting gaining in popularity earlier this year with the release of the camera phone. Since you have a mobile phone and the ability to take snapshots with it, it’s quite easy to simply e-mail the photo to your moblog and share it with the world. Although I don’t have a camera phone just yet, I created a moblog for this site anyway as a way to share snapshots that didn’t fit into my Photo Gallery. So even if you don’t have a camera phone, that’s no reason not to create a moblog.

My Mom recently returned from a trip to Seattle with two of her friends. I had loaned her my digital camera and she had taken 140 photos and wanted to share them with her buddies. Since she already has a weblog it seemed only natural that I add a photo feature to it. This sent me down the path of trying to find an easy to use solution for her website. I could create photo galleries like I have on my site, but she needs something easier to use. Something that didn’t require having to learn how to use FTP, or edit configuration files.

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Weblogging From Linux

BloGTKA client of mine is pushing me more and more towards setting up a Linux server for him. To help me cut my teeth and get more familiar with Linux, I installed RedHat 9 on a second partition on my laptop. This allows me to choose which OS I’d like to use when I boot my Sony Vaio F650. I can either boot to Windows XP Professional, or I can boot into RedHat. I’ve been trying to use my laptop strictly in Linux and not reboot back into Windows so that I can become more familiar with the OS. Since one of the things I use my laptop for is to post to my weblog, I thought I’d take a look at what type of software is available for posting to Movable Type in Linux. I’m a big fan of w.bloggar for windows, so my hope was to find a similar program for Linux.

With a few Google searches, I pulled up a small handful of applications that could be used for posting to a weblog. Here’s a list of what I found:

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A Couple More Little Things

I know that I have waxed poetically enough regarding Movable Type and how easy and cool it is to tweak your weblog, but there’s a couple of new things that I did on that I have to share with you.

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