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Sat, Aug 11 2001

First of all, would somebody take that Sircam worm outside and shoot it? :p I've been receiving one or two e-mails almost everyday with the Sircam attachment but today I got six!! It really is a PITA when you are on a dial-up connection and have to wait for ages to receive a bunch of useless attachments. All of the ones I received seemed to come from the same user too but the e-mail address was hidden and since they are on EarthLink, complaining to the ISP probably won't do any good either. I hate that!! Now that I'm done ranting and raving ...

There seems to be quite a bit of interest about the comments system that Tracie pointed me over to :-) Incidentally, she's got the system working great at her site as well and she's got more comments than me too <vbg> Anyway, for all of those who're interested in setting up a similar system with Blog, I've put in a couple of links under the FAQ section on the Blog page. Check it out!

My attempts to set up a mirror over at BarrysWorld didn't fare too well. I use SSI on my pages and I still like to have my page extension be .HTM instead of .SHTML as some servers compel you to. Usually it is a simple matter to modify the .htaccess file so that the server will accept SSI even from a file with a .HTM extension but that doesn't seem to work at BarrysWorld :-( Ah well, guess I'll just have to go with two mirrors or modify Blog again so that it is totally configurable on a per site basis ... which was actually something that I was thinking of today as I got up since there are certain settings in Blog which are currently global - archive type, date formats etc. that would actually be better as per site options because then you can have the same journal on two sites with completely different options! That was actually what I wanted to do with Blog anyway - give the user total freedom over how their blogs are published - let them publish the same blog to multiple sites with completely different looks or publish multiple blogs to the same site with the same look or any other combination of those ...

Speaking of Blog, I know that some of you are getting anxious for the next release of Blog :p Just be patient with me ... for one thing, the time taken was good because Tracie, Jeroen and Welmoet all helped discover bugs that I'd overlooked in the current build - so the delay was good. For another, I'm wondering whether I should add some of the stuff I talked about above and then just make the next release 4.0 :p I guess we'll see ... there's just so much to be done that I sometimes think there isn't enough hours in a day ...

I began reading again last night - it's been a month or more since I finished my last book - the last part in Piers Anthony's Aprentice-Adept saga. I started on Mike Resnick's "Stalking the Unicorn: A Fable of Tonight". I'd never read any of Resnick's stuff before but I'm really enjoying it - he's got a fluid and whimsical style that moves the story along and keeps your interest from flagging. I also want to go to this computer show/sale which is going on in Novi - it comes around every few months ... the last time they were here I went and bought Delphi and that's how this whole Blog thing started <g> But enough of that ... time's a wasting and it's time to get going :-)
posted at 08:05:20 AM  link  comment

Fri, Aug 10 2001

Since I am hosting the PHP scripts for my comments at BarrysWorld, I thought I might as well put up another mirror site there. They give me only about 25MB of space but that should be more than enough for the journal and if I keep only the latest files there even my apps should fit in comfortably. I'll change the mirror links tomorrow since it's late but I just wanted to get this done before I went to bed ...
posted at 11:08:55 PM  link  comment

Haven't done much today except to slowly work on a few bugs and fixes to Blog. Jeroen who had the FTP problems e-mailed me to say that the FTP problems were gone but he did find another bug that I fixed. Then I talked a bit to Tracie and helped her with getting her site to work with Blog. In the process, she uncovered another bug that I had to fix. Tracie also pointed me in the direction of a method to get a comments system working on all my sites even though I can't host PHP on any of them!! I'm really excited about this and am about to test out whether it actually works ... here goes!
posted at 03:35:14 PM  link  comment

I was able to help get three Blog users set up yesterday and I consider that to be pretty big achievement :-) Two of them were from Netherland and were suffering from what I used to call the "mysterious Dutch problem" <vbg> With their help I was finally able to figure out what the mysterious Dutch problem was - it wasn't so mysterious (if I'd really thought about it :p) and it isn't specific to the Dutch ... Basically the problem would have cropped up on Blog running on almost any non-English (or it could even be non-US-English) version of Windows. It turns out that the database system that I use (DBISAM from ElevateSoft) sets the language and date format for all operations based on the language id of Windows and does not care what the date format set in the Control Panel is. Since I was using the US date format internally, this would create a problem on machines which had non-US versions of Windows ...

