Just a heads-up, gang. As previously mentioned, it looks like the blog is going to be moving. I’ve finally received the official go-ahead from the powers that be at Keenspot that they’re okay with the move. I’m not sure yet when it will officially happen, but seeing as I’ll be on a business trip next week, it might be a week or two. I’ll have to iron out the details with the Keen Tech Crew first.
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you read this blog via a Web browser, probably nothing. Just keep using the old
www.jeffdarlington.com domain name and you shouldn’t notice any difference, just that one day the blog won’t have Keenspot ads and the next day it will. Isn’t the magic of DNS grand? (If the ads bother you, then I’ll go ahead and make the prerequisite plug for Keenspot PREMIUM, which removes those ads and puts a few extra bucks in my pocket at the same time.)
If you’re checking for updates via one of the XML feeds like RSS or Atom, you might want to periodically peek in via a browser, especially if I seem even more silent than usual. (Yeah, I know, that’ll be hard to notice as my updates are somewhat sporadic. Sorry about that.) The reason I mention this is that the feed links currently bypass the dynamic DNS’ Web forwarding (i.e. the translation from the domain name on port 80 to the IP on the real port; check this post for the gory details). Unfortunately, when the site moves to Keen, that alternate port will no longer be available and the XML feed links will return back to port 80. To anyone currently using the feeds on the alternate port, the feed will appear to break. You’ll need to keep an eye on the feed URLs to notice when they update. I’ll look into ways to redirect them, but I doubt Keenspot will be willing to jump through those hoops just for me.
If you don’t read this blog, then… well… what are you doing here, then?
I’ll try and keep you apprised of things as often as I can. I plan to move as much data from one site to the other as possible, so hopefully those of you who have already signed up for commenting shouldn’t need to worry about signing up again. Thanks in advance for your patience.
I apologize for the quietness, everyone. Busy, busy, busy on this end. Thought I’d drop a quick post in to update you on a few things.
Good news: Feedback is so far very positive on the three-updates-per-week thing. Even though it’s not the main comic, you guys have been very open and accepting of the Sketchbook reruns and the new Mischief mini-series. It’s still not ideal in my book, but I’m much rather have you guys coming back more often, and this should provide us with good, solid updates through about the end of June.
Bad news: I’ve received an odd complaint or two about the fact that the Sketchbook updates aren’t showing up in the official GPF RSS feed. Yup, thems the breaks. The GPF RSS feed is an odd hodge-podge of bizarre coding which shoehorns Keenspot’s Autokeen automation software into doing things it was never intended to do. In general, though, I’ve been able to do some pretty amazing things with it, and my RSS feed is the loose basis upon which most of the other Keenspot RSS feeds are built. That said, the way I’ve coded the Sketchbook rerun updates is very non-standard for Autokeen, which means it can’t take advantage of Autokeen’s many features. That also means I have no clue how to insert the Sketchbook reruns into the RSS feed without resorting to some pretty nasty manual tweaking. There’s a point to automating things, of course: to completely avoid manual tweaking. I’m looking into what I can do to include the Sketchbook updates into the feed, but on one hand I’m not sure if I even should. One point of RSS is to allow you to come back and look at things at their permanent home at a later date. Since the Sketchbook reruns are transient and can’t be accessed directly outside of the two days they’re on the main page (without a PREMIUM account), I’m not sure if it even makes sense to put it in the feed. I’m still waffling back and forth on that one. (I should point out that the regular Sketchbook updates are in the PREMIUM-only RSS feed, which is accessible from the High-Def index.)
Worse news: I did my semi-monthly comic production calculations and February and March (as of this posting) are both down. That means that while I still have my buffer, it’s dwindling slowly instead of building slowly. I’m actually down to 0.75 CPW. That, of course, means no increase in the main comic’s schedule for April. Actually, at this point, I wouldn’t expect a real update on this until July anyway, as I’ve already planned for the bonus updates through the end of June. However, as stated previously, I’m constantly re-evaluating these calculations, and I try to keep updated on them when there’s anything worth updating.
