Yes, I’m Still Around

But busy having a life and dealing with it.

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog when my sister mentions that I haven’t posted anything new in a while. Oops.

Truth is, I’ve been busy. House guest, cell phone lost on mountain top, two days of aerial survey work, rush to finish a writing job, plan a last minute vacation, search for a lost dog, cancel last-minute vacation, find lost dog, etc.

Life. Sometimes it interrupts blogging.

But wouldn’t you want it that way? I’m not complaining.

(Although I could have done without that lost dog episode.)

New Subscription Feature Delivers Full-Text Content from this Site

Another way to get new content here.

A while back, I switched to summary post format for RSS feeds. I did this, in part, to stop the feed scraping activity that was violating my copyright to the contents of this site. This disappointed a lot of people. They apparently preferred reading content in their RSS reader application or via email instead of coming to this site.

While I understand the convenience of reading sites in a feedreader — I use a reader on my iPad to keep up with my favorite sites — I don’t have enough subscribers to justify putting my content at risk for scraping. And I figured that people who really wanted to read what’s new here would take the extra effort to follow the link in their feed reader or email notification to go to the site. Hell, it only takes one extra step.

In the meantime, the WordPress folks added a new subscription feature that makes this kind of moot — provided you like to read new content via email. They’ve added email subscription capabilities. Extremely easy for bloggers to configure, it adds a subscription widget to the sidebar. All the reader has to do is enter his/her email address and click a button. Moments later, an email confirmation message arrives in their inbox. Click the link in that message to start the subscription.

Sample MessageThe resulting email messages are nicely formatted to present the entire contents of the blog post. This is an example from earlier in the week; I subscribed to test it out. I chose the HTML format, but there’s also a plain text format. This even looks good in a mobile device like an iPad.

Links in each message give you easy access to settings and the ability to unsubscribe at any time. In addition, all of your subscriptions to WordPress sites are maintained in the same place, so it’s easy to modify settings for all of them at once. In addition to email format, you can also specify delivery frequency: immediate, daily, or weekly. The Delivery Frequency settings lets you specify what time of day or day or the week you prefer. You can even click a check box to temporarily turn off the email messages when you think you might be too busy to read them.

I think this is a great compromise between full-text RSS feeds and summary feeds. After all, if you want the convenience of new content delivered to your mailbox, you have it. My content is protected from feed scraping because it never appears in an RSS feed. But if you prefer to check in via RSS reader, you can continue to do so as you may already be doing — you’ll just need to take the extra step of clicking a link to read the full text of a post that interests you.

What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.

A New Look

This site was long overdue for a facelift.

Last night, on impulse, I switched this site’s theme from a highly modified version of iNove to WordPress’s brand-new Twenty Eleven. Unless I’ve had an impulse to change it again since writing this, you’re probably looking at it right now.

The site was long overdue for the change. A while back, in an effort to show off more of my photos, I’d added a plugin to pull thumbnail images from my photo gallery and arrange them as clickable links in the header. I realized belatedly that this seriously slowed down the loading of the site. Some people even commented about it. Something had to be done.

There are several reasons it took so long to make the change:

  • I couldn’t find a theme I liked. Really. I have a terrible time imagining how I could modify a theme to meet my own needs.
  • Most themes I liked either looked too “bloggy” or too “magaziney.” I couldn’t find one in between that I could imagine changing.
  • I couldn’t find a theme that had built-in support for mobile devices.
  • I didn’t have the time to sit down and do the work necessary to make major modifications to a theme.
  • I actually liked the way my site looked with its current setup.

But after upgrading the site to WordPress 3.2, I noticed a brand new theme: Twenty Eleven. Like its predecessor, Twenty Ten, it had clean lines and a lot of built-in features. It also had the benefit of being created by the makers of WordPress, so I knew it would be compatible and show off WordPress features. Working with it would give me a good opportunity to dive into theme customization again. Even though I didn’t have time to play with it right away, there would be plenty of opportunities to tweak it over the coming weeks and months.

