Site Updates: 2005 Archives

May 17, 2005

My apologies for the extended semi-downtime over the past five days. Things have been much busier for me— both professionally and socially— than I expected, and so I haven’t had nearly as much time to spend on the computer and manage the website. I really should’ve gotten to fixing the vandalism a whole lot quicker, but my schedule was really quite packed, believe it or not!

Early in the morning on May 12, someone managed to launch a Perl script on the server which hosts my website (along with many others). This rogue script scanned all of the hosted directory folders, and overwrote every index page with a rather annoying message, specifically SegmentationFault Hacked By Me!!. (I suppose I should be thankful that it didn’t do anything worse, such as actually modifying the existing pages or forcing redirects to other websites.)

I must admit that it was rather humbling to have my very first experience of a bona fide security breach on a Mac OS X-powered computer. It just goes to show that while security really may be a lot better, it can rarely (if ever) be absolutely perfect. (Though in fairness, the flaw wasn’t in Mac OS X itself, but rather in the Perl and Apache configuration, which was slightly outdated and hadn’t been patched.)

In other news, “Star Trek Minutiae” was recently featured in Five-Minute Voyager’s Enterprise Cancellation Spectacular. According to Zeke, I commented:

Star Trek Minutiae webmaster Dan Carlson, on the other hand, intends to carry on as usual. “The minutiae of Star Trek are still a long way from being explored completely. You know Worf drank prune juice, but do you know what brand was used on the set? No? Then my work is not yet done.”

In other news, here’s a quick preview of a planned addition to the Miscellaneous section in the coming weeks. I recently upgraded my system to Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger", and I’ve got a few ideas brewing for some new featured downloads. First, the Dashboard widgets offer worlds of possibilities; I’m planning to re-work my Warp Speed Calculator as a little Dashboard widget rather than a gargantuan FileMaker runtime application. (I’ll probably keep the old version available for people not running Tiger, but consider this fair warning that it probably will no longer be developed.) Second, the new Automator utility offers some really cool ideas for share-able shortcuts and workflows. I’m still learning the ins and outs of this process, but expect to see some handy utilities there as well!

And about Star Trek stuff? Well, I’m gonna try to get back into the swing of writing articles for The Subspace Cafe again, as well as maybe— maybe— even picking up again on the History of the Earth-Romulan War once again. (Yeah yeah, I’ve said that about fifteen times over the past few years.)

Finally, a big birthday coming up: “Star Trek Minutiae” will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of its launch on July 13, 2005. I don’t know yet what exactly I’ll be doing to celebrate it on the site, but I’m looking for something appropriately big for the occasion. Stay tuned!

April 13, 2005

Well folks, here it is: The Big Change™. It’s been several months in the making. I’m quite proud of it, and I hope that you enjoy the fruits of my labors, too. (Yeah, so it’s not really a whole load of new content, but I think that the new site design is well worth it, myself! Then again, I’m a geeky web designer, after all...)

First, and possibly most important, I’ve decided to officially shorten the name of this website to “Star Trek Minutiae”, dropping the original and much wordier “The Gigantic Collection of...” title. Although distinctive, and easy to shorten anyway, I’ve felt that it’s gotten in the way sometimes, and would be better to keep the full title short and sweet. Of course, this won’t affect all the mutilated spellings of “minutiae” that I’ve run into over the past five years...

Most obvious is the near-complete redesign of the style and layout of the site. The original impetus for this latest redesign was my decision to stop using Dreamweaver MX, and switch to hand-coding the HTML myself using the awesome BBEdit 8.1. Basically, what that involved was converting the old Dreamweaver templates into SSI-based file components that each add the basic elements (that is, the head, the beginning of the body, and the footer). Thankfully, this massive task (STM contains more than 600 pages as of this writing) was made infinitely easier by BBEdit’s powerful find-and-replace capabilities, and I was even able to completely reformat each and every page automatically using the HTML Tidy utility. (Many thanks to Matthew Galaher for his help in getting the necessary AppleScript steps set up!)

While I was working on the conversion, it offered the opportunity to completely redesign the site at the same time. So, why the heck not? It gave me the chance to apply some of my newly-learned skills and techniques towards site design, and also to tweak a few errors that I’ve noticed creeping into my pages in the past. Hopefully this new layout and design is easier to read (I did get occasional complaints that the blue mottled background made the text difficult to read)! And if you don’t like the mottled blue appearance at all, I’ve even come up with a whole batch of alternative headers and a couple of color schemes. Check them all out!

