A Geek Entry

Welcome to the new-look dervala.net. Now that I am reunited with my precious ThinkPad I celebrated by finally setting up Movable Type. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, even though I paid for Blogger Pro. Why?

Welcome to the new-look dervala.net. Now that I am reunited with my precious ThinkPad I celebrated by finally setting up Movable Type. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, even though I paid for Blogger Pro. Why?

  1. MT has features Blogger lacks. In particular, I wanted to be able to categorize entries. Blogger treats chronology as the sole defining characteristic for the split-file web format. This is appropriate for a strict ‘Today my cat/kid did X’ journal site, but too limited for what is becoming a collection of short essays. I’m just as interested in sorting my entries by, say, countries I visited as by months I wrote.
  2. MT has other good stuff. Integrated comments. Trackback. Integrated update email notifications. Ability to create multiple additional templates, so you can manage static content as well as chronological entries (so that, for example, I can manage an About page or a résumé page using MT). Pre-defined, editable cascading style sheets—a great blessing. Innumerable useful plug-ins, such as a version of Dean Allen’s Textile text-formatting tool (which I haven’t been able to get working yet). Batch-editing for multiple entries. Global search-and-replace. Integrated site search.
  3. The MT user interface is more elegant. The Blogger Pro back end has improved substantially with the latest redesign, but it still can’t touch MT.
  4. Sites published through MT are generally far more elegant. Most users rely on or at least start with the default templates, and Blogger’s templates are not beautiful. My previous design made me cringe every time I looked at it, but over the last year of hurried internet café access I didn’t have the opportunity to clean it up (even though my friend Max kindly volunteered to design a new header, which I’m still hoping we can work on). No excuses now.
  5. MT doesn’t use the term ‘blog’. I know most, well, bloggers are gung-ho about the word, but it makes me queasy.

So why didn’t I just set up my own database-driven site? Well, I’m lazy. And rusty. And not interested enough in content-management for its own sake to ignore excellent, existing tools that will teach me plenty as I stumble through them.

MT is reasonably well-documented, but it isn’t for novices. I found that setting up the tools, importing my entries from Blogger, and building a site was harder than it needed to be, even for a savvy user. It bears the signs of a small company that relies on Macs: for example, the most basic (and most popular?) default template is broken on IE for Windows. I discovered this after happily testing on Mozilla all morning. There are also import problems with IE. I know IE is not a fabulous browser. I know it should support certain CSS tags. But it doesn’t, and for now at least, it’s an IE/Windows world.

There are other UI bugs and lacks that are just plain annoying: I can’t find a way, for example, to search for uncategorized entries in the batch-editing mode. I wanted to be able to assign sub-categories (e.g., Travel->Bolivia) but haven’t figured that out yet either, though I can assign an entry to multiple categories. The default search function is not great.

Nits and gripes aside, though, I’m looking forward to using MT. You may notice formatting problems with some entries (particularly older ones), which I haven’t got around to fixing yet. Current categorization is also very basic—I’ve simply dumped every entry into a single default category for now. I suspect these issues will bother completists only…

I’ve added a few things in the left-hand column: a list of books I’m reading, music I’m listening to, quotes I’m ruminating on. I’m hoping to add some photos from my travels soon. I’d love to hear your suggestions for other additions or subtractions.

3 thoughts on “A Geek Entry”

  1. I’m glad you are back – I’ve missed your running commentary. What a free spirit you are. The Canadian government may be making it difficult for you to stay amoung us, but, I for one am glad you are here enjoying our wilderness in a way many Canadians (like myself) have never properly done. Kudos to you. Thanks for your intelligent observations.
    Wendy

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  2. One of the best features of MT is its mySql support, which could possibly solve your subcategorization problem: if you migrate your entries thereto, you could just edit the default db schema to include a subcategory column (I think it would be in the mt_entry table) and use your own custom template with Brad Choate’s MTSQL plugin (http://www.bradchoate.com/past/mtsql.php#000667) to display whatever entries you desired on special archive pages. You remember lovable old mySql, don’t you?

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  3. Yes, I’m playing around in my database whenever my limited, ‘borrowed’ dial-up access allows, a thought that should strike fear into (a former engineering cowokrker) Janet’s heart if you tell her.

    MySQL is just a cuddly as I remember it.

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