Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: MovableType

May 29, 2008

Movabletype 4.2 upgrade soon

movabletypeSixapart has released MovableType 4.2 with its promised performance improvements (100x faster search, 33-45% faster publishing). I'll probably be upgrading tonight, so if you see any outages, you'll know why. I should be re-enabling search/tags now that this update is available.

MovableTypo users: this may be the release that I finally do an upgrade with. Certain things got a bit more complicated (e.g. templates) with MT 4.x, but they claim to have improved those as well.

Also as promised, the reasons for the delayed release have become clear: Typepad Antispam was also announced and is included in the new release. Antispam is Sixapart's dropin replacement for the popular Akismet service. Both a centralized services that snarf in comments and can the spam.

June 8, 2007

MovableType 4: Getting the stats widget to work

With help and patience from Nick Prior, the stats flash widget is no longer broken on my MovableType 4 dashboard. The stats widget shows a graph of # of comments and # of entries over the past 1-4 months. The fix for me was two-part:

  • You need to create a 'support' directory in your mt-static directory
  • If you keep your mt-static directory somewhere other than the default, you need to set StaticFilePath with the correct path (e.g. c:\Apache2\htdocs\mt-static\). (I kept reading this as the StaticWebPath setting, which is a more common MT setting).

Googling for 'StaticFilePath' didn't turn up any documentation on it, but it did lead me to this entry:

"Failed to create stats file" errors in activity log. If you see this error, you should create a support directory in mt-static and make it writable by MT. If you keep your mt-static directory somewhere other than the directory where the MT cgi's live, then you will need to set StaticFilePath in your mt-config.cgi appropriately. We will handle this situation better in the next beta--apologies for the inconvenience.

So I missed it there as well when I was scanning through the known issues.

June 7, 2007

MovableType 4: Categories demoted?

I'm going to put on my UI hat to talk about the MovableType 4 beta once again. MovableType has long had distinction between 'primary category' and 'secondary categories'. There's not much distinction between the two other than the primary category is the one you see listed in the MT entry management menus. This has lead to a progression of category-entry widgets in MT to try and project this distinction to the user. The side-effect of this progression is that the primary category has also had the distinction of being the category you can enter quickly.

MT4 shakes up this long-held distinction. For a brief summary of the category widget, analysis of the new widget, and suggestions for improvement (in other words, another of my rants), please read on.

Continue reading "MovableType 4: Categories demoted?" »

June 5, 2007

MovableType 4, my attempted redesign

I'll have some more thoughts on the MovableType 4 beta, but for now I wanted to focus on one of the major changes for MT4: the new UI. MT4 looks similar to some of the early Vox UIs, which clusters the menu items at the top of the screen in pulldown menus. MT3 and MT2 used a combination of left-hand sidebar and top navigation. This reorganization has its pluses and minuses: it dedicates more page width to the focal content (e.g. your new entry screen), but it also takes a lot longer to access menu items -- with MT3 every menu item was visible and immediately click-able. The MT4 designers clearly recognized this sacrifice and added a dedicated "Write Entry" button so that it would remain quickly accessible.

You spend more time writing an entry than navigating, so it seems a good trade-off to reclaim pixels from navigation buttons. But I feel like the potential isn't fully realized with MT4. If navigation speed is going to be sacrificed to optimize content space, there is a lot more that could be done. The new entry-editing box is only ~25% wider (686 pixels vs. 554) and only about 14% taller (131 pixels versus 115). With some 5-minutes of quick redesigning in Photoshop, I came up with a layout that is 75% taller than the MT4 design: 14 lines of editable content instead of just 8. That's a lot less scrolling to see what you've written. My 'redesign' is just a quick hack job, but I think it demonstrates the potential.

Here's my reorganized layout (~174 pixels above the entry editing box):


Update: m has already implemented this design with a modified structure.css

I've put more side-by-side comparisons in the extended entry.

Continue reading "MovableType 4, my attempted redesign" »

MovableType 4, now in beta

The power behind and has now gone through a major update to MovableType 4 Beta. As their announcement indicates, MT4 seems to be first MovableType release to integrate lessons learned from SixApart's other properties (LiveJournal, TypePad, Vox). Or, perhaps more accurately, Vox was the first service SixApart designed with its accumulated lessons learned and SixApart is now bringing those changes back into its original product.


