Tapirtype Blog: Index

March 2007 Archives

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 4, 2007

Movable Type vs Wordpress From a Design Point of View

I've been meaning to collect my impressions of the different blogging systems I've tried for a while now, but I've never seemed to get around to it. But today via Daring Fireball I noticed a little post from Joe Trotter that neatly sums up my conclusions and the reason why I've stuck with Movable Type. So now's as good a time as any to quickly throw in my two cents.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that "I hate Wordpress," and Gruber's response is correct, we shouldn't confuse templates with blogging systems. You could undoubtedly make just about any site in just about any of the top blogging systems currently in use. But just because you can do something doesn't mean that your experience doing it will be pleasant. The key observation is in Trotter's final paragraph:

I think the problem is that Wordpress themes (and to a greater extent the entire system) are so designed that modifications stick out like a sore thumb - the themes never strike a good balance between flexibility and aesthetics. I’m thinking more and more to switch to Movable Type. The cachet of Wordpress just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

Of course if you are a skilled Wordpress template designer you can make beautiful completely original or tastefully modified templates, but it isn't what Wordpress is good at. What's made Wordpress so popular -- and what has, in part, made Movable Type less popular in contrast -- is that Wordpress makes it very easy to do single click design changes. Whether or not this was inevitable, that (among other things) has made it conversely more complicated to implement templates yourself and encourages (though it doesn't demand) even original templates to conform to a certain "Wordpress way of thinking."

In order to make a new Wordpress template you have to know way more about how Wordpress itself works than you have to know about Movable Type. If you want to do anything beyond the standard you will quickly find yourself thinking about the mechanics of the database queries going on in the background, and if I wanted to think about that, I'd write my blogging software myself. In contrast, Making a Movable Type template is, simply, making a website. Not much different from designing a static page.

Therefore, I'd heartily recommend Wordpress over Movable Type to anyone who just wants to choose an existing template, maybe change a couple of colors and pictures, and get blogging. But anyone interested in the ease of customizing the design would be better served by Movable Type. People talk about how they love Wordpress in contrast to Movable Type because they always feel like they're fighting with Movable Type. But while the vanilla install was easy, designing my own templates in Wordpress felt like as big or bigger of a battle.

I think that explains a lot. Wordpress may have a somewhat slicker application, but if the design is what you care about, Moveable Type is an easier, more elegant, sandbox to play in. I'm sure that has something to do with why people who are primarily interested in design often choose Movable Type (or Textpattern or ExpressionEngine), even as the rest of the world is moving over to the plug and play "good enough out of the box" simplicity of Wordpress.

PS And yes, I know that my own blog looks fairly "Movable Typeish" as it has evolved from the standard templates.

March 11, 2007

From Sasha Kopf:



March 13, 2007

A fresh set of bile, episode 1: UPS

So I'm back from the fly meeting and ready to dish out a fresh set of bile to the things that have failed me over the last bit. In this first installment we visit how complicated UPS can make delivering a simple little envelope.

My watch broke a while back. The crystal cracked seemingly spontaneously with a loud ping that was heard from four meters away. I really could put Skagen on the list for that, but it's balanced by the fact that I really, really like my watch, so I'll spare them my wrath for now unless it breaks again. (It did mysteriously loose half an hour a couple of days ago...) It was marginally cheaper--if only marginally--to get a cheap temporary replacement and send it in to be fixed than to get a new one, so I dutifully sent in my little box insured with return receipt and waited.

Next thing, I come home to find a UPS 2nd delivery attempt slip on my mailbox. Strange, I never got a first delivery slip. And no information was filled out, so I could only assume that it was my watch coming back. Oh, and it was dated from the day before... So sure enough I go upstairs and give UPS a call and they claim to already have made a third attempt making it too late for me to do anything about it other than spend money renting a flexcar to drive all the way down to the UPS facility in Sodo. So I talk to a representative, and to his credit, he assures me that he can have it sent to my work now, but it's the last chance and they won't even hold it for me if anything goes wrong. One more problem and it's going back to the sender and who knows what I'll have to go through to get my watch back.

So I carefully ask him exactly what information he needs to make sure it gets through the byzantine addressing of the UW to our new building, giving him building name, floor, room number, lab name, department, street address, and zip plus 4, which should have been redundant about five times over to get it to me. He tells me that unfortunately it's after 6:00, so it won't get to me until day after tomorrow. No problem, I think, just so it gets to me and I don't have to shell out any more money or time. Oh, if only...

