A New Gadget? Not Yet, But Soon…

I think I am about to do something that will surprise a few people. But before I tell you anything, I need to make sure you understand that I am NOT switching. I am NOT dissatisfied with what I have. I just want to try something else and expand my knowledge. I am planning to purchase a MacBook Pro 13″ over the Christmas break. Kind of like my Christmas present to myself. I figure I can justify it as a gadget, a toy. My main machine will still be running Win7. 

So why am I doing this? Well, I guess there are a few things. I have a few friends who work there so I can get a bit of a discount. Plus there is the USD to Euro conversion. After all is said and done, I can get that model (basic config with the faster of the two procs) for about 950 Euros. The software that comes on the Mac is fantastic. Sure, I can make up a bit of that using Windows software, but the integration cannot be beat (as far as I know). That alone can justify maybe a two or three hundred Euros of the cost. So best case I am at about 650 Euros. 650 Euros is high-priced gadget level (Remember, no kids, no wife, no girlfriend, no extra costs in my life, just me). People spend 650 euros on cool gadgety phones. 

But I think I can justify the rest of the cost just in being able to intelligently talk on the topic. I think that Windows just works. You hear of complaints, but it tends to work great most of the time, nearly all of the time. I think that there are definitely more problems that come up on the Windows platform, but most of that is due to the relative lack of choice on the Mac. Apple has done an amazing job of turning that weakness into a major strength. 

I am looking forward to getting my Mac. I am looking forward to seeing whether my preconceptions of the platform are true (pretty sure they are) or they aren’t and I have made a mistake. I’ll be sure to let you know right here.

Before that purchase I want to make sure I am buying the right machine. I don’t want to go gung ho and buy the best machine possible because I am not convinced that it’s the right place to spend that much money on right now. Keeping it under 1000 euros makes it easier to justify in my head. But is the MacBook Pro 13 inch with the 2.53 GHz chip going to be good enough? I am planning to be using Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom on this. Compared to every Windows laptop I have had in the last 5-10 years, the resolution on the MBP 13 or 15 inch is terrible, but I am prepared for that (ok, the 15 inch isn’t much lower than with Windows PCs, but definitely lower). The 13 inch model is about the same size as my T61 Thinkpad (a little thinner though) and I really don’t want to go much bigger. 

I am a bit concerned with the video card. Is the 9400M graphics card good enough? I have seen some reviews online saying its plenty, others saying that its crap. I have no idea. Sure, its not good for games, but does anyone buy a Mac for games?!? To get the next better video, I have to go up in price to about 1250 Euros. Does the extra 300 make sense? It’s a bigger laptop and I want to stay in that smaller size. CS4 does use the GPU for some things, but I think the 9400M will be good enough for those features. 

Nothing will happen on this till Christmas though. I have enough to think about till then without learning a new platform. But if you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear them.

How to Create a Custom 404 Page on Squarespace

I just recently switched my blog from a self-hosted Graffiti installation to a completely managed solution on Squarespace. This is fantastic because it takes the job of patching and coding almost completely away. The downside is that some of the things I took for granted are unavailable. Like a custom 404 page. Why is this an issue? Well, if you are moving from one engine to another, they probably have different URLs for the same article. The last thing I want is for one of the rare visitors to my blog is some unhelpful error saying that the page could not be found. If you want an example of this happening, go to Squarespace’s own blog and look at this post from September 2008. Now click on the video link. Unless they have fixed it recently, you will see this:

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The built in solution for this is called URL Shortcuts. The idea is that you plug in the old url and the new url into the configuration area, and anytime someone enters the old url, they are sent to the new one instead. Great…if you have 5 pages. But if you have been blogging for a while, then the job of entering those URLs is going to suck. Squarespace probably realizes this which is why you see that screenshot above. So what is the solution?

If you write to support, they will say that URL Shortcuts is the solution. But there is a better way. I found a post on their developer forum about customizing the Page Not Found form. The solution seemed pretty simple. Create a custom 404 page on your site, the paste this in the Extra Header Code section (I am pretty sure this means you need an Advanced level package from them):

The only thing to change in that code is the page url. Actually, mine only worked when I put /custom404 rather than http://technovangelist.com/custom404.

