Thursday, September 25, 2003

CGI module upgrade breaks Blosxom in IE 6

Blosxom Test Notes: I thought I was going crazy. I had been working happily with Blosxom for several weeks and came in Wednesday morning and all of a sudden, when I tried to view my weblog in Internet Explorer 6, my browser was prompting me as if it considered the file a downloadable Mime type. The day before I had asked the system personnel to upgrade the File::Spec module to the latest version so the recententries plugin would work. I called them back and asked them if they had done anything to the overall server settings that would cause this behavior. Everyone seemed baffled, especially since the Weblog still loaded properly in Mozilla, Netscape, Opera and older versions of IE. I even went to the trouble of uninstalling all the plugins, downloading a fresh copy of Blosxom and reconfiguring and resetting the file permissions but nothing changed. This afternoon, one of the Perl technicians called me back and together we reviewed the content-type settings produced by the Blosxom script. He noticed that the script was outputting an extra space before the ending semi-colon in the Content_type statement. So he changed line 262 of the Blosxom cgi file thus:

Was: $content_type =~ s!\n.*!!s;

Needs to be: $content_type =~ s!\s*\n\s*.*!!s;

Now it once more works with IE 6. He suspects that when the systems people updated the cgi modules, one of new modules must have been less forgiving than the older version. I thought I would share our experience with you in case it might help others.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Finally Got Calendar Plugin Working

Blosxom Test Notes: Well, today I finally got the Archive Calendar plugin working. There was a syntax error in line 348 of the plugin. The mode parameter and closing semicolon had been omitted. It should be modified to read: or mkdir $blosxom::plugin_state_dir,755; I used the $calendar$month_calendar variable in my head.html file so it displays just the month and not a separate year display because I wanted it to be smaller. I've written to Todd and asked if there is a way to also omit the Day headings to make it smaller still. I also created a stylesheet with calendar settings in it but can't seem to get it to read the stylesheet. I asked Todd about that too.

Modified Calendar Plugin to Shrink the Calendar

I wanted to make the archive calendar created by the calendar plugin smaller so I wrote to Todd Larason, the author, and he said:

You have a couple options.

1. make flavour files for the calendar; if you just want to remove the day of week headers, then make empty files named calendar.month_sub_head.html, calendar.month_sub_day.html and calendar.month_sub_foot.html (replace the 'html' with your flavour name(s))

2. edit the plugin; if you have lots of flavours, this might be easier. near the bottom of the file, find the line that says "__DATA__". a fwe lines below that are lines that start "error month_sub_head", "error month_sub_day" and "error month_sub_foot"; just remove those lines.

3. don't remove the day headers, just shorten them; in the configuration section at the beginning, change @dowabbr = qw/Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat/ if ($#dowabbr != 6); to @dowabbr = qw/S M Tu W Th F S/ if ($#dowabbr != 6); or something similar

4. use CSS. In the CSS file, add a style like:

.month-calendar-day-head {display: none;}

so the headers are still there, they just don't get displayed.

I created a CSS file and linked it to the head portion of head flavour file but couldn't get it to recognize it. So, I opted to remark out the three related error lines in the plugin itself. I will write back to Todd and see if the style-sheet link needs to be elsewhere.

Using Autolink with a Glossary File

Blosxom Test Notes: I thought of a way to use Fletcher's Autolink plugin to link to a glossary of terms or professional acronyms that may be not included in I'm going to create a glossary.html file with anchors then simply add the word with it's related link to the glossary file in my autolinks file.

Magic Link Script Updated to Correct Problem with

Blosxom Test Notes: I tried the Magiclink plugin and it almost worked. I submitted a post which included "syntax"[dict]. It linked the word

and went to but could not find the word because it kept the quotes around it for the search. I tried removing the quotes but then I did not get the link and the [dict] part just showed up as part of the post. I posted my problem to the Blosxom discussion list and plugin author Bruce Alderson made an adjustment to the plugin and now it works!!! Thanks, Bruce!

Monday, September 22, 2003

May have solution to Recent Entries plugin error

I submitted the error message I was getting upon executing the recent entries plugin to Jon Miyake, our Perl expert at the Computing Center. He sent me an email back telling me that the error was caused by an outdated filespec on our Unix server. I have sent a request to have the filespec object updated to our systems engineers. I'm hoping they will get the file updated soon and that will resolve the problem. I would like to use this plugin because it produces a list of the Titles of the most recent posts. I think this is a handy timesaver since I tend to be a bit verbose in my posts. Readers can just click on the topic of greatest interest and avoid scrolling down to the article they want to read.

