Blog highlights

I enjoyed myself with this trip through my blogging history, but I guess something you’d like to see is some highlights of what I’ve written about. Here’s the greatest hits of (in my opinion, of course).

*Sniff*. Good times.

So it appears I’ve been doing this blogging thing a while

Time’s a funny old thing. I was looking back over my blog and was shocked how much of it there is: 131 pages at the present time, stretching back to 3:58 pm on October 21, 2004. Actually I had been blogging since 2002 (11th July 2002, to be exact) but that particular blog was an emotional release for me at the time, so will remain incognito forever. But as if proof were needed here’s the very first thing I blogged:

Breath deeply and relax (11/07/2002)

Well now we’ve got that little lot sorted out, maybe I can start to write something.

As if I have anything to write.

(There’s a bit more to the post than that, but those were my very first words sent into the blogosphere). I think “that little lot” was a reference to the blogging system I’d just written.

Ah, you need some historical context. OK, bear with me while I wander down memory lane. Back in mid-2002 my very good friend Dave said he’d heard about this blogging lark and could we offer blogs to the good parishoners at the community site we ran (and still run, in a fashion). I said of course, and proceeded to write a system to do it. Why I didn’t look around at what other systems (ahem) were available at the time I have no idea.

Actually it was, I recall, an opportunity for me to get into some more serious PHP which I’d been dabbling in for a couple of years before that. My day job was building sites in classic ASP using VBScript, so perhaps PHP was a way to escape that world. At any rate, I embarked upon this quest with my usual gusto – and devotion to inventing new wheels. The fact I built a multi-user blogging system *without a database* shows I didn’t really know what I was doing. It’s true, the original Wiblog site was a flat-file system which used XML files to store blog posts. Hardly cutting edge, even for the time.

It’s pretty interesting to note this all happened was about a year before WordPress came into being as a fork of b2, probably around the time Donncha was working on the b2++ project which became WordPress MU. Sorry the links for that stuff are a little squiffy, Donncha’s personal site seems to be down tonight.

So in the summer of 2002 you’ll have found me either spending time with the beautiful Katharine (who is now my wife, we just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary) or coding the Wiblog system far too late into the night. I “officially” started blogging about tech stuff on October 21st, 2004 with a post about Firefox – which, according to Wikipedia, was just before version 1.0. That makes it all the more amazing that I wrote:

On the auspicious occasion of my company disabling web access for Internet Destroyer Explorer and instead promoting the use of Mozilla Firefox I thought I’d finally start the techy blog I’ve been threatening people for ages about.

Reading stuff like that makes me wonder if my dates are correct. I even checked the archived Wiblog site, and the date is correct. Sheesh, I must be old.

I moved the site over to WordPress, importing my geek blog post from, on 23rd January 2007. That means I’d have installed (again, according to Wikipedia) version 2.0 or possibly 2.1 of WordPress. A couple of years later, on 8th November 2008, I moved all the other Wiblogs onto WordPress 2.6, onto the site we’re still using today.

So, 653 posts later, I’m still here. Blogging has been, in roughly equal parts, self-therapy and self-flagellation. Long may it continue.

Take two, twice a day

I’ve now had a BlackBerry Playbook for a little over four weeks, and it’s been an interesting ride. This is my first tablet and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Like many geeks and their toys it was the getting that motivated me, not necessarily the having. Selfish, I know.

OK, so what have I used it for? Instant access to GMail and Twitter has enabled me to be more wired than before, although I’m not sure I (or my wife) would consider that a good thing. I’ve also been able to check the weather easily, and with the snow we’ve had recently that is definitely a good thing.

It’s kept my young son entertained, a big scratch on the screen is proof of that. My wife and I have also had our very own Book At Bedtime as we listened to a downloaded audiobook. And, of course, I’ve been able to test and research responsive websites. All in all I love it.

There are downsides. Battery life isn’t amazing, and the keyboard is difficult to use for anything more than a few sentences, especially as accessing special characters requires flipping to a different keyboard view. This slows me down as I’m a stickler for correct spelling and punctuation; l33t-speak gr8s on me. I’ve also found no decent development apps, but that’s not surprising and certainly isn’t a deal-breaker.

The real power of tablets is instant access to a decent sized screen, almost zero start-up times and very quick loading for apps. That means the technology gets out of the way and you get to the content you want quicker. Interestingly a friend said this week that he’s using his iPad less since he upgraded his PC with a solid state drive, and boot-up takes 4 seconds. Laptops aren’t as handy as tablets, but they do benefit from a proper keyboard and bigger screen. I guess that’s the niche netbooks are trying to fill.

Using a touch-screen device a lot has also given me a greater appreciation for how apps need to be written to cope with touch inputs. It’s also shown me that a whole new breed of apps is possible, and challeged me to think about how to respond to this new world in my own software development.

So, it’s been an interesting experience. I doubt I’ll ever do without a tablet again, at least until the next device revolution comes along.

P.S. This post was written partly in the car, partly in a cafe, on my Playbook. Who knows, I might even start blogging more often.

WordPress White Screen of Death Woes

Damn. Just had to fix a problem on where nobody could see their Dashboards. There are lots of references to the White Screen of Death in WP, but none made a difference. In the end I spotted a cheeky line that had been inserted in my wp-config.php:


Whaddyaknow, that file was there, but it definitely wasn’t a CSS stylesheet:


/* ********************************************************************
* begin : Saturday, Feb 23, 2009
* copyright : (C) 2001 The Sequare Group
* email :
* $Id: system,v 2005/12/30 09:51:01 acydburn Exp $
* Type - System configuration file
* Gallery - a web based photo album viewer and editor
* Copyright (C) 2000-2006 Bharat Mediratta

And the actual code was:

eval (gzinflate(base64_decode(

Etc. Eval’d PHP? Looks like a hack to me. Removing the line from my wp-config.php file got everything back to normal. Now I’m hardening my WP, making it tougher than old boots.

If you get the White Screen of Death look carefully through your wp-config.php file for unwanted visitors.


For some reason I get a lot of spam comments on this blog. I suppose it’s the (relative) high profile of my silly pictures. Ho hum. Most of it gets deleted automatically (yay Akismet!) but occasionally stuff gets through. Here’s an extract from a recent spam comment:

I {|actually|definitely|just|really|simply|truly} wanted to {compose|construct|develop|jot down|make|post|send|type|write|write down} a {|brief|quick|simple|small} {comment|message|note|remark|word} {in order to|so as to|to|to be able to} {appreciate…

Is that how they do it? By “it” I mean ridiculously bad English, of course. Goodness me.

I did, for a second, think that I could write a better spam creation system than that. Just for a split second.