A Brief Note

Photo by Andrew Beierle from FreeImages
Photo by Andrew Beierle from FreeImages

OK, this is just a quick note about this blog. It is a WordPress site, and periodically they come out with updates. One of the recent updates has included a new editor, the so-called Block Editor. I’m a technophile, but have been putting off switching to it, because of the time involved in learning something new.

The new editor, sometimes known as Gutenberg, is certainly a lot different from the old editor, the TinyMCE editor. Each ‘element’ (maybe not the official terminology) that is added comprises a block, and each block can have different properties (eg background colour or background image).

Having each element in its own block means that chunks of the page or post can easily be shifted around, using drag and drop. It’s a lot easier and quicker than cut and paste.

I’ve mostly used the ‘paragraph’ block, for text, and the ‘file’ block, to give access to my files. This second block makes it easy to give access to new files, but it presents them slightly differently from the standard underlined blue links, but I’m happy with that.

There’s a new feature that I like very much. It’s called ‘Reusable Blocks’ and is ideal for chunks of standard text. For example, see the chunk of text with a yellow background below. I’ve used it on a few pages and posts to warn my readers (if I’ve got any!) that things might look a little different.

In conclusion, I’ve only had a brief look at the new editor, but it is definitely worth a try. The old one won’t be around for ever, (it goes in 2022, I believe) so it is a good idea to have a good look at it well before then. I haven’t found any glitches yet, but in any case, it will only improve over time.

In addition to using the new Block Editor, I’ve also switched to using a new theme, which is called ‘twenty sixteen’. That too will make things look different. I’ve set up new menus, a new home page banner, and a couple of other things. Maybe I should mention that in my chunk of text!

I’ve switched to using the new WordPress Block Editor, and this means that my posts may look different from now on. Things may change as I get more used to the new editor, so please excuse any small changes that you might notice. Please comment below, or fill in my feedback form, if something appears to be really wrong. (e.g. bits of text hidden by buttons.)

Upgrading


Embed from Getty Images

I’ve just upgraded my desktop computer system. I’ve replaced the CPU, motherboard, RAM, power supply unit, and disk drive. In fact what I’ve really done is build a new computer in the existing case, keeping only my keyboard, mouse and monitor.

I’ve not had any problems, apart from the fact that the pesky little screws that hold things together seem smaller and more fiddly than I remember, but that may just be my ageing fingers.

English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view...
English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view with the top open. The top is held by 6 screws, 2 on the back and 2 on each side. On the left side we can see the only cooling fan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incidentally I replaced the existing hard disk drive with a solid state drive or SSD. This is neither disk shaped nor does it have any moving parts, so its name is a bit misleading.

I’d had the previous computer for several years, so why did I replace it? Well, it was getting a little slow and some things ran very slowly on it. When I did a backup it would slow almost to a crawl. Its slowness was my fault really as I was trying to run far too much stuff on it. If I merely browsed the Internet and received and sent mail, and got rid of all the other baggage that I had acquired, it would probably have sufficed.

A modest junk box
A modest junk box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But where’s the fun in that! Having been system administrator in the past, I see interesting things coming through, like programs that simulate the running of an Android phone, so that you can write and test them on your desktop,. Wow! Now all I need is an idea for a killer app that can make me buckets of money.

So that went on the desktop, and I tried it out and lo! It worked fine. Then I moved on to something else and the killer app never got written. That seems to be the way that it goes with me – I see something cool, install it, and get it working, but once I get a handle on how it behaves, I lose interest.

English: Wikipedia Android app
English: Wikipedia Android app (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have nothing but admiration for people who have an idea, who then program it up, put it out there for people to try, and then deal with the inevitable bug reports and requests for enhancements and changes. Sometimes they modify and support the programs that they write for decades. Of course if they get bored with the whole thing, they can walk away from their baby and either the program becomes “abandonware” or someone else takes up the baton.

I can program though. I’ve written and supported programs and scripts which I’ve written for my job as systems administrator, and even at home I’ve written backup scripts and programs which are useful and, for the moment, complete, but I’ve got dozens of others which I started but did not complete for some reason or other.


Embed from Getty Images

As an example, this blog uses WordPress as a platform. WordPress comes in two forms. There is the usual WordPress service, referred to as “WordPress.com” and there is “WordPress.org“.

The “dot org” version is an Open Source project with hundreds of volunteers writing code, packaging and otherwise making WordPress available to anyone wants to download it and use it on the computers that they operate and use.

