SeaMonkey Help is back…with screencasts!

Back in 2007, I stopped maintaining my SeaMonkey Help website. Others took over maintaining the site, but it wasn’t long before they stopped maintaining it as well. That wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for one thing: SeaMonkey 2. SeaMonkey 2 was a huge change, making most of the site incorrect.

I recently decided to revive the website, and at least bring it back up to date. In addition to correcting out of date content, I had learned a lot about technical writing from working on the SUMO project, and wanted to apply that to my SeaMonkey Help site. I also had the tools to make screenshots and screencasts and learned the enormous value they add to support.

As I started looking at all the things I need to do to update the site, it was clear that this was a huge task. For over 200 items, I had to:

  • convert markup to HTML5 (to include screencasts)
  • remove obsolete content
  • test each help item to see if it still applied to the latest version of SeaMonkey
  • fix the text content (and markup)

And all of that was before enhancing the content with screenshots and screencasts.

I was in the shower, taking some rain shower on the body and thinking about how to plan this massive update, when I thought “Why am I even bothering to provide text and images, when I can replace it all with screencasts?

  • Updating the markup is dead easy.
  • The understandability goes way up.
  • I have section indexes, and the page titles are searchable, so finding pages should not be a problem.

For some of the content, text is better, and any css that needs to be copied was added below the screencast, so there are some exceptions. But for the most part, it is a screencast-only help site

Goodbye Dreamhost

Wow…here’s the story…

I use Dreamhost to host ilias.ca. I have many ilias.ca email aliases. Most relay messages to a gmail account (for spam filtering, and a searchable web archive), which then forwards them to an IMAP account hosted on ilias.ca.

On Friday, Dreamhost decided to move some email accounts to new hardware . Here’s the blog post:

A small number of accounts had mail that was unable to be moved over to new hardware before we had to power down the last of our servers and move them out of the old data center. For now we are setting up those users (without the data) on the new system so they should still be functional and we’ll be working on restoring the data once we have moved the servers (the data is not lost, just not currently available). We apologize for this. we understand how important mail is and wanted to reassure those effected that we’re aware of the matter and are working to correct it.

So on Saturday morning, I woke up to find that all of my previous messages and user-created folders for other hosted ilias.ca addresses for that matter. In fact, I couldn’t even connect to my mail server until a DNS server update. It’s Monday now, and Dreamhost still has not fixed the issue.

Let’s add some extra weirdness to the matter. Today, my IMAP account stopped receiving messages, and started sending my Gmail account bounce buy followers on twitter messages. I contacted Dreamhost about this, and it appears the configuration was changed from being fully-hosted to a forward-only address with no destination. What this means: dataloss!

I put up with the occasional downtime because of the price, but dataloss? My previous messages being missing for over two days? So after speaking with all i have to say is Buh-bye to Dreamhost.

Does anyone have suggestions for a hosting service?

Want to advertise on my website?

I sometimes get email from people wanting advertising space on my website. Obviously, I don’t want any advertising on my website; but I also think (in most cases) everyone’s got a price. So here’s mine… $100,000.00 CAD. If anyone is willing to pay me a one time fee of one hundred thousand Canadian dollars, they can advertise on my website, as much as they want.

Stupid Feedburner plugin

Anyone reading Planet Mozilla, reading a post from me called “Forcing Pop-ups Into Tabs”, and thinking “how does this help me?”

I don’t know how that got on my feed. That was a draft of a post. It was unfinished.

From Blogger to WordPress

I’ve just moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I couldn’t take it anymore. WordPress is better because:

  • the content management system actually resides on the same server as the blog site. When Blogger.com was down, it seemed so stupid to me, that I couldn’t publish content to my own website, which was running fine, because I had to post via a third party. Now, if I edit anything, I don’t have to “republish.”
  • catagories. If someone reads my blog for Firefox tips, they may not want to read about Thunderbird tips, or my musical interests (or my gripes about content management systems 🙂 )
  • adding a comment is one meeeellion times more user friendly.
  • I have greater control over my web feed. In WordPress the URLs of my previous blog posts are slightly different. Most feed aggregators would treat them as new posts (flooding Planet Mozilla with my previous posts); so I can limit the number of posts in my feed, not to include posts made on Blogger.
  • tied into the above, I can import posts/comments from other blog management systems.
  • like Mozilla’s extension capabilities, there are WordPress plugins available to extend the functionality of WordPress. Case in point, I’ve always liked Livejournal‘s feature that allows you to mention what music you are listening to, while posting. There’s a wordpress plugin, that allows me to do that in WordPress.
  • I can add themes from third party websites. I haven’t decided which one I’m going to stick with yet (and I’ll probably tweak it); but it’s nice to be able to find third party themes. (like a Firefox theme)

Maybe I’ve just graduated from blog kindergarten; that’s all.

I’ve discovered SSI

Back in November, I posted about a problem I’ve had with my Mozilla and Netscape help sites. They had become too big to have all FAQs on one page, and were laborious to update. It was obvious that I needed to give each FAQ item its own page, but that presented a different problem. If I ever want to update the schema of the site, I’d have to manually edit hundreds of pages.

Frames, as any good webmaster will tell you, is out of the question. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time learning/experimenting with content management systems, but every one I’ve tried is overkill (Not to mention the ugly URLs, they create).

Finally, unlike Bono, I’ve found what I’m looking for. It’s Server Side Includes (SSI). “As its name implies, its primary use is including the contents of one file in another.” In other words, I can create a file containing the HTML of my site header, and have all pages use that file, for the header. If I make any changes to that file, it is reflected on all pages.

I can’t wait to start using it. I feel like I’ve been walking to work everyday, and have just learnt how to drive a car. My life is about to get much easier. 🙂