So two days roll by and nothing comes, so I track the package and there are about a million notices up repeating that "this delay was caused by an error in routing, we're sorry for the inconvenience..." Or something like that. Finally the next Monday, I have a free moment to think about it and track it again and it says that it was delivered to someone with a name I don't recognize (first name only making directory lookup almost impossible) to the "office." Nievely I run down to the departmental office and ask for my package, but no one has seen it or heard of the person who supposedly signed for it. We spend some time looking around the building for someone who might have signed for it, wasting almost an hour with no luck. Finally we decide that it could have ended up just about anywhere in the University. The problem is, I'm leaving at 3:30 AM the next day for the fly meeting, so I'm afraid that I won't be around when whoever received it tries to find me and I'll never see my watch again.

So on the suggestion of an administrator I gave UPS a call again to see if they had any more detailed information and the recording tells me everything that I already knew plus something indecipherable in a non-artificial prerecorded voice. After asking for an operator, I'm able to gather that I'm being told a room number where it ended up in the I wing of health sciences. You know, the kind of information that would have been actually been useful had it been on the tracking information page.

Unfortunately it is a couple minutes past five now, so I run off to see if I can get in to where my package is and I track it down to a relatively high security locked door with a sign saying not to knock but to use the phone, which I do and get the voice mail of the person who signed for my package. Finally luck struck because as I was about to leave someone came by and used her card to get into the door. She was nice enough to let me in and look for the package which, after some searching, we found stuck behind another envelope. So at least the story has a happy ending.

You see, what happened is that apparently UPS decided to leave out half of the information that I gave them from the new shipping label. So even though it still had the street address and room number which should have been enough to get it to me, they became confused and tried to do a directory lookup on me. The problem is that we just moved and it seems that when I changed my address in the directory when I registered for the quarter, that didn't change my faculty/staff listing (which I should have thought of), so they gave it my expired address. How it then got two floors down from my old address instead of someone in the old space telling them that it was probably something for the who used to be there, is anybody's guess as is why they decided to deliver it to a high security area.

I fixed my address listing and I'd like to think that this won't happen again, but then that would be pretty naive wouldn't it?

One! Two! Three! Four! ... May I have my coffee cake now?

Subtitled: The military coffee cake complex.

On my way home today I stopped by the U-Store to get a book and was tempted by some coffee cake at Bulldog News on the way back down the Ave.

Just as I was starting to order I heard a man coming up the Ave toward me shouting loudly "One, Two, Three, Four! Who's against this god damn war?!?" repeatedly. He made it up level with me just as I had ordered my coffee and was starting to inquire about the cake when he paused, looked at me, and repeated his slogan. I stopped mid pointing and proceeded to adopt my full on city mode and loudly ignore him, but he wouldn't have it. "Are you against this war?"

"..." I started to try to recover myself and begin to point at the coffee cake I'd like as the Barista and I kind of look around wondering what we are supposed to do, frozen in the middle of the transaction.

"Don't buy that! Before you buy that, think! ... Are you against this war???"

"...Um... Yes, actually..."

He held his hand out and, not knowing what else to do, I shook it simultaneously looking at him for the first time and realizing that he smelled like lots and lots of really old beer. As I shook his hand he said "High five! Now... ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, Who's Against This God Damn War!" clearly expecting me to join in and then he walked away.

After a stunned moment the Barista and I laughed, decided that it was ok for me to order now as long as I promised not to tell him so she wouldn't get in trouble for selling something to me, and went back to the beginning of the whole ordering process. Of course now I realized that I'd shaken this not so clean guy's hand just before ordering coffee cake that I really wanted to eat right now, but I tried not to think about that too hard.

The strangest thing about the whole episode was where it was happening. I mean, running into a young guy in jeans with a messenger bag on the Ave in Seattle you aren't very likely to find out that he's for the war. Of course, drunk and crazy as the guy seemed, I'm not entirely sure he knew where he was much less what war he was talking about. Maybe he was trying to recruit people to his side against the war on poverty or something.

March 15, 2007

A fresh set of bile, episode 2: Hard drive heartache

Subtitled: Brand name hard drive enclosures should last longer than a year.

