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June 20, 2004

Movable Type

As you probably have noticed, this blog runs on MovableType (MT). So it makes sense to review the underlying software here.

I first started using MT in November 2002, with version 2.51. My first blog, Iconoclast Blast was started after reading Essential Blogging by Doctorow, et al. I found MT easy to set up with the default Berkeley DB. A few tweaks to a config file, and I was off and running. Being an inveterate fiddler, I soon was mangling my stylesheet to suit my fancy.

Then disaster struck. My hosting provider, C-Soft, decided to "upgrade" from Linux to FreeBSD, and just run all of the old Linux software in "compatibility mode". They did this without any notice to their users, at least not that I got. Bzzzzt!! My happy little blog, with its Berkeley DB (1 or 2) files, now had Berkeley DB 3 files, and I couldn't even log in! Seems that MT's perl didn't talk to Berkeley DB3. I have still been unable to downconvert my data. All of the conversion software is designed to go the other way! C-Soft was rather snotty about the whole thing, too.

So my blog languished without update for six months, while I fussed, fiddled, fumed and finally found another provider, DreamHost. Mind you, I administer about 10 domains, for myself and my roomies, and C-Soft's attitude lost them our business.

Once on Dreamhost, I decided to revive my blogs as best I could. I still like MT, and so downloaded MT3.0D Limited Free Version. Since it was just a resurrection of personal material, I was not going to take the plunge and pay. Also, their initial pay licensing scheme sucked rocks through a small straw. They have since fixed their licensing to be something far more reasonable.

This time I decided to go with the MySQL option, especially since Dreamhost had a nice utility for creating databases quickly, and I didn't have a lot of time to pour into it. I even tried to import my old data from Berkeley DB 3, but it didn't work. OTOH, MySQL is a lot more common, and has export and backup routines. Also, MT 3.0 has a few more import and export features itself, which means you can dump your entries out raw, and keep them that way, too.

MT 3.0D has a few other new features. The primary one of interest to me was comment moderation and the handy TypeKey integration. You see, while I was unable to log in to my blog, link spammers were dumping porn links into 90% of my entries!! I *hate* that! MT 3.0D lets you moderate comments, and with the TypeKey system, other bloggers and people who are generally "real" canlog in to TypeKey, comment in your blog, and not have to be moderated by default. This cuts down on the crap, but doesn't have you scrambling to moderate everything.

Now the default stylesheets and layout I still think need work. For one, the index page design is very non-liquid. It will take me a month of fiddling to make it a variable width again, instead of assuming that all monitors are 800 pixils wide, and thus that's what all blogs should be. Also, the default fonts are all sans-serif, and I consider them to be virtually unreadable on a monitor or paper - "i" "1" and "l" in sans-serif look all the same. But that's a taste thing. Since it's all done with templates and CSS, I could really go to town on it if I had the time and urge.

When I get the money, I will probably buy a license. It is now reasonable. I like the fact that they took into account the views of the community of users when the first attempts turned out not to be happy making. However, if you plan on running MT with a simple Berkeley DB, be sure that you either a) control the server and it's underlying software, or b) make a backup every time you make an entry.

Posted by ljl at June 20, 2004 02:20 PM


Hey, nice to see you've taken the plunge with MT3 and TypeKey! I paid for the entry level license before Six Apart announced the changes. (They had announced that they were *going* to change the license.) When they rolled out the new licenses, they upgraded me to the unlimited blogs/authors personal license for having been in on the ground floor! I'm quite appreciative of all the work they've put into the software. The fact that moderation is the only significant new feature doesn't bother me. Like you, I consider it an important upgrade. Knowing those swine aren't getting any search engine bounce from the swill they try to spew on my sites makes me feel *really good*.

Since I have that unlimited license, I decided to convert sudoscript over to MT. I may redo the entire site with Moveable Type, if I get laid off again. (No prospect of that, thank god!)

Posted by: Howard Owen [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 24, 2004 09:38 PM