Tag Archives: software

When using open source makes you an enemy of the state | Technology | guardian.co.uk

When using open source makes you an enemy of the state | Technology | guardian.co.uk. Apparently the IIPA is looking to make open source software illegal — or at least extremely difficult to use. They seem to dislike the fact that OSS cuts into their bottom line, so rather than let the market make its own decisions, they’re trying to force said decisions upon the market. Idiots.

iTunes Error: Store Can’t Connect to the Internet

I spent some time last evening troubleshooting an iTunes error on his computer. Anytime he tried connecting to the iTunes Store, it would kick back an error that it could not connect to the Internet. Googling around turned up a handful of solutions, few of which worked. Turns out the solution (in this case) was pretty simple.

IE8 LAN Proxy SettingIn the Internet Explorer 8 LAN settings, there is an option to use a proxy server to access the Internet. For whatever reason, this option was selected as the default, causing IE8 to search for a proxy server that didn’t exist. Deselecting the option remedied the problem with iTunes. It also allowed Windows Update to find and download updates, as well.

What I don’t really understand is why iTunes even pays attention to this proxy server option. Firefox ignores this setting completely, using its own LAN settings instead of whatever IE defaults to. It’s possible that iTunes uses the IE settings to simplify network management for the average computer layperson. In and of itself, this would make sense and is probably the better option for those not completely comfortable managing the minutiae of network settings, but it seems problematic to me that Internet Explorer would have defaulted to trying to use a proxy server when, in my experience, proxy servers aren’t used all that often in networks.

Whatever the case, if you’re having trouble getting iTunes to connect to its store or with Windows Update failing on pulling down updates, make sure to check your Internet Explorer proxy settings. It’s the simplest option, by far, to troubleshoot and will likely save you a lot of pointless running around with command prompts, host files, and software re-installations.

Adobe CS3

Well, I manage to score a copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 Design Premium software, which includes a lot of really powerful software including Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, InDesign, and more. Normally, this package runs about $1800 brand new, but thanks to the perks of being on staff at Purdue I was able to grab this bundle for under $300. It’s very exciting for both my wife and I because it opens up a whole host of creative options that we’ve wanted to have available for quite some time now. I’m thrilled to have a version of Photoshop that’s recent and provides more options for creating my webcomics. I also now have some software, like Flash, that I’ve always wanted to learn how to use and now will have the ability to do so. Good stuff, good times, and my inner nerd is positively drooling.

Knowledge Base Documentation Woes

I have something against Knowledge Base modules. My complaint is this – they’re all crap!

Knowledge Base modules are supposed to be this repository for a given service, and this repository is supposed to provide all kinds of helpful Q&A-type articles to make using the service easier and more efficient. They’re typically intended to be a first-line support item, to be used by the end-user _before_ calling customer support and bugging an operator or a technician with your problem or question. It’s a pretty nice idea – in theory.

The trouble comes in when you actually try to use one of these so-called Knowledge Base modules. I have, as yet, to find a single one that actually provides me with any useful knowledge. The way I figure it, at least half of my queries into a Knowledge Base turn up zero results. The rest of the queries usually only produce a list of ‘related’ articles that have nothing to do whatsoever with what I actually want to know. They reason _these_ articles show up at all is because the search term(s) I entered happened to be mentioned once or twice in the course of explaining how to do something else. Usually after a couple of tries, I just throw my hands up in exasperation and dial the customer support number – only to have them refer me _back_ to the Knowledge Base. ((Just for the record, I’ll have none of that. I make them give me my answer and explain that the Knowledge Base didn’t have the answer I needed.))

This all goes along with the problem that documentation for most things also leaves something to be desired. I know, I hate writing documentation, too. It’s a pain in the neck and can often double the time it takes to release the product to the public. But for the end-user, that documentation is a critical part of using the service or software and can be the deal-breaker if it’s poorly done.

Peripheral Twitter

I just can’t quite get into Twitter. I’ve got Twitterfox installed on my Firefox browser, but I don’t really use it all that much. I don’t really have the time (or window space) to keep a constant monitor on what’s being talked about. It’s much more efficient and effective for me to communicate via chat or email than it is by Twitter. It probably doesn’t help much, either, that very few of my friends use Twitter. Most of my Twitterpeeps are folks I’ve ‘met’ via the Web, and while I find some of the Tweets interesting, very few spark enough interest for me to hop into the discussion and add my two cents.

I think the idea behind Twitter has a lot of potential. The could, ideally, make it really easy for a bunch of people to engage in an ongoing discussion simply by tweeting each other back and forth. Trouble is getting enough like-minded people together to actually do so.

