Gimboland gets a facelift

I’ve migrated Gimboland to Movable Type.

This has been way overdue for a long time. Since 2001 I’ve maintained this blog using home-grown code called Neomorph (written in Python, naturally), and I just haven’t had time to add any new features to it. Hence, no comments on Gimboland while the rest of the internet gets fully chatted up. Something had to be done, but what? And when?

The last straw came when I discovered mt.el, an emacs module for making and editing MT entries using everyone’s favourite text editor/chainsaw combo (no pansy-assed through-the-web blog editing for me, no sirree!). Finally, a few weeks before Gimboland’s fourth birthday, it was time to Take The Plunge.

So here we have it: the all new Gimboland, with comments, categories, a new look, and much more CSS than before. Please let me know what you think – now that comments are finally here, I’m eager to read them and find out who actually reads this damn thing. Oh yes, and Bash tells me the thing she likes least about the new design is the new font (Georgia) – although apparently it’s OK on the Mac, so maybe I should just ignore her. Is she right, or is she to be ignored?

My next big task will be to update the image gallery to use something similarly marvellous. All suggestions welcomed – at the moment gallery seems to be the main contender.

Making the change has been a fun process. Here’s a small random list of interesting things I’ve found or done along the way:

My archives all had nasty old “Blogger style” filenames (such as 2002_10_01_gimboland_archive.html), whereas MT uses a format like 2002/10/index.html which is, frankly, nicer. I was worried about this change – what about the millions of people who’ve linked to stories in the archive? Obviously I owe it to my public not to break things, so how to solve this? Well, a little reading (here and here, specifically) later, I now have lots of RedirectPermanent directives in my .htaccess file linking the old to the new – problem solved. Aaaah, Apache.

With Neomorph, all my Gimboland posts lived in a big (824Kb at last count) plain text file. In MT, they live in a database, of course. Gladly, MT has the ability to import from plain text. Naturally the MT import format isn’t the same as the Neomorph format, so almost my first task was to write a (python) script to convert one to the other. It being python, this was easy. For posterity, I’ve added it to the Neomorph tarball.

Useful MT plugins: Amputator, ArchiveDateHeader, BlogCopyright, SafeHref, W3CValidator (very nice – only prints badge at bottom of page if page really is valid; wish there was one for CSS as well).

While I was at it, I changed the Gimboland search box (in the sidebar) to use Google instead of the old Atomz thing I’ve had there for years. Surging forward into the twentyfirst century, eh? Dave would probably tell me I’m migrating to Google just as Google’s beginning to get crap, but I’m not ready for such heresy yet, so it’s fingers in ears all the way.

18 Responses to “Gimboland gets a facelift”

  1. December 10th, 2004 | 1:20 pm

    At last, I can comment. ;-)

  2. December 10th, 2004 | 1:39 pm

    Yay. At last, Gimboland has a comment.

    For being first, Simon wins a pint from me if we’re ever at a Python conference together. :-)

  3. December 10th, 2004 | 1:50 pm

    Hmmm… not sure if I’m planning on going to a Python conference but a free pint might swing it! Oh, you mean that *other* Simon, the one who actually posted first…

  4. December 10th, 2004 | 1:59 pm

    Yay! Now we can fill Gimboland up with spam^Wdeep musings about the origin of the universe…

  5. seymansey
    December 10th, 2004 | 2:20 pm

    Interestingly, your RSS feed on Livejournal allows for comments, but i don’t know what would happen if i did comment on an entry. Too scared to incase i remotely melt gimboland ;)

  6. December 10th, 2004 | 2:23 pm

    Yeah, I’d noticed that the LJ feed allowed comments. They’re just comepletely seperate, however – I think that if anyone comments over there, I won’t know about it unless I happen to go and look.

    I didn’t set up that feed, btw. Well, obviously I set up the RSS feed, but not its presence on LJ – as such it’s beyond my control.

  7. December 10th, 2004 | 2:37 pm

    It was probably Phil who set up the LJ feed. That’s my guess anyway.

  8. December 11th, 2004 | 12:10 pm

    Indeed. ‘Twas I – you had an RSS feed, LJ did RSS syndication…. They seemed like a natural match!

    It’s good to be able to leave comments that you’ll actually see though :)

    BTW – another nice gallery thingy is Coppermine.

    (Hmmm, preview doesn’t seem to work….)