This is just a short little rant today. The next thing that failed me was my hard drive. I have a little external hard drive. It's the result of the death of my old computer. Shortly before it died I'd sunk some money into it (I mean of course, I did, when else does your old computer die but when you've just put money in to make it last another year). So I took my brand new hard drive and bought an external enclosure for it both to ease the transfer process and so that my investment wouldn't have been entirely wasted.

After a cascade of events, I ended up buying a nice sturdy aluminum MacAlly enclosure for almost $40 at retail because I needed it right then. It worked perfectly for a year and lately I've taken to using the drive to offload things that I want to be able to access on the road but don't need all the time so I can off load in order to free up space on my already full internal drive. Mostly movies, older pictures in my Aperture library (Can I say how much I love that I can now offload the originals of some pictures while keeping low resolution stand-ins for offline viewing in the library? Pop my drive back in and they're all there just as if I hadn't off loaded them.), and a game that I've taken to playing.

While Sasha was here I took some time to offload some more pictures and when she left I decided that to console myself I'd have a nice long game playing session. So I plugged my drive back in and... Absolutely nothing happened. The drive seemed to power on as normal, but nothing I could do could make Mallory (my new computer) give any evidence that she had any idea that a hard drive had been plugged in. No drive utilities could recognize that there was a drive attached to scan.

So I figured either the drive was damaged beyond my ability to repair with the utilities I had or the enclosure had died. So I bought a brand new, cheap, Bytecc enclosure for about $19. It's not quite as pretty, but it's aluminum. It's compact. And it even comes with a very nice carrying case that I didn't expect. Worked perfect right away. No problems with the filesystem or anything. Hopefully this will be the end of my worries, but I still see a second LaCie hard drive in my future.

I'll say it again: A retail enclosure should last longer than a year. It's as simple as that.

March 18, 2007

Backup strategy rehaul. Plus: Insomniac mac solved?

Hard Disk

Since starting graduate school, I've been trying to be better about doing regular, full backups. There's just too many stories about people loosing years of their lives to crashes for anyone without a death wish not to at least try. It also has as much to do with the fact that, for the first time since I've been thinking about backups, hard drives are cheep, and hard drive based backups have become a reality. Which means I don't have to backup 80 GB of data in 100 or 700 MB chunks like in the late 90s when I wasn't good about backing up because I was never going to sit there swapping out that many zip disks or CDs.

Now with high quality external drives of 250 GB or more available for $130 or less, there's no excuse. It helps that I use a laptop as my main computer so I'm stuck with smaller hard drives. Mallory's internal hard drive is 100 GB and I have a 60 and an 80 GB external drive. 100 60 80=240 meaning that for now I can perfectly fit all of my data on my 250 GB backup drive even if I fill everything.

But there's a problem. Just because storage is now economical doesn't mean that backup software is any better. And backup software just isn't something that I'm willing to give any slack. It had better work perfectly and every time or else there's no point.

Continue reading “Backup strategy rehaul. Plus: Insomniac mac solved?” »

From Sasha Kopf:

Watching Battlestar Galactica


We are not dealing.

March 20, 2007

Backup snags: SuperDuper! after the honneymoon

SuperDuper! Icon

In my rush of initial satisfaction with SuperDuper!, I missed one or two flies in the ointment that make the situation less than ideal. The good news is that there are easy solutions to all of the problems that are graceful enough for the speed, reliability, and metadata savvy of SuperDuper! to win out.

Continue reading “Backup snags: SuperDuper! after the honneymoon” »

From Sasha Kopf:

Watching "The Daily Show"


March 21, 2007

From Sasha Kopf:

Why there was drinking last night!



While we're on the topic of substance consumption, I've got a new little problem. You see, to get the mix of coffee to milk right in my lattes, I order either a double short or a triple tall. Things is, most espresso machines are set up to make two shots at once, so occasionally they'll offer you four shots to make it even.

Three times in a row now this has happened.

Why isn't this a good thing? I can't say no, but really I'm addicted to caffein enough as it is. If quads stop doing it for me, I'm sunk!

Ah, the inexorable march of caffeine addiction.

March 26, 2007


The interwebs are all, well, atwitter about Twitter of late, and I thought it was time that I chimed in because I think that much of what I've read from both the lovers and the haters seems to miss the point. To be fair, I've only just signed up and I'm not exactly using it yet as I haven't gotten any of my friends on it yet (incidentally if you are a friend of mine and use Twitter, give me an email, my Twitter name is mjboyle).

