Another new song in the works…

I’m working on another song for my new CD. This one’s in the bluesy/funky vein, with a working title of “Bluesy Groovesy.” (Hey, it’s only a working title.)

I realized while listening back to this that it’s actually somewhat reminiscent of latter-day Red Hot Chili Peppers. With a sucky bass player. :P

This is just the basic track right now… it definitely needs something over the top… to, uh… put it over the top.

Update March 2, 2007: I’m now up to version 0.6; more details are on the CD page. Still needs some keyboards and maybe some sax or other instruments but I’m waiting for my MIDI controller keyboard to arrive (which should be today if the snow doesn’t keep the FedEx truck away again… they gave up on trying to make the delivery yesterday; Tom Hanks would not be happy).

Note: To conserve server space, I’m clearing out older versions of the Hors d’Oeuvreture songs. Visit the album page to hear the latest available version of each track!

WordPress is great, but the documentation leaves a little to be desired…

Alas, the woes of using open source software rear their heads. WordPress abounds with undocumented, or at least very poorly documented, features.

My dilemma: the default function for displaying a list of page links (used on this site to populate the Points of Interest panel in the sidebar) sorts links alphabetically, and there isn’t any obvious way to make it sort by the database’s menu_order field, which logically, to me at least, should be the default especially given that this is how they’re sorted in the admin tool.

Finding little help in the documentation or by my usual means (Google), I decided it couldn’t be done without modification. In my previous installation of WordPress I actually modified the core code itself to change the sort order, but when I upgraded to version 2.1.1 today, it overwrote that change. This time I decided to try the plug-in approach, so my changes would actually stick through version changes, and so I could get familiar with the powerful but arcane plug-in system WordPress uses for extensibility.

After poking around futilely trying to get my plug-in to work (to the point where it was sorting all of my blog posts the way I wanted the pages to be, but not the page list), I stumbled upon a relevant post in the WordPress forums, where a snide jab at “theme designers” (which seemed to be such a broad swipe that it included me) happened to mention an input parameter in the function that calls the page list!

Silly me… the system has built right in a very simple way to sort the list by whatever field you want, and all you have to do is pass in the right parameters in your theme files. The change couldn’t have been simpler… but learning that it was possible certainly could have!

How about a fresh Hors d’Oeuvreture?

I’ve continued to tweak the two tracks I’ve been working on for the new album. I just posted a major update to “Heavy Water,” which you can listen to here or on the “official” page for the album.

I also posted minor updates to both tracks yesterday, in place of the earlier versions that were there. I didn’t bother to draw attention to them though, as they were basically just tweaks to the masters.

In addition to the current projects, I have a 16:18 ambient track I recorded last year, called “1.618” (because it’s based on the golden ratio… the length of the track is a deliberate play on that number), that I’m planning to add as the final track on the CD. It needs some clean up back over in Pro Tools (because I discovered GarageBand buckles under the stress of loading a pair of 16-minute waveform tracks) and a new master. I got a new computer since I worked on it, and all I seem to have backed up are the Pro Tools project and an MP3, but no CD-quality mixdown. More on that later.

Note: To conserve server space, I’m clearing out older versions of the Hors d’Oeuvreture songs. Visit the album page to hear the latest available version of each track!

Forget what I said before; we have a winner!

It’s a given that anything I post here is going to be brain-deflatingly stupid. But this one goes beyond even what I would have expected of Microsoft. Fortunately, thanks to a highly effective Google search, I was able to solve the problem in minutes.

The problem was this: For a site I’m working on, we are manipulating the 404 error feature to allow users to set up customized URLs. If the URL entered doesn’t match a real page, it gets fed into this 404 error script, which looks up the path in a database and redirects the user to their customized page. A bit of a hack, but it’s pretty slick.

As usual, I am developing the site using Firefox as my test browser. But… UH-OH! Surprise! When giving a demo of this feature today using Internet Explorer, we discovered it didn’t work! Internet Explorer was not returning the server’s 404 error page, instead using its own internal version (which we’ve all seen and most generally ignore).

Drat! What to do? Well, as it turns out (thanks to the aforementioned Google search), the problem is quite simple. To quote the unbelievable but, as I verified, 100% accurate description I found on this page:

Internet Explorer has a lightly-documented “feature” that stops it from serving any custom 404 error page that is less than 512 bytes long. Your visitors will instead be sent to IE’s own 404 page, which is generic and suggests they use an MSN search to “look for information on the Internet.” That’s one way to lose visitors! Make sure your custom 404 error page is over this limit — about 10 full lines of text and HTML should be enough.

Yep, that’s it. I did my best Bart Simpson-at-the-blackboard impersonation, filling my 404.html file with a large comment block wherein I repeated (about 130 times, for good measure) the phrase “This block exists solely to force Internet Explorer to load this page.”

Sure enough, it worked. D’oh!

Thinking a bit more about this, I at least think I understand why Microsoft chose to do this. “If the server’s default 404 error page is so short,” I imagine them musing, “then it probably doesn’t offer users much helpful information. And since our wonderful web browser is much more important to our users than the web pages themselves, let’s just butt in and do things our way. (Is there really any other way anyway?)”

It’s not finished yet, but it’s already pretty stupid…

You may or may not have seen my Stupid JavaScript Tricks A–Z page. For a while I’ve had a mildly enticing teaser on that page promising “something big” when I get to the letter D. Well, I finally decided to skip C and get started on that “big” letter D. It’s about half done, but since I only get the inspiration (and time) for these kinds of things in short, sporadic bursts, I decided to run with it and post it in a half-completed state. The real topper is what comes next, and hopefully someday I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, please check out the incomplete… Delete the Internet.