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress i...
Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress is under the GPL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, many people don’t want to do download and run it themselves, either because they don’t have that sort of access to the computers that they use, or they are not technically competent enough, so the “dot com” version of the program is provided for people who simply want to use WordPress and not maintain it.

I set up this blog on WordPress.com initially, but wondered if it would be a good idea to run the WordPress.org version instead. So I downloaded it and installed it, and bingo! A clone of WordPress.com. Which was OK, but then I was faced with the need to find somewhere visible to host it – it’s no good having a blog if people can’t see it!

Multiple racks of servers
Multiple racks of servers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the end I decided to stay with WordPress.com as I didn’t need anything different from that version, and using WordPress.com avoid the hosting hassles. For a simple blog, without any esoteric bells and whistles, it is ideal. It can also be used for more complex situations, provided they don’t need changes to the core code.

Incidentally I started out with a Drupal site. I love Drupal and still have a Drupal site on my computer, which I tinker with occasionally. It’s a much more complex beast than WordPress (though WordPress is very flexible and extendable), but in the end, I don’t need the complexities at this time, so I moved to WordPress. One is not better than the other, they are just different.

drupal icon, svg version
drupal icon, svg version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, I’ve tried many other content management or blogging tools and frameworks. A framework can be thought of as a “do it yourself” type of website building tool, a few steps up from writing HTML, and several steps below a complete content management or blogging system.

All the discarded and forgotten stuff on my computer was obviously slowing it down, but arguably more importantly, technology has moved on. The old CPU had a single core, whereas the new one has ten! Two gigabytes of memory was proving restrictive. The disks were old and slow.

English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing...
English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing the KL10 CPU and MH10 memory cabinets. Suomi: Osa DECsystem-1090-tietokonetta. Kuvassa koneen KL10-pääyksikkö (kolme ensimmäistä kabinettia?) ja useita MH10-muistikabinetteja. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the upgrade happened and I’m very pleased with it. The CPU (currently) barely breaks into a canter. The RAM is extensive, and I’m sure there are bits that haven’t been touched! Above all the new SSD is fast and my browser opens in a snap. No doubt I’ll think of things to eventually slow it down, but for the moment it is great. All the crud is gone, but I still have it backed up. Once a sysadmin always a sysadmin – always take backups of your backups and never throw anything away!

Just About There
Just About There (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above all it is quiet! There is no disk noise, and the CPU fan is also quiet. I was telling my daughter how quiet it was and sure enough we couldn’t hear it running. OK, there was a bit of ambient noise from the grand-rats and the dog, but it was quiet. It wasn’t until they had gone that I discovered that it was actually switched off! But it really is that quiet.

English: It's not normally this quiet.
English: It’s not normally this quiet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One Hundred and One

English: Wayne County (NY) Route 101 shield. P...
English: Wayne County (NY) Route 101 shield. Public domain. Unlike most counties, Wayne County posts its county routes on blade signage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last post that I made was my 100th post on this blog. I’ve tried to keep blogs before now, but I’ve always failed at some point. There are blogs started by me at various places on the Internet, but this is the only one to have got past a few dozen posts.

I’m not sure of the reason why I’ve been able to keep this blog going and I’ve failed before. I don’t think that it is the fact that this is a WordPress blog, as I’ve not found significant differences between the various type of blog. They all do pretty much the same thing.

English: WordPress Logo
English: WordPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, there are myriads of themes out there, but it is impossible to hide the underlying structure completely – you create a blog post, you post it and people are able to look at it.


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There are no doubt those who have specific needs and need specific features, for example if they are selling something and need to accept payments, who find that a specific blogging platform is required to fill their needs, but most people will find, I think, that the blogging platform that they use is mostly irrelevant.

I have committed myself to creating blog post of around 1,000 words once per week and so far I’ve been able to achieve this. I plan to have a post ready to go on Monday evening. Below I’m going to describe how I write a post. It’s a creative process, with a small ‘c’. It’s not Creative with a large ‘C’, a work of Art, as I don’t aspire to such exalted levels. It’s just my small blog.

Brain, computer art
Brain, computer art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I sit down to write a post, I usually, but not always, have a topic in mind. If I am lucky I will have been thinking about it during the week and I have some idea on what I am going to include in the post. However, I don’t plan it out as such. I just some ideas, some pretty well developed in mind.

