I’m contemplating a new writing project, and as I often do in the early stages of such projects, I’m beginning by thinking about the surfaces on which I’m going to do that writing, and the surfaces on which that writing will eventually appear. That sent me off this morning into a bit of tinkering here, which resulted in a whole new theme. Something about this theme feels more conducive to the work I’m hoping to do in the coming months.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the prettied-up surface will result in any more actual posting than there has been of late, but a girl can dream.

Get Me Rewrite!

Consider this a plea for help:

This site has been through some serious migrations over the years. It’s had two different hosting providers and three different blog platforms, among other kinds of changes. As a result, its permalink structure has changed over time, and I’ve had to use mod_rewrite to grapple with redirecting old inbound links to where they need to go.

By and large, I’ve been able to manage this. I’ve got one big lingering problem, however, that results from neither a server nor a platform migration.

For several years, Planned Obsolescence ran on a single-site WordPress installation, with pretty /%postname%/ permalinks. A little while back, I got the bright idea that I should consolidate it with a few other WP instances I was running, through one clean multi-site installation.

This is now the main site of that multi-site instance. But multi-site WP adds /blog/ to the URLs of all posts in that main site. And so inbound links that are looking for http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/post-title get 404’d.

I have searched around, both within wordpress.org and out in the larger internets, for a way to use htaccess to redirect such inbound links to http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/post-title. But I’ve run into several problems, most notably, infinite redirect loops: even when I include a !blog condition in the rewrite rule, the request still gets caught in some redirect vortex. I also need to make sure that a few pages and secondary blog directories don’t wind up with /blog/ added to their URLs.

I’ve created a 404 page that attempts to explain the problem, and I should probably just let it go at that, but knowing all those errors are out there makes my OCD kick in. So if there were a mod_rewrite guru out there willing to help me work through this problem, I’d be enormously grateful.

Multiple Calendar Query

Here’s a (rather long) question for the Google Calendar devotees out there:

I’ve long had a personal Gmail account that I’ve done all my scheduling through. (I can’t remember what prompted me to switch my calendaring from the iCal/Mobile Me suite, but it probably had something to do with sync failures.) Anyhow, being a little fastidious, I’ve got multiple calendars set up in that account, each with its own color, so that I can see at a glance the distribution of my time across any given day/week. There’s a calendar (orange) for exercise, a calendar (purple) for personal stuff, and so on, and of course the main account calendar (blue), which I use for work-oriented appointments.

It’s been a system that’s worked fairly well for me. Until now!

The good news is that my work email and calendaring system has recently moved from one that I found bizarre and unfriendly (cough***Lotus Notes***cough) to the familiar and functional world of Google Apps. And the even better news is that as my colleagues move into the new system, we’re using Google Calendar for lots and lots of scheduling, so calendars are openly shared (full information, not free/busy) throughout the office.

And this is great; I love knowing when my colleagues are available, and I love that they know the same about me. But what I’m struggling with is how to simplify my scheduling across these two accounts as much as possible, without announcing every yoga class or personal appointment that I have to all of my colleagues.

I’ve shared my personal calendars with my work account and vice versa, so that everything appears in and can be manipulated from both accounts. And I’ve made it possible for my colleagues to see my free/busy status on those personal calendars. But I think that they’d have to subscribe to each of those calendars in order to get all of the information, which isn’t ideal.

What I’m wondering is whether I need to collapse all of the calendars in my personal account down into the primary calendar (and then use the recently introduced ability to set a color for an individual event to maintain the visual distinction I like), so that my colleagues only have to subscribe to my work (full info) and personal (free/busy) calendars to get the full picture.

Or is there a better way? Multiple-account-holding Google folks, I’d love to know how you’re dealing with your calendars…

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Some months back, I got pharmahacked, which was a royal pain, needless to say, and which I took extremely personally. (Witness: I got hacked.) Part of what annoyed me so much about the hack was that I knew I’d been a sitting target; not only had I not recently checked my security settings through my hosting provider’s control panel to be sure that they were as strong as they could be (needless to say, they weren’t), but I also hadn’t updated here in several months (a summer-long gap which you can see manifested in the archives menu at right). It was all too evident that nobody was minding the store.