Archive problem resolved in Blogger weblogs

As I have been working on Blosxom and viewing my error logs, I have noticed that some of my Blogger weblog archives have been triggering error messages and links to the archive files are not showing up on the weblog. I had two weblogs that were working fine. One was my very first weblog where the archive files were stored in the root folder of my public_html directory. The other, however, was one of my newer weblogs where the archive files were stored in the directory I had created for archives under the root folder but when I checked the archive file settings, path to the archives was set to my root folder then the archive directory was set to "" to let Blogger find the files by default. This was working even though the other three weblogs where I had specifically set the archive path to the specific archive folder and set the specific directory location were not. So I changed their archive settings so the path to the archives was set to my root public_html folder and the directory set to "" like the one that was working and voila! All of my archive links appeared. I'll have to revise my Blogger settings instructions.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Using Date Time variable for Submission Filename

Blosxom Evaluation Notes: Rather than use the category field for a filename, I have consulted with our Perl programmers and they provided me with a snippet that will assign the date and time (down to the second) for the filename.

I like this solution much better because the length of the filename is the same for all files and the filename itself provides valuable creation date information.

Blogger Pro to be offered free

I was surprised today to get an e-mail from Blogger saying that they now plan to roll the features formerly only available in the pay version, Blogger Pro, into their free version. That will make it possible for my faculty to obtain Blogger accounts and have RSS support without paying for anything. I guess this was made possible by Google's deep pockets since Google bought out Pyra labs, Blogger's original developers.

Submission Plugin: Using Title for Filename A Problem with RSS Validation

Blosxom Test Notes: Yesterday, I encountered a problem with validating the RSS feed for my blosxom blog. The default setting for the format file used with the submission plugin sets the filename to the contents of the Title field. I've configured my Title field to be the headline for my article and I want it to be descriptive without having to use underlines between each word. However, a filename with spaces in it makes the RSS validators choke. So, I have added a new field, Category, which has a one word category descriptor and set this for my filename parameter. Now to try it out.

Submission Plugin: Using Title for Filename A Problem with RSS Validation

Blosxom Test Notes: Yesterday, I encountered a problem with validating the RSS feed for my blosxom blog. The default setting for the format file used with the submission plugin sets the filename to the contents of the Title field. I've configured my Title field to be the headline for my article and I want it to be descriptive without having to use underlines between each word. However, a filename with spaces in it makes the RSS validators choke. So, I have added a new field, Category, which has a one word category descriptor and set this for my filename parameter. Now to try it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

AutoLink plugin Terrific!

Blosxom Test Notes: Today I am testing a new plug-in for Blosxom. It allows you to create a file to specify a url for a keyword then the plug-in automatically links the url to the keyword within the text of the post. It was developed by Fletcher Penney.
Of all the Blosxom plug-ins I have tried, this one actually seems to work without
a bunch of tweaking! Thanks, Fletcher! It is a real time saver too.

Another test of the submission format file

Bosxom Test Notes: I have been struggling and struggling trying to get the format file I designed to work with the submission plugin. I had used the original format file named "plugin" written by DJ and made some alterations. Well I got to looking at it again and noticed that I had not changed the package designation. Although I am not a Perl programmer, I had read somewhere that the package designation must be the same name as the file name. So, I changed the package designation in the format file and it works!. Now my posts submitted by the submission plugin have the URL and author URL field automatically linked and the headline formatted as a Level 4 Headline. I'm thrilled!

Configuring Blosxom A Challenge

Blosxom Test Notes: I discovered that many of my problems appeared to be the result of my misunderstanding the location of my Blosxom weblog. I had wrongly assumed that since my blog item files were stored in a particular directory on my site that that was also the location of the weblog. I couldn't understand then why Rael had specified a $datadir (where the items are kept) and a $url (where the weblog is located). Although the two can be the same if you place your blosxom.cgi in the same directory as your item files, I had used the default installation recommendations for a Unix server and placed my blosxom.cgi file in the cgi-bin folder under my public_html folder but wrongly indicated my weblog directory as the directory containing my web items. After I corrected this problem in my blosxom.cgi file, the search plugin developed by Fletcher worked perfectly. Hopefully, I'll struggle less with other plugins I wish to use.