Sometimes though, I sit down at the computer with maybe only a topic or not even that. I type the title and I’m away! So far I’ve not had any real difficulty in reaching the 1,000 words, and sometimes I have to leave things out.

1000 Pennies for Your Thoughts - NARA - 534149
1000 Pennies for Your Thoughts – NARA – 534149 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is usually reckoned that a work of this sort has a distinct beginning and end. I certainly open with a sentence on what I about to write about  and then go on to write about it, but I don’t try to tag on a definitive conclusion, especially if I am running on, and the word count gets significantly higher than 1,000 words.

So anyway, I start writing. As I write I might plan ahead a little, but more often than not I put down my current thought which might take a sentence or three and I correct and formulate my sentences as I go. I look back a little too, and may revise a sentence or phrase in the current paragraph if it strikes me as being too ugly.

English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the N...
English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper. Reporters and rewrite men writing stories, and waiting to be sent out. Rewrite man in background gets the story on the phone from reporter outside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t however have the whole thing in my mind, though I may remember and revisit thoughts that I have written earlier if something strikes me. I do think ahead a little, or maybe a paragraph or two, but in general, I compose as I write as I go.

Sometimes I pause, as I just did, to think my way ahead. This is an indication to me that I’ve said all that comes to mind on the point that I was making and that I should start another point.


Embed from Getty Images

I am not formal about references and in fact mostly use Wikipedia for any references, but I try to link to the work of others and sometimes to major references. If a reader has an interest in any of the topics that I touch on, Wikipedia, for all its faults, can be a good place to start.

The result, I suspect, is almost certainly more of a ramble through the topic in question than a serious analysis of it. Caveat Emptor! Of course, anything that I write is my opinion only.

English: Front of Caveat Emptor, a rare books ...
English: Front of Caveat Emptor, a rare books store located at 112 N. Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington, , . Built in 1900, it is part of the Courthouse Square Historic District, a historic district that is listed on the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I have finished writing the post, I save it, and then start “decorating” it. By this I mean that I insert images every paragraph or so, to break up the post into more readable chunks. A single mass of text is off-putting I find. That’s also why I kept the paragraphs short too.

I choose the picture purely on their look. I don’t check the websites that the image come from, so people should not assume that I in any way agree or disagree with the authors of the websites that I borrow images from.

Internet packet path
Internet packet path (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is probably not a big deal, as I usually use Zemanta to provide the images and they provide links mainly from Wikipedia. Also using a source like Zemanta means that there should be no copyright issues with the images that I include.

When I have finished writing the post and I have inserted my images, I categorise the post using my usual categories and include tags. Doing this is supposed to help people looking for posts on particular topics and tagging in particular should enable my posts to come up in searches. Apparently tagging posts helps search engines.


Embed from Getty Images

The way that I write posts mean that there is a danger that I might meander through a topic rather than do a tight analysis of it. That’s OK by me. However I don’t know if the readers of my posts consider them to be rambling or whether I unconsciously put in there a structure that I am unaware of when I write a post.

Essentially, though, I write for myself, to get my ideas out there, to amuse myself and to test myself. When I write, I am, in my own mind, in a way, writing to myself, as if I the reader were a different person to I the writer. I know the occasional real person stumbles on my writing, and if they get something out of it, I am glad. If they don’t get something out of it, well, that’s fine, but I guess that they won’t be back!

Wayne County (NY) Route 102 shield. Public dom...
Wayne County (NY) Route 102 shield. Public domain. Unlike most counties, Wayne County posts its county routes on blade signage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogging – how is it going?

blogging
blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

When I started this blog, 60-odd posts ago, I had no idea where it was going. Of course I had some ideas on what I wanted. Philosophy, cooking and photography. As it turns out, there’s been a bit of philosophy going on, but it’s not been centre stage, as it were. There’s been a decline in the cooking posts, which I intend to remedy sooner or later, and the photography has been non-existent. That’s because most of my photography has gone into my Facebook page.

So what have I been blogging about? I looked back and, well, I’m surprised to note that my posts, were philosophical in tone, but not necessarily what I’d call “philosophically motivated”, but often triggered by events that have come to my attention either in my personal life or in the media. Some serious and some not serious. As an example this post has turned into a philosophical review of earlier posts.

