Web

My blog's notable Octopress tweaks

July 11, 2013 · 1 min read

My plan is for this post to serve as an index to the upcoming posts. Unlike the ASP.NET MVC posts that fizzled (sorry), I need to chronicle these changes in the event I need to dissect them again.

Here's the collection in no particular order:

  • Copyright date - This one is simple and almost not worth noting. I use a copyright date range of [start year]-[current year] and this post simply explains the what and why.
  • Tag generator - Octopress will not support tags. Tag index pages are trivial to implement but I'm also starting to agree with the premise that one taxonomy should really be enough.
  • Feed excerpts - These aren't generally created to my knowledge, or specifically the summary section. The general way to create excerpts is a little awkward but smart.
  • Google Form notification full service sample taken from here.
  • (Upcoming) Category & Tag index generators for the primary /categories/ /tags/ directory. WordPress didn't have this either but it would be a good idea to list all of them in one place.

One thing in the FAQ that particularly bit me during the WordPress conversion was Using Non-ASCII Characters In Your Blog. Most conversion posts cover this but I'm in the habit of always having this as part of my environment just in case.

The primary reason for my approach so far was to be a close representation as possible of the WordPress site to combat 301 redirect woes. Tags will eventually disappear I think but I like the exercise of making sure they're around in full. The platform seems to support "something" so it's fun to see how far I can go with it.

Migration from WordPress to Octopress Complete

July 10, 2013 · 1 min read

In case anyone was watching, I switched the blog from a generic WordPress with a slightly customized theme to octopress. I'm using the excellent Octoflat theme with a few notable tweaks. I reintroduced the search and feed buttons as well as expanded the navigation to allow nested menus. The theme allows for nested menu elements and while 2 levels deep is highly acceptable, I happen to use 3.

I'm writing this post using the excellent MarkPad which serves all of my needs perfectly. You don't need a markdown editor, but having one with live-preview that reinforces the markdown syntax is killer. That I can insert a URL and it automatically format the document accordingly is a small but useful touch.

I plan on posting the various tweaks that make up this blog. While there aren't a ton, I think a few of the concepts are worth expanding on. I don't claim these tweaks are original by any means but I found a lot of ideas needed to be fleshed out a little more to be acceptable for my tastes. Yes, I'm anal.

I expect nothing but great things from this migration though it took roughly a month of quite a few tinker sessions to get things where I wanted it. I blame using Ruby on Windows to be a big culprit but also my n00bness got in the way in some areas. It also took me quite a bit to grok how deployments functioned but now that everything gels, I don't expect any issues.

The site will continue to be a slight work in progress as I button up some of the loose ends. I have a few design tweaks in mind and I'm looking to expand my portfolio with more current projects. Not everything I've done in the past 2 years can be seen unfortunately but there's quite a body of work piling up, waiting to be shown.

ASP.NET MVC hosting lesson: Elmah and SQL Server 2000

April 3, 2010 · 2 min read

Background

Technically this isn't specific to ASP.NET MVC at all, that just happens to be how I use Elmah. I started work on an ASP.NET MVC project with certain erroneous preconceived notions. I originally started the database with SQL 2008 in mind because I run Windows 7. An easily accessible staging server used SQL 2005 and it was here that I ran into my first compatibility snag. A database project may be set for an earlier revision but you can't transplant those .bak files and expect them to restore. This is generally 101 level stuff but something I tend to keep in the back of my mind at the worst times.

This staging issue foreshadowed production: the shared hosting company I use is running SQL 2000. Argh! Luckily this process was less painful: I used SQL Publishing Wizard and SQL 2000 in a virtual machine to get the database on the lowest common demoninator. Once in SQL 2000, the backup files will easily restore in any future version of SQL. Because the push to production is so infrequent and changes can be diff'd easier than rebuilt I've settled on a structure of Development: 2005, Staging: 2005, and Production: 2000.

Elmah and SQL 2000

I chose an Elmah version (1.1.11517.2009) that dealt specifically with SQL 2005 but was hopefully new enough to be relative to ASP.NET MVC. Switching to SQL 2000 produced a very minor snag: the database script needed to be downgraded.

