Category Archives: Meta

Server Updated

The server that hosts this page was updated from Debian Jessie (8) through Stretch (9) and onto Buster (10) over the course of a few hours today. It involved surprisingly little suffering and should not affect functionality, please let me know if you find anything left in a broken state.

I didn’t realize how long it had been since I did any manual maintenance here, apt unattended upgrades, certbot, and a few scripts for user-installed package upgrades and backup had done such a good job maintaining things just visibly enough to know it was being taken care of that I’d let it get past-due. Most of my other individually-installed boxes are Arch rolling-release machines that require a few minutes of attention every month or two, so they don’t have the periodic major breaking maintenance issue to the same degree.

Now I can let it take care of itself again until 2022 or thereabouts.
A few notes that may be useful to others under the fold.
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Self-Hosting News Sharing and Discussion

Back in 2013 when google killed Reader I mused about self-hosting my communal news shit-talking.  With the imminent death of G+, which I moved to despite knowing better, I’m looking into it again.  This process might (will) cause some spurious content to appear in the main feed while I try things. I’m still on (and pretty committed to) tt-rss on the news-consumption side, I’m poking around ways of rigging the published feed from that into a comment-able format.  Hopefully with a minimum of work and maintenance overhead on my part, and without hooking myself to yet another platform that won’t monetize well and will thus die.

Success!: The news tab in the nav-bar now takes you to a page that shows the things I publish from my Tiny Tiny RSS instance, complete with a place to yell at me for my hot takes, or share your own thoughts. It’s rigged up with FeedWordPress and a little bit of theme hacking, and can itself be subscribed as an RSS feed. There is a little bit of jank with nested feeds, but at least it’s in house.
A less lazy me would probably do this with a static site generator, a comment system (like isso or something) and some scripts, but I all sorts of don’t have time for that.

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Apparently a WordPress update caused some subtle breakage here a while back. The site has been spewing, among other things, a bunch of “&raquo” escapes in places that end up encoded as XML (thus breaking, among other things, RSS feeds). I’m hoping just swapping in “&#187” in a couple files that I’m not entirely sure if are configs or source because PHP and WP are both terrible will be a fairly permanent fix. It looks like it might be related to the javascript-reliant emoji support that appeared in 4.2?

Also, if you have an RSS thing pointed at a non-https or www-prefix URL here, you’re generating an awful lot of redirects and might want to adjust your subscription.

Every time I look into WordPress’ ugly accreted heart I wish for an alternative that does what I want from a CMS with less awful – if I didn’t want self-hosted comments this whole thing would have been replaced with static HTML years ago. More generally, every time I look at how the web actually works, it makes me consider primitivism as a legitimate and appealing lifestyle choice.

Posted on by pappp | 1 Comment

Hosting Move

I’ve just completed a move of this site to a new host, it should be transparent to everyone else – modulo a few brief intervals during the move – so please let me know if anything appears broken. There is also an exciting new feature in that (almost) everything should now be accessible via SSL. Notes on vendors and selections below the fold.

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Attempts at Embedding News Discussion

Following up my previous post, I’ve tried a couple configurations for replacing the news discussion features that Google has been slowly making worse for years, and am less than satisfied with all of them. The two most promising so far are:

TTRSS Published feed through FeedWordPress
TTRSSFWP
This generates individual posts from the items in the published feed, in whatever form the interaction between the feed and the WP template generates. It gets all the desired content up, and in principle it provides a local comment scheme.

It is, however, extremely noisy compared to the other content I put up, without clearly delineating itself from original content. WordPress can be configured with alternate post types, and per-type display , but that is a level fucking about with PHP and CSS that I’m not willing to engage in unless I absolutely have to. Part of the noise problem is that it doesn’t behave terribly well with snippeting: FeedWordPress faithfully reposts all of whatever came down the feed, and what I would really like is the full note, followed by the link and a short description. While the tools are present to filter and massage the feed, it would take a nontrivial bit of parsing around inside the feed content to produce full notes and limited-length blurbs. Google Plus’s “unbecoming addiction to abbreviation,” as a friend put it, as well as the inflammatory, misleading headline issues at HN and Reddit have made me aware that clumsy truncation is not really acceptable.

A substantially larger problem is that, despite setting all the appropriate options for local comments, FeedWordPress stubbornly refuses to do anything other than pass the comment link through to the original source. Since borrowing WP’s comment system is the primary reason the news-as-posts model seemed appealing, this is not acceptable. There is a four-month-old unanswered bug report (admittedly, a crappy bug report in broken English) about the issue, but that was all I came up with.

This was the one I was most hopeful for being a drop-in solution, but it clearly would take a substantial amount of the sort of web front-end work I don’t enjoy to make it work well

TTRSS Published feed through HungryFEED
TTRSSHF

This just gives an unobtrusive feed of notes and headlines in any container your WP theme supports. Pretty nice as a “Look at these interesting things” sort of mechanism, and makes a nice way of advertising that you have a news feed available, but has absolutely no facility for local discussion. It delineates the content better, but lacks the discussion and history features I would like.