P philosophy
P philosophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what can I reflect on over 60-odd posts, apart from my apparent tendency to seek deeper meaning in the relatively trivial? Because I don’t consider my posts to be “deeply meanignful”.

Well one aspect of this one-a-week blogging thing strikes me immediately. I am a procrastinator and my previous attempts at blogging or similar have failed miserably. Currently I am up to 60-odd posts and still going. (Pats self on back). What is different this time?

English: Old gatepost Field openings used to b...
English: Old gatepost Field openings used to be closed by putting posts in the holes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, one of the factors I think is WordPress. As a confirmed technophile, I have tried many other solutions, and even tried the DIY approach. I can speak several computer languages like a native, and I can achieve passable programs in several others. I don’t care what language it is, if I want to learn it for anything, it doesn’t take me long. (Note to self: write an article about programming “in the zone” and “thinking in a programming language”!)

WordPress
WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

WordPress is different in that I don’t have to program anything. I just write my thoughts in a fairly forgiving editor, add a few images and click the “Publish” button. No doubt there are other similar systems out there, but I came across WordPress and it works for me. I can bash out 1000-ish words per week and cast them into the ether, or at least the Internet, and I have achieved my self-imposed goal.

cassini science targets
cassini science targets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when it gets out there depends on whether my thinking resonates with others out there on the Internet. I get emails saying that so-and-so “liked” a post, which is nice, or that so-and-so is now “following” my posts, which is nicer, but comments on my posts are rare. Insert not-smiley emoticon. I’m not sure why. Maybe I should solicit and respond to comments? Insert smiley emoticon.

Smiley Rocks
Smiley Rocks (Photo credit: w3i_yu)

Anyhow, I like WordPress and it works for me, but there are probably, almost certainly, other blogging systems that would do as well, each with their own quirks and wrinkles. I wouldn’t presume to say that WordPress is the best or that WordPress is for everyone. But it works for me.

I aim to do approximately 1000 words per post (the editor tells me I’m just over half way there – helpful). I base this on the concept that if the post is too long, it won’t get read to the end, unless it is *really* interesting. I don’t aspire to be more than 1000 words interesting! I think that’s reasonable and I hope it *is* reasonable, otherwise I’m wasting my time.

English: This is a modification of File:200902...
English: This is a modification of File:20090211 thousand words-01.jpg, which I digitally cropped, to remove the title and the copyright notice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started this blog, I decided that I would post on Friday or Saturday each week. That has slid out to Tuesday occasionally, but I’m pleased to say that I have maintained the once a week target since I decided to attempt it. Yay! There are personal reasons why Friday and Saturday are not conducive to blog writing, and Sunday is the day that I am (effectively) targetting these days. I’m writing this on a Sunday.

Who am I blogging to? I putting these posts out there, on the Internet, and presumably I hope that someone will read them. Actually, that not as clear cut as all that. While I love the idea that some people might find my posts (ruminations? ramblings?) interesting, I don’t think that I’d be disappointed if nobody read them. If anyone does, please comment with “Hey, Cliff, I read the post.” Extra comments optional!

Duty Calls
Duty calls.

Blogging is a narcissistic occupation. The blogger puts his thoughts out there, on the Internet, because he thinks his thoughts are of some value. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t matter to the blogger, or at least to this blogger.  If you figure out the millions of bloggers world-wide and the number of postings that they make per day, it is unlikely that any one blogger is likely to attract a lot of attention. Unless they happen to be President of the United States or something.

I’m always grateful when someone comments on my posts though. I don’t think that the blogging medium is particularly good for having a conversation or discussion though, as I don’t spend a lot of time on it, and I don’t get a huge number of comments. I do know that some people do end up with 1000s of comments on their posts, but those blogs tend to be specialised – political blogs for example. I don’t have such a detailed target, so I’m happy with the few comments and likes that I get.

Models of Blogs: Blog as Participant in Conver...
Models of Blogs: Blog as Participant in Conversation (3 of 3) (Photo credit: robinhamman)

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Android app

I discovered an Android app for WordPress, so I’m giving it a try. (I may remove this post later).

The trouble is I don’t yet have a topic. Well, I haven’t yet posted any photographs, apart from the ones that I’ve used as illustrations.

image
Back lit tree fern frond.

image
I’m not good on plant names. This might be an azalea.

image
Grass. I was trying to capture the shape of the grass in the rather long lawn.

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Grass and weeds. At this level the lawn seemed to be a battleground of competing species.