A modified build solved the problem for one of the Dutch users but the other one still has problems because the new changes to FTP connections screws up things on his particular FTP server. So I've done another build which hopefully fixes the problem and have sent it to him. If that proves to be successful, I'll be releasing Blog 3.7 sometime today or during the weekend.

Speaking of releases, I've got NewsHoard ready for release but have been holding back since I still have to do the documentation and change the current Gossip page to reflect the name and feature changes. Oh the joy's of doing software :p
posted at 07:54:23 AM  link  comment

Thu, Aug 09 2001

Finally figured out the problem with the attachments in NewsHoard! Turns out that it wasn't a coding problem at all but a bug in the component (which to be fair is in beta status at the moment) that I was using to access news server functionality - and I spent about two day's trying to figure out what the heck was wrong :p I even tried out a few alternative components but in each case the documentation wasn't ideal and I had to go through the source and then I was operating under one fatal misaprehension - I thought that attachments were encoded in base64 but it turns out they are uuencoded.

Anyway, what happened was that I had no success with any of the other components that I had and so I decided to buckle down and try to figure out what was going wrong with my initial approach. I'd save an attachment (usually a JPG or GIF) and AcdSee would open it but it would be blank. So I fired up Gravity and saved the same attachment and this time it was fine. Gravity shows the encoded file which is decoded and saved in the message view and so I then saved the encoded text into a file and did the same for NewsHoard. Run them through a comparison program and they were identical! So I knew that there was no problem with what NewsHoard downloaded - it had to be the decoding. Then I compared the saved images again through a hex editor and I noticed that while the files started out the same, after about 45 bytes the NewsHoard version had an extra 0F in there and then everything was the same again for about 45 bytes more and then there was an extra 0F and so on ... Now I knew the problem - the component that I was using was decoding the file properly but was inserting a 0F after every 45 bytes or so :p

Now this is where using open source components comes in handy - because you get the source and can run through it with a debugger <g> I downloaded another file with NewsHoard and this time watched the decoding process to figure out where the extra 0F was coming from and realized that the decoder was reading the encoded text a line at a time and that the 0F went at the end of each line that was decoded! Then it was simply a matter of figuring out how to disable the addition of the extra 0F and I was all set!

Basic functionality in NewsHoard is now almost complete! I need to do a little bit more cleaning up - add a few missing features like unsubscribing from newsgroups and I should be set for the first beta! So stay tuned :-)
posted at 08:06:43 AM  link  comment

Wed, Aug 08 2001

Blog is still having problems with date formats and (seemingly) European machines - or maybe it's machines running Win98... not enough evidence yet to point one way or another. I've been talking to one user from Netherlands and he's tried almost everything and the weird thing is that things that work on my machine don't seem to work for him ... Since I like to troubleshoot hands-on, I don't know what else I can do except perhaps to find somebody with the problem who'd like to run VNC for me or something so that I can take a look at the machine first hand. I hate it when problems like this crop up!!

Speaking of problems, I'm having trouble with NewsHoard as well - I have everything done. Connecting to news servers, authentication, getting news group lists, subscribing, getting all articles for a specific group and getting a particular article but I can't display or save attachments!! All that needs to be done is to decode MIME attachments but the Indy components that I'm using seem to have no clear documentation or examples on how this can be done :p Ah well, once I get that figured out NewsHoard should be ready for its first release ...
posted at 08:08:29 AM  link  comment

Tue, Aug 07 2001

I have been getting so far behind on my e-mail that it's not funny. Plus, I have major problems with sending out e-mail during the week since I don't have access to a proper SMTP server from work that I'm not even sure that half the people that I write to, do get my e-mails. So if you've written to me in the last week or so, it might be that I've written to you but you didn't get my e-mail or it might be that I didn't write at all because I was too busy :p