On my Custom404 page, I put in some apologetic text explaining the situation, directing visitors to the search box. But I wanted to take it a bit further. I wanted to auto suggest a link for where they really intended to go. It might not work, but I figured it was good to try. On the Graffiti site, page urls were formatted as <site>/<category>/<page>. So I had some that were /technology/blah, and others that were /travel/blah. On the new site, all posts were under blog, so /blog/blah. What I needed was a way to convert all /travel/ and /technology/ to /blog/. I think this would be a good time to tell you that I don’t know anything about javascript other than how to spell Google.com.

A little searching on the net combined with some newbie code wrangling and I ended up with something like this:

So that told me where I came from. When I figured out how to manipulate text I got the rest:

That combined with my apology was a pretty good first step. Then tonight I realized there was a problem. I looked at my Woopra stats and saw that /custom404 was one of my more popular pages. I couldn’t quickly see which page caused the problem. Woopra shows the page title, which was now “Technovangelist – Custom404”. So I had to change that title. In order to change the title, I needed to pass the bad URL somehow. A query parameter seemed like a good choice. So I changed the line that initialized redirectURL to this.

That got me the all the info I needed. Perhaps too much information. Now to tweak the title. I headed back to the Extra Header Code in Website Settings. After that first If clause in the script, I added another:

This is good, but the url in Woopra is now really long. So another edit got me this:

Why is 67 in there? Well, I am sure there is a cooler way, but there are 67 letters in the URL before the unique part of the url. I want to see Technovangelist – 404 – /technology/badsite, not the way too long Technovangelist – 404 – http://technovangelist.com/Custom404?http://technovangelist.com/technology/badsite.

I then added a search box to the custom404 page just in case my guess didn’t work, but I think it’s a good first step. Want to try it? Go to http://technovangelist.com/technology/time-to-move-away-from-graffiti/ and see the custom 404 page that comes up. Now click the link that I suggested. In Woopra I will see something like this:

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I am very happy with this solution. Would have been easier I think to be able to override a 404 page, but this will do. Any thoughts on how I can improve this approach??? Let me know in the comments.

Creating a Custom Management Interface for any Windows Application

Recently I posted an article about creating a new Custom Management Interface using the Microsoft Management Console up at faxlearning.wordpress.com. This article specifically focuses on Open Text Document Server, Alchemy Edition, but the concepts apply to any Windows application. Check out the article and let me know what you think, either here or on the faxlearning blog site.

You can also watch a video version of the tutorial at youtube.com/opentextfddg.

Time to Move Away From Graffiti

Blogging for me has always been something I enjoyed, but I managed to not do much of it. I let the tools get in my way far too much. In the early days of this blog site, I wanted to create my own software. First it was a Linux based site, running Apache, Postgresql, and PHP/FI. The a few years later (well over 10 years ago now) I switched over to a Windows-based site. That switch happened to coincide with my hiring at Microsoft. It was hosted with a variety of providers including WinISP (an MS internal project that seems to be dead now). When Telligent got started I switched over to Community Server. I entered their theme building contest with an embarrassment of a theme and won a free license. After a few years there, I moved to Graffiti. Both CS and Graffiti were hosted on my current provider: Server Intellect. But it was always a lot of work. There was no real community around either Community Server or Graffiti and although creating styles was easier than doing it yourself, it was still hard. And then there was a security problem recently. Since I was hosting it myself, I had to deal with fixing it. Ughh. 

Blogging has become a chore. But I don’t want it to be a chore. I want to have a site that is easy to maintain, easy to tweak, and no real management on my part. I want an engine that doesn’t feel like a kludge, ruling out a lot of the industry leaders. 

I have long loved Diggnation, having watched a good 90% of all of their shows. Recently they have been advertising SquareSpace. I always skipped over the ads so never really saw what it was about. Then I saw NewToYork.com because of a blog post about it’s footer design. From there I saw other Squarespace sites, then the main site and the videos. I was amazed at how easy it all looked. I was ready to change over.

The last few days have been a lot of fun (and some frustrations). I think I have a site that I can live with at squarespace and this blog will be moving over very soon. I hope this causes the last few subscribers I have minimal downtime. I should work out all the kinks very soon.