Still, Twitterfox is unobtrusive, so I’ll keep it right it’s at. Interesting notes and links do pop up from time to time, so that’s good, too. But it’s more of a peripheral service for me at this point. Maybe someone will add an account option to Pidgin for Twitter that will let me keep a running dialogue of tweets from folks I follow going at all times that will make it really easy to go back and see what’s been said recently.

WP-Stats Problems

I don’t track my blog stats quite as religiously as I did a year ago, so it was a couple of days after I upgraded to WordPress 2.3 before I realized that something very strange was happening with my stats. I switched to “WP-Stats”:http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/ awhile back because it’s lightweight and takes some of the load off my own hosted account. The plugin worked very well there for awhile, but with the upgrade to WP2.3, a handful of plugins have exhibited some new behaviors, WP-Stats being one of them.

Top Posts

Everything with WP-Stats works as it should except for the traffic tracked to individual entries. As you can see from the screencapture, the traffic is no longer being logged correctly. Instead of seeing the title of the post in question, what generally shows up is the post ID, though I usually have one entry that shows the title for some reason. This wouldn’t even be so bad, since ordinarily you’d at least be able to click through to the post and check the title that way. Tedious, I know, but at least it’d be something. Instead when I mouse-over the link, here’s what I see:

Useless Link

A useless link that doesn’t actually take me where I want to go. Now, obviously something doesn’t work right, and I haven’t had a chance to jump into the code to see what’s happening. The WordPress support forums have seen a fair bit of traffic about the WP-Stats plugin being broken, though I don’t think I’ve seen my own specific problem appear yet (something which I’m about to remedy). Hopefully a new version will be released soon with a patch to address the various problems users have been reporting.

Tumble Shamus

My “tumblelog”:http://tumble.shamuswrites.com is officially up and in working condition. I’m using the “T1”:http://www.livetardy.com/t1/ theme, which is built on the wonderful “Sandbox”:http://plaintxt.org/themes/sandbox/, much to my great joy. I did modify the theme somewhat, though, removing the default T1 image in the header and restoring the bloginfo(‘name’) and bloginfo(‘description’) fields to their proper places. I also brought the theme up to 2.3 compatibility with tags and added my webring navigation links to the navbar.

What I like about T1 is the custom styling for each category, giving each type of entry its own special look. I intend to take full advantage of this as this tumblelog will give me a good place to share any all neat videos, photos, links, etc. that I run across in the course of the typical day. Comments are open and welcome – just mouseover any entry for the comment link to appear on the right-hand side. Also feel free to subscribe to my feed, particularly if randomness is your cuppajoe.

WordPress 2.3

I’ve successfully migrated this blog to WordPress 2.3, and I was actually a little surprised at how painless it was. I did turn up a handful of duplication errors with regard to the wp_term_relationship tables, even though I’d made sure I deleted those tables beforehand, but in spite of that, I think everything migrated to 2.3 just fine. The UTW conversion went _very_ smoothly, converting nearly 1200 tags and over 4100 tag-to-post relationships in about 3 seconds. Very slick.

I’ve also just spent the last 45 minutes upgrading plugins, thanks to the nifty little plugin update notifier that’s now built into WordPress, and I’ve also coded this theme to be compliant with WordPress 2.3 tags. I’ll rebundle it tomorrow and distribute it on the download page. All in all, I’m very happy with what I’m seeing.

This is the only one of my WordPress installations that I’ve run tags on, since UTW was, quite frankly, such a pain in the neck to implement. I’ll be converting a couple of my other installations over to tags soon, as well, and I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up a Tumblelog but was waiting for 2.3 to come out before doing so. I think I’ll be setting that up in the near future now, as well.

Bad Behavior Behaves Badly

Well, _that_ was fun. I’ve been having some issues recently with a couple of my WordPress installations. In a nutshell, every form that has anything to with communication to the database was choking. Data wasn’t being saved to the database, screens weren’t loading properly, functions weren’t… functioning. It took me a little while of searching (and no little amount of stress and worry) but I finally stumbled across “a solution that just felt right”:http://wordpress.org/support/topic/108657?replies=8#post-562986. I’ve been using “Bad Behavior”:http://www.bad-behavior.ioerror.us/ for awhile now in conjunction with Akismet to catch and filter out spam. Between the two, they’ve done a fabulous job, making it a rare occurrence when even a single spam item slips through the cracks.

Unfortunately, apparently Bad Behavior has failed before, prompting an upgrade from 2.0.7 to the current version of 2.0.10. Trouble is, now 2.0.10 is malfunctioning and it blocking all scripts that had anything to do with communicating with the database. My guess is that something has gone wrong with Bad Behavior servers, potentially causing some sort of “feedback” loop. I – and a couple of others – have left comments notifying the author of the problem, so hopefully we’ll see a new version released in the near future. In the meantime, problem solved and everything seems to be functioning properly again.