  9. Mark Hughes
    December 11th, 2004 | 2:28 pm

    Hi Andy:

    I think I’m with bash on the new font. It may just be the white on black that makes me think “migraine” as I was reading this morning! Or maybe my vision is just blurry this morning.

    I am very interested in seeing what you decide to use for you photos. We have a bazillion digital images and for many years used a modified Dreamweaver “command” to resize, create individual pages, and put them on the server. When Macromedia switched to some unworkable (for us) registration scheme, and we moved – at least mostly – to linux, I went hunting for something else.

    Most everything either forced a particular format on one’s pages or required things we don’t have. Gallery certainly looks spectacular. The multi-server setup is really interesting. I like the idea of a slideshow. I never really thought about resizable images before or how they work. Seems great. Unfortunately, our cheapo server doesn’t run apache.

    Since I couldn’t find what I wanted, I wrote some perl stuff to make our pages. You are welcome to try it, though the best that can be said about it is that it works for me.

    The best thing I have found for sorting, selecting, cropping, renaming, and generally doing the things I do to get images ready for an album is gqview. One of the really nice things is that it has hooks so one can add one’s own little scripts to it. I really, really like this program.

    BTW, if you are going to post or store a bunch of images, I would suggest settling on a naming convention for your files. About a year ago, we switched to using the exiff data to rename our image files with date and time. This has made finding individual images much easier. For example, originally, I had a dozen images named monica.jpg. It has also let us put photos from different cameras in order and in the same directories without risking overwriting images or going through tedious individual renaming.

  10. Mark Hughes
    December 11th, 2004 | 2:33 pm

    The link to bash from gimoland’s main page has a typo in it.

  11. December 12th, 2004 | 2:50 pm

    Phil: Thanks for the Coppermine pointer, at first look it appears pretty funky, I must say. Cheers! Not sure what’s up with Preview… When I last tried to submit a comment, Preview worked but Post didn’t actually return a page (annoyingly). Maybe it’s my host being suboptimal. They are Californian, so maybe… ;-) (Hmmm, preview seems to be working for me today.)

    Mark: Yeah, gqview rocks, and I use it a lot. I wish I knew of something similarly powerful for Windows (I’m spending a lot of time atm on a Windows laptop). Interesting to hear that you don’t like white on black… I always find it easier on the eye that black on white, which just seems too bright to me. Anyone else care to comment? And thanks for the dead link – now fixed.

    Deep hierarchies and long descriptive names rule, yes. :-)

  12. December 13th, 2004 | 9:54 am

    If you think white on black is bad, have a look at Fafblog. Although I think it might be deliberate…

  13. December 13th, 2004 | 12:39 pm

    But Simon, I don’t think white on black is bad. Now I’m confused. Should I look?

    Grrrr… Bash says she finds white on black hard to read too. Worldview… Crumbling…

  14. Colin
    December 13th, 2004 | 1:15 pm

    Im sorry but i don’t like its look. The comments section is good and quite easy to move around, but why oh why cant your link pages be at the top?

  15. December 13th, 2004 | 3:38 pm

    I’m agnostic on the new look. My Guttenberg-era self does think white on black is an awful waste of ink though.

  16. Krag
    December 13th, 2004 | 3:52 pm

    Wooo, comments at last, nice one gimbo :)

    I’m not sure if I like the white on black either, but you can’t please everyone.

  17. Barbara
    December 13th, 2004 | 8:10 pm

    I’m with Bash on the font/colour question. Especially the font – it’s not nice, bah. I always enjoyed reading Gimboland, can you imagine the shock?!

  18. Mark Hughes
    December 17th, 2004 | 3:23 am

    I don’t think the black on white – or white on black thing – is a particularly big deal, but it did spur me to explore user-defined, site-specific stylesheets. Now, gimboland is black font on white background, or whatever I want it to be. Pretty interesting stuff.

    This raises the question of what web authors will think of others eliminating or transforming the look and feel for their pages. I rather like the ability to “take back the web” a bit.

    For now, in mozilla or firefox, one uses URIid .

    On the way, I ran across Simon Willison’s very cool, page readability bookmarklets, most of which are linked to this page which contains a bookmarklet that eliminates all stylesheets for a page. It’s great for making some of those impossible-to-read pages suddenly readable. Trouble is, it cannot fix pages which are horrible because the bad design is hard-tagged rather than in css. (Like a few of my pages!)