I should include a brief note here about how the site should/will appear in browsers. Because I don’t have easy access to a Windows-based PC (and using VirtualPC on a three-and-a-half-year-old iBook isn’t exactly a good idea), I have not fully tested this site’s appearance in Internet Explorer. Therefore, it’s highly likely that some function or another on this site will break, or that the entire layout may be mangled. I hope to have some time to fix this up within the next week or so. In the mean time, if you’re using MSIE, I highly recommend getting a better browser!

Moving on, I’ve also decided to start a somewhat major change to my approach for The Subspace Cafe. While it’s nice to be able to take the time to write out lengthy, insightful articles, I’ve found in the past that it’s way too easy to procrastinate when I’ve got a gigantic project that’s going to take a while to complete. Therefore, I’m going to experiment — at least for the short term — with interspersing shorter articles (probably just a couple of paragraphs) among the longer ones, to make for more frequent updates. And I’m probably going to include varied subjects not associated with science fiction more often. (Yes, this probably means that I’m turning the Cafe into just another blog... insert your groans and catcalls here!)

That about sums up the latest changes... If you have any problems while browsing the site, please let me know! (Be sure to include your browser name, version, and platform when you send the message.) And take a moment to vote in the latest poll, asking your opinion of the latest redesign.

April 9, 2005

The opinion poll has been updated with a rather... well, humorous question. (Yes, it’s a JOKE!) Read on to find out why.

On the afternoon of April 8, 2005, a member of Joss Whedon’s official website posted a link to STM’s poll asking visitors to choose which cancelled sci-fi series most deserved a shot at just one more season of regular production. Viewing this as an opportunity to somehow validate their cancelled show, a flood of nearly 1,600 Firefly fans descended on this site in the space of only 24 hours, each voting for Firefly and catapulting the show to a lead of nearly 83% over every other choice in the list.

Although each person’s individual vote was technically within the rules (at least officially), I (and I’m sure many other webmasters) consider this kind of organized vote-stuffing to be a violation of the rules of Netiquette. Therefore, I have arbitrarily decided to throw out a total of 1,434 votes out of the total 1,674 that were cast before the poll was closed (approximately 90% of all votes cast after the link was posted to WHEDONesque).

For any Firefly fans reading this, please note that this is absolutely NOT an action taken out of dislike for Firefly, or because of favoritism towards Enterprise or even Star Trek in general. (I personally think Firefly kicks Enterprise’s @$$ so badly it’s not even funny. And if you don’t believe my word right away, check out this post about how much I loved Firefly, or my eager anticipation after the announcement of the green-lighting of Serenity, both posted more than a year ago. I’m a huge Firefly fan.

I just don’t think that it’s fair for a random crowd of strangers to descend on a relatively unrelated website and affect an opinion poll so greatly — even if the opinions are valid and worth recording, and within that community’s subject of interest. In the case of most websites that run opinion polls, the poll is intended to gauge the opinion of regular or semi-regular visitors, or at least random visitor. When a large group of people are funneled in through a particular filter, that improperly distorts the vote results — and the differences in this case are just so staggering! That’s why I decided to throw out so many of the votes.

March 30, 2005

This is just a quick note to let you guys know that I’ve not disappeared yet again. I’m currently in the process of a major redesign of the structure and appearance of the site (officially titled “v5”, but really only the fourth major version since the site launched). I’d originally started planning this as something to launch for STM’s fifth anniversary, coming up this July, but the whole thing just gelled in my mind so quickly, that I had to get it up right away.

Currently, I have the template for the main pages completed, and I’m working on recoding the templates for the two blog installations. This has all been made immensely easier thanks to Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit 8, an extraordinary tool for web design, coding, and text manipulation in general. I’ve even made the conversion to the ultimate in über-geekiness— I’ve completely hand-coded the entire site, leaving Dreamweaver behind in the dust.

Anyway, the redesign should be finished sometime in the next week or so, and I’ll be uploading it right away. I think you guys will be impressed! (That is, if you’re using a modern, standards-compliant web browser. But if not, it should still look quite nice!)