Still, I don't get why everyone seems to be thinking of it as a "micro-blogging" or "IM" app. People have been sending IMs and text messages quite well for some time on their own now, thank you, and there are a million places where you can set up a small frequently updated blog.

One of my favorite technology writers, Andy Ihnatko seems to dislike Twitter because he sees it as a micro-blogging platform that is predicated on the idea that shorter posts are better. To be fair, he's giving it a try, and I would agree with him if I thought that was Twitter's purpose. But I've got a blog already. And if I want a more personal, managed, or community oriented one there's always Vox. Twitter isn't about blogging. It isn't about sharing ideas. And it isn't really about sending messages or having a conversation.

As I see it, Twitter is a way to let far flung friends who you don't see in your day to day life have a window into the kinds of experiences, moods, and fancies that are happening to you at the moment. The kind of stuff that makes up the flavor of life, that you share with coworkers or friends you see at lunch, but wouldn't really make it into a monthly letter or a blog post. I figure that if you are sending more than one or two "tweets" a day (and you aren't using it to actively coordinate with a group of people), you are using it wrong.

I know others have said it, but I think Twitter is less IM and more IM away message. I actually got the idea that I might like Twitter from a friend who I haven't seen or talked to in a long time. She went through a period of setting away messages that had a little detail about what she was up to. It made me feel much more connected to her than I have since we were going to school together, but none of the details were things that would be worth making a letter out of. She wasn't sharing every detail of what she was having for dinner, just what was on her mind that night.

If used right, Twitter lets you aggregate what your friends are thinking about right now with very little effort. You don't have to have it IM you or send messages to your cell phone, so you don't have to receive updates except for when you are wondering what's up in your friend's lives. It's just one more tool to help you feel more like you are living life with the people you choose as friends, rather than just those who are physically nearby. As someone far from most of my family and friends, I can see the appeal.

March 27, 2007

Sleeping on the edge

I've decided to disable the "Safe Sleep" option on Mallory (my MacBook Pro). Safe Sleep is the newish feature on mac laptops that suspends the contents of RAM to the hard disk so that it can recover if the battery is removed during sleep. While this is great for swapping batteries on a flight, I only have one battery at the moment. I think I've made use of the feature all of twice, and I wouldn't have done that other than to test it out or simply be lazy because I knew I could.

On the other hand, I'm annoyed by it every single day. Not only can it potentially be a security risk, but it can sometimes take a very long time to write 2 GB to disk. Especially when you realize that you are about to miss your bus. And you know what isn't a good idea? Grabbing your computer and running with it when the disk is busy. I have my computer set to automatically go to sleep when running off of battery power (though not when plugged in) so I think it would be far more likely that my desktop machine would die in it's sleep due to a power outage than my laptop.

So the solution turns out to be easy. Detailed (and overly cautious) instructions are at Macworld.

In short, simply open up a terminal window and first verify what your current sleep mode setting is, then change it to 0, plain vanilla sleep. The command pmset -g or, to zero in on the sleep setting, pmset -g | grep hibernatemode will take care of the first order of business. To change the mode, type:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

That's it. Apparently the system may reset to the default if you open up the Energy Saver preferences, so if you see it going back to default behavior just repeat the above steps. And if you are going on a trip and think you might be swapping batteries you can always change the setting back (usually 3 -- 7 if use secure virtual memory -- but you should check what your setting is and remember it). Also there's a Dashboard widget linked to in the Macworld article to automate the process of putting your computer directly into hibernation then resetting things back to normal when it wakes.

By the way, another place where Safe Sleep can save your ass is when you are having battery problems and your power cuts out before you think it will. However this only works if it actually cuts out while the computer is asleep. Usually the computer won't even have time to sleep. And, please, if you are experiencing battery problems take your battery in to be replaced immediately. Malfunctioning batteries can be a very bad thing.

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

You are visiting Tapirtype Blog. Unless otherwise noted, all content is © 2006-2008 by Sasha Kopf and Michael Boyle, some rights reserved. Site design by Michael Boyle modified from the standard Movable Type templates. I've made an attempt to generate standards compliant content which should look best in Safari or, otherwise, Firefox. Use of Internet Explorer may be harmful to your sanity and I've made little attempt to support it.

If you like you can subscribe to Tapirtype Blog's feed. That way you can be the first to know when more things burble from our brains.

This page is published using Movable Type 4.1