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16 February 2010

File under: Things I'm not proud of.

Back in the day when I was working for the promotions department at WBRU Providence, I would on occasion be presented with the power to tell people to do ridiculous things in exchange for cash and prizes.  I was digging through some old backed up files the other day, and came across this primitively shot video of one such time. Needless to say, I was drunk on power. It consumed me.

The prize exchanged for the dreaded half-eyebrow-shave? A shovel and a chance to dig up prizes alongside a bunch of other maniacs in the annual Beach Dig (we called it 30 Grand in the Sand back then).

11 February 2010

Blogger FTP Publishing Degradation Fallout, Part 1: .htsuccess!

Caution: the following post contains extreme nerdery and ineptitude, and may not be appropriate for readers who are 1) not nerds, or 2) nerds who know WTF they're doing editing a .htaccess file.

With Blogger's recent announcement that they're no longer going to allow FTP publishing* after March 26th, I've been busy making decisions about the many blogs I own and neglect.  I am not a web guru, but everything I do blog-wise (including this blog) I do with Blogger's soon-to-be-defunct FTP publishing, so this is something I'm going to be dealing with for the next few weeks.

The first site I wanted to tackle is, which is just a tiny site I set up for my mom to help her sell my grandfather's paintings.  It's rarely updated because he's not painting anymore, but it will be updated from time to time as we decide to put more of his many paintings online.  It's also the site I manage that I did the least with design-wise, so it was a good candidate for some experimentation with Blogger's custom domain hosting (nuking my template and starting over wasn't too great a loss).  I've always wanted to try out all the Blogger widgets FTP publishers haven't had use of anyway.

Making the switch over was pretty easy.  Google gave me plenty of help navigating GoDaddy's Byzantine menus to point to the Blogger servers, and since my link structure didn't change at all, the only thing left to do was re-upload a few images (only a minor nuisance since there are so few posts there).  I understand that I could've avoided that by setting up a missing files server, but honestly after thinking about it I became excited not to have to pay for hosting anymore at all for that site.  So, I re-uploaded the files.

It took me about an hour, and I'm happy I did it.  The labels widget makes the site better (or it will, if the site ever grows to a size where simply scrolling doesn't show you the whole thing), as does the ability to create static pages without date stamps.  I've got more work to do to make the page look more appealing, but I always had that.  Overall, a positive experience, and in the long run, a net gain.

The TestTakers Blue Book Blog (which I manage for work) is a slightly more complicated story, and the reason I decided to write this post.  It's still light on content as it's fairly new, and it's not updated (or viewed) very often yet, so it was really the perfect candidate for some experimentation.  Thing is, it used to live at  If you're familiar with Blogger's custom domains, you know blogs that don't live in the root directory are a no-no, so if I was going to keep this a Blogger blog and use custom domains (and not lose the branding of our url), I was going to have to set up a CNAME.

So, was born.  The initial setup of that was no problem at all, after having gone through a similar process with the last blog, since I still have hosting for the '' CNAME, (and old blog pages that will never be updated still live there), my work had only just begun.

First, I wanted to make all the old pages redirect to their new homes on Blogger's hosting, but since none of my old images transferred over to that hosting, I didn't want any image references to be changed (all the images still reside in '').  I did a bunch of Googling for help with .htaccess files to redirect .html files and leave everything else alone after being inspired by this Blogger Buzz post, but I didn't find anything prepackaged that did exactly what I wanted, so I basically fudged and fudged until I got it working with some help from this guy's .htaccess tutorials.  The line that worked for me (...sorta) was:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html$1.html
That took care of the old individual post pages, but I was still having 2 other problems:

1) Annoyingly, '' and '' were redirecting to '', which is not the homepage of the blog, and so was throwing a 404.  I got around that with these 2 lines (which might not both be necessary, but whothehellknows?):
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$
2) Much to my chagrin, links for label pages completely changed.  My old labels (which were the pages I found most when searching for my own blog, and thus, a source for much of the traffic the blog had been getting) were at '' (for example). Label pages on my new, Blogger-hosted blog ended up at '' instead. So, the directory changed, and the file extension went away. That's a problem I hadn't seen coming, and a bit of a pain in the ass since I'm going to use labels pretty heavily as the site grows to keep things organized. One more line in the .htaccess file fixed that for me:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html$1
For the curious, here's what my whole .htaccess file looks like now:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html$1
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html$1.html
I'm well aware that it may not be elegant, since I basically threw it together at 2 AM and I've never messed around with Apache before, but it seems to be doing the trick although I'm sure it could have been done much more efficiently.

Bottom line: I wish I'd waited for Blogger's soon-to-arrive migration tool for this one.  Migrating by myself was just a little more complex than I thought it would be, and it took a few hours that I would have rather spent playing Mario Kart.

I still have some big decisions to make about this blog, and my rarely-updated music blog at  Both use some rudimentary PHP includes, and both took a lot of time and energy for me to build as a completely know-nothing web programmer.  This one, obviously, is more than just a blog.  Staying with Blogger might not be an option on either site, but I don't love the idea of migrating to any other blogging software much better.  WordPress is the obvious choice, except I'm a genius and bought Windows hosting for this site which I'm now finding won't even allow me to install it.  I'm open to suggestions/help, if anyone's paying attention.

* Pete Hopkins from the Blogger team (and from WBRU, represent!) wrote a great behind-the-scenes post about why they're saying goodbye to FTP publishing, which I've read about 7 times in the past week or so.  Check it out if you're curious.