I took advantage of the need to rebuild my site from the ground up to put a new design into place, hoping that a new theme would inspire me to create new content. It was September, after all, and perhaps it was the equivalent of getting new notebooks and new pens to greet the new academic year.

But, of course, I wasn’t starting a new academic year; I’m on a twelve-month calendar now. And the new theme never really sat as well with me as I’d have liked. I missed my sidebars, and the header was huge enough that there was only visible content at the very bottom of many folks’ smaller browser windows. And then there was the friend who pointed out that the same theme was in use on another blog that I wasn’t terribly fond of. And then I ran into it again elsewhere last week. It all just started to feel wrong.

So here I am, coming up on the end of May, about to launch into my first full no-summer-break summer in nearly 20 years. In the hopes that I might think of this as the beginning of my new #alt-academic year, I’m treating myself to the new pens and notebooks now. Perhaps I’ll even be inspired to write.

My fear, of course, manifests in this post’s title: that all of this site redesign is no more than deck-chair rearranging, making things nice and orderly while the blog-ship is going down. But perhaps naming that fear will keep it from coming to pass.

We’ll see, I suppose.

The short of it: welcome to the new Planned Obsolescence, with some of the nifty stuff of the last design, and some older features resurrected. Things will likely need a little touching-up in the coming days — the blogroll not least among them — but it’s nice to have laid the groundwork for what I hope to be a productive year to come.

This is a post designed to see if I’ve managed to unbreak my RSS feed, such that Google Reader and other modes of subscribing to this blog will once again update. Cross your fingers for me.

[UPDATE, 3.20 pm: So it appears that my regular RSS feed is hung up on something, but I’m not sure what; the XML appears fine, and the feed validates. If you’re subscribed to that feed and haven’t received any updates since January 2, you may want to switch your subscription to the Atom feed, which readers seem to accept just fine. I’ll keep poking at the RSS and see if I can get that problem solved, in the meantime.]

Rebuild, Rewrite, Redirect

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard me growling a bit over the last week or so about @#$%! SEO blackhats and their @#$%! pharmahack.

Suffice it to say, I’d been gotten, and gotten so well that while I could find evidence they’d been there, I couldn’t find the script that was actually doing the damage.

Happily I had a solid backup that predated the hack, and happily, I guess, I hadn’t exactly been active around here since. So how did I handle the problem?

1. Wipe everything. Files, databases, everything.
2. Begin with a fresh installation of WordPress, a brand new database, and a new MySQL user.
3. Gradually rebuild the site.
4. Import tables one by one into the new database.
5. Tinker.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck in that last step. Here’s the problem: I’ve been running multiple sites via multiple WP installs, and a weakness in any of them threatens the others. (Not to mention the work of keeping all those installations up to date.) So I’ve decided to merge as much as I can into a single multi-site instance. And I figured I’d go ahead and use a subdirectory setup, rather than treating each site as a subdomain, as everything ultimately belongs under the umbrella of plannedobsolescence.net.

But! Because it can’t be that easy! WordPress 3.x, when set up as a subdirectory-based multisite installation, adds the slug “/blog/” to all of the permalinks of the main site. Which would of course be this site. Which means that all of my internal links are now broken, and any inbound links are broken as well.

I’m fighting with mod_rewrite right now, and while I’m hoping to find a better long-term solution than this, for the moment, if you’re looking for something in particular, you may want to scroll to the bottom of the page and search for it.

And if you’re smarter about mod_rewrite than I am (which really, really wouldn’t take much), let me know.

Further Tinkering

So the twittery updates have started bugging me; I’m going to test out the daily digest option for a few days, and if that still bugs me, I’ll move to the sidebar option.

That’s thing one. Thing two is that I’ve decided I’m officially getting old. How I know this is that this teeny little font is bugging the hell out of me. So I think there may be a CSS redesign in my relatively near future (as soon as I’ve gotten enough real work done that I can justify some goofing off, that is). Stand by, as there’ll no doubt be bumps along the way.