Slightly annoying news: Yes, I’m aware there’s a typo in Monday’s comic. Quite a few of you have been very helpful in pointing that out, to which I am always grateful. (I always prefer to catch and fix typos while they’re only online, before they reach more permanent media like the books.) But I’ve been so blasted busy that I haven’t had time to correct the strip or even make a News post stating that I’m aware of it. So no more e-mails please… at least on this particular typo. It’s in my queue and I’ll get to it as soon as I can. Thanks.
Last night, I was working on one part of implementing the GPF update changes previously mentioned. Since I’ve been having some trouble getting a response from the Keen Tech Crew (who I assume have been as busy with real life things as I have), I decided to try and implement a backup plan in case they couldn’t get their part done by Monday. It’s all rather technical… but then you guys probably enjoy reading my technical ramblings from time to time. (Either that, or you ignore the Technology category altogether. Take your pick.) Unfortunately, it involves some intimate knowledge of Keenspot’s update mechanism, Autokeen, which most of you probably don’t have.
Long story short, Autokeen uses templates that are parsed by a massive Perl script that replaces certain “tags” with actual content. For example, the tag
***todays_comics*** gets replaced with the necessary HTML to display any images or text that have been designated as “comic” files. This obviously includes the images for the
dailyweekly strip, but it can also use text and even Flash. The GPF News is treated as a “comic” by Autokeen, even though it’s all text. Unfortunately, while there can be multiple “comics” under one account (for GPF, they include the main comic, the News, the Sketchbook, the High-Def archive, and a few others), the way these templates are used means that each “comic” is pretty much autonomous and self-contained. There are ways to get cross-comic content (like how I get the most recent News date and blurb automatically on the main and High-Def pages), but it’s definitely not trivial and it stretches Autokeen’s capabilities beyond their original intended functions. Autokeen is incredibly flexible, which is a credit to Darren Bleuel’s design, but you can tell when you’ve taken it places it’s never been before.
Anyhoo, I was building a Perl script that would be run on a cron to do some of this cross-comic work for me, just in case my original pure-Autokeen design didn’t work as expected. I was connected to the GPF server via SSH, editing the file directly on the server via vi. I tested it pretty thoroughly and was happy with the results. By this point, it was getting late, Ben was already asleep in my wife’s arms, and we were both ready to go to bed. I shut down the laptop, we took Ben back to his crib, and while she brushed her teeth and performed other nighttime preparations, I climbed into bed.
It was then that I realized I had a fatal flaw in my code. (Nobody ever said inspiration was either punctual or convenient.) While it would successfully build some symbolic links on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I forgot to limit the code that removes the symbolic links on the other days of the week. Thus, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday it would undo all the changes it made the days before. It was getting late and I had to get up early in the morning to head off to work. I didn’t have time to fire up the laptop again and I didn’t want to go into the office to log into one of those machines and leave my sweetie waiting up for me.
I grabbed my LifeDrive and fired up its WiFi connection. I have a small SSH client for Palm OS called pssh and used it to log into the GPF server. Now pssh is a wonderful little tool, but anyone who has used a PDA probably knows that entering text into one can sometimes be… challenging. Palm has used Graffiti for years, but it can sometimes be a pain when working with applications that are very sensitive to text input mistakes (such as, say, vi). I elected to use the on-screen keyboard instead, and only switched to Graffiti when I discovered the keyboard didn’t have a pipe symbol (required to do a boolean “or” condition). Switching back and forth between edit and command modes was <sarcasm>fun</sarcasm>, even though pssh includes a nice little “ESC” button on the screen for emulating the Escape key. Old hands at vi will know you can always hit ESC multiple times to ensure you’re no longer in edit mode and that you’re back in command mode, but it seems I left the volume on the Palm up pretty high from listening to MP3s earlier. The default “bell” was embarrassing loud, especially with a sleeping baby lying a few feet away.
It took some work, but I finally got the changes incorporated and saved and compiled the script. As soon as I logged off, I realized just out absurdly geeky the entire experience was. I probably could have done things faster if I had just walked into the office across the hall and fired up PuTTY, but instead I decided to do things the hard way: working on a tiny little battery-powered device, connecting wirelessly, and fumbling with awkward text input mechanisms to use what is arguably one of the most complex text editors to make what would have been a ten-second change anywhere else. For some reason I found that obscenely amusing. You could probably care less, I’m sure, but I thought I’d share anyway.