Speaking of busy, I've been back to working hard on NewsHoard. I've got the basic news reader functionality all in place except for handling/decoding images or attachments. I want to get that sorted out too since a news reader wouldn't be too useful if you had to take the encoded images and use a different program to decode them <vbg> I am not sure that everybody would like the UI though since it seems a bit cluttered and busy what with the tree list on the left for backend news feeds and the left hand side being devoted to usenet news stuff but I'm thinking of giving the option to hide either side or keep them both open. I guess what I'll do is do a prototype release as soon as I get basic functionality in place and then sit back and wait for the comments :-)

Finally I have a rant :p Now KuhnDog tells me that ranting is "trendy" and I hate to do stuff that is simply trendy <g> But I've been getting on my soap box every now and then for as long as I can remember and since I was doing it before it became trendy, I think I'm entitled to rant - so here goes :p Today I heard two stories on the radio while driving to work which kind of made me mad. The first story was about an editor of "Vogue" magazine (I think) who is supposed to have been "ripping" on Hollywood clebrities. His comments? He said that Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks was hyperactive, that Robin Williams should stop with the message stuff, that Leonardo Caprio should go to college - that was ripping? Come on! I've heard better insults at the kindergarten! In the next story (or couple of stories) they talked about Mariah Carey going in for treatment for emotional stress and about a 60 year old Japanese woman giving birth to a child through in-utero fertilization. The DJ refused to make any funny remarks about Mariah Carey but they made several supposedly funny remarks about the Japanese woman and her baby. This leads me to ask the question - Do we take our celebrities too serioulsy? Do we think that they are above reproach and should be venerated instead of treated like normal human beings? I sometimes wonder ...
posted at 06:47:25 AM  link  comment

Mon, Aug 06 2001

Well, the weekend went by pretty well but pretty fast :-) I didn't do much coding at all yesterday ... mostly I played "Grandia II" on the DreamCast and once again, I am very much impressed by the whole Grandia series. I loved the first one and the storyline on the second is in a certain sense even better than the first. The plot has more twists and turns and unexpected surprises than your average movie :-) I think off and on I played about six or seven hours yesterday - I have about two or three more areas to go through before I complete the game ... ah well, time to look for another game - perhaps "Dark Cloud" on PS2? But I don't have a PS2 :p

I have been getting bug reports from users about Blog 3.5 giving a message along the lines of "DBISAM Engine Error # 11949 SQL error - Date, time, or timestamp expression expected, instead found '07/22/2001' in WHERE or JOIN clause" when trying to publish journals, where the date is different but the rest of the message is more or less similar. Originally the bug was reported by Alan in BangKok but the date was formatted differently and so I thought that it had something to do with the system date format and so set Blog to explicitly use the mm/dd/yyyy format. Alan's problems disappeared after that but I've got this particular report from at least two users ... One person actually sent me all his Blog data files and I ran the publish process and I had no problems at all! I still don't know what's happening there but if anybody else has these problems and would like to work with me on it and try to sort it out, let me know.
posted at 08:12:01 AM  link  comment

Sun, Aug 05 2001

Been really busy with coding yesterday that I didn't update the journal or respond to most of my e-mails. So what was I busy with? Not NewsHoard unfortunately - it was Blog again :p It's mostly UI related stuff like the ability to hide either of your toolbars and have the setting saved across sessions, a system tray icon with a little context menu, lots of keyboard shortcuts, the option to display the archive links on the journal itself - so that you could have a little side-bar with links to older posts. Lots of stuff like that and most (if not all <g>) of them were suggested by Jason.

Speaking of Jason, he did a great guide for people moving from Blogger to Blog about how to convert their templates over and I should have put it up yesterday but I was too busy. So I have rectified the omission today by putting up the guide and also updating the FAQ/Know Defects section of the Blog page so that it is a little bit (but not much) more helpful :p
posted at 08:41:44 AM  link  comment

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