And if there’s something I really enjoy doing, it’s tweaking a WordPress theme to suit my needs.

So yesterday, I made the switch. And this morning, I dumped a few of my own images into the random header folder to personalize it enough for prime time.

I’ll be modifying it as time goes on. Would love to know what you think and am open to suggestions for changes. Use the comments link — well, “Reply” link right now; it’s on my list to change — to share your thoughts.

More Blog Posts…Soon

Still very busy, getting ready to relocate, but the end is near.

First of all, you need to understand that I really do like writing in this blog. It makes me feel good to post something each morning as I enjoy my morning coffee. Whether it’s a poorly disguised rant or a detailed account of my latest helicopter trip, it feels good to get the words out and share them with others. I am, after all, a writer at heart and writers need to write.

And that’s actually what I’m doing. I’m working on a revision to a 600+ page book and am about 3/4 finished. There’s a very tight deadline — one I’m not sure I’m going to make this time (don’t tell my editor) — and I’ve been working my ass off on it, getting very burned out in the process. I’m not complaining; this one book earns a whole year’s income so it’s worth what I put into it. But it does leave me too tired and burned out to write in this blog — and not really enough time to do it right anyway.

But the end is near! I’ll soon be repositioning my helicopter and RV to Washington State for the summer. (My house-sitter is already installed to care for the fish and backyard birds and keep an eye on things.) Once there, I’ll finish up the book and have a lot more time for other projects, including some videos and, of course, this blog.

Between now and then, I’ll be making two trips from Phoenix to Washington. On one, I’ll be a passenger in my own helicopter for a day or two. On the other, I’ll be driving my “rig” on a two to three day journey through Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Washington. On both trips, I won’t be writing about computers. So I expect to have a clear enough head to share some stories about the trips. Maybe some photos, too. With both hands free in the helicopter, I’ll have no trouble taking photos.

So bear with me just a little longer. New blog posts will come soon. I promise.

Protecting My Work

Site changes to images, file links, and RSS feeds.

Well, I’ve had enough. Enough of people using my images on their sites or trying to pass them off as their own. Enough of people hot linking to content on my site, forcing me to host images and files for them. Enough of feed scrapers stealing entire blog posts and using them to fill their sites with content.

So I’ve made some changes to this blog:

  • Through the use of a WordPress plugin called No Right Click Images Plugin, you can no longer right click on an image to display a context menu and download it to your computer — or do anything else with it. As an added bonus, you can’t drag it off the Web page and onto your desktop to save it either.
  • Through the use of some new code in my .htaccess file, if you embed an image hosted on my server in a Web page or use it in a blog post, e-mail message, or other location, you’ll see a message like the one shown here, telling the viewer that the content must be viewed on this site.
  • Through the use of a WordPress Plugin called Download Protect, you can no longer use a direct link to PDF or other selected files on this site. To download the file, you must go to the page on which its link appears and use that link to download it. This prevents file leeching — folks linking directly to a file hosted on my site, sucking my bandwidth without visitors ever seeing the post related to the file.
  • And finally, after a long run with full RSS feeds, I’ve switched back to summary feeds. This means that instead of being able to read entire blog posts from this site in your feed reader, you can now only read the title and summary. You’ll have to click a link to read the post and see its images. Although I’ve been using one-line summaries for all blog posts for a very long time, I’ll do my best to expand those summaries so readers know what they’re missing by not visiting the site.

I do want to remind everyone that the contents of this blog are copyrighted. I have every right to protect my work.

Internet content theft is possibly the biggest problem that original content creators like me face every time we add content to our sites. While these measures won’t prevent all content theft, they will make it a bit harder for thieves to steal my work.

Hopefully, these measures will also encourage more site visitors to interact with me and other visitors, share feedback, and encourage me to produce more interesting content.

Your feedback is welcome; use the Comments link or form for this post.