Tweaking the Submission form format file

I've been experimenting with the submission plugin format file again. It occurred to me that the variable $formatlib was supposed to be the location of the directory not the name of the format file. So, I made the appropriate change to the submission plugin script. Before I was getting the default format, not my custom format. Now we'll see if my changes had any effect.

LastBuildDate Plugin Fowls RSS Output

Blosxom Test Notes: I tried Joe Francis' LastBuildDate plugin but it produced the entry "0" which of course invalidated my RSS feed. Back to the drawing board for that one.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Submission plugin finally working!

Blosxom Test Nots: With a lot of help from suggestions posted by Fletcher Penney to the Blosxom group, I was finally able to get the submission plugin to work today. I installed my blosxom.cgi in a cgi-bin directory under my public_html directory and my Blosxom application files are in a separate folder named blosxom under my public_html directory. This seems to be wreaking havoc with my $path variable. I'm a newbie to perl programming but I wish plugin authors would specify exactly where to place files rather than suggest you place it in one place then give examples based on the file being placed somewhere else. I would really like to get all of these wrinkles ironed out so I can develop a template installation for end users without them having to edit any configuration files. That could be quite a challenge though.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Blosxom Pollxn Plugin A Challenge

Blosxom Test Notes: Worked all day yesterday learning many of the ins and outs of Blosxom. I managed
to not only install it and get it working well but modified the templates so
is more attractive. Then today, I installed the Pollxn plug-in to add comment
functionality. I had quite a time with it because I was a bit confused over the

Problem 1: The instructions for adding the Comments link to the Blosxom blog
said to paste the following code into the story.html file.

<a href="/cgi-bin/pollxn.cgi?storypath=$path/$fn.$flavour">$pollxn::comments_count</a>

The first part of this link only works if the pollxn.cgi file has been copied
into a /cgi-bin directory under the Blosxom datadir. The instructions initially
recommended installing it directly in the Blosxom datadir then said it could
be installed
in a cgi-bin if necessary. Often an ISP will limit users to a single cgi-bin
directory directly under their public_html directory. However, if such a user
tries to use the above script, they will get a file not found. I’m trying
to work out a defined installation procedure with as much preconfigured as
possible since faculty don’t like editing configuration files. I prefer to install the cgi file directly in the blosxom directory then changing the url to:

<a href="pollxn.cgi?storypath=$path/$fn.$flavour">$pollxn::comments_count</a>

Now for the second problem. I couldn’t figure out why the link was resolving
to a filename ending in .html when my Blosxom.cgi file correctly specified
my file extension to be .txt. It appears that the $fn variable refers to only
the filename without the file extension. My Blosxom “flavour” is
specified as .html (I use modified .html templates). The result is that the
above link resolves to a filename ending in .html instead of .txt. I further
modified the link to:

<a href="pollxn.cgi?storypath=$fn.$file_extension">$pollxn::comments_count</a>

to correct this problem.

Friday, September 05, 2003

GreyMatter provides easy install but RSS module problematic

I've been asked to present information on Blogging and Syndication
for the Instructional Technology Council in a few weeks. Although I have a
number of personal blogs on commercial provider Blogger (,
I wanted to search for software that provides the same functionality at a reduced
cost and came across this software from GreyMatter.
The installation instructions were very clear and I had no problem installing
it or configuring it. I particularly like the ability to censor Comments for
inappropriate language as I want my blog to be student-friendly for
all ages.

Although GreyMatter does not provide a built-in RSS conversion
process, I noticed there was an RSS Syndication module listed in the modules
section. The module requires PHP so first I had to check the version of PHP
running on my host server. The PHP script also choked on my weblog name -
"Mary's Technology Tips" - because it had an apostrophe in it. I had to correct that problem before I could get the script to run. I also had to make all paths absolute to ensure that the script would run properly. Then I was able to get
the script to run if I logged into my host server but could not get it to run
from the browser even when I placed it in the cgi-bin directory and set the
rights to 755. I had one of the perl experts look at it but he couldn't see
what the problem was either.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


"Researchers at Hewlett Packard have developed a prototype electronic book which can hold a whole library on a device no bigger than a paperback."

I was quite impressed with this effort. It is only 1 cm thick! As long as the price is reasonable, this product or one like it could finally break open the e-book market