This Glob aggregates my English blogs.

English Glob – Aggregated weblog

This weblog aggregates the following blogs:
English (US) IT world, dev blog & off topic.

Other blogs not included here:
English (US) State of the Evolution
French (FR) IT world, dev blog, off topic & blog finance.

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02/20/14

Did I abandon my sites?

  10:38:00 pm, by fplanque   , Categories: b2evolution, Web Design

2014. Time to wake up, eh?

First off, why have I been blogging so little in the last couple of years? Guess it's a combination of:

  • Too much work
  • Having a real life (which I might not have had a few years back...)
  • Google did a great job at scaring me off posting "non-useful" content (Let's call it "Panda angst"!)

All of these are lame excuses.

  • Blogging is part of my work
  • Don't even get me started on balancing work and real life - there has to be a solution!
  • Sharing ideas, no matter how mundane they might seem at first, has been the beginning of many great projects in my own experience. Plus: it definitely helps to structure a lot of thoughts that would otherwise just swirl around in my head, without ever leading to anything tangible. Moving forward, even small steps at a time is far more important than a particular Google algorythm might think of it... especially on my personal blog (I'm still debating this regarding some other sites :p)

2014. Time to get rid of the Ugly!

The most vexing part in this wake up call is that so many of my even-more-many website are just plain ugly... compared to the current web design state of the art.

I don't recall exactly what led me to this realization but part of it was comparing b2evolution.net to its competitors. Ironically, it's not that the competitors (Free CMS tools) look good. It's actually that those competitors look bad compared to commercial solutions.

Thought: Why does Free software has to look so bad compared to commercial software?

And then of course it dawned on me: why does my software have to look so bad compared to commercial software and other free software alike?

If you know b2evolution, you know it's really powerful. Arguably significantly more powerful than its commercial alternatives indeed. That's the result of 10 years of hard work. But does it show on the surface? Hell, no! It really deserves a packaging that would do it justice! Welcome to teh world of (virtual) product packaging!

Ok, I know what you think. But better late than never. And yes, I also realize how late I am now...

And then, the same logic applies to a dozen other sites of mine, all the ways down to the one you're reading now.

Where do we go from here?

OK, so I realized the problem. That's always step 1. Check.

Then I blogged about it. Now I feel pressure to do something about it so I don't look like a fool by the same time next year. Step 2. Check.

I started collecting ideas about redesigns and started test implementations on some of them. Those are ok steps 3 and 4 I guess. Check. Check.

The real effective & efficient solution though, would be to hire a top designer... right? One might think, indeed.

However, it's not as easy as it seems:

  • There is definitely a shortage in modern web design talent;
  • There is an even higher shortage in UX design. Graphic design without User eXperience is worthless. The most basic illustration of that is that many graphic designs will use fonts so small they won't be read by anyone. More modern problems are: choosing buttons sizes, button positions, how many buttons to show at a given time, what to hide, what not... and at some point it starts to overlap with marketing in the sense you need to choose in which order to present the info.
  • And the most vexing of all: my sites look so ugly right now that actual web designers wouldn't touch them with a 10 feet pole! :p

So my only possible course of action, I guess, is:

  1. Clean everything up making the best use of my current resources;
  2. Hire top talent once they can see a credible client when they look at my sites!

Ok, 'nuff said. Let's do some implementation!

07/04/13

2013 and still no usable WiFi hotspots :/

  04:31:00 pm, by fplanque   , Categories: Net usage, Mobile & wireless

I travelled from Paris to Amsterdam this week... (for a business conference).

I took the Thalys speed train. They offer WiFi on board... supposedly via satellite with fallback to multilink 3G when necessary. The reality is it works only 50% of the time. It especially doesn't work every time the train is stopped in a station with a roof. It's almost a joke. They claim offering internet access at hight speed is a technical challenge... yeah well... I almost believed that until I set up my iPhone for tethering and got a better connection through my phone than through the train's WiFi. It costs some data fees, but on the other hand, I don't have to go through the annoying WiFi login screens.

I then stayed at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam (I didn't really chose it, it just happened to the the "official" hotel for the conference). I could list tons of reasons why this hotel doesn't deserve its 5 stars. One of them is they offer 2 star WiFi connection they still call "HiSpeed" and charge an extra 12 ?/day for. Annoying log in screens, over and over and over again, on every device, every hour... and then it would stop working at random times. Here again I reverted to 3G tethering.

The only time when WiFi actually worked fine was in the Amsterdam Centraalstation lounge, where I waited for my train on the way back. Good old WEP/WPA password and you're in, full speed! That were my only 30 minutes of high speed internet during the whole trip.

Globally I'm pretty disappointed. During my previous trip to switzerland I actually found decent WiFi almost everywhere...

I so can't wait for the time when mobile operators will be able to join together and offer a global worldwide data plan, so we can just stay on our 3G/4G and stop having to hunt down for WiFi networks and passwords and suffer awful login screens filled with ads all the time.

Also, why can't Orange, who has presence in God knows how many European countries do this for Europe right now?

04/26/13

flush() bug in PHP 5.4

  02:02:00 am, by fplanque   , Categories: PHP

For some reason, nobody seems to acknowledge there is a bug with flush() in PHP 5.4.

In any previous version of PHP, you could just do:

PHP

and the PHP output buffer would be sent to Apache which would in turn send it to your web browser.

We are not talking about any side effects due to compression or charset sniffing here. We are talking about: flush() was working just fine.

And then compes PHP 5.4 and it doesn't work any more. And you revert to PHP 5.3 and it works again. PHP 5.4, broken again. And you can reproduce that to infinity but still, nobody wants to acknowledge it.

So we had to find a workaround. Here it is: just replace your flush() calls with a custom call like flush54() defined like this:

PHP

function flush54()
{
  @ob_end_flush();
  flush();
}

This will restore the initial behaviour...

10/06/12

How to find files recursively on Linux

  05:41:00 pm, by fplanque   , Categories: Linux stuff
Sometimes you need an emergency reminder about how to find all files of a certain name in a directory structure… like say: find all .htaccess files hidden in my web site. Well, here’s the magic command:

Code

find . -name ".htaccess"
Also if you want to look for all hidden files (all files starting with a dot), you’d go like this:

Code

find . -name ".*"
Tags: howto, shell

09/27/12

How to check when Linux was installed

  10:10:00 am, by fplanque   , Categories: Linux stuff

If you have several servers to maintain like I do, at some point you’ll want to know how old exactly an installation of Debian (or another flavor or Linux) has gotten since you last wiped it clean…

So how do you check the install date?

I found the easiest way was to simply check the date of the lost+found folder. This folder is created at installation time and basically never removed after that. So I just go with:

ls -l /home/

and look at the date for lost+found .

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