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Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

May 29, 2003

I am So Depressed!

My bag was stolen from my office today. I don’t know when, or how. I was in the office pretty much the whole day, and when we went for lunch, my colleagues agree that I locked my door. Alas, it takes but a few seconds for a thief to duck into the office and make off with the bag.

What’s missing? A $40 computer cable, an umbrella, and 8 months worth of notes and papers. Guess which I’m depressed about.

The UTPD Officer was not optimistic about recovering the bag or its contents. Somewhere out there is a very learned thief…

Posted by distler at 11:31 PM | Permalink | Followups (2)

Last Minute Upgrades

It never fails … Whenever I’m about to depart on a trip.

Apache 2.0.46 was released to fix a DoS attack.

MovableType 2.64 was released. The ChangeLog says 2.64 fixes a Cross-Site Scripting vulnerability. A little puzzling since, in this BugTraq thread it is claimed that MT 2.6 is not vulnerable.


I’m just glad that my sundry accumulation of patches to the MovableType executables (I, II, III — applied in order) worked smoothly in the new version.

Posted by distler at 4:03 PM | Permalink | Post a Comment

May 28, 2003

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

There’s much that I should be doing right now, but this was too funny to pass up. Those pesky “serious” economists can’t seem to get with the program! No wonder the CEA was banished to the hinterlands.

Posted by distler at 10:12 PM | Permalink | Post a Comment

May 26, 2003

Serve it Up!

For the fourth in my series of MT How-To articles, I’ll focus on serving your blog as XHTML 1.1, with Content-Type of application/xhtml+xml. Why would you want to do such a thing? Well, my reason is that I want to be able to serve embedded MathML content. You may have a similar practical reason. Or you may just enjoy following the W3C’s recommendations. I’ll assume, for the purposes of this article, that you’re interested in MathML or SVG content because that is — to my mind — the most compelling current application.

Posted by distler at 1:25 AM | Permalink | Followups (25)

May 20, 2003

itexToMML Updated

The itex2MML Text Filtering plugin has been updated. There are changes to both the MT plugin and the itex2mml executable (the latter, thanks to quick work by the maintainer, Paul Gartside). The changes fix the bugs noted in this thread.

Download the new package and enjoy!

Update (5/23/2003): Package rev’d again (no change to the plugin, just to the itex2mml executable). Thanks to Yuan-Chung Cheng for pointing out some more bug in itex2mml’s translation of itex to MathML entities.

Posted by distler at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Followups (3)

May 19, 2003

Text Filters for Comments

One of my goals, in setting up this weblog, was to be able to enter equations and such. This works very nicely for entries. Unfortunately, comment-authors are not so lucky. They don’t have access to the itex2MML Text Filter (or any other Text Filters, except the default one set blog-wide for all comments).

Wouldn’t it be cool if comment-authors had the choice of Text Filters to apply to their comments?

I thought so, too. So now they can!

If you submit a comment on this weblog, you’ll notice a new popup selector for a Text Filter to apply to your comment. You can choose whichever one you find most convenient, including the itex to MathML with parbreaks filter, which is my personal favourite.

Here’s how it’s done.

Posted by distler at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Followups (13)

May 14, 2003

Faster MT Rebuilds

Zippy! [Tip 'o the hat to Phil Rignalda.]

Posted by distler at 1:10 PM | Permalink | Followups (3)

May 12, 2003

Alas, a Trott

Alas, a Blog has converted to MovableType. Among other juicy things, this means their RSS feed now works properly, as you may be able to tell from my blogroll.

Posted by distler at 4:16 PM | Permalink | Followups (4)

Biophysics Blog

There’s a new blog on my blogroll. It belongs to a chemistry grad student, Yuan-Chung Cheng, at MIT. Looks like he’s going to be posting some neat stuff about biophysics, quantum computing and the like.

Moreover, he’s using my itex2MML plugin, which just makes my day.

