Vancouver Comic Arts Festival

See you at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival!

Big news: Noise to Signal is going to be one of the exhibitors at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival next weekend, May 23-24 at Yaletown’s Roundhouse. I’ll have prints, stickers and other goodies for sale, so swing on by!

The festival is the best thing ever. The panel sessions are great, the exhibitors are tremendously varied, and the whole thing is free. Not free-to-get-onto-the-exhibit-floor-but-you-pay-extra-for-the-good-stuff free, but actually free. It’s welcoming to kids, while offering lots of more mature content.

If the draft floor map holds true, I’ll be sharing the table with Nikkie and Cameron Woo and Alex Steacy. They’re talented folks and I’m looking forward to talking with them. You can find us at table H2:

VanCAF floor map - table H2

I can’t wait. Really. Six more sleeps.

 

Illustration: WordPress logo in motion

In praise of laziness… and Duplicator, a free plugin for moving WordPress sites around

Everyone cheers a robust work ethic. But laziness deserves a little time in the sun, too.

The desire to duck drudgery drives countless innovations. If necessity is the mother of invention, then laziness is the sperm donor.

Life lesson: if you find yourself doing a common repetitive task that’s amenable to automation, then find out if someone has done just that. Or, if you have the chops, automate it yourself. (And share or sell it.)

Which brings me to my new Favourite Thing in the World: Duplicator, a free plugin for WordPress.

If you’ve ever had to move a WordPress installation from one server to another, you’ll be familiar with the potential headaches and pitfalls. For veteran sysadmins, it can be straightforward (if tedious); for self-taught civilians, it can be daunting.

And for both, it can definitely be drudgery.

Since I’m basically lazy, I spent a minute or two looking for a drudgery-avoiding solution.

Enter Duplicator. All that work of packaging up your files, exporting your database, changing server paths and temporary URLs—it handles it all admirably. With a few clicks, you can download your WordPress site and work on it on your local computer, then redeploy it back to the server. Or change hosts. Or create a mirror for your site.

I used this week it to bring Noise to Signal (which had been stubbornly refusing to upgrade a critical plugin) down to my MacBook. (A free utility called MAMP allows me to easily administer a web server on my laptop that’s very similar to the Linode server the site runs on.) I worked with a version of my site that included all the bells and whistles of the live version except one: an audience watching over my shoulder.

Downloading the site and getting it running was a piece of cake, thanks to some pretty decent documentation and video walkthroughs on the Duplicator website. And getting it back up and running again was almost as easy; Duplicator caught the few glitches that arose, and told me how to fix them. (One last tenacious little glitch that Duplicator couldn’t have anticipated was actually a conflict between two other plugins.)

Was it as easy as telling Siri to download my site and put it back again? No. You need to have some idea of what you’re doing, how to navigate your servers and upload and download files, and how to handle some basic troubleshooting (say, for file permissions).

But Duplicator took a big chunk of work out of my hands, and I’ll be a lot less apprehensive the next time I have to move a WordPress site around. A little laziness saved me a lot of time this week… thanks, ironically enough, to a hard-working developer.

(There’s a pro version of Duplicator, by the way, offering support, Dropbox integration and more features. Overkill for my needs, but you may find it’s just the ticket.)

I believe crash reports should be worth reading (12)

Problem_Report_for_Coda_2

So Coda 2 and me is workin’ the late shift. Good money, y’know, if ya can handle the smell and all. An’ suddenly Coda turns to me, and I’ll never forget the look on her face, and she says, “Rob,” she says, “I ain’t shovellin’ no pig guts into no Zamboni to more.” And I’m floored! When you got a BA in Political Science, you count yerself frikkin’ lucky to get a grade-A job like shovellin’ pig guts into a frikkin’ Zamboni. But Coda says, “I need to have a job with some meanin’.” I asks her, what the hell do ya need meanin’ for? Meanin’ ain’t gonna pay no bills. She don’t listen. She asks me, “You ever wonder why they’re payin’ us to shovel pig guts into a Zamboni? Like, what in hell their business model is?” Like I give two craps what their business model is. Me, I’ve always figured this place is probably wired to the gills with webcams for guys who get their jollies watchin’ people shovel pig guts into Zambonis. But that’s a theory. Anyways, she ups and quits, and goddamn if the frikkin’ Zamboni doesn’t jam up two minutes later. Just my goddamn luck.

I believe crash reports should be worth reading (11)

What year is it? What? 2015?! Augh, no, too soon! I see the problem: a freed zone element was modified. The convergence is still developing, the lines are too faint—I had hoped for 2022 at least. Now I’m going to lose precious days refilling the temporal reservoir and the gravity buffers, and meanwhile that bastard Perrault is making the most of his head start. And his damage to the timeline is expanding: you’re still using internal combustion engines and taking the Republican Party seriously, for Christ’s sake. Wait… what’s the atmospheric carbon dioxide level..? Oh… oh god, no. Perrault, I swear, you’re going to pay dearly.

What year is it? What? 2015?! Augh, no, too soon! I see the problem: a freed zone element was modified. The convergence is still developing, the lines are too faint—I had hoped for 2022 at least. Now I’m going to lose precious days refilling the temporal reservoir and the gravity buffers, and meanwhile that bastard Perrault is making the most of his head start. And his damage to the timeline is expanding: you’re still using internal combustion engines and taking the Republican Party seriously, for Christ’s sake. Wait… what’s the atmospheric carbon dioxide level..? Oh… oh god, no. Perrault, I swear, you’re going to pay dearly.

In which I barf up a ton of advice on getting real value from your blog

I’ve been updating my series from a while ago about getting tangible value from your blog. You can follow it on LinkedIn; I’d love to know what you think!

 

One small note from a man, one giant email for humankind

A friend of mine just received one of those weird blank emails you sometimes see, dated 1969-12-31. Oh, I know what you’re going to say: it’s a server glitch, or the email program has a bug. Sure. You believe your thing.

Me? I like to think those emails actually come from Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who had to spend a day orbiting the moon—cut off from all human contact, even radio—while Armstrong and Aldrin bounced around on it. How did he cope with being the loneliest person in history? I think he beamed messages into space… messages that ultimately bounced off some distant world or massive as-yet-undetected object, and have only now returned to us, transformed into email. All the data has been lost in the transformation; only the year of transmission remains.

So if you get one, just respond, “Hi, Michael—hang in there. You guys make it back fine.”

The Apollo 11 crew portrait. Left to right are...

Michael’s the one in the middle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)