Trying to blog during PAX

So far my days and nights have been packed, so it’s been hard to keep up with writing about PAX. At this time, I’ve got all my photos thus far uploaded, titled/tagged/described, and blogged about, and I’m hoping to get one more post written either tonight or tomorrow morning about PAX Day 2. The photo side is far more time consuming than the writing side, which I guess is to be expected, but I want to do this right so I’ve been giving it a decent amount of attention and effort.

Right now I’m about to run out the door to hit the Ultimate Dungeon Delve, which is a Wizards of the Coast event in which we participate in a series of Dungeons & Dragons encounters. An encounter is essentially a combat event, and in this case it is timed at 45 minutes. If we can finish and survive it in that amount of time, we go on to the next encounter. And then the next. There are five or six in all, and if we make it to the end we get a book and our names in the hall of fame.

PAX has been freaking fantastic so far and it just keeps getting better. Stay tuned for more details, both photographic and descriptive, about the awesomeness that is this weekend!

PAX Day 1

PAX IS OVER 9000!!!

The first day of PAX found me in a line a mile long, snaking back and forth through a room unquestionably dubbed The Queue Room. Though the doors to PAX didn’t open until 10 a.m., people started lining up at 8 a.m. and I got there somewhere around 8:30 thinking I could play some Nintendo DS. I also foolishly carted along by MacBook and all my chargers.

As they packed us in more and more, my claustrophobia coupled with slight agoraphobia began to cause me problems, but we didn’t get really cramped until about half an hour until the doors opened. I managed to survive the half hour, as you have probably surmised.

During the queue, a screen displayed a variety of things for our amusement, and despite the picture above very few of these were cheesy videos. There was someone behind a curtain typing to us and on the screen we saw what looked like an old black terminal with green terminal text. They were quite amusing, and we greatly enjoyed the experience.

I was a bit overwhelmed during the day, partly because I’d only gotten about eight hours of sleep over the past 2.5 days and partly because I was still hungover from the Triwizard Drinking Tournament. And though I didn’t attend a single panel I had intended to, I still had a fantastic time and really enjoyed the day.

The high point of the day was playing Nintendo DS with some people and breaking the Guiness World Record for most Nintendo DSes played in one place at one time. 315 Australian kids had previously held the record, so it wasn’t too tough for us to smash that (we had well over 900 going).

For more details, check out the photo set on Flickr for various witty comments and great snapshots of the con so far.

More photos »

A few new photos on Flickr

Until recently, I was hosting my own photo gallery to make managing all this stuff more easy. However, I decided that I didn’t really want all my photos up for display, and I didn’t like the drain on my bandwidth and speed. Now I’m using Flickr, mostly because I can export from iPhoto with just a couple of clicks.

I haven’t pulled photos off our camera in a couple of months, so there were over 500 to import. Suffice it to say that fewer are on Flickr. Check it.

Events include:

  • Family Reunion
  • Eurkea Springs
  • Shaw Wedding Reception
  • April Langr’s BBQ

Lightbox

Just a quick post about my foray into Lightbox. I started messing with this while writing about Flickr the other day, and after a bit of tweaking, I got it working.

You could just follow the steps on this page, but installing the plugin for WordPress is probably easier. The first, however, will allow you to use Lightbox wherever and however you like, while the latter will only work inside WP.

I, of course, followed the steps to do it manually (mostly because I didn’t find the plugin until after I was done and had it working *sigh* ). Something I discovered that might be of interest to you is that, while the instructions technically allow Lightbox to work, it 1) doesn’t tell you everything you need to do and 2) doesn’t necessarily work right on blogs.

First, when you upload and extract the files, it is assumed that you’re putting those in the root of your web server. I had put them elsewhere, and subsequently it wasn’t working.

However, because they assume root (once you get them moved there), going to a specific blog entry will prevent Lightbox from working. Essentially, all the code in the JS and CSS files point to root or ../images for everything. Which is great, and works just fine on my main page (http://mstublefield.com), but when I go to a blog post (for instance, https://mstublefield.com/blog/2008/09/24/why-i-dont-use-flikr/), going to ../images actually points at https://mstublefield.com/blog/2008/09/24/images (the ../ being “go up one level”).

So, I went through the JS files and the CSS file and changed the links from dynamic to static. Therefore, instead of ../images/close.png, it became https://mstublefield.com/images/close.png. Instead of js/whatever, it became https://mstublefield.com/js/whatever. This allows Lightbox to work inside specific blog posts, as well as on the main page. The only files that need edited are the lightbox.js and the CSS file.