Fortunately, and with the help of Google code, I could go back to other revisions of the same file in the Elmah codebase and find a version suited for SQL 2000 dated earlier this year. Here's the diff link to show what changes were made: http://code.google.com/p/elmah/source/diff?spec=svn705&r=643&format=side&path=/trunk/src/Elmah/SQLServer.sql&old_path=/trunk/src/Elmah/SQLServer.sql&old=568. When downgrading to SQL 2000, use the left hand side or you could just download the file.

Update (2019): Since Google Code has long been out of service, Elmah can now be found at https://elmah.github.io/. To get an appropriate SQL 2000 file, you may have to look at v1.0 and v1.1 sources. I would think in 2019 you would likely choose a more recent SQL Server version.

While you are there, you might as well follow the examples given by Scott Mitchell Keeping ELMAH's Error Log Size In Check and Deleting All Records In a Table EXCEPT For the N Most Recently Added Records. Why both? The first prunes any records beyond a date range to keep errors relevant. The second makes sure your database stays small in case of anything that can trigger a large number of records within your date window.

Using jQuery to Simulate the <Blink> tag

March 15, 2010 · 2 min read

While this post actually has nothing to do with ASP.NET MVC directly, the only common denominator is that I came up with this technique while working on the platform.

To be a true 1:1 copy of the previous website I would be converting to ASP.NET MVC, I had to come up with a way to reintroduce the <blink> tag to XHTML. While you are perfectly able to use <blink> it doesn't actually do any blinking in IE8 or Firefox. To show that properly, jQuery comes to the rescue.

The technique is really pretty simple:

  1. Define your element with an arbitrary id or class (i.e.: <div id="#alertheader">)
  2. Style the content accordingly
  3. Use jQuery/javascript to show and hide content on an interval
setInterval(function() {
    jQuery.each(jQuery.browser, function(i) {
        if ($.browser.msie) {
            $('#alertheader').css({ opacity: '0' }).stop().animate({ opacity: '1' }, "fast", "swing");
        }
        if ($.browser.mozilla) {
            $('#alertheader').stop().animate({ opacity: '1' }, "fast", "swing");
        }
    });
}, 600);

You should hopefully notice the caveat I ran into immediately. IE and Firefox animate their opacity changes differently so it required special handling. An easy exercise for the reader would be to optimize this code to remove the IE/Mozilla check during the setInterval call.

You can achieve similar results by using a series of .fadeOut(x).fadeIn(x) calls but I had to make sure the sum of all calls didn't become less than the setInterval "loop" or it would blink wildly. The other problem it introduces is when text "fades" it can often look weird in either browser if you use a relatively fast interval. This became a headache very early on.

While I can't take whole credit for the technique, the primary Stack Overflow problem that got me started can be found here: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1375646/jquery-animate-opacity-doesnt-work-properly-on-ie. In the post the user Eric states that jQuery should handle the opacity support for you. It does. For some reason to produce output I felt was adequate, no one definition would work across both browsers.

Moving...

February 1, 2010 · 1 min read

I'm still in the process of moving but managed to move the computer + desk. I've moved to a much smaller room but the group of friends is a little more in sync compared to the other living arrangement. I still need to share living with other people which tends to suck in certain directions.

I'll reiterate the obvious: moving sucks. I'm sore. I haven't slept much but I'm thankfully about 80% done. Cleanup is going to suck and thankfully I can take trash to where I am now then dump it at work periodically where they have a bigger trash collector.

The only costs so far have been time and gas money, with a large help from my fiancee Miranda.

I was living with someone who has easily gotten by without the internet for a week. Myself? Not so much. I enjoyed "time off" but as a visual learner that needs to see things in front of him, it became incredibly difficult to walk anyone through anything internet related. I made it a point to be very much a part of a plugged-in culture and that showed how dependent others were on my involvement.

I think most of all at the moment I miss my bed and the ability to just do something on the computer then pass out. I should take the opportunity to break the habit as much as possible though.