From the screenshots, you can see that the management screens have gotten a Vox-y overhaul with the first significant changes to the menu organization and new at-a-glance trend graphs. The post editor UI will be more similar to Vox, with WYSYWIG editing of text and photos.

Beyond just the major UI upgrades, there is also integrated OpenID for commenting as well as RebuildQueue to prevent servers from crashing during spam attacks. I'm perhaps most excited by the MTAggregator, which will make it easier to publish your various blogs together (surprising that it took this long). This should decrease the need to crosspost and instead offer this blog as a clearing house for my many other blogs.

The feature I'm least excited about is "new default templates" -- I just completed my transition from MT 2.x to MT 3.x templates, darnit!

August 25, 2005

At long last, 3.2

MovableType 3.2 has been released. I've been following their series of 32 favorite features for 3.2 and it sounds like SixApart has been listening to our gripes -- 3.2 should be better and easier to use.

I'll be testing it out here on first and if it lives up to expectations you should be seeing it on movabletypo soon enough.

Movable Type - News - Announcing Movable Type 3.2

March 7, 2005

Blacklist + Windows restored

It's not perfect, but these patches have revived MT Blacklist on my Windows server enough to allow me to block comments effectively once more. I still get several error screens interacting with it, but I was able to add enough items to the blacklist that most of my spam has been cutoff.

The patches are bit cumbersome. There are bugs in MovableType 3.x itself that need to be fixed, which is perhaps one cause of the perpetual delay in getting out an official version of MT Blacklist for Windows. If you can put up with the spam, the fixes will appear in the next MovableType release.

November 3, 2004

MT + S5 = No more Powerpoint

bp showed me S5 today, a tool that Eric Meyer has been working on that allows you to do presentations in a Web browser that feel very much like a Powerpoint presentation. bp knew about a presentation I had done awhile back using MovableType as the presentation tool and suggested that a meeting of the two (MovableType + S5) might be in order using MT's category archive templates.

The old idea (just MovableType): * each blog entry is a slide * each presentation is tied to a category * links at the top of each slide advance you from one slide to the next

The new idea (MovableType + S5): * each blog entry is a slide * each presentation is tied to a category * each slide is formatted using CSS to look like an actual presentation slide * you can use the arrow keys to advance between slides * there are alternate presentation formats for printing, handouts, etc...

I coded it up and it was remarkably simple. The category archive template is straightforward (much cleaner than most MT templates), and you can see the results over on my presentations blog.

It's still a work in progress. I have to work out issues like commenting, RSS feeds, and some layout issues, but for the general functionality is there. For extra goodness you can throw in Markdown to make it easier to do bullets and font sizes.

I'm in a hurry right now, so I'll post more details on it later, but for now, feel free to leave comments/questions/suggestions.

October 20, 2004

MovableType 3.12, woohoo

I just installed the latest MovableType, version 3.12. I appreciate the numerous improvements and bugfixes (especially the bugfix that makes deleting moderated comments much quicker), but, sadly, it broke my MT Blacklist install even though I upgraded that as well. The problem is a known issue, so we'll see how quickly it gets resolved. Should've stuck with the tried and true.

Correction: Blacklist works, I just can't login to it/administer it

August 16, 2004

Thank you Jay Allen!

MT-Blacklist v2.0e (emergency release) is out! It's installed on now and I will be putting it through the ropes to see how well it does. It comes just in the nick of time as it seems that the spammers have caught up to my latest attempts to foil them and have been leaving loads of spam in the past 48 hours.

I have long said I would upgrade movabletypo to MovableType 3.0 when MT-Blacklist comes out, but I will have to amend that statement slightly. The features I saw in the soon-to-be-release 3.1 are significant (no more individual archive rebuilds!), and this emergency release of MT-Blacklist will not be compatible with 3.1. So, my current thinking is that I will bite the upgrade bullet with MT 3.1.

