Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

In general, I consider myself to be a fairly easy-going person. Those of you who know me well may or may not agree, but it’s typically the case that I don’t get really worked up about very much. Where I do let things get under my skin is when something just doesn’t go like it should. Unfortunately that seems to happen more and more these days.

Now I’m not – usually – talking about an individual. Sure, there are times when a single person can be irritating in their behavior, but generally that is something that comes up and goes just as quickly. I might even write on it if the mood strikes me, simply because it’s something that might be fun to read about later. What really gets me going is when a company who is in the business of dealing with people has no clue whatsoever how to do it.

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Nightmare on Independence

With Halloween approaching, the most difficult of tasks was upon us – deciding what (and if) we would do in regards to a haunted house. The first problem is that admission fees have risen rather steeply in recent years, and the second is that our kids are at an age where they just might be ready to check some out. We’ve been to some local places where they might be able to deal with the goings-on, but we’ve also been to some where they most certainly couldn’t. So it’s a bit iffy.

Ultimately we decided that we’d try out the Nightmare on Independence. We did this for a few reasons. One, because it’s close – just a few minutes away. Though there are other places that aren’t too far, at least this one is close and we don’t have to worry about driving a ways and paying a lot as well. Two, because there just aren’t that many other options these days. Some open later and are a bit much, while others (the Jaycees house) seems to have closed entirely. Third, it seems that the Nightmare is on its last go-round, since a Wal-Mart will be opening in that space soon. So we went for it.

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Install Movable Type Under Windows (IIS)

Though the vast majority of installations I work with use LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl) to run Movable Type, there are also a few where my client would like to place Windows in that equation. While it’s a possibility to run Apache on Windows, Internet Information Server (IIS) has shipped with Windows Servers just about forever, and it’s quite possible to get Movable Type up and running without Apache. I guess you might like to call this a WIMP (Windows, IIS, MySQL, Perl) installation, which fits in nicely with the old Windows, Icon, Mice, Pointers joke from years back. But I digress.

First, of course, you need Windows and IIS. Unfortunately, configuring those two is going quite beyond the scope of this article. Luckily, doing so is not particularly difficult. You’ll also need, at a minimum, MySQL and Perl. If you want to use dynamic publishing, you’ll also need PHP – but I’m not going to cover that here. Maybe next time. Ready? Let’s go!

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Dial C for Cell Phone Interference

In the Cell Phones on Planes episodes of Mythbusters, it was shown both that cell phones could cause interference (in the homemade cockpit) and that cell phones probably would not cause interference (in a real cockpit that’s probably more like real planes in use today). Of course, any one who travels today knows that whether there is any validity to the argument or not, you aren’t supposed to have your phone on (on “phone” mode) while the plane is in the air.

Naturally, most of us also know that there are probably dozens of phones left on during any flight, either on purpose or out of forgetfulness, and generally there isn’t any problem. So I for one would probably side with the Mythbusters in this regard. But that has to do with planes. What about in other locations? Do cell phones really cause interference to the point that it could be detrimental to our health, or even dangerous to the surroundings?

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Is Bruton Smith a Bully or a Genius?

The news outlets have been abuzz recently with word that racing magnate Bruton Smith wants to build a drag strip at the Lowes Motor Speedway complex in Concord. This alone should hardly be newsworthy – Smith generally does what he wants and gets away with it. After all, his mammoth track is certainly one of the generators of income in the region, and has been so for a while.

However, with Concord Mills right up the road being the number one tourist destination in the state (how about that?), he only has so much bargaining power. While the speedway used to be the only thing at that exit of the freeway, there are now hotels galore – including a full-service Embassy Suites and apparent plans to open a Great Wolf Lodge, restaurants and any number of things. The track just isn’t what it one was. So when he makes a move, does it matter like it once did?

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Upgrading to Movable Type 4 with MTCommentFields

By now, there’s a reasonable chance that if you’ve wanted to upgrade to the latest release of Movable Type, you’ve done so. But you may still be waiting. Perhaps you’re hoping that your favorite plugin will be updated (there are still a few that haven’t been released for MT4). Or maybe you’ve run into a problem that you can’t seem to overcome.

