Category Archives: Rant

It’s why we all have blogs, isn’t it?

How to Disable Autosave in WordPress

The autosave feature in recent versions of WordPress (versions 2.5–2.7) is actually a misfeature:

… A misfeature is not a bug. Nor is it a simple unforeseen side effect; the term implies that the feature in question was carefully planned, but its long-term consequences were not accurately or adequately predicted (which is quite different from not having thought ahead at all).

The improper functioning of the WordPress autosave has bitten me several times. It’s supposed to prevent you from losing work by periodically saving your blog edits in the background, when in fact it has caused me to lose work by its very operation.

[WordPress Logo Inverted]

Basically, the most recent edits made to a blog entry often get dropped when you go to “Preview” or “Publish” the entry. In other words, during either of these two operations, it reverts you to what it had autosaved in the past and the new edits are lost. The frustrating thing is that most users would expect the “Preview” operation if not the “Publish” operation to properly save what’s in the edit box. So often, you might end up publishing an incomplete or incorrect version of your blog entry without even knowing it.

This is madness. Let’s stop it.

Find the following four files in the wp-admin/ directory of your WordPress installation:

  1. page-new.php
  2. page.php
  3. post-new.php
  4. post.php

and comment out the following line:

wp_enqueue_script('autosave')

by changing it to:

//wp_enqueue_script('autosave')

This will disable the autosave feature in the WordPress user interface.

A secondary part of the solution, too, is to always hit “Save Draft” before hitting “Preview”. I’m not sure if this is strictly necessary, but now I’m paranoid.

Thanks to Allen Day and William Lone for showing me how to do this.

More Word Processor Bashing

As you may know, I really hate word processors and how they work. I much prefer document formatters or text processors. Anyway, on this forum thread, second post, I read something that made me nod and laugh. Thanks Gomer_X:

I get so frustrated with Word type wordprocessors (OO Writer included), that I resort to writing stuff in HTML. At least then I get what I want. Every time I have to deal with Word’s helpful attempts at doing bulleting/numbering for me, I want to slit my wrists. I mean it can’t be that hard. It’s certainly not intuitive.

As a bonus, following a link to the Ubuntu documentation project later in the thread, I came across these two excellent resources for technical authors:

A quick synopsis of the last few days

Here’s a quick synopsis of the last few days of my life:

  • In trying to create a page for a new project idea, I discovered that my WordPress installation was now broken. WordPress is the thing that runs this site.
  • In creating a new WordPress installation for my Tchou Tchou’s new website, I found that it was broken too. Out of the box. No final solution yet.
  • I successfully started a mailing list for my extended family. My first use of the list was to wish my Grandparents a happy 65th wedding anniversary today. (Wow!)
  • I bought a new 250-GB hard drive to house my growing media collection.
  • I managed to decimate my computer’s hard drive at work and I lost everything. And I mean everything. Fortunately there was no important data there. I keep it all online or at home, surprisingly enough. I don’t know if it was my fault, though. A 7+ hour transfer from a USB hard drive locked up my Ubuntu and left the ext3 partition in an unmountable state. Bye bye data.
  • In lieu of a working hard drive at work, I’m using Damn Small Linux as a life-raft “Live” operating system. At 50 MB, it’s awesomely powerful.
  • I absolutely fell in love with Jonathan Coulton’s music when I heard his song “Shop Vac”. (Go download it. You know you want to.) Some of my money will be flying his way very soon.
  • I reconnected with my friend Juraj from Calgary. We haven’t seen each other or talked since about 1999 or 2000, I think. I’m glad he uses the same email address, anyway. I’m still waiting to hear back from another lost friend, Matt, though.
  • This week (and the next two) I’m helping my Tchou Tchou work on her research project for a course she’s taking. She’ll be surveying art students at the college level to get their opinions on curriculum and teaching style.

So, all in all, I’m quite busy, and I’m having mixed high and low experiences with computer technology. But the lows are pretty low right now. I wish things would stop breaking. <sigh> Yet, life is going well.

Rip-Mix-Burn is Alive and Well in China

Imagine for a moment the under-served population of fans of both Mickey Mouse (TM) and the Teletubbies (TM). When choosing her wardrobe and accessories, today’s fan of these cultural icons would forever be forced to choose between Mickey Mouse or Teletubby for a given item, always having to weigh one above the other in her fashion choices. Imagine the horror.

