The Blog is Ported (again). Hello WordPress.

Welcome to the third major iteration of It’s Fixed in the Next Release. From Blogger (yuck) to Serendipity (which truly deserves more attention than it gets) to WordPress (market share wins, even in the open source world) here we are.

Speaking of open source, what you see here is only possible because of the FOSS (Free Open Source Software) model. Not only is the core of WordPress completely open, most of the themes, plugins, and tools are as well.

Independent of the cost, FOSS made this blog because the theme is a hybrid. The base theme is the free version of “Blogolife”. I’ve made some changes to it, both in terms of some invisible code rework, and by hacking in the tag display from “AskIt”, a commercial template I purchased for a project that died. At first I thought AskIt was going to do the trick, but in the end I just didn’t like the main page layout. Blogolife had the clean traditional blog feel but the display of tags and categories wasn’t all that great (I haven’t done anything to the categories yet).

I also removed all of Blogolife’s admin links and promotions for the “PRO” version. Needless to say I wasn’t likely to be buying that anyway.

It’s interesting hacking on WordPress code, and it’s a classic comparison between simplicity and power. I think it’s possible to keep most of the WordPress API in your head, and its possible to be a true expert on it in a year or so. Meanwhile, I’ve been working with Joomla for almost six years now, and it seems I keep on discovering new tricks, not including the outside-the-core stuff like template frameworks and the like. So there’s a freedom in WordPress that makes it possible to hack bits of two themes together in a few days and get something that works. But at the same time I feel like I’m working in a small shop with hand tools. By comparison Joomla feels like a manufacturing line full of robots — configure each one to do a job then watch the whole facility in action.

Each environment has its place. It’s actually more personally satisfying to feel you’ve built something by hand. WordPress certainly rocks the blogging / simple site space, but it has its limitations. Over in the Joomla development world we wrestle with issues like how to make it so those “robots” of ours plug into each other most effectively and with a minimum of code duplication. While we’re making it easier to plug things together I think we’d also be wise to keep an eye on offering freedom to site builders who need to produce a custom solution but only know the basics of PHP development. We never want to be in the position where someone says “Joomla is a great platform but you need a team of developers to build and run a site.”

After all, market share wins, even in the open source world.

So Long, Serendipity, and Thanks for All the Posts

To say this blog has suffered from neglect is to make a rather large understatement. It turns out that converting a passing thought into a coherent post takes too many words and too much time. Or maybe finishing a post just doesn’t generate enough endorphin. Whatever the reason, It’s Fixed in the Next Release underwhelmed my expectations, and then Twitter really made a mess of it. (more…)

A Dream of Intolerance

It seems I had a recurring dream about a man who played beautiful music in the morning. I say “it seems” because the music is quite familiar; I think I have heard it many times in dreamland. He played from some place nearby, a small house or maybe a shack.

A few days ago I dreamed that I recorded his music as I heard it from my window. The music was interrupted by argument, then by shots.

I ran out to see my friend dying on the street — the dream was quite graphic. His race was different from mine but the same as the murderer.

This morning, I dreamt that I was in his house. A crowd – mostly members of his race – gathered outside, angry, seeking revenge.

I had the recording. I played it. We all cried.

I wonder if I will ever dream about this man and his music again.

Is the “Astronautics/astrospace” Definition of Professional in Wiktionary?

Possibly the Internet’s most valuable contribution to society is it’s ability to foster dialogue. Unfortunately that dialogue is frequently not constructive. Among the least constructive techniques is the “attack and run” method, because there really is no way to control another person’s ability to communicate. The attacked person merely opens another channel. This is a case in point.

Earlier today, the nameless writer behind a seemingly useful site,, known as “Astronautics” (formerly “astrospace”) on Twitter, decided to communicate information about a mail server security problem. He or she posted several tweets on the subject (many now absent). This is the remaining one:

Astronautics: JSC mail server may have been hacked. If you get an HSFNEWS email from NASA check that the urls in the email are not Chinese

Then some time later, this tweet:

Astronautics: I lost many followers making that public service announcement – it’s strange how so many people have no sense of duty.

I thought I’d offer an explanation. Honestly I thought I was polite:

alan_langford: @Astronautics You assume all your followers are affected and/or can’t recognize spam. You flooded twitter with what amounts to noise. Not good

Just in case, I added (fixed a typo):

alan_langford: @Astronautics I happen to think your “regular” feed is interesting enough to tolerate the odd lapse, but obviously not everyone else does.

The public response was:

Astronautics: I do my duty and make public service announcements. I make a difference. I will not bend to court popularity.

Which is all well and good, but it seemed to me that the author was trying to understand why many followers left, which is unrelated to one’s sense of duty. Maybe it was my sense of duty to try to offer an explanation in the first place. Then I got this rather shocking direct message:

DM from Astronautics: It is not a ‘lapse’ and I do not care what some loser like you thinks. I am a professional journalist with a sense of DUTY. Go to hell.

The individual subsequently blocked me, removing the opportunity to respond as well as depriving me of his “journalistic” feed and forcing me to respond in a public way. I suppose in hindsight that’s not much of a loss.

So here’s my response: this person is clearly using a definition of “professional” with which I am not familiar. Maybe I’m out of touch. If anyone has a link to a credible reference that lists name calling, not identifying yourself, and telling people to “go to Hell” as professional, please send it to me. Considering the increasing meaninglessness of “professional” when attached to “journalist”, I am now questioning the credibility of anything on this site. That’s too bad, because credible news on space and astronomy would have been a good thing.