Update: MT-Blacklist has made me aware that the same spammer has now made 200 failed attempts (and rising) to spam my blog. Surely there has to be a better use of bandwidth than 200 hits against my site in only 2 hours.

So yes, MT-Blacklist is working quite well (with some minor non-feature-related bugs).

August 12, 2004

Sixapart mixer


Sixapart went all out with their mixer. Open bar with great drinks (Chimay, sake, wine), tasty (but a little strange) hor d'oevres, great schwag, and an art gallery to top it off (with a slightly disturbing painting of a topless Uhura). There was also a lot of the MovableType team and random industry and blogger representatives, and you could generally tell who was who, as the MT people and industry people mingled while the pure bloggers stood around :). I managed to pull away from my wallflowering long enough to have a couple of conversations, including one with a guy from rojo, a soon-to-be combined XML aggregation/social network service.

The 3.1 demo went well. I wasn't excited by the PHP integration when I first heard about it -- I was worried that it wouldn't be a seamless switch -- but when I saw it in action I was impressed. With a simple menu selection you can get rid of page rebuilding, allowing you to make quick changes to your templates and speeding up the commenting process. The URLs stay the same and all the MT tags have been reimplemented using PHP. Kudos to Brad Choate for handing over the keys to this. They also showed off a new Post Status option labeled "future", which allows you to delay a post. That might be useful, but I don't know yet.

I've been having some good schwag karma. At Comic-Con I got the Star Wars lego minis and Incredibles poster. Google gave me a nalgene bottle and t-shirt. Sixapart wins the prize though. They gave everyone 32MB flash drives (USB 2.0) with the MovableType 3.1 beta loaded on it. They were even nice enough to give me an extra one so that bp can have one.

I didn't take too many photos as I've figured that their were so many bloggers there that there should be no lack of media produced from this event. Mena was taking tons of photos with Barak's Canon digital SLR, so I was jealous, as I want to save up some money for that camera. I did have to crop the photo of me and Mena to remove my mug from it, as there was no reason to ruin a perfectly good photo.

Mixer Photo Gallery (18 photos)

August 1, 2004

Fixing broken MT links after server move/database crash

This entry is for anyone who's tried to move their MovableType installation or had their Berkeley DB crash and discovered that once they resurrect their blog, all of the URLs for their entries have changed. MovableType 3.0 fixes this problem by changing how URLs for entries are created, but their are plenty of people out there who still feel the pain (MovableType 2.x users may wish to innoculate themselves).

meta's database crashed a couple weeks ago, which means that a lot of her older entries were no longer displaying properly nor were comments working properly on those older entries, so I wrote a quick script that is similar to the innoculation technique above. This script can be used to 'fix' broken links after a Berkeley DB crash, or it can be used to move your entries from one server/host to another. It requires that you have the old monthly archive pages pre-crash/move, and once it's done it creates a single file that you have to upload to your Web server. That's it.

I've included the source code of this program in the full entry, but I don't expect people who find this entry to know how to pull apart the code, because if they did, then they would probably be able to write it themselves, so feel free to leave me a comment if you find yourself in a situation similar to the one described here and I'll tailor it to your needs.

I mostly did this because it took less than 30 minutes, and I really need to practice my python.

Continue reading "Fixing broken MT links after server move/database crash" »

July 16, 2004

MT Blacklist for MovableType 3.0 is coming!

Jay Allen, creator of MT Blacklist, has just released MT-Blacklist v2.0G5, which his entry into the MovableType 3.0 plugin contest. Considering how useful MT-Blacklist 1.x has been, he should automatically be awarded a prize, but I'm excited that he has updated his plugin as it means:

MovableType 3.0 will be installed on (soon, as in a couple of weeks)

I tried every which way to configure to use MT 3.0's various comment features, such as TypeKey authentication and comment moderation; both lead to a decrease in valid comments on my site and/or increased my administrative headache. If I weren't so lazy, I would have reverted to MT 2.6 just to get MT-Blacklist back.