Posted by distler at 2:08 PM | Permalink | Post a Comment

May 11, 2003

Bullet-Proofing II

For the second in my series of “How-To” articles on MovableType, I’ll continue on the theme of bullet-proofing against the inclusion of invalid content. Aside from the content you, yourself, write, there’s stuff other people write that gets included in your blog. Even if you trust yourself to produce valid markup, you can’t necessarily trust others to do the same. Hence the need for bullet-proofing.

Last week, we dealt with comments posted to your blog. In this case, the answer was pretty. Since you call the shots, all you have to do is run the comment through the Validator and ask the poster to correct the errors before allowing them to post the comment to your blog. Since Alexei Kosut was kind enough to wrap the W3C Validator Script as a MovableType plugin, the job of setting this up was much-simplified.

Next on the list are Trackbacks and Syndicated RSS Feeds. Since these are, by definition, stuff written elsewhere, you don’t have any control over the content. If it’s invalid, you can’t ask the author to correct it; you just have to deal. Consequently, our solution will be more ham-handed.

Posted by distler at 9:08 AM | Permalink | Followups (8)

May 9, 2003

The Price of Liberty

Eternal Vigilance? Yeah, there’s the ticket. I was about to go to bed last night, when I got an email from Evan. One of my individual archive pages had a Trackback whose PingExcerpt was invalid XHTML. Since I have a reputation to live up to, this indignity could not stand!

Posted by distler at 9:13 AM | Permalink | Followups (2)

May 8, 2003

He’s Baack

Salam-Pax , the Baghdadi blogger (or so he says) is back online with a humongous post. Fascinating reading. It’s great to hear that he made it through the war.

Posted by distler at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Followups (2)

May 7, 2003

I Came, I Saw, I Validated

Evan’s little essay has exploded like a cluster bomb on the geeky end of the blogosphere. It, and the more general question of whether and why XHTML is so hard and what to do about it, are being discussed and debated here and here and here and here and here and here and yeastily here.

Anyway, having fixed my RSS-syndicated blogroll and my comment-entries it’s become clear that the next step is to get auto-validation for posting. Since I use Kung-Log, the natural thing to ask for is an extension to MovableType’s XML-RPC API. I want an mt.validatePost method whose parameters are basically the same as MovableType’s extension to metaWeblog.newPost, and whose return value is:

Return Value: on success, an array of structs containing boolean isValid, string validatorOutput; on failure, fault.

The method should go through all the steps of creating an individual archive page containing the post (actually, any page will do; the key is to apply all the processing — text filters, etc. — which would normally be applied to the post) but, instead of publishing it, pass the resulting page to the Validator (perhaps a local copy, à la Alexei’s plugin), and return the result.

If we package it up real nice, maybe Adriaan will support it.

LazyWeb, I invoke Thee!

Posted by distler at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Followups (5)

May 6, 2003

Bill Bennett and the Central Limit Theorem

Brad DeLong is appalled by the Voloch Conspiracy’s credulous acceptance of (or, even willingness to entertain seriously) Bill Bennett’s assertion that, over 10 years of heavy gambling on the slot machines, he has “come out pretty close to even.”

I think Brad would have an easier time accepting the innumeracy of others (in this case, ignorance of the Central Limit Theorem), were he to realize its adaptive value. Now, in the case of a UCLA Law Professor, I’m not sure offhand what adaptive value it holds. But, in Bill Bennett’s case, the value is clear. It is a lot easier to lie convincingly if one has no clue as to the utter absurdity of the lie.

Further evidence for this proposition can be found in a nearby post on Brad’s own blog. It seems that the President’s Council of Economic Advisers have been exiled, from next-door to the White House, to a basement broom closet in a building at the corner of 18th and G.

This will greatly improve the ability of the Administration to sell their economic policies.

Update: DeLong keeps trying, but Voloch isn’t buying. I begin to understand the adaptive value of innumeracy for a Law Professor. There are clearly some aspects of legal reasoning (“This has little to do with statistics — it’s a question of fact.”) which would eventually send someone with an understanding of statistics screaming from the room. Staying sane under such circumstances may actually require a certain level of innumeracy.