Secondly, the CSS file wasn’t quite working for me. The instructions say to put it somewhere and their files will point to it. Instead, I had to manually copy/paste the CSS and append it to my main stylesheet. This seemed to work a lot better for some reason. Maybe it’s that I didn’t have the CSS in the right place, but regardless, it was easier just to copy the code over.

Between adding ZenphotoPress and Lightbox, I’m pretty excited about adding more pictures to my blog 🙂

Why I don’t use Flickr

Note: I’ve closed the massive photo gallery once hosted at SilverPen of well over 3,000 images we had taken and uploaded. We’ll continue to maintain a smaller set of public photos on Flickr, but will reserve the local photo gallery for our backups and friends/family who want to see more images.

I know, I know. This whole article is about why I don’t use Flickr, yet I’m moving there. I’ll write a new one and link it from here about why I have changed my mind and habits.


As I was uploading pictures from our housewarming party to our photo gallery over the weekend, I thought I might take a gander at the other offerings in the photo-hosting business. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should speed up our sites as much as possible, and a good/easy way to do this is to host videos and pictures on someone else’s web server. After all Flickr, Google Photos, and Youtube are all free, so why not use them? That way, when people are looking at our pictures and videos, they’re using Yahoo’s or Google’s bandwidth, not ours.

And while it’s true that having the pictures hosted there makes your site load faster, it can make setup take a lot longer. Let’s take a look at my photo gallery.

I’m not really much of a photographer. April and I usually forget to take our camera anywhere we actually want to take pictures, I’m not artistic in the least, and when we do have our camera, we still have a tendency to forget to use it. That being said, take a look at the text just at the bottom of that picture.

7 albums, 40 subalbums, and 3,168 images. I hadn’t really used my camera until I met April, so that’s all within the last 3 years, and while Flickr et. al. have many good qualities, dealing with a large photo gallery is not one of them.

Since Flickr is free, there are a number of limitations on its use. One of these is the number of images you can upload at a time. Right now, when I have a few hundred photos to add to my photo gallery, I simply zip them up in a file, upload that single file to my web server (start the several hundred MB upload and walk away), then unzip them on the server. Bam, a new album has been added to my photo gallery.

On Flickr, however, you can only upload 5 images at a time with the free account. Google Photos starts you off with 1gb of storage space, and you can pay to get more, but my photo gallery is currently sitting at 6.7gb. I’m not sure on Flickr’s pricing, but either way, it’d be a lot more work to upload and orient my photos. Flickr also has a limit on how much you can upload in a day. Right now, I believe that limit is 20mb, and while I can resize my photos to make them smaller, just 85 photos = 14mb for me on average. If I don’t resize them, or have 2-600 (like I usually do in a batch upload), I simply wouldn’t be able to upload all of my images in a day. It’d take me a week to get everything uploaded.

What’s more, you lose control when you use those services. Right now, I have my photo gallery, and I can style and organize it any way I like. Since I’m not an artist or stylistically inclined, it’s not phenomenal, but it’s mine. Someday, I may try and make it better, but I like how it is now. (::Aside:: Except for only having 15 pictures per page, but I did add a slideshow feature (bottom left when you’re looking at an album), and only having 15 images per page speeds up load time quite a bit and cuts down on bandwidth usage, so it really is a good thing.)

I feel like I’ve been rambling, so let me conclude succinctly. I don’t use Flickr (or other hosted solutions) for my photo gallery because

  1. Too many limits on how many pictures you can add at once
  2. Too small storage size
  3. Have to pay for larger storage size (and I’m already paying for web hosting)
  4. Can’t style the photo gallery myself

Therefore, I use Zenphoto. It’s not as full featured as what I was using before (Coppermine), but it’s a lot easier to use and a lot more attractive. The administrative interface doesn’t have many options, but it’s simple and it does its job well. I recommend Zenphoto, and I enjoy using it.

What’s more, I discovered ZenphotoPress today, which should make it easier and faster to add images from my Zenphoto gallery to my blog articles. As someone who self-hosts WebPress, there’s no better way to manage your photos than to self-host a photo gallery as well, and WP and Zenphoto integrate pretty seamlessly.

As for videos… well, I don’t do any of that right now, but I suspect I would go ahead and use YouTube for that and embed the videos here. They take significantly more bandwidth and storage space, and I doubt I’ll ever be to a point where I would need more space than they offer. However, if I did go into video production and had a lot of them to share, I would most certainly self-host those as well.