BTW - MT-Blacklist 2.0 adds a feature that I think is really cool: you can specify an 'open' comment window in which entries less than X days are unmoderated, but after that time window, comments become moderated. Its so simple, so obvious in retrospect, and oh-so awesome. All of my comment spam is on older entries, as the spammers get the URLs from Google. It is conceivable (until the spammers get smarter) that this single feature would eliminate all spam on my site, and it doesn't even involve maintaining a Blacklist. Woohoo!

As evidence of my hypothesis, try the following experiment:

1) Search Google for mt-comments
2) Look familiar?

All three times this experiment has been performed, I, or the person I was demonstrating it to said, "Why, those are the entries I get my spam on!" New entries don't appear in Google quickly, nor do they initially have a very high page rank, so there so the open comment window should do well.

BTW: renaming mt-comments.cgi will reduce your comment spam, but not eliminate it.

June 30, 2004

RSS Comments

Moving means that I don't get to help bp with setting up RSS comments with MT other than exchange links and ideas over IM, but I'm hoping to have support for this soon in the feed aggregator for (currently disabled due to DSL being shut off).

Side note: I have the code for the feed aggregator on a flash drive, so hopefully all systems will return to 'normal' by tomorrow.

June 18, 2004

MT 3.0 (developer release) commenting blows

It's been awhile since I've had one of my longer software rants, so to your detriment, here goes (this is targeted at MT 3.0 administrators and developers), though if you're in anyway interested in the constant change of the comment configuration on this site, this entry should explain:

Continue reading "MT 3.0 (developer release) commenting blows" »

April 7, 2004

Graceful MovableType-generated .htaccess solution

Here's a good feature request from with solution by Brad Choate. Tools for future-proofing MT | A Whole Lotta Nothing

Background for Movable Type users who may not understand the problem being addressed: MovableType doesn't include the IDs for your entries when you export them. If your database crashes and you try to reload it using your last MovableType export, all of the URLs for your entries are likely to change. meta and I have both had this problem -- she had it when her BerkeleyDB got corrupted, I had it when I moved to mysql. (MySQL users are a little bit more protected because they can do a database dump instead of exporting from MT).

One way to guard against this is to modify your MT settings so that it uses better URLs for your entries. Instead of naming an entry "000123.html", which is based on the entry ID, you can name it "04_07_04.entry_title.html", which "future-proofs" it against database issues.

March 23, 2004

Comments on Markdown

bp left an opening in his entry for me to offer my viewpoint, and seeing as I can't resist commenting, here are my thoughts on Markdown.

Markdown is a fairly simple way for people who write blogs to write their entries without using HTML. For example, "_this_ is markup. I **really** mean it." becomes "this is markup. I really mean it." There are other features for including links, images, lists, quotes, etc... that are, in general, really elegant for people who don't know HTML, and even for people that do use HTML, as it saves both time and effort. It's a whole lot easier to type *bold*, than it is to write <b>bold</b>, and you don't end up with problems where you accidentally forget to close an HTML tag.

Despite this, I don't entirely like it. You can still include HTML in the entry. Initially, this sounds like a good feature. You're typing your entry and you decide that you want to paste in an HTML table, so all you have to do is paste it into your entry. You get the best of both works. Markdown for the simple stuff, HTML when you need it.

In my opinion, this is bad. Markdown takes the characters *, _, [, ], #, `, and >, and gives them special meaning. HTML takes the characters <, >, and &, and gives them special meaning. With Markdown, you have to be aware of both. To me, this is the worst of both worlds, and if you happen to be a user of Markdown that doesn't know HTML, doesn't it defeat some of the benefits if you have to know whether or not you're writing something that looks like HTML?

The ability to include HTML is there for people that know HTML who want to pop out of Markdown when the what to do markup more complicated than Markdown can provide. It's an understandable crutch to provide, but one that hurts users that don't know HTML. I would have preferred this feature not be in Markdown, or for there to be a special switch to go between Markdown and HTML. The benefits would be:

1. You would never have any bad HTML generated by Markdown, which is one of it's goals. You could paste whatever you like in Markdown, and it would guarantee something valid.

2. Users that don't know HTML don't have to, not even a teensy bit.

3. No confusing grey areas where you have to guess what Markdown is going to do. (bp and I got into a discussion as to how to write '-->' in Markdown, which was only solved once we played around with the online Dingus tool. The correct answer was '--&gt;', which is most likely a bug in the current release.)