Update: Eugene Voloch’s inability to do the math is getting pretty frightening. So let us do it for him. Let us accept his figure of a House advantage of 2% at the Slot Machines. And let us remember that Mr. Bennett was reportedly playing the $500 slots. If he pulled the lever 400 times an hour, 4 hours a night, 50 nights per year, for 10 years, that means he pulled the lever 800,000 times and fed a total of $400 million into the machines. 2% of $400 million is $8 million, which is what the casinos estimate him as losing. I leave it to Professor Voloch to calculate the probability of “nearly breaking even” over 800K pulls of the lever. Each of the above numbers is probably somewhat off, but the errors tend to cancel in the product. Newsweek reports substantial single-day losses and Mr. Bennett, himself, acknowledges “cycl[ing] through several hundred thousand dollars in an evening.” However you slice it, the Casino estimates are probably fairly close, and Mr. Bennett’s claim of “nearly breaking even” wildly improbable — unless you happen to move in circles where dropping $8 million down the toilet is considered chump change.

Posted by distler at 10:23 PM | Permalink | Followups (1)

May 5, 2003

Decline and Fall

The RIAA continues its slow slide from lobbying to legal thuggery to outright criminality. Presumably, having spent all this money recently, financing the development of Trojan Horses, DoS Attacks and other nasties with which to attack P2P file-sharers (I like the one which erases all MP3 files, legal or illegal, from the victim’s hard drive.), we can expect them to spend a little more and make another attempt to pass a revived Berman Bill, exempting them from the pedestrian restrictions of anti-hacking laws.

Update: Ed Felten is sceptical. He’s right that there is a certain element of self-promotion in the article, on the part of the companies, Overpeer and MediaDefender, who have been contracted to develop the malware. I’m not so sanguine. Somebody’s paying for it. And I would not be surprised (disappointed, but not surprised) to see a “Berman II” type bill surface in Congress. But till it does, you would expect Music Industry executives to be “closed-mouthed” on the subject.

Posted by distler at 2:33 PM | Permalink | Post a Comment

May 3, 2003

Validating Comments


The plugin has a new home page. Look there for the most up-to-date installation instructions.

I actually got a couple of emails about my previous post on implementing Comment Validation in a MovableType blog. Evidently, there’s some interest out there. So here is the first in an occasional series of “How-To” articles on MovableType.

Posted by distler at 11:31 PM | Permalink | Followups (32)

May 2, 2003

Big Stick

As we all might have guessed, the RIAA has settled out of court their suit against the 4 University students, for a piddly $12,000 – $17,500 each. Despite the fact that this probably doesn’t even cover their legal bills, the RIAA has hailed this as a great victory.

The students, of course, were in a bind. Going to Court meant huge legal bills. And, as they were caught with infringing files on their hard drives, they might have been found liable for the Direct Infringement claims. As I’ve argued previously, the Contributory Infringement claims were a crock. It would have been salutary to see them get laughed out of Court.

We’ll never get to see that happen now, and the RIAA still has a ‘big stick’ with which to harass and intimidate people who would engage in perfectly legitimate activities, like the construction of a Search Engine.

Posted by distler at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Post a Comment

May 1, 2003

Bye Bye, CC!

As Dan Bricklin has pointed out, and as is discussed here and here, Article 5 of the Creative Commons License places an uncomfortably large burden on me, the Licensor. If someone sues, not only am I legally liable, but I promise to assume the liability on behalf of you, the Licensee, as well.

While I’m eager to see the widespread dissemination of ideas contained in this weblog, I’m not about to assume an open-ended legal responsibility. The CC License is not revokable, which is to say, if you got something from here between December 20, 2002 and May 1, 2003, I’m still your Sugar Daddy. From this day forward, however, you’re on your own.

A search for a more suitable Licence is underway.

Posted by distler at 11:45 PM | Permalink | Followups (2)