If I decide I need to get off of Google’s services, either because the services become too unsuitable or the parent company does something too horrible, I’ll look around again. Setting up a custom post type (easy), with custom display properties (straightforward but unpleasant), a segregable output feed (trivial), and working comments (??) to auto-post TTRSS’s Published feed into using a mechanism like the FeedWordPress solution above would not be horrible, and would support all the desired functionality, but isn’t something I’m currently willing to do “just because.”

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Replicating Reader Sharing with TTRSS and WordPress

I was shit-talking Google Plus’ utility as a replacement for Reader’s social features, and realized I think I actually can do at least as well with my existing infrastructure. I’m not immediately planning to switch, because Plus offers convenience and discovery for others, but I wanted to try it, so there will likely be some spurious posts appearing [and disappearing] shortly. I suspect most of my readership consumes their internet through a feed reader, so this post exists as documentation.

For the interested: TTRSS has a publish mechanism, which creates a custom RSS feed of any article you mark published, along with whatever note you have attached to it with the built in annotation system. It even allows for non-feed content to be shared. There are various WordPress plugins that can embed an RSS feed (HungryFeed,EmbedRSS) or import an RSS feed as a post type (FeedWordPress).
Embedding as custom posts gives both distinction and a comment system, and it is a universal interfaces (can read from web, subscribe via RSS ,etc.). There is even social discovery support built in should such a thing take off.

If this experiment works really well, I might even talk myself into using it before Google gives me another reason.

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Google Plus Integration

I spotted this reminder about leaving data in someone else’s little garden the other day, something which always makes me uneasy, and this note about google finding a new way to be evil (and the usual torrent of jokes about G+ being DOA), and decided it might be a good time to take another look at migration/retention/alternative options.

So I went looking to see if someone had an easy migration solution, hoping for something that can scrape the takeout file into tagged posts or the like. What I found is Google+ Importer, which is free and claims to be way, way better than that. It looks like it can actively scrape G+ activity into its own category, and automatically mark it with user-selectable text and/or CSS. Things might be a bit broken around here while I try to add it, but hopefully my newsreader sharing will automagically be mirrored here when I’m done.

Edit1: Google+ Importer didn’t do quite what I wanted, trying Daniel Treadwell’s Google+Blog WordPress Plugin to see if it is more to my liking. It only took me about 10 minutes of tampering to remember that I hate dealing with CSS (and even worse, PHP), and pine for the days of writing static HTML pages, with server-side includes if you were feeling fancy.

Edit2: Google+Blog WordPress Plugin is closer to what I wanted, but I’m going to disable it and remove the imported posts for now. There are still a few things I really don’t like about the behavior (I want to be able to set all G+ imports to use the “Aside” format, I want them excluded from RSS, etc.), and it is going to be more fiddling than it is worth to get things there. I’m still looking for a mechanism I like, I really want my own web-accessible copy of my G+ content, and/or to make my public ‘net activity easily visible in one place. There really should be some easy way to syndicate in one direction or the other.

Edit3: I tried adding a widget to just show show the top of my G+ feed, but none of the widgets that interact with G+ content directly seem to work right now, I guess they haven’t been updated after an API change or somesuch.

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Quote Widget

I has a quotes widget. Hopefully appearing over there -> in the right side bar. It’s picking from a selection which has been growing on my primary machine for years — I’ve been meaning to put a copy online since I accidentally wiped part of it out, then discovered my backup script hadn’t been saving dot files for months, and just found a suitable WordPress plugin to manage them. I think some of them are inappropriately long passages for the widget, but if I was interested in web design I wouldn’t be using the default WordPress theme tweaked only for functionality.

Posted in Entertainment, Literature, Meta | Leave a comment

I’ve made dumb mistakes that I caught immediately after posting several times recently, such as writing demagogue instead of ideologue in a rant – a mistake that REALLY pisses me off when I see it made elsewhere, and not closing an <a> tag in last line of a post. I’ve fixed them within seconds, but once Buzz has picked up a post, it retains the original post. Like so many instances of “the internet never forgets” I’m not sure if this is a bug or a feature.

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WordPress Header Glitch

For some reason, the 3.1 to 3.1.1 WordPress update (or something coincident with it) removed the rel=me link back to my Google profile from my headers. Those links are important – they’re how this page is integrated into my online identity via XFN (The “Xhtml Friends Network”), one of the open standards which will obsolete proprietary social networks like the normal standards-driven internet obsoleted AOL, Compuserve, and the other early walled-garden services (oh please oh please oh please oh….). More immediately, they are what lets google know it should pull blog posts into my Buzz feed and such. Fixed now.

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