4. Bonus: it would be an excellent tool for writing HTML tutorials, as it's hard to write HTML in HTML.

BTW, those interested in Markdown might also be interested Textile, which has similar markup, but is geared slightly more towards people that know HTML/CSS. It includes escapes to switch between it's markup and HTML, but as bp pointed out to me, it doesn't have as nice of syntax for doing blockquotes.

March 22, 2004

Blacklist good/bad news

According to the author of MT Blacklist, the time for MT Blacklist has come to an end. The reason for this is that MovableType 3.0 will be including TypeKey, which is a centralized user login system for MovableType blogs (the author is also ready to move onto other things). What does that mean? It means that when you want to comment on a MovableType blog, you login to TypeKey first. Presumably, spammers would be quickly identified, and booted off, but for everyone else registration would be a one-time process.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about this. User registration is one of the main reasons why I dislike Xanga so much. In Xanga's case, you can only comment after you've gone through the process of registering with Xanga. TypeKey would be marginally better, in that there's no baggage associated with registering, but part of me likes the fact that there are no deterrents to random strangers commenting on my blog. The other part of me hates the fact that this also makes it very easy for spammers, as well as people who take joy in being annoying.

In the latter case, MT Blacklist has been a reasonably good tool. At the time of this post, I count 952 comment spams that have been block by it, and it has also provided a comment deleting interface that Movable Type 2.x is sorely lacking. There was one particular case of visitor who thought it was amusing to try and annoy me by leaving 50+ comments on the site. With MT Blacklist, I was able to delete all of his comments with a single click. MT Blacklist is also a great idea, because, in general, I think in the long term it is a good deterrent to spammers to know that the URLs for the sites that they promote are being tracked and can be used against them (such as in the case of AOL, which has started blocking Web access to spammer's sites).

Depending on how spammers react to the introduction of TypeKey, I'll decide whether or not to start requiring user registration for MT 3.0, when it comes out. In the best of all worlds, it works so well that spammers move onto new territory without me evening having to enable to feature, but I know that is unwarranted optimism.

On a side note, I also wonder if TypeKey could make it easier to start building features such as making it easier to monitor responses to your comments on MovableType blogs.

February 7, 2004


Following quickly on the heels of xanga2mt, I know bring you tripod2mt. As you might be able to guess, it will convert the contents of a tripod journal into Movable Type's import format. It's not quite as good as xanga2mt; it should get all the public postings off of your page, but it is not able to grab your comments.

The fruits of the labor from these two scripts is now online: honeyfields' xanga and tripod entries have now been copied over to the new community server that we're setting up. As payment, she is now our guinea pig.

This is probably the last of the scraping scripts, though I am helping cshell move her account over from blogspot. Although Movable Type has instructions for doing this, last time when we tried it with redchilipepper it didn't work so well. blogspot is also one of those annoying blogging tools that has no notion of an entry title.

February 2, 2004


Like the title of this entry implies, this Python script will scrape an entire Xanga feed and convert it into MovableType's input format. The intended audience for this script is people who are on Xanga, but either have or are in the process of moving over to MovableType.

I don't actually fall into the intended audience of this script, which makes it strange that I would write it, but I do have good motivations:

1) I needed to learn Python for work
2) I needed to learn regular expressions for work
3) I am going to reused this code to add in some new features to the feed aggregator so that it can display comments
4) MovableType is my uber tool, and everyone should be free to use it without cell phone number portability issues :)

I've only tested this on two Xanga accounts. If you have a really weird Xanga modifications, then this will most likely break. Version 0.1 contains one or two bugs, so the program will report ~2 errors when it's done. If there's interest, I'll put out a version 0.2 that fixes these bugs, plus any others that people find.

BTW - while I was injured I also taught myself a bit of Perl over the break, and then decided that learning Python and Perl at the same time was a really, really, bad idea.

So, without further adieu:
xanga2mt release 0.3

Update: upgraded to version 0.2, which fixes bugs with comment scraping

Update: upgraded to version 0.3, which contains a small fix to make the script compatible with more sites