So this is Christmas…

What a heck of a year.

Having been made redundant this time last year it has been a whirlwind, with barely any time at all to stop and think, let alone blog. At some points in the year I really didn’t think I’d get to December in one piece, let alone smiling.

And when you least expect it (well, I know it happens regularly) there creeps up another Christmas to hurtle you into the following year… BUT not before you have time to sit down and enjoy yet another rendition of the Great Escape or something like that. And always accompanied by enough wine and mince pies to sink a small boat, it seems (certainly feels like it – where are my running shoes?).

The other side of all this is that every now and then a kind relative or loved one bestows on you a gift of such magnitude that you don’t know what to say, and can only reflect on how hideously inappropriate your own gift to them was by comparison. So what to do when there is not one, but two such gifts in the same year? It has been difficult to find time to enjoy them at all yet!

First up is the pretty magnificent XBox 360, complete with games including Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. Not that this is a particularly new gadgt to the market, but for ages now I’ve been plodding along with a standard XBox (now for sale, fully working, loadsa games!) which has done me proud over the years. However, when I plugged in the new ‘360’ using HD leads into my Sony Bravia LCD TV I was simply blown away. The graphics are awesome compared to before and the detail in the games is ridiculously good. What really makes it for me though is the wireless controllers. Oh yes! At last…. an end to the trailing cables all over the front room! I haven’t had much chance to put it through its paces yet, but will do so over the next few months, no doubt! One thing I definitely won’t be doing is subscribing to XBox ‘Live’ though – the last time saw me get ‘fragged’ within seconds of joining a game and then being charged for the privilege! heh… serves me right, I suppose… but have you ever tried to unsubscribe from it? It’s almost as bad as getting out of dinner with the mother in law. It *can* be done, but you need a strong stomach to get through the process.

Second up was a complete surprise – the Asus EEE PC. This is the smallest laptop I’ve ever held, has no hard drive, 4GB RAM and runs a flavour of linux. It has wi-fi, a web cam, plenty of USB slots, a slot for SD cards and a pretty slick look and feel all round.

As a Mac user, it seems reasonable to want to load on a version of MacOSX – so that’s the first thing I’ll do. Yes, I know it wasn’t designed to, but the thing is, this little gadget is crying out to be modified, played around with and generally taken to any limit you want to try. If it all goes horribly wrong, use the included install disc (you’ll need an external CD drive) to reinstall back to factory settings again. Brilliant.

I may even attempt to get Windows running on it too… but how cool would it be to have a selection of USB drives which have any operating system you want on them… go into the BIOS, set the boot order, plug in the flavour of drive you want and away you go… It’s crying out to be done, in my opinion. In fact, I’d be very surprised if it hadn’t already been done by someone somewhere.

These are magnificent ‘hobbyist’ devices, apart from anything else. They seem ideal for school use, too and have enough about them to be a pretty useful lightweight alternative to that 17″ macBook you’ve been lugging all over the place (well, OK, I’ll*still* lug that all over the place). All in all they are a winner. But don’t take my word for it… check out any review you like!

So, a brilliant year in lots of ways, capped off with some extraordinarily fabulous gifts that will see me well into the future. My thanks to all who have helped, supported, paid, cajoled, cheered, cried and generally been there along the way. I almost can’t believe it has been possible 🙂

WordPress bug, format.php, invalid wordpress html code

It may come as a surprise to some (but not many) folk to know that there has apparently been a long running bug in wordpress from about version 2.1 which will cause your website to fail validation. It only happens in certain situations, such as when you try and add a plugin to capture form based information from your site users. When the form code is passed to the browser, a spurious ‘p’ tag gets added in to the ‘div’ tags and therefore the code is not valid… Keep in mind that the ‘doc type’ declaration is important here too, and that in my case I was using XHTML 1.0 transitional.

So what to do? Well, on the website there are several threads about it, including this one where I posted a response earlier today. It seems that the issue is at least ten months old, and various solutions have been speculated. Indeed, some of these solutions seem to work for some folk, but they sure as heck didn’t work for me. Largely, they involve editing one of the core wordpress files – ‘format.php’ and either adding in a new line, or taking some away. The new line is supposed to be inserted as line 67 and reads:

$pee = preg_replace( '|(</div[>]*>\s*)</p>|', "</p>$1", $pee );

This did nothing for me at all. Other solutions included commenting out lines 66 through to 68… still nothing. However, when I asked my colleague Alex Blanc to look at the code he very quickly spotted that there was a simple fix – in his words ‘a bit of a sledgehammer approach…’ but it seemed to work.

Add this as line 91:

$pee = preg_replace( '|</p></form>\s*</p></div>|', "</form></div>", $pee );

(one line only, folks, no carriage returns…)
The placing within the function in ‘format.php’ is important – put it at the bottom of the function!

Now, it may be that you don’t need this, or that it doesn’t actually work for you – it worked for me today though. The point is that this is a known issue in wordpress and has been around for nearly a whole year, and survived several updates of the software. It really ought to have been sorted out properly by now… but hey – this is open source, right? 🙂

Cleveratom Website makeover

Cleveratom website image

The Cleveratom website is having a gentle lick of paint. Well, actually it’s having a restructure, and the paint will look very much the same as before! We are moving it into a different kind of technology so as to be able to easily pull in RSS feeds and generally be able to manage the information more effectively – it’s fair to say we really need to do this, as it has been a long time since we created the current version.

We will no doubt move house again in the near future – perhaps into the New Year now, but in the mean time we hope that the refreshed version will serve our purposes better.