October 2006

All that glisters is not gold

The line from The Merchant of Venice is certainly true. However the production of The Merchant of Venice mounted in Cedar City was pure gold. Shakespeare's text certainly provides plenty of material to work with. With that base, however, the Utah Shakespearean Festival mounted an even more amazing, rich version of the play. Unfortunately this weekend was the last of the fall season. Now it is time to await the coming of the 2007 summer season.

Todd Skinner

We got the very sad news this afternoon that family friend Todd Skinner lost his life in a fall while climbing in Yosemite yesterday. Our thoughts are with the families.

2.0 kind of day

Turns out that today's just a 2.0 kind of day. Skype 2.0 for the Macintosh was released today too. So it is downloading in the Firefox 2.0 window on the computer. Firefox 2.0 seems a little slower than it's predecessor though. Time will tell I guess.

The conservative media

Sixteen days. That's how long it's been since the search function on the Las Vegas Review Journal website stopped working. Could it be that the recent spate of downturns in fortune for GOP candidates have caused the conservative paper to keep these stories from being so easily found? Or could it just be that there's a group of people who are supposed to be watching the online store who need to be looking for other jobs?

Podcast playback

One of the things that came with moving back to the west was the distance between us and one of the greatest NPR stations KUNC. Always a joy to listen to KUNC did not go for the all talk format, nor did they assume that the folks listening wanted a monoculture of classical music. Instead they have a great variety of music and an outstanding collection of shows from National Public Radio and American Public Media.

Enter Podcasting and the ability to get top notch programming delivered to my desktop and then to the iPod or CD. Combine this with iTunes Music Store and there's little reason one need leave the house, ever. But alas things are not perfect. Apple excludes Podcasts from the playlist in the iTunes Party Shuffle so the best way to play a somewhat random mix of music back throughout the day excludes podcasts. There are some scripts like this one that plays NPR's Hourly News reports. What we really need now in iTunes is a good way of scheduling our own semi-automatic quasi-radio schedules with a mix of music and talk that meets our needs.

Could this be....

Earlier this month there were some stories about Podshow 's influx of cash. At the time I speculated there might be an Apple link. Today brings news that an Apple patent filing in the last couple of years hints at satellite radio compatibility for the iPod. Could it be that there is something to the idea that Apple and Podshow with their satellite radio ties might be looking to do something in the future?

Federated users in Drupal

I'm working with a complex network of Drupal sites and trying to find the best way to do federated users. The Drupal Module approach is a little too shotgun for this case. I need fine control, roles, taxonomy access etc. for each site but would like to have a common username and password. In the best of all possible worlds single-sign-on.

One approach uses MySQL views to accomplish this. So far this seems a good approach but it is not as simple to administer as I'd like. The Open Journal Systems approach is very much what I'd like to implement. An administrator goes to the main site and can see all the users and can assign users to various sites. It would be possible to do this with the roles in Drupal but one would quickly end up with a huge number of roles in managing just a few sites.

Authenticating all sites to LDAP would be another option worthy of consideration.

A discovery in this process has been that to share the sequences table most effectively using MySQL's ability to handle symbolic links for tables seems to be the best way. This solves two problems. One is modules that don't work well with table prefixing. The other problem it avoids is one of table locking when trying to use a MySQL view in place of a table. The drawback is you need an up-to-date version of MySQL and it may not work with other databases.

Dreamhost earns mixed reviews

Back in July I looked at moving web hosts to Dreamhost as they got high marks on several Drupal related boards. Indeed they have a lot of great ideas. Ultimately two problems caused me to invoke the 97-day money-back guarantee.

The first problem reared it's head as I started to transition domains to Dreamhost. If one has a "fully hosted" domain with Dreamhost they presume that you will have your "www." name pointed to their www server. Therefore it's not possible to have their DNS setup without having www.example.com pointed at their server. This makes for tough going when one wants to test and transition.

Fatally, however, the email system for IMAP was terribly unreliable. Time after time it would ask for my password when it had just been given. Perhaps it's a client issue or a conflict between the client and server but whatever the root cause it proved fatal for their hosting. It does seem that POP clients worked reasonably well.

Dreamhost's MySQL, PHP and therefore Drupal support earn high marks. It would be great if they'd add it as a goodie to install in their hosting control but it works pretty well otherwise.

Sick MacBook

We have a sick MacBook on our hands. Fortunately (we hope) it is not the dreaded restart problem that some have had. Rather the cause is a battery issue where the battery is not recognized after it was fully drained and the computer left unplugged overnight.

Of course this is probably a decent time for it to break because the only thing we'll miss is yet another post about Google buying You Tube.