One of the issues that I run into fairly regularly is for people who use the MTCommentFields tag. This tag, originally released in version 3.0D – way back in 2004, for those of you keeping track – was designed so that you wouldn’t have to keep up with your comment form. Unfortunately, people like to keep up with their comment form, to move it around, change some wording, add features or just tinker. So it rapidly fell out of favor, and in MT4, it’s gone completely.

If you’re still using it and you want to upgrade, you’ll see a message that reads The MTCommentFields tag is no longer available; please include the Comment Form template module instead. You will be able to rebuild your templates, but you won’t be able to accept any new ones.

And naturally, if you’re upgrading, you won’t have this module to make that happen. To make matters worse, if you’re a user of certain versions, even if you try and get rid of the tag, you might still have problems. What do you do? Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

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Making Your Movable Type Menus Snappy Again

When Six Apart released the latest version of Movable Type, the software underwent a massive rewrite. The interface changed considerably from what it had been, and by most accounts it is a good change. There are, however, a few things that just don’t work quite right.

One of the things that is perhaps most frustrating is the editing box. There is little that can be done with this for now, especially if you want to maintain the WYSIWYG editor. Similarly, the syntax highlighting function of the template editor causes problems too, especially on lesser-used editors like Opera and Safari. So we have to focus elsewhere, perhaps on the menus.

Though the drop-down menus are certainly cool, they tend to get stuck open, and that is terribly annoying. There is almost nothing worse than trying to work, only to find yourself sitting there looking at a menu that appears to be looking back.

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Is All Plastic Bad, or Only Certain Kinds?

It’s not uncommon to find people screaming at the top of their lungs that credit cards are bad. Of course, if you use just about anything incorrectly it can be bad. Frankly, I don’t have anything against credit cards – I think that they are great, provided you know how to use them. We have a handful of credit cards that we pay off each month, so in effect, we are using other people’s money for the course of the month. And yes, I fully understand that we could get into a bind if we needed to pay some other bills first, and couldn’t pay those cards off. But that’s why we try and have money available to pay the bills. It’s all about using your head.

That said, if you can’t do that, then maybe they aren’t for you at all, and that’s okay as well. But what I don’t get are the people who talk about credit cards being the worst thing to hit the planet since, well, evil, but they don’t talk about things like ATM cards. I mean really. ATM cards – in fact, let’s lump all debit cards or check cards or whatever you want to call them into the same bunch – can be just as bad, if not worse. Sure, there is the advantage that you can’t spend more money than you have, but you can sure spend it just as quickly.

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Curiously Celebrating Christopher Columbus

Today the United States – and to be fair, a number of other countries – celebrate Columbus Day. Unlike many other holidays named after a person, this one doesn’t celebrate his birth (for the most part because no one knows exactly when he was born) but when he first landed in the Americas. Interestingly, even that is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, because according to what slim facts there are, land was only sighted on October 12, 1492, and the land in question was an island in The Bahamas. We don’t even know which island it was!

While The Bahamas are in North America, it’s not like he set foot on the US mainland in 1492, and certainly not on that particular day. So why do we celebrate today? Why do we celebrate today at all? Actually, it’s not really today, since here we do things on the closest day to weekend, and, well, that would be Friday, and for some bizarre reason, we do it on the second Monday in October. I don’t know why. Let’s just talk about Columbus instead, okay?

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How to Fix a Common MT4 Feed Formatting Error

Over the last few years, the term beta has been somewhat misused. It used to be that when you used beta software, you expected to encounter problems. But when Google started throwing around the term for its offerings, people came to expect that beta software wasn’t so bad. Still need an example? Despite Gmail arguably being the leader in web-based email systems, it’s had that tag for more than two years.

There are plenty of examples, but hopefully you get the point I’m trying to make – that beta just doesn’t mean what it used to. So there really shouldn’t be a surprise that people install beta software. It used to be that only a certain crowd would install beta software, but these days, just about everyone will do so, thinking that they can expect to get what they have come to expect. That’s not always the case, as sometimes you can get nasty surprises.

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