Well, not anymore. Women in the free state of the People’s Republic of China now have more choice than ever. Just today, I saw a woman on the subway proudly displaying her love for her respective “licenced” characters by sporting a purse with a large, jovial Mickey Mouse against a white background dancing purple Teletubbies. The joy! (My eyes are tearing up as I write this.)

Without the restriction of corporate licenses, the fashion and accessory manufacturers in China (truly gods in their fields) are able to create goods for even the smallest niches of the market, including our Mickey Mouse-loving / Teletubby-infatuated subway rider. The free market thrives here, and it is truly wonderful thing.

Please stop trying to be a radio show

To scratch an irritating itch, I sent the following email to Chris Lydon from Radio Open Source, a podcast I often listen to.

Dear Chris and company:

I enjoy listening to your program. It’s entertaining, informative, and compelling. But I have one serious issue that keeps coming up with each episode—Chris keeps cutting off his guests in mid sentence to go to a commercial. This is a tremendous disservice to your listeners, and, for a podcast, this is completely unnecessary. In fact, it strikes this listener as asinine every time I hear it happen. You have all the time in the world so you don’t need to take breaks at pre-determined intervals.

Please, for the sake of your listeners and for your guests, stop trying to be a radio show. It is too limiting, and the quality of your show suffers because of it. You are better off as a podcast.

Thank you.

In case you’re not familiar with the show, the commercials are not actually there in the podcast, but the interruption of the guests still occurs. I’m curious to see what his response will be. Maybe he will think I am just another nut job, but maybe he’ll see my point, even if he isn’t free to act on it.

Chinese Blogger Slams Microsoft

Wired News is carrying an excellent article about Isaac Mao, the Chinese über-blogger, and his views on how Microsoft’s MSN Spaces is sucking up to the Chinese government. Yes, everyone knows that Microsoft is a criminal organization (remember the anti-trust violations?), but sometimes we need to be reminded just how evil they really are. (Google is evil, too, remember, for sleeping with the Chinese government in the same way.)

If you know any Chinese who are interested in starting a blog, please encourage them to stay away from MSN Spaces.

The unfortunate news of the story, however, is in the last few paragraphs. They detail that the real problem with the Internet in China is not the ISPs’ or Microsoft’s censorship, but the apathy of China’s most wired citizens. For further reading, the following is a good editorial by Sascha Matuszak:

For the record: download and upload, podcasting and podcatching

For the record people: download is pull, upload is push. Similarly, podcatching is pull, podcasting is push.

If you are moving a file to your webserver, that’s an upload. If you are putting a file onto your mp3 player from your desktop computer, that’s an upload too. Someday, when our mp3 players control and initiate the transfer, then it will be a download. But not before. Downloading is pulling something towards you. Uploading is pushing something away from you. Perhaps a poem will help:

Download is pull, upload is push;
If you get it wrong again, I’ll knock you on your tush.

Podcasting is the act of producing and offering a podcast to the public. Podcatching is the act of receiving a podcast. When someone is listening to the radio, we do not say they are broadcasting. It is the radio station that is broadcasting. So in the same way, listening to a podcast is not podcasting. The person producing the podcast is podcasting.

Thank you.

Word processors are for wieners

In my editing work, far too often I come across papers that have headings numbered like {1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6} or {1, 2, 3, 5, 6}, etc. Likewise, tables and figures are misnumbered and references are not in alphabetical order. Now I claim that no one is writing their papers on typewriters anymore, nor are they writing them out longhand. Nearly 100% of authors today are using computers.

Now think about that word “computer” for a moment. What does it mean? In its simplified meaning, “to compute” means to count. So why do people manually assign numbers to the headings in their documents, only to get it wrong in the end. The computer’s purpose is to count and enumerate these things for you. And the computer won’t get it wrong, even when you move entire sections or chapters around in your document.

The basic problem is that if you are using a word processor to write letters, memos, papers, reports, or even books—namely structured documents—you are using the wrong tool for the job. The proper tool to use is a text processor. Personally, I recommend LaTeX, but there are many other choices out there.

The main point is that writing using a text processor, as opposed to a word processor, allows you to separate content from style. You, as an author, should focus on deciding how to structure your document (the major and minor headings) and what text to put in your document, and not on deciding how the document should look. You should decide the latter after the document is written, and let the computer handle the work of enumerating and managing headings. The longer and more complex a document is, the more important this becomes. Word processors do an absolutely horrid job of maintaining consistency across a document. Text processors, on the other hand, do this trivially.

Free yourself from the madness of the word processor today! Just follow the two links above to get started, and have your computer work for you, not against you.