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My content finally cross-referenced

Macworld logoOne of the challenges in keeping this blog going with fresh content is my employment situation. As someone who is paid to write about the Mac, OS X, and all things even vaguely related to those two subjects, my first obligation for article ideas in those areas rests with Macworld. So when I think of something I'd like to write about, I discuss it with our online editor, and he makes the call as to whether or not he'd like to run it on If he doesn't want it, then I'm free to post it here on my personal blog. This has worked out quite well over my first 18 months with Macworld, except that it turns out that nearly every idea I've had for a story has been picked up by :). Hence the sporadic nature of the posts here on robservatory.

I had always intended that I'd publish a pointer here to any articles (outside of my thrice-weekly OS X tips column and the occasional product review) on, as a way of providing at least some content here (as I know not everyone reads regularly). However, despite my best intentions, I've only been moderately successful at I decided to finally get serious about it this weekend.

After a bunch of copy-and-paste work between robservatory and macworld, I think I'm finally caught up. I've created a new category here to track my posting activities. Somewhat obviously, I've named the new category Macworld, and you can see all 31 entries by simply clicking on Macworld in the category list--or just click here if you want to save the mouse travel.

Having now gone through this painful exercise, I promise I will be more diligent about immediately updating robservatory whenever something of mine hits the Editor's Notes blog section over on

Site upgrade (basically) done…

We're now running on WordPress 2.0.3, and most everything is back to how it was pre-upgrade. There are some exceptions (no more 'latest unread comments'), and I'll be tweaking things over the next few days, but the main stuff is done. Ahhhhh.

New comment spam blocker installed

As a follow-up to the captcha post, I think I've implemented a near-ideal solution to allow fast and easy commenting while still blocking the spambots.

I took the advice of Andrew Wooster, linked by Simone Manganelli in comment #3 on the original captcha post, and created a personalized spam blocker using an additional field on the comment form. I also tweaked it just a bit, to provide some benefit to registered users. So as of today, here's how comments will work going forward:

  • If you're logged in: There's no change from how things worked before. Just fill in your comment and submit it. I'm going to assume that the spambots aren't going to take the trouble to register prior to spamming the site :). If that turns out not to be true, I may have to make the below process apply to everyone.
  • If you're not logged in: You'll see one new field on the comment submission form. This field is required, and it's a text field to hold the answer to one of five very simple questions. How simple? They're so simple that the answer is given in the questions themselves. Here's a sample question: "What is Tommy Sample's first name?" Type in the answer, and the comment will be published just as before.

I think this is about the most painless spam solution available, so let's see how it works. Registered users will feel no pain at all, and everyone else will have just a slight (a few characters typed into one text box) hassle, with none of the captcha's side effects. Please let me know if you have any troubles with this new solution.

Update: There are now five randomly-presented questions, as well as a cleaned-up layout. Hopefully the questions are all as simple as they should be; if you're thinking about the answer, you're trying too hard!

Annoying captcha added (sorry!)

Update: The annoying captcha has been replaced.

no spamToday I took the long-avoided step of adding a captcha to the comment submission form. It seems my blog has been discovered by the spambots, and (even with Spam Karma 2 installed) the flood of meaningless spam has gotten too large to ignore. Most of you probably don't see the postings, as I get notified via email whenever they appear, and I do my best to delete them immediately. However, as the number of meaningless comments increased, this process was becoming too time consuming.

So I was left with two options. First, I could allow only registered users to post comments. I don't like that solution, since this is an informal, hopefully fun place to just drop by. If someone feels like leaving a comment, I'd like them to be able to do so without the hassle of registering for an account. So that left the second option--adding the captcha to the comment screen. This is far from ideal, as I know sometimes the stupid things are nearly unreadable, and they present issues to those who have problems with their vision. I wish I had a better solution (a future update to Spam Karma may solve the problems, I hope), but right now, I don't.

So for now, we have a captcha. It's not like there are a ton of comments here anyway, but hopefully this won't cut down on the dialog as much as would happen if I were to add a registration requirement. Please let me know if you have any issues with the captcha; I'm using SecureImage, which is fairly widely used, so hopefully the problems will be minimal. This plug-in does have one nice feature--if you are logged in, you won't see it (so there you have it, one minor reason why you might wish to register). And spammers, please find a better target for your vileness. There's no way I'm going to let any of your drek stay on these pages for any length of time!

And yes, there is more content coming here in the future--I've just been a touch busy with Macworld and stuff lately!

New comment tools installed…

Today's lunch hour project was to enhance the comment engine here on Robservatory just a bit. To that end, there are now two new features active:

  • Instead of a generic Recent Comments tracker in the sidebar, a new Unread Comments tracker (thanks to the Smart Unread Comments plug-in) shows only the comments you haven't personally seen. There's also a link to mark them all as read, in case you'd like to catch up right away. (Since the plug-in uses cookies to track the unread comments, everyone's starting point is the same--they are all unread, since the cookies haven't yet been created on your machine). This should make it somewhat easier to keep up with comments posted here.
  • Posting comments is now easier, thanks to the LivePreview plug-in. As you start typing your comment, you'll see a real-time preview (JavaScript required) below the text area. This is pretty slick, as it will preview HTML on the fly, so you can check bold, italics, and links before you hit the Submit button.

Not earth-shattering changes, but they should make working with comments a bit easier for everyone...

Welcome to The Robservatory

Welcome to day one of The Robservatory, my first attempt at a "real" blog (I run a private WordPress powered site for family-type updates). In the years that I've been running macosxhints, I've done my best to keep it relatively opinion-free, and just focused on the hints. After all, that's what the site is for -- it's about the hints, not about what I personally think about the hints. So while I might make an occasional comment on some feature, technology, or program as an aside, I never go into any real depth on the subject, as I want to keep the focus on the hints themselves.

Enter The Robservatory, the new outlet for my opinions. As it reads in the sidebar, if it doesn't really fit on, you'll probably find it here. Generally speaking, what I write about will tend to be related to Macs, OS X, computers, hardware and software that I find interesting, fun and/or interesting web sites, and my work in the technology business. There may be other random topics, though, as things come up, so don't be surprised by anything you may find here.

To get things started, there are three stories here now, as you can see. Early next week, there will be two new articles, one covering things I do not like about OS X, and the other taking a look at, well, the many looks of OS X.
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