March 15, 2005

More updates to catch up on:

The Links Directory has been pulled down. This is for two main reasons: First, it hasn’t taken off nearly as well as I’d hoped it would. In more than a year of operation, it’s only collected some 80 links, and 30 of those were added by me to get the whole thing started. The second problem was link spam. I have no interest in providing links to everything from Trek porn to sales on plasma TVs, and I also don’t have the time to weed through the chaff and remove the junk. Therefore, I’m taking the whole database offline.

However, I can’t leave STM without a links page, so I’m working on a way to make it easy for me to maintain a dynamic list of my favorite sites. Right now I’m experimenting with a “link blog” that I’ve set up in Movable Type, where links (and brief descriptions in the title tooltips) appear in the sidebar of The Subspace Cafe. I may expand on this setup in the next few days... watch this space for more!

I’ve fixed the problem of the misplaced archives in the Site Updates listings, and the missing RSS 2.0 feed from the Subspace Cafe. Sorry for the inconvenience!

STM’s blog pages are now protected with Chad Everett’s excellent MT-Moderate plugin. Take that, trackback-spamming scum!

Finally, I’ve decided to start what might become a semi-regular tradition: the documentation of the gradual (and long-awaited) demise of that bane of the webmaster’s existence, Internet Explorer. I’m already about five or six months behind the start of the trend, and visitors to my site (and IMO Trekkies in general) seem to be much more technologically-informed than the average Web user, and thus already knew plenty about the dangers of using IE. Still, I think this might be an interesting statistic to track, at least for a few months.

Anyway, here’s to a long and steady decline of Microsoft’s browser monopoly!

Browser Statistics, March 1-15, 2005
Browser Hits Percentage
MS Internet Explorer 137363 71.6%
FireFox 29900 15.5%
Safari 6631 3.4%
Mozilla 4438 2.3%
Opera 4220 2.1%
Netscape 3738 1.9%

March 8, 2005

It’s been a while between updates, hasn’t it? What started out as a brief but not uncommon period of laziness stretched into an unprecedented period without any new content at all. I won’t bother making any excuses here, I’ll just get to the good stuff.

A lot has changed since I last posted an official update to “Star Trek Minutiae”. For one thing, I’ve now got a full-time job. (Woohoo!) I’ve caught up with several old friends from high school for the first time in nearly five years. And I’m working on a big (well, for me) video-editing project that, when finished, just might make it onto this site for your entertainment.

So, what’s been happening in the mean time?

For one thing, “Krenim” has returned to his incredibly prolific self, with the crime against sanity known as Star Trek: Series ? - Season Five well underway. Catch up on all the latest episodes:

I’ve started a new opinion poll, this time asking what your favorite featured mega-series in the Humor Archive is.

The STM font collection (aka “Anthropology 123”) has been temporarily taken down, because I’ve recently discovered (the hard way) that several of the font files have been corrupted and may cause your OS to crash.

I’ve also updated various pages that had malformed XHTML errors that would (properly) fail to display in modern browsers such as Firefox or Safari. For those of you who are complaining that your browser wasn’t showing the page properly, rest assured that this was entirely my fault. The XML specification clearly states that if an XML document (and by extension also an XHTML document) contains a fatal error (e.g. malformed code), then the application may not display that page, other than to provide an error report concerning the document.

Just to prove that I really still haven’t forgotten my ancient History of the Earth-Romulan War project, here’s another small addition to the collection: the Battle of Hell’s Gate After-Action Report from September 2157.

The Web Kit will no longer be updated. I have yet to decide whether to move the content back into its previous place in the miscellaneous section, or whether I may move the content to The Subspace Cafe Send me an e-mail if you have an opinion on this matter.

Finally... Okay, I lied; I do have one excuse to make. I actually would’ve started posting official updates again about a week and a half ago, except that the server that STM is hosted on has encountered a bizarre and recurring bug which prevents Perl from communicating with MySQL. This had the unfortunate (and frustrating) effect of leaving me completely incapable of logging into my Movable Type installation. But thanks to Bill and the rest of the team at XrackHosting for going above and beyond the call of duty to help me liberate my content from the persistent grip of a reluctant database. They not only kept in constant e-mail contact with me during the problem, but they also set me up with a temporary second account with which I could install MT and complete a proper export of my data. If you’re ever looking for a web host that provides real personal service and support (with none of those usual canned support responses), I highly recommend considering XrackHosting!